NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Saturday Slam: The NBA should not weigh in on Hong Kong

                                          (Credit: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) 

The big news of the week in the NBA was Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey weighing in on the Hong Kong protests, making a statement in support of their right to freedom. While Morey was well intentioned in his statement/tweet, it set off a firestorm that the NBA wants no part of. To his credit, NBA commissioner Adam Silver issued a statement saying he will support the right of all NBA employees to exercise their freedom of speech and that the league will live with those consequences. He didn't totally cave to China and say that Morey was wrong.

While I think Silver handled this as well as he could have, I think that overall, the NBA shouldn't weigh in on this particular issue. I've been studying Mandarin Chinese for the last couple of years and have grown to love Chinese culture. As part of my Chinese studies, I've spent some time learning about current events in China and the political layout of the entire region. I don't have time to get into all the layers of the Chinese geopolitical landscape, but let me just say in short that it's complicated.

Taiwan for example sees themselves as the ones holding down the fort for democracy in China as the Republic of China while Mainland China (known as the People's Republic of China) sees themselves as the one true China. In their eyes, the Republic of China in Taiwan is a rebellious government that must one day be reunited with them.

Taiwan has broken off from Mainland China and started their own thing, which in a lot of ways makes things simpler. They have their own democratic government that doesn't have to answer to the PRC. While there is the potential threat of the PRC coming in and taking over their land, such a move by the PRC would result in too much backlash from the rest of the world. While there is tension there, Taiwan can be comforted by the fact that the rest of the world has their back and will stand with them if something goes wrong.

As for Hong Kong, they're in some weird in-between limbo kind of state. They were under British rule as a colony until 1997 in which they were handed back to the PRC under a certain set of conditions that promised them total freedom for 50 years (until 2047). What's happening now is the PRC is starting to infringe on Hong Kong's freedoms prematurely, trying to expedite the transition. The reason why the PRC is doing this is because there's now a lot more cities that are on par with Hong Kong's economic power such as Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou. In 1997, Hong Kong was by far the most economically powerful city in China, making it a valuable resource that made sense not to touch.

With that no longer the case, the PRC is asking themselves why not just bring Hong Kong back into the fold and get this all over with? Why delay the inevitable? From their perspective it's a totally fair question to ask.

As a result of this weird limbo state and seeing what's on the horizon, Hong Kongers are going through an identity crisis. For so long, they've seen themselves as Hong Kongers first and separate from the rest of Mainland China. They have their own unique culture and their first language isn't even Mandarin. It's Cantonese. Now, they see that in the near future, they're going to become grafted back into Mainland China and thus risk losing their Hong Kong identity. Their language risks getting replaced by Mandarin and their culture risks getting replaced by Mainland Chinese culture. It's a scary thing for them.

With all of this going on and so many layers to unpack, the NBA couldn't possibly address this issue in an adequate or fair way. Especially in a tweet. Instead of muddying the waters, the NBA should let Hong Kong, Mainland China, and Taiwan sort this all out by themselves. The best way they can help is to stay quiet about politics and bring harmony to the region through the game of basketball.

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Saturday, October 5, 2019

Saturday Slam: Toronto Raptors need to sign Pascal Siakam to a max extension

                                          (Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports) 

Shams Charania of The Athletic is reporting that four-year power forward Pascal Siakam is seeking a max contract extension from the Toronto Raptors. After averaging 7.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in his sophomore season, Siakam had a breakout year last season, averaging 16.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, establishing himself as one of the top power forwards in the NBA.

With Kawhi Leonard gone and Kyle Lowry getting older, the Raptors need a new piece to build around, making Siakam a no-brainer candidate to fill that void in the coming seasons. He's young, athletic, and evolving into a really nice stretch forward. If they don't lock him up, their future becomes a lot more uncertain.

One of the things I've wanted to address on this blog is that even without Leonard, this Raptors team is still really good with Lowry, Siakam, Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet, and Marc Gasol.  When talking about who could come out of the Eastern Conference next season, don't sleep on this Raptors team. They still have a lot of dangerous pieces.

Going back to Siakam, as I said earlier, he's the best piece that they have to build around for the future. At just 25 years of age, he has a lot of room for growth. If he doesn't get offered a max extension from the Raptors, some other team will likely offer him one instead. The Raptors need to listen to his demands and give him what he wants. If they don't, they're going to regret it.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Tomahawk Tuesday: Everyone is sleeping on the Golden State Warriors

Due to the departure of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson's torn ACL, many assume the 2020 Western Conference champion will be someone other than the Golden State Warriors, who have won the last five Western Conference titles. While there are a lot of good teams in the Western Conference that could certainly dethrone them, it has been surprising how many people, including myself, seem to have forgotten just how much of a strangle hold the Warriors have had. 

I don't want to undermine the significance of losing Durant and the injury to Thompson. Durant was huge to the Warriors' championship runs and Thompson, the second Splash Brother, is a killer back court mate for Stephen Curry. The road just got harder for the Warriors, but that doesn't mean it's impossible for them to conquer. Below are three reasons why the Warriors can still get back to the NBA Finals in 2020. 

#1. Stephen Curry: If there is one player who has had to sacrifice their ego to make this Warriors team work, it's Stephen Curry. Before Durant came aboard, the Warriors were Curry's team and he did a masterful job of running them. Now, once again, the Warriors belong to Curry and you can bet that he is excited. Plus, Curry knows how much he and his team are being overlooked. Look for a very motivated and focused Curry this season. That should scare everyone in the NBA. 

#2. Experience: When you have been to five straight NBA Finals, one thing you definitely have is experience. The Warriors have been through a lot as a team and have always found a way to come out of the West anyways. They know how to dig deep and go to the well better than any team in the NBA. The rest of the Western Conference is much more unproven and until someone comes along and proves that they can beat them, the Dubs deserve the respect that five straight NBA Finals appearances gets you. 

#3. Klay Thompson isn't out for the year: While the Warriors will start the season without Klay, he's not done for the season. He should be back after the All-Star break and help the Warriors make a championship run come playoff time. So long as they have the Splash Brothers as well as Draymond Green, the Warriors should be feeling pretty good. On top of that, they have an amazing head coach in Steve Kerr who can be trusted to make the right adjustments. 

The bottom line: The Warriors have made five straight NBA Finals appearances for a reason and still have a ton of talent and experience. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Steve Kerr have been through the fire before and know what it takes to go all the way. I understand the Western Conference has a lot of interesting new flavors, but that shouldn't make us forget who has been winning the West over these last several years. 

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Monday, September 30, 2019

Mock Draft Monday: Ja Morant cleared for Memphis Grizzlies training camp

                                          (Credit: Getty Images) 

Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports reports that Memphis Grizzlies rookie point guard Ja Morant is cleared to participate in training camp following surgery on his knee. Given how vital Morant is to the Grizzlies' future, it's great news for them to have him start the season on time as opposed to having to miss training camp and possibly part of his rookie season.

Morant is not only making the jump from college to the NBA, he's making the jump from mid-major college basketball to the NBA. At Murray State, he was dominant and was always the best player on the floor. This will be the first time since his high school AAU days that he won't be the best player on the floor every night. It will be interesting to see how that adjustment goes for him.

By no means am I doubting Morant's future. I like his game a lot. He's an explosive athlete, finishes really well around the rim, knows how to make plays, and has the mentality to lead an NBA team. I'm just curious to see how his rookie campaign goes and whether or not he can threaten to win rookie of the year honors. Everyone seems to think that award will go to Zion Williamson, but perhaps Morant will make a strong case for himself.

As we look ahead to the 2019-20 NBA season, Ja Morant is definitely a name to keep a close eye on. He's got a lot of potential and a lot to prove as the #2 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. The Grizzlies need someone to energize their franchise and hopefully for them Morant will deliver the goods.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Tomahawk Tuesday: Can the Utah Jazz come out of the West?

One of the Western Conference teams that has gotten more buzz this summer/off-season is the Utah Jazz, who added three key pieces to their team in point guard Mike Conley, stretch forward Bojan Bogdanovic, and point guard Emmanuel Mudiay. In 70 games with the Grizzlies last season, Conley averaged 21.1 points, 6.4 assists, and 1.3 steals per game, bouncing back nicely from his Achilles injury. Bogdanovic averaged 18.0 points per game on 42.5% shooting from 3-point range (4.8 attempts per game) with the Pacers, playing in 81 regular season games. As for Mudiay, he averaged a solid 14.8 points per game last year with the Knicks.

Conley and Bogdanovic join a talented Jazz squad that features third year shooting guard Donovan Mitchell (23.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, & 1.4 steals), sixth year center Rudy Gobert (15.9 points, 12.9 rebounds, & 2.3 blocks), and sixth year small forward Joe Ingles (12.1 points). Mitchell and Gobert are the heart of this Jazz team, but they needed a veteran presence, something Conley in particular hopes to add.

                                          (Credit: Rick Egan-Salt Lake Tribune) 

When looking at this Jazz team, what makes them so dangerous is their ability to get after it on both ends of the floor. Gobert is one of the best interior defenders in the NBA, giving the Jazz their best defensive weapon since Andrei Kirilenko. As for Mitchell, he is a budding superstar that isn't afraid of the big moment. He attacks the rim really well, is developing a solid perimeter game, and is actually a pretty solid defender. Conley is a killer floor general that knows how to get his teammates involved while Bogdanovic is an absolutely lethal shooter from the perimeter. The Jazz are much more multidimensional now, which is why many see them going far in the playoffs this year.

The big question that's on everyone's mind with the Jazz is can they reach the conference finals and possibly represent the West in the NBA Finals. Personally, I think this Jazz team is at least one more year away from reaching the NBA Finals, but if all goes according to plan, they should be a top four seed in the West, win their opening round series, and maybe even reach the conference finals. They're really talented. The only concern I have is there are a lot of other talented teams in the West. The Clippers, Warriors, Nuggets, Trail Blazers, Rockets, and Lakers also project to be really good. I feel like the West is really deep this year and any number of combinations could reach the conference finals. A lot of it will come down to playoff seeding and match ups.

Casting playoff scenarios aside, one thing that is clear is that the Jazz have the pieces to have a breakout year. They're young, hungry, and have greatly upgraded their roster over the summer. If you are a Jazz fan, you have every right to be excited.

Note: This blog post also appears on my Utah Jazz blog. Click here to check it out. 

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Monday, September 23, 2019

Mock Draft Monday: R.J. Barrett needs to deliver for the New York Knicks

                                          (Credit: NBAE/Getty Images) 

The New York Knicks have not been to the playoffs since the 2012-13 season in which they finished second in the Eastern Conference with a 54-28 record. Since that season, the Knicks have gone downhill rather quickly, finishing with six consecutive losing seasons. The 2014-15 and 2018-19 seasons were tied for the worst seasons in franchise history as the Knicks went 17-65 both years.

During this tumultuous stretch, the Knicks have really struggled to find a franchise centerpiece. Carmelo Anthony did a decent job at filling the role, but he didn't have enough help thanks to Phil Jackson's inability to run a front office. Kristaps Porzingis could have been the answer, but his torn ACL cast a lot of doubt over his abilities to be the man going forward.

Then comes R.J. Barrett, the #3 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft out of Duke. During his one year at Duke, Barrett was in the shadows of nationwide phenom Zion Williamson, playing second fiddle to his highlight dunks. Being second fiddle didn't mean he didn't produce. Barrett averaged 22.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, showing that if Williamson wasn't around, the Blue Devils would have still been a force to be reckoned with.

With Williamson now in New Orleans trying to turn the Pelicans around, Barrett has the Big Apple all to himself, fulfilling a boyhood dream to play for the Knicks. Excited for what lies ahead, Barrett hopes to turn the Knicks' fortunes around and bring them back to glory. They've been looking for a savior for quite some time and perhaps they have found their man in Barrett.

When forecasting the future of the Knicks, it's clear that R.J. Barrett is at the center of it. He's their new franchise piece and finally is out of Zion Williamson's shadow. This is his time to shine. If he's able to deliver and become a legit franchise player, odds are good the Knicks will bounce back and become a contender in the Eastern Conference. If he's not, the Knicks will continue to flounder like they have for the past few years until someone else comes along to deliver them from bondage.

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Saturday, September 7, 2019

Saturday Slam: DeMarcus Cousins has really fallen from grace

At the end of the 2016-17 season, DeMarcus Cousins concluded a season in which he averaged 27.0 points and 11.0 rebounds per game in 72 total games played. He spent the bulk of that season with the Sacramento Kings but was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans to conclude the season. Since that year, everything has gone downhill for him in a rather shocking manner.

First, in the middle of the 2017-18 season, Cousins suffered a torn Achilles which limited his season to just 48 games. Prior to the injury, he was playing really good basketball, averaging 25.2 points and 12.9 rebounds per game. A torn Achilles is no joke, but an injury that one can come back from with the proper rehab. Still, no team wanted to take a chance on him until the Golden State Warriors scooped him up for close to nothing. He spent most of the 2018-19 season in street clothes, but was able to produce a little bit during the 30 games he played, averaging 16.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game before going down once again with a torn left quadriceps.

Already looking like he might be damaged goods, the Los Angeles Lakers threw their caution to the wind and decided to sign him this past July, hoping that he could get back to full strength. Instead, he tore his ACL in a preseason workout a little over a month later in mid-August, ruling him out for the entire 2019-20 season.

In the midst of all this injury misfortune, Cousins got married and even that didn't go as planned thanks to a leaked audio tape of him threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend over the phone for not allowing their son to come to his wedding. As a result, an arrest warrant was issued and now he's in the middle of an ugly legal dispute.

At just 29 years of age, Cousins' career seems to be over and what's crazy is that it wasn't that long ago that he was an NBA All-Star. We've seen guys drop off quickly, but rarely do we see guys drop off like this. It's like one day he's the best big man in the NBA and the next day he's having a hard time convincing teams to take a chance on him. Hopefully for him, he is able to find his second wind. If not, he better get ready for life after basketball.

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Saturday, August 3, 2019

Saturday Slam: Draymond Green is the modern version of Dennis Rodman

                                         (Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez-The Associated Press) 

Earlier today, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Draymond Green and the Golden State Warriors have agreed on a four-year, $100M contract extension, giving him a five-year $118M contract in full. Green could have been an unrestricted free agent next summer, but instead has decided to re-up with the Warriors while taking a potential pay cut in the process. Had he hit unrestricted free agency next year, he could have been looking at a $235M contract, which is just mind boggling.

Rather than doing a standard "Here's why he's worth or not worth this contract" type of article, I wanted to explain why Green is the modern version of Dennis Rodman. While known more for his antics and colorful hairstyles, Rodman was an absolute beast on the court. He won five NBA championships, was named Defensive Player of the Year twice, made two All-Star appearances, was named to seven NBA All-Defensive First Teams, and led the NBA in rebounding seven years in a row from 1992-1998. He was the epitome of tenacity, hustle, and determination.

                                          (Credit: Bill Smith/Chicago Bulls) 

While he doesn't have his hair dyed in different colors every night with tons of tattoos and body piercings, there's actually a lot that Green has in common with Rodman. Through his first seven seasons in the NBA, Green has three NBA championships, three All-Star appearances, three NBA All-Defensive First Team honors, and one NBA Defensive Player of the Year honor. When you consider the pace he's on, Green could walk out with a Hall of Fame resume very similar or perhaps even better than Rodman's.

In addition to the accolades, Green plays a pretty similar style as "The Worm." They both pride themselves on their energy, passion, and ability to get in the heads of their opponents. They like to annoy opposing teams and are generally only liked by fans of their team. On top of that, both are undersized post players (6'7", 220-230 pounds) who pride themselves on shutting down bigger players due to their hustle, determination, and grit. One final commonality they share is they were early second round draft choices. Rodman went #27 overall in the second round to the Detroit Pistons in the 1986 NBA Draft while Green went #35 overall in the second round to the Golden State Warriors in the 2012 NBA Draft.

Both are players who overachieved and accomplished far more than anyone thought they would. The odds of lasting in the NBA beyond three years as a second round pick are slim while the odds of having a Hall of Fame career as a second round pick are even lower. If you're a second round pick, you're not even guaranteed to make the team. To go from that to Hall of Fame level is nothing short of amazing.

While there are a ton of similarities between these two players, there are some key differences. First, Rodman was a much better rebounder than Green. For his career, Rodman averaged 13.1 rebounds per game while averaging as much as 18.7 rebounds per game in a single season (1991-92). Green in contrast has averaged 6.9 rebounds per game for his career, averaging as much as 9.5 rebounds per game in a single season (2015-16).

Another key difference between the two players is Green is much better at blocking shots and disrupting passing lanes. For his career, Green has averaged 1.4 steals per game and 1.1 blocks per game. He averaged a league best 2.0 steals per game in the 2016-17 season while averaging 1.4 blocks per game in both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. Rodman in contrast averaged 0.7 steals and 0.6 blocks per game for his career, never averaging more than .9 steals or blocks per game in any season.

One final key difference is Green is a much better scorer. Green has averaged 9.1 points per game for his career, averaging a career-high 14.0 points per game in the 2015-16 season. Between the 2014-15 and 2017-18 season, Green had double-digit scoring averages (11.7 points per game). To go along with that scoring, Green has developed a reliable 3-point shot, shooting 32.3% from beyond the arc for his career. Rodman in contrast had just one season scoring in double figures per game (11.6 points per game in the 1987-88 season). His career scoring average is a modest 7.3 points per game and he never developed a reliable 3-point shot, shooting 23.1% from beyond the arc on 0.4 attempts per game for his career.

In terms of who would you rather have on your team, you really can't go wrong with either player. Green gives you a more well-rounded attack with his scoring, shot blocking, steals, and solid rebounding while Rodman gives you a ridiculous rebounding attack backed up by adequate scoring, and solid all-around defense. In some ways, both players are products of their own eras. Green plays in an era where players are expected to be more well-rounded while Rodman played in an era that allowed players to carve out more of a niche. Rodman found his niche with rebounding and thrived as a result. Had Green played in Rodman's era, he probably would have been much more of a specialist while had Rodman played in today's era, he would have probably been a more well-rounded player.

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Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Tomahawk Tuesday: The Trail Blazers are securing their future

                                         (Credit: John Leyba/The AP) 

Earlier today, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news that the Portland Trail Blazers have inked their star shooting guard C.J. McCollum to a three-year, $100M extension, giving him a five-year, $157M contract that keeps him in Portland through the 2023-24 season. This extension comes after Damian Lillard's five-year, $196M max extension, which keeps him in Portland through the 2024-25 season. By inking both of their star guards to long-term contract extensions, the Trail Blazers are securing their future.

This past season, the Trail Blazers made an impressive run to the Western Conference Finals before getting swept by the Golden State Warriors. Had Jusuf Nurkic been available, that series may have been pretty competitive. I'm not saying the Trail Blazers would have won, but instead of it being a sweep, it could have been a series that went six or seven games.

With the Warriors' dynasty appearing to be on the brink of extinction due to the departure of Kevin Durant and the torn ACL of Klay Thompson, the Western Conference is wide open, giving a team like the Trail Blazers a unique opportunity to make a run to the NBA Finals. These windows don't last long and the Trail Blazers know it, thus their efforts to secure McCollum and Lillard.

I'm still undecided of as to who I think comes out of the Western Conference next season. The Clippers are the easy choice after landing Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, but first year experiments don't always work out. I think it's possible the Clippers don't do as well as everyone expects. If they fall short of expectations, then it really is anyone's game. Including the Trail Blazers.

The bottom line is the Trail Blazers are giving themselves a shot to win a championship by securing one of the most electrifying backcourts the NBA has ever seen. Together, C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard can take this Trail Blazers team to the promised land. Especially as their front office continues to put quality pieces around them.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Wednesday Windmill: Is Ben Simmons worth a max deal?

                                          (Credit: Mitchell Leff-Getty Images) 

The big news out of the NBA this week is the Philadelphia 76ers and Ben Simmons agreeing to a five-year, $170M max contract. Simmons is coming off his first All-Star season in which he played in 79 regular season games averaging 16.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 7.7 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. The only real knock on his game at this stage is his lack of an outside shot. In 17 3-point shot attempts in his career, Simmons has made zero. That's right, he is yet to make a 3-point shot in his career. So that part of his game definitely needs to improve.

Aside from his perimeter game, which needs to get to the level of respectable, there's a lot to like about Simmons. He's a 6'10", 230 pound point guard that knows how to create plays for his teammates, finish around the rim, rebound, and force turnovers. He's basically the closest thing we have to a LeBron James 2.0. On top of that, he's just 23 years old. When you are as young as he is and already playing at such an elite level, you are worth every penny a max contract can offer.

Now, a lot of why Simmons is getting this money is because of what he is projected to become. He is by no means a finished product. I've already touched on the 3-point shooting, but there are other areas of his game that need improvement. His foul shooting (58.3% for his career) is awful and he turns the ball over too much (3.5 turnovers per game). If he can become a better 3-point shooter, foul shooter, and improve his ball security, he'll truly take his game to new heights.

Assuming he is able to improve his game and become a better shooter, the 76ers are doing the right thing by giving Ben Simmons a max contract. He's got plenty of time to improve and is already one of the top players in the league. If he puts it all together, the 76ers could be looking at multiple trips to the NBA Finals. He's that special of a talent.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Tomahawk Tuesday: How will Russell Westbrook fit with the Houston Rockets?

There has been so much happening in NBA free agency that sometimes you have to catch your breath and try to absorb what has just happened. Probably the biggest news that I haven't yet addressed on here is the Houston Rockets acquiring Russell Westbrook from the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Chris Paul and a slew of draft picks. This reunites Westbrook with James Harden, whom he played with in Oklahoma City several seasons back.

                                          (Credit: Ronald Martinez-Getty Images) 

While the Rockets are certainly a different looking team than they were last season, it's fair to question whether or not they're really better. While he isn't a perfect player, Paul brought a lot to the table with his facilitating, toughness, and willingness to allow Harden to be the go-to guy. In a lot of ways, he was the most ideal player to pair with Harden because of this combination. The only real flaw in Paul's game is that he's had a tough time staying healthy, but that isn't really fair to pin on him. Especially when you consider the amount of minutes Mike D'Antoni was asking him to play.

That all said, the Rockets weren't winning a championship and so in that vein it makes sense for them to try something different and they are definitely doing just that by bringing in Westbrook. What I want to quickly address is how I think Westbrook fits with the Rockets and whether or not he'll bring forth the results they are looking for.

When comparing Westbrook to Paul, the first thing that jumps out is that Westbrook should bring more of a scoring punch. Westbrook averaged 22.9 points per game last season in comparison to Paul's 15.6 points per game. At times the Rockets did seem to lack scoring support for Harden, making Westbrook an upgrade over Paul in that regard.

As for rebounds, assists, and steals, Westbrook is better than Paul in two of those three categories averaging 11.1 rebounds per game last season compared to Paul's 4.6 and 10.7 assists per game compared to Paul's 8.2. As for steals, Paul has a slight advantage (2.0 per game) over Westbrook (1.9 per game), but it's pretty close to a toss up.

The bottom line is that when looking at the stats, it's clear that Westbrook on paper is a clear upgrade. He's a better scorer, rebounder, facilitator, and just as good of a defender. In that sense, this trade was a no-brainer move for the Rockets to make.

The only thing the Rockets have to worry about is how things will go in the locker room. Westbrook has been known to be a difficult player to play with and he tends to get on guys' nerves with his pit bull personality. If he isn't able to get along with the rest of his teammates, tensions could escalate and this whole thing could blow up.

What should give Rockets fans' some optimism is the fact that the Rockets wouldn't have made this move without Harden's consent and so in that sense there appear to be at least decent to good odds that they actually like each other and will get along just fine. Westbrook is a guy who wants to win as much as anyone else and should view Houston as a place where he can win that elusive NBA title. The Western Conference is wide open and the Rockets should feel like they're in it as much as anyone else. Especially when you consider the fact that they have one of the top big men in the league in Clint Capela.  

In my opinion, the Rockets have nothing to lose by swapping Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook. They needed some sort of jolt and bringing in an electric talent in Westbrook is as good of a jolt as they could ask for. It may not yield a championship, but considering they weren't heading for a championship with Paul still on board, there's no reason for them to not at least see how things work out with Westbrook. If they didn't do this, they might look back in a couple of years and wonder about what could have been.

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Monday, July 15, 2019

Mock Draft Monday: Should the New Orleans Pelicans be worried about Zion Williamson's health?

                                          (AP Photo/Steve Marcus) 

After just nine minutes of action, New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson suffered a knee injury that caused him to miss the rest of summer league. That's right. Nine minutes. On the surface, this may not seem like much of a deal, but if I can be totally honest, I think it's a bit alarming that Williamson is already on the shelf due to injury. Even if it is just for precautionary reasons.

In case you forgot, Williamson's shoe blew up against North Carolina, causing him to miss almost a month of his freshman season at Duke. It felt a bit odd that he was being so cautious, but at the same time understandable given that was a college kid protecting his future. This time around, he can't play that card. He's got a four-year guaranteed contract to fall back on, a shoe deal that is expected to be worth $100M, etc. He should be ready to ball out. The fact that we haven't even hit training camp yet and Williamson is already protecting his future by sitting out is cause for major concern. Especially since we've seen this from him before.

There are two reasons why the Pelicans should be worried about this. The first reason is that Williamson may not really be interested in playing for them. By sitting out of summer league, it could be an early indicator that Williamson views New Orleans as only a temporary home and that as soon as he gets the chance, he's going to leave. If this is the case, the Pelicans have to start thinking about an exit strategy and how to trade him for the maximum amount of assets.

The second reason why the Pelicans should be worried is that Williamson might be fragile. At just 6'7", Williamson weighs a whopping 285 pounds. That's a ton of weight on his joints that he's playing with. If he doesn't slim down and get off the excess weight, he could be looking at a shortened career.

You can accuse me of overreacting to Zion Williamson's summer league injury and that's totally fine. I hope I'm wrong and that there's really nothing to see here. But unfortunately for the Pelicans, you only know for certain what has happened in the past. In hindsight everything is 20/20 but in real time, the future is very much unknown. The Pelicans have a tricky assignment figuring out how to manage their top pick and have to consider this from all angles. If they're not asking themselves these tough questions, they could be in a for a rude shock.

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Saturday, July 6, 2019

Saturday Slam: Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are heading to the Los Angeles Clippers

                                          (Credit: Frank Gunn-The Associated Press) 

On Friday night, I wrote a blog post for Saturday all about why Kawhi Leonard should stay in Toronto, why he would be foolish to leave behind a situation where he is the toast of the city and hero to all of Canada and then boom! News broke that Leonard was joining the Los Angeles Clippers! Even more amazingly, news subsequently broke that Paul George will be joining him as a result of being traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, four unprotected first-round picks, one protected first-round pick, and two pick swaps. The Clippers have also waived Tyrone Wallace as a result. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN has the details below.

With Leonard and George, the Clippers have a legitimate one-two punch that has the chance to win a championship. Aside from the photo, the one vestigial remain of my original Saturday Slam post for this weekend is that the Clippers are a better choice for Leonard than the Lakers.

The first reason is because the Clippers were a better team last season. Unlike the Lakers, the Clippers actually made the playoffs, giving the Warriors a bit of a scare in the first round. The Clippers looked like a team that was going places and by adding Leonard and George, they're more than just going places. They're entering themselves into the championship discussion.

The second reason is that the Clippers will be Leonard's team. Had he joined the Lakers, Leonard would have been second fiddle to LeBron James. Or at least that would have been the perception. Instead, Leonard gets to be the the man on this new and improved Clippers team, giving him a chance to go after James and prove himself to be the superior player.

Third, there's less pressure on Leonard. The Clippers have never won a championship before and quite frankly have never come close. By going to the Clippers, Leonard is able to be somewhat in the shadows of the Lakers, something that he doesn't mind.

Fourth, as was said above, Leonard gets to play with Paul George, one of the best wings in the NBA. George should play well alongside Leonard, giving the Clippers a legit second option. Together, Leonard and George have the chance to do a lot of damage and take the Clippers to even higher heights than they achieved during the Chris Paul/Blake Griffin era.

I will later address what this all means for the Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors, but for now, I want to focus on the Clippers. For them this is huge. They're in the game now and a real threat to win the NBA championship. On top of that, they're set to form a really fun crosstown rivalry with the Lakers, something that is certain to boost ratings across the league. As exciting as this past NBA season was, I'm already eager to see what next season has in store.

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Saturday, June 29, 2019

Saturday Slam: Will the Los Angeles Lakers survive the NBA playoffs?

By unloading Mo Wagner, Isaac Bonga, and Jemerrio Jones to the Washington Wizards in addition to having Anthony Davis waive his $4M trade clause, the Los Angeles Lakers have freed up $32M in cap space. As a result, they now a chance to land one more max player to join LeBron James and Davis.

With James and Davis alone, the Lakers have a much more competitive team than they did last season. If they can add one more max level player (such as Kawhi Leonard), there's a possibility that we'll see them in the NBA Finals next season. Especially since the Golden State Warriors are hobbled.

That all said, the Lakers shouldn't be banking on a 2020 championship just yet. For one thing, we don't know who they'll add in free agency. Secondly, health is a major concern. James is 34 years old and played in just 55 games last season due to various injuries including a hamstring. While some of the games he missed were due to caution, it's no secret that he is getting older and has a lot of miles on his legs.

As for Davis, he's much younger (26 years old) but also not as durable. He has never played 82 games in any NBA season and on average misses a shade over 16 games a year. What's particularly alarming is that Davis has never made a deep run in the playoffs. Given his injury woes, it's far from a guarantee that he'll be holding up come late May and June.

The bottom line with the Lakers is that as good as they project to be on paper, it's hard to predict how well they'll navigate the injury bug. If this were a shorter season with fewer playoff games, I would like the Lakers' chances to go the distance. But when we're talking about an 82 game season and a playoff format consisting of four rounds all of which are a seven game series, I don't know if I like their chances. The NBA playoffs are a grind and I'm far from convinced that the Lakers have what it takes to survive.

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Thursday, June 20, 2019

2019 Mock Draft

The 2019 NBA Draft is on Thursday at 7:00 PM EST on ESPN, which means the annual mock draft is due! I enjoy writing these up every year and I hope people in turn enjoy reading them. On Monday, I explained about how I go about writing a mock draft. Click here to read that if you'd like. As some of you know, I also write analysis of individual players for I will provide links to those analysis pieces in here as well. Without further introduction, let's dive in! 

                                                            FIRST ROUND 

1.     New Orleans Pelicans-Duke freshman SF Zion Williamson: All year long, Zion Williamson was the consensus top pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and he’s going to remain that way. At 6’7”, 285 pounds, Williamson evokes comparisons to Charles Barkley mixed with LeBron James type of athleticism. He’s even got some Dominique Wilkins in him with his flair for the highlight reel dunks. The Pelicans are going to make him their franchise piece for the future. Stats: 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 steals, and 1.8 blocks per game.
2.     Memphis Grizzlies-Murray State sophomore PG Ja Morant: Despite concerns about his minor knee operation, I still have Ja Morant going #2 overall to the Memphis Grizzlies. He’s the best point guard in the draft and the Grizzlies seem to be all in on making Morant their point guard for the future after trading Mike Conley to the Jazz. At 6’3”, 175 pounds, Morant can score, facilitate, and push the ball in transition in the open floor, making him a prototypical point guard for today’s NBA. Stats: 24.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 10.0 assists, and 1.8 steals per game. 

3.     New York Knicks-Duke freshman SF R.J. Barrett: Not to be overlooked in this year’s draft is R.J. Barrett, who played a huge role on last year’s Duke team. Barrett has all the physical tools you want in an NBA wing at 6’7”, 205 pounds. He can run the floor, throw it down in transition, and play good defense. It’s just a matter of him improving his shot a bit (30.8% from 3-point range and 66.5% from the foul line). While the Knicks lost out on the Zion Williamson sweepstakes, getting Barrett isn’t a bad consolation prize. Stats: 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and .9 steals per game. 

4.     New Orleans Pelicans-Virginia sophomore SF DeAndre Hunter: Due to the presence of Lonzo Ball as a result of the Anthony Davis trade, I don’t see the Pelicans taking a point guard. This pick could get traded, so we’ll have to see what happens, but as I wrote on Monday, I don’t factor in trades in my mock draft. 

Assuming this pick stays with the Pelicans, I think DeAndre Hunter makes a lot of sense for them. He would give them another athletic wing to go alongside Zion Williamson, allowing him to slide to the power forward position with more frequency. Hunter runs the floor well, can leap out of the gym, and has great size for an NBA wing at 6’7”, 225 pounds. On top of that, he’s a really good shooter, shooting 43.8% from 3-point range his sophomore year. He would compliment Williamson well. Stats: 15.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, .6 steals, and .6 blocks per game. 

5.     Cleveland Cavaliers-Texas Tech sophomore SG Jarrett Culver: I hinted about this on Monday, but now I’m confirming it. I don’t have the Cavaliers taking a point guard with this pick given the presence of Collin Sexton. Sexton had a good enough rookie season to be trusted with the point guard duties going forward. It would make no sense for the Cavaliers to take another point guard. Unless they trade the pick, which as I said, I don’t factor into my mocks. 

Operating under the assumption that the Cavaliers keep this pick, I think Jarrett Culver makes a ton of sense for them. He’s a versatile scorer, can shoot it from beyond the arc, and plays solid defense. He would be a nice fit for a team that could use a little bit of everything. At 6’5”, 195 pounds, Culver has NBA level athleticism and all the tools to be an elite wing in the league. What also makes him appealing is he’s not done getting better. He averaged 11.2 points per game as a freshman and improved his scoring average to 18.5 points per game as a sophomore. It’s going to be fun to see where he’s at in a few years. Stats: 18.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game. 

6.     Phoenix Suns-Vanderbilt freshman PG Darius Garland: Despite playing  in just five games his freshman year as a result of a knee (meniscus) injury, many people have Darius Garland going as high as #4 overall in this year’s draft. I personally think that’s a little crazy considering the severity of his knee injury and the lack of film we have on him (Remember Dante Exum?).  

Anyways, upon watching some tape on him, what stands out to me about Garland is his ability to get to the rim and finish in a number of creative ways. The talent is definitely there, but his durability should raise concerns as should his size (6’2”, 175 pounds). The Suns could really use a point guard, though and if Garland is still available, I don’t see them passing on him. Stats: 16.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game. 

7.     Chicago Bulls-North Carolina freshman PG Coby White: Coby White was the floor general of a really good North Carolina team, doing whatever was asked of him. He can score in a variety of ways, he can facilitate, and he has good size for an NBA point guard at 6’5”, 185 pounds. He’s got the potential to play some shooting guard as well as he shot 35.3% from 3-point range as a Tarheel. The Bulls could use a versatile playmaker in the back court, which is why I have them taking White. Stats: 16.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. 

8.     Atlanta Hawks-Duke freshman SF Cameron Reddish: This is one of those cases where I have the Hawks taking the best player available, which at this point would be Cameron Reddish. Overlooked by the presence of Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett, Reddish is one of the most talented players in this year’s draft. He has great physical tools at 6’8”, 218 pounds and is a pretty polished shooter for his age, shooting 33.3% from 3-point range and 77.2% from the foul line. He still has a lot of room for growth, which is exciting. He would be a great fit in Atlanta. Stats: 13.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game. 

9.     Washington Wizards-North Carolina freshman SF Nassir Little: I wrote a piece on Nassir Little a few weeks ago indicating how high on him I am. I interviewed him for back when Cal was looking at him and I was really impressed by his maturity and drive. He has tons of athleticism and physical gifts at 6’6”, 220 pounds. It’s just a matter of him polishing his game and honing his craft. Just like Kawhi Leonard was coming out of San Diego State. The Wizards need someone who can give them some hope for a brighter tomorrow and if he lives up to his max potential, Little could very well be that guy. The Wizards have nothing to lose by taking him. Stats: 9.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. 

10.  Atlanta Hawks-Maryland sophomore C Bruno Fernando: Bruno Fernando is projected to be the top big man in this year’s draft. He’s got great size at 6’10”, 240 pounds and does a good job crashing the boards and protecting the rim. He’s also a good foul shooter (77.9%). The Hawks have a lot to play with in this year’s draft, which is really nice. They would be wise to improve their front court by adding Fernando if he’s available at this spot. Stats: 13.6 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game. 

11.  Minnesota Timberwolves-France PF Sekou Doumbouya: At 6’9”, 230 pounds, Sekou Doumbouya has great physical tools to work with. Has great length, runs the floor well, is a legit athlete at the NBA level, etc. It’s just a matter of him learning how to play the game better. This is one of those prospects where we won’t know what we have for five years and in retrospect, he could wind up being one of the best players in this draft. He’s definitely a guy the Timberwolves should seriously consider if he’s available. He’d be a good fit there, I think. Stats: 6.9 points, 2.8 rebounds, and .9 steals per game during EuroCup. 18 years old. Turns 19 in December. 

12.  Charlotte Hornets-Gonzaga junior PF Rui Hachimura: Rui Hachimura is one of the most NBA ready prospects in this year’s draft. His age is the only thing that’s preventing him from being a top 6 or 7 pick. Hachimura has a great feel for the game, knows how to score inside, and is comfortable being a leader. He’s also improved his shot, shooting 73.9% from the foul line and 41.7% from 3-point range on 1 attempt per game.  If you want to convince Kemba Walker to stay in Charlotte, adding a good pick and roll mate in Hachimura wouldn’t be a bad start. Stats: 19.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 0.9 steals per game. 

13.  Miami Heat-Florida State sophomore PF Mfiondu Kabengele: Mfiondu Kabengele is one of those guys that has a ton of potential due to his physical gifts (6’10”, 250 pounds), but is still learning the game. One of the things that bodes well for Kabengele is he improved a lot from his freshman year to his sophomore year, going from 7.2 points per game to 13.2. He’s also improved as a shot blocker, getting more comfortable with his body and ability to protect the rim (1.5 blocks per game).  He’s still a project, but his upside warrants him being a late lottery pick. Stats: 13.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game. 

14.  Boston Celtics-Kentucky sophomore PF P.J. Washington: When I interviewed P.J. Washington a couple of years ago back when he was balling at Findlay Prep, I knew he was supposed to be really good, but I didn’t know he would become a lottery pick kind of talent. Washington has evolved into a really good forward that can score, stretch the floor, rebound, and defend. His 42.3% shooting from 3-point range on 2.2 attempts per game is really exciting. The Celtics have a lot of picks to use in this year’s draft and I don’t see why they would pass on Washington if he’s available at this point. Stats: 15.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game. 

15.  Detroit Pistons-Virginia Tech sophomore SG Nickeil Alexander-Walker: One of the best two-way players in this draft is Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who has good size for a shooting guard at 6’5”, 205 pounds. He plays sound defense (1.9 steals per game ), gets to the cup, and has greatly improved his facilitating up from 1.5 assists per game as a freshman to 4.0 assists per game as a sophomore. I feel like he would be a good fit in Detroit because of his defense and playmaking abilities. Stats: 16.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.9 steals per game.

16.  Orlando Magic-Kentucky freshman SG Keldon Johnson: Keldon Johnson is a promising talent due to his 3-point shooting and rebounding. He shot 38.1% from 3-point range and averaged 5.9 rebounds per game. He has solid size for an NBA wing at 6’6”, 210 pounds, possessing NBA level athleticism. His ceiling doesn’t project to be super high, but he could fit in nicely with a Magic team that is looking to make more noise in the playoffs. Stats: 13.5 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. 

17.  Atlanta Hawks-Georgia sophomore PF Nicolas Claxton: At 6’11”, 220 pounds, Nicolas Claxton runs the floor really well, knows how to get up, and all in all is a great NBA level athlete. It’s just a matter of him improving his craft and getting better on the offensive end. His major strength is his defense (2.5 blocks per game), which indicates he has a high motor. The Hawks could use a high energy guy like him and would also get someone who could help sell some tickets given that he’s a local talent. Stats: 13.0 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game. 

18.  Indiana Pacers-Indiana freshman SG Romeo Langford:I’m staying local here as I have the Pacers taking a local talent of their own in Romeo Langford.I feel like Langford flew under the radar a bit in college after having a lot of hype coming out of high school. His 16.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game at Indiana wasn’t bad, but he could have done more. If he can improve his defense (.8 steals per game) and also his shooting (72.2% from the foul line and 27.2% from 3-point range), he could end up having a pretty solid NBA career. Stats: See above. 

19.  San Antonio Spurs-Republic of Georgia PF Goga Bitadze: There’s a funny photo circulating of Goga Bitadze getting zero media attention as Zion Williamson is one stall over from him sucking up all the space in the room. It’s a funny picture, but should also serve as motivation for a guy who is actually quite talented in his own right. He moves well for his size, knows how to score in the post, has good shooting touch, and all in all is your prototypical 6’11”, 250 pound European big. Given the success of European bigs like Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic, one could argue he should go top ten. At some point, teams have to catch on to the trend, right? 

As for why I’m picking San Antonio, guys like Bitadze are right up their alley. They’re always finding talented European guys that do damage. It’s kinda their thing. Stats: 14.0 points and 5.9 rebounds per game during ABA Liga. Turns 20 in July. 

20.  Boston Celtics-Oregon freshman C Bol Bol: Son of the late Manute Bol,Bol Bol has tons of upside due to his 7’2”, 210 pound body and ability to stretch the floor. He’s a total physical freak that could end up being the best player in this entire draft. What hurt his stock is his foot injury, which caused him to miss most of his time at Oregon. If can stay healthy, the sky is the limit to what he can accomplish. The Celtics have a lot of picks, which is why taking Bol Bol is a low risk, high reward type of move for them. Stats: 21.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per game. NBA Draft Profile: I provided more in-depth analysis of Bol Bol for Click here to check it out. 

21.  Oklahoma City Thunder-USC freshman SG Kevin Porter, Jr.: Despite not having much of a freshman season at USC, Kevin Porter, Jr. caught the attention of NBA scouts with his athleticism, defense, and energy. He has great size for an NBA shooting guard at 6’6”, 218 pounds and has all the pieces to be a great two-way guard in the league, drawing comparisons to DeShawn Stevenson. Like Stevenson, there are concerns about his maturity, but if he can grow up and become all that he can be, maybe he’ll become the DeShawn Stevenson that could have been but never was. Which was Michael Jordan 2.0. Which, ok, I’m going to stop now… 

Stats: 9.5 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. NBA Draft Profile: I provided more in-depth analysis of Kevin Porter, Jr. for Click here to check it out. 

22.  Boston Celtics-Texas freshman PF Jaxson Hayes: Jackson Hayeshas all the physical gifts in the world at 6’11”, 220 pounds. It’s just a matter of his game catching up with his talents. One thing he will bring right away is defense as he averaged 2.2 blocks per game during his freshman year. If he figures out the offensive part, it could be game over. Stats: 10.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game. 

23.  Memphis Grizzlies- Stanford sophomore SF KZ Okpala: After flying under the radar a bit in high school and his freshman year, KZ Okpala blossomed into a potential lottery pick during his sophomore year on the “The Farm” due to his unique blend of athleticism, shooting, and basketball IQ. He’s got a ton of talent and should continue to get better. He’s a bit of a quiet guy if you interview him, so maybe that’s why he’s fallen in mock drafts. Teams just not liking how he comes across, but that isn’t a reason to worry about him. If continues on the trajectory he’s on, we’ll look back and wonder why he wasn’t a top ten pickHe would be a great fit in Memphis alongside Ja Morant. 

Stats: 16.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.0 steals per game. NBA Draft Profile: I provided more in-depth analysis of KZ Okpala for Click here to check it out.

24.  Philadelphia 76ers-Oregon freshman SF Louis King: Louis King had a bit of an underwhelming freshman year, but he still managed to be a solid contributor for the Ducks. He’s a unique talent in that he’s a 6’9”, 205 pound small forward that has good shooting touch (38.6% from 3-point range and 78.5% from the foul line). Given that package, I have a hard time seeing him not go in the first round. Stats: 13.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. 

25.  Portland Trail Blazers-Gonzaga junior PF Brandon Clarke: Brandon Clarke demonstrated NBA level talent when he was a freshman at San Jose State. I watched him play live when he was with the Spartans and was amazed by his athleticism and motor. I think it was a put back dunk that caught my eye. 

After sitting out a year and transferring to Gonzaga, Clarke has done a great job of polishing his game and honing his craft. He shot a remarkable 68.7% from the field last season and swatted 3.2 shots per game. He actually had just as many total blocks (117) as he did missed shots last season, which is just nuts. He would fit well with a Portland team that could use another energetic body off the bench. Stats: 16.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 3.2 blocks per game. 

26.  Cleveland Cavaliers-Belmont senior SF Dylan Windler: Ja Morant stole the show in the Ohio Valley Conference this past year, but Dylan Windler was pretty good, too. He has good size for an NBA small forward at 6’8”, 200 pounds and shot 42.9% from 3-point range. On top of being a really good 3-point shooter, Windler was a good all-around scorer (21.3 points) and a killer rebounder (10.8 rebounds). He’s a very polished and NBA ready player that would learn a lot from Kevin LoveStats: 21.3 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. 

27.  Brooklyn Nets-Virginia junior PG Ty JeromeTy Jerome is one of those guys that makes up for his lack of athleticism with his skill and playmaking abilities. He’s a good facilitator, good shooter, plays smart, and a leader. Plus, while not being very athletic, he has good size at 6’5”, 195 pounds. The Nets are looking to improve their chances of winning a playoff series, making a solid backup point guard like Jerome a good choice at this point of the draft. Stats: 13.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game. 

28.  Golden State Warriors-Washington senior SG Matisse Thybulle: Matisse Thybulle is a phenomenal defender at 6’5”, 195 pounds, averaging 3.5 steals, and 2.3 blocks per game. His offense needs to improve, but he’ll come in right away as a legit defender that can force turnovers and wreak havoc. He would be a perfect fit on a Warriors team that could use more disruption on defense. 

Stats: 9.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.5 steals, and 2.3 blocks per game. NBA Draft Profile: I provided more in-depth analysis of Matisse Thybulle for Click here to check it out.

29.  San Antonio Spurs-Kentucky freshman SG Tyler Herro: Tyler Herro has solid size for an NBA shooting guard at 6’5”, 195 pounds and is a really good shooter (35.5% from 3-point range and 93.5% from the foul line). On top of being a good shooter, he’s a pretty solid rebounder (4.5 rebounds per game) and defender (1.1 steals per game). If he can improve his quickness and athleticism, he could be a steal. Stats: 14.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game. 

30.  Milwaukee Bucks-LSU freshman C Naz Reid: At 6’10”, 250 pounds, Naz Reid is one large dude. He’s a solid scorer in the post, solid rebounder, and a pretty good foul shooter for a big man (72.2%). The issue with him is he is a bit overweight and isn’t REALLY good at any one thing. Plus, he’s a below average passer (0.9 assists) and shot blocker (0.7 blocks). If he can improve in those two areas and become more tenacious on the glass, he could be a steal at this point of the draft. Stats: 13.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. 


31.  Brooklyn Nets-Auburn sophomore SF Chuma Okeke: At 6’8”, 230 pounds, Chuma Okeke is a solid forward and borderline first round talent. He can stretch the floor (38.7% from 3-point range), score, rebound, and defend (1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks per game). Lots to like about him. Stats: 12.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.8 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game. 

32.  Phoenix Suns-Purdue junior PG Carsen Edwards: Carsen Edwards’ 42 point explosion against Virginia in the Elite Eight put him on the NBA radar for good as he almost willed his team to victory. He was pulling out all of his bag of tricks in that game. It should be noted though that Edwards was a good scorer all season long (24.3 points per game) and played much bigger than his 6’1”, 200 pound frame. The only concern with him is he's not much of a facilitator (2.9 assists per game) and it’s tough to make it in the NBA as a 6’1” shooting guard. If he can improve his facilitating and develop in other areas, he could find a nice home in the NBA. Stats: See above. 

33.  Philadelphia 76ers-Arkansas sophomore PF Daniel Gafford: At 6’11”, 235 pounds Daniel Gafford runs the floor well and has nice physical tools to work with. He rebounds well and knows how to protect the paint. What’s holding him back is his lack of a perimeter game (0 3-point attempts in two years at Arkansas). If he can develop a perimeter game, he’ll take his game to new heights. Stats: 16.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game. 

34.  Philadelphia 76ers-USA SF Darius Bazley: If Darius Bazley had decided to play college basketball instead of opting to sit out a year to train for the NBA, he could have been a projected first round pick. There are a lot of unknowns with the 2018 McDonald’s All-American, but he has tremendous physical tools at 6’9”, 210 pounds. It’ll be interesting to see where he falls in the draft and how much his decision to sit out a year hurt or helped him. Stats: N/A 

35.  Atlanta Hawks-Villanova senior PF Eric Paschall: Eric Paschall is undersized for a power forward at 6’7”, 255 pounds, but he’s made up for it with his energy, leaping ability, strength, and quickness. If he can improve on his 34.8% shooting from 3-point range and become reliable from deep in the NBA, he could be one the major steals of this draft. Stats: 16.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. 

36.  Charlotte Hornets-Tennessee junior PG Jordan Bone: After back-to-back seasons of scoring averages in the single digits, Jordan Bone really came into his own his junior year, averaging 13.5 points per game to go along with 5.8 assists. He could be a solid replacement for Tony Parker, who served as a reserve point guard last season for the Hornets. Stats: See above.

37.  Dallas Mavericks-Mississippi senior PG Terence Davis: At 6’4”, 205 pounds, Terence Davis has solid size for a point guard. What really helped him out this past season was his improved 3-point shooting (31.7% as a junior; 37.1% as a senior) and defending (1.6 steals per game). He’s a below average facilitator, but he’s been making up for it in other areas. If he can improve at getting his teammates involved, he could find a permanent home in the NBA. Stats: 15.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. 

38.  Chicago Bulls-North Carolina senior SF Cameron Johnson: What makes Cameron Johnson intriguing is he’s a 6’8”, 205 pound wing that shoots 45.7% from 3-point range. I may have him pegged a bit low as he could sneak into the first round. Wherever he lands, he could wind up being a steal. Stats: 16.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. 

39.  New Orleans Pelicans-Syracuse sophomore SF Oshae Brissett: Given his draft projection, it’s fair to question whether or not Oshae Brissett is coming out a year early. The counterargument to that is that he regressed from his freshman year to sophomore year in terms of his scoring, rebounding, minutes, foul shooting, and 3-point shooting. So perhaps its good he’s coming out now as opposed to slipping even further next year. Stats: 12.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. 

40.  Sacramento Kings-Tennessee junior SF Grant Williams: Grant Williams was the top player on a Tennessee team that was #1 in the country for a lot of the year. That alone makes him a legit prospect. On top of that, he’s a 2x SEC Player of the Year that knows how to lead a team. If you’re talking about guys who could outplay his draft stock, Grant Williams could be one of those guys. Stats: 18.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.1 steals, and 1.5 blocks per game. 

41.  Atlanta Hawks-Croatia PF Luka Samanic: At 6’11”, 230 pounds, Luka Samanic is a talented forward that moves well for his size and has a pretty well-rounded game on offense. He’s got first round talent, so it’ll be interesting to see if he goes earlier than I have him going. We shall see. Stats: 8.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game (Euroleague U18). 

42.  Philadelphia 76ers- Virginia junior SG Kyle Guy: If there’s one thing we know about Kyle Guy, it’s that he has ice in his veins. Without his clutch shooting, Virginia would not have won a national title. He’s also a solid scorer to go along with being a clutch shooter. The big concern with him is he’s just 6’2”, 175 pounds, which is really small for a shooting guard. He definitely deserves a look, though. Stats: 15.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. 

43.  Minnesota Timberwolves-Arizona State freshman SG Luguentz Dort: Given his projection, Luguentz Dort may have been wise to play one more year of college basketball. What makes me thing he still gets drafted, though is his physical profile. He’s built like a truck at 6’4”, 220 pounds and is very aggressive, especially in the open floor. He’s a pit bull on defense (1.5 steals per game) and has all the tools to be another Tony Allen type. Stats: 16.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game. 

44.  Miami Heat-Florida State SG Terance Mann: Terance Mann is a 6’7”, 215 pound shooting guard that shoots 39.0% from 3-point range and 79.0% from the foul line. It’s tough for guys like him to go undrafted. Stats: 11.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. 

45.  Detroit Pistons-San Diego State sophomore SF Jalen McDaniels: What will help Jalen McDaniels find a home in the NBA is he’s 6’9”, 190 pounds with an ability to do a lot of different things. He can score, rebound, and force turnovers. His main needs are to add more weight and become a better 3-point shooter. Stats: 15.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game. 

46.  Orlando Magic-Germany PG Joshua Obiesie: Joshua Obiesieis a 6’6”, 195 pound point guard that really is more of a combo guard due to his size and versatility. If given the right situation, he could flourish in the NBA. Stats: Just turned 19 years old. Averaged 5.5 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 1 assist per game in the BBL league in Germany. 

47.  Sacramento Kings-Washington sophomore SG Jaylen Nowell: I got to know Jaylen Nowell decently well when he was being recruited by Cal out of Garfield High School in Seattle. He of course decided to stay home and build up the Huskies program. Nowell is a really talented scorer that can put the ball in the basket in a variety of ways. He can beat you from the perimeter (44.0% from 3-point range), beat you at the foul line (77.9%), or beat you to the rim (52.5% from 2-point range). On top of that, he’s a pretty good rebounder and can defend the perimeter well. 

Stats: 16.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game. NBA Draft Profile: I provided more in-depth analysis of Jaylen Nowell for Click here to check it out.

48.  Los Angeles Clippers-Central senior Florida C Tacko Fall: Tacko Fall is 7’6”, 310 pounds with a solid post game and ability to protect the rim. Truth be told, his shot blocking should be better than what it is. If he can become another Mark Eaton, he’ll have a long and fruitful career in the NBA. His name is also really cool. Stats: 11.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game. 

49.  San Antonio Spurs-UCLA sophomore SF Kris Wilkes: At 6’7”, 210 pounds, Kris Wilkes has the ability to go off. It’s just a matter of him becoming more consistent. He’s got first round talent, so he’d be an absolute steal at this point of the draft. 

Stats: 17.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. NBA Draft Profile: I provided more in-depth analysis of Kris Wilkes for Click here to check it out.  

50.  Indiana Pacers-UCLA freshman C Moses Brown: At 7’1”, 245 pounds, Moses Brown has tons of upside, but is just very raw. His shooting stroke is really weird, and he’ll definitely need to spend a lot of time in the G-League. He’s a guy worth rolling the dice on at this point of the draft, though. You can teach his physical gifts. 

Stats: 9.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game. NBA Draft Profile: I provided more in-depth analysis of Moses Brown for Click here to check it out. 

51.  Boston Celtics-Tulsa junior SF DaQuan Jeffries: DaQuan Jeffries was a 2018-19 All-AAC player for Tulsa this past season, shooting 36.6% from 3-point range and 75.5% from the foul line. He’s a little short for an NBA small forward at 6’5”, but he makes up for it with his 230 pound frame. He’s a very physical player that should be able to handle the NBA just fine from a physical standpoint. A man among boys in the AAC. Stats: 13.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.0 steal per game. 

52.  Charlotte Hornets-UCLA sophomore PG Jaylen Hands: To his credit, Jaylen Hands improved from his freshman year to sophomore year at UCLA. His scoring improved, his assist numbers improved, and he averaged more steals per game. He’s another option the Hornets could go to add point guard depth. 

Stats: 14.2 points, 6.1 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. NBA Draft Profile: I provided more in-depth analysis of Jalen Hands for I also got a couple of quotes from him talking about his game and what he needs to improve. Click here to check it out. 

53.  Utah Jazz-Yale junior SG Miye Oni: Every now and then the Ivy League produces an NBA level talent and this year they have one in Miye Oni. He’s 6’6”, 210 pounds, and a solid all-around player that can score, rebound, and defend. He’d fit right in Utah that is looking for rookies who can help out right away. 

Stats: 17.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. NBA Draft Profile: I provided more in-depth analysis of Miye Oni for Click here to check it out. 

54.  Philadelphia 76ers-Nebraska junior SF Isaiah Roby: The main thing Isaiah Roby has going for him is his 6’8”, 230 pound frame. He’s physically ready for the NBA. He just needs to improve his foul shooting, 3-point shooting, and all-around scoring. Stats: 11.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.

55.  New York Knicks-Michigan freshman SF Ignas Brazdeikis: At 6’7”, 215 pounds, Ignas Brazdeikis is a legit stretch forward, shooting 39.2% from 3-point range. When I interviewed him back when Cal was looking at him, he was being recruited as a stretch forward. I had no idea he would get on the NBA radar like he did, so it’s been fun to see him blow up. Stats: 14.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. 

56.  Los Angeles Clippers-Sydney Kings SF Brian Bowen: Brian Bowen is more famous for his role in the national college basketball corruption scandal back when he was committed to Louisville. It’s a shame because he’s actually a pretty talented player. He’s 6’7”, 190 pounds and a 2017 McDonald’s All-American. It would be cool to see him redeem himself in the NBA and find a home. Stats: 6.3 points and 3.2 rebounds per game in the NBL. 

57.  New Orleans Pelicans-Michigan sophomore SG Jordan Poole: At 6’5”, 195 pounds, Jordan Poole more than doubled his scoring average from his freshman year to his sophomore year (6.1 points to 12.8 points per game). That definitely bodes well for his ability to get better. Stats: 12.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. 

58.  Golden State Warriors-Oregon sophomore PF Kenny Wooten: At 6’9”, 235 pounds, Kenny Wooten has great physical tools. He runs the floor really well, protects the rim at an elite level, and has promising talent on offense. He just needs to spend some time in the G-League and hone his craft. He’s worth a pick towards the end of this draft. Stats: 6.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game. NBA Draft Profile: I provided more in-depth analysis of Kenny Wooten for Click here to check it out. 

59.  Toronto Raptors-USA PG Jalen Lecque: Jalen Lecque  is an athletic point guard at 6’4”, 195 pounds, who decided to skip college (former NC State commit) to go to the NBA instead. It’s hard to know how good he’ll be since he didn’t play in college, but he might be worth a gamble at this stage. Stats: N/A

60.  Sacramento Kings-Nevada SG Caleb Martin:  Totally a gut thing, but I think the Kings roll the dice on local product Caleb Martin. They’re sort of the default home team for Nevada fans and bringing in their star player to training camp wouldn’t hurt. He’s also a pretty talented scorer that can play both small forward and power forward. Stats: 19.2 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. 

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