NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

Monday, February 24, 2020

Mamba Monday: An emotional memorial service at Staples Center honoring Kobe Bryant

                                          (Credit: Kevork Dejansezian/Getty Images) 

On Monday, there was an emotional memorial service honoring the life of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna. The service was a reminder of how amazingly driven Bryant was and the passion he had for basketball and life. I want to keep my words on here brief since I feel the words spoken by Michael Jordan and Sabrina Ionescu do a better job of expressing just how much Bryant meant to the game of basketball. Below are both of their speeches. I encourage you to watch them and be inspired by the messages that were said.

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Saturday, February 22, 2020

Saturday Slam: The Cleveland Cavaliers are a mess after letting John Beilein go

(Credit: Tony Dejak/Associated Press) 

The big news story of the week in the NBA is the Cleveland Cavaliers parting ways with their head coach John Beilein, who didn't even get a chance to finish year one of his contract. The official report is that Beilein resigned and is being given a new role in the organization. J.B. Bickerstaff has been promoted from assistant coach to head coach. Just so we're clear on that. 

The Beilein era didn't go as the Cavaliers hoped. They went an abysmal 14-40 during his brief stint as head coach and all along the way there were reports of tension and frustration from both the players and Beilein. The nut of it is Beilein took an old-school college approach to the NBA and it backfired in his face. A lot of what players were complaining about is what you would expect a good basketball coach to do: Practice hard, watch a lot of film, etc. 

Unfortunately, that old-school approach works better in college where players aren't getting paid and are not yet in the NBA. Sadly, in the NBA you have a lot of players who act entitled and think they're better than they actually are. Charles Barkley sounded off on this below. 

Now don't get me wrong, NBA players are incredibly gifted athletes and basketball players. That's why they're there. However, that doesn't mean they don't still have to work hard and perfect their craft. It would be one thing if the Cavaliers had a bona fide superstar on their team. Someone who could mentor the younger players like Collin Sexton to make it clear that being in the NBA doesn't mean you stop watching film and practicing hard.

The players that have been complaining about Beilein (e.g. Andre Drummond who just got to Cleveland) haven't accomplished much in their careers in terms of team success. They're great individual talents, but they haven't figured out how to play as a team. That's where a good coach like Beilein is supposed to help.

Ultimately, what's happened in Cleveland rests on the shoulders of their front office. Namely general manager Koby Altman. You can't hire a coach and then not even have him complete his first year. That's embarrassing. You need to send a message to your players that they can't just blame their coach for all their problems. Their job is to play basketball and they need to treat it as such.

In the event that Beilein truly wasn't a good fit and not cut out for the NBA, that also is a bad look for management. If he was as much of a disaster as the players want us to think he was, then that means he was a bad hire and shouldn't have been offered a job in the first place. Given his track record at Michigan, I have a hard time believing he's as bad as they say he is. Even though the NBA game is different, it's still the same sport.

Going forward, the Cavaliers need to do some soul searching as an organization after the way this all went down. Their front office needs to seriously evaluate if they have the right players to right the ship and whether or not Bickerstaff is the man for the job. There are lots of questions that need to be asked by the Cavaliers and they're not easy questions to have to ask yourself. The Cavaliers are a mess right now and it's unclear how they'll get themselves out of it.

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Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Wednesday Windmill: The Toronto Raptors are legit contenders

The Toronto Raptors' 15 game winning streak came to an end on Wednesday as they lost to the Brooklyn Nets 101-91 in Brooklyn. It was the longest winning streak in franchise history. The Raptors are now 40-15, just 6.5 games back of the 46-8 Milwaukee Bucks.

Earlier in the year, I wrote about how we shouldn't sleep on this Raptors team and it looks like I was right. What I like about them is their combination of depth and stardom. Pascal Siakam (23.7 points & 7.5 rebounds) is a legit star with a great supporting cast around him in Kyle Lowry, Fred Vanvleet, Serge Ibaka, Norman Powell, OG Anunoby, and Marc Gasol. The only guy in that group not scoring in double figures on average is Gasol. The rest of those guys are. That's six guys scoring in double figures every night! That's just scary!

Most assumed that with the departure of Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors would sink back into the middle of the Eastern Conference standings and maybe win a playoff series if they caught a break. What made me doubt those assumptions is what I said above. I felt Siakam had the pieces to be the face of the franchise and that he had a really good supporting cast around him. On top of that, as sensational as Leonard was last year, people forget that it really was a team effort to bring the first NBA championship to Toronto. Everyone contributed. It wasn't just Leonard.

Emboldened by winning a title with the help of Leonard, the Raptors now have the confidence to go toe-to-toe with anyone in the NBA. Especially the rest of the Eastern Conference. With the way they've been playing, they shouldn't be afraid of anyone.

As for whether or not the Raptors win the NBA championship, I would be lying to you if I told you I thought they would win it all again. When you lose a guy as good as The Claw, it's hard to defend an NBA championship. Most teams who lost a guy of his caliber would be in rebuilding mode or at least not contending for another title. That said, the fact that the Raptors are contending once again does give me hope that they might repeat or at the very least come out of the East once more. The only team standing in their way is the Bucks and as good as they've been in the regular season, there's reason to doubt their ability to get it done come playoff time.

If the Raptors keep playing like they've been and the Bucks falter a bit, don't be surprised to see them back in the NBA Finals. They have a new star in Siakam, a quality supporting cast around him, and experience. We The North isn't done just yet.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Tomahawk Tuesday: Marcus Morris should be a good fit for the Los Angeles Clippers

                                         (Credit: Tony Dejak/Associated Press) 

At the trade deadline, the Los Angeles Clippers acquired Marcus Morris from the New York Knicks in a 3-way deal that also included the Washington Wizards. In case you are wondering, the Clippers do not intend to keep Isaiah Thomas, who was included in the deal.

Morris was averaging 19.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game this season with the Knicks as their leading scorer. With the Clippers, he will be asked to play much more of a support role as Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are their top two options while Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell are their third and fourth options. As a quick digression, it says a lot about how bad the Knicks are that their top scorer would be a fifth option on a contending team!

As I said above, what Morris brings to this Clippers team is additional depth. He can score and he can rebound. That's pretty much it, but that's all the Clippers really need more of. He should be able to take a little bit of pressure off their top four scorers and be an extra body in case one of them goes down.

Make no mistake, this move was made squarely for the Clippers' playoff push. He's on an expiring contract and it's no guarantee that he even re-signs with them in the offseason. The Clippers are using him as a short-term rental that can hopefully lift them ahead of their rival Los Angeles Lakers.

Personally, I feel Marcus Morris should be a good fit for this Clippers team. He should be able to give George, Leonard, and Harrell more time to rest while also producing at a high clip when he's in the game. While the Clippers' move for Morris was overshadowed by some other deals that were made, we may look back at their move as the most impactful one in terms of what happens come playoff time.

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Monday, February 10, 2020

Mock Draft Monday: Are the Minnesota Timberwolves one good draft pick away from being good?

The most notable trade the Minnesota Timberwolves made at the trade deadline was the trade they made to land D'Angelo Russell from the Golden State Warriors. By getting a ball dominant All-Star level guard to play with their franchise center Karl-Anthony Towns, the Timberwolves feel they are back in business. Or at least close to being back in business.

One other piece of the puzzle for the Timberwolves is whoever they draft in the 2020 NBA draft. At the moment, they are projected to get the #5 pick, which means there is the real possibility that they could land the #1 pick in the lottery. Even if they don't get the #1 pick, they're still positioned well to add a really talented player to their team next year. I like Georgia freshman guard Anthony Edwards a lot and think he would be a great addition to this young Wolves team. You give them a talented shooting guard alongside Russell and they really could be cooking with gas.

Of course, Edwards isn't the only rookie that could fill that need for them. Washington freshman small forward Jaden McDaniels is another great option for the Wolves that should be available if they are picking 5th. He would bring athleticism out on the wing and also play well alongside Russell in the backcourt.

                                          (Credit: Frank Gunn. Canadian Press) 

The Timberwolves injected some new life into their team by getting Russell and can now look ahead to the 2020 NBA draft with some additional excitement. Over these next few months, their front office needs to do their due diligence to make sure they find the right fit for their team and prepare for the likelihood that they don't get a top three pick. Provided they do that, their future looks to be very bright.

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Saturday, February 8, 2020

Saturday Slam: Will Andrew Wiggins thrive in Golden State?

                                          (Credit: John Hefti-Associated Press) 

The biggest trade made at the deadline was the Minnesota Timberwolves trading Andrew Wiggins to the Golden State Warriors, getting D'Angelo Russell back in return.

When the Warriors got Russell, many assumed he was going to be used as a trade chip due to the fact that they already had two other ball dominant guards in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Those assumptions turned out to be correct as the Warriors did in fact move him to get a better fit in Wiggins: Another wing that can play alongside Curry and Thompson.

In his 6th year in the NBA, Wiggins is averaging 22.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. He's putting up solid numbers, but the Timberwolves felt a more ball dominant guard like Russell would be a better fit alongside Karl-Anthony Towns, who has emerged as their franchise player. The Warriors conversely felt Wiggins would be a better complimentary piece around the players that they already have.

Considering their recent championship success, Golden State is a perfect fit for Wiggins, who had been stuck in a losing environment in Minnesota. He gets to be around a winning culture and be more of a complimentary piece as opposed to dealing with the pressures of being the go-to player. Once Curry and Thompson come back, he'll give the Warriors a solid third/fourth option alongside Draymond Green, bring athleticism out on the wing, and solid defense. It'll be interesting to see how this goes once the Warriors are back to full strength.

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Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Wednesday Windmill: Which Eastern Conference teams should make a move before the NBA trade deadline?

The NBA trade deadline is on Thursday at 3:00 PM EST. Yesterday I did a breakdown of which Western Conference teams should consider a move before the trade deadline (click here to check it out) and today I'll address the Eastern Conference. Same drill as yesterday, I'll address the teams in order of where they sit in the standings. Also, on the NBA Lord Twitter and Facebook pages, I will be providing updates on trades and all that jazz.

#1. Milwaukee Bucks (43-7): The Bucks have the best record in the NBA, led by the Greek Freak Giannis Antetokounmpo. Considering how well they're playing, I don't think they have much of a need to make a move. They do have a few guys on expiring contracts in Kyle Korver, Sterling Brown, and Pat Connaughton, so those are chips they could use in a trade if they so like. But, I would expect the Bucks to more or less stay the way they are. When you're the best in the league, why mess with what you have?

#2. Toronto Raptors (36-14): Marc Gasol, Kyle Lowry, and Serge Ibaka are all on expiring contracts so in theory, the Raptors could go wild and unload their stars for future assets and all. But that would be a strange thing to do when they are once again a legit contender in the Eastern Conference. I would be very surprised if the Raptors made any major move before the trade deadline.

#3. Boston Celtics (34-15): The Celtics have Brad Wanamaker on an expiring contract. Aside from the players they have on two-way contracts (which I don't really count as expiring contracts), that's all they have in terms of players on expiring deals. That means the Celtics don't really have anyone to unload. Given that they are third in the East and that everyone seems to be gelling well, I expect the Celtics to stay as is come the trade deadline. If the Celtics were to make a move, it would be to shore up their front court. So perhaps, they do move Gordon Hayward or something along those lines, but I highly doubt it.

#4. Miami Heat (34-15): The Heat have Goran Dragic, Meyers LeonardDerrick Jones, Jr., and Udonis Haslem on expiring contracts. Haslem is a Heat for life, so he isn't going anywhere. Dragic is one of their top players, averaging 16.0 points and 5.0 assists per game, so I don't see him getting moved. As for Leonard and Jones, maybe the Heat will move both of them in order to get a better player or land some draft picks for next year. But, I would expect those guys to stay put as well.

As for the rest of their roster, I'm sure the Heat would love to unload Dion Waiters, but I don't see them finding a home for him. He's pretty toxic. One name to keep an eye on KZ Okpala. The Heat are trying to develop him, but perhaps they can sell some other team on his upside and get some assets back for him. The bottom line is I'm not feeling a trade coming from the Heat, but there are enough possible routes for them that one may emerge.

#5. Indiana Pacers (31-19): The Pacers have a few minor players on expiring contracts in JaKarr Sampson, Alize Johnson, and Justin Holiday. Their big addition around this time of year is getting Victor Oladipo healthy. I don't see the Pacers making a move at the deadline, but given that they have some players on expiring contracts, maybe they move one of them.

#6. Philadelphia 76ers (31-20): The players who the 76ers have on expiring contracts are Kyle O'Quinn, Trey Burke, and Raul Neto. Similar to the Pacers, pretty minor players. Also like the Pacers, I don't find a trade likely for the 76ers. Maybe they move one of their more minor players on an expiring contract to get some assets back or something, but that's the extent of what I see them doing. Maybe they'll prove me wrong.

#7. Brooklyn Nets (22-27): Joe Harris is on an expiring contract as is Wilson Chandler. It's a possibility that the Nets move one of them, but in truth, the Nets are really eying next year and the return of Kevin Durant. Given that, I don't expect the Nets to be active at the trade deadline, but if they were to make a move, it would likely involve Harris or Chandler. Teams have been inquiring about Spencer Dinwiddie (21.3 points per game), but I find it unlikely that the Nets will move him. Once again, the Nets are looking ahead to next year. This isn't the year for them to get aggressive at the trade deadline.

#8. Orland Magic (22-28): D.J. Augustin and Michael Carter-Williams are both on expiring contracts, so it's possible that one of them gets moved. Aaron Gordon is another name that has popped up in trade rumors, offering more value than either Augustin or Carter-Williams. The Magic are in a weird spot where they're on the cusp of making the playoffs while also knowing that this season isn't a year where they're likely to make noise in the playoffs. One thing I will say is they have a lot of guards and both Augustin and Carter-Williams are guards. They could use some front court help, so maybe that's a direction they'll go. We'll see.

#9. Chicago Bulls (19-33): The Bulls have a couple players on expiring contracts in Kris Dunn and Shaquille Harrison. Neither player is doing much for the Bulls, but perhaps a change of scenery will do them good. Especially Dunn, a former top five pick. However, Dunn is out with an MCL sprain and that could ward off some teams from trading for him. Expect the Bulls to stay silent, but maybe they'll find Dunn a better situation and get some draft picks in return.

#10. Washington Wizards (17-32): Ian Mahinmi, Isaiah Thomas, and Davis Bertans are on expiring deals. Bertans is the most interesting one, having a breakout year with his 15.0 points per game. If the Wizards don't think they can re-sign him or afford him in the summer, good odds they move him and get something back for him. A lot of playoff level teams would love to add him. Don't be shocked if the Wizards unload Bertans. It would actually make a lot of sense for them to do so.

#11. Detroit Pistons (18-34): The Pistons and Suns were rumored to be discussing a deal sending Luke Kennard to Phoenix, but reports are now saying those talks have hit an impasse. Andre Drummond has also come up in trade rumors. Neither are on expiring contracts, so maybe the Pistons hold off on moving them for now. Reggie Jackson, Langston Galloway, Thon Maker, Markieff Morris, Christian Wood, Tim Frazier, and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk are all on expiring deals, giving the Pistons a lot of different options there. I would say odds are above 50 percent that the Pistons get involved in some move, but of what nature is hard to foresee.

#12. Charlotte Hornets (16-35): The Hornets have Bismack Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams, Willy Hernangomez, Dwayne Bacon, and Ray Spalding on expiring deals. None of those guys have a ton of value, but there are decent odds the Hornets find a home for one of them. Especially if they are willing to help facilitate a three-team trade.

#13. New York Knicks (15-36): The Knicks have Marcus Morris, Allonzo Trier, Damyean Dotson, and Kadeem Allen on expiring deals. Morris (19.3 points per game) is their leading scorer, so he could offer a ton of value to a playoff contending team. If the Knicks can get a lot back for him, he would make sense to move. My intuition is the Knicks will look to make a deal at the deadline, but it will come down to what other teams want back, etc. Look for the Knicks do something if they can. I know they've been eying Warriors guard D'Angelo Russell. Maybe something happens there.

#14. Cleveland Cavaliers (13-38): Tristan Thompson, Brandon Knight, John Henson, Matthew Dellavedova, Ante Zizic, and Dean Wade are on expiring deals, so there's a lot of routes the Cavaliers can go. Kevin Love's name has popped up as well, but given his contract situation, I find it unlikely he gets moved. If the Cavaliers do make a move, it likely will involve one of the guys on an expiring deal. But you never know, maybe they'll do something unexpected with Love.

#15. Atlanta Hawks (13-38): The Hawks just made a move last night, acquiring Clint Capela from the Rockets in a 4-team, 12 player deal. Click here for details. Alex Len, Jeff Teague (who they traded for from Minnesota earlier this year), DeAndre Bembry, Damian Jones, Treveon Graham, Brandon Goodwin, Charlie Brown, Jr., and Vince Carter are all on expiring deals, so there's a lot of other moves they might make before this trade deadline is over.

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Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Tomahawk Tuesday: Which Western Conference teams should make a move before the NBA trade deadline?

The 2020 NBA trade deadline is later this week: Thursday, February 6 at 3:00 PM EST. In this blog post, I wanted to quickly go through each team in the Western Conference and the need they have to make a trade before the deadline. I will address each team in order of where they are in the standings at this moment. On Wednesday, I will address the Eastern Conference.

#1. Los Angeles Lakers (37-11): As the top team in the Western Conference, the Lakers shouldn't feel much of a need to make a trade. The only reason why they might consider a move is if they feel they don't have enough depth, relying too much on LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

If the Lakers were to make a move, it would likely involve third year forward Kyle Kuzma, who is averaging 13.0 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. He becomes a restricted free agent in the summer of 2021 and has a contract that wouldn't cost a team too much, paying him $1.9M this year and $3.6M next year. His qualifying offer in the summer of 2021 is $5.3M.

Kuzma is a talented player that doesn't cost much. A lot of teams might be interested in getting him and the Lakers could get some attractive pieces back for him. I don't know if I see the Lakers moving Kuzma, but if there's any move they make, I would expect Kuzma to be involved. We'll see what happens.

#2. Los Angeles Clippers (35-15): While I could see the Lakers possibly making a move, I don't see the Clippers making one. They have their core in Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Lou Williams, and Montrezl Harrell playing well and a solid supporting cast around them. Anything is possible at the trade deadline, but the Clippers are a team I expect to stand pat.

#3. Denver Nuggets (34-16): The Nuggets have a few guys on expiring contracts in Paul Millsap, Juan Hernangomez, Torrey Craig, Mason Plumlee, and Malik Beasley. I don't see Millsap being moved because he is making $30M this year and is a big part of what the Nuggets do. The other guys though could be moved in order to add a piece that they feel better helps them contend.

Do I see the Nuggets making a move? It's possible, but I don't expect anything major to happen. They'll more or less stay the same, but they could make an upgrade if the right opportunity presents itself.

#4. Utah Jazz (32-17): The Jazz already made a move earlier this year by trading Dante Exum to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Jordan Clarkson. A move that appears to be working out well for them as Clarkson is averaging 14.9 points per game in a Jazz uniform. It's possible the Jazz make a minor move like trade a role player on an expiring contract (e.g. Emmanuel Mudiay), but I doubt it.

#5. Houston Rockets (32-18): There have been rumors of the Rockets moving Clint Capela, so that's something to definitely keep an eye on. They do have some minor players on expiring contracts in injured guard Gerald Green, Thabo Sefolosha, and Tyson Chandler, but those guys don't have much value. Either the Capela rumors have legs and they move him or they don't make a move. That's how I hedge things at the moment.

#6. Dallas Mavericks (31-19): The Mavericks have a few minor players on expiring contracts like J.J. Barea and Courtney Lee, but given how well they've been playing, I see the Mavericks staying put at the trade deadline. They also made a small move earlier as well in acquiring Willie Cauley-Stein from the Warriors, so there's good odds they feel they've already made their move. Similar to the Jazz.

#7. Oklahoma City Thunder (30-20): The Thunder are playing pretty well at the moment while also having a few guys on expiring contracts, most notably Danilo Gallinari (19.2 points per game). I don't see them moving Gallinari considering how well he's playing and Chris Paul, who everyone thought would be traded, seems to be enjoying life in OKC. I wouldn't be shocked if the Thunder made a move, but I think odds are good they stay as is.

#8. Memphis Grizzlies (25-25): The Grizzlies have several guys on expiring contracts in Solomon Hill, Jae Crowder, Josh Jackson, Dillon Brooks, and most notably Andre Iguodala, who Ja Morant and others on the team are quite frustrated with. If the Grizzlies are to move anyone, it should be Iguodala, who otherwise will sit out the rest of the season. I expect the Grizzlies to find a home for him and possibly one or two others as well.

#9. Portland Trail Blazers (23-27): The Trail Blazers have a few guys on expiring contracts, making a trade certainly possible. Hassan Whiteside is on an expiring contract and playing quite well, so it's possible they see him as a trade chip that they could get a lot back for. At the same time, if they want to make the playoffs and make a push, they probably should hang on to him.

The other guys on expiring contracts are Carmelo AnthonySkal Labissiere, Caleb Swanigan, and Wenyen Gabriel. Anthony isn't going anywhere and has his contract guaranteed for the rest of the year. So that leaves the other three guys. It's possible one of them gets moved, but there isn't much back the Trail Blazers could get. That said, they could move them to get some draft picks back or something. The Trail Blazers are sort of a coin flip for me. We'll just have to see.

#10. San Antonio Spurs (22-27): The Spurs have a few guys on expiring contracts in Jakob Pöltl, Marco Belinelli, Bryn Forbes, Drew Eubanks, and Quinndary Weatherspoon. Making a move quite possible. The one with the most value is Forbes, who is averaging 10.9 points per game. If the Spurs feel they can get some decent assets back for him, maybe they move him. The same goes for others as well. The Spurs I see as another coin flip. I could see it going either way for them.

#11. Phoenix Suns (20-30): The Suns have a few guys on expiring contracts in Tyler Johnson, Dario Saric, Aron Baynes, Jevon Carter, Jared Harper, and Tariq Owens. Given that, a trade is quite possible. They've been rumored to be interested in Pistons guard Luke Kennard, so that's certainly one direction they could go. Otherwise, I could see them doing something minor like unload a few expiring contracts to clear cap space and/or gather draft picks.

#12. New Orleans Pelicans (20-31): There's some speculation that the Pelicans may move Jrue Holiday, so that is certainly something to look for. Also, they have a few guys on expiring contracts in Derrick Favors, E'Twaun Moore, and Brandon Ingram, so a trade is certainly possible with any of those guys. If the Pelicans can get a lot back for Holiday, good odds they make a move. At the same time, he's playing really well (19.7 points & 6.3 assists), so they may also want to keep him for the purposes of giving them a foundation to build around Zion Williamson. If Holiday was on an expiring contract, I would say he gets traded for sure, but since he's not, I think there's decent odds the Pelicans keep him. It'll be interesting to see what they do.

#13. Sacramento Kings (19-31): The most notable trade asset the Kings have is Bogdan Bogdanovic (14.6 points per game), who yup, you guessed it, is on an expiring contract. If the Kings can get some assets back for him, I bet they'll move him. Otherwise, I see them staying the same at the deadline.

#14. Minnesota Timberwolves (15-34): The Timberwolves need a lot of help and quite honestly need to hit the reset button. They've been rumored to be interested in Warriors point guard D'Angelo Russell, who many feel would be moved at the deadline to start the season. If the Timberwolves could land him, maybe that will give them the jolt of life that they need. I feel odds are good the Timberwolves make a move, but I'm not sure they'll be able to get Russell. It'll come down to what the Warriors want to do with him and what other offers they can field. Also, how much the Timberwolves are willing to give up.

#15. Golden State Warriors (12-39): I already touched on the Warriors above, but what they do with D'Angelo Russell is the big thing to look for. He's never been viewed as a long-term option for them and much more of an asset that they can use as a trade chip. If they can get a good offer from the Timberwolves or some other team, I say he's gone. However, what remains to be seen is how much other teams are willing to give up to get him.

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Monday, February 3, 2020

Mock Draft Monday: Kobe Bryant helped pave the way for high schoolers choosing to go pro

                                          (Credit: Eileen Blass-USA TODAY Sports) 

Last week I wasn't much in the mood to blog about the NBA after the death of Kobe Bryant. I just needed some time to regroup a bit and think about how I wanted to remember Bryant on I was planning on doing my Saturday Slam piece to remember his whole career, but I needed a bit more time to think about what my next blog post would be. Considering that I have my different themes on here, I figured I would use those themes to address Bryant's career through several different lenses. Up first is through the lens of his high school career and more specifically, what impact he had on high schoolers thinking of going straight to the pros.

Leading up to the 1996 NBA Draft, Bryant wasn't sure what he was going to do. He was genuinely torn about whether to go to college or go straight to the NBA. Both had their pros and cons. In the interview I've attached below, Bryant talks about weighing those options and not yet being sure what decision he would make. The pros of going to college was to get a year or two to grow as a basketball player without the pressures of being a professional while also getting to enjoy the college life. On the other side of the coin, going to the NBA meant the chance to get paid right away, something that also appealed to Bryant. Even though it meant more responsibility.

A year earlier, in the 1995 NBA Draft, Minnesota Timberwolves legend Kevin Garnett went 5th overall out of high school as well, becoming the first player in two decades (Darryl Dawkins and Bill Willoughby) to go straight from high school to the NBA. One major difference between Garnett and Bryant was the fact that Garnett had horrible grades and test scores, making division one college basketball a non-option for him. The only colleges Garnett could attend were junior colleges, sort of forcing his hand into going pro. Bryant on the other hand was a good student in high school and took his education seriously. College was an option for him and he knew that if he went straight to the NBA, some may second guess his commitment to getting a quality education.

In the end, Bryant chose to go to the NBA. When the Lower Merion High School Class of 1996 listed what colleges they were attending (in the school yearbook or newspaper), Bryant wrote "NBA-nuff said!" Bryant's decision resulted in him getting drafted 13th overall by the Los Angeles Lakers via the Charlotte Hornets. By choosing to go straight to the NBA when college was an option for him, Bryant helped legitimize that path for the likes of LeBron James and others who felt they were ready out of high school.

Flash forward 25 years later, the NBA is likely to once again allow high schoolers the option to come straight out instead of having to spend a year in college or overseas. When the NBA does formally make the switch back, it will be a nod to Bryant and all that he accomplished. Bryant proved that if you are ready to go pro, you should do so. He also showed that such a decision requires a lot of thought and shouldn't be taken lightly.

When looking back on the 1996 NBA Draft, what is a bit crazy is to see Bryant selected 13th overall. In hindsight Bryant would have gone #1 overall to his hometown Philadelphia 76ers instead of Allen Iverson. At that time, coming out of high school was so rare that a lot of teams were afraid to gamble on him. Especially since he was a guard. To the Lakers' credit, specifically Jerry West, they recognized Bryant had a lot of talent and was capable of being their next franchise player. Their decision to take Bryant changed the course of basketball history forever. Bryant went on to become a five time NBA champion and arguably the greatest Laker of all-time.

If you're going to look back on Kobe Bryant's career, it's impossible to not reflect on his high school career and how amazing it was that he took that leap into the NBA without playing in college. Such a bold and brave decision is truly fitting for one who would give birth to "Mamba Mentality."

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