Who's next after Wall?

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Barring unforeseen developments, John Wall will be the number one overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. It’s not just his rare combination of speed, athleticism, handle, and skill at both ends of the floor, it’s that his game already translates so well the pro game (better than to the college game, actually). But who’s next? Who’ll end up as the number two selection? That question may end up as one of the most difficult decisions for whatever team ends up with it, even in such an abundant free agency year.

So who are the candidates?

  • DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky (6-11, 260 lbs.): Started off slow, but quickly becoming one of the more dominant big men in the country. 16.1 points, 10.7 rebounds, but it’s the nastiness with which he plays that makes him such a prospect. Great athleticism for a big man, but the questions remain about his mental game. Cousins has a knack for getting into fights with players and running his mouth. You have to wonder how he’ll react to pro coaching and the first time a veteran explains to him how things work in the NBA.
  • Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech (6-10, 246 lbs.): The undiscovered big man, until yesterday (21 points, 18 rebounds), for a lot of people, Favors has been high on most draft boards since the season began. The big reason to target favors is his ability to work in the transition offense. He’s got terrific athleticism (arguably moreso than Cousins, and if not, at least equal), and can handle the ball well with soft hands. Yesterday may have been the start of his push for the 2nd overall pick.
  • Evan Turner, Ohio State (6-7, 205 lbs.): Gasp! A junior! Someone that’s not a freshman! Egads! If John Wall’s flashes of potential have been the most impressive this year, Evan Turner’ actual performance is what has gotten him at the top of so many lists. Turner tops DraftExpress’ list as the number two overall. 19.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 5.8 assists for Turner, who has absolutely taken over most of Ohio State’s games. The only concern with him is injury. Evans’ snapped back four weeks ahead of schedule from breaking two vertebrae. I say again, he broke his back. Then came back and lit it up again, scoring 32 points in his third game back. But if DeJuan Blair’s injury history causes concerns, Turner’s might.

Marreese Speights opts out of Clippers contract

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The Clippers are unraveling.

Of course, whether they can re-sign Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are the big questions. But they also must deal with smaller matters in free agency – like Marreese Speights.

Speights will opt out, his agent tweeted:

The Clippers will hold Speights’ Non-Bird Rights (technically a form of Bird Rights), allowing them to give him a starting salary up to $2,540,346 without using cap space or the mid-level exception.

The 29-year-old Speights, a stretch five who takes charges, fits the modern NBA. He could probably get more if he seeks it.

The Clippers won’t have cap space unless they lose Paul and Griffin, and at that point, re-signing a veteran like Speights is of little use. So, it would likely require the taxpayer mid-level exception or Speights taking a discount to keep him.

Luc Mbah a Moute can and likely will also opt out, and he’ll fall in the same Non-Bird situation. The Clippers would likely prioritize their mid-level exception for him – if it’s enough for either player.

Keeping Paul and Griffin is of the utmost importance, but that’s not the Clippers’ only challenge. Even if they keep those two stars, assembling even a decent supporting cast will difficult. Possibly losing J.J. Redick is the main issue there, but handling Speights’ and Mbah a Moute’s roster spots will also be pivotal.

Warriors struggle to get Zaza Pachulia’s 2017 NBA Finals hat on his big head (video)

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Zaza Pachulia became the villain of the Western Conference finals when he injured Kawhi Leonard and torpedoed the Spurs chances of upsetting the Warriors.

But his teammates stood by him – then shared this fun moment with him after Golden State won the West.

Reporter asks Spanish-speaking Manu Ginobili whether he just announced retirement (video)

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Manu Ginobili received an emotional sendoff in the Spurs’ season-ending – and maybe Ginobili’s career-ending – loss to the Warriors last night.

The postgame press conference featured a lighthearted moment when, after the Argentinian guard answered a couple questions in Spanish, an American reporter – not wanting to miss big news – asked whether Ginobili had just announced his retirement.

No, Ginobili assured the reporter. He says he plans to take a few weeks to consider his options.

Warriors make most dominant playoff run ever to NBA Finals

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Moses Malone famously predicted the 76ers team would go “”Fo’, Fo’, Fo'” in the 1983 playoffs, sweeping all three rounds in four games. Philadelphia didn’t quite do it – sweeping the Knicks, beating the Bucks in five then sweeping the Lakers for the title.

Thirty-four years later, an NBA team went “”Fo’, Fo’, Fo'” for the first time.

Golden State swept the Trail Blazers, Jazz and Spurs in four-game series. But with an extra playoff round, the Warriors’ 12-0 run merely gets them to the Finals.

It’s the ninth undefeated run to the Finals, third since the league adopted four playoff rounds in 1984 and first since the first round became best-of-seven. The Lakers went 11-0 in the playoffs en route to the Finals in 2001 and 1989.

By winning an extra game and outscoring opponents by 16.3 points per game, Golden State now claims the most dominant postseason run to the NBA Finals ever.

Here are the top paths to the Finals, with Finals results, by playoff…

Record (point difference per game in parentheses):

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Point difference per game (record in parentheses):

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This doesn’t guarantee Golden State a championship. The Cavaliers (10-1, +11.9) are on track for an elite run to the Finals themselves, and they have LeBron James.

But the Warriors put ridiculous expectations on themselves by signing Kevin Durant to join a 73-win team featuring Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. I’m unsure a Golden State title this year will be properly appreciated, but so far, the Warriors are doing all they can to clear a bar set unreasonably high.