NBA Draft: What did we learn about the Wildcats' draft stock?

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Another day, another upset. This time, the Kentucky Wildcats fell, losing to a West Virginia team that shot the lights out. As NBA fans, we have to look at this ridiculously loaded Wildcats team and ask if we saw anything on their way out that changes our consideration of their draft stock. Here’s what we learned.

1. We learned John Wall is who we thought he was. Wall was ridiculous in this game, dropping 19 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, and a block that showcased his absurd athleticism. On the negative side, he had 5 turnovers and was 1-5 from the arc.

So, to recap, he showed he’s a tremendous athlete with incredible vision, and elite ability to speed to the basket, and a versatile scorer, but one who struggles from behind the line and turns the ball over a lot. There’s little question that unless the Utah Jazz (with New York’s pick) ends up with the 1st overall, Wall has to be the guy. Even the point guard fleet of Minnesota would have to consider dumping one or both of their rookie point guards for Wall.

2. We learned DeMarcus Cousins is as good, and immature, as advertised. Cousins is a beast, and his combination of size and athleticism could make him a contender for rookie of the year next season. His immaturity could also chain him to a coach’s doghouse for all eternity. Cousins was constantly frustrated by the West Virginia double team.

That he was able to finish 6-11 for 15 points speaks to his ability. He came dangerously close to a technical at several points. His complaints about the officials will be well at home in the NBA, but he won’t have the built-up respect for the officials to give him leeway. But man, can the big man finish in traffic.

There’s going to be a lot of debate regarding Cousins’ position, and whether he’s an NBA power forward or center. Cousins’ bulk would suggest a five, but his style might be better suited for a four.

3. We learned Eric Bledsoe probably needs another year. Bledsoe had flashes during the tournament that definitely suggest he can play at the next level. He’s got great scoring instincts and is less turnover-prone than Wall. But he sat in Wall’s shadow so much for the season, only to explode in the early games of the tournament, before hitting the wall in this game. Bledsoe finished 0-5 from the arc, something with his size he’s going to need to be able to showcase. While it was definitely a statistical aberration that the ‘Cats shot that poorly as a team, it still probably limited his breakthrough ability.

Another year for Bledsoe alongside the kind of talent Calipari can bring in (and has brought in, including similarly intriguing prospect in a few years Orton) should boost him to the level he needs to be at. He just needs to be patient, and he’ll get his chance.

Kevin Garnett: Thon Maker “is going to be the MVP of the league one day. Mark it down.”

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Not to get to inside baseball on NBA journalism, but one fundamental truth is player trainers pump up their guys. There usually is some truth in what they say, but it is in their interest to spin the player the best way possible. On and off the record it happens. It’s like asking a political campaign manager about his candidate, you will only get the positive.

Kevin Garnett worked out and helped the Bucks’ Thon Maker this summer.

In just his second season, Thon Maker has been in and out of the starting lineup for the Bucks at center, and he’s struggled this season with a true shooting percentage of 48 getting him 4.5 points a game, and PER of 9.3. (Bucks fans are understandably disappointed, but this is a second-year player, some patience is required).

Garnett had Makers’ back in a Q&A with Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Abrams.

Thon Maker reminds me a lot of myself. He loves the game. He’s a young, exuberant athlete who has a lot of tools—he has touch; he has agility; he has really, good feet. He has a really good shot from three-point all the way up to 19 to 21 feet. He has very good bones, as we say.

Thon is going to be the MVP of the league one day. Mark it down. He has the bones. He has the appetite to be able to chase something like that.”

Garnett may have the wrong young-stud Buck with an MVP in his future.

Maker has gotten KG comparisons for years, he’s a very mobile and athletic but thin big who can shoot from the wing… but the physical similarities are not enough. Maker is no KG. Not yet. Maker showed promise against the Raptors last playoffs but has not taken a step forward off that progress this season, looking far more prone to fouling than defending. The effort is there, but the maturity of game has a long way to go to catch up.

Garnett is right that Maker has the tools, and he is just in his second NBA season so patience is required, but there were concerns around the league before the draft if he had the makeup to put it all together and become a quality NBA player. That question is still out there, let’s get past it before we heap on accolades.

LeBron James all good with Reggie Jackson’s free throw gamesmanship, “I’ve done it before”

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Let’s set the stage: Sunday night, the fast-rising Pistons led the fast-rising Timberwolves by three with  6.2 seconds left when Jimmy Butler drew a foul on a 3-pointer. Butler drained the first two free throws. Before the third, Reggie Jackson interrupted to talk to Stanley Johnson, who was in rebounding position. Butler missed the free throw, and Detroit held on to win 100-97. Here’s the play in question.

It was a bit of gamesmanship by Jackson.

LeBron James was asked about the move at Cavaliers shootaround and endorsed it with a smile on his face.

“I’ve done it before. I won a playoff series before doing that actually. So, I’m all for it.”

That series was in 2007, overtime of game 6 of a first-round playoff series against Washington, and the victim was the Hibachi, Gilbert Arenas. The Cavaliers were down 1, Arenas had two free throws, missed the first, then LeBron stepped in. Arenas missed the second, and the Cavs went on to get the win.

Is interrupting free throws about to become an NBA thing? If it works, players will do it.

Warriors pose for photos with Jahlil Okafor’s dad’s ‘FREE JAH’ shirt

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Jahlil Okafor‘s father has not been shy about speaking out on his son’s behalf. NBA players are advocating for the 76ers to grant Okafor, who’s out of the rotation and on an expiring contract, his desired trade or buyout.

When both join forces…

Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Stephen Curry appear to really enjoy Chukwudi Okafor’s shirt. That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily calling on Philadelphia to do anything. But they hadn’t to know how it’d be perceived.

It’s easy to predict free agents will avoid the 76ers as a result of the Okafor situation, but few anticipate getting stuck similarly. Players overwhelmingly value money, winning, role and location. If Golden State’s stars are applying any external pressure, it shouldn’t really move Philadelphia more than anything that has already been said and done.

A couple of Lonzo Ball’s triple-double assists look dubious (video)

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Lonzo Ball draws outsized attention because his father, LaVar Ball, lures onlookers and because the rookie plays for the high-profile Los Angeles Lakers.

So, when Lonzo gets a triple-double – like his 11-points, 16-rebound, 11-assists game against the Nuggets yesterday – it draws scrutiny.

Mo Dakhil of The Jump Ball:

The NBA defines an assist as a “pass that directly leads to a basket. … An assist can be awarded for a basket scored after the ball has been dribbled if the player’s pass led to the field goal being made.”

I wouldn’t describe either of those passing as leading directly to a basket. Ball’s teammates each hold the ball for a moment after receiving the pass then take two dribbles against set defenses.

But assists are subjective, and the Lakers aren’t alone in offering a home-court scorekeeping advantage.

Kyle Neubeck of Philly Voice

So, criticize/laugh at the Lakers. But your favorite team probably manipulates assists in its favor, too.