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.

Thunder’s Enes Kanter: ‘I don’t like Golden State, so I want Cleveland to win the championship’

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When Kevin Durant left the Thunder for the Warriors, Oklahoma City center Enes Kanter jumped fully on board the pro-Russell Westbrook, anti-Durant bandwagon.

That ride doesn’t stop with his former teammate facing the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.

Kanter, via Fox Sports Radio:

I don’t like Golden State, so I want Cleveland to win the championship.

Kanter never misses an opportunity to take a shot at the Warriors – except when Zaza Pachulia laid out Westbrook and stood over him.

Dwane Casey: Masai Ujiri assured me I’ll return as Raptors coach

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Raptors president Masai Ujiri didn’t mince words at his season-ending press conference: Toronto’s playing style had become unacceptable.

It sounded as if he might have been planting the seed for firing Dwane Casey.

But the coach says Ujiri assured him he’d return next season.

Casey on TSN (hat tip: Blake Murphy of Raptors Republic):

I think people mistook Masai’s comments for that. We had a good meeting before that meeting, and we’ve had meeting since then – with all the coaches – as far as plans for next year and the culture reset, which I think every corporation and every team should do periodically to get the culture back in focus and that type of thing. It’s not like we’re in total chaos or anything like that. It’s just good to have roles defined, things we can do better in each of our roles.

We’re doing some good things and some things we can do much better with. And that’s what we’ll plan on doing this summer and also this fall, when we go to training camp.

The Raptors’ offensive rating has dropped from regular season to the playoffs by 8.5, 7.2 and 11.7 the last three years. Their isolation-heavy style is just easier to stop when defenses see it in consecutive games.

The big question: What does Toronto do about that?

It’d be difficult to move on from the two players most responsible for the style, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. DeRozan is signed long-term, and if the Raptors don’t re-sign Lowry, who’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer, they won’t have the cap space to land a comparable replacement.

The best bet is probably changing schemes from the bench and hoping the players can adjust – and maybe Casey can handle that responsibility. Hiring a new coach obviously would been the clearest path to a shake up, but maybe Casey can evolve. I’d want to see a plan from him before committing to keeping him, but maybe Ujiri got that.

Casey has played a key role in Toronto’s improvement, it’s nice to give him an opportunity to coach differently before hiring a different coach.

Kevin Durant: Don’t blame me for Nets, Magic and other teams stinking

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For the first time in NBA history, the NBA Finals will feature the same matchup for three straight years.

Among those responsible: Kevin Durant, who sunk the title-contending Thunder and gave the Warriors an even stronger grip on the Western Conference.

But don’t blame him for a lack of parity league-wide.

Durant, via Sam Amick of USA Today:

“Like I’m the reason why (expletive) Orlando couldn’t make the playoffs for five, six years in a row?” he said. “Am I the reason that Brooklyn gave all their picks to Boston? Like, am I the reason that they’re not that good (laughs). I can’t play for every team, so the truth of the matter is I left one team. It’s one more team that you probably would’ve thought would’ve been a contender. One more team. I couldn’t have made the (entire) East better. I couldn’t have made everybody (else) in the West better.”

Some teams will always be better than others. The Magic, Nets and more were mis-managed before Durant left Oklahoma City.

But I’m not even sure this is the right debate.

Does the NBA even have a parity problem to blame on Durant?

Cleveland and Golden State aren’t traditional powers. Before 2015, the Warriors hadn’t won a title since 1975 and the Cavaliers had never won one. Their ascension is proof of parity – that sound management and a little luck can lift teams from the basement.

Report: Clippers take Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor ‘very seriously’

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Want to laugh off that Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor?

The Clippers aren’t joining you.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Clippers should be concerned. Losing Paul would unravel their entire foundation, dropping them from the fringe of championship contention to out of the title picture completely. It could even help usher out Blake Griffin, who will also be an unrestricted free agent this summer. (To be fair, Paul leaving could also help convince Griffin to stay.)

About a month ago, the Clippers reportedly expected Paul to stay. They even reportedly struck a verbal agreement with him to re-sign before that. But they can’t officially sign him until July, and that leaves the door open for him to leave.

The Clippers should be heartened by their advantages – a prime market and a projected max offer of $205 million over five years.

The most another team projects to be able to offer is $152 million over four years, and San Antonio will have a hard time doing that. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Tony Parker, the Spurs would still have to shed two of those players to clear max cap space.

So, never say never, but the Clippers’ concern might be rooted more in the dire consequences of Paul leaving rather than the likelihood of it.