NCAA Hampton Duke Basketball

NBA Draft Lottery lacks big payout this time around

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We love the NBA Draft Lottery because it’s like franchise roulette — random luck and the bounce of some balls will determine the future of a franchise, potentially setting some up for years to come.

Well, most years. This year, not so much.

This year the lottery has very little payout.

This is a down draft year where the top pick — Duke’s Kyrie Irving almost certainly — has question marks, then after him and Arizona’s Derrick Williams things drop off fast. Some years winning the lottery or even getting in the top three means a franchise gets a key building block. But look what Marc Spears of Yahoo was told.

“It’s horrendous,” (one Western Conference general manager) said. “Every year we always talk about how bad the draft is. This year we really mean it.”

Irving is going to be good, just how good is the question. It’s a little hard to judge because he missed most of his one season at Duke due to a toe injury.  Here is what friend of this site David Thorpe — who works with a number of professional players and prospects — wrote this at ESPN (behind their insider pay wall):

When watching Irving on tape, I see a player who looks like Brandon Roy with better natural playmaking skills. I mean the All-Star Roy with healthy knees, not the guy who is fighting his knees most nights and can’t move anywhere close to the way he used to on every possession. A healthy Roy used his strong body, great balance and crafty ball-handling to create shots for himself and others. He was a solid perimeter shooter and a devastating mid-range guy, with a true talent for finishing in the paint but away from the rim.

Pretty much every team could use a Roy, but that is Irving’s high end. He is not an explosive guy like John Wall last year, or Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook. And remember Roy fell to six (although in a draft where in hindsight only LaMarcus Aldridge is a guy that should have been taken in front of him, and recall that Andrea Bargnani was the top pick).

After Irving you get Williams, but he is considered a bit of a tweener at the forward spot — too small to be a four but they are not sure he can be a three.

Then who knows? Maybe the third choice is Turkish center (and Kentucky recruit who couldn’t play because he’d been a pro back home) Enes Kanter. But he didn’t play anywhere organized ball last year. Lithuanian big man Jonas Valanciunas gets mentioned. DraftExpress has Kemba Walker third. But there is no consensus.

Last year the New Jersey Nets were able to get Derrick Favors with the third pick, then trade him as the core part of a package to get Deron Williams. There will be none of that this time around. The pickings are much more slim.

Usually the motto among GMs is to draft the best player available. You need talent to win, you can worry about fit as you go. But this year, with the talent quickly reduced to guys you hope can be role players, more teams will draft to fit need first. At least after the first couple of picks.

So enjoy the lottery. Some team is going to get a very good player tonight. But if your team doesn’t win, time to start tamping down those expectations.

Add Kobe Bryant to don’t change hack-a-player crowd

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant gestures after hitting a three point shot during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
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LeBron James is already there. So is Kevin Durant. Same with a lot of other old-school GMs and coaches around the league.

Their response to the rapid rise in hack-a-player (shouldn’t it always be hack-a-Shaq?) instances is “tell the guy to hit the free throws.”

Add Kobe Bryant to their ranks, reports Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is starting to feel differently. He realizes he runs an entertainment business and a parade of guys to the free throw line without because of a non-basketball play — you can’t begin to tell me fouling a guy 50 feet from the ball is a basketball play in the spirit of the rules — is bad for that business. It is unwatchable. And while every coach in the NBA “I hate to do it” they all do it with more and more frequency, there will be more than twice as many instances this season as there were a year ago, with more and more players involved. Because it works, and because they are paid to win, not play beautiful basketball.

Change is coming. Old-school types always bemoan change, and that’s not just a basketball thing. But the rest of the world has rules in place to stop this because they realize it’s not basketball, it’s gaming the system. And it needs to change.

Timofey Mozgov with maybe “best” missed dunk of the season (VIDEO)

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On this play the Sacramento Kings played defense like only they can — and you wonder why George Karl’s job is in danger — and gave Cleveland’s Timofey Mozgov a wide-open lane right down the middle for an easy dunk.

Ooof.

LeBron James had a triple-double (the 40th of his career) and the Cavaliers got a needed easy win, but this is the play you’ll remember.

Karl-Anthony Towns with nasty poster dunk on Dante Cunningham (VIDEO)

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Karl-Anthony Towns is a beast.

While the Timberwolves have plenty of question marks around him, but Towns has been exceptional. Coming into Monday night, he was averaging 21.6 points (on 59.9 percent shooting) and 12.7 rebounds a night in his last 10 games.

Then Monday he did that to Dante Cunningham.

The Pelicans went on to win the game 116-102, but Towns continues to play well.

Report: Come 2017, Knicks have real shot to land Russell Westbrook

during the first half of the NBA game at Talking Stick Resort Arena on February 8, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
Russell Westbrook
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The summer of 2016 is all about Kevin Durant — and we don’t know what Durant is going to do as a free agent because Durant doesn’t yet know what Durant is going to do as a free agent. Stay in Oklahoma City, bolt to the Bay Area or maybe Washington D.C.? These playoffs, meetings with teams and his advisors, plus personal factors all will play a role in Durant’s decision. Which he will get around to announcing in early July sometime.

But the sense around the league is that while Durant may very well stay in Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook was drawn to the bright lights of big markets. If an elite player were to bolt OKC, this was the more likely guy. Westbrook is a free agent in 2017.

In an article about Phil Jackson and the Knicks in the wake of Derek Fisher’s firing, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports said the Knicks have a real shot at Westbrook in a couple of summers.

The Knicks have a real chance to sell Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in 2017 – New York and Porzingis have his attention, yes – and Jackson ought to start constructing an elite coaching staff to begin that process with Westbrook and with free agents beyond him.

Come 2017, expect Westbrook to meet with a number of big market teams on both coasts, and then make a decision. The summer of 2017 is a couple of NBA lifetimes away, it’s impossible to say what Westbrook will do (he may well decide to stay in OKC if they win enough), but the big market teams looking for a star will get their turn in the batter’s box.

Which is why I still think Durant signs a 1+1 deal this summer to stay in Oklahoma City for another season — he’s going to give everything another chance to come together for the Thunder, then when the salary cap is at its peak in 2017 (an estimated $108 million) he makes his peak seasons decision. He and Westbrook and Serge Ibaka will all be free agents at the same time, and they can make their calls.

And the Knicks could be involved in all of it.