Spain's basketball player Ricky Rubio talks to the media after the presentation of the Spanish basketball team for the upcoming Eurobasket 2011 championships at Madrid's Arena

NBA draftees at EuroBasket: Kanter looks good, Rubio not so much

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We tried to watch as much of EuroBasket as we could, and when the games were on our eyes were were drawn to recent NBA draftees who have not been in the league. Frankly, I know Pau Gasol is amazingly skilled. I know Joakim Noah can defend. I know Tony Parker is dangerous when he gets in the lane.

But I don’t know much about Enes Kanter (of the Jazz) or Jonas Valanciunas (Raptors), and the book was out on Ricky Rubio (Timberwolves)?

So what did I think?

Ricky Rubio (Spain): Rubio came off the bench for the eventual champions, shot 23 percent for the tournament and averaged 1.5 points and 2.3 assists per game. It’s safe to say he was unimpressive.

To be fare, part of that was the Spanish system — Rubio’s job was to feed the Gasol brothers inside, hit Juan Carlos Navarro curling off a screen and not do much else but stand as a jump shooting decoy nobody thought would get a pass back. The system called to slow it down and Rubio is built for transition (please take note of that Rick Adelman).

That said, there is reason for concern. Both last season with Barcelona and this summer his development seems to have stagnated, and he has to develop some kind of steady jumper to impact the NBA game. Things are not as bad as some T-Wolves fans fear — Rubio is a good defender, is 6’5” and still has crazy passing skills. But his game has got to develop and this should make the folks in Minnesota a little concerned.

Enes Kanter (Turkey): A Turkish assistant coach ripped him, but he didn’t look too bad to these eyes. It seemed to match up with the scouting report the wise Sebastian Pruitti put out there a while back — his one-one-one skills are impressive and show potential at both ends, but his recognition and reaction to team play are slow. He is not a great help defender, he doesn’t recognize and hit the open player on a pass out of the post as often or quickly as he should.

But he shot 59 percent and drew a lot of fouls. He looked like a guy who could develop into something impressive, a guy who could force the Jazz to see if Paul Millsap can play the three in a couple years. But that is another issue for another day.

Jonas Valanciunas (Lithuania): Raptors fans should be smiling. Big smiles. The best proof is that in the first game of EuroBasket Valanciunas played only a handful of minutes at the end of a blowout win, but by the end he was playing key minutes for a veteran-heavy team. Valanciunas shot 66 percent for the tournament, can rebound and is a wicked finisher on the pick and roll.

There are issues — turnovers and the deer-in-headlights look when the double team arrived on the block — but there is a lot to like and a lot of potential in this 19-year-old. He may be the biggest steal of this draft (and he only fell to No. 5).

Byron Scott isn’t thinking about next year’s draft

Byron Scott
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A month into the season, the Lakers the only team in the Western Conference that can absolutely be written out of any hopes of playoff contention. They’re in an awkward position with the upcoming draft: they still need talent long-term, and they owe their pick to the Sixers if it’s outside of the top three. Not surprisingly, Byron Scott isn’t thinking about it at all.

Via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:

With the Lakers fielding the NBA’s second-worst record, how much effort will the franchise put in retaining its top-3 protected draft pick?

“I don’t think about that whatsoever,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “I probably won’t until April. That’s something I can’t control.”

The Lakers are in a precarious position. They appear likely bad enough to lose a lot of games. But will they lose enough to land in the top three? Otherwise, the Lakers owe Philadelphia their first-round pick as part of the Steve Nash trade.

“It’s impossible to think about the team, try to get our young guys better, the team better and also thinking about a pick,” Scott said. “That’s six months away and you might not even get it.”

Given Scott’s mentality, it’s not at all surprising that he isn’t thinking about the draft. But with his insistence on playing Kobe Bryant and Lou Williams more crunch-time minutes on this dismal Lakers team than D'Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson, it’s pretty laughable that he talks about wanting to develop their young players.

Scott may not be thinking about the draft, but with the position the franchise is in and the likelihood that they lose their pick, he should be.

Report: Jahlil Okafor stopped for driving 108 MPH three weeks ago

Jahlil Okafor, Derrick Favors

Jahlil Okafor‘s first month in the NBA has been eventful for all the wrong reasons. Early Thanksgiving morning, he was caught on video getting into a fight with a heckler in Boston. Then, a report surfaced of another altercation from October, in which Okafor apparently had a gun pulled on him. Now, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Okafor was recently pulled over in Philadelphia for driving 108 miles per hour:

Four sources independently confirmed to The Inquirer the 76ers center was pulled over on the Ben Franklin Bridge around three weeks ago for 108 miles per hour. Anything over 40 m.p.h. is considered reckless driving.

108 miles per hour in a 40-mile zone isn’t a minor speeding infraction—it’s incredibly dangerous. It might be possible to write off any of these incidents by themselves—particularly the one where he had a gun pulled on him, which doesn’t seem to have been his fault at all. But together, the Boston incident and this speeding report aren’t a good look at all for Okafor. He’s had a solid start to the year for the Sixers, but off the court has been another story.

Harrison Barnes could be out “a few weeks” with ankle injury

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The Warriors’ Friday night 135-116 win over the Suns was bittersweet: Harrison Barnes suffered a sprained left ankle in the third quarter and left for the remainder of the game. He missed Saturday night’s blowout win over the Kings as well, which extended the Warriors’ best-ever start to the season to 18-0.

Warriors interim head coach Luke Walton didn’t have an answer for how long Barnes will be out, but he said it could be a few weeks.

Via’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss:

“He’s being evaluated [Saturday]. We haven’t gotten the results back yet,” interim head coach Luke Walton told reporters before Saturday’s game. “It’s all speculation. It could be a few weeks. It could be a week.

“We’re not going to rush him back because we want to be healthy for later in the season and we don’t want lingering injures, so we’ll have him take his time.”

Losing a starter is never good news, but the silver lining for the Warriors is that they have enough depth and enough of a cushion to be able to take their time and not rush Barnes back. Saturday night, Walton opted to keep Andre Iguodala in his usual sixth-man role and instead start the little-used Brandon Rush in Barnes’ place. Rush responded with a 16-point performance, shooting 4-of-5 from the three-point line. If they can keep getting that kind of production out of their reserves, the Warriors will be able to withstand the loss of Barnes just fine.

Emmanuel Mudiay with the no-look, behind-the-head assist (VIDEO)

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Emmanuel Mudiay is still a work in progress on the court — he’s a rookie, what did you expect? — but he has the court vision and flair you cannot teach.

As evidence, I present this pass from Saturday night, where in transition Mudiay goes with the no-look, behind-the-head dish to Darrell Arthur for the dunk.

The Nuggets dropped this game to the Mavericks 92-81 and have lost six in a row.