NCAA Basketball Tournament - Lehigh v Duke

NBA Draft Player Preview: Austin Rivers

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This is the first of PBT’s review of players in the 2012 NBA draft, we will be running these regularly up through draft day, with plenty of other content to follow.

Austin Rivers is not a guy sliding under the radar in this draft — he’s the son of former NBA player and Celtics coach Doc Rivers and a starting guard with Duke last year. Doesn’t get much more high profile than that.

And he’s got NBA game. The real question seems to be is he willing to fit it in the NBA style.

Rivers is a 6’4” two guard who can play the one sometimes, a combo guard. If you’re looking to criticize, the word you’re looking for is tweener. He’ll have a hard time defending two guards, and he’s a guy looking for his own shot with the ball not dishing like a traditional point.

But we’re nitpicking a guy who is a lottery pick. Draft Express has him going No. 15 (and they are one of the best sources for following the draft run-up). I was able to catch him a couple times on television (turns out Duke gets a lot of air time).

Rivers plays like a coach’s son — good shooter well out to the NBA three point line and he plays a smooth, confident game. He’s also got good handles, the hesitation move of a mature player and a good crossover move that helps him create space for his shot. He can get to the rim and DraftExpress notes his finishing at the rim improved as the season wore on.

The guy can score, the question again is getting him to do that within the system. ESPN’s Chad Ford has said his game seems modeled after Kobe Bryant — the swagger, the scoring — but Kobe is a different level of athlete. Kobe breaks out of the offense but can pull it off. Rivers is a solid NBA level athlete but he’s not elite (meaning he’s no Derrick Rose, John Wall, etc.). Rivers is going to have to adapt his game at the NBA level, improve the skills he has and work within the offensive system to get his — be a guy who can catch-and-shoot (he shot just 33 percent on those at Duke) not just score off the bounce. And if he wants to stay on the floor he has to improve his defense.

At Duke Rivers seemed to try to get his own shot to the detriment of others at times and it hurt the team. And his college PER 16.85 isn’t blowing anyone’s doors off (it’s just above average).

Still, Rivers is a smooth, smart player who can put the ball in the basket (15.5 points per game, shot 36 percent from three). At the end of the day that is what this game is about. It may take Rivers a while to adapt, the way it took Klay Thompson and many before him some time to adapt. But you’ve got a guy who can be a solid future NBA starter or sixth man here who isn’t going to hurt you.

Now the big question — if he fell to 21, would Danny Ainge bring him in and let him be a Celtic? He likely would be the best player on the board at that point, but oh that would be an awkward situation. Ainge is praying that Rivers is taken higher and he doesn’t have to deal with it.

He most likely will not have that problem. Rivers may take a little while to develop, but he should have a good NBA career ahead of him.

Monty Williams is back coaching with Team USA, ready to get back on NBA sidelines

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18:  Draymond Green #14 of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team drives against assistant coach Monty Williams of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team during a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on July 18, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Watching Monty Williams back on the court at the USA basketball camp/practices in Las Vegas, you could see he was at home. He’s easily the best 44-year-old defender on the planet — he went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and the rest, was physical, and made them work for buckets. Then he’d instruct. He’s just a natural.

Back in February, Williams’ wife was killed in an auto accident. It devastated the devout family man, in ways it’s hard for us to understand who have never experienced it. He walked away from coaching the rest of the NBA season with the Thunder, and nobody questioned it for a second.

Now, after getting his feet wet with Team USA (where he is an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski), he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman he is ready to get back on the sidelines.

“I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to; my kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back. I’m so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”

He is one of the better respected assistant coaches in the league, and a guy who will get another shot at a top spot someday. Soon. Can’t wait to see him back on the sidelines.

Ben Simmons says he plans to work on shooting, handles, getting stronger before camp

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons cheers from the bunch during the first half of the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Associated Press
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The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.

Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.

He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.

New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.

Report: Warriors sign JaVale McGee to make-good training camp contract

JaVale McGee
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JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.

He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.

But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.

I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.

Russell Westbrook laughs off question about Kevin Durant

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant #35 discuss play during the first half against the Los Angeles ClipperLos Angeles Kingsat Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.

But not right now. He remains silent.

This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.

https://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js

In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.