Three guys who could be the surprise second best player in this draft

20 Comments

Make no mistake, this is the Anthony Davis draft. He is the franchise player, the guy who can be a top 10 player in the league, the guy you build a contender around, the guy people pay to see. The Hornets have literally won the lottery.

After that there is a consensus of guys going 2-5 — Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Thomas Robinson among them.

But below them are a few guys who will get picked Thursday with the potential to be the second best player out of this draft, to be a perennial All-Star, a guy who is the heart of his team, three guys who could be to their team what the Hornets hope Davis will be. These are guys that have questions, and will need a few years to develop, but if they do they could be very special players.

Or, they could flame out spectacularly. Which is why none of them are going No. 2. They are risk/reward guys. But these are the three guys with the “upside” potential to be the second best player out of this draft.

1) Andre Drummond (7’0” center, Connecticut) He could be the anchor every team wants in the middle — maybe a Serge Ibaka, maybe even better an Andrew Bynum. He has a rare mixture of size and elite athleticism, he has all the tools and from day one he should get rebounds and shot blocks galore.

Should. The problem is his drive, his motor, his passion is constantly in question. The buzz is his workouts have not impressed teams and he could slide down the board. He dropped 22 pounds after the college season ended, which makes you wonder where that effort was before, and even then he doesn’t blow people away in workouts.

UConn coach Jim Calhoun has said a few times that in three or four years we will see the potential in Drummond realized. Some guys (think Bynum with the Lakers) do put in the work and develop into great players in a few years. But he could become an Andray Blatche kind of talent, too. And if you haven’t seen the work ethic up to now…

One of the biggest risk/reward picks in the draft. He has unbelievable physical tools and, while he needs to develop, he could be an Andrew Bynum/Serge Ibaka like center in five years. But with all that he averaged 10 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in college, there are serious questions about his desire and commitment to himself and the game. He could be a big bust. Workouts drew really mixed reviews.

2) Perry Jones III (6’11” power forward, Baylor) A guy with this much individual talent falling out of the lottery — which is what DraftExpress and every other mock has happening now — says everything you need to know about the concerns about his desire, his commitment to the game and himself. Take him in the lottery and he is the kind of pick that gets GMs fired. There’s also a question about where to play him, Baylor used him as a center but some scouts see him more as a tall three.

What everyone agrees on is this: If he could harness those talents and play to his potential he would be an absolute beast. He can score in the post or out on the perimeter, he runs the floor in transition very well, he leaps out of the building and can rebound the rock. He has the potential to be a Lamar Odom on a good night type of player — but his flake factor is bigger than Odom’s. Which should scare everyone.

3) John Henson (6’10 power forward, North Carolina) If I were going to make a bet on any of the guys on this list, it would be Henson. Why? Because the guy hustles hard every game. He is like a poor-man’s Anthony Davis because from the moment you draft him he can defend and rebound (although he needs to put on weight fast, currently he could turn sideways and you wouldn’t see him). But that is not a great description because he also just has a unique, hard to define game. Well, outside of the fact he is very long and very athletic.

His offense is raw. Also, he’s not a guy that fits easily into a traditional offensive system — he’s too thin right now to bang with fours and fives in the NBA (see the paragraph above) but he’s not a three. However, he is the one guy you know will put in the effort, work on his offensive game, get stronger and in three or four years could be a real force.

Most people don’t think he has the upside of Perry and Drummond, but this is the guy I would be more willing to invest in because some return seems more likely.

Only two of 38 rookies surveyed say No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz will have class’s best career

Elsa/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The 76ers drafted Ben Simmons No. 1 last year, believing he’d have the best career of anyone in his draft class. This year, Philadelphia traded up to draft Markelle Fultz No. 1 for the same reason.

Their fellow rookies – Simmons missed all of last season due to injury – aren’t nearly as enthused.

John Schuhmann of NBA.com conducted his annual rookie survey, polling 39 players who weren’t allowed to vote for themselves or college or NBA teammates. Thirty-eight responded to the best-career question:

Which rookie will have the best career?

1. Lonzo Ball, L.A. Lakers — 18.4%
Jayson Tatum, Boston — 18.4%

3. Josh Jackson, Phoenix — 10.5%
Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas — 10.5%

5. De'Aaron Fox, Sacramento — 7.9%

6. Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia — 5.3%
Harry Giles, Sacramento — 5.3%
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia — 5.3%

Others receiving votes: Jarrett Allen, Brooklyn; John Collins, Atlanta; Jonathan Isaac, Orlando; Luke Kennard, Detroit; Kyle Kuzma, L.A. Lakers; Donovan Mitchell, Utah; Malik Monk, Charlotte

Simmons might not have come to mind to players at the rookie photo shoot, which was for the most recent draft class. And rookies have tended to pick someone other than the No. 1 pick for this question. Anthony Davis in 2012 was the last No. 1 pick to lead voting. Simmons tied for fourth at 6.7% last year – behind Brandon Ingram, Kris Dunn and Buddy Hield. Even Karl-Anthony Towns landed behind Jahlil Okafor in 2015.

But so few votes for Fultz – the consensus top prospect in the draft – is fairly stunning.

Dennis Smith Jr. received the most votes for Rookie of the Year, but at just 25.7%. A large majority of rookies picked someone other than the Mavericks point guard.

Lonzo Ball (71.8% for best playmaker) was the only player to receive a majority of votes in a category. Luke Kennard (48.6% for best shooter) and Smith (43.6% for most athletic), who each tripled second place, came close.

LeBron James reemerged as rookies’ favorite player after a three-year run by Kevin Durant. Maybe that Warriors backlash if finally catching up to Durant?

Kendall Marshall, Marshall Plumlee headline Team USA’s AmeriCup roster

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

AmeriCup, previously called the FIBA Americas Championship, lost its luster when FIBA decided the continental tournament wouldn’t double as World Cup qualifying.

But the U.S. is still sending a team, coached by Jeff Van Gundy. The roster (team last season):

  • Billy Baron (UCAM Murcia, Spain)
  • Alec Brown (Windy City Bulls)
  • Larry Drew II (Sioux Falls Skyforce)
  • Reggie Hearn (Reno Bighorns)
  • Darrun Hilliard (Detroit Pistons)
  • Jonathan Holmes (Canton Charge);
  • Kendall Marshall (Reno Bighorns)
  • Xavier Munford (Greensboro Swarm)
  • Marshall Plumlee (New York Knicks)
  • Jameel Warney (Texas Legends)
  • C.J. Williams (Texas Legends)
  • Reggie Williams (Oklahoma City Blue)

The Americans should still be favored, though obviously not as overwhelming as they’d be with NBA players, in a field also comprised of Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Uruguay, Panama and U.S. Virgin Islands.

This will be a good benchmark, as the U.S. might take a similar roster into World Cup qualifying.

Report: Tampering investigation stems from Magic Johnson’s TV interview

Leave a comment

In April, new Lakers president Magic Johnson went on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and discussed then-Pacers forward Paul George:

We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?

Now, the Lakers – at Indiana’s request – are being investigated for tampering.

Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:

The investigation, which has been going on since May, stemmed from comments Magic Johnson made on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” that angered Pacers owner Herb Simon, according to several NBA officials who were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

This doesn’t mean the Pacers believe Johnson tampered with his televised comments. It seems as if that was the last straw following numerous rumors about George going to Los Angeles.

However, there’s a case Johnson’s televised remarks alone would constitute tampering. The Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibits “assurances of intent, or understandings of any kind (whether disclosed or undisclosed to the NBA), between a player (or any person or entity controlled by, related to, or acting with authority on behalf of, such player) and any Team (or Team Affiliate)” – and even attempts to solicit assurance of intent or understanding – when the player is still under contract with another team. Johnson sure appeared to do that.

But it’d be shocking if Johnson or the Lakers were punished for the interview alone. Indiana probably needs more evidence.

Then again, the arbitrary way the NBA enforces tampering, who knows?

Report: Nerlens Noel hires Rich Paul as agent, looking for big deal from Mavericks

Getty Images
2 Comments

It’s been a rough year for restricted free agents (and plenty of unrestricted ones). After NBA teams spent like drunken sailors on shore leave last summer, this time around — with the cap not rising as much as had been expected — the market got tight quickly, and few questionable contracts were handed out. A year ago the Brooklyn Nets were making the Miami Heat pay big to retain Tyler Johnson and the Trail Blazers pay big to keep Allen Crabbe. This year teams were not biting the same way on restricted free agents.

Which left guys like Nerlens Noel, who expected to be maxed out by the Mavericks (or someone), still looking for a deal. Noel was frustrated enough to switch agents, picking up Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, according to Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders.

Paul is LeBron James‘ agent, and in recent years has done well getting Tristan Thompson and Eric Bledsoe good contracts as extensions to their rookie deals. In both cases, he showed a fearlessness in holding out longer and being willing to push the envelope. That had to appeal to Noel.

But it doesn’t change the underlying dynamics at play — and not just with Noel. Paul also represents restricted free agents this summer Shabazz Muhammad — who has yet to sign a deal — and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who had to take a one-year deal with the Lakers for $18 million (well below his max). Throw in Noel’s injury history, and teams were not eager to jump in with a big offer for the athletic big man.

At this point, no team has the money to offer Noel a max contract right now — the Bulls have the most available money at $17.3 million, the Sixers and Suns have about $15 million and $14 million. Noel’s max is $24.7 million a year. Dallas is playing hardball because they can — without another offer on the table, Noel’s only real threat is to sign the qualifying offer (about $6 million) and play the season for that, then become an unrestricted free agent next summer. That’s possible, but a guy with Noe’s history of injuries may want to be careful betting on himself like that.

With Paul in the negotiations, expect them to drag out. That’s about the only sure thing.