Final Four - Louisville v Kentucky

NBA Draft: PBT’s pick-by-pick Draft tracker

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Locate the refresh button on your browser now, because this is where you are going to want to be for the entire 2012 NBA Draft.

Every pick will be discussed here, from Anthony Davis at No. 1 to the next Isaiah Thomas at No. 60 (last year’s final pick who turned out to end the season as a starter for the Kings). All the trades, all the great moves, all the questionable picks will be broken down right here all night long. Just stay with us and hit refresh.

Let’s get it started:

1. New Orleans Hornets: Anthony Davis (6’10” power forward, Kentucky). The Hornets get a franchise foundation big man. A guy scouts say could have a Kevin Garnett/Tim Duncan like career if he lives up to his potential. Davis is a long-armed (7’4” wingspan) athletic big who will be a shot blocking force in the paint from day one. His offense, especially in the post, needs work but he has the tools and was a very efficient scorer in college. The Hornets now have the foundation (with Eric Gordon) to be very good in a few years.

2. Charlotte Bobcats: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (6’7” small forward, Kentucky). Charlotte doesn’t trade the pick (reports vary on how close they got). They get a heck of a player. Coaches love him because the guy plays hard on both ends every single play. He is very athletic and uses that well on defense. On offense he is great in transition and could get to the rim in college but needs a steady jump shot now.

3. Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal (6’5” shooting guard, Florida). While his college numbers don’t show it (33.9 percent from three last season) scouts will tell you he is one of the best shooters in this draft, with incredible range. He’s athletic and can put the ball on the floor. He can defend. Scouts thought he looked like a young Ray Allen, if he comes close that’s a heck of a get for Washington. He should pair well with John Wall.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Dion Waiters (6’4” shooting guard, Syracuse). Wow, what a gamble by the Cavaliers. A couple of weeks before the draft Waiters wasn’t even in the lottery, however the Orangeman’s sixth man moved up the draft boards fast. Because he can score and teams see a potential spark plug in him. Waiters provides scoring often off penetration (he is fantastic at navigating the pick-and-roll), and he is very strong on his drives to the rim. His aggressiveness carries over to the defensive end. He’s a bit undersized and his jumpers needs to be more consistent. But fans are going to love him because he is aggressive. We’ll see, the Cavs passed up some quality players to get him.

5. Sacramento Kings: Thomas Robinson (6’9” power forward, Kansas). Any chance this pick would get traded went away when Robinson fell to the Kings, they like him a lot. They should. Other teams above them may regret passing on him in a few years. He is very athletic (he had the same combine vertical as Blake Griffin) power forward with a real nose for the ball. He will be a force as a rebounder from the start and can score around the rim. Needs to work on his perimeter game. College coach Bill Self thought he was like Paul Millsap, I think he can be a better version of Millsap.

6. Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard (6’3” point guard, Weber State). Don’t let the small school fool you, Lillard is the best point guard in this draft. He is more of a scoring guard in college who needs to learn to be a floor general and point in the NBA, but he has a good basketball IQ and got teammates involved (he can pass). He can shoot from distance or put the ball on the floor and get into the paint. Great pick by Portland, the pick-and-roll with him and LaMarcus Aldridge is going to be interesting.

7. Golden State Warriors: Harrison Barnes (6’8” small forward, North Carolina). He fell farther than some expected and could end up being a steal if he lives up to potential. Don’t be fooled by what you saw in the NCAA Tournament (when he shot 33 percent), this guy can score at the NBA level. He has a polished offensive game and can knock down the midrange jumper. Plus, he can defend. Moved up draft boards after showing 38-inch flat-footed vertical at combine.

8. Toronto Raptors: Terrence Ross (6’7” shooting guard/small forward, Washington). This is higher than most expected for one of of the real sleepers in this draft (because nobody was watching the dreadful Pac-12 last year). He’s an excellent athlete who loves the jump shot (40 percent of his shots last season were threes) but if you close out he can blow by you. He can finish at the rim. He needs to develop — his handle isn’t NBA level, he needs a midrange game, he needs to figure out when to score and when to defer — but he could put it together and be at least solid and maybe special in a few years. He plays the same position as DeMar DeRozan, who has one year left on his deal in Toronto. Interesting.

9. Detroit Pistons: Andre Drummond (7’0” center, Connecticut). 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. Him next to Greg Monroe makes a long front line that could be very good in Detroit.

10. New Orleans Hornets: Austin Rivers (6’5” combo guard, Duke). The son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers has moved up draft boards in recent weeks because he has a smooth offensive game. He can shoot with range, he can get to the basket, he can score. The concern is how he fits in — he has a scorer’s mentality (he patterned his game after Kobe Bryant) but he’s not an elite athlete and there will be better scorers on his team. He’s got the hoops IQ (he plays like a coach’s son) but will he play team ball? The Hornets now have Rivers, Anthony Davis and will re-sign Eric Gordon — that is a real foundation to build something special on.

11. Portland Trail Blazers: Meyers Leonard (7’1” center, Illinois). He has the physical tools to be a classic NBA center — he is tall, long and athletic for his size. He can run the floor. His offense needs a lot of polish, and he needs to get stronger, but you can see him getting post touches or setting a high screen and rolling to the basket hard. He helped himself out a lot at the NBA Draft combine in interviews. He is the traditional big to go next to LaMarcus Aldridge, plus he can set some picks for Damian Lillard. A center to Portland… just stay healthy.

12. Houston Rockets: Jeremy Lamb (6’5” shooting guard, Connetticut). There are a number of good two guards in this draft but Lamb has the highest ceiling of all of them. Fantastic athlete, 7-foot wingspan (which helps his defense) and just a pure scorer — he shot 60 percent from 2 last season in college. The knock is his passion and drive — he seems to just coast at times. Good pick here for the Rockets, but what does this say about Kevin Martin’s future in Houston?

13. Phoenix Suns: Kendall Marshall (6’4” point guard, North Carolina). Whether or not Steve Nash comes back to Phoenix he could be the point guard of the future. A classic old-school pure point guard who is the best passer in this draft (and maybe the last few drafts) and has a great basketball IQ, he can be a floor general in the NBA. He’s not an exceptional athlete and he needs to develop a steady shot to be a threat. Solid pick.

14. Milwaukee Bucks: John Henson (6’10 power forward, North Carolina). They needed more size after trading Andrew Bogut, and they have it. A long, very athletic guy who can give you rebounding and defense right from the start. Fans will love him because he can block shots into the third row. But his offense is still raw (but has shown improvement at UNC). If he can develop steady offense he could be a steal here in a few years.

15. Philadelphia 76ers: Maurice Harkless (6’9” small forward, St. John’s). This guy looks like an NBA player — long, athletic, can leap out of the building, knows how to finish in transition. But he is raw, especially offensively on the perimeter (where he will have to play in the NBA). He works well off the ball, he doesn’t really have the handles to create his own shot and his jumper is hot and cold. He’s going to make plays the fans like, but will frustrate his coach with inconsistent defense and effort. A lot of tools, we’ll see how he develops them.

16. Houston Rockets: Royce White (6’8” power forward, Iowa State). If he can get his head right this may be a steal for Houston and is a good risk. He has an NBA power forward’s body and it comes with excellent handles and passing. In college he played a point-forward where he led the team in points, assists and rebounds. He can score inside or out. There are a lot things to like. On the flip side, his shot is very inconsistent. And there are some red flags — he’s had legal issues and also he has an anxiety disorder with a fear of flying. Again, if he is mentally right this is a good pick.

17. Dallas Mavericks: Tyler Zeller (7’0” center, North Carolina) He has been traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the No. 24, 33 and 34 picks. As for Zeller… solid. The word everyone uses about Zeller is solid, he does a lot of things pretty well. He is polished, he can score around the basket, has a jumper, he runs the floor well, he plays smart, he will rebound and defend. Not an exceptional athlete, not likely to be an All-Star, but he will give you quality minutes starting this year.

18. Houston Rockets: Terrence Jones (6’9” can play either forward spot, Kentucky). A very athletic and versatile player — he can score in the post, knock down threes (although you can bet the team will rework his shot mechanics) and blow by his man off the dribble. He’s a good defender. There are real questions about his effort — he disappeard for stretches and in 12 games scored in single digits. Houston took some talented guys with questions but these are smart mid-round gambles. It’s a good pick.

19. Orlando Magic: Andrew Nicholson (6’9” power forward/center, St. Bonaventure). Don’t try to read any Dwight Howard tea leafs here, that is a different issue. You don’t get a Howard replacement at 19. As for Nicholson, he carried a heavy offensive load in college and was still very effiecent — he shot nearly 60 percent on twos and 40 percent from three. He can score back to the basket or face up. He attacks the rim. He’s got a 7’4” wingspan. He’s been moving up draft boards as teams see a David West-lite kind of guy. He’s not going to carry a team, but can be a good role player. Especially on a veteran team.

20. Denver Nuggets: Evan Fournier (6’7” shooting guard/small forward, France). He impressed PBT’s Brett Pollakoff who saw him in person at the adidas EuroCamp in Italy: “Fournier is listed as a forward on the camp’s roster, but spends plenty of time handling the ball, and is comfortable at the two as well, where he has no trouble showcasing a smooth shooting stroke, even from deep three-point distance. His value as both a playmaker and a legitimate wing who can competently play three positions is undoubtedly going to be of interest to plenty of NBA teams.” There are questions about his defense and he needs to gain strength, but he could be a peak John Salmons like scorer from the wing someday.

21. Boston Celtics: Jared Sullinger (6’9” power forward, Ohio State). I like this pick for Boston. Sullinger would have been a top 5 pick last year but went back to school. He is an undersized power forward who plays below the rim (read: not that athletic) but knows how to score with a soft touch, and makes smart plays without turning the ball over (think a Luis Scola type). He fell down draft boards after a medical red flag about his back, something his camp was due to tight hamstrings and he can stretch them out. Bottom line, his smart style of play should fit in well with the Celtics veterans.

22. Boston Celtics: Fab Melo (7’0” center, Syracuse). This is a nice young combo with Sullinger. Melo, a big man out of Brazil, can provide some defense and shot blocking from the start. But he’s a project. He has the size of an NBA center and he moves well for someone his size. But don’t expect much offense out of him at all, he is very raw (although there were reports he’s worked on a midrange jumper and it looks pretty good). Likely not a future All-Star but could be a solid NBA big if he develops.

23. Atlanta Hawks: John Jenkins (6’4” shooting guard, Vanderbilt). Scouts say Jenkins is the best pure shooter in this draft, with a lightning quick release. He shot 44 percent from three last year. The problem is he’s not really great at anything else — he’s not an elite athlete, he’s a bit small for the two in the NBA, we could go on but you get the idea. Still, he can shoot the rock from great distance.

24. Dallas Mavericks: Jared Cunningham (6’5” shooting guard, Oregon State). This officially was a pick made by the Cavaliers but he really belongs to Dallas as part of the Tyler Zeller trade. There are a lot of scouts pretty high on this guy as a sleeper. He is long, a good athlete who likes to play in transition, a good defender and on offense has can take a guy in isolation and get to the rim. He’s a bit of a project — he needs to get stronger and his jump shot has to become reliable — but there is real potential here.

25. Memphis Grizzlies: Tony Wroten (6’6” combo guard, Washington). He certainly has an NBA body — he’s got good size for a guard and is very athletic. He can drive the lane and finish through contact (but only with his left hand, he needs to get a right fast). He’s a good passer. But he can play undisciplined and reckless, he takes bad shots and his jump shot is not at all reliable right now. He’s a project. But he has the tools to be a quality guard in this league if he can learn to make better decisions and get a steady jumper.

26. Indiana Pacers: Miles Plumlee (7’0” center, Duke). This pick fills a need the Pacers lost last season. Plumlee rose up the board after working out for teams. He certainly has NBA size and strength, and he moves well. He can even run the floor. But he is very raw on offense (he shot 61 percent but he didn’t shoot much at all, averaging 6.6 points per game). He could develop into a solid big man, think Jeff Foster. The Pacers could use another Jeff Foster.

27. Miami Heat: Arnett Moultrie (6’11 power forward Mississippi State). Moultrie is not staying with the Heat, Yahoo Sports reports he will be traded to the 76ers. He has the tools you want in an NBA big man — he’s long, great leaper, runs the floor well, is great on the boards and can finish at the rim if you set him up. He has a midrange jumper as well, but can spend too much time looking for it and not getting to the rim. He has to get stronger and he has to be committed to defense to really step forward. Don’t expect a game-changing big, he can be solid starter if he develops.

28. Oklahoma City Thunder: Perry Jones III (6’11” power forward, Baylor). This is a great landing spot for him, a professional locker room and team that will not tollerate him not being mentally focused. Jones is the kind of guy that drives teams and fans crazy, but this far down the draft he’s worth the risk. On raw athleticism and potential he could be the second best player in this draft — he can play inside or out, runs the floor in transition, leaps out of the building and can board. But he rarely shows that on the court, he disappears through large stretches of the game. Some teams like him more as a tall three than a five in the paint. Also reports of a knee issue helped him slide down the board.

29. Chicago Bulls: Marquis Teague (6’2” point guard, Kentucky). Yes, he is the younger brother of Atlanta’s Jeff Teague. A lot was asked of Marquis at Kentucky and he scored points efficiently for them in the NCAA Tournament. He is very quick and wants to push the tempo and run — but that led to out of control play and turnover issues. He needs a jumper (shot 32.5 percent from three last year). He will make a nice backup for Derrick Rose the next few years, we’ll see what this means for C.J. Watson.

30: Golden State Warriors: Festus Ezeli (6’11” center, Vanderbuilt). He has the physical tools you want in an NBA big — he’s athletic, strong, moves well — but his game is very raw. He’s a project. He can block shots and may be a role player down the line. The Nigeria native needs a better understanding of the game, post moves and how to defend post moves.

SECOND ROUND

31. Charlotte Bobcats: Jeff Taylor (6’7” small forward, Vanderbilt). Some guys take time to develop. Taylor’s elite athleticism had him on NBA radars early but he didn’t really put his game together until his senior season (16.1 points per game, shot 42 percent from three). He can defend and shoot from distance, but he’s not a wing who can create his own shot.

32. Washington Wizards: Tomas Satoransky (6’8” shooting guard Czech Republic). He’s tall but he’s really a combo guard. Here is how PBT’s own Brett Pollakoff described him after seeing him at adidas Eurocamp: “Satoransky ran the point and played off the ball equally well, and whipped the ball around the perimeter with confidence, always looking to create the best shot for his teammates. When it was his turn to score, he showcased a smooth stroke from the outside, and was able to put the ball on the floor and finish in traffic, as well.” He needs some seasoning and a steadier shot, but he has potential.

33. Cleveland Cavaliers: Bernard James (6’10” center, Florida State). James is headed to the Dallas Mavericks as part of a trade for Zeller. James is 27 years old and is an Iraq/Afganistan war veteran (he didn’t play in high school then had a growth spurt while in the Air Force). He is a high-energy defensive specialist who has NBA size and athleticism. He will not score a ton in the NBA but he was efficient at it in college. He’d have gone higher if not for the age issue. He reportedly did very well in the NBA Draft Combine interviews and won over some front office folk. His ceiling is the next Joel Anthony.

34. Cleveland Cavaliers: Jae Crowder (6’6” small forward, Marquette). Headed to Dallas as part of a trade. A little undersized but a hard working guy at both ends of the floor who will give you a full effort and play smart. He’s got some perimeter game, the problem really is his strength is a power forward game and he’s the size of an NBA shooting guard.

35. Golden State Warriors: Draymond Green (6’7” power forward, Michigan State). Great pick at this spot. He’s got a versatile game — he can score inside but also has a nice jumper, is a good passer, and he can rebound. Plays a smart game. He is undersized as a power forward and doesn’t have a game that makes him a three. He can make a nice role player and can step into that almost immediately.

36. Sacramento Kings: Orlando Johnson (6’3” shooting guard, UC Santa Barbara). He has been traded to the Indiana Pacers (for cash). I’ve seen him in person the past few years, he has a real NBA body and NBA three point range on his shot. He is not a great athlete for the NBA level. He was asked to do a lot for the Gauchos and hit a lot of contested, difficult shots (the kind he will need to hit in the NBA). Not great at creating his own shot.

37. Toronto Raptors: Quincy Acy (6’6″ small forward, Baylor): Not the most skilled guy ever but he wants it and works hard on every play. Think Ronny Turiaf, but smaller. Acy is a great athlete, we’ll see if he can turn that and his motor into an NBA career.

38. Denver Nuggets: Quincy Miller (6’10” small forward, Baylor). A top player out of high school, he blew out his ACL in his senior year and never looked fully recovered at Baylor, where he was very inconsistent. As teams took a closer look, and got medical reports on his knee, he fell down the draft board. But he has the raw tools of a lottery pick, plays a smart and very versatile game. If he gets healthy, puts on some muscle and steadies his shot he could be very good.

39. Detroit Pistons: Khris Middleton (6’8” small forward, Texas A&M). He struggled in his junior year due to a knee injury and a coaching change so some where surprised when he declared for the draft. He was on scouts’ radars before that. If he gets healthy and lives up to potential this could be a steal — he is a classic swingman with length, a good first step and the ability to knockdown the midrange jumper. If he gets stronger and adds range to his shot he could be a solid NBA rotation player.

40. Portland Trail Blazers: Will Barton (6’6” shooting guard/small forward, Memphis). He’s a scorer, an inconsisntent one as a freshman but by his sophomore year he seemed to find a midrange and three-point stroke (34.6 percent last season). He needs to put on weight, he needs to be consistent as a pro, but he is smooth and can put up points in the NBA.

41. Portland Trail Blazers: Tyshawn Taylor (6’4” point guard, Kansas). He has been traded to the Brooklyn Nets. Taylor is really a combo guard that is very quick, very athletic plays at a fast pace and may be the best defensive guard in the draft. But he tends to turn the ball over, his decision making isn’t great, and neither is his jump shot. He reportedly did pretty well in workouts.

42. Milwaukee Bucks: Doran Lamb (6’5” shooting guard, Kentucky). Arguably the best pure shooter in this draft, he shot 46 percent from three last season but he can also knock down the midrange. He’s a decent athlete but not special at the NBA level. He isn’t really great at anything but shooting the ball, but scoring will get you paychecks. Good pick this far down the draft.

43. Atlanta Hawks: Mike Scott (6’9” power forward, Virginia). He was the ACC player of the year and has an all around game — he can score inside, knock down threes, is a very good rebounder, plays hard and plays smart. The concern was that he’s not a dynamic athlete for the NBA level and that he would struggle to keep up the guys he’d be matched up against. But in workouts he outplayed guys ranked higher and climbed draft boards.

44. Detroit Pistons: Kim English (6’6” shooting guard/small forward, Missouri). He’s a catch-and-shoot guy in the NBA, and he can’t do much else (like defend or create his own look). But he can shoot — he hit 45 percent from three last season. He has moved quickly up draft boards as teams watched him in workouts.

45. Philadelphia 76ers: Justin Hamilton (7’0″ center, LSU). He’s big and he’s mobile. He’s also very inconsistent in college, he needs to get stronger and there are questions about how he’ll deal with the athletes of the NBA. But he impressed at a few workouts and that got him a look.

46. New Orleans Hornets: Darius Miller (6’7” small forward, Kentucky). He was a good role player in college and teams see the potential for him to continue that in the NBA, ala Danny Green. He has a nice shot and can be a knock down guy from NBA three point range. He’s not going to create his own shot and can’t really defend on the perimeter at the NBA level. But he can shoot.

47. Utah Jazz: Kevin Murphy (6’6″ small forward, Tennessee Tech). He shot the rock very well against lesser competition, scoring 20.6 points per game and shooting 41 percent from three. The question is how he will do against tougher competition in the NBA, he seemed to struggle during the college season with that but he looked good at the Portsmouth Invitational after the season.

48. New York Knicks: Kostas Papanikolaou (6’8” small forward, Greece). Knicks fans at the draft had no idea who he was (and their reaction was great comedy). And they will not for a while — he will spend the next season (at least) to Europe as he does not have a buyout. He impressed at the EuroLeague final four where he was asked to defend Andri Kirilenko. Papanikolaou is a smart, physical player but not terribly athletic (by NBA standards) and he needs to develop range on his shots.

49. Orlando Magic: Kyle O’Quinn (6’10” center, Norfolk State). He’s got the build and athleticism you want in an NBA big man, he can rebound and defend well. He also scores pretty well around the rim. But there are questions both about his commitment to the game, his effort, and his basketball IQ. That said, he had a good NCAA Tournament and reports out of his workouts were all very good. He could grow into being a role player.

50. Denver Nuggets: Izzet Turkyilmaz (7’0″ small forward, Turkey). I got nothing. Looks very thin in the videos. DraftExpress says some teams saw him and thought he’d make a good “stash” pick who could help in a few years. They say he is athletic. Sure.

51. Boston Celtics: Kris Joseph (6’7″ small forward, Syracuse). He’s got solid athleticism and the effort is there. He spent a lot of time on the perimeter last season and found ways to score despite streaky shooting, but that will be harder to do at the NBA level.

52.Golden State Warriors: Ognjen Kuzmic (7’1″ center,Bosnia and Herzegovina). Don’t know much here. DraftExpress said former teammates like him, that he’s got a real center’s body and while not explosive he moves well. He was playing in the Spanish second division, kind of a big leap from there to the NBA.

53. Los Angeles Clippers: Furkan Aldemir (6’9” power forward, Turkey). Don’t be shocked if this pick gets moved. He is a rebounding machine in Europe. He also will stay there for at least a year as he has no out until 2014. Questions abound about what he can do besides crash the boards.

54. Philadelphia 76ers: Tornike Shengelia (6’9” small forward/power forward, Georgia). The Sixers sold the rights to Shengelia to the Brooklyn Nets for cash. Who doesn’t like cash? Shengelia made the first team at adidas EuroCamp, and here is what our own Brett Pollakoff (who was there) said about him: “He showcased a nose for the ball and an ability to do the dirty work inside, along with an energy level and an offensive skill set that’s certainly worth being noticed by NBA scouts.” A guy who needs a steadier shot, he’s a prospect, but maybe helpful a few years down the road.

55. Dallas Mavericks: Darius Johnson-Odom (6’2” shooting guard, Marquette). Dallas sold this pick to the Los Angeles Lakers for cash. Again, who doesn’t like cash? Although his college numbers don’t blow you away, scouts say he can flat out shoot the rock, and at the end of the day that is still the name of the game. He showed pretty well at the Nets combine workout, according to reports. He’s undersized for the two in the NBA (and he’s not a point guard) but he is strong and defends hard. He’ll be a catch-and-shoot guy in the league, but he can do a lot of damage that way.

56: Toronto Raptors: Tomislav Zubcic (6’11” power forward, Croatia). Don’t know much, but reports make it sound like he’s a classic European big who can spot up and shoot from distance, has good handles for a big, can run the floor a little. Don’t expect him to muscle anyone down low and not as athletic as the NBA guys he would face.

57. Brooklyn Nets: Ilkan Karaman (6’9″ small forward, Turkey). He looked pretty athletic at adidas EuroCamp, was able to back guys down inside and step out and knock down threes. He played with intensity.

58. Minnesota Timberwolves: Robbie Hummel (6’9″ small forward, Purdue). He’s not that athletic but he can shoot from range and can pass. He plays a smart game, but would be more of a sniper in the NBA. He’s got to improve his defense if he wants to see the court.

59. San Antonio Spurs: Marcus Denmon (6’3″ shooting guard, Missouri). He’s scored 17.7 points per game for Missouri and he did it efficiently — he can shoot from long range or finish at the rim. Good basketball IQ, doesn’t turn the ball over much. He’s small and not athletic for an NBA level guy, but the Spurs might be a team that can find a use for him.

60. Los Angeles Lakers: Robert Sacre (7’0″ center, Gonzaga). He’s tall, has an NBA body and can score around the rim. Not terribly athletic and he is pretty raw on offense, but he has a few moves. In college he was just bigger and stronger than everyone else, we’ll see what he can do when that is no longer the case.

51Q: Did the Hornets lose too much in free agency to continue on upward track?

CHARLOTTE, NC - APRIL 25:  Teammates Courtney Lee #1 and Jeremy Lin #7 of the Charlotte Hornets react after a play against the Miami Heat during game four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Time Warner Cable Arena on April 25, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  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.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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We continue PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. For the past few weeks, and through the start of the NBA season, we tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We will delve into one almost every day between now and the start of the season.

The Hornets improved from 33 wins in 2014-15 to 48 in 2015-16, a 15-win jump no other team topped. Their 48-34 record was their best since reemerging as the Bobcats in 2004. They won their first three playoff games in this era.

The key?

Buying low on players heading into unrestricted free agency and reaping the rewards before their contracts expired.

Charlotte traded for Nicolas Batum and Courtney Lee on ending deals and signed Jeremy Lin to a contract that allowed him to re-test the market again a year later. Those three joined Marvin Williams and Al Jefferson among Hornets with expiring contracts.

Management and fans can decide whether Charlotte’s fine, though unspectacular, season justified the risk. But the Hornets predictably paid a price this summer.

On the bright side, considering free agency was always going to treat them poorly, they took as small a beating as possible.

Charlotte somehow convinced Batum to re-sign for less than the max and Williams to re-sign through his early Bird Rights. So, though they lost Lin (Nets), Lee (Knicks) and Jefferson (Pacers), the Hornets still had money left to limit their net losses. They signed Ramon Sessions to replace Lin and Roy Hibbert to replace Jefferson. (In a far less inspiring move, they also replaced Lee by trading their first-round pick for Marco Belinelli.)

But the biggest “addition” will come from within: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who missed nearly all of last season due to injury.

Kidd-Gilchrist is an ace defender whose motor keeps him helpful offensively. He’s a jumper and good health away from stardom, though both have escaped him throughout his career. At just 23, he could still tap into a higher level.

Otherwise, internal improvement could be limited. Frank Kaminsky (23), Cody Zeller (23) and Walker (26) aren’t finished products, but they’re all relatively polished, with their actual production closing on their ceilings fast.

With the new acquisitions, it’s less about improvement and more about limiting lost production. Sessions will attack the rim a little better than Lin, but Session’s lackluster outside shooting will hinder his ability to share the court with Walker – a role that served Lin, and Charlotte, well last season. Hibbert is a defensive upgrade over Jefferson, maybe even a big one depending on Hibbert’s mindset. But the Hornets go from strong to zero in the offensive post. Belinelli, on the wrong side of 30, is trying to rebound from an awful season with the Kings.

Beyond their individual production, it also can’t be understated how well Lin and Lee jelled with their Charlotte teammates. Jefferson, even though his fit devolved during his tenure, still set an example by trying to make it work.

The Hornets were a feel-good team last season, but they built their success on a shaky foundation. When the storms came, they kept their house in as much order as possible, but there was only so much they could do at that point.

They didn’t experience the disaster of losing Batum. They kept another top free agent in Williams. Yes, Lin, Lee and Jefferson got away, but it’s not the end of the world – especially if Kidd-Gilchrist fulfills his potential.

After relying on players with expiring contracts last year, Charlotte is dependent on a new questionable source of production this year: Kidd-Gilchrist. Will he perform as well as those pending free agents did? The Hornets’ opportunity is greater this time around. Locked up for three more years, Kidd-Gilchrist could be a path to sustained success rather than the fleeting version experienced last season.

But first, Kidd-Gilchrist must provide immediate production to keep the good vibes going after the Hornets downgraded elsewhere. They’re putting a lot on his shoulders.

Tyronn Lue hid Cavaliers’ cash in Warriors-arena ceiling after Game 5, returned some of it after Game 7 win – but LeBron says he didn’t get repaid

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 19:  Head coach Tyronn Lue of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts during the first half in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. 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.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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There’s always money in the banana stand ceiling of an NBA arena where Doc Rivers or one of his coaching disciples is trying to prove a point.

As Rivers did in Los Angeles with the 2010 Celtics, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue – a Rivers assistant in Boston and with the Clippers – collected cash from his team as a motivational tactic during the NBA Finals.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

After the Cavs’ 112-97 win at Golden State in Game 5, coach Tyronn Lue entered his jovial locker room and asked for $100 from everyone.

Not just from LeBron James, or Kyrie Irving, or Kevin Love — you know, the players who print money. But everyone in the room, from owner Dan Gilbert (also not poor) down to Cavs’ public relations staffers and equipment managers.

Lue took the wad of cash — senior vice president of communications Tad Carper says it was $4,500 — and hid it in the ceiling of the coaches’ dressing room in the corner of the Oracle Arena visitor’s locker room.

“They were like, ‘Where is the money going?'” Lue said Tuesday, following the Cavs’ first practice as defending champs. “I’m like, ‘It’s going to me and I’m going to wrap it up and put it in the ceiling in the coaches locker room and we’re going to come back, get our money and get our trophy for Game 7.'”

Of course, Cleveland overcame its 3-1 deficit and everyone got their money back. Right?

Vardon:

Lue was assessed a $25,000 fine after Game 4 for ripping the officials, and he said some of what he collected after Game 5 went to pay his fine.

“I’m still looking for my money. I didn’t get mine back,” James said.

This is why so many Cavaliers employees deserves a championship ring. Even modestly paid staffers had to front their own money so the coach could prove a point.

This is the perfect example of winning curing all ills. This will be seen as a fun story, but what if Cleveland lost Game 7 – or even Game 6 and never returned to California?

Player or other employee, I’d quickly grow tired of a coach whose motivational tactic is taking my money. He can’t think of anything better?

Even as is – whether Lue was joking or not, whether LeBron is legitimately upset or not – the players association shouldn’t take kindly to a coach taking money from a player to pay the coach’s fine,

Bryan Colangelo: Nerlens Noel’s center comments ‘understandable,’ but he’s too young to dictate terms

CAMDEN, NJ - SEPTEMBER 26: Nerlens Noel #4 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on during media day on September 26, 2016 in Camden, New Jersey. 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. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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Nerlens Noel called the 76ers’ center situation – with himself, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid – “just silly” and said, “It doesn’t make any sense.” Then, he doubled down at media day.

How is management taking the public criticism?

76ers general manager Bryan Colangelo, via Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News:

“It’s not disappointing. I think it’s understandable. I think Nerlens did a pretty good job sizing up what we have. There is a lot of depth and a lot of talent at that position. I want to correct one aspect of it, though. He left out someone who has made great strides and improved significantly over the summer through hard work and his performance in the Summer League, but Richaun Holmes has really emerged as another player we’re excited about in terms of what, potentially, he is going to bring to this team.”

Colangelo, via Derek Bodner of Philadelphia magazine:

“These are all young players not in a position necessarily to dictate circumstances other than through hard work and effort,” Colangelo continued

In other words: Nerlens, you don’t have leverage.

Colangelo is mostly right. Noel is under contract this season, and if he doesn’t sign a contract extension by Oct. 31, he’ll be a restricted free agent next summer. Philadelphia has major control over his future, no matter how much he gripes.

As coach Brett Brown said, Noel’s best path to getting paid – by the 76ers or another team – is playing hard and playing to his strengths. He’ll have to earn minutes in a field that, as Colangelo noted, also includes Richaun Holmes. Colangelo is challenging Noel right back.

Colangelo is also correct that Noel’s complaints are understandable. Noel never asked to be put on a team that cared more about asset accumulation than winning, but he’s paying the price. Because the 76ers have so many centers, they’re unlikely to extend his contract now. That stinks for Noel.

Colangelo certainly has a higher tolerance for roster criticism, because his predecessor, Sam Hinkie, acquired all four centers. That’s Colangelo’s problem now, and he’s seeking a trade. But most understand the pros and cons of what he inherited.

Neither Noel nor Colangelo seems happy about Philadelphia’s center situation. They also seem unhappy with how the other is addressing it – though that could flip on a dime if Colangelo finds a trade and/or Noel provides inspired play.

Justise Winslow wants his own team one day, developing into role with Heat

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 30: Justise Winslow #20 of the Miami Heat drives down court during the first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on October 30, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)  *** Local Caption *** Justise Winslow
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PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — Justise Winslow‘s position with the Miami Heat has finally been clarified.

He’s their small forward.

That is, unless he’s playing power forward.

Or shooting guard. Or defending the opposition’s point guard. Or playing at center, as he did at times out of necessity in last season’s Eastern Conference semifinal series against Toronto.

In Heat vernacular, the second-year player out of Duke is a Swiss Army knife, a jack-of-all-trades whose role is fast increasing. Not only will Winslow be called upon to play multiple positions, he’s also being asked to take more of a leadership role now for a team that – without Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh – is rebuilding on the fly this season.

“That’s what I want,” Winslow said Wednesday. “That’s what I’ve been working for my whole life, to make it to the NBA – not only that, but to be a star and have my own team one day. This is the next step in me progressing and getting there, expanding my role and growing as a leader. And I accept whatever the coaching staff throws at me.”

Winslow was one of the last players to leave the court after Wednesday’s morning practice, a full-contact session that had players diving on floors and crashing into one another throughout. And after it was over, Winslow spent a good half-hour working on his shot.

The oldest Heat player is taking notice of the extra work the youngest Heat player is doing.

“He’s going to play a little bit of everything,” said 36-year-old Heat forward Udonis Haslem. “Just be Justise Winslow. Be that Swiss Army knife we need. One night it might be 10 rebounds. Another night it might be seven assists. Another night it might be 15 to 20 points. Just be Justise Winslow. He has the ability to do all those things and he has a high-enough basketball IQ where he knows when he needs to be aggressive, make plays and do other things.”

Winslow, who would be going into his junior year at Duke if he wasn’t in the NBA right now, isn’t just Miami’s youngest player – he holds that distinction by a lot.

He’s 20; next on the Heat age lists are 23-year-olds Briante Weber, Stefan Jankovic and Josh Richardson.

“He was quiet,” Haslem said. “But he fit in right away.”

Winslow was the fifth-youngest player to get time in the NBA last season, older than only Tyus Jones, Stanley Johnson, Rashad Vaughn and Devin Booker. And more than half of the 60 players to get taken in this year’s draft are older than Winslow as well.

“He doesn’t have to listen to anybody else’s expectations,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “There’s so many things out there about who he needs to be or what position he needs to play, how many more points a game he has to score this year. He’s going to get more minutes, more responsibilities. I want him to embrace that in a healthy way and not try to live up to anything coming from the outside.”

That doesn’t mean there aren’t things Winslow wants to emulate.

Wade’s departure over the summer hit Winslow hard. They bonded quickly, forged by Wade realizing that Winslow was willing to learn anything and everything he could from the three-time NBA champion wanted to teach. Winslow would spend time chatting up Bosh about nuances of the big-man game; their lockers were side-by-side last season.

And this summer, Winslow was part of the group invited by USA Basketball the U.S. Olympic team and help them prepare for what became a gold medal at the Rio Games.

“Seeing all those guys come together and not really care about stats before the gold medal, that’s the kind of mindset we have to have as a team,” Winslow said.