PBT Draft preview: Is Trey Burke the next Lillard? He’ll be an impact rookie.

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For the next five weeks PBT will be profiling likely first-round draft picks in the upcoming NBA Draft. We start with one of the more household names in this draft.

If you are looking for the next Damian Lillard — not in terms of style of play, but in terms of a rookie who could have a big impact right out of the gate — Trey Burke may be your guy. He’s not going to be an NBA superstar, but he could be a very good point guard for your team for years.

The 6’0” point guard out of Michigan became as much of a household name as there is in this draft with his play during the NCAA tournament, leading Michigan all the way to the championship game. But he wasn’t a tournament flash — he was the best player in college ball last season. He was everybody’s college player of the year, averaging 18.1 points and 6.6 assists per game, shooting a high percentage (38 percent from three) and not turning the ball over much.

He’s got an all-around skill set that will have him going in the Top 5 according to DraftExpress (where exactly could depend on the lottery and who drafts in what slot). Usually it’s big men who move up the draft board as we get closer, but Burke seems to be doing the same now.

STRENGTHS

The NBA is a pick-and-roll league and Burke is a good pick-and-roll point guard, the best in college last season. According to DraftExpress 35.5 percent of his offense came off that play and he scored a good 0.98 points per possession that way — with defenses keyed on him. It’s because he uses good quickness and hesitation moves to get in the paint or he can shoot with range if you go under the pick.

Remember the NCAA finals game — Russ Smith from Louisville is a good defender and Burke did as he pleased against him.

Burke can score a variety of ways, but he can also pass the rock well, he has good court vision and sense. He can get in the paint off the pick and make plays. He’s also good in transition, both getting to the rim and kicking out to shooter.

Finally, if you’re looking for an on the court leader…. Did you see Burke in the NCAA Tournament?

WEAKNESSES

The questions about him are simple — is he big enough at six foot to both keep scoring in the lane against the NBA trees, and will that height hurt him defensively.

Against bigger players in college Burke tended to go to a floater rather than attack at the rim. As DraftExpress noted, he shot just 52 percent in the restricted area when running a half court offense. He’s going to have to do better at the next level.

And he’s going to have to learn to defend (something Lillard still needs to do as well).

WHAT DOES DAUSTER THINK?

With each college player we profile at PBT, we’ll talk to Rob Dauster of CollegeBasketballTalk at NBC to get his thoughts — he sees these guys more than we do.

I think that even if Marcus Smart had entered the draft this year that I would have taken Burke as the first point guard, and it’s because there really isn’t all that much that he can’t do on the offensive end of the floor. He’s terrific in the pick-and-roll because he’s not only a threat to score, but he’s a perfectly competent and willing creator as well. The biggest improvement that Burke made this season was in his decision-making, as his efficiency numbers were through the roof. He didn’t turn the ball over much and he rarely took bad shots despite the fact that he was the engine on the nation’s most potent offensive attack this season.

Burke also proved to have a penchant for making big shots in big moments. Who can forgot the 30-footer that he hit to force overtime against Kansas in the Sweet 16? Those of us that watched him all season long weren’t surprised that he a) took that shot or b) made that shot.

He has his weaknesses. He’s on the shorter side (6’0”, although he does have a 6’5” wingspan) and he’s not on the same level as a Derrick Rose or John Wall when it comes to athleticism. There are questions about just how good he is going to be on the defensive end of the floor. He’s not an elite point guard prospect in the sense that he’s the kind of guy that can turn around a franchise. But that doesn’t mean that he won’t be a good player in the league for a number of years.

WHERE DOES HE GET DRAFTED?

Top five for sure, and if the right team lands at No. 1, who knows? Wherever he lands he’ll make an impact and the fans will love him.

Report: Manute Bol’s birthday was made up, may have played in NBA at age 50

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Former NBA center Manute Bol was a sight to behold when he came to the United States for college. At 7-foot-7 and just 200 pounds, his slight frame was always shocking to the eye.

Bol passed away in 2010, but stories about the Sudanese big man have been top of mind lately as his son, Bol Bol, recently committed to play basketball at the University of Oregon.

A recent story has surfaced about the elder Bol and the purported age at which he entered the NBA and played.

According to former Cleveland State coach Kevin Mackey, he was the one who decided Bol’s birthday was October 16, 1962. This was apparently because it wasn’t clear just how old Bol was at the time.

Via Zagsblog:

“I gave him his birthday because they didn’t know how old he was,” Mackey, now a scout with the Indiana Pacers, told ZAGSBLOG.

But Mackey says Bol was probably much older and could have been in his 40s or even 50s when he played in the NBA. According to Wikipedia, Manute played in the NBA from his early 20s until his early 30s for various teams, including the Washington Bullets, Golden State Warriors and Philadelphia 76ers.

“The immigration people were in the office [at Cleveland State] and they thought it was great. They loved it. And they were big fans of Cleveland State, they used to come to all our games. They wanted to cover themselves because Manute was starting to get so much publicity. His picture was in the paper. He was on the 6 o’clock news because he was a such a different looking guy than everyone else. At that time, no one had ever seen anything like it.”
So at that point, Mackey worked with the local immigration office to come up with a birthday for Bol, Oct. 16, 1962
“It was in October, I wanted to make it after Sept. 1,” Mackey said. “I wanted to make sure he was young enough because he didn’t have an age. I think he was [in his 40s], I really do. But there’s no way of ever really knowing.”

Bol didn’t end up playing at Cleveland State, reportedly because his English was not good enough. He wound up playing at the University of Bridgeport before getting drafted by the Washington Bullets with the 31st pick in the 1985 NBA Draft.

Mackey is now a scout with the Indiana Pacers, and he is so far the only person telling this story. If it is true, it would have been an incredible feat for Bol to play in the NBA into his 40s.

Patrick Beverley after Clippers’ 9th-straight loss: “This ain’t how I roll”

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The Los Angeles Clippers are bad. The team has lost nine straight games since beating the Dallas Mavericks on Nov. 1.

LA has looked discombobulated, and even their stars have struggled. Over the past 10 games, for example, Blake Griffin is shooting an unthinkable 38.2 percent from the field. Griffin’s shooting percentage now sits 10 points below his career average.

So too have guys like DeAndre Jordan and Austin Rivers struggled, either in scoring the basketball or in effecting resistance on the defensive end. The Clippers are ranked just 21st on defense according to Basketball Reference, a dip from 12th the year before.

Oh, and Danilo Gallinari is hurt, but you probably already saw that coming.

Meanwhile, Chris Paul‘s replacement at PG is Patrick Beverley, an equally tenacious defender and motivator of playoff squads. After Monday’s loss to the New York Knicks, Beverley spoke to reporters about the team needing to play harder and mature faster.

Via the LA Times:

“This … feels like 100 losses,” Beverley said. “Straight up. This … is weak. This ain’t how I roll. That ain’t OK and I won’t allow it to be OK as long as I’m here. That’s a fact.”

“We just got to play harder. That’s it. We just got to play harder. You get rid of the mistakes by playing hard. We’re not playing hard; the first unit, not the whole team. I challenged the first unit to play harder.”

“We too cool. We too cool. We come in this game, we come on the court like people are supposed to back down because of the name on the back of our jerseys and that’s not the case. The only thing people are looking at is the name on the front of our jersey, and that’s nine losses in a row.”

Beverley is an intense dude, but the Clippers issues are systemic and aren’t likely to right themselves. Remember, this is a Western Conference where the Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets, and Memphis Grizzlies have all had injuries. Portland has floundered out of the gate. If there was a time to strike, it would be now for LA.

Instead, the Clippers are one of the teams that are struggling along with the rest of the aforementioned teams. I’m not sure what Beverley will be able to do about that.

Steven Adams says Thunder late-game struggles on him, not Westbrook/George/Anthony

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In the first half of games this season, the Oklahoma City Thunder have the best defense in the NBA, allowing just 91.7 points per 100 possessions. In those first 24 minutes, the Thunder are outscoring teams by 12.7 points per 100 possessions, second best in the NBA (Houston is first).

However, in the fourth quarter, the Thunder defense is 18.1 points per 100 possessions worse. Their offense stagnates late in games with a lot of “you take a turn and then it’s my turn” isolation between Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony.

The Thunder have nine losses this season, and OKC lost double-digit leads in six of those. Monday night it was a 19-point lead against New Orleans where the Pelicans — without DeMarcus Cousins — came back to win 114-107.

There’s a lot of blame and finger-pointing going on in Oklahoma City, but Steven Adams said less of that should be at the three stars and more of it should be at him. Via Royce Young at ESPN:

“Mainly me, to be honest (should be blamed). Because the play itself you have to execute it properly and it has to be legit down to the t. I screwed up my feet on a couple of them in terms of spacing. … Everyone plays a part in the plight so you can say yeah the shot doesn’t go in which sucks. But to get them that shot I didn’t help them.”

Adams can take on a little of the blame, but this is a team thing right now — everyone has earned some blame. Billy Donovan as coach, role players like Andre Roberson or Patrick Patterson who have not lived up to expectations this season, and yes Westbrook/George/Anthony have earned some blame, too. It’s a little bit of everything.

There’s also time for the Thunder to figure it out, but they are on the clock as this is a one-year experiment in Oklahoma City (no way they pay the whopping tax coming next season to keep all three stars and Adams, no matter what ownership says publicly).

C.J. McCollum: I told Evan Fournier during altercation ‘ you’re sweet and soft like those crepes you eat’

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C.J. McCollum blew kisses at Evan Fournier when they got into a confrontation during the Trail Blazers’ win over the Magic last week:

But apparently the incident was even better than that!

McCollum on The Flagrant Two podcast, as transcribed by Colin Ward-Henninger of CBSSports.com:

“I just felt like he disrespected me by putting his hands on me,” McCollum said. “Obviously, I’m not trying to get any fines or anything of that nature and I told him he was sweet. He’s French, and I said that, ‘you’re sweet and soft like those crepes you eat.’ “

Did McCollum actually say that in the moment, or did he come up with the line after the fact? I want the former to be true, so I choose to believe it.