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.

No, Joel Embiid didn’t cheat during the NBA Skills Challenge

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The Internet got itself all in a huff on Saturday as they watched the 2018 NBA All-Star Weekend Skills Challenge. In particular, the matchup between Chicago Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen and Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid stirred up a bit of controversy.

Specifically, folks accused Embiid of cheating.

During the passing section of the obstacle course, Embiid didn’t actually make any of his passes into the ring. He then proceeded on the next section and was neck-and-neck with Markkanen as they tried to finish out the head-to-head competition. Markkanen won, but that didn’t stop folks from saying the 76ers All-Star had circumvented the rules.

We now know that’s not true.

According to the rules (provided on the NBA media site, page 47 of the 2018 NBA All-Star Media Guide) Embiid was allowed to move onto the next section even though he hadn’t completed any of his passes. A player only has to exhaust the rack, not complete a pass. It appears rules sort of assume that if a player stands there trying to complete a pass three times they’ll fall so far behind they won’t be able to catch up.

Re-watching the video, it appears Embiid knew this rule to the game and figured if he didn’t make the first one he would quickly try to blast the next two passes off the rack so he could then move onto the next section.

Embiid even took to Twitter to head off accusations that he had cheated.

Via Twitter:

Trust. The. Process.

Rumor: Jeff Hornacek shoved Joakim Noah during confrontation

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The saga between the New York Knicks and Joakim Noah has been ongoing for sometime, with the latest story being that there was some kind of verbal altercation between the former All-Star big man and head coach Jeff Hornacek.

Noah has not played for the team since Jan. 23, and he is now separated from the Knicks as they try to find a solution to shed him from their roster.

We now have a better idea of what kind of urgency New York has to make that move.

A report from the New York Daily News has given us more information about the confrontation between Noah and Hornacek. The latest addition to the story is that it was not just words between the Knicks coach and Noah, and that Hornacek actually pushed Noah first during the confrontation.

The two then had to be separated.

Via NYDN:

Noah was banished from the Knicks after an altercation with coach Jeff Hornacek during a practice last month. The disagreement stemmed from Noah’s lack of playing time, and it turned physical the day after he logged only five minutes against the Warriors.

While no punches were thrown, the Daily News learned that Hornacek was the first to shove Noah before they had to be separated.

In our last update on this story, Dan outlined how that could be made possible. No team is going to trade for Noah at this juncture in his career, so the only real option for New York is to waive him.

Here’s how that looks, according to our own Dan Feldman:

If the Knicks waive Noah without a buyout, they’d have two options after paying out the rest of his $17,765,000 salary this season:

Pay Noah $18,530,000 next season and $19,295,000 the following season
Pay Noah $7,565,000 each of the following five years via the stretch provision

It just keeps getting weirder and weirder during a lost season in the Big Apple.

Kobe Bryant tells Shaq he was planning to leave Lakers for Bulls (VIDEO)

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Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal got their three championships together as members of the Los Angeles Lakers. The two stars were part of the three-peat team that won in 2000, 2001, and 2002. But the story that perhaps overshadows those accomplishments in the modern era is the story of Kobe vs. Shaq, and the long-standing beef that was between the players even after they split in 2004.

The back-and-forth between the two is part of the fabric not just of the Lakers, but of pop culture as it surrounds basketball. The Shaq/Kobe beef even has it’s own Wikipedia page that’s longer and more well-sourced than most of the papers I wrote in college. It’s impressive.

Meanwhile, Kobe and Shaq sat down in a long special that aired on Saturday as All-Star Weekend ramped up that revealed quite a bit about their time together and their relationship. One of the more interesting anecdotes was Kobe telling Shaq that he was planning on leaving the Lakers for the Chicago Bulls in 2004. That plan was quashed when the team sent O’Neal to the Miami Heat in July.

Via Twitter:

That would have been a major shift for LA and for Chicago. The Bulls drafted both Ben Gordon and Chris Duhon that year, and traded for Luol Deng. The team improved by 24 wins the following season, and adding Bryant may have altered that trajectory and of course sent shockwave of consequential changes through the league. Heck, Scottie Pippen retired that October, but perhaps he would have stayed for one more year with Kobe?

The rest of the interview was interesting, and there were lots of tidbits of information that had people talking. Bryant and O’Neal rehashed their fights, Shaq’s infamous rap dissing Kobe, and mooning Sacramento Kings fans after beating them in the 2002 playoffs.

The biggest takeaway from the interview was how the one-upsmanship between Shaq and Kobe, although subtle, still remains.

As context, Bryant has done a fair bit of career revisionism as he tries to alter his public image now that he’s not a player. He’s painted himself as a “storyteller” and has tried to make his single-mindedness appear praiseworthy rather than destructive. It’s mostly so he can sell shoes well into his 50s à la Michael Jordan.

In the sit down between the two Lakers greats, Shaq did some legacy revision of his own. He played off his continuous egging of Bryant over their careers as simple media manipulation, calling himself a master marketer. It really was a thing to see something that hilariously disingenuous, especially as much of the conversation between the two — including many admissions on each side — were about times they made each other sincerely angry.

The two finished the interview by taking photos next to some championship trophies (Kobe with more, of course) and exchanging laughs and hugs.

You can watch the full interview in the video above.

JJ Redick appears to use racial slur toward Chinese fans

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Chinese New Year was February 16, and now we’ve rolled over to the Year of the Dog. The NBA has a huge presence internationally in China, and so its video partner across the Pacific put together a compilation video of NBA players wishing people a happy new year.

The only problem? In one cut of the video that has been making the rounds on social media, Philadelphia 76ers guard JJ Redick appears to use a racial slur aimed at those of Chinese descent.

The instance is absent from the official video, but a reaction-style YouTube video captured a different edit of the Year of the Dog video with Redick still in it. Redick appears to say, “I just wanted to wish all the NBA c—k fans in China a very happy Chinese New Year.”

Redick responded on Twitter, saying he was simply tongue-tied.

It’s difficult to judge intention from a distance, but the result is certainly disappointing. Even with Redick’s apology, it seems possible he’s contacted by the league office as part of a disciplinary inquiry.