PBT Draft preview: Jamaal Franklin can dunk, but can he shoot?

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For the next few weeks PBT will be profiling likely first-round draft picks in the upcoming NBA Draft. Today we talk about one of the best dunker’s in the game right now.

San Diego State is turning out some talent under Steve Fisher the last few years. That Kawhi Leonard guy is giving the Grizzlies problems right now, for example.

And now there is Jamaal Franklin, a high-energy, very athletic wing player who has entered this year’s draft.

He was a dynamic in college where he was Mr. Everything for the Aztecs always the most athletic guy on the floor. But he’s the kind of guy where there are questions about how he fits in the NBA — mostly because he’s not a good shooter. He hit just 40.4 percent of his shots overall and 27.9 percent from three. In the NBA everybody is athletic (not as athletic as Franklin, but he will not overwhelm guys like in college) so defenders will play off him and force the shooting guard to shoot.

A bad shot can be fixed if you believe the player has the personality and work ethic to put in the time (it will not happen overnight). Some team will take a gamble that Franklin is that guy, DraftExpress thinks right now it will be the Hawks at 18.

STRENGTHS

He has great size and athleticism for a wing player in the NBA. He is 6’5” with a 6’11” wingspan. We don’t have any other numbers of him because a sprained ankle kept him out of the NBA Draft Combine, but nobody is questioning his athleticism. He is as good an athlete as there is in this draft.

What he did well at San Diego State was use that athleticism — he attacked and was aggressive on both ends of the court. On offense he was just about unstoppable in transition (where he generated a lot of offense), but even in the half court he attacked the rim with great energy. And when he did that he was tough to stop. Also, the guy has a nice pump fake that got guys to bite. With all of that he got to the line a lot.

He was aggressive on the defensive end as well — he jumped passing lanes, had quick hands, got steals and put pressure on opponents. Again, he used that athleticism

The other common denominator here is his motor — the guy is very competitive and plays hard all the time. A guy with great athleticism who plays with great energy on both ends will get a shot in the league.

WEAKNESSES

The big weakness is one we mentioned before — he’s not a good shooter. Draft express said he shot 23.7 percent on catch-and-shoots and 21 percent when contested. And with that, he makes some bad choices about when to shoot. Oh, and he turned the ball over a lot as well.

All of which leads to questions about how exactly he fits in the NBA — at San Diego State he was the guy creating with the ball in his hands, in the NBA he is going to have to work a lot off the ball. Can he adjust?

Shooting is a skill that can be developed. There was some buzz before the combine his shot has improved already. If Franklin puts in the work he could develop into a solid rotation player in the NBA, but if he can’t find a shot he’s going to struggle.

WHAT DOES DAUSTER THINK?

We don’t get to watch as much of these guys as college writers do, so we turn to Rob Dauster of NBC’s CollegeBasketballTalk.com.

Franklin was one of the most entertaining players in the country to watch the last few years. Few players in the country played as hard as Franklin, and given the fact that he was an athletic, aggressive slasher that was crazy enough to try just about any shot he could think of — literally — made for must-see-TV. He was exciting, even if it cost him from an efficiency standpoint.

Franklin actually saw his production drop as a junior after winning co-MWC Player of the Year honors as a sophomore, and part of the reason for that is he spent more time playing strictly as a small forward. As a sophomore, SDSU was extremely small, and Franklin had to play the four for Steve Fisher. That allowed him to take advantage of the mismatches that he had going up against bigger, slower front court players. Forced to matchup with guys that could defend him on the perimeter made it more difficult for Franklin to score.

Franklin is a shooting guard in the NBA, but he’s not a great shooter, has poor shot selection and needs the ball in his hands to be effective. He’s got the physical tools and competitiveness to play the two in the NBA, but I’m not sure that he’ll be able to find a long-term role given some of his limitations offensively.

WHERE DOES HE GET DRAFTED?

Somewhere after the lottery but in the first round, DraftExpress has him at No. 18, our own Steve Alexander at Rotoworld says the Bucks at 15. This is another case where player development matters — he’s got all the tools and if you can develop his shot and mold him to work better off the ball he could be a solid part of an NBA team.

Adding Durant and thinking dynasty, it’s championship or bust for Warriors’ legacy

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The Golden State Warriors have been the best team in the NBA for three seasons now. That’s not my opinion, that’s LeBron James‘ — here is what he said after advancing to his seventh straight NBA Finals.

“That’s been the best team in our league the last three years, and they added an unbelievable player in Kevin Durant this year, so that makes it even more difficult.”

Adding Durant did make them more difficult to beat, but it also added to the Warriors’ burden — after a 67-win season and a historic 12-0 sweep into the Finals, the series that their season will be judged on is the one still to be played. They may as well be 0-0 because the second they added Durant it was championship or bust in terms of how they want to be seen.

Win and a pattern of dominance over years starts to come into focus, they will have a couple rings and beaten LeBron — who will go down as one of the all-time greats in his own right — to get them. Lose and this season will be viewed as another failure.

The Warriors want us to look back on them in 10-15 years and see a dynasty. They talked quietly about it last season during their chase for 73 wins — they saw that as a part of their resume as one of the greatest teams of all time. That’s part of the reason for the push last year. They, like LeBron, are chasing the ghosts of greatness at this point, and the Warriors had a Jordan record in their sights.

Regular season marks are nice, but in the NBA the great teams’ legacies are built around championships. Plural. If you’re going to go down as one of the dominant teams of an era — like the Shaq/Kobe Lakers, or Jordan’s Bulls, or the Celtics and Lakers of the ’80s, etc. — there needs to multiple rings on fingers. The Warriors have one, but their historic season unraveled last year when a combination of LeBron’s utter dominance, Draymond Green‘s suspension, Andrew Bogut’s injury (that one was underrated as an issue) all came together to snatch victory from their hands (and help cement LeBron’sa legacy).

The Warriors need the 2017 title for their legacy.

Not just the team, but the legacies of Warriors players will be impacted by this series. Injured or worn down or just in a shooting slump (or, most likely, a combination of the three), Stephen Curry struggled defensively and was outplayed by LeBron last Finals when the Warriors needed him. Curry has been fantastic through these playoffs, but like the team he will be judged as much or more for the games to come than the ones already played. Fair or not.  Can Green keep his head about him when LeBron pushes his buttons? Durant is back on the Finals stage, will he rise to that moment?

The championship or bust mentality is too often the prism through which fans — and media — view sports. It’s unfortunate because it clouds the joy of the game itself, the growth of players, of guys doing the unexpected and rising to heights we did not expect from them. Isaiah Thomas‘ brilliant season in Boston is not diminished because it didn’t end in a ring, to use one easy example. But there are hundreds more like that around the league. Championship or bust blinds people to the little things that can make the game joyous.

However, the Warriors have put themselves in a different place. They are chasing legends. They have the wins and the statistics to make a case, more importantly, they also have a style of play being copied (even by college teams) and is changing how the game is played. That is a hallmark greatness.

Now they need the rings to go with it. They need more than one, but it starts with this year’s title — it is championship or bust for them. Fair or not. If the Warriors want to be mentioned in the pantheon of all-time greats, it will take the 2017 title to be part of it.

Underdog Cavs insist they have plenty of bite for Finals

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — They are defending champions and decided underdogs.

The Cleveland Cavaliers, however, say they aren’t using any snubs to get ready for the NBA Finals.

Set for a third straight championship matchup against Golden State, the Cavs are ignoring the Las Vegas odds makers and others who don’t think they have a shot at beating Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant & Co.

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue doesn’t feel his team needs the underdog label for inspiration, saying being in the NBA Finals is “enough motivation alone.”

Kevin Love was reminded that Warriors forward Draymond Green said earlier this season that he wants to “destroy and annihilate” the Cavs in the Finals. Says Love said: “He wanted us, and he has us starting next Thursday.”

 

Check out Kawhi Leonard’s highlights from this past season (VIDEO)

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Russell Westbrook and James Harden were putting up the bigger numbers, they were drawing more attention. And while MVP is a regular season award, nobody has boosted their MVP credentials more in the postseason than Kawhi Leonard.

He had a really impressive regular season, too. Since we’re on a long break between games, enjoy the highlights of Leonard’s season. He may enter next season as the MVP favorite.

Kevin Love on Cavaliers: “I don’t feel like we’re underdogs”

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Kevin Love and Las Vegas bookmakers do not see things the same way.

In Vegas, the Golden State Warriors are heavy favorites to win the title — bet $100 on them to win and you get back $41.7 (or less). Cleveland is a heavy underdog.

Love sees a confident team that is the defending NBA champions, as he told Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“The whole underdog thing is funny to me, because, yeah, at the end of the day we are defending our title,” Love said Saturday after the Cavs’ first practice in preparation for the Warriors since clinching a spot in the Finals. “We’re trying to repeat, which is so hard to do. I think we will use it as fuel, we will use it as motivation, but the idea of playing into it? It’s tough for me to say that is the case. I don’t feel like we’re underdogs. We match up well with them, and I think they’d say the same about us.”

What else was he going to say?

More than any other team in the league, the Cavaliers are built to give Golden State trouble. The Cavaliers can exploit mismatches, be physical on defense, and they have LeBron James, Love and Kyrie Irving. Three NBA stars.

Is that enough against four NBA stars is the question.