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.

Damian Lillard scores 40, hits game-winner to beat Suns (VIDEO)

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PHOENIX (AP) — Passing the ball inbounds at a critical time proved too big a challenge for the sputtering Phoenix Suns. So, Damian Lillard got one final chance.

Of course, he came through.

Lillard scored 40 points, the last two on a driving layup with nine-tenths of a second to play, and the Portland Trail Blazers rallied from 15 down in the final 7 1/2 minutes to beat Phoenix 106-104 on Saturday night, the Suns’ ninth straight loss.

Lillard called it one of his “more significant performances” of the season.

“Obviously, Damian was huge, showed his leadership, showed his talent,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “We overcame a horrendous shooting night for most of the night and found a way.”

Lillard, who scored 19 points in the fourth quarter, got the final chance because Phoenix’s Troy Daniels couldn’t get the ball inbounds on a five-second call that turned possession over to Portland with 20.6 seconds to play.

“We knew they didn’t have any time outs left,” Stotts said, “so we gave it a shot and made some good reads and didn’t give them any outlets.”‘

Devin Booker scored 30 points for the Suns, losers of 14 of their last 15.

His two free throws gave Phoenix its biggest lead, 93-78, with 7:26 to play. Lillard triggered the subsequent 18-4 outburst that caught the Suns at 97-97 on his 3-point play. Booker’s fifth and final 3-pointer gave the Suns a 100-97 lead with 2:19 to go. Lillard’s 3 tied it at 100 with 1:10 left.

Booker’s powerful driving basket put Phoenix up 104-102 with 33.6 seconds to go. But, after a timeout, Lillard’s step-back 15-footer tied it at 104-104 with 28 seconds left. The Suns called time out to set up the play but, on the sidelines, Daniels couldn’t get the ball inbounds for the five-second call.

“We had no timeouts. I didn’t see anybody open. If I did, I would have thrown it obviously,” Daniels said. “I’ve been in that position a lot of times, but like I said, it’s tough to be in that position when you have no timeouts. You learn from and you get it better.”

On the play, Portland’s CJ McCollum said “I just tried to take away Booker.”

“I saw how they were set up and I just guarded him normal and when I turned and saw him run toward half-court I just shaded toward him,” McCollum said.

Booker never broke open, Daniels decided not to chance it, and the last opportunity was gifted to Portland.

“There was 20 seconds left and I just wanted to make sure I got the last shot,” Lillard said. “I really just wanted to get the clock down, keep it towards half-court where it is further out and I can get downhill. I took a peek, the clock was at six and I got downhill.”

The Blazers, coming off a win at Utah the previous night, have won three straight and five of six.

The game was tied 10 times before Portland finished the first half with a 7-2 spurt take a 55-50 lead at the break.

But the Suns turned it on in the third quarter, outscoring the cold-shooting Blazers 31-16. Portland scored the first five of the second half to take its biggest lead, 60-50. But Phoenix overwhelmed the Trail Blazers 29-5 to go up 79-65 on Booker’s 3.

 

Russell Westbrook, Paul George call out Zaza Pachulia for “dirty” fall on Westbrook

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Zaza Pachulia has a reputation. The league even created a rule — the “Zaza rule”  — after he stepped under Kawhi Leonard last playoffs and twisted the forward’s ankle, ending Leonard’s playoffs and the Spurs chances.

Then Saturday night, as the Warriors pulled away in the second half and routed the Thunder, this play happened, where Pachulia fell on Westbrook’s leg.

While there was some contact, was that really enough to knock Pachulia over? It doesn’t look like it, it looks intentional, but remember Pachulia falls into a lot of guys — including Kevin Durant last season. This, however, was ugly.

After the game Westbrook and Paul George called Pachulia out.

Even the Celtics’ Kyrie Irving chipped in on this.

It will be interesting to see if the league does follow up. There is some history here.

After two lopsided losses to OKC, Kevin Durant leads Warriors rout

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Kevin Durant scored 28 points for Golden State while avenging an embarrassing home loss to his former Oklahoma City team earlier this month and another on the road in November, leading the Warriors past the Thunder 112-80 on Saturday night.

Stephen Curry added 21 points with five 3-pointers, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals as Golden State put on the kind of defensive performance coach Steve Kerr has been seeking from the defending champs.

Russell Westbrook had 15 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists for Oklahoma City, which failed to reach 100 points for the first time in the last five games. The Thunder had scored at least 100 in 14 of their last 16.

Durant’s pretty layup off a perfect pass by Curry with 3:06 left in the third put the Warriors up 75-66. That was part of a 37-11 Golden State run that included 30 points over the final 8:48 of the third – when Zaza Pachulia subbed in to relieve JaVale McGee.

The Warriors held Paul George to five points. George’s 3-pointer at the 7:52 mark of the third with Durant’s hand in his face was his first basket after going 0 for 9 to begin the game. He finished 1 for 14 after going off for 38 points in the last meeting when Oklahoma City left Oracle Arena with a 125-105 rout on Feb. 6.

Golden State also lost at OKC by 17 on Nov. 22.

Draymond Green added 10 points, eight assists and five rebounds. He picked up his 15th technical of the season with 1:04 left in the first half, moving him within one of an automatic suspension. That came after Durant and Carmelo Anthony pushed, shoved, yelled from close range and had to be separated, receiving double technicals.

It was a testy rematch after the Warriors received five technical fouls in the previous meeting. That prompted general manager Bob Myers to address the importance of keeping poised.

Durant announced his decision to join the Warriors and leave OKC on July 4, 2016, making him an instant villain in his former city.

He scored 33 in the Feb. 6 meeting but got plenty of help this time.

Earlier this month against the Thunder, Curry and Klay Thompson were a combined 11 of 27 from the floor and 4 for 15 on 3-pointers as the Warriors lost for the third time in four games. Thompson had 11 points Saturday, shooting just 1 for 11 from deep.

The Warriors on Saturday improved to 8-1 this season in the next game against an opponent after losing the previous meeting.

After Shaun Livingston‘s jumper at the 8:47 mark of the second quarter, Golden State went nearly five minutes without scoring before Curry’s basket at 4:51 started a 7-0 burst.

The Thunder grabbed eight offensive rebounds in the opening quarter to score 10 second-chance points, with Westbrook getting eight boards and George five. But Oklahoma City went 2 for 11 on 3s in the initial 12 minutes – Anthony, George and Westbrook a combined 1 of 8.

 

Steve Kerr “disappointed” in alma mater Arizona; wants to see NCAA follow new model

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Before he was the coach of the Golden State Warriors, before he was a five-time NBA Champion playing next to Michael Jordan and Tim Duncan, Steve Kerr was one of the great players the University of Arizona ever produced. The crowd would echo the announcer after ever made three — “Steeeve Keerrr” — where he was an All-American and helped lead a team (with future NBA players Sean Elliott and Tom Tolbert) to the Final Four.

There is a crisis around Arizona basketball right now. Coach Sean Miller was caught on a federal wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment for star recruit Deandre Ayton (expected to be a high lottery pick in June, possibly the No. 1 pick). Miller did not coach Saturday and changes are coming to Arizona.

Kerr was asked about it before the Warriors took on the Thunder Saturday.

Kerr said he was “disappointed” in his alma mater over the incident. Which is understandable.

Not to completely excuse it, but what Miller got caught doing is commonplace — money is funneled to families or the players of top recruits on a regular basis. What is more troubling (in my mind) is the money paid under the table to AAU coaches, family members, and others close to elite recruits to funnel them to a specific “financial planner” or agent, or a specific university. People in positions of trust with the player are bought and paid for.

Kerr put out one solution that would certainly be a big step forward: follow the Olympics model and let elite players get sponsorships that don’t end their college eligibility.

This system has its flaws as well, but it gets some of the dirty money out in the open. It would be better than the hypocritical facade of amateurism the NCAA has hit behind for years.