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.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.

Allen Iverson predicts LeBron James will win MVP

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LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.

Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?

Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.

LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.

It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.

Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.

Report: Other small-market teams championing Pacers’ tampering allegation against Lakers

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The NBA, at the Pacers’ request, is investigating whether the Lakers tampered by making impressible contact with Paul George.

Bob Kravitz of WTHR

In fact, there’s word that other small- and mid-market team officials have reached out to the Pacers and told them, “Good for you. Fight the good fight.”

Small-market teams whine too much about the disadvantages they face, but tampering isn’t really a market-size issue. Remember, under Mitch Kupchak, the Lakers were known as the only team that didn’t tamper.

The Lakers have advantages because George is from the area, and Los Angeles offers immense marketability. That’d be true whether or not they contacted George or his agent before he officially became a free agent.

I understand the desire to take down the big, bad Lakers – especially now that they appear poised to become truly big and bad again. But it’s hard to find a team that can cast a stone at them from anywhere other than a glass house.