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.

Report: Celtics’ Marcus Morris to miss “extended time” to let knee heal

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Marcus Morris missed the Celtics’ first eight games of the season in an effort to get healthy. Upon his return he’s been solid, first as a starter, then coming off the bench, but his left knee continued to be an issue.

Morris was out Sunday when the Celtics beat the Pistons, and he’s going to miss more time trying to get a troublesome left knee right, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

How much time is “extended time?” Probably at least a couple of weeks.

Morris has averaged 12.1 points and 5.5 rebounds a game this season, with a true shooting percentage of 52.5, which is right around the league average.

This could mean more run for rookie forwards Semi Ojeleye and Daniel Theis, both of whom have played well in limited minutes.

Tristan Thompson expected to return to Cavaliers Tuesday, come off bench

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson could play for the first time since Nov. 1 on Tuesday against Atlanta.

Thompson has been sidelined with a strained left calf. The team initially said Thompson would be out for up to four weeks, but he said Monday that timeline was inaccurate and that his injury was more serious. Thompson did not divulge any other details about the injury.

Coach Tyronn Lue says Thompson will not start when he returns, meaning Kevin Love will remain at center. Thompson says he’s fine with a reserve role and made it clear he’s willing to do whatever Lue needs.

The Cavaliers have won 14 of 15 and their defense has improved dramatically over the past month.

Thompson says he’ll have the same mindset on the floor as always and “just be myself. Being myself has worked out pretty well for me.”

 

Hornets’ center Cody Zeller out six weeks following knee surgery

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Charlotte just cannot get over the injury bug this season, and we found out last week it had struck again.

Now we know how severe the damage is, as first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (and since confirmed by the team).

Ouch.

Zeller has been solid off the bench behind Dwight Howard this season, averaging 7.2 points and 5.5 rebounds in just under 20 minutes a night. He plays around the basket, 75 percent of his shots come at the rim, but his efficiency has dipped a little this season and he is shooting just 50 percent inside the restricted area.

The Hornets had to start the season without Nicolas Batum, and Michael Carter-Williams has missed time as well. On top of that, coach Steve Clifford had to take a leave of absence from the team for personal health reasons. Stephen Silas has stepped in to replace him.

Report: LiAngelo, LaMelo Ball have deal to play professionally in Lithuania

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This feels like a publicity stunt. Whatever the under/over is on how long it will last, bet the under.

That said, the two younger brothers of Lonzo Ball — LiAngelo, 18, and LaMelo, 16 — have reached a deal to play for a team in the highest level of the Lithuanian league. The story was broken by Adrian Wojnarowski and Jonathan Givony of ESPN (before the signing became official).

LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball are in serious discussions to sign professional basketball contracts with Lithuanian club Prienu Vytautas, sources told ESPN.

The club plans to decide in the next 24-to-48 hours whether to finalize agreements with the two American teenagers, sources told ESPN.

If signed, the franchise has hopes that the Balls – including their father LaVar — could be a marketing boon for the fledgling franchise, sources told ESPN.

Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports reports the deal is done.

Lithuania is a hoops-mad Baltic country of an estimated 2.9 million people who has three players currently in the NBA — Jonas Valanciunas, Donatas Motiejunas, and Mindaugas Kuzminskas — and has put 11 players in the league total, including Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Arvydas Sabonis, and Sarunas Marciulionis. You might remember the Lithuanian National Team wearing Grateful Dead inspired uniforms and taking the bronze medal in the 1992, 1996, and 2000 Olympics.

This is a country that takes its basketball seriously, and the Balls are a traveling circus and reality show. The Lithuanian league doesn’t have NBA-level players, but they guys they suit up have a real feel for the game and play a disciplined style. This could be a real culture clash, the kind of thing that ends quickly and spectacularly poorly. Here is some insight into the team from FIBA’s Lithuanian hoops writer.

Don’t expect the Ball children to play much, especially not at first.

The pay at this level is reportedly north of $1,500 a month, but that could be higher if the brothers are seen as a draw. With the report of the tight financial squeeze, this is likely a gambit on the coach’s part to boost revenue (in Europe, coaches are the CEOs of the organization, much more akin to the power top college coaches have than an NBA coach).

This is a league where men play and the game is taken seriously, it has produced not only Lithuanian players but Boston Celtics center Aron Baynes played there. This team apparently does not run the (suprisingly standard in Europe) two-a-day practices on non-game days, but their practices are longer and harder than most American versions. There are a lot of quality players — former American college/D-League guys, as well as good Europeans — who would love a shot like this. Who deserve a chance like this. If the younger Ball children do not perform and do not take this seriously, it will turn on them quickly.

LiAngelo Ball had gone to UCLA to play basketball this season, but after being suspended for shoplifting in China, his father LaVar pulled him out of college, designed a “Gelo 3” signature shoe for his son from the Big Baller Brand, and started looking for a professional contract. I’m not sure LiAngelo belongs at this level. As one scout told me last summer, LiAngelo was only at UCLA because Lonzo was a top recruit and LaMelo had a lot of potential. That scout wasn’t sure LiAngelo could stick in Europe.

LaMelo is a generally highly-rated recruit with NBA potential, a guy with crazy shooting range for a high-school Junior and good handles, but scouts had a lot of questions about his defense and most of his game outside of just shooting. LaMelo put up 70 points in an AAU game, but he cherry-picked the entire time, and the sense is there is a lot of that in his game. His father LaVar pulled LaMelo out of Chino Hills High School this season after a new basketball coach said he was going to push his guys to play within a system on both ends. How well LaMelo adapts to a very different culture on and off the court at his age is a big question.

Maybe this works out. Maybe the Ball children are more mature in personality and game than I think, maybe this is the financial boost that Prienu Vytautas needs and it works for them. It’s possible. I just don’t expect it.