Three winners, three losers from NBA Draft. You bet Anthony Bennett is a winner.

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I will admit this up front: declaring a winner in the NBA draft the night of the draft is premature. We can accurately say tonight that Indiana was a winner in the 2010 draft (Paul George at No. 10, Lance Stephenson at No. 40), but we don’t know how this draft will ultimately play out.

But on draft night there were guys that for tonight came off as winners and losers. Here is our list.

WINNERS

1) Anthony Bennett. All day long the buzz was that Bennett was falling like a rock down draft boards, maybe out of the top 10 entirely. The UNLV forward had questions about his conditioning, his defense. Then the Cleveland Cavaliers shocked the world and took him No. 1 overall.

Bennett is athletic and a beast in the paint, he is one of a group of guys in this draft who could turn out to be special some day. The fit is interesting — Cleveland has Anderson Varejao on the books and Tristan Thompson as four of the future. Where does Bennett fit in? Or do they think he can be a three?

Either way, he will forever be a No. 1 pick (and he will get to cash those No. 1 overall paychecks).

2) Philadelphia 76ers/New Orleans Pelicans. I love their trade for both sides.

Philadelphia might be the biggest winner of the night: They got probably the best player in the draft in Nerlens Noel. They got a young point guard (who may or may not be the point guard of the future) in Michael Carter-Williams. And most importantly they chose a direction — the status quo would have meant being stuck in a rut in the middle of the league. If they bring back Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner and just add pieces what are they, the seven seed? They are going to take a step backwards next year but they are doing it right before a deep draft loaded with talent. Also, Noel means they are moving on from the Andrew Bynum mistake. Good.

New Orleans? They have Jrue Holiday at the one, Eric Gordon at the two, Anthony Davis inside, plus some nice pieces like Ryan Anderson. Holiday and Davis could be the core of a very good team in a few years (Gordon could be, too, if he decides to really buy in).

3) Utah Jazz. They needed a point guard and there was only one in this draft who could step in and give you quality minutes from the start, so the Jazz made a move to get Trey Burke. He’s a good fit for them. The Jazz have some serious issues to deal with this summer (Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson are free agents), but in a down draft they made smart moves.

LOSERS

1) Charlotte Bobcats. Cody Zeller at No. 4? With Nerlens Noel and Ben McLemore still on the board? Zeller’s will have a nice career but there were guys with a lot more potential available. I thought this smelled of a Michael Jordan decision, but have been told by sources (and as is mentioned in the comments on this post) it was a Rich Cho pick. I like Cho, so good luck with this. I don’t get it.

2) Golden State. They bought their way No. 26 with Minnesota’s pick, traded with Oklahoma City to go down to 29, traded down again with Phoenix to 30. Then they picked Nemanja Nedovic, who they will stash in Europe for a couple of years.

3) Indiana Pacers. Strange because this is a really well run organization, but they pick Solomon Hill, and he would have been available later in the second round. Why not trade down to get him and get another asset? Not sold on him helping at all.

Salah Mejri threatened to come to Blazers locker room after Jusuf Nurkic tussle

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The Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks had a game of many emotions on Saturday night at Moda Center. Of course, the game wasn’t that close — Portland led by 17 at the half and finished the game by beating Dallas, 117-108.

But as we’ve seen in the NBA recently, the propensity for NBA players to get into physical spats is high. So it was no surprise that we saw yet another scrum between NBA players on the east side of the Willamette on Saturday as Dallas’ Salah Mejri got tangled up with Jusuf Nurkic and Evan Turner.

The play began with Nurkic getting a clean block on Mejri. Because of the position of the two players, Nurkic’s arm was angled as such that after the block it came clean through to rest on Mejri’s shoulder. Mejri turned, and the whole thing became a tangle of arms and elbows.

Neither Mejri or Nurkic took kindly to that, so the two squared off. Nurkic gave Mejri an ineffectual little push, while Portland’s Evan Turner jumped in to hold Mejri back. The Mavericks center promptly flopped all the way to the ground, inexplicably grabbing his face. It was Premier League-level flopping from Mejri, just top notch stuff.

Via NBC Sports Northwest:

After the game, Turner told media that Mejri threatened to come get the Blazers.

“He’s like ‘I’ll come to the locker room!'” said Turner. “Out of a 225 lb. dude [Turner] a 275 lb. dude [Nurkic] and a 7-footer [Mejri] who hit the ground?”

Portland’s CJ McCollum didn’t seem too impressed with the threat.

“If they really want to fight, they know where to find people,” said McCollum.

Much like any arena, the visiting locker room is just down the hall from the home squad at Moda Center, so it would have been easy for Mejri to get to. Nothing happened, so it turned out as an empty threat.

Meanwhile, Turner was assessed a technical foul for the tussle — presumably for “pushing” Mejri. There was notable tension the rest of the game between Mejri, Nurkic, and the crowd at Moda Center, but nothing else of consequence happened.

LeBron James: “We could easily get bounced early in the playoffs”

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Cleveland’s defense was pathetic Saturday and the Thunder routed them because of it. The Cavaliers gave up 148 points, allowed the Thunder to shoot 58 percent, and basically were little more than traffic cones for Russell Westbrook, Paul George and the rest of the Thunder to dribble and pass around. The Cavaliers have lost 8-of-11 and coach Tyronn Lue’s seat is getting warm.

Can the Cavaliers even get out of the East? LeBron James wasn’t even asking that question after the Saturday loss, he wants his team to get to the conference finals first. Via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“Playoffs? We can’t even start thinking about that, not the way we’re playing right now,” James said. “We could easily get bounced early in the playoffs if they started next weekend. Haven’t even began thinking about the postseason.”

It’s January, it’s far too early to write LeBron and the Cavaliers off — his teams have won the East for seven straight seasons in a row for a reason. Cleveland’s mid-season malaise is a thing and they snap out of it, Isaiah Thomas will find his legs and play better, but this season has shown some troubling structural flaws in the Cavaliers. Ones that could bite them in the playoffs. Ones they are active in the trade market trying to address, or at least shore up a little.

Nobody around the league is comfortable picking against a LeBron team in the East — he has been to seven straight Finals for a reason (and how impressive an achievement that is gets overlooked). But this seems to be the weakest LeBron team since he bolted Cleveland (the first time?), and a second-round matchup vs. Toronto is no gimme anymore. LeBron is right to be concerned.

Former LSU star, Trail Blazer Tim Quarterman arrested after leading police on high-speed chase

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If you missed Tim Quarterman’s cup of coffee in the NBA nobody can blame you. The 6’6″ point guard was a star at LSU who went undrafted but got a chance to earn a roster spot in Portland. He bounced between the NBA and D-League last season playing in 16 games for the Trail Blazers, but then this summer was traded to Houston for cash, and the Rockets quickly waived him. He had signed to play in China but never got there due to visa issues, he did not play a game there.

Now he has some big trouble stateside. From Tupelo, Miss., television station WTVA (hat tip to the Times-Picayune):

Master Sgt. Ray Hall with the Mississippi Highway Patrol says the incident began sometime near 10:50 p.m. when troopers attempted to stop a 2018 Dodge Ram pickup truck for traveling eastbound on Highway 278 at a high rate of speed.

Quarterman failed to stop and led officers on the pursuit… The Mississippi Highway Patrol says the pursuit ended near (a family’s) home when Quarterman intentionally rammed a Pontotoc police officer causing both vehicles to crash.

Both Quarterman and the police officer were taken to a local hospital with minor injuries.

This led to charges of aggravated assault and felony fleeing, according to the report.

 

Rockets’ Clint Capela on Warriors: “We are better than them”

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Houston’s home win Saturday night against Golden State was much more important for the Rockets than the Warriors. Not in terms of the standings (Golden State is still 3.5 games up there), but about confidence — the Rockets needed to know they can beat the defending NBA champions. This game fueled their belief that they have a shot against the Warriors.

Houston big man Clint Capela was trying to say that… then took it a step too far.

Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

“We’re confident because we know if we’re doing what we’re supposed to do, we’re going to beat them,” Rockets center Clint Capela told ESPN. “We’ve got to keep playing. We know that they’re going to come back if we have the lead, and we’ve just got to keep that mindset. Sometimes I feel like, in the past, we were all dragging down after mistakes. But today, we were ready. I think that if we’re doing what we’re supposed to do on defense — all the switches, the weak side — and keep playing our offense by keeping that mentality all game long, we have the weapons to beat them.

“We are better than them.”

It goes without saying that January games are poor predictors of May playoff series. That said, I have two quick thoughts here:

• The Rockets are the team best built to have a legitimate shot at beating the Warriors. (They can score with Golden State, and they have good switchable defenders on the wing, the two things needed to have a chance.)

• I want guys to say this. I want teams going up against the Warriors to believe — that is the first step to actually doing it. You think the Cavaliers feel confident like this right now? The Rockets have the swagger and are over the intimidation factor, that’s step one.