Who were the best players not taken in the draft? Here are five.

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About 20 percent of the NBA at any given time is made up of guys who were not drafted. They went to Europe, they went to the D-League, they went where they had to that they could work on their game, become late bloomers and get to the Association.

Who were the best guys not drafted this time around? The guys with the talent to make it in time? There are a number of guys that could qualify, but here is my top 5:

• Phil Pressey (5’11” point guard, Missouri). He is a pass first point guard who had a strong sophomore season with shooters around him to set up; his junior year was tougher without efficient guys to finish around him. He is very quick with the ball, he is dangerous in transition and can attack off the pick-and-roll. But he is turnover prone and not an efficient scorer (he shot 37.6 percent last season). Also, his size leads to questions about his defense.

• C.J. Leslie (6’9” forward, North Caronia State). He’s long, athletic, quick, the kind of tools teams look for in a modern forward. He’s also very inconsistent (much like the Wolfpack) and he needs to add strength and some semblance of a post game. But this guy just seems too athletic not to get a second round pick and a shot.

• Myck Kabongo (6’3” point guard, Texas). A pure point guard, a great athlete with a quick first step who breaks down defenses then looks to set his teammates up first. He has a fantastic basketball IQ. He needs to work on his scoring — both finishing in the paint and his jumper — but the guy can play. He may have fallen short of his high expectations coming out of high school, but a number of teams could use a point guard as good as him.

• Jackie Carmichael (6’9” power forward, Illinois State). He has the body (a strong 241 pounds) and the athleticism of a genuine NBA four. He can rebound, he can defend in the paint, he finishes well at the rim and he plays smart. What scared teams off is he has a limited offensive game once you get him five feet from the rim. Also of concern is that seniors don’t have the same upside as younger players. But he can ball.

• Trevor Mbakwe (6’8” power forward, Minnesota). His great skill is rebounding, which is one thing that translates from the college to NBA games pretty well. He’s a good athlete with an NBA build and a real motor. He’s one of the older guys in the draft at 24 and he is very raw on the offensive end, which did him in, but energy guys can overcome some of those deficiencies.

Salah Mejri kicks at Patty Mills as Mavericks and Spurs leave court for halftime (video)

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Mavericks center Salah Mejri has a history of agitating, including against the Spurs.

Two years ago, Mejri dunked while Dallas got blown out by San Antonio and yapped at the Spurs bench – drawing laughter from Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan. Last season, Mejri had Trevor Ariza and other Rockets trying to confront him after reportedly saying something about Ariza’s family.

In the Mavericks’ win over the Spurs on Tuesday, Mejri got into it with Patty Mills.

Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com:

Mejri and Rudy Gay received double technical fouls, and Mejri went to the bench. Everything could have cooled down at halftime, but Mejri escalated tension

Watch the full sequence above, but the key moment:

giphy (2)

That’ll probably draw a fine.

NBA introducing 2-for-1 All-Star voting days

AP Photo/Chris Carlson
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The NBA changed its All-Star format this season from East vs. West to captain-picked teams (though still naming players equally from each conference).

That apparently wasn’t a big enough overhaul.

After including media and player votes last year, the league is making All-Star starter selection even more complex.

NBA release:

NBA All-Star Voting 2018 presented by Verizon will tip off with an early voting period exclusively on the NBA App and NBA.com beginning Thursday, Dec. 21 at 1 p.m. ET.

Voting via all other channels, including Amazon Alexa for the first time, will launch on Monday, Dec. 25 at 11 a.m.

Additionally, new for this season, five “2-for-1 Days” will allow fans to have their votes count twice on Dec. 31, Jan. 4, Jan. 11, Jan. 12 and Jan. 15 when voting through the NBA App and NBA.com, along with Sina Weibo and Tencent in China.  All “2-for-1 Days” will be designated 12 a.m. – 11:59 p.m. ET.

TNT will reveal the All-Star Game starters, including the two captains, on Thursday, Jan. 18 during TNT NBA Tip-Off

The network will announce the reserves, as selected by NBA head coaches, on Tuesday, Jan. 23 during TNT NBA Tip-Off at 7 p.m. ET. 

The team rosters for NBA All-Star Game 2018 in Los Angeles will be revealed on Thursday, Jan. 25 during a special one-hour edition of TNT NBA Tip-Off at 7 p.m. ET.

I suppose this is to drum up interest on otherwise quiet voting days. After all, this is really just about the NBA selling itself.

But the All-Star voting process has always left something to be desired. I don’t see how this changes that.

Report: Lakers ‘longshot’ to sign LeBron James

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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Preeminent NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski called it “likelyLeBron James would sign with the Lakers or Clippers next summer. The Clippers have since been somewhat debunked as a LeBron destination. There’s circumstantial evidence linking LeBron to Los Angeles.

Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

So imagining James’ last act coming in purple and gold isn’t without basis. But as of now, it’s also a longshot, according to league sources.

Shelburne and Windhorst are highly credible. I doubt they’d report this without connected sources.

LeBron’s agent, Rich Paul, and manager, Maverick Carter, have recently publicly downplayed the importance of Los Angeles to LeBron. That felt like a coordinated attack on the LeBron-Lakers rumors, and this fits as a continuation.

But why wage that campaign? To keep the Cavaliers focused while LeBron still plays for them, even if he might leave after the season? To lower expectations among the Lakers’ massive fan base, so as not alienate those people (potential customers of the many LeBron-connected brands) when LeBron inevitably signs elsewhere? Both could be true, but there’s obviously a difference between each driving LeBron’s camp.

DeMarcus Cousins barrels in for powerful putback dunk over Bucks (video)

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When DeMarcus Cousins builds up a head of steam like this… poor John Henson (and kind of Khris Middleton).

This helped the Pelicans pull away for a 115-108 win over the Bucks last night.