Andrew Wiggins

Don’t think Andrew Wiggins is a lock as No. 1 pick. He’s not.

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We’ve blown him up — when you talk about NBA teams taking this season we call it “riggin for Wiggins.” As in Andrew Wiggins, the Kansas freshman who had 22 points and 10 boards, plus played some good defense, in leading his team past Duke Tuesday night.

Wiggins is atop every serious mock draft right now and with good reason — he is a tremendous athlete who has a variety of shakes, hesitation moves and more to create his own shot. And that shot is getting better. He’s gotten the most hype of someone entering the draft since the Greg Oden/Kevin Durant draft. Or maybe back to LeBron James. That kind of hype is not fair to Wiggins and not something he brought on himself (by all reports he’s pretty humble considering) but it is his reality as the anointed No. 1 pick in the next NBA draft.

Except Wiggins isn’t a lock to be the top pick. Not close.

The reason franchises are “tanking” (or whatever institutional rebuilding word you want to use) this year is not one player but a number of them who could change a franchise’s fortunes.

“Anyone that tells you that Andrew Wiggins — or any of the three freshmen — is a lock for the No. 1 pick does not know what they’re talking about,” Rob Dauster of NBC’s CollegeBasketballTalk told PBT. “And the point that needs to be driven home here is that this has nothing to do with Wiggins as a prospect. He’s phenomenal. It has everything to so with the fact that Julius Randle and Jabari Parker are also franchise-changing talents, and that’s before you factor in guys like Marcus Smart, Joel Embiid, Doug McDermott and Dante Exum. There’s a sick amount of talent in this draft. Bottom line.

“Think about it like this: Minnesota got Kevin Love 5th in 2008. Are they complaining?”

It’s not just college basketball and draft experts saying that.

Look at what one scout and one GM told Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

“Until Wiggins learns how to play hard,” one NBA scout said, “he’s Kansas’ third-best freshman.”

“He’s not LeBron,” one NBA general manager said. “It’s not his fault regarding all the hype. People say he’s pretty humble. He’s a top-three pick for sure, if not No. 1.”

Or look at what another scout told Scott Howard-Cooper at NBA.com when asked if Wiggins was a lock at No. 1.

“I think in the media’s mind he is. But just in talking to one of our guys around the league, he said Wiggins was the third-best player in their practices. The media has Wiggins way ahead. I just don’t think the NBA has him way ahead.”

Part of a scout’s job is to pick apart a kid’s game and see if you can knock it off a pedestal. And no 18-year-old has anything resembling a complete game. Players evolve, ranking change. A year ago it seemed Nerlens Noel was headed for the No. 1 spot but an injury saw him fall down the board come draft night. Let’s hope none of these young college stars suffers that devastating and injury (Noel is not expected to play for the Sixers at all this season) but the point is that things change.

It’s not just one team that is going to be thrilled winning the NBA lottery next year. End up in the top seven and you are going to land a real stud player.

That is why tanking is going to be an issue all season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo called for 10-second violation on free throw (video)

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This Giannis Antetokounmpo 10-second violation was a year in the making.

Unfortunately for the Trail Blazers, it was too little, too late. Antetokounmpo still finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, four blocks and two steals in the Bucks’ 115-107 win.

Iman Shumpert injures hand while missing open dunk (video)

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Plenty went right for the Cavaliers in their 126-94 win over the Knicks last night, but there were a few snags.

LeBron James and his teammates repeatedly failed the water-bottle challenge in the closing moments (though Kyrie Irving eventually nailed it).

Kevin Love‘s nose malfunctioned.

And Iman Shumpert injured his hand while missing an open dunk.

If Shumpert was faking as an excuse for missing, he sold it hard. Defending 4-on-5 on the other end, Cleveland ceded a 3-pointer. Then, Shumpert remained hunched over while the Cavs brought the ball up-court. It seems Shumpert might have been popping back in a dislocated finger, which jibes with him staying in the game – and shows his toughness.

But it also doesn’t erase the shame of hurting yourself while missing an open dunk.

Gregg Popovich calls coaching Tim Duncan-less Spurs a ‘refreshing’ and ‘fun’ challenge

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 26: Head coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs argues a call against the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center on November 26, 2016 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)–  For so many years, the San Antonio Spurs have been defined by their consistency, an unprecedented level of stability that has brought five championships and established the organization as a model franchise in professional sports.

The colors don’t change. The coach doesn’t change. The core never changed.

After 20 years and those five titles, change has finally come to San Antonio.

Tim Duncan, the tone setter from the moment he was drafted in 1997, retired last summer. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have taken reduced roles this season, and the Spurs brought in seven new faces as part of a rare roster shuffle as they try to retool around Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.

“It’s been at the same time a challenge and a refreshing sort of situation,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “The team is changing personnel-wise and where the ball goes and a few different players so we have to do things a little bit differently. There’s a give and take, strategy wise, to fit the group. It’s been a lot of fun. Watching some of the young guys get minutes and develop has been fun.”

Fun because while the faces have changed, the results have not. The Spurs (18-4) have navigated the bumps in the road that come with unfamiliarity and have the second-best record in the league, tied the star-studded Golden State Warriors (18-3) in the win column. They have started the season 13-0 on the road and can match last year’s Warriors for the best road start in league history with a win in Chicago on Thursday night.

It hasn’t always been pretty for these Spurs. They’re not the same ruthless, precise machine that steamrolled the league during championship runs. They have had to muddle through things, overcome mistakes and struggle while they get acclimated to one another.

Newcomers like six-time All-Star Pau Gasol, steady veteran David Lee, Argentinian point guard Nico Laprovittola and shot-blocking center Dewayne Dedmon have had to work hard to integrate into a culture that is as enduring as any.

“You could see it in our games. Sometimes our offense is stagnant, our defense isn’t moving well or in our help positions,” Leonard said. “We have a big playbook on the offensive end. It’s just hard to learn it. It was hard for me to learn it. I didn’t get it down until probably my second or third year. We’ve just got to keep giving a consistent effort and being into the game and into our playbook and just keep moving from there.”

The result has been a team that tends to start slow, fall behind and then gradually digs its heels in. They are 5-4 at home, where they only lost once all of last season. They’ve lost to the Magic at home, were thumped by the Clippers and have not recaptured the breathtaking form they showed in a 29-point win at Golden State on opening night. But the wins keep coming.

“I think the first eight to 10 games was the coaching staff trying to figure out what lineups we’re going to play and there were a lot of changes, a lot of trying what works best,” said Gasol, who signed as a free agent this summer. “But now I think there’s more consistency, there’s more defined lineups. Guys know when to come in, when they’re going to play and what’s expected of them.”

The Spurs have won 13 of their last 14 games, and Popovich has leaned on his core more than he has in years to get them off to a good start. Leonard and Aldridge both average more than 33 minutes per game, the first time San Antonio has had two players averaging that much playing time since 2008-09.

“It’s been interesting to see how the team develops and comes together and who the leaders will be without Timmy being that overriding factor for so long,” Popovich said.

Leonard, for years the ultra-quiet storm trooper of the Spurs army, has been much more vocal this season. Gasol’s personality and approach have been a perfect fit as most expected and Ginobili and Parker are still there to help filled the void left by Duncan’s retirement.

And little by little, the new guys are getting up to speed.

“They’ve done a great job of making it easy for us and for Pop to throw them into the fire and trust them to know the system,” Green said. “We’ll continue to help them and they will continue to be sponges and absorb it.”

Kyrie Irving sticks water-bottle challenge before Cavaliers-Knicks buzzer (video)

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The Cavaliers were trying the water-bottle challenge on the bench late in their 126-94 win over the Knicks last night, but the national telecast showed Cleveland players only failing to flip a water bottle and have it land upright on the floor – including an erratic attempt from LeBron James that bounced onto the court.

Thankfully, the local post-game show had an angle of Kyrie Irving nailing the bottle flip just before the game ended, his toss just leaving his hands before the final buzzer. Count it!