Andrew Wiggins

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

42 Comments

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.

Report: Kevin Durant has “done his due diligence on the Bay Area”

OAKLAND, CA - FEBRUARY 6: Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder attempts a free throw against the Golden State Warriors on February 6, 2016 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. 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 Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kevin Durant has not made up his mind about what he will do as a free agent this summer. Until his playoff run ends, whenever that may be for the Thunder, his focus will be on bringing a title to Oklahoma City.

But even he admits he can’t help but think about free agency a little.

The buzz around the league is Golden State is at the front of the line if Durant decides to leave OKC, and he has done some research, reports Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

The Warriors play in front of an intimidating Oracle Arena crowd and are expected to debut a new San Francisco arena in 2019. Durant has quietly done his due diligence on the Bay Area, too, sources told Yahoo Sports.

His people — specifically agent Rich Kleiman and personal manager Charlie Bell — would be stupid not to have done some research on not only Golden State but on every other team he might consider: Houston, Miami, Washington, both teams in Los Angeles, the Knicks, and on down the line. Golden State, playing with Stephen Curry, certainly would have its attractions.

I’m still in the camp that Durant signs a 1+1 deal to stay in Oklahoma City (meaning he can opt out after one more season, in 2017), and it’s all about the cash. While he could get 30 percent of a $90 million cap this summer (about $27 million a season to start), with one more year of service in 2017 Durant could get 35 percent of $108 million ($37.8 million to start). That’s a lot of cash. Plus he gets one more chance at a ring with Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, who both are 2017 free agents.

But you can be sure whatever Durant decides, it will be well researched and thought out. And he’s not going to announce it in a live special on ESPN.

Byron Scott expected to start D’Angelo Russell after All-Star break, but hasn’t talked to him about it

Byron Scott D'Angelo Russell
Getty Images
1 Comment

Communication.

When we talk about Lakers’ coach Byron Scott’s questioned player development skills with young players Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, and particularly D'Angelo Russell, it is his old-school lack of communication that comes into question. It’s what is different from what Gregg Popovich or Quin Snyder or other guys developing strong young players have done. From the outside (we’re not in practices/film sessions), we see Scott was not letting Russell play through mistakes — feeling that was rewarding bad behavior — but then not doing a good job communicating what the player is doing wrong.

This comment from Scott, via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News, sums it up perfectly.

Scott plans to start Russell after NBA All-Star weekend (Feb. 12-14). But Scott said the two have not talked about that issue.

“He’s not old enough for me to have a meeting and discuss, ‘What do you think?’” Scott said.

I would say you should have that meeting — it’s called a teachable moment. “What do you think? Well here is what I see that is different.”

Part of what is going on with Scott and Russell is the concern from some in the Lakers’ camp that Russell is a little too full of himself, that his ego is too big, and it could become a problem. So they are trying to take him down a peg. I would say that for a smart player — and Russell is that — the game is humbling and will take care of the ego issue. But you’ve got to give him run to develop him.

Play him, and then communicate with him. It’s a system that does worth with modern players.

Nikola Vucevic hits fade-away game winner for Magic against Hawks

1 Comment

The Hawks almost came back and won this — Atlanta went on an 8-0 run in the final minutes to tie the game at 94-94 with Orlando. The Magic had one last chance with 2.2 seconds left.

Nikola Vucevic nailed it.

Can’t blame Al Horford‘s defense on this one, he pushed Vucevic out and contested the shot. But in a make-or-miss league Vucevic nailed the game winner, Orlando wins 96-94.

If that looks familiar, Vucevic knocked down pretty much the same shot against the Lakers earlier this season.

LeBron James on Super Bowl: “Got to go with the Carolina Panthers”

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, right, embraces Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James after the Cavaliers defeated the Charlotte Hornets in an NBA basketball game Friday, Nov. 27, 2015 in Charlotte, N.C. The Cavaliers won 95-90. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
Associated Press
3 Comments

We know Stephen Curry — who spent many of his formative years in Charlotte and still thinks of the city as his hometown — is all in on the Carolina Panthers today against the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 30.

On this, he and LeBron James agree.

LeBron sounded like the politically cautious, image-conscious version of himself at the start of this quote from Uninterrupted on Facebook, but as he gets going, you can quickly see who he wants in this game (hat tip Eye on Basketball).

“I don’t know if I quite got a prediction but I definitely want to see a great Super Bowl,” James said in the video. “But if it was a life and death situation and I had to choose one team and one player, I got to go with Killah Cam. Got to go with the Carolina Panthers, they’ve been playing the most consistent football all year round. Both offensively, defensively and special teams. Got to go with Cam and one of my boys plays for them too as well, Ted Ginn Jr., that’s been showing out all year as well.

“No disrespect to the Broncos. I love their team. They got the legend at quarterback, they got that defense that’s out of control. They got some receivers that be balling out as well. They’re really well coached as well and that’s the reason they are in the Super Bowl. But I’m rolling with the Carolina Panthers today.”

A lot of NBA players like the way Cam Newton plays — with exuberance, wearing his heart on his sleeve, dancing and celebrating. That’s how Curry and LeBron and other NBA players want to play their game, and they feel reined in by the league. They relate to Cam Newton and the ridiculous role model/celebration debate.

We’ll see how much celebrating the Denver defense lets Newton do.