Wednesday night NBA grades: Kevin Durant=Slim Reaper (and other guys with a good night)


Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while getting absorbed in the “Swingers” oral history….

source:  Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder. Twitter has dubbed him the “Slim Reaper” and I, for one, like the new nickname. He dropped 36 points tonight on the Spurs, including a couple of clutch threes late and rather than having me rave about him here is what other NBA players tweeted on Wednesday night.

source:  DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors. Somebody is making their All-Star case — 40 points on 22 shots. That would be a career high. What’s most impressive was he was 7-of-11 from the midrange (and 7-of-10) in the paint. DeRozan is likely going to end up one of those bubble guys who just misses making the All-Star team cut (could happen to his teammate Kyle Lowry, too) but this was the kind of “I should get an invite” game he needs.

source:  Josh Smith, Detroit Pistons. I don’t want to pile on just Smith, because the issues with the Pistons offense run much deeper. Still, Smith was not good Wednesday night 2-of-10 shooting on his way to eight points. But it wasn’t just his play it was the timing — he had the chance to hit free throws and make it a one point game, and him missed both. Down just a couple late he turned the ball over. He was frustrating.

source:  Jeff Green, Boston Celtics. When he is good, he can be very, very good. And for a night Green was good. He had 39 points on the night, including a ridiculous one-legged three pointer that tied the game late, sending it to overtime against Washington (where Boston won). It wasn’t just that shot — Green was 14-of-26 shooting and had a host of off-balance shots fall. He was making plays at both ends adding three steals to the mix, also.

Giannis Antetokounmpo to tell his story on 60 Minutes this week (preview clip)

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Giannis Antetokounmpo grew up hocking wares — clothes, sunglasses, whatever — on the streets of Athens, Greece. He easily could still be living there, the tallest salesman in a poor part of a country with high unemployment and real challenges.

Instead, he is a multimillionaire living comfortably in the United States, and is one of the 10 best basketball players in the world — and still improving. In a few years we may well be saying he is the best player on the planet.

Antetokounmpo will be telling his story on the legendary television news magazine 60 Minutes this week, and the show released a clip. Check it out.

This is the best missed free throw to game winner you will ever see

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We’ve all seen this situation before at every level of basketball: A team down three points gets fouled in the final seconds and has two free throws, so the shooter aims to make the first free throw then miss the second and create a rebound he or a teammate can grab then throw back in to tie the game. It works about as often as an NFL Hail Mary — either the shooter makes the shot anyway or the defense gets the board — but what other choice is there?

Nobody has ever pulled it off as well as Paulinho Boracini of the Brazilian league team Cearense.

Intentional or not (and I lean not), he banked the second free throw off the rim toward the corner, ran it down himself and hit the game-winning three.

Damn. That’s impressive.

(If Boracini and Cearense sound familiar, you win the award for “watching too much Knicks preseason basketball” because they played New York in a 2015 exhibition.)

Giannis Antetokounmpo doubtful with ankle injury for Bulls game

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MILWAUKEE (AP) The Milwaukee Bucks say Giannis Antetokounmpo is doubtful for Friday night’s game against the Chicago Bulls with a sprained right ankle.

The All-Star forward got hurt in the second quarter of a 127-120 loss on Wednesday to the Los Angeles Clippers when he appeared to trip over teammate Shabazz Muhammad under the Bucks’ basket.

Antetokounmpo is fourth in the league in scoring at 27.3 points a game.


Anfernee Simons declares for NBA draft straight out of high school (kind of)

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Anfernee Simons spent the last year playing high school basketball. But because he did so as a fifth-year prep after technically graduating from high school last year and turns 19 in June, he’s eligible for the NBA draft.

Following a path taken by Thon Maker and considered by Jonathan Isaac, Simons – as expected – is turning pro.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

Anfernee Simons will forgo his collegiate eligibility and declare for the 2018 NBA draft, he informed ESPN.

Simons informed ESPN that he will sign with agent Bobby Petriella of Rosenhaus Sports Representation

Simons looks like a mid-first-rounder, though his range is quite wide considering how large of a jump he’s making. Teams can learn relatively more about him in workouts and interviews.

A 6-foot-4 shooting guard who specializes in scoring, Simons is quick on his feet with a quick release off the dribble – with range from beyond the 3-point arc to an impressive floater game. Those floaters will be important, because Simons isn’t nearly strong enough for the NBA. He’s also a lackluster passer, though because of physicality concerns, no team will count on Simons to run an offense anytime soon, anyway. He’ll have time to develop as a distributor.

By signing with agents, Simons loses his college eligibility. Drew Rosenhaus, a big-name football agent, isn’t certified with the National Basketball Players Association. Petriella’s only NBA client has been Diamond Stone, a 2016 second-rounder who’s out of the league. They’re all in this bold venture together now.

As the NBA considers changing its draft rules for young prospects, Simons will be an interesting case study. He obviously meets the draft-eligibility requirements in the one-and-done era, but he’s also jumping from prep-school competition to the NBA. The league’s strength and nutrition programs should serve him well. His overall development could influence the wider debate.