Taking closer look at Wiggins, Parker, Embiid, other top underclassmen in draft

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These NBA playoffs have been so much fun it’s been easy to forget about the NBA Draft.

However, on May 20 the ping-pong balls will bounce (not literally, I know) and the fates of teams in the NBA Draft Lottery will be decided. Maybe this NBA Draft class is not going to be as transcendent as it was once cracked up to be, but it is still very good.

Ed Isaacson of NBADraftBlog.com and Rotoworld is PBT’s draft expert and he took a look at 39 of the college underclassmen who declared and entered the draft for Rotoworld, ranking them. Those rankings, BTW, go Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, Marcus Smart, Julius Randle for the Top 5. It goes on from there.

Isaacson writes a graph on each one. Here are just a few highlights, but you should go read the entire thing.

1. Andrew Wiggins, Freshman, F, Kansas
The most-heralded freshman in a class full of them, Wiggins showed why people have been raving about him for a few years. The expectations may have been a bit high, but when Wiggins was able to show his athleticism and skill in action, it was guaranteed to have people talking. His play could be inconsistent, but he impressed when he had chances. There was concern about his jumper heading into the season, but it looked fine, and he showed range to the NBA three-point line. Wiggins’ defensive skills are often underplayed, but he is capable of guarding multiple positions and can be a pest on the perimeter.

2. Jabari Parker, Freshman, F, Duke
One of the highly-touted freshmen this season, Parker lived up to his reputation as a high-level scorer, while also proving to be a very good rebounder on both ends of the floor. He is his most effective when playing from 15 feet in, but he has shown that he can knock down NBA-range three-point shots. Defensively, he has a lot of work to do just to become an average defender, but I think many teams will take his scoring and worry about the defense later.

3. Joel Embiid, Freshman, C, Kansas
Embiid made the most rapid improvement of any freshman in the country, showing some developing skill to go with great athleticism for a 7-footer. Still, he is very raw on both ends of the floor and will likely need some time before he has any impact in the NBA. The right coaching can make him a star for many years.

4. Marcus Smart, Sophomore, G, Oklahoma State
Smart shocked everyone when he decided to return to Stillwater for his sophomore year, even though he was a likely top-5 pick in last year’s draft. The season was certainly not what he had hoped for, and his frustration led to him pushing a fan at Texas Tech, landing him a suspension. However, Smart also showed why he is so highly-regarded as a point guard, scorer and defender, and the past season is now firmly behind him. Like last year, Smart’s biggest area of concern is his jumper, where he just forces too many bad shots. The problem is easily fixable, though, and I expect Smart to thrive at the NBA level.

8. Aaron Gordon, Freshman, F, Arizona
Gordon came to college with a reputation as a strong rebounder and spectacular dunker, and he didn’t disappoint in either of those areas this past year. He also showed to be a versatile defender who could guard multiple positions. The rest of his offensive game, aside from dunks and put-backs, can be awkward, but his energy on both ends of the floor should be helpful to many teams.

10. TJ Warren, Sophomore, F, North Carolina State
Warren was one of the top scorers in the country, averaging 25 points-per-game on over 52% shooting, including 31 games where he scored at least 20 points. The remarkable part of Warren’s scoring for a 6’8, 215-pound player, is that almost none of it comes from behind the arc. He hit only 31 three-pointers all year, and instead, he relies on a solid mid-range jumper to go with his ability to find open spaces in the defense quickly for good shots. Warren also does a good job hitting the offensive boards where he finds easy buckets. He will still need to develop his long-range jumper, but he’ll find ways to put up points regardless.

15. Tyler Ennis, Freshman, G, Syracuse
Ennis built his reputation early this past season as a young point guard with great composure and a talent for making winning plays. Though the second half of his season was more inconsistent, Ennis is still a very reliable ballhandler and distributor. He will need to work on being more of a creator on the offensive end, while also showing he can be a consistent offensive threat. Defensively, he made some plays, especially corralling turnovers caused by his teammates’ length, but he will likely struggle early on guarding man-to-man.

Raptors’ Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker wear same outfit to Game 4 (photo)

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I can’t verify Raptors forwards Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker wearing the same outfit to last night’s Game 4 against the Bucks is the happenstance Patterson presents it as. But there’s a saying in journalism: It’s too good to check out.

Whatever led to this, Toronto ought to keep doing it. The Raptors smashed Milwaukee.

Patterson:

Isaiah Thomas’ sons giggle about Fred Hoiberg’s carrying complaint (video)

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Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg diverted attention to Isaiah Thomascarrying – perhaps the lamest attempt ever of a coach angling for calls through the media, made worse by it following one of the best of all time.

Thomas’ sons saw how silly it was, laughing as the Celtics guard responded.

“It’s not that funny,” Thomas said, sparking even more laughter.

Patrick Beverley: ‘If the NBA won’t protect the players… I have to protect myself’

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The NBA fined Patrick Beverley $25,000 for confronting a fan after the Rockets’ Game 3 loss to the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Friday.

But he’s not going down quietly.

Beverley on the run-ins, which began when he fell into the crowd in the second quarter after being fouled, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

“I’m OK with the hazing,” Beverley said. “I’m OK with the boos. I’m OK with other fans rooting for their team. But I’m not OK with the blatant disrespect while I’m lying on the ground and a fan yelling out to me, ‘F you Patrick Beverley, ‘F you Patrick Beverley, ‘F you Patrick Beverley,’ waving a clapper in my face. I’m not comfortable with that.

“If the NBA won’t protect the players, I feel as a man, as a grown man who has children, who has morals, to stand up for the right thing. I have to protect myself.”

“When I mean protect myself, I don’t mean go out there and start a fight with a person. I walked up to the guy, ‘At the end of the day brother, this is a game.’ No curse words. No pointing fingers. No this. No that. I just let him know that just don’t do nothing like that.”

“To put this in all perspective, this isn’t the first incident I had with OKC,” Beverley said. “I had a ballboy tell me he was going to kill me. What type of league, what is this? I had to have a police officer out in front of my house, I can’t be on the same floor as my teammates. My first year in NBA basketball I have a person saying on Twitter he was going to kill me. So, what to do?”

Beverley said by addressing the situation on Friday as he did he felt he brought more attention to it, increasing security awareness.

The ball-boy incident occurred in 2013, when Beverley injured Russell Westbrook‘s knee while going for a steal as Westbrook called timeout. Westbrook missed the rest of the playoffs, and Thunder fans have resented Beverley since.

It’s not the most pleasant aspect of sports, but I don’t have a huge problem with fans in their seats heckling players on the court. But there should be a different standard when a player falls into the crowd. A fan yelling and clapping in Beverley’s face while he’s on the ground is not OK.

Of course, this is only Beverley’s side of the story. The fan – Stuart Scaramucci, son of Thunder minority owner Jay Scaramucci – gave his account of the postgame encounter to Fred Katz of The Norman Transcript:

“[Beverley] goes around the refs, around the dancers and walks right up and gets right in my face and starts putting his hand right in my sternum and saying, ‘Don’t you ever do it again. Don’t ever [expletive] do that. You can’t do that to me. I’m a player. You can’t do that. You can’t do that,’” Scaramucci told the Transcript late Friday night. “…My wife [Megan], at that point in time, was standing there with [a noisemaker the Thunder hand out to fans]. She holds it out, and she says, ‘You can’t be here. You need to be in the back.’

“Patrick turns to her and he just throws his hand up and brings it down. I’m not sure if he’s trying to slap the [noisemaker] or whatnot, but he slaps her right on her arm, and at that point, I flip and start screaming, ‘Patrick slapped my wife. Patrick slapped my wife. Patrick slapped my wife.’”

Again, this is only one side of the story. Beverley might tell a different one, but at least he’s getting his wish. We’re paying more attention to fan behavior and security.

Report: Kentucky’s Bam Adebayo staying in NBA draft

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When De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk declared for the NBA draft, they jumped in with both feet, hiring agents.

A third Kentucky freshman, Bam Adebayo, took a more cautious approach – until now.

Jon Rothstein of FanRag Sports:

Adebayo is a borderline first-round pick.

He’s a ferocious dunker. All his best skills – motor, explosiveness, physicality – come together to produce slams.

But Adebayo is an underwhelming shot-blocker and rebounder, and those same tools should translate. That speaks’ to his focus.

He has a center’s game. But at 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-1.5 wingspan, does he have a center’s size? Adebayo can’t step away from the basket or handle the ball, so if he can’t bang with NBA centers, he’s in trouble.