PBT NBA Draft preview: Top 10 small forwards

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Freakish athletes.

If you’re going to be the swingman in today’s NBA you better be a good athlete, but this draft class is loaded with some flat out freaks. That starts at the top but continues all the way to the bottom of the list and the Greek Freak’s brother.

PBT’s draft expert Ed Isaacson of NBADraftBlog.com and Rotoworld compiled this list for us (check out our point guard and shooting guard lists).

1. Andrew Wiggins, Freshman, Kansas, 6’8, 197
Wiggins dealt with overblown expectations all season and he still managed to put together a very impressive season. His next-level athleticism is what wows people, but he is also a very skilled player on both ends of the floor. Concerns about having the “tenacity” factor is probably overblown, and he handles himself maturely on and off the floor. Wiggins is still the #1 overall prospect in this draft and he will make an instant impact wherever he goes, while still having plenty of upside to justify a top pick.

2. Rodney Hood, Sophomore, Duke, 6’8, 208
Hood had a very strong season in his one year at Duke, showing the ability to score in a variety of ways, including range beyond the NBA three-point line. Hood shot almost 43% from three-point range and was often the Blue Devils’ only consistent perimeter threat. He isn’t a very strong defensive player, but he has the length and athleticism to improve if he works at it.

3. T.J. Warren, Sophomore, North Carolina State, 6’8, 220
One of the best scorers in the country, Warren is a terror in the mid-range area. He does a great job finding holes in the defense and getting off good, quick shots. Warren also has the body to score around the basket, and the athleticism to get out in transition. Long-range perimeter shooting is his biggest offensive weakness right now, but the tools are there for him to improve sooner rather than later. He’s an average defensive player, but he has no trouble playing physical defense in the post if necessary.

4. Kyle Anderson, Sophomore, UCLA, 6’8, 230
Figuring out where to put Anderson on this list, or even on the small forward list at all, was as tough a decision as there was. Anderson was UCLA’s point guard this past season and he has remarkable vision and passing ability. He uses his body and ballhandling skills to get to the basket, even without very good speed. Anderson improved his jumper immensely this past season, and he can be a very good option in pick-and-pop situations. While not a great defender, Anderson uses his length well to make plays and to rebound very well. A smart coach will find ways to use Anderson at different spots on the floor to maximize his ability.

5. K.J. McDaniels, Junior, Clemson, 6’6, 196
McDaniels was known mainly for his defensive ability and his athleticism, but he has become a good offensive threat over the past few seasons. Though he has improved as a perimeter shooter, he is inconsistent, and is much more effective looking to get to the basket off the dribble or hitting the offensive boards. McDaniels can guard multiple positions and his 2.7 blocks per game is a remarkable number for a 6’6 player. He would thrive in a system that likes to push the ball quickly up the floor.

6. Glenn Robinson III, Sophomore, Michigan, 6’7, 211
Robinson, the son of a former #1 overall pick, didn’t have the big season many expected after a strong freshman campaign, but he did show improvement in some key areas and will likely continue to get better in the near future. Robinson is at his best when making strong cuts to the rim or looking to attack off the dribble within 10-15 feet. His time at Michigan has taught him the value of spacing well, and he doesn’t force many bad shots. His perimeter shooting needs to improve, but he has shown some consistency in the mid-range area. He is athletic enough to guard out on the perimeter and he has the strength to play more physically if needed.

7. Cleanthony Early, Senior, Wichita State, 6’7, 209
Early improved his game in almost every way from his junior to senior season, and he was a major part of the Shockers’ team which made the Final Four two seasons ago, and lost just one game this past year. Early has lost weight since the season and is showing more quickness, but he was at his best when he was using his body on offense to create mismatches. He has developed into a semi-consistent perimeter threat and he should have little trouble adjusting to the NBA three-point line. Early can be a very good defender on the perimeter, using his strength to overpower other forwards, and his added quickness should help him guard other NBA small forwards.

8. Jerami Grant, Sophomore, Syracuse, 6’8, 214
Grant is still very raw skill-wise, but he is long and athletic with a lot of potential. On offense, he is at his best within 8 to 10 feet of the basket, though he started to show a decent mid-range jumper this past season. He can be a terror on the offensive boards, using his length well to get to balls or keeping them alive for teammates. His impact early on will likely come on the defensive end where his long arms allow him to alter many shots and his athletic ability will provide coaches some flexibility on who he guards.

9. DeAndre Daniels, Junior, Connecticut, 6’8, 196
This past season, Daniels finally started to show some of the promise many expected of him with his high school reputation. He is a good athlete with length that can make an impact on both ends of the floor. He has improved his shooting from most spots on the floor, though he is often plagued with poor shot selection. Daniels is an average defender at best, though his length allows him to challenge shots inside and out. Daniels is still learning many facets of the game and it may be a few years before he has any kind of impact at the NBA level, but he is worth a shot for a team with strong development.

10. Thanasis Antetokounmpo, 21 years old, Delaware 87ers, 6’6, 205
The brother of Milwaukee’s first round pick last year, and fan-favorite, Giannis, Antetokounmpo took the D-League route this season to work on his game. Like his brother, he is still raw in most areas of his game, but he is very good athlete and always looks to improve his game. His reputation has gotten a bump due to his brother’s potential, but he was really just an average D-League player this past season, and will likely need to spend another year or two there before he is close to showing he is an NBA player.

Jeff Hornacek on Joakim Noah: “We’ve moved on. He’s ready to move on”

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Not that anyone actually thought Joakim Noah would be back with the Knicks this season — not after Noah and coach Jeff Hornacek got into an argument that ended with Noah shoving his coach.

But if anyone thought with Kristaps Porzingis out for the season with a torn ACL the Knicks might turn to Porzingis for a little boost, think again. Via Al Iannazzone at Newsday as the Knicks got back to post All-Star practice.

“There’s really nothing more to say about it, update it. We’ve moved on. He’s ready to move on and maybe have an opportunity somewhere else. That’s really our focus to go play Orlando. We have 23 games left. We’re trying to get our young guys to step it up. That’s kind of old story and all done with as far as I’m concerned.”

The Knicks would love to trade Noah, but he has the most untradable contract in the NBA — two years, $37.8 million left after this season. It would take the Knicks attaching a couple of first-round picks and taking back some dead salary to make it happen. The Knicks may eventually buy him out, but the more likely option is they keep him through the summer (in case he is needed as salary in a trade), and possibly into next season (depending upon how big a discount he would give the team to be bought out and move on).

Trail Blazers hope for another post-All-Star break revival

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Trail Blazers have enjoyed post-All-Star break revivals the past two seasons.

Those late-season rallies will no doubt be an ongoing theme in the congested Western Conference playoff race once Portland resumes play on Friday in Utah.

“I mean, I think that’s in the back of our minds. We know that we’re usually a better team in the second half of the season,” Portland guard Damian Lillard said. “We can’t just go into it saying, `All right, we’re always good at this part of the season.’ I think mentally we have to understand how close of a race it is and that we’ve got to be sharp all the way through.”

Portland is 32-26 at the break, tied for sixth in the West, which is better off than it was last season at the same point.

But the Blazers are one of five teams in the West with 26 losses. The Warriors and Houston Rockets sit comfortably atop the standings with the next eight teams jostling for position.

The Blazers headed into the All-Star Game with a 123-117 victory over Golden State, snapping a seven-game losing streak to the Warriors. Lillard had 44 points, his third straight game with 39 or more and the best scoring stretch of his career. His 133 points over the last three games is the best such run in franchise history.

Afterward, Lillard sounded like he was taking it upon himself to improve the Blazers’ playoff position.

“Each season, it’s always a few teams that fall by the wayside and we’ve just got to make sure we’re not one of them,” he said. “As a leader, I’ve got to be the guy to lead that charge.”

In 2015-16, Portland was 27-27 at the All-Star break after winning eight of nine games going into it. The Blazers finished the regular season 44-38 and in fifth place in the West. They got past the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs before falling to the Warriors in the conference semifinals.

Last season, Portland lost three straight games to go into the break at 23-33. Shortly thereafter, an overtime loss at Detroit put them 11 games under .500.

But in March, Portland caught fire and went 13-3, best in the NBA. Lillard was named the conference’s Player of the Month, averaging 29.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.4 steals in 16 games. Terry Stotts was named Coach of the Month.

Center Jusuf Nurkic, who came to Portland in a trade a handful of days before the All-Star break, went on to average 15.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 20 games with the Blazers. Portland was 14-5 with the 7-footer in the starting lineup.

Portland made the playoffs for the fourth straight season, but fell in the opening round to the Warriors.

This season, Portland is in the thick of the race. Lillard leads the team with 26.1 points per game, sixth in the league, while also averaging 6.6 assists. Backcourt teammate CJ McCollum is averaging 21.7 points, and Nurkic is at 14.1 points and 8.2 rebounds.

Stotts was asked just before the break whether he was happy with the team’s position.

“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. We’ve got a lot of teams out there fighting for playoff spots,” the coach said. “It’s not about where we are. It’s about where we’re headed.”

 

Karl Malone pranks Anthony Davis in new Redbull video

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Karl Malone still has a few moves left.

Not so much on the court, but the Hall of Famer and one of the greatest power forwards ever was disguised as “Sam the Maintenance Man” where he would disrupt a video shoot by New Orleans Pelicans All-Star Anthony Davis (who thought he was making a basketball video for redbull.com). Malone was decked out in a traditional janitor onesie, a wig of dreadlocks, glasses and extra padding around his gut, and he had fun in his role.

At the end of the clip, you see Malone asking the cameras to cut so he could talk shop with AD on the left block, where Malone was near unstoppable. Check it out.

 

Statement defending self by former Mavs employee makes things sound worse

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In the argument that owner Mark Cuban must have known about the “Animal House” style sexual predatory environment on the business side of the Dallas Mavericks, a statement from a former Mavericks’ employee defending himself is now the best evidence. And it’s pretty damning.

One of the people mentioned directly in the bombshell Sports Illustrated story is former Mavs.com writer Earl K. Sneed. He was involved in a domestic dispute where he beat his then-girlfriend his first season with the Mavericks, then a few months later was arrested — at the Mavericks facility — for assault. He pled guilty to that and went through court-mandated anger management classes. He reportedly had another dispute in 2014 hitting a female co-worker which led to more counseling (this ordered by the team), and as a result of the court issues, he legally was not able to follow the team when it went into Canada to play the Raptors.

Sneed issued this statement to the Dallas Morning News defending himself.

“While both instances described in the report are damning and language used is not accurate, the two relationships described in the report are not something I am proud to have been a part of. I underwent much counseling after both situations, under the direction of [Mavs vice president of human resources] Buddy Pittman, and I feel like I grew from that counseling. I also signed a contract stating that I would not have one-on-one contact or fraternize with female employees after the inaccurately described incident with my female co-worker, who was a live-in girlfriend. I abided by the details of that contract for four years, and received counseling during that period to avoid future instances. I thank Buddy Pittman for helping me to grow during that time, and I thank Mark Cuban for his willingness to help facilitate that growth.”

So let me get this right: Sneed was hauled out of the Mavericks facility in handcuffs, then signed a new contract to stay on employed by the team (for four more years) where he could not do his job if the team went to Canada, and could not “have one-on-one contact or fraternize with female employees” — and Cuban didn’t know about any of this? That strains belief. Sneed’s statement sparked outrage on social media, as it should.

That Sneed stayed employed by the team speaks to the issues in the Mavericks human resources department and the team culture. Both Sneed and the head of HR have been fired in the wake of these stories.

The report says there are no incidents with Cuban, nor any members of the Mavericks basketball team, behaving inappropriately toward women.

Dallas and Cuban have hired an independent investigator to look into the claims and the workplace environment with the Mavericks. When that is done, expect NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to come down hard on the franchise, both to send a message to other franchises (there are rumors the Mavs are not the only one facing issues) and because this all is a big blow to the image of a league that paints itself as progressive.