Gardner-Webb v Duke

PBT NBA Draft preview: Top 10 power forwards

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This draft is deep at the power forward spot — four of these players are likely to go in the top 10, including possibly the No. 1 slot, and the national player of the year in college has a few guys in front of him.

What you’ll notice is most of these guys are more the modern power forward — they can score in the paint with power but also have a good midrange game and use their athleticism to run the floor. They blend in better with a positionless style of play.

Ed Isaacson of NBADraftBlog.com and Rotoworld put this list together for PBT, as we have leaned heavily on him through this draft.

1. Jabari Parker, Freshman, Duke, 6’8, 241
Parker may eventually move to the 3 after a few seasons, but for now, he will be his most effective as a 4 who can play inside or out. He is a tough match-up for defenders at either forward spot, having ballhandling and footwork at his size way beyond his years. He is very good facing up out of the low post or finding holes in the defense caused by penetration. While he is capable of hitting NBA-range threes, Parker showed a tendency to settle for guarded long-range shots instead of playing where he was more effective. He is a strong rebounder on both ends of the floor, though he is a below-average defender, even when he puts in the effort. Parker will be the freshman most likely to make a quick impact for his new team.

2. Julius Randle, Freshman, Kentucky, 6’9, 250
Randle is a beast around the basket, using his body as well as anyone in this draft to clear space for good shots. He has strong footwork, and though he prefers to overpower players, he does show some nice moves when he gets the ball deep in the post, along with excellent shooting touch around the basket. Randle does need to continue to work on using his right hand, both handling the ball and shooting around the basket, as he goes almost exclusively to his left and defenses caught on later in the season. He’s an average defender, but he uses his body well to clean up on both the offensive and defensive boards.

3. Noah Vonleh, Freshman, Indiana, 6’9, 247
Vonleh has good length, athleticism and developing skill, but he still has to improve significantly on both ends of the floor before he can become a factor in the NBA. He needs to be more aggressive when he gets the ball around the basket, and though he has shown an ability to knock down jumpers, he needs to show he can be a consistent threat in the post. Vonleh has potential as a rim protector, but he gets taken out of plays defensively by opponents who out work him around the basket. Not even 19 years old, Vonleh has plenty of potential, but whatever team takes him will need to put in a lot of development work with him.

4. Doug McDermott Senior, Creighton, 6’8, 218
The best scorer in this draft class, or probably any draft class the past few years, McDermott will give any team an instant boost in offense with his ability to put up points from anywhere on the floor. McDermott is a career 46% shooter from three-point range, and many of the shots he was hitting would have been good from beyond the NBA arc. He is also capable of getting position in the high or low posts and making strong moves to the basket. McDermott is a capable rebounder and though he will never likely be an all-defensive player, concerns about his ability to defend in the NBA are likely exaggerated.

5. Adreian Payne, Senior, Michigan State, 6’10, 239
Payne was finally able to put together his athletic ability and skill this past season to show everyone what kind of player he can really be. He is a capable scorer in the post and the perimeter, and with a little more freedom on the offensive end, he has the potential to be a mismatch for many defenders. Payne needs to be more aggressive on the boards and when defending in the lane area, but his length helps him to alter shots, even if he isn’t blocking them. Even though he is 23 years old already, there is still some room for his game to grow before he likely hits his ceiling.

6. Aaron Gordon, Freshman, Arizona, 6’9, 220
While he is limited skill-wise so far, Gordon can be a relentless worker on the offensive end and can create a lot of opportunities on the offensive boards. He is at his best when he plays around the basket or gets out in transition, but he spends too much time out on the perimeter, either trying to create off the dribble or shoot jumpers, neither of which he is very good at. Gordon is extremely tough on defense and has the ability to guard multiple positions. Right now, he relies on his athleticism too much, but at 18 years old, there is a lot of long-term potential as he continues to develop.

7. Dario Saric, 20 years old, Croatia, 6’10, 223
Saric is an extremely skilled offensive player, able to handle the ball well for his size, showing good court vision and passing ability, and the ability to create scoring chances in the halfcourt or transition, though he needs to continue to work on his jumper. Defensively, he is going to have problems adjusting to the NBA as he needs to get stronger to defend power forwards, but lacking the lateral quickness or skill to defend small forwards. He is an intriguing prospect who can thrive in the right system, but he may need another year or two in Europe before he is ready to come over and compete in the NBA.

8. Jarnell Stokes, Junior, Tennessee, 6’8, 263
Stokes is a power forward in the classic sense, using his big body well to clear space around the basket on both ends of the floor. He is a skilled offensive player in the lane area, and he is able to absorb contact and still finish at the basket, even against longer players. One of the nation’s best rebounders, Stokes does a good job sealing off opponents, but he will also outwork everyone to make sure he secures the missed shot. Stokes moves well for his size on defense, though he is at his best when defending the post.

9. Clint Capela, 20 years old, Switzerland, 6’11, 220
Capela is coming off his breakout season in France’s Pro A League. He has good length and moves well for his size, but he needs to become much tougher before he is ready for the NBA. Capela is a good finisher around the basket and he can be a force on the offensive boards. He also has potential as a good post defender with his ability to move his feet well and defend the rim. Being outplayed in the Nike Hoop Summit showed he isn’t ready yet to play here, but if he continues developing at his current rate, he should be good to go in two to three years.

10. Khem Birch, Junior, UNLV, 6’9, 209
Birch is athletic and a skilled defender, though his offense still has a long way to go to catch up. His offense is mostly limited to offensive put backs and transition buckets, and he runs the floor as well as any big man in this class. Rebounding and shot-blocking is what he excels at, and he should be able to add a defensive presence off the bench rather quickly for teams, though he does need to add strength to compete effectively at the NBA level.

Watch Russell Westbrook drop 36 on Golden State in Oklahoma City win

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Once again, Russell Westbrook was the force of nature the Warriors could not solve.

The athletic point guard forced turnovers, threw it down in transition, and drove right past Stephen Curry or  was guarding him. The result was 36 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists — Westbrook’s first triple double of these playoffs.

“He’s got such great force and great will,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said after the Thunder’s Game 4 win. “And he’s really a high IQ basketball player, he sees a lot of things going on out there… As a coach, you have great respect and admiration for a guy who plays the game that hard and gives to our team what he gives.”

He helped give them a win that has the Thunder on the verge of a return to the NBA Finals.

Russell Westbrook, Thunder defense again overwhelm Warriors 118-94, take commanding 3-1 lead

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 24:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder reacts in the first half against the Golden State Warriors in game four of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 24, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 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 J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
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One year ago, it was the Warriors’ adjustments, the Warriors’ defense that was propelling the franchise to its first title in 40 years.

This season, the Thunder turned the tables on the champs.

The length and switching of the Thunder defense resulted in 16 steals Tuesday night — and that means easy transition buckets for OKC. That swarming defense had an off Stephen Curry open the game 1-of-10 shooting, turning the ball over six times on the night, and finishing 6-of-20 shooting, 2-of-10 from three. The Thunder defense has made the Warriors shooters tentative; they are hesitating before making a play rather than just shooting in the flow, something that has seemed impossible to do to Golden State for a couple of seasons now. As a team, the Warriors shot just 30 percent from three and 41.3 percent overall, with Klay Thompson in the second half being the only guy who could knock down shots.

Curry was also asked to guard Russell Westbrook for long stretches of the game and that didn’t go well. Westbrook was the Thunder engine again and finished with a triple-double of 36 points, 11 assists, and 11 rebounds.

Once again the Thunder played fast, aggressive and beat the Warriors at their own game — a 118-94 Thunder win. Oklahoma City now leads the series 3-1 and can close it out Thursday night in Golden State. If not, it feels like Saturday night will be the end of the Warriors 73-win season.

And maybe just the beginning for a talented Thunder team that is just now coming together.

Right now, everything the Thunder try works.

For example, on offense, Billy Donovan made another smart adjustment — if the Warriors were going to ignore Andre Roberson (allowing bigs like Draymond Green or Andrew Bogut to patrol around the rim), the Thunder would start using Roberson like a power forward who set picks, rolled to the rim, and surrounded by shooters he and his teammates could make plays. Roberson finished with career high 17 points on 12 shots.

“He’s a pretty active player so he got some offensive boards and he snuck behind our defense a couple times and we did not guard him correctly,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

It all worked in the first half again, when the Thunder were attacking the rim — leading to 28 first half free throws from the Thunder — and after a tight first quarter OKC stretched the lead out to 20 points behind a 16-point quarter from Westbrook. This is when the Thunder took charge of the game.

“He’s got such great force and great will,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said of Westbrook. “And he’s really a high IQ basketball player, he sees a lot of things going on out there… As a coach, you have great respect and admiration for a guy who plays the game that hard and gives to our team what he gives.”

Golden State made a comeback in the third that was all Klay Thompson — he had 19 consecutive points for the Warriors, and the lead got cut down to 6 at one point. Thompson finished the night with 26 points on 17 shots and was clear and away the best Warrior (with Harrison Barnes second).

But then Westbrook led a push back that again stretched the lead out, and he got help from Dion Waiters with a three (Waiters played well again and had 10 points on the night). The Thunder never looked back.

Kevin Durant added 26 points (but on 8-of-24 shooting, not his best night), while Serge Ibaka added 17. The Thunder may be the only team in the NBA with the depth of athletes to run with Golden State, and they are doing it and making it work.

The Warriors defense has no answer for the Thunder attack, and Golden State is getting away from some of their identity. They have always switched nearly every pick with their small lineup, but because of rebounding concerns this series they have gotten away from that. The Thunder have figured out how to exploit that.

The Warriors have just not adjusted to the length of the Thunder defense — Golden State turned the ball over 21 times, 19.9 percent of their possessions. If you give it away one every five times down the court to a good team, you lose.

“I thought we competed again tonight, I just thought we didn’t play very intelligently,” Kerr said postgame. “Too many turnovers, careless passes. This is probably the longest team in the league we are facing and we continue to try and throw passes over the top of their outstretched arms. Probably not a great idea.”

In addition to Curry, Draymond Green had his second poor game in a row — 1-of-7 shooting with six turnovers, and again he was out of position on defense too often. He has played like a guy flustered by the opponent.

A lot of the Warriors have, while the Thunder just gain confidence. The kind of confidence that will carry them back to the NBA Finals.

 

Thunder’s Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant put on first-half show at Warriors’ expense

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I’d say Warriors fans are stunned, but more than that Warriors players look stunned — they are getting steamrolled by Oklahoma City again, giving up 72 first half points and being down by 19.

I guess we tell Warriors’ fans what we have told the fans of teams they have steamrolled the past couple years — enjoy the show, you don’t get to see many like this.

Above was a Kevin Durant to Russell Westbrook fastbreak assist and bucket. Now check out the fantastic Steven Adams pass, and a highlight package of Westbrook dropping 16 in the second quarter on the Warriors (21 in the first half).

 

Charles Barkley: “I’ve never seen the NBA as bad as it is”

HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 04:  Former NBA player and commentator Charles Barkley looks on prior to the 2016 NCAA Men's Final Four National Championship game between the Villanova Wildcats and the North Carolina Tar Heels at NRG Stadium on April 4, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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Charles Barkley is walking entertainment and the brilliant Inside the NBA would not be the same without him and his off-the-cuff opinions (which is a great thing in sports talk, not so much with national policy).

But he remains the leader of the annoying #getoffmylawn crew of older players who don’t like today’s game.

Barkley was on the Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM last week and went off again on the state of the game, (hat tip For The Win).

“People think us old guys hate when we talk about it. It has nothing to do with the Warriors’ greatness, LeBron’s greatness. But I’ve never seen the NBA as bad as it is, and I’ve been saying it the last three or four years. We’ve got too many young players coming out of college that don’t know how to play. It’s frustrating for me because I want to see competitive basketball.

“We took a survey on our crew … How many actual NBA teams would you buy season tickets for?” he added. “Four in the west and Cleveland obviously in the east. That’s not good for our league.”

To be fair, Barkley speaks for a lot of people here.

I think they are all wrong, but he speaks for them. And I think they are a plurality. Based on television ratings going up even as streaming of live games spikes (as someone who works for Comcast/NBC, I can say the in-market streaming of CSN teams such as the Warriors, Celtics, Wizards, etc. did well this year and grew faster than projections), as I look at the crossover appeal of Stephen Curry, the sendoff Kobe Bryant got, the popularity of LeBron James and Kevin Durant etc, the league is doing well by any measure.

But more than that, the game now is more entertaining than it’s been in years. Tell me how grabbing some guy on the perimeter, the clutching and clawing to slow the game down in the 1990s leading to 86-82 slogs, was more fun than the skill being shown today. Jordan was must watch, frankly Barkley was fun, but Mike Fratello’s Cavaliers teams? The Mavericks and Clippers of that era? I think Barkley and others look at the past through some Mr. Magoo glasses, but that is their prerogative. I loved 80s basketball. I liked 90s basketball. But to constantly dismiss the game today just sounds like someone clinging to the past.