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.

Report: Kevin Love called out in emotional Cavaliers team meeting

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Having lost 8-of-11, a Cavaliers team meeting where the players got to vent seemed inevitable. There isn’t one person in that Cavaliers locker room that doesn’t deserve some blame for how things have turned.

However, Kevin Love apparently became the whipping boy.

From Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Cleveland Cavaliers held a fiery team meeting in the practice facility locker room prior to Monday’s practice, during which several players challenged the legitimacy of Kevin Love’s illness that led him to leave Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma City early and miss Sunday’s practice, league sources told ESPN.

Several players were pushing for the Cavaliers’ management and coaching staff to hold Love accountable for leaving the arena before the end of Saturday’s game, and then missing Sunday’s practice, league sources told ESPN.

The meeting was loud and intense, only calming down once Love spoke to those gathered in the room and explained himself, league sources said.

The more things change, the more things are always Kevin Love’s fault.

According to the report, the majority of the team seemed to accept Love’s explanation. Love left the Cavaliers ugly, nationally televised blowout at the hands of the Thunder in the first half and did not return due to what was described only as an illness. He did not stay around for the end of the game. I’m not about to speculate on how ill he was or was not, what matters is that his teammates were not buying it. When a team is losing finger-pointing is almost inevitable, and Love has gotten more than his fair share of it in Cleveland. At least he stood up for himself.

Team meetings may allow a pressure release in a locker room, but they almost never result in any kind of meaningful change. We’ll see what if anything changes in Cleveland.

Bucks GM on Jason Kidd firing: “This is a performance-based thing”

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Last season the Bucks went 42-40 in the regular season and were up 2-1 in their first-round playoff series against Toronto before ultimately losing in six.

This season, expectations were high. Before the season there was talk from the team of a 50-win team (Las Vegas oddsmakers set the under/over at 47.5) that would finish in the top four in the Eastern Conference, hosting a playoff round. There was hope that the defense would improve, and with that the Bucks would look like a young team figuring it out.

They haven’t looked like that at all — they are 23-22 (with the point differential of a 20-25 team), and their defense is 25th in the NBA. Currently, they have just a one-game cushion for the final playoff slot in the East.

That cost coach Jason Kidd his job, first-year Bucks GM Jon Horst said Monday night at a press conference, as reported by Matt Velazquez at the Journal-Sentinel.

“At the end, this is a performance-based thing,” Horst said. “We believe in this team, we believe in our players and in the talents that they have. We’re looking forward at making playoff appearances in consecutive years for the first time in over a decade and hopefully winning a first-round series for the first time in over a decade. So we felt like at this time, this is the right decision to help this team get there.”

Around the league the move was not a total surprise, but the timing caught people off guard. Horst said it happened “relatively quickly” and explained:

“A general manager in the NHL had a statement once: ‘If something is inevitable, why wait?’ I think we came to the conclusion that this was the best thing for the future of the franchise and this was the time.”

Come this summer this will be the hottest coaching job available because of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the potential of this roster. Names such as Jeff Van Gundy and former Pelicans coach Monty Williams have been mentioned, but the ultimate list will be longer. Honestly, a few coaches with jobs might rather have the Bucks job (although the challenges between the two owners there can make things uncomfortable at times).

“We have another game on Friday and between that time we have a plan that we’ll put in place that we’ll kind of layout for the rest of the season,” Horst said. “We’ll go into the summer and have an extensive coaching search with an opportunity to hopefully find a great coach for this organization of which (interim coach) Joe Prunty has every opportunity to be a part of based on what happens going forward.”

This is going to a rough adjustment for Antetokounmpo and some of the players, who respected and trusted Kidd. There’s a lot of pressure on Horst with this hire.

That doesn’t make it the wrong move — Horst did the right thing here. The Bucks were going to be moving on, they just did it sooner rather than later.

 

Kevin Durant fires back, says Clint Capela’s job is “easy”

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“We’re confident because we know if we’re doing what we’re supposed to do, we’re going to beat them… We are better than them.”

That was young Rockets center Clint Capela after the Rockets beat the Warriors last Saturday night, feeling confident.

Asked about it, Kevin Durant shot Capela down, saying he’s not the guy that should be commenting.

There are no easy jobs in the NBA. It takes a lot of work physically, a good mental feel for the game, and the right opportunity just to get a chance. That said, some NBA jobs are simpler and more straightforward than others. On offense, Capela is not the ball handler and creator making a lot of decisions, things are simple for him — and he executes them. He’s shooting 66.6 percent this season — he does what he does well.

Houston took two of three from Golden State this season, and while that is far from doing it in a playoff series it should be a confidence boost for Houston if/when they go up against Golden State.

Jason Kidd says Giannis Antetokounmpo offered to save his job minutes before firing

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The stagnant Milwaukee Bucks shook things up by firing head coach Jason Kidd  Monday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was not happy with the news. So much he called up Kidd and offered to help save his job, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Antetokounmpo is understandably close to Kidd — he’s been the coach who helped transform the Greek Freak into an NBA superstar. Kidd is on his way to the Hall of Fame as a player, and as a coach had the vision to put the ball in Antetokounmpo’s hands as a point guard. Antetokounmpo trusted Kidd.

However, the Bucks’ growth has been stagnant — this is a team where the players talked about being a 50-win, top-four team in the East with a strong defense, instead they are a team on the way to around .500, barely hanging onto a playoff spot, with the point differential of a team that wins 36 games. They are not taking a step forward, and the Bucks — with the approval of ownership, which was very close to Kidd at one time — approving the move.

There was nothing Antetokounmpo could have done. It’s life in the NBA. That doesn’t mean he has to like it.