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PBT NBA Draft preview: Five sleepers to watch

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Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker? Marcus Smart or Dante Exum? How far does Andrew Wiggins fall?

We focus on the top of the draft and the likely future stars, but there are always a couple guys who get drafted farther down the board who become high quality players. The sleeper picks. You know, the guy that had fans saying, “who?” when he was picked, then three years later they blame the GM for missing such an obvious future star. For examples, Kawhi Leonard was drafted 15th in 2011, Ty Lawson slid to 18th in 2009, and back in 2008 Goran Dragic and DeAndre Jordan both fell to the second round.

Of course, if I could predict who are the sleepers in this draft are I’d have a job in the Spurs front office. Still, here’s my best shot with five sleepers to watch.

• Elfrid Payton, 6’4” point guard, Louisiana Lafayette. He’s been flying up the draft boards of a lot of teams and has been mentioned so often as a sleeper I’m not sure he qualifies anymore. There is a lot to like here, he is a tall point guard he can break down defenses off the dribble, is good at finding teammates with the pass, and uses his quickness and length to be a very good defender. The big problem is he lacks a jump shot — fix that (and shooting can be fixed) and you have a very good point guard on your hand.

• P.J. Hairston, 6’5” shooting guard, Texas Legends (D-League). Nobody really cares much about what happened at North Carolina at this point. What matters is while the rest of this draft played against boys in college he went to the D-League and played against men. And scored more than 20 a game. He can play minutes right away in the NBA. He has three point range and can put the ball on the floor plus he can attack off the bounce. He struggled to adjust his decision making to the increased the pace of the D-League games and his defense was inconsistent, but this guy can flat out ball. (Because of the D-League experience, watch him have a huge Summer League.)

• Jordan Adams, 6’5” shooting guard, UCLA. Based in LA I watched a number of UCLA games and of the three Bruins likely to get drafted in the first round he’s my favorite. He’s got a high IQ game. He finds holes in the defense to get of his shot off and is an efficient scorer, although he needs to develop a three point shot. He is a good, smart defender on and off the ball. He can be a good rotation player in the NBA for a long, long time.

• K.J. McDaniels, 6’6” small forward, Clemson. Being a good defender alone doesn’t get you taken in the lottery, but whatever team takes him late first/early second is going to like what they get. He is long (6’11” wingspan) and that helps him generate steals on defense. He’s very athletic and can guard the 1-3. He can hit an open jumper if he sets his feet, but most of his offense comes off hustle points — running in transition, hitting the offensive boards, and being physical and getting to the line. That will work off the bench as he develops his shot.

• Adreian Payne, 6’10” power forward, Michigan State. In a league that loves the stretch four Payne is going to fit in nicely — he shot 42 percent from three last season. Not just a shooter, Payne can put the ball on the floor and has a post game. He needs to add some muscle, but he can play minutes as a rookie off the bench and his game will continue to develop.

Timberwolves coach and president Tom Thibodeau thanks Kevin Garnett after retirement announcement

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 28: Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics sits not he bench prior to Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the New York Knicks on April 28, 2013 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. 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 Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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Tributes have poured in all over the NBA world since Kevin Garnett announced his retirement on Friday afternoon — from other players, commissioner Adam Silver and media members who covered him. Garnett and Tom Thibodeau have a lengthy history together: Thibodeau coached Garnett in Boston as an assistant under Doc Rivers, and they won a championship in 2008. This spring, Thibodeau took over as head coach and president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team that drafted Garnett, saw his best years and saw him end his career. Thibodeau released a heartfelt statement on Saturday congratulating Garnett:

“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank Kevin for all of his great accomplishments and contributions to the NBA, the Minnesota Timberwolves organization, and for me personally with the Boston Celtics. Kevin combined great talent with a relentless drive and intelligence. I will always cherish the memories of the way in which he led the Celtics to the 2008 NBA Championship. His willingness to sacrifice and his unselfishness led us to that title. Kevin will always be remembered for the way in which he played the game. His fierce competitiveness, his unequalled passion for the game, and the many ways in which he cared about this team was truly special. KG is without question the all-time best player to wear a Minnesota Timberwolves jersey, and he is also one of the best to ever play this game.”

It’s a shame that Thibodeau didn’t get to coach Garnett again in Minnesota, but the team is in good hands with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.

Pacers unveil 50th anniversary patch for their uniforms (PHOTO)

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 28:  Leandro Barbosa #28 of the Indiana Pacers looks on against the New Jersey Nets at Prudential Center on March 28, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. 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 Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
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The Indiana Pacers have been a franchise for 50 years — 10 in the ABA and 40 in the NBA. To celebrate this anniversary, they’ve unveiled a new patch that they will wear on their uniforms this season. You can check it out below:

It looks pretty sleek, combining the Pacers’ logo with the zero in “50.” It’s subtle and well-designed.

Kobe Bryant pays tribute to Kevin Garnett on Twitter

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 12:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers puts a shot up over Kevin Garnett #5 and Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics in Game Four of the 2008 NBA Finals on June 12, 2008 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  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 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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This summer, three of this generation’s defining NBA players, and three of the greatest players of all time, called it a career: Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett. The latter two in particular had a lot in common, as psychotic competitors and polarizing personalities. They had many memorable battles over the years, including the Lakers-Celtics Finals in 2008 and 2010 (they each won one) and the playoffs in 2003 and 2004, when Garnett was in Minnesota. On Saturday afternoon, a day after Garnett officially announced his retirement, Kobe paid tribute to him with a tweet.

The next time they’ll be together is 2021, when they go into the Hall of Fame together.

Doc Rivers calls anthem protests “the most patriotic thing we can do”

OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 23:  Head coach Doc Rivers of the Los Angeles Clippers shouts to his team during their game against the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on March 23, 2016 in Oakland, California.  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 Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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With the NBA season around the corner, there are a lot of eyes on how teams and players will handle the national anthem protests that have become prominent in the NFL. Clippers head coach Doc Rivers wholeheartedly supports the notion of his players participating, and hopes the whole team can figure out a statement to make together. Via Dan Woike of the Orange County Register:

“Listen, we need social change. If anyone wants to deny that, they just need to study the history of our country,” he told the Southern California News Group on Friday. “… I’ve said it 100 times. There’s no more American thing to do than to protest. It’s the most patriotic thing we can do. There are protests I like and protests I don’t like. It doesn’t matter. …Protests are meant to start conversation. The conversation, you hope, leads to acknowledgement, and the acknowledgement leads to action. We’re, right now, still in the conversation.”

“I hope we do it as a group. I know whenever you protest as one solid group, the protest has more teeth if you want to protest,” he said. “… I’m supporting our guys’ right to protest. I’m saying that up front. My hope is you believe it and do it for the right reasons and not just because it’s a hot topic on Instagram.

Rivers has a unique perspective — his father was a police officer, but he’s seen plenty of racism in his life. This won’t be his first time leading a team when it comes to social issues — he was able to unite the Clippers in the spring of 2014 when the Donald Sterling racism scandal broke. It’s encouraging to see NBA coaches trending towards fostering open dialogue on their teams about these issues.