Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns v Arkansas Razorbacks

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.

Chris Paul finds brilliant counter to hack-a-DeAndre Jordan (video)

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I originally favored allowing Hack-a-Shaq as the NBA currently does. I found the strategy fascinated – why and when teams would use it and how their opponents would counter.

But it just became too common. Far too many games featured a parade of trips to the line, a boring stretch that made games too long. I thought the intrigue had run its course.

Then, Chris Paul pulled this move last night.

The Clippers guard saw Jonas Jerebko charging toward DeAndre Jordan to commit an intentional foul, so Paul stepped in front of an unsuspecting Jerebko and took the foul himself. That’s sent a good free-throw shooter to the line instead of the dismal Jordan.

Just an awesome heady play by Paul.

PBT Podcast: NBA All-Star Weekend talk, predictions with Sean Highkin

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NBA All-Star weekend descends upon frigid Toronto starting Friday, with everything from the Rookie/Sophomore… er, Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, the Dunk Contest/Three-Point Contest on Saturday, and the main event on Sunday.

Kurt Helin and Sean Highkin of NBC’s ProBasketballTalk break it all down, from Pau Gasol replacing Jimmy Butler to predictions on the Dunk Contest and if anyone can knock off Zach LaVine. Plus, there is plenty of “why Sting?” talk.

PBT will be in Toronto with reports from the event all weekend, so come back early and often for all the latest (plus trade talk, as all the GMs get together in one city where it’s too cold for them to go outside).

As always, you can listen to the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunesdownload it directly here, or you can check out our new PBT Podcast homepage, which has the most recent episodes available. If you have the Stitcher app, you can listen there as well.

Pistons retire Chauncey Billups’ jersey at halftime (VIDEO)

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Moments before his jersey went up to the rafters, Chauncey Billups spoke to the crowd about the night the Detroit Pistons wrapped up the 2004 NBA title by routing the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 5 of the Finals.

“We had one motivation,” he said. “We wanted to win it here at home.”

Billups was the most valuable player in the Finals that year, and he had his No. 1 jersey retired by the Pistons on Wednesday night at halftime of their game against Denver.

He was the second player from that 2004 team honored by the Pistons this year. The Pistons retired Ben Wallace’s jersey last month at a similar ceremony – in front of a packed house on a night Detroit beat Golden State.

There were some empty seats in the upper level Wednesday, but Billups wanted to be honored while the Pistons were playing the Nuggets. Billups is a Denver native and played for the Nuggets for two stints during his career.

“This was by design, only because there’s a lot of people that contributed to my success as a player and as a man, in Denver, my hometown,” Billups said before the game. “There were several dates that I could have chosen. This one obviously stuck out.”

Billups does have a mild regret about his run of success with the Pistons. He figures they could have won more titles.

“I felt like, two and maybe three championships – we were that good,” he said.

Ben Wallace was on hand Wednesday, and so were Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince from the 2004 champions. Pistons great Isiah Thomas was also at the Palace for the ceremony.

“This is what tradition looks like,” Thomas told the crowd. “This is what it feels like.”