PBT’s final mock draft: Wiggins, then Parker, then it gets nuts

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This is maybe the most unpredictable NBA Draft of the last 10 years. A lot of players on the same tier talent wise, disagreements among scouts on just how good particular players can be, and finally there will be trades. Maybe many, many trades.

Still, we’ll try to predict it.

PBT’s NBA Draft expert Ed Isaacson of NBADraftBlog.com and Rotoworld has his final mock draft out on the day of the draft. Here’s how we see it breaking down.

FIRST ROUND

1) Cleveland – Andrew Wiggins, F, Kansas
The top prospect in this class, Wiggins has a combination of skill and athleticism which will allow him to make an immediate impact in the Cavaliers’ lineup, while still having a lot of untapped potential to make him a strong pick at number 1. The combination of Kyrie Irving and Wiggins, with a hopefully improved Dion Waiters and Anthony Bennett, could give Cleveland a dominant scoring group.

2) Milwaukee – Jabari Parker, F, Duke
Parker will give the Bucks an instant boost in scoring, and the ability to play him inside or out should give the coaching staff plenty of lineup options. The attention he will receive from defenses should allow some of Milwaukee’s other young players to have the space they need to score themselves, and they have enough long basket protectors to hide Parker on defense.

3) Philadelphia – Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Since the last mock draft, a foot injury was also uncovered, and I still believe the Sixers will roll the dice on Embiid. I’ve mentioned before that offensively, he and Nerlens Noel are different enough that they could complement each other, and they would form an imposing defensive duo. Plus, the return of a healthy Noel with Embiid out will give Noel time to develop his game on the court aside from being with another big man, and allow Embiid to take his time getting healthy.

4) Orlando – Noah Vonleh, F, Indiana
I had Marcus Smart here through the first two mock drafts, but think Vonleh’s potential and size could win out in the end. It helps that has the Magic have a solid core of young players, including frontcourt players, who can ease the transition on Vonleh, though he could help in some areas right away. Smart or Dante Exum could still be in play here, but the Magic can fill the guard needs a little later.

5) Utah – Dante Exum, G, Australia
The lottery’s mystery man this year, Exum has good size and he is skilled for his age. He hasn’t really faced top-level competition and many teams will be getting a real close look at him for the first time in the coming weeks. As mentioned above, I’m not sold on Exum as a point guard, but he could become a solid complement next to last year’s first round pick, Trey Burke, in the Jazz backcourt, with the potential for maybe some short stints running the point.

6) Boston – Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State
As Boston continues to rebuild, it’s a smart idea to find the eventual successor to Rajon Rondo at point guard and Smart seems to be a perfect fit for coach Brad Stevens, as well as having an ability to slide to the 2 to play alongside Rondo as needed. Smart’s ability to defend will get him plenty of time early, and his offensive game should adjust fairly well to the NBA, as long as he refrains from taking some of the bad shots he did in college.

7) Los Angeles Lakers – Julius Randle, F, Kentucky
The Lakers are looking at a complete rebuild during Kobe Bryant’s final years with the team, and while a higher pick could have secured their future a bit more, Randle has the ability to make an immediate impact next season. Randle is a strong post player who is very agile for his size, and he can be a terror on both the offensive and defensive boards. He won’t give a very good defensive presence yet, but he will be a double-double threat from the get-go and a nice piece to start the Lakers’ rebuilding.

8) Sacramento – Doug McDermott, F, Creighton
This is a stretch in terms of where I have McDermott’s value, but Sacramento would be an ideal spot for him to bring his scoring strengths. He can provide a much needed consistent perimeter shooter, which would open up space for the ever-improving DeMarcus Cousins to operate in. Concerns about McDermott’s defensive ability have been blown out of proportion and he understands the game well enough to cover up his deficient areas.

9) Charlotte – Rodney Hood, G/F, Duke
Hood will give the Hornets some much needed size on the wing, to go along with strong shooting ability and athleticism. The big key to getting the real value from this pick will be Hood buying into coach Steve Clifford’s defensive mindset and putting in the effort to improve.

10) Philadelphia – Nik Stauskas, G, Michigan
Having taken Embiid at number 3, the Sixers can still improve their backcourt here with Stauskas, a tremendous perimeter shooter and a good enough ballhandler to help take some of the point guard pressure off Michael Carter-Williams. The threat from three-point range is the key, and Stauskas’ ability to stretch the floor will help everyone else on the floor with him.

11) Denver – Dario Saric, F, Croatia
Saric has to spend two more years over in Europe, but he is a highly-skilled offensive player who will fit into many different roles. With no real glaring needs heading into next season, it’s easy for the Nuggets to roll the dice on Saric and wait two years for the possible payoff.

12) Orlando – Elfrid Payton, G, Louisiana-Lafayette
The Magic shored up their frontcourt with Noah Vonleh at number 4, and they can still address their need at point guard with Payton. He’s a strong defender, rebounder and distributor, and though he needs to improve as a perimeter shooter, he has a great ability to put pressure on defenses with his penetration ability. In a few years, a Payton-Oladipo backcourt could be one of best young ones in the league.

13) Minnesota – Aaron Gordon, F, Arizona
Kevin Love is certain to find his way out of Minnesota at some point in the next year, and while Gordon isn’t really a replacement; he will provide an extremely athletic forward who can run the floor and rebound, as well as guard multiple positions. He still has a lot of work to do on the offensive end, but he will certainly bring a little excitement to the Timberwolves.

14) Phoenix – Gary Harris, G, Michigan State
This season’s surprise NBA team, the Suns were supposed to be in rebuilding mode, and fell just shy of the playoffs. The status of Eric Bledsoe returning to the team is unknown, so Harris could immediately step in and provide a versatile scorer in the backcourt who can run the floor and defend well.

15) Atlanta – Kyle Anderson, F, UCLA
Anderson is the toughest player to project in this class with his unique skill set. He has high level vision and passing skills to go along with an improving jumper, but at 6’9, he will be playing at the forward position. What he does provide coaches is the ability to mix and match lineups to find him spots on the floor where he can be most effective. To get the most out of Anderson, a coach who is willing to think outside of the box is needed, and Mike Budenholzer could be that coach.

16) Chicago – Shabazz Napier, G, Connecticut
Napier will help provide stability at the point guard position for the Bulls as Derrick Rose comes back from another knee injury. A strong leader, Napier could take total control of the team’s second unit and his ability to defend should be very appealing to coach Tom Thibodeau, plus he has shown he can score when needed.

17) Boston – James Young, G, Kentucky
The Celtics drafted their point guard of the future in Marcus Smart earlier and now they can address a need on the wing with the athletic, but raw, Young. He has shown, at times, that he can shoot as well as get to the basket, but doesn’t do either one consistently enough to be effective. Also, he isn’t a very good defender, but hopefully coach Stevens will help him there.

18) Phoenix – Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
With the second of their three first round picks, the Suns could take a shot at the big-bodied Nurkic, who at 6’11, 280 pounds, already has NBA size. Nurkic is still developing on both offense and defense, but he moves very well for his size, and in a few years, he could give the Suns an intriguing option in the middle

19) Chicago – TJ Warren, F, North Carolina State
With their second first-round pick, the Bulls can address a need for scoring with one of the college’s best in Warren. He loves to find holes in the defense to get his shot and a healthy Derrick Rose should create many for him. He is also able to seek out mismatches when he has a smaller defender on him, setting up in the low or mid-post area for a quick shot. Long-range shooting still needs to be worked on, but he will put up points quickly regardless.

20) Toronto – Tyler Ennis, G, Syracuse
Kyle Lowry may be on his way out of Toronto and the Raptors may be able to get their point guard of the future in Toronto-native Ennis. Ennis will bring a steady influence to the point position, and he showed in his one year of college that he doesn’t shy from big moments. Whether he can guard at the NBA level will be a big question going forward.

21) Oklahoma City – Glenn Robinson III, F, Michigan
The first of two first-round picks, the Thunder could add some depth to their bench, with the son of a former number 1 overall pick. He didn’t seem to take the step forward many expected this past season, but he still has a good mix of skill, athleticism and upside to make this a pick worth making at this point.

22) Memphis – Adreian Payne, F, Michigan State
Payne will give Memphis a strong inside-outside scoring presence with very good size and the underrated athletic ability. Payne showed steady improvement throughout his college career and while his ceiling may not be much higher, he is ready to contribute from Day One for a Grizzlies team that may not have Zach Randolph next season.

23) Utah – PJ Hairston, G, Texas Legends
The Jazz added some talent to their backcourt at #5 with Dante Exum, and now they can add some strong shooting at the wing with Hairston. He showed great scoring ability in his D-League stint last season, and he should be able to step into the rotation quickly at least as a shooter to stretch the floor.

24) Charlotte – KJ McDaniels, F, Clemson
McDaniels is one of the more underrated players in this draft class, and he could end up being a steal for the Hornets here. He will provide a tremendous defensive presence on the wing for a team that emphasizes defense. McDaniels is also a strong slasher and rebounder, as well as an improving shooter.

25) Houston – Zach LaVine, G, UCLA
LaVine may be one of the most polarizing picks in this year’s draft. Some see his elite athleticism and see a huge future. Others, like me, see an AAU player who happens to be out of high school now. There’s no doubting that there is potential in LaVine, it’s just very far off. Houston has built a strong D-League team that knows how to develop players to fit the Rockets’ system. LaVine could benefit from a learning environment like that.

26) Miami – Jordan Adams, G, UCLA
The third player from UCLA taken in this first round, Adams is the best scorer in the group with the type of game that will allow him to get plenty of points at the NBA level. He loves to operate in the mid-range area, but he has the skill to post up smaller guards and get easy buckets. He’s improving as a long-range shooter and he can be a major part of the Heat’s backcourt down the road.

27) Phoenix – Jerami Grant, F, Syracuse
This is the Suns’ third first-round pick, so they can afford to take a shot at the raw Grant. Grant isn’t going to contribute much right away, but he is a high-level athlete who should help some on defense and on the boards. If he can develop his offensive skills well down the line, he will be a nightmare match-up for many defenders.

28) Los Angeles Clippers – Mitch McGary, C, Michigan
Coming off a back injury that erased most of his season, McGary could be a solid rotation player down the line for the Clippers. He plays with a lot of energy and he doesn’t mind doing all of the little things teams need to wing games. At worst, he will help on the defensive side and with rebounding.

29) Oklahoma City – Clint Capela, F/C, Switzerland
The Thunder will look to plan for the future a bit with their second first round pick. This is a great place for them to take a chance on a draft-and-stash candidate with strong potential. He has very good size and athletic ability, though he needs time to continue to develop his skills and toughness for the NBA level.

30) San Antonio – Jordan Clarkson, G, Missouri
The Spurs can really go in many directions here, but they can look to add to their backcourt for the future with the versatile Clarkson. He can give them a big guard with some point guard abilities who can get to the basket easily against smaller defenders. If he can be a more consistent shooter, he may find a home eventually at the 2.

SECOND ROUND

31) Milwaukee – Cleanthony Early, F, Wichita State
32) Philadelphia – Bogdan Bogdanovic, G, Serbia
33) Cleveland – Jarnell Stokes, F, Tennessee
34) Dallas – Artem Klimenko, C, Russia
35) Utah – CJ Wilcox, G, Washington
36) Milwaukee – Markel Brown, G, Oklahoma State
37) Toronto – Jabari Brown, G, Missouri
38) Detroit – Patric Young, F/C, Florida
39) Philadelphia – Spencer Dinwiddie, G, Colorado
40) Minnesota – Cameron Bairstow, F, New Mexico
41) Denver – Russ Smith, G, Louisville
42) Houston – Dwight Powell, F, Stanford
43) Atlanta – Roy Devyn Marble, G, Iowa
44) Minnesota – Joe Harris, G, Virginia
45) Charlotte – Thanasis Antetokounmpo, F, Delaware 87ers
46) Washington – Nick Johnson, G, Arizona
47) Philadelphia – Damien Inglis, F, Australia
48) Milwaukee – Johnny O’Bryant, F, LSU
49) Chicago – DeAndre Daniels, F, Connecticut
50) Phoenix – Nikola Jokic, C, Serbia
51) Dallas – Deonte Burton, G, Nevada
52) Philadelphia – Vasilije Micic, G, Serbia
53) Minnesota – Khem Birch, F/C, UNLV
54) Philadelphia – Josh Heustis, F, Stanford
55) Miami – Jahii Carson, G, Arizona State
56) Denver – DeAndre Kane, G, Iowa State
57) Indiana – Jordan Bachynski, C, Arizona State
58) San Antonio – Melvin Ejim, F, Iowa State
59) Toronto – Jordan McRae, G, Tennessee
60) San Antonio – Cory Jefferson, F, Baylor

LeBron James admits Warriors pose one of biggest challenges he’s faced in Finals

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LeBron James is used to being the underdog in the NBA Finals. It started with the first time he got a team there, the 2007 team where after LeBron the two leading scorers were Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden — that team was not really Finals worthy and the Spurs showed that with a sweep.

Entering his seventh straight NBA Finals in 2017, the Cavaliers are again heavy underdogs. When asked about the challenge these Warriors — now with Kevin Durant — pose LeBron was nothing but complimentary, speaking to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“It’s probably up there,” James said after the Cleveland Cavaliers’ practice. “I mean, it’s up there. Obviously, I’ve played against four Hall of Famers as well too, with Manu [Ginobili], Kawhi [Leonard], Tony [Parker] and Timmy D [Tim Duncan] on the same team. And if you add Pop [Gregg Popovich] in there, that’s five Hall of Famers.

“So it’s going to be very challenging. Those guys are going to challenge me. They’re going to challenge our ballclub. This is a high-powered team, and I’ve played against some other [stiff competition]. I’ve played against Ray [Allen], KG [Kevin Garnett], Paul [Pierce], [Rajon] Rondo and Doc [Rivers]. So it’s going to be very challenging not only on me mentally, but on our ballclub and on our franchise.”

The Warriors bring four of the top 15-20 guys in the NBA (depending on where you want to rank Klay Thompson), with two of then in the top five with Durant and Stephen Curry. However, what makes the Warriors more dangerous is the way they buy into the offensive system, move the ball and set screens/move off it, all of which makes them greater than just the sum of their parts. Well, that and the fact they had the second best defense in the NBA this year.

Cleveland, however, is probably the team best suited to beat them. Nobody has a good answer for guarding the 1/3 LeBron/Kyrie Irving pick-and-roll, Kevin Love is one of the best power forwards in the game, they are strong on the glass and can be impressive on defense (the challenge will be doing it consistently this series, they haven’t had to up to this point). Ultimately, LeBron is the great equalizer, he is the best player in the game.

All that said, Las Vegas oddsmakers have Golden State the heavy favorites (those odds are a reflection of what the betting public thinks). If LeBron and the Cavaliers pull this off, it will be one of the biggest upsets in NBA Finals history.

Lonzo Ball will never be as good as this fan-made video of him destroying people in 2K17

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Ultimately, nobody has any idea how good Lonzo Ball will be as an NBA player. Franchise cornerstone? All-Star? Above average starter? Rotation player? He will fall somewhere on the scale, but even for NBA teams it’s a guess as to where. (His dad apparently thinks he will end his career compared to Jordan, I seriously doubt that.)

However good he ends up being, he may never be as good as he looks in this 2K17 fan video made by Shady00018. The Lakers should pray he does: Dropping Stephen Curry on a crossover, dunking over Rudy Gobert, throwing no-look passes like beads at Mardi Gras? It’s impressive, if unrealistic.

Then again, reality Lakers fans don’t always intersect.

 

LeBron James on the Finals: “I feel good about our chances. Very good.”

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If there is one team in the NBA that can knock off the Warriors in a seven-game series, it’s the Cavaliers. They are the best team in the NBA at creating mismatches and isolating them, and in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James they have two of the best isolation scorers in the game. Cleveland is strong on the boards and is capable of impressive defense. Also, they have the best player on the planet.

If nobody else is confident in the Cavaliers chances, he is.

Here is what LeBron James said his confidence level facing the Warriors in a Finals trilogy.

What else is he going to say?

And if anyone should be confident, it’s LeBron. He can change a series.

From the outside, we saw a series last year where everything needed to go right for Cleveland to win — LeBron playing the best ball of his career for the final three games, Kyrie Irving hitting big shots, Draymond Green getting suspended, Andrew Bogut getting injured, Stephen Curry being off (due to injury or fatigue or just a slump). And even then took the Cavaliers seven games and heroics at the last minute. Now the Warriors add Kevin Durant, and it’s hard not to see this ending differently.

However, LeBron James is the one guy who can alter that vision. And he’s confident he can do it, he’s done it before.

Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Is LaVar Ball just a harmless loudmouth, or will he actually undermine the team that drafts his son, highly touted guard Lonzo Ball?

The Lakers, who hold the No. 2 pick, are the most likely team to find out.

President Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect whether they draft Lonzo, but coach Luke Walton wants the team to ask UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar’s involvement.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times did just that:

Was LaVar Ball around the team much?

“Zero,” Alford said.

Was he ever at practice?

“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”

Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?

“Never,” Alford said.

LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.

Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.

Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.