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LeBron James says Dwyane Wade early leader for Sixth Man of Year


It’s too early to get a good handle on any of the NBA’s end-of-season awards (except maybe Rookie of the Year), but the Sixth Man of the Year race is particularly muddled. Eric Gordon won it last season and has been better this season, but with Chris Paul out injured he has started 13 of his 19 games, not exactly a sixth man (yet). Andre Iguodala was a close second last season, but he’s gotten off to a slower start this campaign. The current leader this season is probably Tyreke Evans, who has stepped up for the Grizzlies (17.2 points per game), with Lou Williams right behind him (18.2 points per game for Clippers), but both of those teams are struggling due to injury and as the teams fade it will hurt their chances. There are other guys on the fringes — Kelly Olynyk has been fantastic in Miami, but 9.2 points per game likely is not enough to get it done; Rodney Hood has moved to the bench in Utah and scored a lot, he could eventually qualify — but the race is wide open.

What about Dwyane Wade in Cleveland?

LeBron James pumped up his boy for the award on Saturday, via Nick Friedell of ESPN.

LeBron believes that Dwyane Wade is the leading candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year Award right now after his early success off the bench: “He’s probably the number one candidate,” James said after Saturday’s shootaround. “Not even being biased, that’s one of my best friends. Just looking at the teams.”

Uh, no.

Wade is scoring 11.1 points per game with a below average true shooting percentage of 49.8 (well below the league average), although the Cavaliers are 8.3 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court (however, most of that is better defense with him on the court, and that’s not due to Wade). That’s not enough right now.

In the last 10 games, when the Cavaliers have been winning and looking like an elite team, Wade is averaging 13.5 ppg and is shooting a little better, a true shooting percentage of 52 (close to the league average).

With the race wide open, Wade getting in the mix is not out of the question. But he’s got some work to do.

Giannis Antetokounmpo to tell his story on 60 Minutes this week (preview clip)

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Giannis Antetokounmpo grew up hocking wares — clothes, sunglasses, whatever — on the streets of Athens, Greece. He easily could still be living there, the tallest salesman in a poor part of a country with high unemployment and real challenges.

Instead, he is a multimillionaire living comfortably in the United States, and is one of the 10 best basketball players in the world — and still improving. In a few years we may well be saying he is the best player on the planet.

Antetokounmpo will be telling his story on the legendary television news magazine 60 Minutes this week, and the show released a clip. Check it out.

This is the best missed free throw to game winner you will ever see

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We’ve all seen this situation before at every level of basketball: A team down three points gets fouled in the final seconds and has two free throws, so the shooter aims to make the first free throw then miss the second and create a rebound he or a teammate can grab then throw back in to tie the game. It works about as often as an NFL Hail Mary — either the shooter makes the shot anyway or the defense gets the board — but what other choice is there?

Nobody has ever pulled it off as well as Paulinho Boracini of the Brazilian league team Cearense.

Intentional or not (and I lean not), he banked the second free throw off the rim toward the corner, ran it down himself and hit the game-winning three.

Damn. That’s impressive.

(If Boracini and Cearense sound familiar, you win the award for “watching too much Knicks preseason basketball” because they played New York in a 2015 exhibition.)

Giannis Antetokounmpo doubtful with ankle injury for Bulls game

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MILWAUKEE (AP) The Milwaukee Bucks say Giannis Antetokounmpo is doubtful for Friday night’s game against the Chicago Bulls with a sprained right ankle.

The All-Star forward got hurt in the second quarter of a 127-120 loss on Wednesday to the Los Angeles Clippers when he appeared to trip over teammate Shabazz Muhammad under the Bucks’ basket.

Antetokounmpo is fourth in the league in scoring at 27.3 points a game.


Anfernee Simons declares for NBA draft straight out of high school (kind of)

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Anfernee Simons spent the last year playing high school basketball. But because he did so as a fifth-year prep after technically graduating from high school last year and turns 19 in June, he’s eligible for the NBA draft.

Following a path taken by Thon Maker and considered by Jonathan Isaac, Simons – as expected – is turning pro.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

Anfernee Simons will forgo his collegiate eligibility and declare for the 2018 NBA draft, he informed ESPN.

Simons informed ESPN that he will sign with agent Bobby Petriella of Rosenhaus Sports Representation

Simons looks like a mid-first-rounder, though his range is quite wide considering how large of a jump he’s making. Teams can learn relatively more about him in workouts and interviews.

A 6-foot-4 shooting guard who specializes in scoring, Simons is quick on his feet with a quick release off the dribble – with range from beyond the 3-point arc to an impressive floater game. Those floaters will be important, because Simons isn’t nearly strong enough for the NBA. He’s also a lackluster passer, though because of physicality concerns, no team will count on Simons to run an offense anytime soon, anyway. He’ll have time to develop as a distributor.

By signing with agents, Simons loses his college eligibility. Drew Rosenhaus, a big-name football agent, isn’t certified with the National Basketball Players Association. Petriella’s only NBA client has been Diamond Stone, a 2016 second-rounder who’s out of the league. They’re all in this bold venture together now.

As the NBA considers changing its draft rules for young prospects, Simons will be an interesting case study. He obviously meets the draft-eligibility requirements in the one-and-done era, but he’s also jumping from prep-school competition to the NBA. The league’s strength and nutrition programs should serve him well. His overall development could influence the wider debate.