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PBT Awards: Rookie of the Year

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Kurt Helin

1. Donovan Mitchell, Jazz

2. Ben Simmons, 76ers

3. Jayson Tatum, Celtics

I flip flopped on the top two the last couple months of the season, and even the last couple of days. Both are deserving, but you can’t split your vote. What decided it for me? Not that ridiculous “Ben Simmons isn’t a true rookie” crap, which is both silly and a moot line of logic. No, it was the load Mitchell had to take on for the Jazz to even get that team into the playoffs. Simmons was more efficient, is a better passer and rebounder, I like Simmons’ switchability more on defense,  but he had Joel Embiid and other guys who could make plays (Redick, McConnell) around him. As usage rate shows (Mitchell was 7 percent higher), a lot more was asked of Mitchell, particularly in the clutch, and he responded better than we have seen from a rookie in a long time.

Dan Feldman

1. Ben Simmons, 76ers

2. Donovan Mitchell, Jazz

3. Jayson Tatum, Celtics

The 76ers’ offense ran through Ben Simmons because he was uniquely capable. The Jazz’s offense ran through Donovan Mitchell because it had to. That difference is why this is even a debate. Simmons made greater contributions this season, but playing with more capable offensive teammates – including Joel Embiid, an All-Star – helped. Facing a greater nightly burden, Mitchell acquitted himself extremely well. Ultimately, Simmons’ all-around game – especially defensively – gives him the edge. A key ding for Mitchell: He was an inefficient chucker early before settling in. The whole season counts.

Dane Carbaugh

1. Ben Simmons, 76ers

2. Donovan Mitchell, Jazz

3. Zach Collins, Trail Blazers

Ben Simmons is the runaway winner and it hasn’t been close ever since Joel Embiid went down with an orbital fracture. The one thing Donovan Mitchell had going for him was a clear-cut value to his team. That got stripped away when Simmons switched to another gear with Embiid out. By advanced analytics, Simmons is a much better offensive player, passer, and rebounder. Oh, and he’s a better VORP and net rating guy than Mitchell by a long shot. I’m adding Zach Collins in here because third place in this race doesn’t matter and he’s been an absolute surprise for Portland this year.

Report: Grizzlies valued at $1.3 billion+ in buy-sell transaction

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Robert Pera elected to retain controlling interest of the Grizzlies.

How much will it cost him?

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

Robert Pera’s deal to retain control of the Memphis Grizzlies under the terms of an unusual buy-sell clause values the team between $1.3 billion and $1.4 billion, a big price tag for a small-market team that has been among the league’s largest revenue-sharing recipients, sources familiar with the process told ESPN.

Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post:

The bought-out minority owners, Steve Kaplan and Daniel E. Straus, owned about 30% of the franchise, according Lowe. That means this will cost cost Pera between $390 million and $420 million.

That’s a huge outlay, considering Pera bought the team in 2012 for $377 million. That’s why Memphis is now expected to keep interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff rather than hire a more-expensive replacement. Other payroll reductions could be coming.

Pera has painted this move as a step toward stability, but it could mean the opposite. Forbes recently valued the Grizzlies at $1.025 billion. The unique nature of the buy-sell clause probably drove up the valuation in this case, as Kaplan and Straus wanted to drive out Pera or get paid. Memphis is one of the NBA’s smallest markets, and Pera’s suddenly larger investment is far more likely to pay off elsewhere – either with him moving the team or selling it to someone who would.

The Grizzlies are moving past this paralyzing saga, but it’s not cut-and-dry to what.

Complete NBA playoff scenarios

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In the Western Conference, the Rockets are locked in as the No. 1 seed and the Warriors are guaranteed the No. 2 seed. The winner of the Nuggets-Timberwolves game tomorrow will make the playoffs and the loser won’t.

All eight Eastern Conference playoff teams are set. The Raptors will be the No. 1 seed, the Celtics the No. 2 seed and the Pacers the No. 5 seed.

Beyond that? Chaos:

Thankfully, the NBA released these handy guides for understanding the stakes of the final two days of the regular season:2018-NBA-playoff-scenarios-updated-4-10-1

2018-NBA-playoff-scenarios-updated-4-10-2

Kentucky guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, potential lottery pick, declares for NBA draft

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Another Kentucky one-and-done.

Following Kevin Knox (and numerous players before them), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is turning pro.

Kentucky release:

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s meteoric rise will continue with his eligibility in the 2018 NBA Draft. The Kentucky men’s basketball freshman guard plans to enter his name in this year’s draft and will sign with an agent, which would effectively end his collegiate career at UK.

Gilgeous-Alexander has improved throughout the season to the point he could be a lottery pick. He’ll probably go in the first round.

Like most combo guards, Gilgeous-Alexander has the most upside at point guard. Also like most combo guards, the 6-foot-6 Alexander is tall for a point guard but doesn’t have the requisite skills yet for that position.

Gilgeous-Alexander’s top asset is his 7-foot wingspan. He uses it to shoot from evasive angles on drives, as he’s comfortable absorbing contact while flipping up shots. That’s an important skill considering he lacks the hops to play above the rim. His length also helps with strong defense on and off the ball. However, Gilgeous-Alexander’s defensive versatility will be limited unless he gets stronger – not a given, considering his narrow frame.

Gilgeous-Alexander is too sloppy with the ball, and he’s not an advanced distributor. But move him off the ball, and his reluctance to shoot 3-pointers becomes an even bigger issue.

Gilgeous-Alexander’s improvement throughout the season instills confidence. It indicates a strong work ethic and determination. He’ll need that to refine his game.

PBT Awards: Most Improved Player

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Kurt Helin

1. Victor Oladipo, Pacers

2. Spencer Dinwiddie, Nets

3. Julius Randle, Lakers

This was a runaway for the top spot, Oladipo is the clear choice (the only question in the final balloting will be is it unanimous). Oladipo took on a much heavier offensive load and yet was far more efficient doing so, plus he had an All-Defensive-team-level season on the other end. There were a number of other guys in the running the last two slots — just like with Sixth Man, it was tough to leave Fred VanVleet off — but Dinwiddie proved he is a solid NBA point guard with his step forward this season in Brooklyn, and Randle learned how to play to his strengths in Los Angeles and that is going to earn him a massive payday this summer.

Dan Feldman

1. Victor Oladipo, Pacers

2. Dario Saric, 76ers

3. Fred VanVleet, Raptors

Victor Oladipo turned himself from an uninspiring starter into a star. He got into great shape, developed his 3-pointer and seized control of a seemingly directionless Pacers team. Oladipo became even more efficient while also shouldering a larger load – the ideal 1-2 for a Most Improved Player.  Dario Saric got so much better in precisely the ways the 76ers – specifically, Ben Simmons – needed. Saric gets extra credit for hitting that narrow target. Mere general improvement wouldn’t have had nearly the same effect. Fred VanVleet was barely in the NBA last season. This year, he’s leading the NBA’s best bench.