Dan Feldman

C.J. McCollum and Draymond Green enjoying trash-talking each other

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Draymond Green spent a lot of the Warriors’ Game 1 win over the Trail Blazers dancing around the court and rubbing in Golden State’s success.

So, when Green missed a dunk, C.J. McCollum had some words for him.

Green, via Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area:

“Yeah, he told me I need to do more calf raises,” Green said, laughing. “No, it’s mutual respect both ways. We’ve played those guys last year in the series, but quite a bit over the last four or five years where you kind of know them, they know you.

“But we all know each other off the floor as well. It’s not like there’s anyone out there being disrespectful towards another. It’s fun. You hit a shot, he’s talking to us. I hit a shot, I’m talking to them. I miss the dunk, he’s telling me I need to do calf raises. It was good back and forth, it makes the game a lot more fun, that’s for sure.”

McCollum, via Poole:

“It’s a game we all love,” Blazers guard CJ McCollum said. “We come out here and represent our teams, representing our hometowns where everybody’s from. And where I’m from, if you talk trash, then I’m going to talk trash to you. It’s not disrespectful. We’re not talking about nobody’s mamas or nothing bad.”

This is great. Trash talk is part of the game and, on its own, not a reason for offense. McCollum and Green know the limits and have fun within them.

The NBA is better off because of competition like this.

Justin Jackson, after North Carolina championship, entering NBA draft

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Before Villanova last year, the previous five NCAA champions sent a player to the first round of the following NBA draft.

North Carolina has a chance to restore the national title-to-first round pipeline this year with Justin Jackson

North Carolina release:

Consensus first-team All-America forward and 2017 ACC Player of the Year Justin Jackson will enter the NBA Draft and sign with a professional representative, foregoing his senior year of college after the leading the University of North Carolina to the NCAA championship.

Jackson is a good bet to become the oldest player chosen in the first round, though he could slip into the second (and/or get jumped by someone older).

The 22-year-old junior is an antiquated prospect. He’s an upperclassmen who specializes in the mid-range game.

His improved outside shooting boosts his NBA stock. He made 37% of his 3-pointers this year on high volume, including many attempts from NBA distance.

But, in a small-sample irony, going 0-for-9 on 3s in the national-title game will invite questions about his reliability from distance. Jackson shot just 30% on 3-pointers his first two seasons and never better than 75% on free throws.

At 6-foot-8 with length, Jackson can defend multiple positions. But he’s rigid and neither quite athletic nor strong enough to dominate either end of the court. It often seems he operates from the mid-range because he lacks physicality to drive into the paint. Jackson’s lack of strength is particularly concerning because he was older than most of his opponents last year.

Jackson mostly plays within his limitations, which was great for North Carolina. He’s just dealing with more limitations than ideal for the NBA.

Three things to watch: Boston Celtics vs. Chicago Bulls

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1. How vulnerable are the Celtics?

Boston outscored opponents by just 2.6 points per game – the second-lowest mark ever for the No. 1 seed in either conference. Only the 1976 Celtics (+2.3) fared worse and still claimed a conference’s top seed.

This Boston team still rates ahead of the Bulls (+0.4), but Chicago played exceptionally well when using only players projected to be in its playoff rotation. The deep Celtics received a much smaller bump when eliminating lineups that include players unlikely to have roles in this series.

Plus, Boston’s biggest weakness (defensive rebounding) coincides with one of the Bulls’ biggest strengths (offensive rebounding).

That said, Chicago hasn’t crashed the glass nearly as well since trading Taj Gibson. And in the same period, the Celtics have defensively rebounded much better, up to a middling rate.

Boston isn’t as strong as a typical No. 1 seed, and the rebounding is concerning. But the Celtics still have an overall advantage, and the matchup issues aren’t as troublesome as they appear at first glance.

2. How does Chicago defend Isaiah Thomas?

A key reason Boston went 53-29 and outperformed their Pythagorean-projected record of 48-34: Isaiah Thomas scored excellently in the clutch, turning multiple seemingly coin-flip games in the Celtics’ favor. Even when everyone knew Thomas would dominate the ball, nobody could stop him.

Will the Bulls?

Rajon Rondo hasn’t defended well in years. Jimmy Butler, who sounds up for the challenge and can probably cause problems in small doses, is more accustomed to covering bigger wings. Dwyane Wade probably can’t handle an assignment like Thomas anymore. Giving more minutes to Jerian Grant, Michael Carter-Williams, Cameron Payne or Isaiah Canaan invites its own problems, not to mention no clear solution for Thomas.

The Bulls better focus on punishing the 5-foot-9 Thomas on the other end.

3. Can Dwyane Wade coexist with his teammates?

With Wade sidelined by injury late in the season, Chicago went 7-4. Rajon Rondo (10.9 points, shooting 47.0% from the field and 40.7% on 3-pointers, 8.5 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game) and Nikola Mirotic (16.9 points per game, shooting 52.3% from the field and 48.7% on 3-pointers) particularly looked more comfortable in that span. The Bulls shot 38.7% on 3-pointers in those games.

Now Wade comes back to… add talent? Complicate floor balance?

It’s unclear whether Chicago just happened to get hot while Wade sat or whether he’s restricting his teammates. The answer could make all the difference for the Bulls.

Wade, Rondo and Butler have played an entire season together, but we’re still wondering about the very first question with this team.

Dillon Brooks leaves Oregon for NBA draft

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Oregon’s NCAA tournament star, Tyler Dorsey, declared for the NBA draft.

Now, Oregon’s best player, Dillon Brooks, will follow.

Oregon release:

Brooks, the 2016-17 Pac-12 player of the year who helped lead Oregon back to its first Final Four since 1939, has elected to forego his final season of collegiate eligibility and enter the NBA Draft pool. Brooks intends to sign with an agent, finalizing his decision to depart.

Brooks was an excellent offensive player in college. A 6-foot-7 undersized power forward, he scored all over the court. He could take bigger defenders off the dribble, post up defenders players and shoot from several locations. He also passes well, and Oregon ran its offense through him.

But given his size limitations, will he continue to cause mismatches at the next level? Is his 3-pointer — 40% on higher volume, up from 34% the last two years — reliable?

His unimpressive rebounding and defense give major pause about Brooks’ ability to play power forward in the NBA. At small forward, he might be just another guy.

Still, he has enough talent to draw late-first-round consideration. The second round appears more likely, though.

2017 PBT Awards: All-NBA

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Kurt Helin

First Team

Second Team

Third Team

The first team to me was fairly obvious — and Anthony Davis played more than 60 percent of his minutes this season at center, he defends opposing centers, he is a center (next year that may be different). It was very difficult to leave Paul George, Klay Thompson, and DeMarcus Cousins off these lists, but for me Jordan, Wall, and Butler had slightly better seasons.

Note: Helin has an official ballot this year.

Dan Feldman

First team

  • G: Russell Westbrook, Thunder
  • G: James Harden, Rockets
  • F: LeBron James, Cavaliers
  • F: Kawhi Leonard, Spurs
  • C: Rudy Gobert, Jazz

Second team

  • G: Stephen Curry, Warriors
  • G: Isaiah Thomas, Celtics
  • F: Jimmy Butler, Bulls
  • F: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks
  • C: Anthony Davis, Pelicans

Third team

  • G: Chris Paul, Clippers
  • G: John Wall, Wizards
  • F: Draymond Green, Warriors
  • F: Kevin Durant, Warriors
  • C: DeMarcus Cousins, Pelicans

There were three tough calls:

Rudy Gobert’s stout defense and underrated offense just outpaced Anthony Davis’ do-it-all game for first-team center.

Kevin Durant might have won MVP if he stayed healthy. Gordon Hayward played very well and a lot more. I gave the third-team forward spot to Durant.

DeMarcus Cousins edged a deep field for third-team center that also included Nikola Jokic, DeAndre Jordan, Karl-Anthony Towns and Marc Gasol.

Dane Carbaugh

First team

  • G: James Harden, Rockets
  • G: Russell Westbrook, Thunder
  • F: Kawhi Leonard, Spurs
  • F: LeBron James, Cavaliers
  • C: Rudy Gobert, Jazz

Second team

  • G: Stephen Curry, Warriors
  • G: Isaiah Thomas, Celtics
  • F: Kevin Durant, Warriors
  • F: Draymond Green, Warriors
  • C: Anthony Davis, Pelicans

Third team

  • G: John Wall, Wizards
  • G: DeMar DeRozan, Raptors
  • F: Paul George, Pacers
  • F: Jimmy Butler, Bulls
  • C: Marc Gasol, Grizzlies

Picking these teams is a near impossible task that is sure to satisfy nobody. The first team is a little easier thanks to it being stocked with the top MVP candidates, but as we move on down the list it’s hard to compare both positional issues alongside with value and contextual leaps in production by player. I think a particular sticking point to me was putting John Wall on the second team. He had such a great season and outside of James Harden and Russell Westbrook, he was the most consistently fun guard to watch this year. All these players are right, but the order could be debated for months. Maybe by then we will have settled on an MVP.