Dan Feldman

FILE -- In this March 12, 2015 file photo, Vanderbilt center Damian Jones (30) pulls in a rebound over Tennessee guard Devon Baulkman (34) and forward Willie Carmichael III (24) in an NCAA college basketball game in  the Southeastern Conference tournament in Nashville, Tenn. Jones has decided earlier this year that he will enter the NBA draft after his junior season. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

Vanderbilt center Damian Jones declares for NBA draft, hiring agent

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Damian Jones said before the season he’d declare for the 2016 NBA draft.

The Vanderbilt center is sticking to the plan.

Vanderbilt release:

Vanderbilt junior center Damian Jones, a three-time All-SEC selection, has informed the Vanderbilt Athletics Administration that he has opted to forego his final year of eligibility and enter the NBA Draft.

Jeff Goodman of ESPN:

Jones is probably a late first-rounder, though he could fall to the second.

The 7-foot Jones has nice size for a center, and his athleticism is outstanding. His positioning needs work, but he has the tools to thrive in the modern NBA defensively.

He’s more of a work in progress offensively, but he projects to fare better at the next level. Vanderbilt often posted him up, which was not his forte. NBA teams will more often use him as the screener in pick-and-rolls, a role that better suits him.

You have to do a little more projecting than ideal for someone who spent three years in college, but there is a clear path for Jones to NBA success. In this draft, that likely puts you in the first round.

Likely top-10 pick Jakob Poeltl entering, staying in, NBA draft

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2016, file photo, Utah forward Jakob Poeltl (42) goes to the basket for a dunk during the second half in an NCAA college basketball game against Washington State in Salt Lake City. Poeltl is leaving school to enter the NBA draft.  He made his plans known Wednesday, April 13, 2016, during a news conference at the Utah basketball practice facility.  (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File(
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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Jakob Poeltl opted for another season at Utah rather than the chance at going in the 2015 NBA draft lottery.

Now, he looks like a probable top-10 pick.

Utah release:

Utah sophomore forward Jakob Poeltl will enter the 2016 NBA Draft, Poeltl and Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak announced in a press conference on Wednesday. Poeltl plans to sign with an agent, concluding his career at Utah.

After showing his defensive and rebounding chops last year, the mobile 7-footer expanded his offensive game this season. Poeltl became a much more impactful inside scorer, and he even added a passing element to his game. His defense might have taken a small step back, but the overall package looks more intriguing.

Poeltl also got stronger, reducing – but not erasing – a major concern about his game.

This draft thins considerably after Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram. Poeltl belongs in the deep discussion of potential No. 3 picks.

Kawhi Leonard repeats as Defensive Player of the Year

San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard runs up the court after scoring during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers, Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 106-92. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
AP Photo/Darren Abate
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Kawhi Leonard, 2015 Defensive Player of the Year, is now 2016 Defensive Player of the Year

He becomes the first non-big man to repeat as winner since Dennis Rodman in 1990 and 1991. When defenses are designed for bigs to have greater impact, Leonard stands out as a terror on the perimeter. He locks down his man, hawks passing lanes and helps on the glass.

Here’s the full voting with player, team (first-place votes, second-place votes, third-place votes, points):

  1. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio (84-41-4-547)
  2. Draymond Green, Golden State (44-62-15-421)
  3. Hassan Whiteside, Miami  (2-12-37-83)
  4. DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers (0-7-29-50)
  5. Paul Millsap, Atlanta (0-3-12-21)
  6. Avery Bradley, Boston (0-1-11-14)
  7. Rudy Gobert, Utah (0-1-10-13)
  8. Tony Allen, Memphis (0-1-2-5)
  9. Anthony Davis, New Orleans (0-1-1-4)
  10. Andre Drummond, Detroit (0-1-0-3)
  11. Jimmy Butler, Chicago (0-0-2-2)
  12. LeBron James, Cleveland (0-0-2-2)
  13. Al Horford, Atlanta (0-0-1-1)
  14. Jae Crowder, Boston (0-0-1-1)
  15. Trevor Ariza, Houston (0-0-1-1)
  16. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers (0-0-1-1)
  17. Kyle Lowry, Toronto (0-0-1-1)

Takeaways:

  • All three of us chose Leonard as our Defensive Player of the Year. This was both expected and earned. Leonard was the NBA’s best defensive player when on the court last season. This season, he stayed healthy, making him the clear choice.
  • Green was just as much a lock to finish second. His versatility for the Warriors is incredible.
  • Whiteside finished a surprise third. His 3.7 blocks per game not only led the NBA, they were the most by a player in 15 years. In a less-informed era, that might have won him this award. But the fact that Heat allowed fewer points per possession with him off the floor – an overused but still relevant stat – is indicative of reality: Whiteside too often makes poor decisions, chases blocks and gets out of position.  He’s a good defender – a very good one. His elite strengths outweigh his weaknesses. But when it comes to being considered one of the very best in the NBA, his flaws matter more.
  • Surprising Tim Duncan and Andrew Bogut both received no votes. I rate them as the best defenders when on the court behind only Leonard and Green. But neither Duncan nor Bogut played enough for any voter.
  • The Pacers, third in points allowed per possession, were the only top-eight defense without a vote-getter. That’s another surprise given Paul George‘s name recognition.

Heat beat up Hornets in Game 1

Charlotte Hornets forward Marvin Williams, front left, goes to the basket as Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) defends during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series Sunday, April 17, 2016, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
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Hassan Whiteside started to flex his right arm while still swinging on the rim by his left hand. It was as if he couldn’t wait until landing to celebrate his strength.

A moment later, Whiteside came down from his dunk while drawing a foul, flexed both arms and smacked his chest. From the bench, teammates Justise Winslow, Richardson and Briante Weber imitated him with their own flexes, exaggeratedly puffed-out chests and big grins.

The Heat overpowered the Hornets inside in a 123-91 Game 1 laugher Sunday.

Luol Deng scored 31 as Miami set a franchise record for points in a playoff game. The Heat’s field-goal percentage, 57.6, was the most by any team this postseason or last. Their 28 baskets in the paint matched Charlotte’s total makes.

Even when Miami missed, it turned out OK. Before the final quarter, when they took their foot off the gas, the Heat had a offensive rating of 81.8… on possessions where they missed a shot. That’s better than the Rockets (73.9) or Mavericks (70.4) did overall yesterday.

Miami was so dominant, history suggests this series is already over. No NBA team has ever lost a first-round series after winning Game 1 by at least 30, going 12-for-12 entering this year.

Charlotte falls to 0-9 in the playoffs since reemerging as the Bobcats in 2004, and this defeat was twice as lopsided as any of the other eight.

Recovering from this setback won’t be easy. The Hornets allowed an NBA-low 20.2% offensive-rebounding percentage during the regular season, but the Heat cranked that up to 43.5% through three quarters. Essentially, Charlotte’s biggest strength turned into a debilitating liability.

Whiteside (21 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks and two steals) dictated so much of the game, acing his first playoff test. Dwyane Wade added 16 points, using his post-up skills well.

Nicolas Batum (24 points) provided a little individual offensive punch for Charlotte, but he couldn’t help get his teammates going against a stifling Heat defense. He had more turnovers (three) than assists (one), as did Kemba Walker (two to one).

Cavaliers put Kevin Love at center to pull away from Pistons

Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love (0) shoots against Detroit Pistons' Reggie Bullock (25) in the first half in Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, Sunday, April 17, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
AP Photo/Tony Dejak
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No. 8 seed Detroit had gone blow for blow with top-seeded Cavaliers for three quarters, and the Pistons landed a couple hard punches early in the fourth period, taking a seven-point lead.

“This is right where we want to be, right here,” Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy told his team. “Right where we want to be.”

But then Cleveland showed the beauty of its star-studded roster. Even when the Cavs are far from where they want to be, their versatility provides options. Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue broke out an extreme one earlier than expected in the playoffs:

Kevin Love at center.

The Cavaliers outscored the Pistons by 13 with Love at center in the fourth quarter of a 106-101 win Sunday.

Love (28 points and 13 rebounds) excelled throughout the game, but his floor-spacing as a center took Cleveland to another level offensively. He also prevented Detroit from exposing him on the other end, though Van Gundy will surely hone in on ways to attack a center-playing Love in Game 2.

LeBron James moves to 11-0 in first-round Game 1s, but none had been this close.

LeBron (22 points, 11 assists, only one turnover) played well, particularly as a passer. Cleveland committed just five turnovers and found good shots. It also helps when to have scorers like Kyrie Irving (31 points, six assists, only one turnover).

A solid game from Cleveland wasn’t enough for an easy win, because the streaky Pistons made 15-of-29 3-pointers. Detroit’s own passing created a reasonable number of open looks, but that hot outside shooting probably isn’t sustainable.

And if it somehow is? Lue can re-shuffle his stars and try to find another ace adjustment.