Dan Feldman

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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.

Knicks president Phil Jackson: Carmelo Anthony ‘would be better off somewhere else’

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Carmelo Anthony keeps dropping cryptic hints about his future with the Knicks.

Phil Jackson just provided his position on New York’s biggest star quite explicitly.

“We have not been able to win with him on the court at this time, and I think that the direction of our team is that he is a player that would be better off somewhere else and using his talent somewhere where he can win or chase that championship,” the Knicks president said.

New York was reportedly committed to trading Carmelo Anthony this offseason, but this removes the pretense. Jackson wants to move on.

But will Anthony actually waive his no-trade clause?

Ian Begley of ESPN:

Those with knowledge of the dynamic between Anthony and the Knicks believe that, while no final decision has been made, Anthony is leaning strongly toward waiving the no-trade clause at this point.

No matter what is said publicly, some in the organization believe the only thing that would keep Anthony on the Knicks in 2017-18 is if owner James Dolan fires team president Phil Jackson

The Knicks probably won’t fire Jackson considering they just exercised their option to keep him for the final two years of his contract.

Anthony seems unhappy with the Knicks, and he’d earn a bonus in a trade. He might be better off escaping James Dolan, Jackson and the triangle offense.

Likewise, the Knicks might be better off without Anthony. They could rebuild around the much younger Kristaps Porzingis.

But Anthony has a fondness for New York, and has gone down the road toward leaving before but opted to stay with the Knicks. He holds the cards here, and while it seems he’ll approve a trade, I’m not entirely certain.

Three things to watch: San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies

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1. Will the Grizzlies repeat history?

Thirteen of the last 14 teams to win 60 games won at least one playoff series.

The lone exception: The 2011 Spurs, who earned the No. 1 seed with a 61-21 record then got stunned by the eighth-seeded Grizzlies in six games.

Memphis still has four players – Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Tony Allen (though Allen is injured) – from that epic upset. Those four have created a culture of toughness and tenacity that should still serve the underdogs well.

But the gap is far greater this year – 18 games using Pythagorean wins, as opposed to eight games in 2011.

Determination matters. So does talent, and San Antonio has more of that.

2. How will Memphis score?

The Spurs’ had the NBA’s best defense in the regular season. The Grizzles’ offense ranked 19th, worst among Western Conference playoff teams.

Memphis has actually become reasonable from the beyond the arc, hoisting and making 3-pointers at middling rates.

The Grizzlies just can’t finish at the rim. They rank last in the NBA, shooting 56.4% in the restricted area. And they’re reasonably selective with their attempts there.

That’s an indicator of Memphis’ lackluster athleticism, and San Antonio is darn tough to beat in methodical games.

The Grizzlies’ scoring issues won’t get any easier against an elite defender in Kawhi Leonard, a couple All-Defensive candidates in Danny Green and Dewayne Dedmon and Gregg Popovich’s ace scheming.

3. Will the Gasol Brothers bring intrigue to an otherwise dreary series?

The Spurs (27th) and and Grizzlies (28th) are among the NBA’s slowest-paced teams. The only slower playoff team is the Jazz, who rank 30th in pace. San Antonio and Memphis also emphasize defense.

This series will not feature high-flying, up-tempo, basketball.

But it has a cool storyline: Marc Gasol vs. Pau Gasol.

The brothers have had great careers, and neither is done yet. Marc is integral to the Grizzlies on both ends of the floor, and Pau comes off the bench for the Spurs. So, they might not be matched up much.

Still, the moments these go at each other will be a treat.

2017 PBT Awards: Most Valuable Player

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Kurt Helin

1. Russell Westbrook, Thunder

2. James Harden, Rockets

3. Kawhi Leonard, Spurs

4. LeBron James, Cavaliers

5. Isaiah Thomas, Celtics

There’s a reason this was the most interesting and discussed MVP race in more than a decade — this decision was incredibly difficult. You can put the top three in any order and it will be defendable. I end up with Westbrook on top based on his value to his team and how much he lifted them up, and his clutch play. Also, Thomas just edged out the Greek Freak for that fifth slot.

Note: Helin has an official ballot this year.

Dan Feldman

1. Russell Westbrook, Thunder

2. James Harden, Rockets

3. LeBron James, Cavaliers

4. Kawhi Leonard, Spurs

5. Stephen Curry, Warriors

I could build a compelling case for each of the top four candidates that, when presented on its own, would convince myself that player must be MVP. But when that happens four times, it doesn’t really work.

Russell Westbrook and James Harden separated themselves slightly from the other two with their other-worldly individual production. But did Westbrook contribute more to the Thunder or Harden to the Rockets? No matter how many different ways I slice it, it looks extremely close.

But here’s what I can’t get over: Westbrook was so much better in the clutch than Harden. Clutch stats are often overrated, small samples that aren’t predictive of the future. I’m not saying Westbrook will be clutch in the playoffs. I’m not saying he’ll be clutch next season. But he was clutch this year, turning numerous games in Oklahoma City’s favor that would have been losses if it weren’t for him. That’s on his record, whether or not it’s sustainable – and aspects look sustainable. Nobody can tear through a locked-in defense like Westbrook, and that allowed the Thunder to play defensive-minded players around him down the stretch. So, even though Westbrook is far from the best defender, his singular offensive ability helped Oklahoma City’s defense, especially late. Harden, who scored efficiently himself and created high-percentage shots for teammates, couldn’t quite match that.

Dane Carbaugh

1. Russell Westbrook, Thunder

2. James Harden, Rockets

3. Kawhi Leonard, Spurs

4. LeBron James, Cavaliers

5. Isaiah Thomas, Celtics

We’ve argued endlessly about this, but there’s no way around it: How would you feel if the best player on a playoff team averaged a triple-double for a season, broke the single-season triple-double record, and then DIDN’T win MVP? That’s where I’ve circled on this thing for months, and there’s just no way around it. Harden’s season has been incredible, and he’s helped Houston to a high spot in the West. But Harden’s also had more help, including a coaching system built for his game, two Sixth Man of the Year candidates, and Ryan Anderson. Westbrook is playing with Steven Adams, sometimes Victor Oladipo, and the kind of roster filler you put together for your franchise on NBA 2k17. The 2017 NBA MVP is Russell Westbrook, whether you or I like it or not.