Kurt Helin

Associated Press

51 Questions: Who wins Rookie, Coach of the year, other NBA awards?

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We are in the home stretch of PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. For more than a month (and continuing through the start of the NBA season) we tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We are entering the prediction portion of the preview season, today the PBT staff is tackling:

Who wins Rookie, Coach of the year, other NBA awards?

Yesterday we talked MVP picks — and the entire PBT staff disagreed. Today, Kurt HelinDan Feldman, and Dane Carbaugh branch out into the other NBA end-of-season awards and the unanimity goes away. Here are our picks.

Rookie of the Year

Kurt: Kris Dunn (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Dan: Buddy Hield (New Orleans Pelicans)
Dane: Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)

Kurt: This was Ben Simmons’ award to lose, but his injury means he’s not going to play enough games. Joel Embiid could well win the award with enough run and stays healthy, but I’m going to go with Dunn. He played well in Summer League, will get increasing opportunity and trust as the year goes on in Minnesota, and is on an increasingly high-profile team. Dunn is going to be good.
Dan: The race is wide open with Ben Simmons injured. Hield is playing well in the preseason, in line for a decently sized role and relatively polished coming out of Oklahoma. I’d take the field in a landslide, but Hield gets a slight nod over Joel Embiid here.
Dane: It’s going to be a question whether Joel Embiid plays enough minutes to garner him consideration, especially when a minutes restriction can be damaging for rookies when they inevitably hit a wall during some point of the season. Still, Embiid has looked impressive and if he stays on the floor he might have a huge impact for a team where just about any increase in wins will look like a huge improvement over seasons prior.

Sixth Man of the Year

Kurt: Enes Kanter (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Dan: Andre Iguodala (Golden State Warriors)
Dane: Evan Turner (Portland Trail Blazers)

Kurt: I like Sixth Man candidates who are given the mandate to come in and fire away against second units (and not worry so much about the defense). Kanter will put up points, plus is a beast on the offensive glass as well, something seen too rarely today.
Dan: I’m hedging a little. Iguodala could just wind up deserving this award. He has also proven himself an elite backup. Unless someone puts together an excellent season off the bench, Iguodala also has a path through a career-achievement award.
Dane: There are a lot of good candidates for Sixth Man in 2016-17, but the most likely player to remain a bench player while having the biggest impact for a playoff team appears to be Evan Turner. He signed a 4-year, $70 million in the offseason, and Trail Blazers brass has been explicit that Turner was brought in to relieve pressure from Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Moe Harkless looks like the better fit for Portland’s starting unit, but expect Turner to play more minutes off the bench than some of the Blazers starters. If Portland finishes in the middle of the Western Conference this season Turner will be a big reason why.

Coach of the Year

Kurt: Brad Stevens (Boston Celtics)
Dan: Mike D’Antoni (Houston Rockets)
Dane: Brad Stevens (Boston Celtics)

Dan: D’Antoni takes over a team that under-performed last year and installs a system clearly attributed to him. That’s a setup for recognition.
Dane: If Brad Stevens can beat the Vegas over/under of 51.5 wins and take the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland he has a strong chance to win the award. No team has won fewer than 50 games and had their coach win COY since 2006-07, but playoff position for winners has been all over the place. If Stevens gets his team to a Top 3 finish in the East I’d consider him a strong contender.

Defensive Player of the Year

Kurt: Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz)
Dan: Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)
Dane: Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)

Kurt: Leonard may well win a third straight DPOY (and he deserves the honor), but watch out for Gobert. Utah should have a top three defense and Gobert in the paint is the anchor of it. As people figure out just how good Utah is this season, Gobert will get a lot of credit for the defense.
Dan: Leonard has been the NBA’s best defender the last two seasons. I don’t see why this year will be any different.

Most Improved Player

Kurt: Clint Capela (Houston Rockets)
Dan: D'Angelo Russell (Los Angeles Lakers)
Dane: Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns)

Dan: Russell came a long way last season, and he’s uber-talented. With better coaching and one fewer over-the-hill ball hog around him, Russell has all the right conditions to make a leap.
Dane: I’m extremely tempted to take Andrew Wiggins here, but Karl-Anthony Towns’ second year might overshadow some of the steps Wiggins takes in 2016-17. Meanwhile, Devin Booker looks like an absolute nightmare in Phoenix and he still isn’t even legally allowed to drink. The young Suns guard has something about his swagger — not to mention his constant, sneaky talking — that makes you believe in him. It also helps that Phoenix is pledged again to be at the bottom of the Western Conference and Booker’s scoring ability will help him shine among the darkness of the Suns.

Draymond Green says Lakers’ Julius Randle has potential to be better than him

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Lakers’ forward Julius Randle shows a lot of potential — how many forward his size create the majority of their own shots? He has great size and ball handling, and uses his quickness to create all those looks, although he’s got to develop more of a right hand and more of a variety of shots to truly take advantage of all those gifts. Still, the potential is there on both ends of the court.

Draymond Green has seen it.

The Warriors’ cornerstone forward whose versatility is the key to much of what Golden State does said he thinks Randle has the potential to be better than him someday. Via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News/Orange County Register:

“I think he can. I also think he has the potential to be better,” Green said. “With the God-given gifts he has, he has the potential to be better. I’ll continue to grow. I’ll never stop working and I’ll continue to get better. But what is he, 21? That’s a lot of time to continue to grow.”

(Lakers’ coach Luke) Walton said he “absolutely” saw Randle and Green as a “good comparison” before praising their athleticism and playmaking. He then pointed out Green’s superior jump shooting before complimenting Randle for his offseason efforts to improve in that area. Walton then added, “that could be someone you compare to down the road.”

Randle is not Green yet. Not even close. The jumper is part of it, although the bigger issue is the defensive end — where Green is elite, and Randle is good on the boards but a work in progress everywhere else.

Still, everyone sees the potential. Green included.

Randle speaks to why Luke Walton was brought into the Lakers. Randle has great potential. So does D'Angelo Russell. And Brandon Ingram. And Jordan Clarkson. And Larry Nance. You get the idea. The Lakers have an impressive young core, but one they need to develop and add to. Walton is on board to help that group grow into the cornerstones of the next great Lakers team. It’s a process and a slow one.  Patience is required.

PBT Podcast: Anthony Davis, Pelicans, Southwest Division preview with Sean Deveney of Sporting News

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Anthony Davis is a top five NBA player when healthy. A cornerstone for a franchise to build around. A rare talent.

Have the New Orleans Pelicans put the right team around him to start winning?

It doesn’t feel like that, and the pressure is mounting on them to do so, something discussed by Sean Deveney of The Sporting News and Kurt Helin of NBCSports.com in this latest PBT Podcast. The pair branch out from there to discuss the San Antonio Spurs and how big a threat they are to the Warriors, plus the rest of the Southwest Division — Memphis, Houston, and Dallas.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (check there to see all the NBC Sports podcasts), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.

She said, they said: Derrick Rose case boils down to consent

derrick rose trial
Associated Press
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Months before Derrick Rose took the stand to defend himself in the lawsuit claiming he and two buddies gang raped an ex-girlfriend while she was intoxicated, the NBA star was asked if he understood the word consent.

“No. But can you tell me?” he asked at a deposition in June.

Rose came to court last week with a much better grasp of the word that is central to the $21 million civil case, though his interpretation of the concept could still prove costly.

No one disputes Rose and his childhood friends had sex with the woman in her apartment Aug. 27, 2013. The question is whether she consented – as the men claim – or whether she was too incapacitated to do so – as the ex-girlfriend says.

There is no commonly accepted definition for consent, which is at the heart of a “patchwork quilt” of evolving laws on rape and sexual assault that in some cases require an affirmative agreement before sex, attorney Rebecca O’Connor said.

“It is murky and I think that’s where we’re seeing a lot states try to clear the weeds, if you will, and take this on and make it clear,” said O’Connor, a vice president at the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. “It’s so complicated we can never just say it’s black and white.”

Rape was once defined as intercourse with force against a woman’s will, said Matt Lyon, a law professor at Lincoln Memorial University. Reform efforts in some states led to rape being defined more by the non-consent of the victim than a use of force by the perpetrator. States such as California have gone steps further in deciding consent can be withdrawn during sex and that a victim can be too incapacitated to agree to the act.

“One of the big criticisms against the modernization is the `he said, she said,”‘ Lyon said. “It’s so easy when it’s clear there was force used, but here the woman may say it was rape though there’s no physical evidence of force or that it was done against her will.”

That is the situation in the Rose case, where the woman said she blacked out and felt drugged after a night of drinking and hanging out at Rose’s Beverly Hills mansion. With no physical evidence, the case hinges as much on her credibility as that of the three men.

The woman said she went home from Rose’s, vomited, and woke up around 3 a.m. to find Rose, Ryan Allen and Randall Hampton having sex with her against her will.

Rose may have been tripped up by the word consent in his videotaped deposition, but he tried to recover at trial by defining it as both parties being in agreement. He also connected dots he felt outlined consent, including the ex-girlfriend’s racy texts that started 17 hours earlier saying he made her “horny.”

“Maybe she sent suggestive texts or emails, but that doesn’t prove she consented to it at the time,” said Evan Lee, a law professor at the University of California, Hastings College of Law. “A woman may be willing to have sex 23 hours in the day, but if he has sex in that 24th hour when she’s not willing, then that’s rape if he knows she doesn’t want to.”

Rose assumed consent based on their sexual history, the fact she had never denied him and because of sex acts she initiated with him and his friends at the Beverly Hills house earlier in the night, he testified. He and his friends all said the woman seemed sober and she willingly participated in sex.

The Associated Press is not naming her because it generally does not identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault.

The topic of consent and whether someone is too incapacitated to agree to sex have been part of a national discussion after allegations that Bill Cosby drugged and molested dozens of women over decades and after outrage over a six-month sentence for ex-Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, who sexually assaulted a passed-out woman.

The topic has even crossed into the presidential campaign with a recording surfacing of Republican candidate Donald Trump bragging about grabbing women’s genitalia and several women accusing him of groping them.

“People are starting to recognize that even if they didn’t fit whatever mythological circumstance people think needs to happen in order for it to be rape or sexual assault, that there is in fact that gray area where it’s still nonconsensual,” O’Connor said. “Even if you wore a skirt or you didn’t outwardly force someone off you, this may legally fall into the realm of sexual assault.”

Kyle Lowry on how Raptors can beat Cavaliers: Get home court. That or stop LeBron.

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The conventional wisdom around the NBA is in the East there is Cleveland, then there is everybody else. Toronto is one of those teams on the next tier, but it’s a big step down.

But the Raptors had just one fewer regular season wins than the Cavs, then pushed them to six games in the postseason. They don’t see themselves as that far back of the champs.

David Aldridge of NBA.com asked Kyle Lowry what the Raptors need to do to get over the top.

Me: So what do you have to do to beat that team two more times?

KL: Stop LeBron. Stop Kyrie.

Me: A little easier said than done.

KL: I think it’s just focus, and being better. Take the experience of what they did to us and learn from it. We couldn’t win a game (in Cleveland) in the playoffs, couldn’t get close. We have to find a way to win a game on the road, especially them having the one seed. But maybe our chance is to get that one seed. That would help, to have home court advantage. But for us even to get to that point, we have to start somewhere, and it starts in Detroit on opening night.

Assuming LeBron James is healthy, I don’t know that the Raptors can get past the Cavaliers. Or any other team in the East, for that matter.

But what would the Raptors’ need to take that step? DeMarre Carroll to be healthy. Lowry himself to shoot better. Jonas Valanciunas to be an unstoppable force inside. Home court. A couple of fortunate bounces.

Still not sure that’d be enough.