<span class="vcard">Kurt Helin</span>

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Duke freshman point guard Tyus Jones enters NBA draft, likely first-round pick

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And Tyus Jones makes three.

Wednesday Jones became the third player from Duke’s national championship team to declare for the NBA Draft. He joins Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow in that class, although the other two are expected top 10 picks and Jones likely goes later in the first round.

Jones had a strong season for the Blue Devils, averaging 11.8 points, 5.6 assists, 3.5 boards and 1.5 steals a game this season. He was named the Final Four Most Outstanding Player.

If you watched him in the Final Four you saw a guy with some skills that will translate to the next level — he’s good on the pick-and-roll, he can get into the lane, he’s got a decent outside shot, and he just knows how to run a team. But there are questions about his defense and, more importantly, his ceiling, which hold him down a little. DraftExpress.com has him going No. 20.

Here is what PBT’s NBA Draft Expert  Ed Isaacson of Rotoworld and NBADraftBlog broke down Jone’s game for us.

A few positives stand out for Jones. First, he has a very good understanding of the pick-and-roll game already for his age; he makes good, quick reads and he’s a strong, sometimes creative passer. Also, he makes good decisions with the ball, though he can have some problems being pressured or against guards with some length. Jones has shown ability to knock down open jumpers, and he can make defenders pay if they try to go under a screen against him, though he needs to be more consistent. Jones is solid in transition, even though he doesn’t have great speed/acceleration, relying on ballhandling/smarts to keep defenders off-balance. He does have some problems getting to the rim, and if he does, he can some problems scoring against long-defenders. Jones does thrive on the big moment, as shown in the NCAA Tournament, and he wants the ball in his hands when a game is on the line. 

Defensively, Jones had a lot of trouble defending on the perimeter in his one year of college, and things will probably get worse for him before they get better going against NBA speed. He doesn’t have very good size, and can be slow to react, but he has good awareness and will try to make plays.
I think Jones does have a future in the NBA, but it’s likely has a backup, and even then, it may be a couple of years for him to be ready to go up against NBA guards. Mentally, he has what it takes, but the physical part may give him issues. He is the kind of guard that coaches will like having, and will eventually feel comfortable giving him control for stretches of a game. I think he would be a safe risk in the late 1st round, hopefully with a team that can give him time to develop.

Report: NBA owners to see “range of options” to alter playoff format

Adam Silver
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If the NBA had gone to a “best 16 teams” format for the NBA playoffs this season, what would have been different? Not much. Indiana/Brooklyn would be out, and both Oklahoma City and New Orleans would be in. That’s it. Boston would have still gotten the 16th and final playoff slot (and then had to fly cross country to take on Golden State). Yes, teams would have played differently at the end of the season, but the change was not as dramatic as it seemed mid-season.

Still, the imbalance of depth in the Eastern and Western conferences remains a talking point, and with that it is one of the things NBA owners will discuss at upcoming league meetings.

Howard Beck at Bleacher Report got Commissioner Adam Silver to comment on this.

Owners will be presented a “range of options,” commissioner Adam Silver told Bleacher Report. But the discussion is only in its “early stages,” Silver noted, and no action is expected for a while.

“There are no quick fixes,” Silver said. “Frankly, if there were quick fixes, we would have already made them.”

Also, there are not fixes that owners easily will agree upon. You can bet owners in the East are not thinking “I’d be happy to give up a couple playoff games worth of home game revenue to make bloggers happy.” It will be contentious.

And there are a lot of grounds to be contentious about.

Proposals to seed teams one through 16, without respect to conference, raise concerns over travel, rest and scheduling, issues the league is now grappling with.

Yet it’s hard to dismiss the cringe-worthy sight of losing teams making the playoffs in one conference, while a stronger team in a superior conference is shut out—and even more so when that happens eight years in a row.

“I don’t want to overreact to any particular set of circumstances,” Silver said, urging caution.

One thing that could get tweaked is the rule that guarantees a top four seed to a division winner. This season Portland will be the four seed, but without home-court advantage in the first round, because they won the Northwest Division. Their record should have them as the six seed in the West. But to change that gets into questions of schedule balance and tradition.

Which is to say, don’t bet on any changes.

At least under Adam Silver the owners are talking about it. That is a start.

New York Knicks get “One Shining Moment” treatment for 2014-15 season (VIDEO)

Phil Jackson Press Conference
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It’s not the highest quality video, but the sentiment and effort are spot on.

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2014-15 New York Knicks.

(Hat tip That NBA Lottery Pick)

Breaking down Eastern Conference playoff scenarios: Bulls, Pacers control their destinies

Chicago Bulls v Atlanta Hawks
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Only one night is left in the NBA season and yet just one playoff matchup is set in the East. That said, things are a little more settled in this conference than out West, and we have an idea how this likely shakes out… then again, nothing as shook out the way we expected in the East this season. So why should it now?

Here is how the East playoffs stand heading into the final night of the NBA season.

No. 1 seed: The Atlanta Hawks have officially locked up the top spot. They have home court throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

No. 2 seed: The Cleveland Cavaliers’ have locked up the two seed and will face the Boston Celtics in the first round. Maybe the better way to phrase that is they will tune up for the playoffs against Boston.

No. 3-4 seeds: Thanks to Jae Crowder’s leaning, contested, is-that-really-the-shot-you-want, game winner that put the Celtics in the playoffs, the Bulls control their own destiny for the postseason. With that Toronto loss to Boston, Chicago is one game ahead of Toronto for the three seed in the East — beat Atlanta (likely to be resting guys) Wednesday and Chicago finishes the three seed, Toronto the four. However, if the Hawks beat the Bulls, and the Raptors knock off slumping Charlotte (as expected), the Raptors would get the three seed. It’s all in the Bulls’ hands (or hooves, as the case may be).

No. 5 seed: The Washington Wizards are now locked in here and will start the playoffs on the road. Before the season, we expected more out of this group. A first round playoff win helps us look past that.

No. 6 seed: The Milwaukee Bucks locked up the six seed. That’s quite an accomplishment for a team most thought was lottery bound before the season.

No. 7 seed: With its dramatic win Tuesday, the Celtics have locked this spot up. Good on them. Brad Stevens deserves a lot of credit for building a selfless team in Boston. One where they share the ball,  cut hard and move off the ball, and play with an energy that is fun to watch. The Celtics did not get here on pure talent — a number of teams they beat out to make the playoffs have more raw talent — but rather on how well they used what they have. They run a beautiful, modern offense.

No. 8 seed: It’s pretty simple for Indiana — beat Memphis and you’re in as the eight seed. Despite all the injuries and the rough season, Indiana would get a ticket to the dance. However, Memphis needs this win, too (their only hope of getting the five seed out West is a win and some help). If the Pacers lose, the Nets can be in if they beat the Magic. And Brooklyn should beat Orlando. Either of these teams will barely be a speed bump for the Hawks in the first round, but both would like to get an invite to the prom at least.

Breaking down Western Conference playoff scenarios: Spurs, Pelicans both need a win

San Antonio Spurs v New Orleans Pelicans
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Only one night is left in the NBA season and yet not one playoff matchup is set in the West. Which is insane. From our preseason previews on we at PBT (and NBA media everywhere) talked about how stacked and tight the West was, but this is uncomfortably close, like Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Here is where things stand going into a key final night of games.

No. 1 seed: The Golden State Warriors have officially secured up the top spot, not just in the West but in the entire NBA. They will have home court as long as they last in the playoffs.

No. 2-6 seeds: This remains the cluster… there are still eight different scenarios that can play out here depending on what the Spurs, Grizzlies, and Rockets do Wednesday.

Let’s break this out by team.

San Antonio controls its own destiny. With a win over the Pelicans Wednesday night they win the Southwest Division and are the two seed (meaning they face Dallas in the first round). However, lose and they could fall as far as the six seed depending on what everyone else does, it gets really complex. Gregg Popovich is not a fan of uncertainty; he’s not resting guys he will go for the win.

The Los Angeles Clippers are likely the three seed; they can fall no lower than that after beating the Suns on Monday. They can be the two seed but only if both the Spurs and Rockets lose on Wednesday (not a likely outcome).

Portland is the four seed and will still be the road team in the first round.

Houston could climb as high as the two seed, they just need to beat Utah on Wednesday and hope the Spurs lose to the Pelicans (in that scenario the Rockets are the Southwest Division winners and get the two seed with it). They cannot be the three seed (after the Clippers win Tuesday), so if the Spurs win the Rockets likely are the five seed. In one scenario, if the Spurs and Rockets lose but the Grizzlies win on Wednesday, the Rockets can fall all the way to sixth.

Memphis can now only be the five or six seed in the West. If the Spurs and Rockets win it doesn’t matter what the Grizzlies do, they are the sixth seed. The Grizzlies can climb to the five seed if they beat Indiana Wednesday while Houston loses to the Jazz. If the Rockets and Grizzlies win but the Spurs lose then Memphis climbs to the five seed also.

No. 7 seed: The Dallas Mavericks are locked in here.

No. 8 seed: The Pelicans control their own destiny. New Orleans and Oklahoma City are tied for the eight seed, and the Pelicans own the tie breaker. If New Orleans wins Wednesday, they go to the playoffs. However, the Pelicans are going to face a motivated Spurs team that has won 11 in a row and needs to make it a dozen to get the two seed. If the Pelicans lose all the Thunder need to do is beat the banged-up Timberwolves — losers of 11 in a row — to secure the eight seed. It feels like things have lined up for Oklahoma City.