Kurt Helin

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Has Brandon Ingram passed Ben Simmons on NBA draft boards?


Ben Simmons is taking his talents to the NBA (with LeBron’s agent).

The question is where will he land? And when will he get picked?

Last week, Jonathan Givony — the well-connected man behind DraftExpress.com — moved Ben Simmons from the projected top spot in the draft down to No. 2 and replaced him with Duke’s Brandon Ingram.

This stirred plenty of discussion. Know this: if Givony is putting it up, it means some teams are discussing it.

This may also be a shock to some fans of the Sixers, Lakers, Suns, Celtics and others who thought Simmons was not only the presumptive No. 1 pick, but also he is a franchise changing player.

Franchise cornerstone may be his ceiling, but a lot of teams don’t think he’ll get there.

“The hype that Ben Simmons had entering the season was totally unfair, NBC’s college basketball guru Rob Dauster told PBT this week. “He was compared to LeBron James and Magic Johnson, which was insane. No 19 year old should ever be compared to two of the greatest basketball players that have ever lived.

“And frankly, what he’s doing this season isn’t all that different from what he did throughout his high school and international career. He’s never been able to shoot, he’s always wanted to be a point guard, he’s never had much of an interest in being a defensive menace, he’s always had short arms.”

Simmons has flaws. Make no mistake; he has a broken jumper. There are also questions about his passion for the game and if he’ll put in the work needed to get near that ceiling. Both Dauster and NBA Draft Blog (and Rotoworld writer) Ed Isaacson had the same comparison for Simmons I had heard from other scouts:

Peak Lamar Odom.

There are real comparisons with their development — high school Odom was the (or one of the) top players coming out of high school, a guy with great skills but questions about how his game would evolve, and his passion for the game.

Peak Odom was a very good player — 14.4 points and 8.7 assists per game in 2010-11, he had a PER of 19.4 that season and was Sixth Man of the Year on a championship Lakers team — but he was the third best player on that team.

But do you want to spend the No. 1 pick on a guy who is your third best player someday?

Is Ingram any better?

Simmons certainly has the higher potential, the question is do you think he’ll put in the work to reach it? This is not a guy coming in with the reputation for work that Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns have.

“I had one NBA front office member tell me last week that Ingram has always been No. 1 for him because he doesn’t think that he’ll put in the amount of work that, say, Kawhi Leonard put in to be a good shooter,” Dauster said.

A lot of fans — and some members of the media — talked about what they saw as a lack of effort in big games like Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas A&M, and they were right about that. But while this may have been a revelation to those fans and media, it has been in the NBA scouting report on Simmons for a long time.

That said, the guy could be great — and the NBA draft is about the player a guy can be in three to five years down the line, not who they are on draft night. It’s a projection.

In the end, the scouts I have spoken with still have Simmons as likely going No. 1

Think of it like a GM: You can’t risk leaving that much potential on the draft board. The last thing you want to hear from fans and ownership is “how did you pass on this franchise changing player?” It’s one thing if you pass on Giannis Antetokounmpo or someone out of a small school with questions, But Simmons has been at the top of his class from the start. If you talk yourself out of him then he turns out to reach that ceiling, you better polish up your resume.

“I think Simmons has a much higher ceiling than Ingram, even though I do think Ingram’s size and length will make him an excellent player in the league when he adds some weight and strength,” Dauster said. “Simmons could end up being a top 5-10 player in the NBA one day, though, but it will be up to the team with the No. 1 pick to decide if their organization is going to be willing to bet on him one day getting there.”

Then the question becomes can that team develop him.

NBC/PBT NBA Power Rankings: Spurs take over top spot after knocking off Warriors

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We have a new No. 1 after the Spurs controlled the style of play and beat the Warriors over the weekend (although all that game really proves is those two teams will have an epic Western Conference Finals). Elsewhere the Hawks are climbing, the Clippers are slipping.

source: 1. Spurs (59-10, LW 2).The win over Golden State showed a few things the Spurs want/need to do against the Warriors in a seven-game series: Slow the tempo (12 below GSW average), use entire team to defend Stephen Curry beyond the arc, dominate the glass, hit their midrange shots, get a little lucky. Their defense sets the tone. Fun challenge at Oklahoma City this week.

source: 2. Warriors (62-7, last week No. 1). A few guys are out, but they miss the injured Andre Iguodala more than any of them, especially when Golden State goes small. They need to go 11-2 the rest of the way to break the Bulls’ 72-win record, which Draymond Green seems to think they can do in their sleep. It’s not going to be that easy, starting with having to face the Clippers this week.

source: 3. Cavaliers (49-20, LW 3). They lost two games last week that had fans and Tyronn Lue shaking their heads (Miami and Utah). The big issue is their defense has become pedestrian — 17th in the NBA in their last 10 games — and the offense doesn’t always bail them out. The recent losses has left Cleveland vulnerable to the next team on this list.

source: 4. Raptors (48-21, LW 4). They are just one game back of the Cavaliers for the top seed in the East (and remember the Raptors have the tie breaker). Toronto’s guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan rightfully draw a lot of praise, but other guys have stepped up of late, such as Bismack Biyombo.

source: 5. Thunder (48-22 LW 6). Russell Westbrook is second on my MVP ballot right now and he had three triple-doubles last week to secure that space. Add to that the Thunder defensive numbers have been better of late — not to mention they still have Kevin Durant (and he loves OKC) — and Saturday’s showdown with the Spurs will be interesting.

source: 6. Hawks (41-29, LW 10). Your current three seed in the East, they have the second best net rating in the NBA over the last 10 games (San Antonio is tops), and it’s because their defense continues to shut teams down (second best in the NBA on the season). They have won five in a row, their offense is starting to look like last year’s, and you have to wonder if the Hawks can make it back to the conference finals if things go their way (meaning they are not on the Cavs side of the bracket).

source: 7. Hornets (39-30, LW 7). After a couple stumbles they picked up an important win against the Heat and remain in the hunt for the three seed (1.5 back of Hawks) and for home court in the first round (1 game back of Miami). But the schedule gets tough, starting with the Spurs Monday then a heavy dose of road games to follow.

source: 8. Heat (40-29, LW 9). They fell to Charlotte but beat the Cavaliers last week. Unlike those Cavs, the Heat are actually playing faster since the All-Star break (nearly five possessions a game) and the result has been a dramatically improved offense (8.6 points per 100 possessions). If they can sustain that come the playoffs (or if Chris Bosh returns) remains the question.

source: 9. Clippers (43-26, LW 5). In their last two games they fell to Memphis with Zach Randolph and none of the rest of their core, then they lost to Anthony Davis-less New Orleans. They are 4-6 in their last 10, their defense has been a mess, and now it looks like Blake Griffin will not be back until next month.

source: 10. Celtics (39-30, LW 8). They are simply not the same team without Jae Crowder, which may be why Celtics fans would rather focus on how they have a longshot chance at Kevin Durant this summer (he loves the city). Kelly Olynyk is back but is showing a lot of rust.

source: 11. Pacers (36-33, LW 11).This is not a team securely in the playoffs in the East — thy are the seven seed but Chicago and Detroit are in a virtual tie for eight and nine just half-a-game behind Indiana. With a run of winnable games (Sixers, Pelicans, Nets) the Pacers need to create some space between them and the teams below them.

source: 12. Rockets (35-35, LW 15). I don’t see Dwight Howard’s stickum situation as that big a deal, but he finds ways to hurt his own cause with his comments on a consistent basis. Houston is tied with Dallas for the final two playoff spots in the West, 1 game up on nine seed Utah, which means the Rockets need to find wins in a tough schedule this week against Thunder, Jazz, Raptors, and Pacers.

source: 13. Grizzlies (40-30, LW 12). One of the most injury riddled teams in the league, they are stumbling but then turn around and still find ways to do things like beat the Clippers. They remain basically locked into the five seed, very likely setting up another playoff series against those Clippers.

source: 14. Wizards (34-35, LW 19). Washington started the week beating Detroit and Chicago — the two teams they are chasing to make the playoffs — and have now won four in a row. Still, fivethiryeight.com has them projected with just a 17 percent chance to make the playoffs. That would change if they can do damage in a home-and-home with Atlanta this week.

source: 15. Pistons (36-34, LW 13). They are 2-1 to start their nine-game homestand, and if the Pistons are going to make the playoffs this stretch is the time to do it. This week they have winnable but not easy games such as the Bucks, Hornets, and Hawks. It’s going to come down to the up-and-down Pistons defense.

source: 16. Jazz (33-36, LW 18). They have won five of six and now stand just one game back of Houston and Dallas for the final playoff slot in the West. Gordon Hayward is playing through some painful plantar fasciitis, but they need his offense on the court to make the playoffs (fivethiryeight.com projects them with a 78 percent chance of getting in).

source: 17. Bulls (35-33, LW 17). Jimmy Butler being back in the lineup — and making game-saving plays against Toronto — is keeping the Bulls afloat and in the playoffs chase in the East (fivethiryeight.com projects them with a 38 percent chance of getting in). That estimate may be low, the Bulls have winnable games this week (Kings, Knicks twice, Magic) but they need to be more consistent, they have blown these kinds of games recently.

source: 18. Mavericks (35-35, LW 16). . They are in a playoff fight and Dirk Nowitzki is carrying them on his 37-year-old shoulders — he has 20 or more points in eight straight games. He’s had to play some center and did it well. He’s going to have to keep it up as the Mavs have a rough week with four road games including at Portland and Golden State.

source: 19. Trail Blazers (36-35, LW 14). Portland has the worst defense in the NBA in their last 10 games, which is why they have won just three of them. They are not a playoff lock, just 1.5 games up on nine-seed Utah. Important game for them against Dallas this week.

source: 20. Bucks (30-40, LW 20). While the focus has been on Giannis Antetokounmpo as the point forward, and with reason, in their last 10 games the Bucks offense has been middle of the pack in the league. What has made them a potential spoiler is they have the fifth best defense in the NBA over their last 10 games. All that size on the court works defensively.

source: 21. Nuggets (29-41, LW 22). In their last 10 games the Nuggets are scoring 109.7 points per 100 possessions, sixth best offense in the NBA. That’s in large part due to the improved play of Emmanuel Mudiay and some help from D.J. Augustin. Do that for all of next season and we’ll be talking about them in the playoff mix.

source: 22. Magic (29-40, LW 21). They are playing good teams close. The Magic are still losing those games, but they are playing team’s close, so that’s a little moral victory. This had been a good stretch if you have Victor Oladipo on your fantasy team.

source: 23. Kings (27-42, LW 26). Their defense has not been impressive, but DeMarcus Cousins has been and that’s enough to get them wins over the likes of the Lakers and Knicks. This is going to be one of the more interesting teams to watch this summer, but if you’re expecting Cousins to be traded you’ll be disappointed.

source: 24. Knicks (28-43, LW 23). Another team that will be fascinating to watch this summer — the pressure is on Phil Jackson to put the right pieces around Kristaps Porzingis. If he can find a trade that Carmelo Anthony would agree to Jackson will have earned those massive paychecks.

source: 25. Pelicans (26-43, LW 25). Anthony Davis gets shut down for the season and the Pelicans promptly go out and beat the Clippers. Did not see that coming (neither did Doc Rivers). Jrue Holiday is playing well of late — they need to get one more point guard to platoon/back him up to keep his minutes (and injuries) in check next season.

source: 26. Timberwolves (22-47,LW 24). Some teams tweak rotations this time of the season, but the Timberwolves will not — the develop the young stars train will continue through April. The question is what coach will be developing these young players next season.

source: 27. Nets (19-50, LW 28). Looking for bright spots in Brooklyn? Bojan Bogdanovic has played fairly well of late. New GM Sean Marks is very smart (and Bogdanovic could be a trade piece). After that… good food in the arena.

source: 28. Suns (19-50, LW 29). While they’re not suddenly playing well they are beating some of the other bottom feeders recently. Which will make Celtics fans happy if the Suns can finish with a better record than the Nets (they are tied) as Boston has Brooklyn’s pick this June.

source: 29. Lakers (14-52, LW 27). Finally Byron Scott has said he’s going to let the young players close out games, even if they are playing poorly. I know there were ego/discipline concerns with D’Angelo Russell (he wasn’t being professional in his work off the court) but this still should have been happening from the start. This is how you develop players.

source: 30. 76ers (9-60, LW 30). A lot of people are asking why Joel Embiid is all the way in Qatar again getting treatment on his foot? That’s a world-class facility for elite athletes built as part of Qatar’s bribes/efforts to get the 2022 World Cup, and it’s common for elite European soccer players to get treatment there. This is a top flight spot, we’ll see if it helps Embiid.

Ben Simmons makes the expected official: He’s entering the NBA draft

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There are plenty of questions in NBA circles about Ben Simmons:

What is his ceiling? Will he be better than peak Lamar Odom? Is his jumper fixable? Does he want it bad enough to fix the jump shot, improve on defense, and reach his potential? Is he a better choice at No. 1 than Brandon Ingram?

However, there was never any question he was going to come out, and on Sunday night he made that official speaking to Jeff Goodman of ESPN.

“I’m making it official,” Simmons said late Sunday night.

Simmons put up impressive box score stats at LSU — 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game — but his LSU team was just 19-14, and Simmons had some lackluster performances in the team’s biggest games. He’s an unquestionably gifted athlete at 6’10” with the skills and mindset of a point guard. He can dazzle.

Every scout or college basketball expert I’ve spoken to — including NBC’s college basketball guru Rob Dauster and NBA Draft Blog (and Rotoworld writer) Ed Isaacson on the NBC/PBT podcast — said he has the potential to be an NBA franchise player, but he has a lot farther to go to get there than recent players such as Anthony Davis or Karl-Anthony Towns. Simmon’s jumper isn’t just a little off, it’s a mess. And the bigger concern in some corners is the question of his passion for the game — will he put in the work needed to get his game near that potential?

Still, whatever team ends up with the No. 1 pick likely takes Simmons. He’s still on top of most draft boards, because teams are drafting on the potential of what a guy can be in three or five years, not who he is today.

Five Takeaways from NBA Sunday: Anthony Davis out for season, Pelicans beat Clippers anyway

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By Sunday you’ve calmed down and realize that everybody in your office’s bracket is screwed, and you still have a chance at getting your money back. But while you focused on the college game — where the referees buy flops at an alarming rate — the NBA kept rolling. Here’s what you need to know from a Sunday around the Association.

1) Pelicans shut down Anthony Davis for the season, then go out and beat Clippers anyway. I can give you 24 million reasons Anthony Davis didn’t want the Pelicans to shut him down for the season — if his injuries cost him a spot on the All-NBA team, that’s how much money he loses when his rookie contract extension kicks in next summer and he doesn’t qualify for the “Derrick Rose rule.” Plus these surgeries — one to his knee to clean things up, one to his shoulder for a torn labrum — put in doubt his ability to play for Team USA this summer in the Rio Olympics. The Pelicans have shut him down for the season. Which is best for him long term.

Just after doing that, the Pelicans turned around and beat the Los Angeles Clippers 109-105 Sunday. Jrue Holliday had 22 points, and Omer Asik had his best game of the season with 15 points and 14 rebounds, plus he played great defense on DeAndre Jordan all game. For the Clippers, a team Doc Rivers would like to fancy as contenders, they have now lost their last two games to a Memphis team with Zach Randolph and basically nobody else, and now the Pelicans without Davis. That’s not a good sign.

2) Dirk Nowitzki defies father time, drops 40 on Blazers.
Dirk Nowitzki put himself in some rarefied company on Sunday: Only four players had scored 40 points in a game at age 37 or older — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, and now Nowitzki. The big German scored 40 points Sunday in Portland, doing so on 26 shots. Nowitzki was killing it from the midrange, where he was 10-of-16 for the night. He also had three threes, as well as some buckets at the rim. This game was a huge win for a Dallas team trying to make the playoffs: Dallas and Houston are tied in the seven and eight spots, with Portland just half a game ahead and Utah just one game behind in the nine seed.

3) DeMarcus Cousins with 20-20 game as Kings beat Knicks. Robin Lopez is one of the handful of guys with size to battle DeMarcus Cousins in the paint. Didn’t matter. Cousins put up numbers in Madison Square Garden with 24 points and 20 rebounds in the Kings’ 88-80 win. Despite everything else going on with the Kings, Cousins continues to put up points and just be a beast in the paint. Robin Lopez did his own damage with 23 points and 20 rebounds.

4) Kings’ Darren Collison a with a ridiculous buzzer beater. If you’re looking for the shot of the night, Sacramento’s Darren Collison has you covered with his leaping three-pointer to beat the clock.

5) Watch Bucks’ Jabari Parker get up and throw it down past Rudy Gobert. And your dunk of the day Sunday goes to Jabari Parker, who just explodes and throws it down as he slashes down the lane. Technically you could argue he dunked over Rudy Gobert, but the Utah center doesn’t have time to react and is just a spectator on the play. He dunked past Gobert, not on him. Still, an impressive throwdown.

Dirk Nowitzki drops 40 on Blazers, joining Kareem, Jordan to score that much at 37


Only three players had scored 40 points in a game at age 37 or older — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, and Karl Malone.Make that four — Dirk Nowitzki joined the group Sunday going against Portland

Make that four — Dirk Nowitzki joined the group Sunday going against Portland.

Nowitzki scored 40 points Sunday in Portland, doing so on 26 shots. It wasn’t like Portland just left him open — 20 of those shots were contested according to the NBA’s SportsVU player tracking, but the big German hit 13 of them anyway. Nowitzki did most of his damage from the midrange, where he was 10-of-16 for the night. He also had three threes, as well as some buckets at the rim.

The win over Portland keeps Dallas in the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, but things are tight. Dallas and Houston are tied in the seven and eight spots, with Portland just half a game ahead and Utah just one game behind in the nine seed. The Mavericks could use a few more games like this from Dirk down the stretch.