Kurt Helin

2015 NBA Draft Lottery

PBT’s NBA Mock Draft 1.0: Things get interesting starting with New York at four.

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The order is up for discussion, but we have a pretty good idea who the top three picks in the NBA Draft will be.

Where things get interesting is with Phil Jackson’s Knicks at No. 4. Will they trade the pick? If they keep it — and they should keep it unless they get a “you can’t say no” offer — who should they take?

At PBT, we turned to our draft expert Ed Isaacson of Rotoworld and NBADraftBlog — and he differed from the pack on what the Knicks should do if they keep the pick. You can find this draft at Rotoworld.com as well.

1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke – The Timberwolves can’t go wrong adding either Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns to a lineup with Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins, but I think adding Okafor’s scoring ability in the low post right away will open up the floor even more for Wiggins, Rubio and team. Concerns about Okafor’s defensive liabilities are overblown, and he should learn and adjust over some time.

2. Los Angeles Lakers: Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Kentucky – The Lakers luck out and don’t have to make the choice between the top two players in the draft, happy to take whoever doesn’t go to Minnesota. Towns will give the Lakers a strong defensive presence in the middle, and the pairing with Julius Randle in the frontcourt will give the team some offensive weapons and rebounding on a team that desperately needs them.

3. Philadelphia 76ers: D’Angelo Russell, PG/SG, Ohio State – The picks of Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid the past two seasons have given the Sixers two big-time prospects in the frontcourt, but adding someone to get them the ball should be a priority. Russell can play either backcourt spot, able to knock down jumpers or create for others in the pick-and-roll. He’s not a very good defender, but having Noel and Embiid behind him should help with any players who get by him.

4. New York Knicks: Justise Winslow, SF, Duke – There are few areas where the Knicks don’t need a lot of help, and while point guard may be the biggest, I don’t think the options are great for them here. Trading the pick could be a good choice, but if not, Winslow will give the team an athletic young wing who can defend, as well as having the potential to be a versatile scorer.

5. Orlando Magic: Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky – The Magic have done a good job adding young, athletic players the past few years in Victor Oladipo, Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton. Cauley-Stein is the type of big man who should allow this young core to play at a quick pace, and it will play to his only real strength on offense. Plus, it gives the Magic a high-level defender and shot-blocker in the middle, something Nikola Vucevic didn’t give them last season.

6. Sacramento Kings: Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, Guangdong (China) – The Kings have looked for shooting in the lottery the last two years, and while Ben McLemore showed improvement last year, Nik Stauskas struggled. With the focus of the team on DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings should look to shore up the point guard position. Darren Collison is coming back from core muscle surgery, but Mudiay, a physical guard who likes to attack the basket, will give the Kings some long-term hopes for the position.

7. Denver Nuggets: Mario Hezonja, SG/SF, FC Barcelona (Spain) – A lot went wrong for the Nuggets last season, but they still need to add talent at just about every position. Hezonja is an athletic wing who can shoot, and is a very good ballhandler for his size. He’s probably a few years away from making any kind of real impact, but Denver can afford to get him some floor time now off the bench as he adjusts to the NBA.

8. Detroit Pistons: Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Balancesto Sevilla (Spain) – Many expect Greg Monroe to move on as a free agent, and Porzingis could be a nice complement in the frontcourt next to Andre Drummond. The 7’1” Latvian is a skilled offensive player for 19 years old, including being able to step out and knock down long-range jumpers. He’ll struggle for a while on the defensive side, but paired with Drummond, I don’t think it will hurt Detroit much, and his size on the perimeter can make it tough for opposing stretch 4’s.

9. Charlotte Hornets: Stanley Johnson, SG/SF, Arizona – Johnson is a strong, athletic wing, with the ability to knock down perimeter shots, score in transition and defend. He can be moved between the 2 and the 3, with the ability to defend either position, and though his shooting can be inconsistent, he made a lot of improvement last season. Though he’ll just be 19 at the start of next season, Johnson should be able to make immediate contributions for the Hornets.

10. Miami Heat: Devin Booker, SG, Kentucky – With Dwyane Wade’s career likely coming to an end soon, Booker will give the Heat some depth at the shooting guard position. He’s one of the top long-range shooters in the draft, as well as a strong perimeter defender. He’s certainly not a Wade-type guard, but he’ll give the Heat some needed scoring and defense, at least in the short-term.

11. Indiana Pacers: Myles Turner, C, Texas – Roy Hibbert has a player option on his contract for next season, and assuming he returns, last year was a rough one for him. Add to that a lack of depth at the position to begin with, and Turner makes a lot of sense for the Pacers at 11. Turner, who measured just shy of 7-feet tall at the NBA Combine, is very skilled for his age, especially with his shooting and shot-blocking ability. In a lot of ways, he seems to still be learning about what kind of player he wants to be, so a year learning and adjusting behind Hibbert would be great for him.

12. Utah Jazz: Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF, Kansas – Utah has a very good young core of players led by Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert. Though Dante Exum and Trey Burke have both struggled in the early parts of their careers, it’s too early for Utah to give up on them and draft another point guard. Oubre will add an athletic wing who has shown some ability to knock down jumpers and has the length to become a good defender on the perimeter. He’s still more athlete than player, so backing up Hayward for a couple of years will be good for him.

13. Phoenix Suns: Frank Kaminsky, C/PF, Wisconsin – Phoenix has a lot of pieces in place to get back to the playoffs, so adding a versatile big man like Kaminsky should give the team a good player to add to a frontcourt of the Morris twins and Alex Len. Though the tallest player at the NBA combine, Kaminsky’s lack of strength makes him more suited to be a stretch 4, though he could be used to spell Len when needed. He isn’t very quick, but he’s skilled, and he learned to be a strong team defender under Bo Ryan at Wisconsin.

14. Oklahoma City Thunder: Cameron Payne, PG, Murray State – With the trade of Reggie Jackson last season, the Thunder could be looking for a good back-up to Russell Westbrook. Payne is a good perimeter shooter, and a strong passer and decision-maker in the pick-and-roll. He is the kind of point guard who could flourish under new coach Billy Donovan, and learn a lot playing with Westbrook and Kevin Durant.

15. Atlanta Hawks: Bobby Portis, PF, Arkansas – Portis is a strong, skilled forward with the ability to score inside and out. He’s a very good perimeter defender for his size, as well as a strong rebounder on both ends of the floor, and playing under Mike Anderson at Arkansas has taught him to play hard on every possession. Paul Millsap is a free agent after this season, and while Portis may not be ready to step in immediately for a team that won 60 games, he could play valuable minutes at both the power forward and center positions.

16. Boston Celtics: Trey Lyles, PF, Boston – Boston made a great pick last year, getting Marcus Smart to pair in the backcourt with Avery Bradley, and now Isaiah Thomas, who they added at the trade deadline. They could look to add a player like Sam Dekker to add depth on the wings, but I think Lyles would also be a great addition to their frontcourt, giving some much-needed athleticism at the power forward position. Lyles mostly played out of position last season at Kentucky, but he is a versatile scorer at the 4, and though he does need to work on extending the range on his jumper the mechanics are there. He handles the ball well for 6’10” and he can be a threat attacking the basket off the dribble.

17. Milwaukee Buck: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona – Khris Middleton will be a free agent this summer, so the Bucks may be looking to add a player at the small forward position. Hollis-Jefferson will give them another long defender on the perimeter with Michael Carter-Williams and Giannis Antetokounmpo, and though offensively challenged right now, he can create his own opportunities by hitting the offensive glass. If the Bucks are looking for more of an offensive threat at the position, Sam Dekker would probably be a popular choice in Milwaukee, but I think Hollis-Jefferson may help them a bit more.

18. Houston Rockets: Jerian Grant, PG, Notre Dame – The Rockets can use some depth in the backcourt, especially at the point guard position. They should have their choice of a couple of players here, but Grant could give them some options at the position that they don’t really have now. He has good size at the point, can create off the dribble and he’s a better long-range shooter than his percentage last season. His length can be disruptive on the perimeter, and with Patrick Beverley a free agent this summer and coming off a wrist injury, Grant may be able to step in quickly and claim the spot.

19. Washington Wizards: Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville – The Wizards have a great young backcourt in John Wall and Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter’s play in the postseason was hopefully a sign of things to come for him. The frontcourt could use some athleticism, especially at the power forward position, and Harrell would be a nice addition. I’ve never been big on using the word “motor” when describing how a player plays on the floor, but it seems right for Harrell. He is slightly undersized for the position, but he is strong and athletic, can run the floor well, and rebounds and defends as well as a player 3 or 4 inches taller than him. He would certainly give Wall another good option when wanting to pick up the pace on the floor.

20. Toronto Raptors: Kevon Looney, PF, UCLA – I’m really not sure what to make of this Toronto team after seeing them down the stretch this season, so they could probably go in a lot of directions here. Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough will be free agents this summer, so they may look to add depth to the power forward spot. Looney is certainly not ready to contribute right away for the Raptors, or any team really, but he has the makings of a big forward who can stretch the floor, has the length to defend the position and has a knack for rebounding. The Raptors already need to wait at least a few years before last year’s pick, Bruno Caboclo, shows if he even belongs in the NBA, so there’s little harm in letting Looney develop over the next few years as well.

21. Dallas Mavericks: Tyus Jones, PG, Duke – The Rajon Rondo trade backfired on the Mavericks when the postseason hit, and relying on JJ Barea doesn’t seem to be a solid long-term strategy, so taking Jones, a young point guard with a knack for coming up big when it matters, could be a good fit here. Jones has very good patience for his age, sees the floor well, and knows how to hit teammates in the right spot for easy basket. He’s really not a great athlete, and may be a liability on defense, at least early in his career, but he could still add a lot of value long-term as a backup.

22. Chicago Bulls: Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin – With the uncertainty around the head coaching position for the Bulls still an issue, it is tough to determine what direction they want to go with this pick, but Dekker is easily the best player left at this point, and he could certainly help them on both ends of the floor. At 6’9”, Dekker has very good size for the small forward position, and though he played in a very structured offense at Wisconsin, he has the skill and athleticism to blossom into a versatile offensive threat on the wing. The Bulls might want to add more perimeter shooting here, or a big man to eventually replace Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah; you really can’t go wrong adding a talent like Dekker.

23. Portland Trail Blazers: Christian Wood, PF, UNLV – The status of LaMarcus Aldridge’s free agency this summer will be Portland’s biggest issue, and while Wood is certainly not a replacement for Aldridge, he is a young, athletic forward who has barely scraped the surface of what he could become as a player. Wood should eventually develop to be a good inside/outside threat, and his length and athletic ability could help him develop into a plus-defender.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers: RJ Hunter, SG, Georgia State – The trade for JR Smith and Iman Shumpert has worked for Cleveland so far, but Hunter could give them a better long-term option at the shooting guard position. He already has NBA range on his jumper, and with the good looks he would get on the floor with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, he could give them a consistent threat from the perimeter. Also, Hunter is a smart player, sees the floor well, and can be a good passer, so he could thrive without having to be a top scoring option.

25. Memphis Grizzlies: Justin Anderson, SG, Virginia – Though the Grizzlies just took Jordan Adams in the first round last year, Anderson gives them a better athlete and shooter at the shooting guard position, and his ability to defend on the perimeter should be a great fit in Memphis. Marc Gasol is a free agent this summer, though all signs seem to point to him staying in Memphis, the Grizzlies may still want to look for a big man here, but Anderson is a good enough to break into the backcourt rotation by the end of next season.

26. San Antonio Spurs: Jarell Martin, PF, LSU – At some point, maybe even next season, Tim Duncan won’t be playing power forward for the Spurs anymore, and while there isn’t any player that can replace him, the team can look to start adding production there. Martin has good size and athletic ability, is an above-average defender and rebounder and has shown some versatility on offense. The Spurs may look to free agency if Duncan decides to retire, but even so, Martin will give them a young, productive forward off the bench.

27. Los Angeles Lakers: JP Tokoto, SG, North Carolina – With the Lakers having filled a need in the frontcourt with Towns at number 2, adding some help in the backcourt could be where they go here. Jordan Clarkson emerged at the point guard spot last season, and while he may not be a long-term solution, he will still be productive. Tokoto will give them an athletic defender to pair with him, and depending on how Kobe Bryant is next season, he can give some help off the bench. Tokoto isn’t a very good shooter, but he has good vision and is a strong passer, that I think he could even back up the point guard position if needed.

28. Boston Celtics: Robert Upshaw, C, Washington – Upshaw is one of the toughest players to fit in during an exercise like this, mainly because it’s tough to gauge how teams will view the issues which led to his dismissal at Fresno State and Washington. At 28, he is definitely worth the risk, especially for a team that can use a rim protector like Upshaw. His 7’5” wingspan was tops at the NBA combine, and he was the NCAA’s top shot-blocker before his dismissal. I think the Celtics have the personnel to keep him focused on the court, and Brad Stevens may be the type of coach to get the best out of him.

29. Brooklyn Nets: Rashad Vaughn, SG, UNLV – Brooklyn is another team that can use help at almost every position, and while I think they could really use some help at point guard, they are tied up with Deron Williams and Jarrett Jack for the next few seasons. They can certainly use some more shooting, and Vaughn could develop in a couple of years into a consistent NBA three-point threat. Another option may be to draft and stash young Brazilian point guard George de Paula, but I think getting either of these players at 29 would be pretty good for the Nets.

30. Golden State Warriors: Chris McCullough, PF, Syracuse – The biggest priority for Golden State this summer will be re-signing Draymond Green, and after that, there aren’t really any major holes in the NBA’s best team. McCullough’s freshman season at Syracuse was cut short due an ACL injury, and he is still very raw as a player, but he has length and athletic ability. Golden State has done a great job using their Santa Cruz D-League affiliate to develop players, and McCullough would be perfect for them to work with over the next year or two.

Dwight Howard has left knee sprain, listed as questionable for Game 2

Houston Rockets v Golden State Warriors - Game One
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Dwight Howard struggling to move well or be effective after Josh Smith fell into his knee was a key issue in Game 1. Howard’s lack of mobility allowed the Warriors to play their small ball lineup, with Draymond Green at the five, without any real consequence.

Looks like the Rockets may need to find another adjustment to deal with that lineup for Game 2 Thursday — one doesn’t involve Howard.

The injury had been initially called a bruised knee.

Howard told the media Wednesday that if he can’t move better than he could during Game 1 he wouldn’t play in Game 2, but that it would be a game-time decision. He did go through a partial, light practice with his Houston teammates Wednesday, but added his knee is very sore.

The Rockets need to make a series of adjustments after their Game 1 defeat — James Harden needs to get to the line more than six times, and as a team they need to take more than 22 threes.

However, this was a series where the Rockets needed everything to go right to have a chance, and Howard’s injury leaves them in a dangerous situation.

PBT Extra: NBA Draft Lottery losers? Sorry New York.

Phil Jackson
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It was pretty amazing how much to form the NBA Draft Lottery held this year — only two teams moved. The Lakers went up a couple spots…

And the New York Knicks fell a couple spots. Which puts them on top of the list of NBA Draft Lottery losers, as Jenna Corrado and I discuss in this latest PBT Extra.

Falling to No. 4 should not be that big a deal for the Knicks in that they still likely get to draft Emmanuel Mudiay — as long as they don’t sucumb to the pressure to trade the pick for a quick fix. The Knicks are rebuilding, they need young talent. So unless this trade were to net more young talent than is being sent out, it’s a bad idea.

But this is the Knicks, there is a long and storied history of going for the quick fix. It’s something to watch.

End of an era: David Letterman had some great NBA, sports moments

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 02:  David Letterman speaks onstage at SeriousFun Children's Network 2015 New York Gala: An Evening of SeriousFun Celebrating the Legacy of Paul Newman at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on March 2, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for SeriousFun Children's Network)
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I’m going to miss David Letterman.

Admittedly, I didn’t watch as much of him in recent years as I did in my youth, but I always related to his irreverent sense of humor. The Top 10 list was iconic and ahead of it’s time, but it was things like “what happens if we throw a bunch of watermelons off the top of a building” that just worked when he did it.

Letterman also had some brilliant sports moments.

Joe Posnanski summed it up best as only he can at NBCSportsWorld.com.

Every so often, one of the writers would pitch a really obscure sports joke to David Letterman for the show. He always liked those kinds of sports jokes, especially if they involved one of his cherished Indiana Pacers of the old American Basketball Association or some little-known baseball player or something to do with 1950s wrestling.

“He’d laugh,” says Justin Stangel, who, with his brother Eric, served as Letterman’s head writers for 14 years, from 1998 to 2013. “Then he’d say, ‘Sure, nobody’s going to get it. But that’s fine.’”

“Probably three people thought it was hilarious,” Eric says. “But those three people thought it was REALLY hilarious.”

In a way, that tidbit explains why David Letterman meant so much to me and everybody I knew. Letterman was one of us. And by “one of us” I mean David Letterman was (and is) a sports fan, deep down, through and through. He’s not a “celebrity” sports fan — you know, the kind who is seen at places or who might hold his own in a 30-second sports conversation.

No, Letterman is a sports fan, a you-and-me sports fan, the sort of guy who cares too much, the sort of guy who will come up with all sorts of theories about Tom Brady and deflated footballs, the sort of guy who would rag Eric Stangel endlessly whenever his beloved San Diego Chargers lost.

Over at Sportsworld we’ve also compiled a list of the best sports moments from Letterman, complete with videos.

Letterman had some brilliant basketball moments — like when David Stern read the “Top 10 Things I learned as Commissioner.”

No. 10: Dr. J. is not a licensed physician.

But my personal favorite was just sending Steve Nash to the 2009 NBA Finals as a correspondent.

Kings’ executive Vlade Divac: “DeMarcus is untradeable”

Atlanta Hawks v Sacramento Kings
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Kings’ coach Goerge Karl has fueled the hopes and dreams of Celtics fans — and a lot of other fan bases — when he said that he’s never had a player that is untradeable.

Did that mean DeMarcus Cousins could be available? Trade rumors started to fly on Celtics message boards and across NBA fandom. Cousins is as good a traditional big man as there is in the game and is a franchise cornerstone kind of piece.

Which is why the Kings are not going to trade him.

Those aren’t my words, they are the words of Kings’ decision maker Vlade Divac on SiriusXM NBA Radio Tuesday night before the Draft Lottery (Divac was in New York to represent the Kings at the lottery).

“Well, I think, you know, Coach kind of step it up further than he should and, of course, everybody has their opinion but right now, if we’re talking about today, yeah, DeMarcus is untradeable.  He’s a guy who we’re going to try to build around and see where he’s going to take us.”

If you want to keep your trade dreams alive Boston, you can rightly note that no GM would say “this guy is on the trade block” even if he were. It’s about leverage.

That said, this isn’t the first time word has leaked out that the Kings planned to keep Cousins.

Kings’ ownership and Divac see Cousins for what he is, a cornerstone piece. If you’re going to move him, it’s going to take a lot more than the No. 16 pick and some prospects to get the job done — you’ll demand another young, foundational piece in return. And even then they might balk.

Cousins has three seasons left on his deal in Sacramento, the guy making the decisions wants to keep him, and frankly he can work well in Karl’s system — Cousins is exceptional when he runs the floor. It’s just getting him to do it consistently that’s the challenge (ask Coach K of Team USA).