Kurt Helin

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PBT’s first-round NBA mock draft

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There’s no secret for the first two picks of the 2016 NBA Draft — Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram are locks.

After that it is up in the air — expect a lot of trades and a lot of surprises. There are guys deep into this draft who can make an impact in the NBA with a little time and proper development. Who goes where? NBC/PBT’sNBA Draft expert — and Rotoworld writer — Ed Isaacson took a crack at the first round.

First Round

1. Philadelphia: Ben Simmons, PF, LSU – As we get closer to the draft, it’s looking more and more like Simmons will be the Sixers’ pick, and I agree with this. His problems with perimeter shooting are well-known, and his demeanor down the stretch last season didn’t win him any fans, but he is a unique talent with his ability to see the floor, handle the ball, and pass for his size. Defensively, it may cause some issues if he has to defend on the wing, but having two potential rim protectors in Nerlens Noel and, hopefully, Joel Embiid, could help there.  Simmons has backed away from the idea that he doesn’t want to go to Philadelphia, but expect a lot more rumors to surface in the next week, as he isn’t going to work out for them.

2. Los Angeles Lakers: Brandon Ingram, SF, Duke – The only real challenge I saw to Simmons at the top, it looks like Ingram will fall to a good spot for him in Los Angeles. Ingram will give them something they sorely need, an athletic shooter on the wing, who can also get to the rim. He still needs to work on developing his body, and while having long arms, he’s not a very good defender, unless in position to block a shot, but there is a lot of potential here for Ingram to be the Lakers’ go-to guy for the future.

3. Boston: Dragan Bender, PF, Croatia – Bender stays at number three for Boston, though I still think they will hope they will get the kind of trade offer which would allow them to unload this pick. If they choose to keep the pick, Bender could be a good project for Brad Stevens and staff. Bender has great size, and good skill for his age, but he just hasn’t had the court time he has really needed yet to make a big jump. Getting into the Celtics’ system should help him acclimate to the NBA game, while developing both his game and physical abilities.

4. Phoenix: Marquese Chriss, PF, Washington – Like Boston, Phoenix also has multiple first-round picks, and may consider a deal here for the right player, but if not, getting a power forward who can stretch the floor could be a priority. Chriss is still somewhat raw skill-wise, and he doesn’t quite understand the game yet, but he is a high-level athlete who can run the floor, block shots, and knock down jumpers. He could turn into a good starter down the road.

5. Minnesota: Kris Dunn, PG, Providence – While another shooter to put around Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins could also help, taking Dunn can create some other scenarios.  A strong defender and excellent in transition, Dunn could create scoring chances on both ends of the floor, plus he has the passing ability which will make those around him better, as long as Dunn can cut down on his mistakes. Also, if Dunn does develop well, it suddenly can make Ricky Rubio an attractive trade chip when the Wolves are ready to take the next step.

6. New Orleans: Buddy Hield, SG, Oklahoma – Eric Gordon is a free agent, and Jrue Holiday has a year left on his deal, so looking to either backcourt spot is the way to go. In Hield, the Pelicans can add a very good long-range shooter who can help open up the floor some more for Anthony Davis. Jamal Murray is also an option here, though Hield’s competitiveness on the floor should make a good impression on his teammates.

7. Denver: Jaylen Brown, SF, California – Denver added their point guard, Emmanuel Mudiay, in this spot last season, but with the health of Danilo Gallinari always a question, looking to add one of the few top-tier wing prospects could be a smart move. I’m not sold on Brown, as he didn’t really stand out as a freshman, and his lack of perimeter shooting ability hurts, but he has an NBA body and is a good athlete, both which he uses well to get to the basket. Like Boston and Phoenix, Denver also has three first-round pick and may also explore a trade here for a player who can help them now.

8. Sacramento: Jamal Murray, PG/SG, Kentucky –Dave Joerger will hopefully get things moving in the right direction in Sacramento, and they can really use some help in the backcourt. I don’t see much of a chance that Rajon Rondo is re-signed, and off-court issues with Darren Collison are a question mark, so a point guard could make sense. I’m not in the camp that Murray should, or could, play the point at the NBA level, but he does have some ability to create. What he can do is knock down threes extremely well, another thing that the Kings could use.

9. Toronto: Skal Labissiere, PF/C, Kentucky – Bismack Biyombo is going to test free agency after his surprising year, and the Raptors could use a rim protector behind Jonas Valanciunas. Labissiere is more of a project at this point, but he can knock down mid-range jumpers and block shots, so he could be a good project for the Toronto development coaches.

10. Milwaukee: Jakob Poeltl, C, Utah – Poeltl sticks at the number ten spot again. Greg Monroe hasn’t really seemed to gel with Jason Kidd’s offense and defense, but Poeltl has the potential to step in and help on both ends. He has above-average potential as a rim protector, and though not the most athletic player, he is skilled on the offensive end, comfortable in the pick-and-roll, and can make an impact on the offensive boards.

11. Orlando: Deyonta Davis, PF/C, Michigan State – The Magic are another team with an exciting young core, but there are still some holes to fill, and shoring up the defense around the basket is one major area. Nikola Vucevic still has a few years left on his contract, but he doesn’t bring a major defensive presence, especially as a rim protector. Davis is young, has good size, is an improving scorer around the rim, and is a strong defensive presence, including the ability to block shots.

12. Utah: Wade Baldwin, PG, Vanderbilt – The Jazz enjoyed a breakout season from Rodney Hood last year, and with a solid group of young players, aren’t too far from getting back to the playoffs. The point guard position has been a concern, and even though Dante Exum will be back, he hasn’t exactly shown that he is the answer, especially coming off missing a season. Baldwin is a high-level athlete, good perimeter shooter, and can be a problem in transition, though he does have some issues with control and decision-making. With long arms and sped, he has the tools to be a good defender, though seems to have mental lapses. Still, even backing up Exum, he will provide some excitement.

13. Phoenix: Furkan Korkmaz, SG, Turkey – This is Phoenix’s second pick, and after taking Chriss at number four, they can look to add some shooting with Korkmaz. Korkmaz has good size for the shooting guard spot, and he’s shown a good shooting touch, and a bit of versatility to his offense. Still just 18 years old, Phoenix can let him stay over in Turkey for a bit to gain more high-level experience, especially since Devin Booker is coming off a solid rookie year.

14. Chicago: Denzel Valentine, SG, Michigan State – Chicago is going through a transition phase, as the Gasol/Noah era is coming to an end, and Derrick Rose has never been the same after his injury issues. Fred Hoiberg likes smart players who can shoot and create shots for others, and Valentine does both of these things very well. He may not be the most athletic player in the draft, but he knows how to play, knows what his coaches need from him, and is an underrated defender.

15. Denver: Henry Ellenson, PF, Marquette – This is Denver’s second pick in the first round, and while a versatile forward may not be at the top of their list, it’s hard to pass on Ellenson if he is available here. A strong scorer around the lane, Ellenson has also shown improvement in his ability to stretch the floor, to go along with strong rebounding on both ends of the floor. He may have some issues on the defensive side, but Coach Malone should be able to help him improve.

16. Boston: Domantas Sabonis, PF, Gonzaga – This is Boston’s second pick of the first round, and after taking a long-term project in Bender at number three, they can add a frontcourt player who could contribute right away. Sabonis is a physical power forward who can be a force around the basket and on the boards, something that Boston will need to take another step forward in the Eastern Conference.

17. Memphis: Demetrius Jackson, PG, Notre Dame – Mike Conley has been with the Grizzlies since the start of his career, but he’s a free agent now, and could command more than Memphis wants to pay going forward. With that possibility, they should take a long look at Jackson, who impressed on both ends of the floor during his three seasons with the Irish. Even if Conley is convinced to come back, Jackson will immediately provide better depth at the position than Memphis has had.

18. Detroit: Malachi Richardson, SG, Syracuse – The Pistons have a strong nucleus of young players, led by Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Stanley Johnson, and Tobias Harris. Caldwell-Pope, especially, has made strong improvement, though will be a free agent soon, and, if he continues to improve, could command a great deal of money. You can never have enough shooting, and even with Caldwell-Pope sticking around, Richardson has that knack for scoring, even if inconsistent right now, and if he learns how to play defense, his freakish length could help Detroit on the perimeter.

19. Denver: Timothe Luwawu, SF, France – This will be Denver’s third pick in the first round, and assuming they haven’t swung a deal to give up any of them, they can look to add some long-term depth on the wing, especially with Gallinari being a constant injury risk. Luwawu has good size for an NBA wing, with long arms, and a constantly improving offensive game. Playing at a fast pace in Europe, he could eventually become a good transition mate for Mudiay and company, though he still has to polish up some of the rough edges in his game, especially handling the ball and creating shots off the dribble.

20. Indiana: Taurean Prince, SF, Baylor – Though Prince didn’t meet a lot of the high expectations for his senior season, he is a long, athletic wing who can make an impact on both ends of the floor. Prince can knock down threes and get out in transition, and he has the experience where he can find a role fairly quick in Indiana.

21. Atlanta: DeAndre’ Bembry, SF, St. Joseph’s – The Hawks are facing a few question marks this off-season with Al Horford and Kent Bazemore both free agents. Bembry could eventually slide into Bazemore’s spot, and has some similarities to his game. Bembry is a hard-nosed defender on the wing, and can be a versatile scorer inside the arc. He needs to work on his long-range shooting, but that could come with some more experience.

22. Charlotte: Damian Jones, C, Vanderbilt – Charlotte is another team facing a lot of questions with free agency this season, but in any case, they still could use some help in the paint on the defensive end. Jones was inconsistent during his time at Vanderbilt, but he is a strong defender around the basket and a good shot-blocker. His offensive game needs work, but he can be a force on the offensive boards, and if he can avoid foul trouble, on the defensive end as well.

23. Boston: Ante Zizic, C, Croatia – This would be Boston’s third pick in the first round, barring any deals they make. Zizic has good size, works hard, and is just 19 years old. He’s not ready to come to the NBA now, so Boston can leave him over in Europe to gain more experience, especially with his offensive skills, and hopefully moving up to better competition.

24. Philadelphia: Dejounte Murray, PG, Washington – Yes, Murray may give Sixers’ fans flashbacks to Tony Wroten, and there are a good deal of similarities, both good and bad. Murray has good size for the point guard position, sees the floor well, and is a high-level athlete. He isn’t much of a shooter, and his decision-making could be mind-boggling. Murray may not make a big impact at the NBA level, but if brought along slowly, he could turn into a solid NBA point guard.

25. Los Angeles Clippers: Cheick Diallo, PF, Kansas – Diallo never really got on track after an NCAA investigation caused him to miss a part of the early season. Long, athletic, and with a motor that doesn’t quit, Diallo may be short on skill, but he makes things happen with his energy on the floor. While not exactly what the Clippers need, they get a great value this late in the first round.

26. Philadelphia: Malik Beasley, SG, Florida State – With their third pick in the first round, Philadelphia could look to shore up one of their real needs, perimeter shooting. Beasley showed a consistent stroke and NBA-range as a freshman at Florida State, and is even a bit more versatile on offense than just a shooter.

27. Toronto: Ivica Zubac, C, Croatia – 7’1 and a solid 265 pounds, Zubac is a semi-skilled offensive player, with the potential to be a real low-post or pick-and-roll scoring threat. Though he has great size, he isn’t much of a rim protector, post defender, or rebounder, but with some development, he could be passable. This is more of a long-range selection for Toronto to work towards securing their frontcourt for the future.

28. Phoenix: Juan Hernangomez, PF, Spain – This is Phoenix’s third pick in the first round, and I would expect them to take a player they can leave overseas for a bit longer. Hernangomez is a skilled power forward, with the ability to step away from the rim a bit, and he has played a good amount of minutes overseas already. He could be ready to come over in a year or two at the rate he is developing.

29. San Antonio: Brice Johnson, PF, North Carolina – With Tim Duncan’s future still up in the air, Johnson can at least add some athleticism to the frontcourt. While not the most skilled offensive player, he has improved a lot over the past few years, and his ability to run the floor and rebound could make him a very good value this low in the first round.

30. Golden State: Diamond Stone, C, Maryland – As the league’s dominant franchise right now, the Warriors can look to the future a bit when drafting in this last spot. They got Kevon Looney here last year, and now with a good chance that Festus Ezeli will be somewhere else next year, a young big could be what they need. Stone has a big body and can be efficient around the rim. While not really ready for the NBA level, some time down in Santa Cruz could have him ready to contribute in his second season.

Top 10 plays through six games of NBA Finals (VIDEO)

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OAKLAND — There is tremendous drama ahead. Legacy is on the line, not just supremacy, when the Cavaliers take on the Warriors in Game 7 Sunday. Legacy points go up when the two best players on the planet — LeBron James and Stephen Curry, in whatever order you want to place them — lead their respective teams on the court.

But before we look forward, let’s look back.

The guys at The Starters on NBA.com put together this highlight package of the 10 best plays from Game 1 to 6, and we pass it along. Enjoy.

Andre Iguodala on Warriors’ system: “You’re taking whatever the defense gives you”

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OAKLAND — It’s one of the attempts to discredit Stephen Curry and the Warriors:

He’s just a system player and they’re just a system team.

It’s a silly argument to defend.

“You go with any system that had success, you have to have the right guys in that system,” the Warriors’ Andre Iguodala said before his team’s Game 6 loss, before back spasms had him moving like an old man. “You see the Bulls, they ran the triangle, you have to have a certain type of player for the triangle. And over at the Lakers, you had similar guys… Same with the Spurs and the success they had the last decade or so. They just rotated guys in and out, kind of like the Patriots.”

Curry would be successful in any system in any era — explain to me the era where a deadly 26-foot jumper wasn’t going to be effective? If you’re going to try to point to these NBA Finals as a sign Curry would struggle in a more physical basketball era — where they are clutching and grabbing like the refs have largely let go this series — you haven’t been paying attention. Curry is averaging 23.5 points a game, is shooting 42.4 percent from three, pulls down 4.8 rebounds and dishes out 4 assists a game. He has struggled with his shot inside the arc and turned the ball over too much (4.3 per game), but he hasn’t sucked.

The Warriors system of weakside actions and constant movement is the evolution of the NBA offense that counters the Tom Thibodeau overload defense (and Thibs has since adjusted what he does). What the Warriors have are high basketball IQ players to execute that.

And talent.

“I feel I have been on a team with just as high of an IQ, maybe even a higher IQ, but not as much talent,” Iguodala said. “You got to have a mixture of the two. At the end of the day talent, that’s the first thing you have to have. But there have been a lot of talented teams that never quite got over the hump because one guy may not have sacrificed as much as he needed to, or your offense wasn’t quite as useful for five guys as it should have been.

“I feel like we play all five guys on the court and everyone has their role and that’s how we maximize our talent.”

So what is the heart of the Warriors system? Selflessness.

“End of the day you’re taking whatever the defense gives you,” Iguodala said. “It sounds very simple, but there’s a lot that goes into it. You’re in this world of basketball with endorsements, social media, and branding, and guys have a tendency to think ‘me.’ It becomes a me game, and this is a team sport.”

The Warriors have been selfless and gotten good looks the last two games, they just clanked a lot of them (not just Harrison Barnes, although he leads the parade). Curry was the only Warrior knocking down shots in Game 6. Come Sunday and Game 7, the Warriors need that selflessness and for some of those looks to fall.

Then they just need to figure out how to slow LeBron James down a little.

Minnesota Timberwolves, Lynx CEO Rob Moor steps down

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Rob Moor, the longtime CEO of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx, is stepping down.

The Wolves and Lynx made the announcement on Friday. The teams say Moor will transition to a role that assists owner Glen Taylor in overseeing his business interests.

Taylor says he needs more help with the business side of his affairs as he continues planning for eventual successors both as owners of the franchises and stewards of Taylor Corp.

Moor served as CEO for both teams since 2004 and helped Taylor execute the purchase of the Timberwolves in 1995.

Taylor says a new CEO will be determined “in the near future.”

Having eight free agent complicates Hornets’ decisions in draft

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Charlotte Hornets aren’t sure who they’re going to be able to re-sign in free agency, making it difficult for owner Michael Jordan’s team to know who they’re going to select with the 22nd pick in next week’s NBA draft.

“With eight free agents, I don’t know what is going to happen,” general manager Rich Cho said Friday. “So we’re just going to try to add depth (in the draft) to the team and try to get guys that can play in our rotation. It’s a hard question to answer (what we need most) because we have so many free agents and we don’t know how it’s going to play out.”

So the Hornets are keeping an open mind when it comes to the pick.

“We are looking at a number of options – moving up, moving back and moving out of the draft altogether,” Cho said.

Four Hornets starters from last season are set to become free agents in July – Nicolas Batum, Courtney Lee, Al Jefferson and Marvin Williams. Top reserve Jeremy Lin will also hit the free agent market after opting out of his contract.

Cho said that uncertainty makes it difficult for the Hornets to zero in on addressing one particular need in the draft.

The Hornets could certainly use a rim protector, something they’ve missed since the departure of Bismack Biyombo to Toronto last year, but it’s unclear if such a player will still be around so late in the first round.

What they truly need is a difference maker, but those rarely fall to No. 22.

The only positions that are currently set for next season are point guard with Kemba Walker and small forward with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who missed most of the 2015-16 season following two shoulder injuries but is on the mend.

Cho said this year’s draft is deep at wing and with big men, but lacks quality point guards.

The Hornets have had a top 10 draft pick in each of the past five seasons, making this year a little more difficult after a successful season a year ago in which they finished tied for the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference.

Cho has been balancing draft preparation with laying out “abut 80 different potential scenarios” in free agency. Unlike the NFL, the NBA draft happens before free agency begins.

Cho is expecting a hectic free agency period.

He reiterated that re-signing Batum – who is expected to command more than $20 million per season – is the team’s top priority in free agency, which begins July 1.