Kurt Helin

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans

PBT Extra: Which team gets final playoff spot out West, Thunder or Pelicans?

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The Pelicans will not go away.

At points in the past few weeks, it has seemed like Oklahoma City would run off and hide with the last playoff spot in the West. However, as of Wednesday, New Orleans and Oklahoma City were tied (NO has the tie breaker), although the Thunder are one game up in the loss column.

So who gets the spot? That’s what Jenna Corrado and I discuss in the latest PBT Extra. The Thunder have a slightly easier schedule, and they get Kevin Durant back to go with Russell Westbrook, all that makes them the favorites. But Anthony Davis and the Pelicans will not go quietly.

Also we discuss who I would prefer to have these playoffs, Davis or Westbrook? Flip a coin.

Reports: NBA, NCAA discussing pushing back draft entry date. Finally.

2014 NBA Draft
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I’m not sure why it took so long to get to a logical place on this, but we seem to be finally getting there.

The NBA,  NCAA, and National Association of Basketball Coaches are proposing a plan to push back the date players must declare for the NBA draft by more than a month, from April to late May, according to both ESPN and the USA Today. What’s new and key is that a number of underclassmen would be invited every year to an NBA Draft combine and get a chance to meet and work out for teams interested in them. At the combine, the players would be an honest assessment of where they might fall in the draft from NBA teams prior to making their decision.

This kind of unbiased information is hard to come by for a lot of underclassman. The current system — put in by the NCAA three years back because they thought it would be good for coaches — forces players to make their decision about entering the draft one week after the NCAA Tournament ends. At that point NBA draft boards are fluid and players don’t know where they stand — and once the player declares for the draft he forfeits his eligibility. There is no turning back.

The NCAA’s goal was to give coaches an idea who would return before national signing day, but the side effect is a number of players who make poor decisions to go pro. It’s easy to know where you stand if you’re Jahil Okafor or a consensus top 10 pick, but a lot of players much farther down the pecking order have unscurpulous agents — or family members hoping to ride the gravy train — telling them they will get drafted in spots that will never happen.

Under the new proposal, if a player doesn’t get a combine invite it’s a pretty clear signal they would not get drafted. Even if they get one, if they are told they are a late second round or bubble pick, the player may choose to return to college. Now, a lot of those guys go pro, not knowing.

Kentucky coach John Calipari, who may be impacted more than any other college coach, said this is a brilliant idea, speaking to ESPN.

“This may be one of the best things the NABC has ever done,” said Kentucky coach John Calipari, who has had players leave school who weren’t lottery or first-round picks — players who could have benefited from knowing where they would be drafted. “This is the first time the NABC understood that they represent the players.”

This is long overdue. It’s necessary in a one-and-done world.

Even if the age limit for entering the NBA changes — whether it goes younger or older — this proposed new system is a good thing. It’s simple: Give these young men everything they need to know to make an informed decision. It sounds simple and logical, mostly because it is.

It’s just that logic, and the NCAA rarely go hand-in-hand.

If approved it would be in place for the 2016 draft (not this year).

Kawhi Leonard wants to dunk and Tyler Hansbrough isn’t going to stop him (VIDEO)

Kawhi Leonard, Jonas Valanciunas
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Kawhi Leonard was a beast in the latest Spurs win Tuesday night — 24 points, 11 rebounds, and five steals. The Spurs beat the Raptors in large part thanks to him.

If you have other questions about how Leonard is playing right now, ask Tyler Hansbrough. He got to see up close.

The Spurs have won six in a row and, to the dismay of the rest of the league, are starting to look like the Spurs again.

Paul George still “a ways away,” not playing March 14

Detroit Pistons v Indiana Pacers
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Weeks before Paul George went through his first practice, George himself hoped he wanted to make his return March 14 against Boston. But within hours of saying that, he was backing off that date a little talking to ProBasketballTalk.

“I want to (play this season),” George told PBT during All-Star weekend. “March 1st was the date I wanted to be able to full on practice without limitations or restrictions, and from there see where things go. But mid-March is ideally where I want to be able to make a comeback and play my first game. But it’s so many steps I have to take to get to that point it’s just a date I threw out.”

He’s not going to make that date, according to Pacers coach Frank Vogel. Via Jeremiah Johnson of Fox Sports Indiana.

The Pacers won their sixth game in a row and are now have won 12-of-14, which has them in the playoffs in the East. They have got good ball movement and flow on offense right now. Meaning they don’t need to rush George back for any reason. With him they are a far more dangerous playoff team, but what the Pacers need to think about is getting back to contender status next season and beyond. They need George right for that, not this playoff run.

That said, the Pacers may get an improved George back once he gets his legs under him.

“The only thing that I could have done for three or four months was dribble the basketball and shoot the basketball,” George told PBT last month. “So I definitely think my ball handling, and my shooting has improved, and my strength is improved. Those three were the biggest things I needed to work on going into the next season.”

Five Things We Learned in NBA Tuesday: San Antonio reminds you they are the champs

Gregg Popovich, Kawhi Leonard
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If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while trying to find the best way to break in your new baseball glove

1) San Antonio would like to remind you they are the champs (and are playing like it again). We talked about this on PBT Extra Monday — the Spurs are starting to play like the Spurs again. Which should concern other teams out West with title aspirations because the Spurs are the bar to clear. With their comfortable win Tuesday over Toronto, San Antonio has won six in a row. During that streak, they are scoring 112.6 points per 100 possessions (second best in the NBA at that time) while allowing just 95.5 points per 100 (sixth best). It all starts with Tony Parker getting into the paint again — half his shot attempts Tuesday came within eight feet of the rim — and he finished with 23 points and nine assists. Plus, Parker was 6-of-9 on contested shots. However, the real star was Kawhi Leonard with 24 points, 11 rebounds, and five steals. If you’re looking for a highlight, he threw down on Tyler Hansbrough.

2) Meanwhile, the Raptors slide continues unabated. Part of the reason San Antonio looked so good Tuesday was that Toronto looked so awful. Again. The Raptors have now lost 9-of-10, and that one win was against the Sixers. The problem is their defense, which is allowing 109.1 points per 100 possessions in that stretch, 29th in the NBA. Tuesday they scored a respectable 107 points against the Spurs, Kyle Lowry scored 32, but they lost by 10. It’s strange because Dwane Casey has the reputation as a defense-first coach, but this team’s system leaves them in constant mismatches and finds them scrambling as much as any team in the league. The Raptors looked better in the second half; they made their run, but by then it was too late.

3) You can’t throw an alley-oop pass too high for Anthony Davis. Look how high Davis has to go to pull in this pass from Norris Cole. Seriously, so long as it’s in the building he can get it.

4) LeBron became the Cavaliers’ franchise leader in assists. LeBron James moved past Mark Price to become the Cavaliers all-time assist leader when he hit James Jones in the corner, and Jones knocked down a three. That gave LeBron 4,207 assists as a Cav. By the way, he already owns the franchise records for points and steals.

5) Rodney Stuckey? Rodney Stuckey keeps the Pacers train rolling right toward the playoffs. Every once in a while Rodney Stuckey can still get it going, and Tuesday night was one of those times — he came off the bench and shot 6-of-7 for 16 points. And that was just the first quarter. Stuckey had 25 points by the half and finished with 34 points on 13-of-19 shooting. He had one beautiful shot chart on the night.

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The Pacers tied their franchise record wit 17 three-pointers on their way to an easy 118-86 win over Orlando. Indiana has now won six in a row and looks like they should take one of those final two playoff spots in the East. Plus the team will get Paul George back soon, although not by March 14 as he had once hoped. But soon.