Charlotte Hornets

Justise Winslow reportedly aced pre-draft interviews. So why did he fall?

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Our own Scott Dargis described Justise Winslow’s draft range as the Knicks at No. 4 through the Heat at No. 10, but it’s difficult  to find others who thought there was even a chance Winslow would fall all the way to Miami.

Here’s how a few rated the Duke forward:

Most seemed to agree he was a clear tier above the players below him on those lists, too.

But Winslow slipped to the Heat at No. 10.

What did NBA teams see that so many of us didn’t?

Whatever it was, it apparently didn’t come out during pre-draft interviews.

Zach Lowe of Grantland:

Twenty-nine teams rolled their eyes in June when Justise Winslow fell to Miami at no. 10 in the draft. Winslow may never become a star, but he has a chance at it, and he blew away executives during the draft interview process.

Lowe is plugged in enough to know how teams perceived Winslow’s interviews. I believe, if there were a major red flag, it didn’t pop up there.

My working theory: The NBA consensus on Winslow was about as high as perceived – and if not quite, within the reasonable margin for error – but the teams picking before the Heat just happened not to like him as much.

Taking Winslow No. 4 would have been too high, and the Knicks made a better call with Kristaps Porzingis. I wasn’t as high on Hezonja as most, but few complained about the Magic taking him at No. 5. Admittedly, his upside is incredible. If a team has an appetite for risk, Hezonja made sense over the safer Winslow.

With respect to Winslow, it really got interesting at No. 6.

The Kings, who picked Willie Cauley-Stein at No. 6, deserve little benefit of the doubt for their drafting acumen. I rated Emmanuel Mudiay higher than Winslow, so I don’t knock Denver for picking the point guard at No. 7. The Pistons took Stanley Johnson over Winslow at No. 8, but that could just be a minority opinion. The Hornets are clearly in win-now mode, so polished senior Frank Kaminsky appealed to them at No. 9. Plus, Michael Jordan is hardly a reputable drafter.

So, a few teams didn’t like Winslow. It doesn’t mean the NBA as a whole thought less of him than it appeared.

If the Celtics were drafting before Miami, they would have taken him – and they offered a boatload of draft picks for that opportunity. I suspect many other teams would have drafted him sooner if positioned to do so.

Maybe something will emerge about why Winslow fell, but it darn sure wasn’t how he played at Duke, and it apparently wasn’t his pre-draft interviews. We’re running out of possibilities.

Report: Celtics engaged in contract extension talks with Tyler Zeller, Jared Sullinger

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Will they take a little less to gain some long-term security?

That has been the contract extension debate for players around the league this summer. For players such as Jonas Valanciunas and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the answer was yes. For Tristan Thompson, the answer is no.

Boston is having those same discussions with two guys, and both may lean toward taking the security, if the number is right — Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger. The sides are talking now and that will ramp up, reports the Boston Globe.

“Obviously, those are two guys that we like moving forward,” Ainge said. “So, yeah, there will be more discussions with both of them, probably during the month of October.”

Zeller, 25, appears the most likely of the three to be in line for an extension. The 7-footer averaged 10.2 points and 5.7 rebounds last season and shot a team-high 54.9 percent from the field. Zeller’s win share of 6.5 — a metric that measures the amount of victories contributed by a player — was the highest on the team.

Sullinger, who averaged 13.3 points and 5.1 rebounds in 58 games last year, is still just 23. But he already has had back and foot surgeries, and his conditioning has been a frequent issue. Sullinger has been training in Houston with former NBA player and coach John Lucas for much of the summer and has shared pictures of his apparently trimmed-down physique through social media. But his return to Boston for preseason training will be most telling.

By the three, they are also discussing Perry Jones, but he has to make the roster first (the Celtics have to cut one guaranteed contract and he could be that guy). Even if he does make it there is no extension in his future.

Zeller can take the security of a deal with the Celtics, or bet on himself and become a restricted free agent next summer when two-thirds of the league has max cap space and will be looking to hand out deals. Zeller averaged 10.2 points a game with a very efficient true shooting percentage of 59.2 percent. He had the second highest PER on the Celtics last season (behind Isaiah Thomas), and Zeller led the Celtics in win shares (6.5). He’s a guy Ainge wants to be part of the Celtics’ future. Of course, the question becomes what’s the number that makes Zeller sign? Big men get paid, would something near Kidd-Gilchrist’s $52 million be enough?

As for Sullinger, he averaged 13.3 points and 7.6 rebounds a game last season but that doesn’t mean everyone is sold on him. He has battled injuries through his career, which may make him inclined to take the security of a long-term deal. But again, it’s all about the number that works for both sides.

If I were a betting man, I’d expect there’s a better than 50/50 chance a Zeller deal gets done. Not so sure about Sullinger.

Jamal Crawford, other NBA stars take court for Seattle Pro AM vs. Drew League (VIDEO)

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This would have been fun to attend, a little showdown between the Seattle Pro AM and the Los Angeles-based Drew League.

It attracted plenty of NBA talent: Jamal Crawford, Zach LaVine, Isaiah Thomas, Stanley Johnson, Trevor Ariza, Baron Davis, Nate Robinson, Malcolm Thomas, Dorell Wright, Bobby Brown and Spencer Hawes were among the ballers. And when you turn those guys loose in a world with no defense, you get a show.

Enjoy, we’re still a couple of months away from NBA games that matter so this can be a little fix.

Hornets’ coach says rookie Frank Kaminsky needs to add strength

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In the college game, guys can get away with bulk instead of strength, and just being smart and a little quick can get a guy space. Then they get to the NBA, and it takes strength not bulk, and everybody is quick

So when you ask Hornets’ coach Steve Clifford about rookie Frank Kaminsky and what he needs to do to earn a steady stream of minutes, the leap in conditioning and strength is what comes up. And the Charlotte Observer did ask him.

Just strength. And obviously him adjusting to the NBA game. But he’s a quick learner and a good worker. He’ll pick things up quickly. That applies to both ends of the floor. He’s so good off the dribble that he would beat guys but be pushed off (his lane to the rim) a little bit. So a lot of times, where in college he got to the basket, he was instead taking 8-to-10 footers. As he gets stronger, he’ll be at the basket again.

There’s an adjustment for every rookie coming into the NBA — suddenly everyone is long and strong — but at Summer League Kaminsky showed the skills that should have him fit quickly into the NBA. He looked like a player who may start at the four as a rookie and be able to run the pick-and-pop with Kemba Walker (leaving the post open for Al Jefferson to do his thing). There was plenty to like, but some questions to answer (specifically on defense).

Kaminsky should turn into a solid pick for the Hornets at the four.

 

Hornets coach Steve Clifford plans to play Jeremy Lin and Kemba Walker together

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Going into the season, the Hornets will be quite different from the disappointing group they put out last year. There are seven new players on the roster, including some key rotation players, and it’s going to be a lot of trial-and-error to see which ones play well together and which ones don’t. Head coach Steve Clifford is going to try out a lot of different combinations, including one he brought up in a new interview: a backcourt of Kemba Walker and new signee Jeremy Lin.

From Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer:

Q: You’ve said you’re intrigued by the potential in playing point guards Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin together. Can you describe your vision for that combination?

It’s always good to have two pick-and-roll players on the floor. That way you can put pressure on the defense at one side, then switch it to the other. That makes more room to play similar to how Golden State does. You’ve got Steph (Curry) on one side, so defenses have to load up there, and then you’ve got Klay Thompson on the other with room to operate.

That’s what Kemba can do for Jeremy and Jeremy can do for Kemba.

It’s an interesting concept, and could work in small doses. Finding minutes for a two-point guard lineup will be tricky for Clifford, who will also be juggling playing time for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Nicolas Batum and (if he cracks the rotation) Jeremy Lamb. He’ll have plenty of options to mix and match players in the backcourt and on the wing. Truth be told, both Walker and Lin are probably best suited to be sixth men, instant-offense types. Clifford compared the style of a Walker-Lin backcourt to the Warriors, which makes sense conceptually. But Thompson is a much better defender than both Walker and Lin, which makes it easier play two ball-dominant guards together. But it’s certainly worth trying this out. It’s hard to get a read on what the Hornets’ roster will be at this point, or how effective it can be. They have plenty of talented players, and it will be interesting to see how well they fit together.