Tag: CLG

D'Angelo Russell Visits Champs Sporting Goods Store in Times Square

Report: Lakers now leaning towards drafting D’Angelo Russell, not Jahlil Okafor, with No. 2 pick


With Karl-Anthony Towns a virtual lock to go first to the Timberwolves in tonight’s draft, the real drama starts with the question of what the Lakers will do with the No. 2 pick. The conventional wisdom has been that Duke big man Jahlil Okafor is the choice. But Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding, who’s as plugged into the Lakers as anyone, is now reporting that Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell is looking like the choice:

If the Los Angeles Lakers draft Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell on Thursday night, as is the increasing likelihood, it will be for one simple reason.

They believe he is a star.

Although the Lakers respect Jahlil Okafor’s size and skill (his defensive potential, not so much), momentum and consensus have been growing in the front office that Russell, not Okafor, is the special one.

This could mean any number of different things. Maybe the Lakers are confident in passing on Okafor because they believe they’ll have a deal for another big man (cough, Boogie). Maybe this is a smokescreen to get Sam Hinkie to trade up to No. 2 to avoid losing Russell, who has been widely reported as his preferred target in the draft.

But ulterior motives aside, Russell makes a lot of sense for the Lakers. The NBA is such a perimeter-oriented league now that a player with Russell’s size who can play both guard positions and shoot is a huge asset, and a potential long-term successor to Kobe Bryant. There’s no going wrong whatever the Lakers do with this pick, but there’s a compelling case to make that Russell is the choice.

Placing 2015 NBA draft prospects into tiers

2015 NBA Draft - Media Availability and Portraits

As I outlined last year:

Draft for need or take the best player available?

It’s the question as old as drafts themselves.Personally, I favor the middle-of-the-road approach – the tier system. I judge prospects on three attributes:

  • Current ability
  • Potential
  • Likelihood of meeting that potential

Obviously, assessing those attributes is not easy. It’s really hard.

That’s why I don’t like taking the best prospect – based on all three criteria – available. It’s just too difficult to split hairs between players with so many variables.

But overly considering fit is problematic for the same reason. Rosters churn, and it’s foolish to pass on a clearly better prospect – in the cases that becomes clear – just because he doesn’t fit the current version of the team.

So how does the tier system work?

Divide players into tiers based on their value regardless of fit. Don’t worry about differentiating prospects with nearly identical values. Find natural cutoffs.

Then, within each tier, rank the players based on fit for the specific drafting team.

Theoretically, a draft could have anywhere between 1 and 60 tiers. A 1-tier draft would mean every prospect – from the top pick to Mr. Irrelevant – holds the same value. A 60-tier draft would mean every prospect is clearly distinguishable based on value. Obviously, neither is likely.

The size of tiers should be organic, and therefore, the number of tiers is also organic. Naturally, tiers tend to be smaller near the top of the draft, where lines between players are sharper.

Here are my tiers for the 2015 draft, going through as many tiers as necessary to cover the top 30 prospects. Within each tier, I rank players as if the teams drafting had empty rosters. Obviously, actual NBA teams would need to consider other information when assessing fit of players within a tier.

Tier 1

1. Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Kentucky

Towns is probably the draft’s talent, but what really sets him apart is his versatility. Teams picking this high should change significantly over the coming years. Towns has a wide enough skill set to let his team set any style around him, opening more opportunities for growth.

Tier 2

2. Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke

Okafor is an elite post-up scorer, but can you build a strong defense with him at center? Don’t write off a 19-year-old’s ability to improve defensively. Besides, he might be good enough offensively to be a good pro regardless of what happens on the other end.

3. D’Angelo Russell, PG, Ohio State

Russell will bend NBA defenses in the pick-and-roll with his ability to shoot from outside, score at the rim and pass. You can’t easily defend all three simultaneously. Still, Russell’s lack of elite athleticism presents some bust risk.

Tier 3

4. Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, China

It’s a little unnerving to have a lead guard who’s not a strong shooter, but Mudiay warrants the risk. Possessing good athleticism and strength, he projects as a steadying force on both ends of the court.

5. Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia

Porzingis is a 7-foot, athletic, jump-shooting 19-year-old. His flaws – inside scoring, rebounding and toughness – could be entirely explained away by his thin frame. As he fills out, maybe everything comes together – or maybe his deficiencies are shown to be caused by something else.

Tier 4

6. Justise Winslow, SF, Duke

Winslow flat-out plays hard all the time. That goes a long way, especially with his specialty: defense. His offensive defensive development has been encouraging, though he still needs work on that end.

Tier 5

7. Myles Turner, C, Texas

Turner is a big rebounder and shot-blocker who also shoots 3-pointers. It’s an intriguing skill set. I’d feel a little better about him if he were a more fluid athlete and had a chance to prove himself in more minutes per game during his lone college season. On the other hand, maybe Texas just didn’t have the scheme to make him look good – which would underrate him.

8. Stanley Johnson, SF, Arkansas

Johnson is a little confusing. He doesn’t have the prettiest stroke, but he shot well from outside at Arizona. He looks like a great athlete at times, but he didn’t finish well at the rim. I suppose that cancels out, though there’s a concern one trend will reverse. There’s no doubting Johnson’s defensive potential, though.

9. Mario Hezonja, SF, Croatia

Hezonja is a sweet-shooting, athletic wing with a ton of confidence. That last trait comes with plenty of positives and negatives.

Tier 6

10. Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky

I had Cauley-Stein one tier up before news of his injury. That was just enough to bump him down. I love his defensive potential, but don’t act as if he’s a lock to become Defensive Player of the Year – and without the assurance he’ll excel on one end, his offensive flaws and rebounding question marks become more meaningful.

11. Frank Kaminsky, C, Wisconsin

Kaminsky was the rare college senior who played so well in his fourth year, it outweighed his age advantage. But there’s no wiping away his lack of athleticism and strength.

12. Cameron Payne, PG, Murray State

Payne has the shooting and passing ability and vision to succeed in the pick-and-roll. If he could score better at the rim, he’d jump a tier or two. As is, he can at least get by with pull-up jumpers and floaters.

13. Bobby Portis, PF, Arizona

Portis plays hard and smart, skills that allow him to be pretty good at nearly everything (though great at nothing). His lack of elite athleticism limits his upside and provides a little worry about how he projects to the next level.

14. R.J. Hunter, SG, Georgia State

I still believe Hunter is a top-end shooter, though his heavy usage against defenses keyed on him last season exposed the limits of his stroke. But his free-throw percentage remained a sparkling 88, a positive sign. Another bright side: Hunter showed a more well-rounded game as he took a bigger load.

15. Devin Booker, SG, Kentucky

He can flat-out shoot 3s. If he can do anything else, he didn’t show it at Kentucky. But as one of the draft’s youngest prospects, Booker could still round out his game. It’s not as if Kentucky needed more than his one dimension.

Tier 7

16. Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin

Dekker uses his athleticism and court vision to find open shots (inside and out) and avoid turnovers. His length is a real defensive weapon. I just don’t trust his 3-point shooting enough to rank him higher.

17. Tyus Jones, PG, Duke

Jones has excellent court vision with the outside shooting and passing ability to take advantage of it. He just doesn’t have an NBA body or athleticism.

Tier 8

18. Kevon Looney, PF, UCLA

The gap between what Looney can do and what Looney has done is wide. The flashes of talent are there. But can he put it all together?

19. Trey Lyles, PF, Kentucky

A natural power forward, Lyles spent the season playing small forward. That says something about his skill level. But it’s a little unnerving we didn’t get to see more of Lyles in the role he’ll play in the pros.

20. Delon Wright, PG, Utah

Wright can do a bit of everything, but he probably needs the ball in his hands to maximize his ability. Is he good enough to regularly deserve the ball in his hands? Probably as a backup.

21. Kelly Oubre, SF, Kansas

Oubre has a nice frame and athleticism. He just doesn’t have much feel for the game – a harsh reality, but not a deal-breaker at 19.

Tier 9

22. Justin Anderson, SF, Virginia

Anderson is exceptionally strong for a wing, and he has a high motor. How well can he shoot from outside? The results are mixed, but I’d bet on his work ethic.

23. Christian Wood, PF, UNLV

His face-up game is intriguing as the 19-year-old grows into his 6-foot-11 frame. But does he have the desire to eliminate his bad shots or work to shoot better?

24. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona

He’s a prototypical wing besides his lack of shooting ability. That’s a major, though correctable, flaw.

25. Jerian Grant, PG, Notre Dame

Grant, who has an advanced offensive game after spending five years in college, is a relatively low-risk, low-reward prospect. Teams need backup point guards.

Tier 10

26. Michael Frazier, SG, Florida

Frazier can make spot-up 3-pointers. We’ve seen enough not to expect more, but there’s a role for that in the NBA.

27. Chris McCullough, PF, Syracuse

He’s the type of raw prospect who’s worth betting on at this point in the draft. It probably won’t pay off, but you could end up with someone who would have been a lottery pick next year.

28. Cedi Osman, SF, Turkey

Osman has nice size and athleticism, and he passes well for his position. There are tools to work with – just not a reliable jumper.

Tier 11

29. Anthony Brown, SF, Stanford

Is the fifth-year senior a late bloomer or someone who just outgrew college competition? That question will dictate the future of the 3-and-D wing.

30. Richaun Holmes, PF, Bowling Green

He already looks like a solid defender, blocking shots and cleaning the glass. Plus, he has made offensive progress throughout his career. But his competition level makes it difficult to have more confidence in him.

31. Joseph Young, SG, Oregon

The 6-foot-2 Young will either be a very undersized shooting guard or a point guard with very inadequate distributing skills. His  athleticism gives him a chance to overcome the former predicament. His production level probably fits better with players one tier lower, but his style seems to offer a well-worn path to NBA playing time as a scoring guard off the bench.

32. Mouhammadou Jaiteh, C, France

Jaiteh has the size to bang in the post, the hands to catch entry passes and the touch to finish. His lack of leaping ability raises plenty of questions on both ends of the court, though.

Report: Lakers climbing fast on LaMarcus Aldridge’s list of preferred destinations

Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Three

The Trail Blazers quickly denied it, but it sure felt like the team trading Nicolas Batum to Charlotte for Noah Vonleh and Gerald Henderson felt like the first move a franchise realizing their star player was about to bolt and they needed to adjust the roster.

That star is LaMarcus Aldridge, and if there is a top 15 player in the NBA most likely on the move this summer, it’s him. More and more the sense around the league is he’s gone.

While it has been assumed he’d want to go home to Texas (he played his high school ball in Dallas) the ever-present Lakers are lurking, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

ESPN.com reported in May that both the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks strongly believe they’ll have a great shot to lure Aldridge back to his home state of Texas next month. But sources said this week that Aldridge is actually thinking more and more about a free-agent jump to the Los Angeles Lakers….

The Spurs, sources say, continue to be Aldridge’s most likely destination if he goes through with the idea of leaving the Blazers to start anew. But sources also say there is a rising sentiment that the Lakers have edged past the Mavericks on Aldridge’s wish list despite the fact that he was a high school star in Dallas.

Remember this when you hear the Lakers’ name come up in seemingly every free agent rumor this summer: Every smart agent is using them as leverage. This is not to say the Lakers will not land somebody (this summer or next), maybe even Aldridge. But much like the NFL used the LA market to force other cities to build new stadiums, agents will use the threat of the Lakers to get other teams to up their offers.

This isn’t a question about money, Aldridge is going to get the max. He’d actually take home more in Texas, a place without state income tax.

The question is who is he would playing next to in Los Angeles… well, besides Kobe for a year. Is it Jahlil Okafor, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson, or is it DeMarcus Cousins after a trade? (I wouldn’t bet on that trade happening, but that’s another story.)

With either of those options, is he closer to a title than he would be in Texas? Certainly not if the Spurs can free up the cap space to get him (it depends on what happens with Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili). And Dallas has Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki and a roster that won 50 games last season. Both of those options are further along on the court

But the Lakers are a draw with cash to spend. And they are leverage. And they are going to be coming up in a lot of rumors this summer.

Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor say post-playing big men can still be effective in today’s NBA


NEW YORK — The players expected to be taken with the first two picks in Thursday’s NBA Draft have the potential to be franchise-changing big men, even in a league that seems to be moving away from their style of play and into a new era of basketball.

The Golden State Warriors just completed an historically great season, and did so by having versatile players in the lineup who used their high level of athleticism to play stifling team defense. On the offensive end of the floor, the three-point shot was the weapon of choice, and a shift to a smaller lineup was what gave the Cavaliers fits in the later stages of the NBA Finals, and allowed the Warriors to take control and secure a title for the first time in 40 years.

But despite the shift in how plenty of teams will look to operate because of the success we’ve seen in Golden State, Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor both believe that the back-to-the-basket bigs will continue to have a place in the league for years to come.

“I think [post play] can be effective because it’s still an art,” Towns said. “It’s still something that needs to be done. You still need the big man to do the dirty work, and also change up the philosophy of the defense. Everything’s a chess match. Everything has a counter. Having a player play with his back to the basket changes up the game, because it changes up the way you look at the offense and the way you have to play defense. The spacing it creates, also, is awesome.”

In the Finals, the winning move on the chess board was to bench Andrew Bogut, who had started in all but two of his 166 appearances for the Warriors over the last three regular seasons. Okafor, however, sees that as the exception, and not the rule.

“Because it’s always been effective,” Okafor said, when asked why he believes post play can still be featured offensively. “It was one series of Golden State playing small ball. Big men have always been effective in the NBA.”

“I have no doubts about my scoring ability in the NBA,” he added.

If league-wide changes are in store, Towns believes they’ll be based on genetics rather than teams simply choosing to move toward a style that was proven to be successful most recently.

“For me, I don’t see the league changing, I see us as humans changing,” Towns said. “I’m watching the other day, seventh-graders are putting their heads at the rim dunking. I didn’t see that when I was back in my day, which is not too long ago.

“When I was back in seventh grade I had never seen a kid put his head at the rim dunking with ease, windmills, through the legs. Humans are changing. We’re getting quicker, faster, stronger — more precise. The league isn’t changing, but this new crop of talent, this new generation of talent is changing the way the league is played because of how explosive, how fast, how quick we are all becoming.”

Both Towns and Okafor have done the majority of their damage inside to this point of their budding careers, and both are expected to make an immediate impact at the professional level. Okafor is seen as already having an elite offensive skill set, but will need to improve defensively. Towns is viewed by most as having better all-around tools, and his passing and shot-blocking ability make him a two-way threat with more upside, which gives Minnesota plenty of reasons to have him slotted in as a potential number one overall selection.

But Towns wouldn’t get caught hyping his own chances.

“It’s not about why do I believe I should be [the No. 1 pick],” he said. “I just know that I’ve put a lot of work into the game, a lot of hours of quality, great work, working on my body and on my craft. No matter where I go, I know that I have the confidence in me that I feel that I’d be (the one) helping my teammates the most.”

Kristaps Porzingis calls the Knicks the best organization in the NBA

Kristaps Porzingis Pre-Draft Vegas Workout

Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingis has become the most intriguing prospect in the draft, rising up everyone’s draft boards with the possibility of being taken as high as No. 2 (it’s basically a done deal that Karl-Anthony Towns is going first overall to the Timberwolves). But Porzingis said something on Wednesday that should make any team considering him at least a little bit uncomfortable, via ESPN’s Andy Katz:

Yes, the organization that gave up multiple first-round picks for Andrea Bargnani and re-hired known sexual harasser Isiah Thomas to run their WNBA team. Definitely the best organization in the NBA. This is one way to ensure that Porzingis is drafted by the Knicks, because as any other team, it’s hard to trust his judgment after that comment.