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Tony Bradley becoming North Carolina’s first one-and-done in nearly a decade

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North Carolina hasn’t had a one-and-done player in eight years.

Since Brandan Wright declared for the 2008 NBA draft after his freshman year, the Tar Heels have emphasized player development over multiple years. That practice has yielded two national titles, including this year’s, in that span.

It also limited freshman center Tony Bradley’s playing time this season, as he was stuck behind seniors Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks.

But Bradley shined enough in 15 minutes per game to follow Wright as one-and-done from Chapel Hill.

Jeff Goodman of ESPN:

Bradley is a borderline first-round pick, though this late decision when many expected him to return to school indicates he believes he’ll go in the first round. There’s certainly logic in turning pro before scouts pick apart his game over a larger sample.

Bradley is huge – 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan – but he’s not explosive. The hope is someone in the Rudy Gobert mold.

Whomever drafts Bradley will hope his elite offensive rebounding is a harbinger. But why is his defensive rebounding and rim protection so forgettable?

He moves and passes fairly well for his size, but considering he’s so big, those aren’t necessarily skills for him to hang his hat on. If a teammate sets him up, he uses his size to finish well at the rim.

Beyond his size and offensive rebounding, Bradley doesn’t set himself apart one way or the other. Whether that’s good or bad depends how deep in the draft it is.

Draymond Green: BS that Klay Thompson left off All-NBA teams

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All-NBA guards:

Klay Thompson‘s omission – despite three Warriors (Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green) making All-NBA teams – sure seemed to bother Green.

Green, via Monte Poole of CSN Bay Area:

“I think it’s bulls—,” he said. “When you look around teams . . . what did we win, 67 games or something like that? And we probably handed teams three or four. You’re talking a possible 70-win season. I think Klay is one of our top three guys, and to not be on an All-NBA team is pretty crazy.

“There are some guys on there, as scorers averaging 20 points and don’t have nearly the amount of wins we have. So how he could be left out, I don’t really understand it. And also the way Klay can defend, I don’t understand it.

“But I guess (voting media) have to find some way to punish us.”

What a victim complex.

Thompson deserved to make All-NBA ahead of DeRozan, but so did Chris Paul, Damian Lillard and Mike Conley – and all three belong in line before Thompson. Kyle Lowry and Kyrie Irving are also in the mix of more deserving than DeRozan and Thompson.

Team wins can’t be the only measure for All-NBA, or Zaza Pachulia would make it. A player’s contributions to winning must be measured. Thompson is very good, but he’s Golden State’s fourth-best player. His was in the mix for All-NBA, but I wouldn’t have given him a spot. It’s certainly not a travesty that he didn’t make it.

But Green wanted to stick up for a teammate. I think that, as much as, maybe more than, merit influenced his comments.

James Harden, LeBron James headline All-NBA Teams

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James Harden was a unanimous First Team choice.

LeBron James and Russell Westbrook came within one vote of the same (one voter each had them on the second team).

While we aren’t going to know who won MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, or other NBA awards until their new ceremony June 26 (after the Finals and Draft), the All-NBA teams had to be different. Because it impacts bonuses and future contracts — most notably if players qualify for Designated Player max deals this summer — teams needed to know early, before the Draft. So on Thursday the NBA released the prestigious All-NBA team, a snapshot of the best in the game.

Here are the three All-NBA teams:

Other players receiving votes, with point totals (First Team votes in parentheses): Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota, 50 (2); Chris Paul, LA Clippers, 49; Marc Gasol, Memphis, 48 (2); DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans, 42 (2); Paul George, Indiana, 40; Gordon Hayward, Utah, 27; Hassan Whiteside, Miami, 18; Kyrie Irving, Cleveland, 14; Klay Thompson, Golden State, 14; Nikola Jokic, Denver, 12 (1); Damian Lillard, Portland, 12; Paul Millsap, Atlanta, 3; LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio, 1; Blake Griffin, LA Clippers, 1; Al Horford, Boston, 1.

These were voted on by 100 members of the media, their votes will be made public June 26 with the rest of the award voting. (Full disclosure, I was one of those voters.)

The big takeaways: Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook, John Wall, and Stephen Curry (already an MVP) are eligible for Designated Player max contracts. In the case of Leonard it would be five years at around $217 million, and while he would sign next summer it wouldn’t kick in until the summer of 2019. Wall can sign his extension this summer (he has more experience) but his deal will not kick in for a couple.

However, Paul George and Gordon Hayward did not make an All-NBA team, which could impact their summers because now the Pacers and Jazz cannot offer their stars those Designated Player max contracts. (That contract is only for players who make the team the past year or two of the last three, or are a former MVP.)

In the case of George (who made all-NBA regularly before his leg injury, now has not made it two of the last three), that means the Pacers may consider trading their star this summer. George is a free agent in 2018 and there is a lot of buzz he is going to leave (either to a contender or the Lakers), and Indiana’s new man in charge Kevin Pritchard may feel he needs to get something for George rather than just let him walk. However, the trade market for George will not be robust because teams feel he wants to be a free agent in 2018, so he could be a one-year rental.

For Hayward, it means the Jazz can only offer a little more than other teams — about $2 million a year more on average over the deal, but also a guaranteed fifth year, so it works out to $46 million more guaranteed (but Hayward would get paid somewhere that fifth season, just not as much). That may be enough to keep him, he likes Utah, but it’s known Boston — with Hayward’s college coach Brad Stevens — and other teams are going to come hard at him.

Some will question putting Anthony Davis at center, but he spent 64 percent of his time on the court this past season at the five (as tracked by Basketball-Reference.com). That likely will not be the case next season with DeMarcus Cousins in the picture.

De’Aaron Fox tells teams at NBA Combine he’s the best point guard in draft

Associated Press
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CHICAGO (AP) — De'Aaron Fox considers himself highly competitive and doesn’t shy away from matching skills with anyone.

Still, there’s one player he knows he can’t beat: his mother.

Lorraine Harris-Fox played at Arkansas-Little Rock in the 1980s and holds the school record for highest free-throw percentage at .928.

“She knows what she’s talking about,” De’Aaron Fox said Friday at the NBA Combine. “The one thing she stays on me is free-throw shooting. If there’s anything she criticizes me about, it’s shooting free throws.”

Fox, a point guard who played one year at Kentucky, is considered a top-five pick in next month’s NBA draft. Most of the projected top picks decided not to attend the Combine – even to take physicals and meet with representatives from individual team – but Fox wouldn’t have missed it.

“I just wanted to be here,” he said. “I watched the combine so many years growing up. Not necessarily playing or doing drills – I knew I didn’t have to and it wouldn’t help me – but just being here and getting to know the teams could change some minds.”

Fox had a simple message for the eight teams he met with: He’s the best point guard in the draft – even though Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball, projected top-two picks, play the same position.

“I feel like I’m the best,” Fox said. “If they’re drafted above me, I’m cool with it. You have to play basketball at the end of the day.”

Fox isn’t just talking smack. He has a performance from this year NCAA Tournament to back up his statement.

Kentucky played UCLA and Ball in the Sweet 16 and the 6-foot-3 Fox had a breakout performance with a career-high 39 points (on 13-for-20 shooting), four assists, three rebounds and one turnover in an 86-75 win. Ball, who is 6-6, finished with 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting.

Even Ball’s outspoken father, LaVar, couldn’t find a way to sugarcoat that matchup. Besides, the elder Ball did his talking before the game.

“He’s the consensus No. 1 pick, he could be the No. 1 pick,” Fox said of Ball. “I’m just extremely competitive. That’s what I tell everybody. It didn’t matter if it was him or one of the other top picks. I’m competitive and I came out hot.

“We all know what was said and that just gave not just me but the entire team fuel.”

Although the order of teams picking in the draft won’t be determined until the lottery next week, Fox didn’t hesitate to address how he might fit in with a few teams that figure to be selecting high.

He met with the Philadelphia 76ers and told the team’s brass he’d be a perfect complement to Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, two recent high picks.

“They wanted to see how I fit in with Ben and Joel,” Fox said. “I liked it. They have a lot of pieces and a point guard, they really haven’t had a point guard in a few years, so that could be the missing piece to what they need.”

He met with the Los Angeles Lakers – a group that included Hall of Famer Magic Johnson – and was impressed they asked about having a killer instinct.

“That’s me,” Fox said. “I’ve always been humble, but on the court it’s an entirely different person and Magic was saying that’s how he is. I liked to work with someone who was a great point guard like Magic.

“Magic, he was a great leader, just the way he carried himself. When he was on the court, he made everybody better. When he’s in a room, he lights up a room. That’s someone I feel like would be great to be a mentor to myself.”

Teams picking high long favored big men, but there’s little doubt that both Fox and Ball will be selected early.

Kennedy Meeks, a 6-10 senior who helped North Carolina win the national championship, was asked if big men were now overlooked with the emphasis on small ball in the NBA.

“Maybe a little bit, but I think you just go out there and showcase your talent,” he said. “You don’t worry about the politics, you don’t worry about the critics and all that. Everything will take care of itself. You can see with guys like Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol, Zach Randolph, Jared Sullinger. Those guys are definitely successful in the NBA.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has now eliminated every other Western Conference team in playoffs

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Spurs-Rockets looked familiar (except in all the ways it wasn’t): Gregg Popovich beating Mike D’Antoni.

Popovich is 20-6 in games and 5-0 in series against D’Antoni. The San Antonio coach just has a way of stifling D’Antoni’s up-tempo spread offense when it matters most.

But this Popovich-D’Antoni matchup was different in one key way: D’Antoni coached the Rockets, not the Suns.

In fact, this was the first time Popovich ever faced Houston in a playoff series – and that allowed him to claim a trivial and impressive honor.

Jordan Howenstine of Spurs PR:

https://twitter.com/AirlessJordan/status/862858569112313856

This speaks to Popovich’s:

  • Excellence (only one other coach – the Heat’s Erik Spoelstra – has won 14 total playoff series at all)
  • Longevity (beating the Timberwolves back when they were playoff regulars and waiting for the Warriors to become playoff mainstays)
  • Luck (catching New Orleans in one of its seven playoff series)

Here’s Popovich’s playoff history against every Western Conference franchise:

Dallas Mavericks

2001 won second round, 4-1

2003 won conference finals, 4-2

2006 lost second round, 4-3

2009 lost first round, 4-1

2010 won first round, 4-2

2014 won first round, 4-3

Denver Nuggets

2005 won first round, 4-1

2007 won first round, 4-1

Golden State Warriors

2013 won second round, 4-2

Houston Rockets

2017 won second round, 4-2

Los Angeles Clippers

2012 won second round, 4-0

2015 lost first round, 4-3

Los Angeles Lakers

1999 won second round, 4-0

2001 lost conference finals, 4-0

2002 lost second round, 4-1

2003 won second round, 4-2

2004 lost second round, 4-2

2008 lost conference finals, 4-1

2013 won first round, 4-0

Memphis Grizzlies

2004 won first round, 4-0

2011 lost first round, 4-2

2013 won conference finals, 4-0

2016 won first round, 4-0

2017 won first round, 4-2

Minnesota Timberwolves

1999 won first round, 3-1

2001 won first round, 3-1

New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans)

2008 won second round, 4-3

Phoenix Suns

1998 won first round, 3-1

2000 lost first round, 3-1

2003 won first round, 4-2

2005 won conference finals, 4-1

2007 won second round, 4-2

2008 won first round, 4-1

2010 lost second round, 4-0

Portland Trail Blazers

1999 won conference finals, 4-0

2014 won second round, 4-1

Sacramento Kings

2006 won first round, 4-2

Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder

2002 won first round, 3-2

2005 won second round, 4-2

2012 lost conference finals, 4-2

2014 won conference finals, 4-2

2016 lost second round, 4-2

Utah Jazz

1998 lost second round, 4-1

2007 won conference finals, 4-1

2012 won first round, 4-0