PBT’s RetroBall: Suns-Sonics ’93 and the night Barkley wouldn’t lose

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Since billionaire owners and millionaire players are bitterly divided over how much money they’ll be splitting over the coming years and have locked us out of actual basketball to talk about, PBT will be regaling you this summer on the weekends withRetroBall. Using the advanced powers of the internet and NBATV, we’ll bring you interesting stories from years gone by. If nothing else, it will provide us an opportunity to make fun of fashion and culture from the past, which is always a giggle.

This week we bring you a reminder that players should not be defined by their post-career caricatures. I have this nightmare. With Charles Barkley the bombastic, heavy-set column that hoists “Inside the NBA” up, there’s a generation of kids that will only know Barkley as the guy in the T-Mobile commercials who hates Golden State/Miami/Dallas/whoever. Barkley was of the Jordan years, and as such, his legacy suffers accordingly. His Finals appearances only reflect a counterpoint to Jordan, yet another great player who couldn’t get past MJ, much like Karl Malone and Clyde Drexler with Portland. It’s a disservice to what Barkley did, especially considering how he did it, that he’s looked at as the foil to Jordan and the guy who banters with Dwyane Wade in commercials.

So with that in mind, I took a look at Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals between Barkley’s Phoenix Suns and the Seattle Supersonics, led by Shawn Kemp, Ricky Pierce, and Eddie Johnson, along with Gary Payton in just his third year in the league, still learning how to become “The Glove.”

Speaking of Malone, the Sonics knocked off Malone and Stockton’s Jazz in the first round, before cementing themselves as true upstarts after downing Olajuwon’s Rockets. The Rockets would win the title the following year (when Jordan took his “break”). The Sonics were the third seed that year, but were tied with the Rockets at 55 wins. It was Kemp’s time.

Barkley, on the other hand, was having his MVP season and Phoenix looked like a team of destiny, if you didn’t factor in the fact that Jordan existed. This was Barkley at his best, and there isn’t a better game to showcase how dominant he could be. His final line? 44 points on 12-20 shooting, 19-22 from the stripe, 24 rebounds (!), 14 offensive, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block, 1 turnover.

What follows are my observations from watching the game. I was eleven at the time, so consider these observations from a fresh eye.

  • We’re obviously biased here, but I’ll still say the “NBA on NBC” opening and their coverage throughout was just lightyears beyond everything else that’s been done. It managed to capture the drama of the moment without dousing it in forced history. You felt like you were watching history be made without being told you were watching history be made.
  • Best part about this game? THIN SHAWN KEMP! (As in, the era before Fat Shawn Kemp.) If you were building the perfect power forward, this 23-year-old version of Kemp was pretty much the perfect model. He was still raw, but was already averaging 18 points and 11 boards with 2 blocks per game. Kemp in the last three games of this series headed into Game 7 had scored 20, 33, and 22 points on Barkley, and had the following field goal percentages: 62%, 72% (in that 33-point game, in a loss!), 67%. He was lithe, he was explosive, and he actually had a turnaround jumper. It’s weird to think of a power forward who is raw but actually has a face-up game. Now if you’re raw that pretty much means you’re a basketball jellyfish. You’re fast and long, but if asked to do anything complex you just bob incoherently.
  • The Suns explode out of the gate, and it’s not even really Barkley, he’s only got six in the first period. (That’s right, Barkley scores 38 points over the final three frames.) No, instead it’s the unlikely combination of Tom Chambers and Mark West. I know! Who saw that coming, right?
  • Chambers is actually in for Cedric Ceballos who went down in this series with a stress fracture in his right foot. Chambers was actually the third oldest player on roster behind Frank Johnson and Kurt Rambis, who got a DNP-CD in this game. No word on if this is because Kahn retroactively enforced one.
  • You want something to blow your mind, forget thin Shawn Kemp. Give a look to thin Oliver Miller. Seriously. I Googled an image of Miller with the Raptors to compare. Here’s Miller with the Suns in Game 7, 1993:
  • source:  And here’s what he looked like seven years later:
  • source:  So you can obviously see the change there.
  • Gary Payton isn’t quite Gary Payton yet, here. He’s still working on developing into the Glove. It’s only his third season, and he’s up against a much better player in Kevin Johnson, who’s in his prime. Johnson absolutely torches Payton in this one. “The Glove” is more like a loose-fitting piece of cloth that one wraps around a hand. More like a hand moo-moo. Johnson’s crossover and change of direction is phenomenal in this game. At one point, Payton gives him a solid three feet of room to try and contain him, Johnson blows by him anyway, then drops in a running hook and-one. It’s a virtuoso performance, but moreso on the defensive side. Johnson is spying constantly like a safety let off the called-play chain. The Sonics thrice try and force the break and Johnson cuts off the outlet pass.
  • In a nice premonition of the Seven Seconds or Less years, the Suns are downright merciless in transition. The break starts immediately, and KJ makes his decision on what to do after two steps and as soon as he’s across the timeline. Most of the time he’s just blowing by defenders and getting in for layups, the Sonics don’t have anyone who can challenge defensively at the rim with the amount of time and energy Kemp’s having to pay Barkley.
  • The Sonics shooters kind of drift in and out of this game. Derrick McKey shows up and lights up the second quarter which puts the Sonics back within range. Then Eddie Johnson takes over the late third and fourth. Sam Perkins has a nice third quarter. But they can’t get consistent performances from anyone (though to be fair, if Eddie Johnson played the whole game like he did in the third quarter, he would have broken Wilt’s record and Barkley would have wound up killing someone in the locker room later.
  • Early on the Sonics are doing a great job on Barkley, sending the double immediately. If he were Dwight Howard, this would be the end of the story. But Barkley actually adjusts to the coverage and starts cutting immediately after passing out of the double, which confuses the Sonics to no end as all their lanes are then in chaos. At one point, Barkley just loops around Majerle low and shoves Majerle into two defenders, which allows Ainge to float him the ball right in the center of the paint for an easy one.
  • Barkley starts to get going in the second, then absolutely destroys the third quarter. He’s everywhere. Kemp’s there with him step for step and Barkley’s just owning him. Kemp makes two hard moves to deny the entry pass and the third time down, Barkley just head fakes him, turns and goes to the basket for an easy dunk. Most of them are not this easy. Barkley’s anticipation is on display here. The Suns were essentially able to play four perimeter guys with Barkley because even then, he’d wind up with the board.
  • Danny Ainge at this point had played in five finals over the past eight years. Remarkably, he never traded Kendrick Perkins in any of them.
  • Ainge is pretty much the “you gotta be kidding me” guy to Seattle. They can handle everyone else, but just when they think they’ve closed off the offense effectively, Ainge lights them up on catch and shoot. It’s more than they can handle.
  • Mark West with a great weak-side recovery to block Payton at the rim. On the block, which was clean, West makes contact elbow-to-head on Payton. Payton just turns and runs back on defense. Today, Payton would have clutched his head and crumpled to the floor, perhaps penning a letter to his mother on his death-bed.
  • Barkley spins around Kemp from about 16 feet baseline. The help defense comes to try and cut off the baseline, while Payton is trying to play his backside to make sure he doesn’t double back for a hook. The result is that Barkley moves in-between the two and double-clutches one-handed while fading away from under the rim, good, and-one. Kemp picks up his fourth foul.
  • Another thing that’s shocking about Barkley, he can handle in transition. Now at 6-6, this isn’t shocking, he’s basically an oversized 3. But he’s dribbling with such authority, it makes you realize how few of today’s bigs can really do that. Except for like, Josh Smith, who chooses not to and instead just now, as I wrote this, took another three.
  • When Eddie Johnson starts going off in the third, Barkley actually tails off on his rotation, springs out and blocks him. Running down the floor, you can see Barkley say, “Enough of this (expletive).”
  • In the fourth, the Suns kick the thing into absolute overdrive. They’re forcing everything, and the Sonics are just reeling. They managed to get the lead down to 9 in the early fourth, before the Suns just have one of those “We are winning this game. We are going to the Finals, we are not losing to Ricky Pierce” runs.
  • At one point Payton goes for a rebound, Barkley snags and starts throwing elbows, resulting in Payton chirping in his ear for a solid five feet. Barkley shoves him three feet back, turns and yells back at him. In today’s NBA, that’s two techs. Here it’s just good clean entertainment.
  • Eddie Johnson at one point tosses it off Majerle’s back inbounding, catches it and nails an 18 foot baseline J. The Sonics had to be killing themselves that they wasted a 34 point Eddie Johnson explosion at age 33. Johnson winds up scoring 34 points on 17 shots in 26 minutes. Twenty-six!
  • Nate McMillan was burly in this game. He couldn’t get his jumper going but his defensive work was pretty stout. The Sonics’ defensive strategy was actually pretty sound. Lots of doubles, lots of traps, lots of zone to cut off the passing lanes. Unfortunately, Charles Barkley does not care what you do.
  • I always make fun of the unnecessary “MVP” chants, but the chants for Barkley at the line for his playoff career-high in points seem really appropriate and make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
  • Chants of “Beat the Bulls” begin as the clock winds down. Oh, Phoenix. You’re always so hopeful.
  • The closer lineup for Phoenix is KJ, Ainge, Dan Majerle, Barkley,and Tom Chambers. And it works. They crush the Sonics, breaking open an 18 point lead to cruise to a double-digit win and a trip to the Finals.
  • Barkley had guaranteed a win. This was everything to him. He truly believed this was his year to make greatness happen. And the Sonics had pushed the Suns to seven games. So when Barkley went out, after an unbelievable game, this: source:

 

2018 NBA Draft pick-by-pick tracker with analysis of selections, trades

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It’s been a long time since there was this much uncertainty at the top of an NBA Draft. While the top pick is a lock, and even No. 2 may have fallen into place, things are wide open after that with plenty of talk about trades up and down — and teams looking to move into the lottery. The NBA rumor mill has been in high gear.

Now the floodgates of wild are about to be thrown open.

Right here is the best place to follow all of it. Just keep hitting refresh all night.

We will constantly be updating this post throughout the evening — every pick, every trade — complete with analysis of how that player fits (or doesn’t) with his new surroundings. We’ll be on top of news, rumors, and anything else happening around the NBA tonight. Enough with the preamble…

It’s time to put the Phoenix Suns on the clock.

 
Suns small icon 1. The Phoenix Suns: DeAndre Ayton, 7’0” center (Arizona). Physically, he has the potential to be one of the game’s dominant centers — he’s big and long (7’5” wingspan), he moves incredibly well, he can knock down threes, and he can run the court. Offensively he’s going to be put up numbers and be an impact player from Day 1. If he puts in the work when challenged on his defense he could be a force on both ends. He could be the franchise cornerstone the Suns need, the inside to Devin Booker‘s outside.

 
Kings small icon 2. Sacramento Kings: Marvin Bagley III, 6’11” forward/center (Duke). One of the best athletes in the draft and a natural scorer, he’s going to be able to get buckets in the NBA. He’s got a great bounce (an amazing second jump), attacks the glass, can finish at the rim and shot 40 percent from three for the Blue Devils. The question is can he defend — he showed poor defensive instincts and Mike Krzyzewski had to play zone at Duke last season because Bagley (and Carter) could not handle pick-and-roll coverages. He’s got to get better on that end to reach his NBA potential.

WE HAVE A TRADE: As had been rumored for a while, the Dallas Mavericks are trading with the Atlanta Hawks — the Mavericks have wanted Doncic and the Hawks will take him at No. 3, then the Mavericks will take Trae Young at No. 5 and that will complete the trade. (The Hawks had pushed to get more picks or dump salary in this deal, but ultimately took what they could get.

 
Hawks small icon 3. Atlanta Hawks: Luka Doncic, 6’8” point/forward (Slovenia). He will not play for the Hawks, he will be traded to the Dallas Mavericks (selecting No. 5). Doncic is the most decorated European player ever to enter the NBA Draft (EuroLeague champion and MVP, ACB champion and MVP), he is a phenom off the pick-and-roll and a great playmaker in transition. He has shooting range from the NBA three and he can finish inside. He’s been putting up numbers against men in Europe, he should adapt to the NBA fairly quickly. The doubts are he’s not an elite athlete, not explosive by NBA standards. Can he defend well enough at this level, and how will he handle being guarded by those kinds of athletes?

 
Grizzlies small icon 4. Memphis Grizzlies: Jaren Jackson Jr., 6’11” forward/center (Michigan St.). Has the look and game of the prototypical modern NBA center — he’s got a great wingspan (7’5”) and uses that to protect the rim and block shots. He’s a good shooter out to the arc, can finish inside with either hand. He’s got to learn to play consistently harder and be better on the glass — it’s not all highlight plays, but he’s one of the youngest players in the draft and will grow. Needs to improve his passing as well. Son of 13-year NBA vet Jaren Jackson.

 
Mavericks small icon 5. Dallas Mavericks: Trae Young, 6’2” point guard (Oklahoma). He will not be Maverick, he will be traded to the Atlanta Hawks (for Luka Doncic and a future first-round pick). Young is a fan favorite for many because he has Stephen Curry-like range on his three out to 30 feet, plus he’s a gifted passer who sees the floor incredibly well. Scouts mostly like him, but there is some concern he’s got more Jimmer Fredette in him than Curry. Young has to learn to manage the game, not be so turnover prone. The bigger issues are defensively, he’s not big and not an elite NBA athlete like many guys he’ll be asked to guard — and his defense was poor at Oklahoma. Can he stay playable in an NBA of switching defenses?

 
Magic small icon 6: Orlando Magic: Mohamed Bamba 7’0” center (Texas). Maybe the highest ceiling in this draft. He has a crazy wingspan of 7’9.5” and he can be a Pterodactyl on defense that flies in and blocks or alters everything. He’s athletic and mobile enough to hold his own on switches on the perimeter. A lot of Rudy Gobert comparisons, but like Gobert he has to work hard adding muscle and getting stronger without losing quickness to reach that potential. Does Bamba have the love of the game to put in that work? He played casually at times in college. Offensively he’s raw and has a long, long way to go. This is a high ceiling, but low floor pick.

 
Bulls small icon 7: Chicago Bulls: Wendell Carter Jr., 6’10” center (Duke). He’s a throwback, physical force inside around the rim, but more well rounded than that on offense. He can back guys down in the post, has an outside shot, is a fantastic passer, and shows impressive footwork for someone so young. Very versatile on offense (think Al Horford). On defense, however, he’s slow-footed, doesn’t move great laterally, and could find himself exposed against pick-and-rolls. Can he stay on the court late in games in a switching, speedy NBA?

 
Cavaliers small icon 8: Cleveland Cavaliers: Collin Sexton, 6’2” point guard (Alabama). You remember him as the guy who dropped 40 when Alabama had to play 3-on-5 early in the college season, Sexton has the potential to be a very good at the one in the NBA. He’s long (6’7” wingspan), athletic, and with a great work ethic. He attacks the lane and knows how to draw fouls. He’s got to become more consistent as a shooter and a decision maker to thrive in the NBA, but he has the potential. Could play with LeBron James or be a building block if he bolts (although shoot-first Sexton and never-pass Jordan Clarkson might literally fight over the ball).

 
Knicks small icon 9. New York Knicks: Kevin Knox, 6’9” forward (Kentucky ). A guy who shot up draft boards with his showings at the NBA Draft Combine and private workouts. He can be an athletic three or a small ball four — if he can solidify his inconsistent jump shot (he shot 34% from three in college, he will find more space to shoot in the NBA). He struggled to defend quicker players in college (there are more of them in the NBA) and there are concerns about his toughness. A lot of potential here to be a quality NBA player at a position of need.

 
Sixers small icon 10. Philadelphia 76ers:Mikal Bridges, 6’7” forward (Villanova). The Sixers just got themselves a solid role player on the wing who can guard multiple positions (the 7’2” wingspan helps) and knock down threes (43.5 percent last season). Bridges is a perfect fit, and he already knows all the good places to eat in town. He’s also performed well on the big stages of the NCAA Tournament, he can handle pressure. He has to prove he’s an elite defender on ball, but this guy is a solid NBA players and will be in the league for years.

 
Hornets small icon 11. Charlotte Hornets:Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 6’6” guard (Kentucky). He will be traded to the Los Angeles Clippers (scroll down a little for the details). A fast-rising point guard on draft boards this season, Gilgeous-Alexander is a big point guard (7’0” wingspan) and is not explosive but finds open spaces in the defense. He needs to become an improved shooter, especially from three, and his handles and game management need to take steps forward. Still a lot of potential as a rotation point guard and he showed that growth potential in Kentucky becoming the leader of that team.

WE HAVE A TRADE: The Hornets are going to trade Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to the Clippers for the No. 12 pick plus two future second-round picks. The Clippers have wanted a point guard who could be a core part of their future (with all due respect to Austin Rivers).

 
Clippers small icon 12. Los Angeles Clippers: Miles Bridges, 6’6” forward (Michigan St.). He will be traded to the Charlotte Hornets as part of the deal mentioned directly above. Bridges’ return to college to lift his draft stock didn’t really work that way, but he still looks like a quality NBA wing rotation player. He can hit threes (36.4 percent shooting them last season), he’s strong on the glass, and he’s an athlete who knows how to attack the rim. He can guard threes and fours and will be able switch and fit in the modern NBA.

 
Clippers small icon 13. Los Angeles Clippers: Jerome Robinson, 6’5” point guard (Boston College). He played point in college — and was very productive there — but likely will be more of a combo guard in the NBA. He brings a high IQ game, three point shooting and he can shoot off the bounce. Is he athletic enough and with that can he defend well enough to be a regular rotation guy for the Clippers? Teams thought so as he shot up draft boards at the end.

 
Nuggets small icon 14. Denver Nuggets: Michael Porter Jr., 6’10” forward (Missouri). He slid a long, long way down the board but this is a good gamble for the Nuggets at 14. Before the injury he was thought of as a top-three pick, play like that and this is a steal. There are concerns about his back injury (a microdiscetomy that forced him to miss much of last season) and a rumored “diva” attitude (already). The physical tools and potential is what had teams drooling — he’s big and can score inside and out. He has the potential to be a very dangerous stretch four because he’s a fantastic shooter and a high-level athlete. Will he put in the work to reach his potential?

 
Wizards small icon 15. Washington Wizards:>em>Troy Brown, 6-7, wing (Oregon). Another draft board climber in recent weeks. He has great length (6’11” wingspan) who was one of the top recruits in his class. He brings the kind of versatility on the wing that NBA teams crave. However, there are questions about how good an athlete he is and his shooting needs work to be consistent. That said, he’s one of the younger guys in the draft and should develop over time.

 
Suns small icon 16. The Phoenix Suns:

Bucks small icon 17. Milwaukee Bucks:

Hornets, Clippers swap Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Miles Bridges

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The Los Angeles Clippers were trying to make a deal in the days leading up to the 2018 NBA Draft for the Nos. 12 and 13 overall picks.

On Thursday, the Clippers finally pulled the trigger.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Los Angeles will send the 12th pick and two second-rounders to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Via Twitter:

Gilgeous-Alexander was selected with the 11th pick by Charlotte just moments before we got wind of the trade via social media. Meanwhile, the Clippers selected Miles Bridges with the 12th pick and will ship him to North Carolina.

Gilgeous-Alexander is a 6.6 guard who played one year for the Kentucky Wildcats under coach John Calipari. Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 14.4 points and 5.1 assists for UK last season, and will be part of an effort to perhaps bolster Charlotte in the event Kemba Walker is traded or leaves after his contract ends in 2018-19.

Bridges was a two-year starter at Michigan State for Tom Izzo, scoring 17.1 points per game as a sophomore while adding seven rebounds and 2.7 assists. He measures 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds, and there’s lots of guard minutes that are up in the air in LA. This Clippers squad also has Danilo Gallinari and Tobias Harris filling wing-type roles, where we could see Bridges get minutes as Doc Rivers plays with his rotation.

Follow our full 2018 NBA Draft coverage with our live-updated tracker here.

Report: Mavericks trade up with Hawks for Luka Doncic at No. 3

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The Mavericks reportedly targeted Luka Doncic.

They’ll get him.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Evaluating this trade hinges on the full protections of the future first-round pick, but Doncic is worth plenty.

He’s so skilled – as a ball-handler, passer and shooter. Doncic won’t singlehandedly transform Dallas, but he pairs nicely with Dennis Smith Jr. long-term. Doncic should also help in the short-term, which Dallas isn’t sacrificing.

The Hawks might have preferred Trae Young, a favorite of Atlanta ownership. Perhaps, the Hawks bluffed their way into this trade. If so, that’s a nice move by them. Young, with his passing and shooting, is an impressive prospect in his own right. This will push Dennis Schroder even further onto the trade market.

The Grizzlies made this trade possible by taking Jaren Jackson Jr. No. 4. He apparently came around on Memphis.

Kings select Marvin Bagley III with No. 2 overall pick in 2018 NBA Draft

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The Sacramento Kings have made a sensible pick in the 2018 NBA draft. After the Phoenix Suns selected DeAndre Ayton No. 1 overall, it was up to the Kings to do something that wouldn’t set their franchise back.

Despite rumors that Sacramento had began to favor Michael Porter Jr., on Thursday night. the Kings took Duke University standout Marvin Bagley III.

Adding Bagley to their rotation of young, switchable wing players was a solid move for Sacramento. Bagley measures in at 6-foot-11 and 234 pounds, making him a power forward for the Kings.. He will likely need to learn for a year behind veteran Zach Randolph, and should be an interesting addition to the frontcourt of Willie Cauley-Stein, Harry Giles, and Skal Labissiere.

The Phoenix, Arizona native was a scorer for the Blue Devils during his one year in college, nabbing ACC Player of the Year honors as a freshman while scoring 21 points per game.

The Kings have a slate of young guard prospects as well, including Buddy Hield, De’Aaron Fox, and Bogdan Bogdanovic.

Sacramento hasn’t won more than 35 games since the 2007-2008 season, and no doubt they are expecting that Bagley will add a scoring punch to their young core. More than anything, Sacramento needs this pick to go somewhat right as they continue to try to rebuild after the Isaiah Thomas / DeMarcus Cousins era.