Justin Dentmon Gets Closer To NBA With His Play On Second Day Of D-League Showcase

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Justin Dentmon was named the Pac-10’s Most Improved Player as a senior during the 2008-09 NCAA season with the Washington Huskies, but the 6-foot guard has improved quite a bit since. He’s looking to show NBA decision-makers just how much more he’s improved this week while playing with the Austin Toros in the NBA D-League Showcase.

The 26-year-old was averaging 23 points along with 4.6 assists and 4.3 rebounds heading into Tuesday’s game in 10 games this D-League season — split between a training camp invite with the New Orleans Hornets — and came out backing those numbers in a 111-88 blowout victory over the Erie BayHawks. Dentmon scored 23 points and dished nine assists while sharing a backcourt with San Antonio Spurs assignee Cory Joseph.

“My main focus down here at the Showcase was just to throw the first punch,” Dentmon told Pro Basketball Talk after the game. “Coach wrote on the board before the game ‘do what you do and do what we do’ so I did what I do and got the rest of my team involved. Scoring comes naturally, but I wanted to show I can be a complete player out there.”

Dentmon is forced to play off the ball a bit with Joseph in the lineup, but  the third-year pro wants it made clear that he’s a point guard with the ability to score and not just a scorer who can play the point in a pinch.

“Today I thought I did a good job of putting our guys in the right spots and getting us set up in the offense, really,” Dentmon said. “They told me in New Orleans that I need to work on getting my teammates involved and run the offense better so that’s what I’m trying to show I can do.”

As soon as he proves he’s able to do that on a consistent basis, it’ll prove that turning down lucrative European offers paid off.

“What keeps me here is my dream. My dream is to be in the NBA and by me playing well, I don’t want to pass it up only to later say ‘what if?'” Dentmon said. “I don’t want to go overseas and then see a guy get called up and be like ‘what if that was me?’ I just want to be that ‘what if.'”

Other players that stood out on Day 2 in the D-League included:

  • The first game of the day on Tuesday included another player with Washington state connections making waves as former Seattle U standout Charles Garcia put in 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in a losing effort for the Sioux Falls Skyforce. Garcia still has to prove he’s capable of fitting in on an NBA roster without causing any commotion, but he certainly has the size to contribute in an NBA frontcourt in the future.
  • Xavier Silas isn’t a name most basketball fans are familiar with, but the rookie out of Northern Illinois may have opened some eyes Tuesday morning with a game-high 21 points in the Maine Red Claws 98-92 victory. Silas was invited to camp with the Philadelphia 76ers so he obviously has NBA talent, but he’ll need to show he can perform on a consistent basiss in order to get a further looks from the big leagues.
  • Booker Woodfox has developed a reputation for standing out at the Showcase as the former Creighton standout shoots the lights out when on the big stage. It was Booker Time again on Tuesday afternoon as he had a few in attendance calling him ‘Microwave’ after coming off the bench for the Legends to score 22 points in 31 minutes.
  • Mike Anderson looked solid in defeat for the Dakota Wizards as the lengthy forward scored 19 points, grabbed six rebounds and swatted four shots while converting on multiple highlight plays on both ends of the court. Former Cleveland Cavalier Manny Harris led the Canton Charge over Anderson’s team, however, by coming off the bench to score 15 points in his first D-League game.

Jerry West on NBA Draft: “I don’t know how you could pass Zion Williamson”

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A rumor started buzzing around NBA Twitter last week, a second-hand report that NBA legend and Clippers’ consultant Jerry West was praising Murray State guard Ja Morant, saying he would take him in front of the presumptive No. 1 pick Zion Williamson.

The source of that rumor: comedian Jeff Garlin, saying it on the Dan Patrick Show.

Jerry West himself went on the Dan Patrick show Thursday and shot that down saying “it Would Be Like Passing Jordan in the draft.”

Two players were picked in front Jordan in the 1984 Draft. The Houston Rockets took Hakeem Olajuwon, and while Jordan went on to be Jordan nobody can fault the Rockets for how this picked turned out — two titles and a Hall of Fame big man in your organization is an amazing draft.

The one everyone talks about was Portland at No. 2, when executive Stu Inman and coach Jack Ramsey decided they were set on the wing in Clyde Drexler and needed a big man, so they selected Sam Bowie out of Kentucky. Bowie might have had an excellent NBA career if injuries had not plagued him, but he was no Jordan. It’s the ultimate NBA cautionary tale — draft the best player on the board, not according to need.

Williamson is projected by teams as the best player on the board. By far. Even the Morant fans have him a clear second. Plus, Williamson comes in hugely popular and a brand unto himself — he will sell tickets and sponsorships. Not drafting him would be a stupid business decision, not to mention a basketball one.

Whoever lands second in next month’s draft lottery will do well with Morant. Whoever is third will likely get R.J. Barrett out of Duke and… let’s just say that’s where it gets interesting.

Likely top-10 pick Jarrett Culver of Texas Tech makes it official, declares for NBA Draft

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We all knew this was coming, but on Thursday he made it official:

Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver is declaring for the NBA Draft, where he is expected to be a top-10 pick. He made the announcement at a rally on the Tech campus Thursday, then took his message to social media.

Culver, a 6’6” wing player, passes the eye test for an NBA wing, he can shoot from the outside (he only hit 30.4 percent from three this season, but it was 38 percent the season before and his stroke looks good), he can put the ball on the floor and get inside, and he may have the best feel for the game of any wing prospect in this draft. The only question is athleticism — he’s not a classically explosive, and the NBA is loaded with freak athletes on the wing.

Still, Culvert looks like a rotation wing player with the potential to be more, and that should land him comfortably in the top 10 in this draft (likely 5-8).

Nuggets take 13-game losing streak in San Antonio into Game 3

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In 2009, Carlos Boozer had 18 points and 11 rebounds in the Jazz’s win over the Spurs. Paul Millsap backed him up.

A couple months later, Boozer had 31-13 in another Jazz win over the Spurs. Again, Millsap backed him up.

Late in the 2012-13 season, rookie Damian Lillard led the Trail Blazers to a blowout of the Spurs. Will Barton played three minutes in garbage time.

Those are the only three times current Nuggets starters have won in San Antonio.

After splitting the first two games of their first-round series in Denver, the Nuggets must win at least once in San Antonio to advance. The first opportunity comes in Game 3 tonight.

Denver has lost 13 straight road games against the Spurs – a drought longer than the careers of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris. The Nuggets’ other starters didn’t fare much better before joining Denver. Barton went 1-5 in San Antonio with Portland. Millsap went 2-20 in San Antonio with Utah and Atlanta.

Even several notches below their dynasty status, the Spurs remain especially tough at home.

The Spurs went 32-9 at home and 16-25 on the road this season. Maybe that’s an aberration in a limited sample. But they also went 33-8 at home and 14-27 on the road last season.

That’s a 79% win percentage at home and 37% on the road. The last time a team had such a large disparity over a two-year span was the 2008-2009 Jazz.

This might just be San Antonio’s post-Kawhi Leonard identity.

Here are the largest home-road win percentage differences in the last decade:

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There’s another possibility: It’s not that the Spurs are that good at home. It’s that they’re that bad on the road.

But San Antonio trailed only the Nuggets, Bucks and Raptors in home record this season.

The Spurs also won Game 1 in Denver, where the altitude has historically given the Nuggets a strong homecourt advantage. If Denver dropped that game to a lousy road team, that’d be its own problem.

Either way, the Nuggets have a real challenge on their hands.

Kevin Porter Jr. a possible lottery pick heading into 2019 NBA draft

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Kevin Porter Jr. missed more than a quarter of his freshman season at USC due to injury. He missed another couple games due to suspension. When he played, he usually came off the bench. He’s only 18.

But Porter has already shown enough to impress NBA teams.

Porter, via Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

“I will be declaring for the 2019 NBA draft and I will be signing with Roc Nation Sports,” Porter told ESPN.

Porter has a wide possible range in the first round, because there’s a massive gap between his ceiling and floor. But it shouldn’t take too long for a team to bet on his upside.

A 6-foot-6 shooting guard with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, Porter has a special combination of shiftiness and power with the ball in his hands. He can attack the rim and finish above it. He can also pull up for jumpers.

I don’t trust his 41% 3-point shooting at USC. That came on only 68 attempts, and he made just 52% of his free throws (though that was also on an unreliably small sample, just 46 attempts). But his stroke looks compact and smooth.

Porter can be an impressive passer. Right now, that’s more so making quick and correct standstill reads than distributing while driving.

If he improves his handle, that could really tie together all his skills.

Porter forces too many bad shots. He’s not attentive enough defensively. There are questions about his maturity.

But if he pans out at the next level, he could be awesome.