D-League Showcase’s top prospects included Blake Ahearn And Greg Ostertag

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The NBA Development League Showcase wrapped up on Thursday night following 16 teams playing a total of 16 games over the course of four days in lovely Reno, Nev. Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey told Pro Basketball Talk that the talent at the annual event was at an all-time high so it seems to make sense to give everyone that didn’t make the trek — unlike representatives from all 30 NBA teams — a quick glance at the top players in attendance by position.

Guards:

Blake Ahearn of the Reno Bighorns was often overlooked when scouts were asked to name the best prospects in the D-League this week, but that might be because Ahearn’s no longer a prospect … he’s a proven commodity. The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 23.5 points and nine assists while shooting 50 percent from the field as the Bighorns racked up a pair of blowout victories as the hometown team at the Showcase. Ahearn’s spending his fifth season in the D-League this year and has little left to prove considering he can shoot the lights out, get to the foul line (and convert, considering he’s the NCAA’s all-time leader in free-throw percentage and a lifetime 96-percent from the charity stripe in the D-League) and be a positive influence to his teammates on and off the court. NBA teams seem to overlook the positives and instead try to find the negatives, but as soon as their attitude improves on that front, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Ahearn get another look in the Association.

Justin Dentmon was a man on a mission at the Showcase this week as the 6-foot guard for the Austin Toros set out to prove he was a point guard. That mission may not have worked out quite as planned considering he picked up nine turnovers on 13 assists, but the quick guard showed he’s easily able to be a force on the offensive end with his play in Reno. Dentmon averaged 26.5 points while shooting 62 percent from the field. It’s going to be interesting to see what NBA teams think of his performance in Reno, but there’s no doubt he has NBA skills — even if he doesn’t have the prototypical NBA body for a scoring guard.

Forwards:

Gerald Green is a well-known player considering he was a former first round pick and competed in the NBA Slam Dunk contest a few years ago, bu he’s had to toil in the D-League this season as he works toward a comeback at the ripe old age of 25. Green’s first game at the Showcase didn’t go as planned as he scored just four points off the bench in a 15-point victory for the Los Angeles D-Fenders, but his second game was outstanding. Green scored 34 points on 13-of-17 shooting on Wednesday to show that his NBA comeback attempt is all for naught as his skillset tries to catch up with his athleticism.

Marcus Lewis might not look like an NBA prospect and he certainly doesn’t have the pedigree, but the former Oral Roberts standout has consistently improved while playing the past few seasons with the Tulsa 66ers in the NBA Development League. Lewis, a 6-foot-8 power forward listed at 245 pounds, is the D-League’s leading rebounder this season with 13.8 per game, meaning his 23 total boards at the Showcase might have been a bit of a disappointment. He certainly opened eyes this week, though, and could be in line for a good gig down the line.

Center:

Greg Ostertag wasn’t expected to do much in the D-League this season considering he’s been out of basketball for five seasons, but the former starting center for the Utah Jazz looked great this week in limited minutes. Ostertag averaged nine points and 5.5 rebounds in a pair of games while showing that he’s capable of being an NBA back-up big man by playing the same role — minutes included — in the D-League this week. Ostertag talked to Pro Basketball Talk about his comeback earlier this week and, judging by the opinions of those in attendance, it wouldn’t be crazy to see him back on an NBA roster this year.

Honorable mention awards should have also been handed out to Dakota Wizards swingman Edwin Ubiles, former NBA Draft picks JamesOn Curry and Andre Emmett along with Los Angeles D-Fenders big man Brandon Costner. Quite a few players were impressive in one game of the Showcase, but that’s the reason a lot of guys are in the D-League — because they can’t play at an NBA level on a consistent basis.

76ers coach Brett Brown says he expects Joel Embiid (ankle injury) back before playoffs

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Joel Embiid injured his ankle in the 76ers’ loss to the Trail Blazers yesterday.

How serious is it?

Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

Joel Embiid is out for Tuesday’s game against the Suns with the left ankle injury he sustained in the first quarter Sunday vs. the Blazers. He’ll be undergoing treatment and evaluation at the team’s practice Monday night.

Brett Brown said he expected Embiid to play again before the playoffs, though characterized that view as “just one man’s opinion.”

That sounds like great news for Philadelphia, which is already without Ben Simmons.

Embiid can be dominant. With him, the 76ers still have a chance of advancing in the playoffs. It might even be easier to create space around Embiid – where Embiid can really feast – without Simmons (though the loss of the talented Simmons lowers Philadelphia’s ceiling).

However, the 76ers don’t deserve benefit of the doubt for setting accurate injury timelines, particularly with Embiid. There’s an element of “see it to believe it” here.

J.J. Redick loses NBA’s longest-active individual playoff streak (13 years)

Pelicans guard J.J. Redick
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As J.J. Redick stared into the distance, he had to see this coming.

Redick will miss the playoffs for the first time in his 14-year career. His Pelicans were eliminated from the postseason race yesterday.

At 13 years, Redick’s playoff streak is tied for the 13th-longest in NBA history. No current player has a longer streak at any point his career. LeBron James also had a 13-year playoff streak (which was snapped last year).

Here are the longest individual postseason streaks in NBA history:

Obviously, some of Redick’s streak was out of his control. He got drafted in 2006 by the Magic, who were rising with Dwight Howard. But Redick’s competitiveness and professionalism made him a steady contributor, and he chose winning situations with the Clippers then 76ers.

But New Orleans was too flawed to make a major leap in this Western Conference.

This clears the way for Bucks wing Kyle Korver to take over the longest active playoff streak. He has played in the last 12 postseasons, and Milwaukee has already clinched a playoff berth.

Here are the longest postseason streaks that could remain active this year.

Players whose teams have already clinched a playoff berth are in blue. Players whose teams are still in the race but haven’t clinched are in gold.

Players are listed with the teams they made the postseason with during their streaks. If they haven’t reached the playoffs with their current team, that team is listed in brackets:

Deandre Ayton misses coronavirus test, arrives late to underway Suns-Thunder game

Suns center Deandre Ayton
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Another testing issue for Deandre Ayton.

This one comes at a terrible time for the Suns.

Phoenix is trying to complete a longshot run to the playoffs and playing the Thunder in a key game today. But Ayton arrived late to the arena after missing a coronavirus test yesterday.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Like many Suns, Ayton has played well in the resumption. Phoenix doesn’t have another big-man option like him, especially with Aron Baynes sidelined. The Suns started Dario Saric in a small lineup today.

Ayton arrived to the arena and is warming up on an exercise bike. He could still get into the game and make a difference.

Already locked into the 4-6 range in the Western Conference and perhaps trying to keep its top-20-protected first-round pick, Oklahoma City is playing without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, Steven Adams, Nerlens Noel and Dennis Schroder. None of those will players will make a late entrance into the game.

Also: It’s ridiculous this wasn’t publicly disclosed sooner. The NBA continues to tout transparency while trying to draw more gambling revenue. Yet, a major lineup issue like this remains secret? That opens the door for some bettors to get inside information, which would be so damaging to the league’s integrity.

Kings now sole owners of second-longest playoff drought in NBA history

Sacramento Kings
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The Kings’ 2018-19 season ended with optimism.

Facing a meager over/under of 25.5 wins, Sacramento surged to 39 wins – its best record in 13 years. Under Dave Joerger, the Kings played a fast and fun style. De'Aaron Fox made historic improvements. Buddy Hield broke out. Several other young players showed promise.

Sure, the Kings missed the playoffs for a 13th straight season – matching the second-longest playoff drought in NBA history. But they were on track to end the skid soon enough.

Except, of course that’s not how it went in Sacramento.

The Kings were eliminated from the postseason chase yesterday, ensuring a 14th straight season outside the playoffs. That alone is now NBA’s the second-longest-ever postseason drought, breaking a tie with the Timberwolves (2005-17). Only the Buffalo Braves/San Diego/Los Angeles Clippers’ 15-year non-playoff streak (1977-91) is longer.

Here are the longest postseason droughts in NBA history:

The Suns could still reach 10 straight years outside the playoffs, but they’re still in the race this season.

The Kings might not be far from climbing this list, either.

Their future looks far bleaker than a year ago. Sacramento fired Joerger to hire Luke Walton, who has underwhelmed. Buddy Hield signed a lucrative contract extension then had a rough season. Fox progressed, though he didn’t make the desired leap into stardom. Other young players had ups and downs. Luka Doncic casts an even larger shadow from Dallas. The Kings’ organizational turmoil continues.

This was a feel-bad season in Sacramento, anyway. All the preceding losing only adds to the misery.

The Kings enter next season with one last chance to avoid the longest playoff drought in NBA history, and they do have a chance. But there’s only pessimism now.