NBA Draft Profile: Bradley Beal

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Two kinds of players rise up the draft board every year — big men and pure shooters.

Florida’s Bradley Beal is the best pure shooter in the draft and he could go as high as No. 2 to Charlotte, although the Wizards are reportedly high in him for the No. 3 pick because they want an Eric Gordon like shooter next to John Wall. DraftExpress has him at No. 4 to Cleveland where they have the same idea with point guard Kyrie Irving. Notice the theme with those last two — they have point guards who can create and are looking for quality scorers to put around them.

Comparing Beal to Gordon is pretty high praise — before he got injured last year Gordon was the best young two guard in the league. Other people are throwing around the Ray Allen comparison (including Beal himself), but I hate when guys get compared to legends. We’re a long way from there. But the guy can shoot and at the end of the day the goal of the game remains to put the leather thing through the round thing.

Beal has wowed people in his early workouts — which is good because his regular season numbers don’t blow your doors off. He shot just 33 percent from three for the Gators last year, which is pedestrian at best. But scouts saw past that because he shot well in high school and his form was always good. The ball just wasn’t going in the basket but the issues were seen as fixable ones, not deep rooted.

Plus, Beal is a good athlete at 6’4” with solid handles who can put the ball on the floor and get into the lane. He’s not a full time-point but he can run the show a little if a team needs it. Also he averaged 6.7 rebounds per game this season, so he can get some boards. He’s an iffy defender, but all rookies are, if they think he will work on it he can become solid on that end as well. He has the tools.

If Beal struggled at the draft combine and in team workouts after he had an off year in college teams might hesitate, but reports are he is shooting lights out in workouts and if that’s true he will go high.

If you wonder where he gets drafted, that really depends on what happens with the Bobcats at No. 2. Do they take Michael Kidd-Gilchrist? Thomas Robinson? The Bobcats have needs everywhere and just need to take the best player out there, they can’t worry about fit. (Really, teams should not draft for need anyway, talent wins and if you’re overstocked with great players at a position that can be fixed easily.) The Wizards have Wall at the point and Nene in the paint but could add anywhere else, which includes Beal to play the two. Beal will not fall past four, where the Cavaliers would love to pair him with Kyrie Irving.

Bottom line, there is not a team in the top four that couldn’t use a guy who can flat out shoot the rock. DraftExpress says the “low end” for Beal is Gary Neal, and San Antonio has shown that’s not a bad bottom. The ceiling is much higher, especially on a team where a point guard can create shots for him.

Report: 76ers rookie Zhaire Smith expected to return around Christmas

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76ers first-rounder Zhaire Smith suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot last month, leaving plenty of uncertainty about when he’d return.

Keith Pompey of The Inquirer:

The 76ers expect injured rookie Zhaire Smith to be available to play in a game around Christmas, league sources say.

A rookie on a team with legitimate aspirations of deep-playoff advancement, Smith was already unlikely to crack Philadelphia’s rotation this season. All this lost developmental time makes it even less likely.

But the sooner Smith returns, the better for him and Philadelphia. The No. 16 pick impresses with his athleticism and motor, but he needs time to develop his perimeter skills.

Kevin Love launches “Love Fund” to bring more focus to mental health issues

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The NBA is not shying away from the issue of the mental health of its players.

In the wake of All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love coming forward about their mental health challenges, the league and the players’ union combined to tell players to speak out on the issue and take advantage of the services offered.

Kevin Love is doing more than just that, he has formed the Kevin Love Fund to help change the stigma around mental health issues. The fund has partners such as Headspace, with the focus being on prioritizing mental health awareness. He went on the Today Show on NBC to talk about it.

Love has become a leader and spokesman around the issue. Love came forward near the end of last season to talk about his battles with anxiety and depression. That opened the door for others around the NBA to step forward as well, such as Kelly Oubre and Paul Pierce.

Sixers hire Elton Brand as new General Manager

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Filling the 76ers vacant general manager position dragged out all summer for one main reason:

They liked what they already had in-house. The Sixers were an especially collegial and collaborative group with their decision making, and if they brought in a big name from the outside — former Cavaliers’ GM David Griffin, or the two guys who went deep into the interview process Utah assistant GM Justin Zanik on Rockets VP Gersson Rosas — it would change that dynamic.

Which is why they have decided to keep this in the family, and will promote Elton Brand from vice president of basketball operations to general manager. It’s a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and confirmed by NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark.

Brand, a former Philadelphia player, was the general manager of their G-League team, the Delaware Blue Coats, before becoming the VP of basketball operations. He will replace Bryan Colangelo, who was forced out following a Twitter scandal involving his wife.

There were other title changes within the organization as well.

What this means on the ground is don’t expect any significant changes with the Sixers’ plans — nor should there be. They are banking on Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz — now with a functional jump shot, they hope — to be at the core of a contending team, then next summer they will go big game hunting again for an elite free agent. (There is more pressure to get a deal done this summer before the big extensions for those young stars start to really kick in.) That said, this is a team poised on the brink of a great run.

And if things are going well, why make a dramatic change? Brand can help them on the course already set.

Pat Riley: Dion Waiters not recovered for start of training camp, “unlikely” for start of season

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This is a setback.

When Dion Waiters had ankle surgery 30 games into last season, the hope was that he would be healthy for the start of this season and return to the post All-Star form of 2017, when his hot play (15.6 points per game, 41 percent from three and carrying a heavy offensive load) led the Heat to offer him a four-year contract.

Turns out, that’s not going to happen.

It was Pat Riley who made the announcement, speaking to the media.

Waiters was not healthy last season, and while he averaged 14.3 points a game he was not nearly as efficient — 30.6 percent from three, shooting 39.8 percent overall, a PER of 10.5.

This could move Dwyane Wade into the starting lineup to open the season. Beyond that, the Heat have the guard depth to survive this with Wade and Wayne Ellington at the two, plus Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, Malik Newman, and Briante Weber heading into camp.

Waiters being out also is bad news for the player but could save the franchise money on another front: Waiters receives a $1.1 million bonus if he plays in 70 games this season. If he misses the start of the season, he becomes far less likely to make that threshold.