2012 NBA Draft: The lottery bigs and their musical chairs

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Well, Anthony Davis is No.1 and Thomas Robinson will go in the top five. That’s a pretty good start for the bigs in the 2012 NBA draft. After that, things get really interesting. Of the top bigs: Andre Drummond, Jared Sullinger, John Henson, Meyers Leonard, Tyler Zeller, Perry Jones, and if you want to throw him in, Terrence Jones (I think Jones will play more 3 in the league), there’s really no way to determine in what order they’ll definitely go.

We know a few things.

  • Drummond is the most coveted big outside of Davis, and at the same time the biggest risk. He has immense athleticism to go with his size, but is severely lacking in the skills department and there are huge questions about his mindset and attitude.
  • Henson has no such question marks, but doesn’t have the same raw ability. He is more polished, however, and could immediately contribute.
  • Leonard has excellent size and slightly more skills than Drummond, but falls behind in the athleticism department.
  • Zeller is a player scouts absolutely love, but because of his play style and athleticism, is not going to jump to the front.
  • Perry Jones could be a Hall of Famer or could be out of the league in three years and neither would surprise me.
  • Sullinger has the best mindset and approach of any big, is extremely smart and coachable. But the back is a question mark. More importantly, though, his defensive lateral speed is a huge issue.

Chad Ford has more on Drummond’s situation and how he could go top five or slide, and where it might stop:

Right now, sources say Leonard and Henson are the two leading candidates in the group. Sullinger has slid on the Pistons’ draft board since the team saw his draft combine physical. Mississippi State’s Arnett Moultrie is also in the running for the No. 9 pick; however, he’s more of a long shot. He worked out earlier with the Pistons.

The winner of the workout could very well be the ninth pick if UConn big man Andre Drummond doesn’t fall to Detroit.

The Pistons are hoping Drummond does fall, and there are scenarios where they could get their wish. Right now it doesn’t look like Drummond has a home inside the top five. Sources say he’s struggled in workouts and hasn’t gotten strong feedback from teams. The Blazers are a real possibility at six.

via 2012 NBA Draft – Royce White may have a draft promise, plus rumors – ESPN.

The Pistons would be really set with Henson. A super-long rebounder with a bit of a mid-range game (his jumper is underrated), he would fit perfectly with Greg Monroe and set the Pistons up with a terrific core for the future. Drummond… on the list of coaches to try and crack that nut, Lawrence Frank seems like a bit of a gamble, given his tougher, professional approach. Is Frank going to nurture him the way he may need to? No, because most coaches won’t do that. This is the NBA. That’s the problem with Drummond.

There’s also talk from the New Orleans Times-Picayune that the Hornets could use the tenth pick on Zeller. The best case scenario may honestly be for the Pistons to bypass Drummond, take Henson, and Drummond falls to New Orleans. Monty Williams could likely connect with Drummond and build one of the best defensive frontcourts of the past 20 years with Davis and Drummond as anchors.

Leonard has risen meteorically based off his size. You can tell the lack of quality centers in the league with this run on guys without much in the way of go-to post moves.

Honestly, there’s no telling how those players shake out. We know Drummond likely won’t fall past six to Portland, definitely won’t fall past nine. We know Henson is unlikely to slip out of the top ten, and will likely go before Zeller. We know Zeller’s a value pick, and that Leonard is probably going to get snagged top 12. Everything else is liquid.

Report: CJ McCollum has been playing through fractured lower back

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CJ McCollum hit two critical free throws late Tuesday to put Portland up three late on Dallas and secure the win.

But he had a rough night overall, shooting 2-of-14 overall. His shooting numbers are down across the board through this restart, not terrible but down from the level the world has seen from one of the games most feared scorers.

Now we know why: A fractured lower back. Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports Northwest broke the news.

Sources told NBC Sports Northwest prior to the game that McCollum has been playing with a L3 vertebral transverse process fracture (non-displaced) since last Thursday. In layman’s terms, he has a fracture in his lower back. He has played three games since the injury.

While this injury is not as bad as “a fractured back” sounds, it has slowed other players who had it, including Utah’s Mike Conley.

Portland has had success despite a slowed McCollum, in part because Gary Trent Jr. has stepped up and taken on a larger role on both ends of the court (including drawing a charge on Kristaps Porzingis that sealed the Blazers win over the Mavericks).

That win put Portland in as the eighth seed in the West, a spot they can hold with a win against Brooklyn on Thursday. That would put them in a play-in series — where if they won the reward would be LeBron James and the Lakers. To reach that point and threaten Los Angeles, Portland is going to need a lot out of McCollum. The question is how much does he have to give with this injury?

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo ejected after headbutting Moe Wagner

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The Milwaukee Bucks are lucky they have another seeding game remaining because there is a good chance Giannis Antetokounmpo gets suspended a game for this.

The reigning (and soon-to-be two time) MVP let Washington’s Moe Wagner get under his skin. After Wagner took a charge from Antetokounmpo the two had to be separated. They kept jawing, and when they came together again, Antetokounmpo headbutted Wagner.

Wagner may have sold that a little, but that is unquestionably a headbutt. Antetokounmpo deserved the Flagrant II and ejection that came with it.

The one-game suspension that is coming will not cost the Bucks anything, they have the No. 1 seed in the East locked up. However, that one game is aginst the Grizzlies and if Memphis wins it gets the nine seed in the West at worst (eighth of Portland were to lose Thursday).

Wagner has a gift for getting under an opponent’s skin. Antetokounmpo has to do better keeping his emotions in check, because come the playoffs they will get tested like never before.

 

Damian Lillard scores 61 points, win vaults Portland to eight seed

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The Portland Trail Blazers control their own postseason destiny — and they can thank Damian Lillard for that.

Lillard got all the respect he wanted when he tied his career-high of 61 points Tuesday, and the Portland Trail Blazers needed every one of them to beat the Dallas Mavericks 134-131.

Lillard was 9-of-17 from three, plus got to the line 18 times and hit every free throw.

Portland’s win combined with Memphis’ loss to Boston puts the Trail Blazers into the eighth seed in the West — win on Thursday against Brooklyn and Portland is the eighth seed. That is a massive advantage heading into the two-game play-in series, the eighth seed just needs to win one of those two games to advance to the playoffs (and a first-round date with LeBron James). The ninth-seeded team needs to sweep the two games to advance.

Memphis can maintain the nine seed with a win Thursday. Should the Grizzlies lose again (to the Bucks, who have nothing to play for) it opens the door for the Suns or the Spurs to get the nine seed. Or maybe higher.

Portland is not safe just because of the win Tuesday: If it loses to Brooklyn on Thursday and two of Memphis, Phoenix, and San Antonio win, the Trail Blazers will be watching the first round of the playoffs on television like the rest of us. The race in the West is that tight.

It’s hard to imagine Portland losing a critical game, however, with the way Lillard is playing. He said he wants some respect on his f ****** name – and he’s more than earned it.

Watch Devin Booker score 35, keep Phoenix perfect 7-0 and in play-in hunt

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Devin Booker scored 35 points and the Phoenix Suns protected their playoff hopes by beating the Philadelphia 76ers 130-117 on Tuesday to remain undefeated in the NBA restart.

Booker became the Suns’ career leader with his 91st 30-point game, breaking a tie with Walter Davis.

Mikal Bridges added 24 points and Ricky Rubio had 16 points with 10 assists for the Suns, who began the day only one game behind eighth-place Memphis in the Western Conference playoff race.

Phoenix is 7-0 as the only undefeated team in the restart and an unlikely factor in the tight race for a spot in this weekend’s play-in for the final playoff spot.

Phoenix pulled away late after leading only 105-102 following back-to-back baskets by Alec Burks, who led the 76ers with 23 points.

A dunk by Cameron Johnson capped a 10-3 run that stretched the lead to 115-105.

The Suns continued their high-scoring play in the bubble after averaging 120 points in the first six games.

Philadelphia, No. 6 in the East and already assured of a playoff spot, is attempting to prepare for the postseason after losing Ben Simmons to a knee injury.

Shake Milton was Philadelphia’s only healthy starter against the Suns. The 76ers also were without Joel Embiid (left ankle), Tobias Harris (sore right ankle) and Al Horford (sore left knee). Josh Richardson was rested.