Who will be the No. 1 pick next draft? Good question.

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If you asked your Magic 8 Ball who the No. 1 pick in the next draft would be, the answer would come up “Reply hazy, try again.”

DraftExpress has UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad as the top pick as of right now, but after the NCAA was done enforcing its archaic and inconsistent sense of justice, he went out in his debut Monday night and looked overwhelmed against Georgetown. Well, what he really looked like is a 19-year-old in his first college game against an athletic opponent — it’s an adjustment. His defense wasn’t impressive. He still had 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting, but he did not stand out. As Rob Dauster said at our sister CollegeBasketballTalk blog, it’s too early to rush to judgment.

But one thing that is clear is that there is no clear-cut No. 1 overall pick as of right now. After a few drafts where there wasn’t any real debate about the top spot in the draft (Anthony Davis and Kyrie Irving were pretty clear choices) there could be some debate this year.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports spoke to some scouts and GMs about this draft and heard teams are interested to see how players develop over the course of this college season.

Muhammad has constructed his pre-college reputation on how fiercely he competes on the floor, how he uses that explosive and chiseled 6-foot-6 frame inside and outside. “His greatest talent is his competitiveness,” said an assistant GM who spent several days watching Muhammad in national team practices at the Hoop Summit in the spring. “He’s relentless. But does he have the skill level to be the No. 1 pick? I still need to see that out of him….”

As one assistant GM of a likely lottery team said, “Whoever is the No. 1 pick, he’ll play himself into it this year. I don’t think it will ever be a clear-cut choice.”

As one Western Conference executive was leaving Barclays on Monday night, he knew he’d have to see Shabazz Muhammad over and over this season. After watching Zeller and Muhammad, he did have a suspicion about this spring’s draft. “I think you’re going to see a team who gets that first overall pick who will seriously think about trading down and moving out of it.”

DraftExpress’ top five rounds out with Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel at No. 2, Indiana’s Cody Zeller at No. 3, international prospect Rudy Gobert at No. 4 and North Carolina’s James McAdoo at No. 5. (I saw McAdoo play in person last week and there is a lot of potential there, fantastic athlete and showed a little midrange game, but I wanted to see more aggressiveness.)

Muhammad has played one game and could blossom, he sounds a lot like a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist type of hustle player. A guy whose drive turns his good skills into something more. But we will have to see about him, and Noel and the rest.

This should be fun, because for once the top of the draft board does not seem like a foregone conclusion.

Scottie Pippen on LeBron James, Michael Jordan: “It’s not a fair comparison”

AP
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The battle has, stupidly, raged on between supporters of Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Both sides seem to believe their preference is irrefutably the choice for the best player in NBA history.

And because they did not play in the same era, the question will never be answered. No doubt in 50 years they will write columns about Jordan vs. LeBron, just like their fathers, and their father’s fathers before them.

James has certainly seemed to take a bit of a leap in the eyes of the NBA community this season, likely because of his wonderful performance at age 33. He’s also single-handedly won two playoff series this year. It’s been incredible.

But LeBron rising above Jordan has also brought out some more reasonable takes. Former Chicago Bulls legend and Jordan running mate Scottie Pippen spoke up recently about the debate, giving a measured analysis that I think is pretty strong.

In short, Pippen basically said you can’t compare the two because of the eras, the style, and the fact they just don’t play the same position (if LeBron even has a position, that is).

Via Twitter:

That sounds right to me.

Cavaliers’ Kendrick Perkins not into “all that new stuff” like Chewbacca

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Chewbacca was at Game 3 in Cleveland Saturday. Sitting courtside.

Why? Because growing up on Kashyyyk he played a little hoop and admires LeBron James‘ skill? Because Drake gave him the tickets? Maybe. I mean, it’s not like that was just a clever little publicity stunt for a movie.

After the Cavaliers’ win, Kevin Love decided to make a little joke of it with noted humorist Kendrick Perkins, and it went over as well as expected (with Dave McMenamin of ESPN catching it).

That’s vintage Perkins.

Celtics’ Terry Rozier on Game 3: “We needed to get our butts whooped”

Associated Press
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Cleveland dominated Game 3 Saturday night. They played harder, to start. The Cavaliers’ defensive pressure on the ball was better, they were sharper rotating out to shooters and covering passing lanes. Cleveland’s role players stepped up and helped LeBron James.

Boston, meanwhile, wilted in the face of that pressure Saturday, something it has done a few times on the road these playoffs. The Celtics got away from the things that got them to the Eastern Conference Finals. Guard Terry Rozier put it more bluntly, via A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston:

“I feel like we needed this (loss) to get us back … to get us ready for Monday,” Rozier said.

Rozier later added, “We needed to get our butts whipped. Come back to reality and take care of business on Monday.”

Cleveland is a championship team — from LeBron James on down through the core guys, they all have rings. They have been down before, and heading home it was expected they would play with force. Cleveland’s back was against the wall and they responded.

From the Celtics’ perspective, they also got a little too fat and happy and were not ready for what the Cavaliers came with in Game 3.

Now the pressure is on Boston to push back, to get back to their level of execution and do it under pressure. Make the Cavaliers prove the improved defensive effort was not a one-off game. The Celtics must move the ball and play with some pace, then see if the Cavaliers can keep it together in the face of crisp play.

When this series heads back to Boston Wednesday, it will either see the Celtics in control up 3-1, or the series will be a best of three (with the Cavs still having to figure out if they can win on the road). At home, the Cavaliers are going to play with force again and have some depth. We’ll see if Game 3 was enough of a wakeup call for Boston.

PBT Extra: Can Rockets take Game 2 energy, execution on the road?

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Houston found its blueprint to beating Golden State in Game 2: Strong defensive pressure on the ball, quick switches and communication on defense, getting out in transition when possible, and starting sets earlier in the shot clock and attacking downhill with James Harden and Chris Paul.

Now can they do that on the road? Against a more focused and sharper Warriors’ team?

That will be the question in the next two games of the Western Conference Finals, and it’s what I discuss in this latest PBT Extra.