PBT NBA Draft Preview: Top 10 shooting guards

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If you can shoot the rock, there is a place for you in the NBA.

This year’s shooting guard class has some guys who can shoot the rock. It also has some guys that blur the lines for the position. PBT’s NBA draft expert Ed Isaacson of NBADraftBlog.com and Rotoworld — the man who put together this list for us — thinks Dante Exum will end up as more of a two than point guard and includes him in this list (in reality he likely ends up a combo guard). Some people think Andrew Wiggins is a two, Isaacson sees him more as a three. Really, the lines are fairly moot in most modern offenses, which are moving toward more positionless play to match the varied skill sets coming into the league now.

However you divide it up, there are some flat out good players here. Here is PBT’s Top 10 shooting guards (you can see the top 10 point guards right here).

1. Gary Harris, Sophomore, Michigan State, 6’4, 205
Put aside concerns about Harris’ size, which some seemed to have when he was measured at the combine. He is a versatile offensive threat, who at times seemed to be handcuffed by Michigan State’s rigid offense. Harris is a better three-point shooter than the numbers (35% on 235 attempts) suggest, and he was often forced to create opportunities late in the shot clock which forced some bad attempts. Harris is also a very strong slasher to the basket, capable of finishing in a variety of ways. On top of his offense, Harris is a very good on-ball defender, capable of defending either guard spot, and he is very strong in transition.

2. Nik Stauskas, Sophomore, Michigan, 6’6, 207
Stauskas stepped up in a big way this past season with Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. in the NBA. He has very good size at 6’6, and he has consistent range well beyond the NBA three-point line. Stauskas even showed that he can be a playmaker with the ball in his hands, especially in pick-and-roll situations, where he was able to make some very good reads and attack the basket or find open teammates. His defensive ability may be a concern, but he should eventually become at least an average NBA defender.

3. Dante Exum, 18 years old, Australia, 6’6, 196
Yes, there are some who believe Exum will be able to play point guard at the NBA level. I am not one of them. Also, Exum will likely be the first one picked out of this group based on what some see as his potential, but he still has a lot of developing to do and adjustments to make before he is close to many others on this list. Exum is long and athletic, with a strong ability to create shots for himself off the dribble. His perimeter shooting isn’t bad, but he needs to become more consistent, and he will need to work on getting open better off the ball. His size and athletic ability should allow him to become a good NBA defender, but again, there’s a lot of work still to do before he is ready.

4. James Young, Freshman, Kentucky, 6’7, 213
Young is another young, athletic wing, though he is not as skilled as many of the others on this list. He had a reputation coming into school as a strong perimeter shooter, but he was inconsistent all season (35%) and could only be relied upon if he was wide open and had time to get set. Young can get to the basket off the dribble but only to his left, so defenders can easily overplay him. With his length and athleticism, you would think that Young could be a good defender, but he has a long way to go before he can guard NBA players. Still, there is a lot of raw talent here which can flourish in the right circumstances.

5. PJ Hairston, 21 years old, Texas Legends, 6’5, 229
Hairston recovered well in the D-League after seeing his NCAA career come to an abrupt end when North Carolina wouldn’t restore his eligibility after some off-court incidents. Hairston is a good perimeter shooter with NBA three-point range, though the pace of the D-League game forced him into many bad decisions. He showed that his offensive game was more versatile than was seen in college and that he can be an effective scorer off the dribble. Hairston is also an average defender already, though he still has some adjusting to do to get to pro-level speed. He has faced some good competition in the D-League and should be ready to help a team immediately.

6. Jordan Adams, Sophomore, UCLA, 6’5, 209
Adams is a talented scorer with a good knack for finding holes in the defense and taking high-percentage shots. Long-range shooting is actually the weakest part of his offensive game right now, but the tools are there for him to improve quickly. Adams is also a very good on- and off-ball defender, and he has a talent for creating turnovers by always being in good position. Adams may not seem to have the upside of many other prospects his age, but he is more ready than most to earn good playing time.

7. CJ Wilcox, Senior, Washington, 6’5, 201
Wilcox built a solid college career as a three-point shooter, but he can be a versatile offensive threat when give certain opportunities to create off the dribble. Still, his NBA role will likely be as a three-point threat, but he will need to work harder on the defensive end to ensure he gets on the floor.

8. Jabari Brown, Junior, Missouri, 6’4, 202
Brown is a strong scorer, both off the dribble in the halfcourt and as a perimeter shooter, though he has trouble going to his left. He thrives when he gets out in the open floor, and he can be a very creative finisher around the basket. Brown just isn’t a very good defender. If he was, and combined with his scoring ability, he would probably be higher on the list. Still, he will give a team the kind of player who can score quickly in limited minutes.

9. Bogdan Bogdanovic, 21 years old, Serbia, 6’6, 200
Bogdanovic has very good size on the wing, is very comfortable with the ball in his hands, and with a little more consistency, he can be a strong perimeter shooter. He sees the floor well when he has the ball, and he does a good job finding open teammates when the defense is drawn to him. Bogdanovic wasn’t a bad defender over in Europe, but he may have a tough time adjusting to the speed of NBA wings. A team may be better off having him stay in Europe a bit longer and build his all-around game before coming to the NBA.

10. Spencer Dinwiddie, Junior, Colorado, 6’6, 205
Before tearing his ACL this past season, Dinwiddie played more of the point guard position for the Buffaloes, but I think his long-term future is at the shooting guard position. Dinwiddie is at his best when he looks to attack the basket, using long strides to beat defenders. He has the size to finish well around the rim, and he is very good at drawing contact (he went to the free throw line 119 times in just 17 games this year.) He is a smart passer, but he is more of a facilitator than a playmaker, so he can be moved off the ball to give a team some versatility. Dinwiddie’s length helps him on defense, though he isn’t exceptionally quick with his feet. He could be a solid role player in a few years.

Playoff Edition Three Things to Know: Westbrook vs. Lillard is best show in playoffs

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The NBA playoffs are underway and there can be a lot to unpack in a series of intense games, to help out we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Russell Westbrook vs. Damian Lillard is the best show in playoffs; Round 3 goes to Westbrook and Thunder. Oklahoma City vs. Portland has become must-watch TV. This third-quarter sequence shows exactly why Russell Westbrook vs. Damian Lillard is the best drama going right now. Well, second after Game of Thrones, but best in the NBA playoffs and one you need to be watching.

Less than two minutes into the third quarter, Westbrook anticipated a Lillard layup attempt, got up, and swatted the shot back. When he landed, Westbrook looked at the crowd along the baseline and yelled something. Lillard, in turn, said something right back to Westbrook, and then the two started jawing. As they have at points throughout the series. Westbrook was making it personal, he demanded the ball on the next Thunder possession, posted up Lillard and knocked down a little turnaround jumper right over the Blazers’ guard. Westbrook then celebrated with his rock-the-baby move (the way he did this one was more shook-the-baby). After the game, Lillard said he didn’t even see it, although in the videos Lillard seems to smirk at it.

Lillard then went off scoring 23 of his 25 points in a historic, franchise-best third quarter to make it a game.

In the end, Oklahoma City got the needed win 120-108 behind 33 points ( on an efficient 11-of-22 shooting ) and 11 assists from Westbrook. Westbrook even hit the dagger three over Lillard.

The Thunder still trail in the series 2-1 and need another win on Sunday in Game 4 or they may fall too far behind to catch up.

Two keys in Game 3 led to the Thunder win.

First, Oklahoma City finally decided to be aggressive in trapping and pressuring Damian Lillard, taking the ball out of his hands early in the shot clock. At least OKC did in the first half. This has been the book on how to beat Portland in the playoffs for a couple of seasons now — make anyone other than Lillard or C.J. McCollum beat you — but OKC used it sparingly in the first couple of games. During the regular season Jusuf Nurkic became an excellent outlet for Lillard when those traps came, but he is out and now Enes Kanter has to be that man. He was not as good. Portland got away from it when Lillard got hot but the Thunder need to go back to it as often as they can.

Second, the Thunder hit their threes. Oklahoma City shot 10-of-61 from three (16.4 percent) from three in the first two games in Portland, but at home they felt comfortable and the shots fell — 15-of-29. This was the biggest difference in the game, Portland’s defense but the Thunder could not beat them from three and on Friday night OKC won that bet.

Can the Thunder sustain that at home?

Tune in for Game 4 Sunday to find out. Lillard vs. Westbrook is the best show going right now.

2) Pascal Siakam goes off for 30 points, 11 rebounds in leading Raptors to win on the road over Magic. During his pregame media availability, Raptors coach Nick Nurse was asked if Pascal Siakam was formally the Raptors third offensive option now.

“If he has he’s dropped down from being the 2nd option,” Nurse responded.

Siakam was option No. 1 on Friday night, scoring 30 points, pulling down 11 rebounds, and leading the way for Toronto to get a 98-93 win on the road. Siakam did it impressively, with everything from threes to postups, and plenty of attacking off the bounce, much of it against a good defender in Jonathan Isaac.

Toronto now leads the series 2-1 and if Orlando is going to have a real chance in this series it needs to win game 4 Sunday.

The Raptors needed the breakout game from Siakam because Kawhi Leonard looked human, scoring 16 points but needing 19 shots to get there (he also had 10 rebounds). Orlando geared its game to stop Leonard (who was under the weather), but the Raptors had other options in this one.

The Raptors also defended well — Evan Fournier was 1-of-12 shooting on a night the Magic as a team shot 36.2 percent and scored less than a point per possession (98.9 offensive net rating). Terrence Ross had 24 off the bench — and hit a halfcourt shot right before halftime — to keep Orlando close. The Magic better find their shooting touch before Sunday or this series will end quickly.

3) Boston has Kyrie Irving (and Jaylen Brown), Indiana can’t score consistently, and Boston is in command of series. We’ve seen this movie before. Boston went into Indiana Friday night and took control of the series going up 3-0 after a 104-96 win that followed the same formula that has worked for the first two games.

First, Kyrie Irving can get buckets whenever he wants. He had 19 points in this game, although it was Jaylen Brown’s 23 points on 8-of-9 shooting that was the dominant force. Jayson Tatum pitched in 18 points.

Second, Indiana just can’t score consistently The Pacers had 61 points in the first half, finding some offense in playing uptempo, even if that is not their style (the Pacers were 25th in the NBA in pace during the regular season, then this had been the second slowest paced playoff series so far this season). But the scoring would not last. Indiana started the third 1-of-8 from the floor and finished the quarter 5-of-21 shooting. Then down the stretch, Indiana was 1-of-7 from the floor. Without Victor Oladipo the Pacers are prone to these offensive droughts, especially against a good Celtics’ defense, and it is simply too much to overcome.

Game 4 is Sunday and maybe the Pacers extend the series to a fifth game, but we know how this movie is going to end.

Russell Westbrook outduels Damian Lillard, Thunder pick up win to get back in series

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Russell Westbrook called his play in Game 2 “unacceptable.”

It was more than acceptable in Game 3. He had 33 points and 11 assists and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Portland Trail Blazers 120-108 on Friday night to cut their series deficit to 2-1.

Paul George added 22 points, Jerami Grant had 18 and Dennis Schroder 17 for the Thunder. They will host Game 4 on Sunday night.

Damian Lillard scored 32 points, but he had just three in the fourth quarter after scoring 25 in the third.

C.J. McCollum had 21 and Enes Kanter added 19.

Oklahoma City closed the second quarter on a 10-1 run to take a 49-39 lead. Lillard was held to four points on 2 -or-6 shooting and the Trail Blazers shot 37.5% in the half.

George hit a 3-pointer, was fouled and made the free throw in the opening minutes of the second half to push Oklahoma City’s lead to 55-43. Westbrook backed down Lillard, hit a bank shot and was fouled. Westbrook brought out his “rock the baby” celebration, then made the free throw to put Oklahoma City up by 15.

Lillard scored 23 points the rest of the quarter to help cut Oklahoma City’s lead to 86-82 at the end of the period. McCollum hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 89 early in the fourth.

Oklahoma City regained control, then kept it. Westbrook’s jumper with just over two minutes remaining put the Thunder up 10.

 

Celtics beat Pacers 104-96 to take 3-0 series lead

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Jaylen Brown scored 23 points and Kyrie Irving added 19 to help the Boston Celtics beat the Indiana Pacers 104-96 on Friday night for a 3-0 lead in the first-round series.

The Celtics can close out the Eastern Conference series Sunday in Indianapolis.

Irving also had 10 assists and five rebounds.

Tyreke Evans matched his career playoff high with 19 points for the Pacers. Bojan Bogdanovic had 15, not enough to prevent Indiana from losing its sixth straight to Boston in the regular season and playoff.

Indiana desperately needed a win to avoid facing its second sweep in three years, but Boston started fast and closed it with a 10-4 spurt late in the fourth quarter.

And once again, Boston’s defense turned the game by allowing just 12 points in the third quarter.

It’s been that kind of series for Indiana, which erased a 15-point first half deficit to take a 61-59 halftime lead. Myles Turner opened the third with a 3-pointer to make it a five-point game.

But Boston charged back with eight straight points to retake the lead, closed the quarter on a 9-2 run to make it 80-73 and pulled away late.

The Celtics took control quickly by going 8 of 10 on 3s in the first quarter to build a 37-22 lead.

Evans finally got the Pacers righted with 12 second-quarter points including bookend 3s to start and finish the 17-3 spurt that allowed Indiana to tie it at 52. The Pacers closed the half on a 9-2 run to take the lead.

 

Pascal Siakam scores 30, leads Raptors past Magic for 2-1 series lead

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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The Toronto Raptors think Pascal Siakam should be selected the NBA’s Most Improved Player.

He was their MVP on Friday night.

And the East’s No. 2 seed has the home-court edge back again.

Siakam had 30 points and 11 rebounds, hitting a floater with 1:33 left to help snuff out a big Orlando rally and the Raptors held off the Magic 98-93 to take a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference first-round series.

“He’s unbelievable,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said. “He’s the most improved basketball player in the NBA this year and he’s only going to get better.”

Siakam was 13 for 20 from the floor and the Raptors held Orlando to 36% shooting.

“It’s just taking what a defense gives us and going with it,” Siakam said.

Kawhi Leonard — battling illness this week — had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Danny Green had 13 points and Lowry finished with 12 points and 10 assists, plus ran down a huge offensive rebound with about 15 seconds left to extend a critical possession and spoil Orlando’s first home playoff game since 2012.

“It was really what I thought it was going to be tonight,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “I really thought this was going to be a tough atmosphere to play in.”

Terrence Ross led Orlando with 24 points, and Nikola Vucevic shook off a slow start to finish with 22 points and 14 rebounds.

Game 4 is Sunday night in Orlando.

“Our turnovers hurt us again,” Vucevic said, lamenting Orlando’s 16 giveaways. “We had too many of those. Empty possessions for us and against a team like that you can’t have that.”

The Raptors trailed 61-60 midway through the third after a brief Orlando spurt, then went on a 16-0 run over the next four minutes to take the lead for good. Siakam and Green were both 3 for 3 during the run, the Magic missed 10 consecutive shots over a span of 6 1/2 minutes and had to play uphill the rest of the way.

That being said, they went down swinging.

Lowry’s 3-pointer with 7:48 left gave Toronto its biggest lead at 86-69. The Magic came flying back, and Ross’ 3-pointer with 41 seconds left got Orlando to 96-93.

Leonard was short with a jumper on the next possession — but the Magic couldn’t control the rebound, Lowry ran it down and Leonard made a pair of free throws with 12.9 seconds remaining to clinch the win.

“Critical,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said.

Orlando, which finished the regular season by winning 13 of its final 14 home games, was 13 of 44 from 3-point range.

Toronto scored the first 10 points — the last five by Siakam, who was a problem from the outset for the Magic — and led by as many as 11 in the first half. The Magic got within 48-45 at the break after Ross beat the clock from midcourt at the buzzer.

The Magic got the lead twice in the second half, once by one point, the other by two points. And both leads lasted exactly 15 seconds, getting taken away on 3-pointers by Siakam and Green.

And now it’s up to Orlando to regroup, the same way Toronto did after dropping Game 1.

“It’s 2-1,” Clifford said. “It’s not like it’s 3-0. It’s 2-1…. Handling disappointment is a huge part of NBA basketball and it’s a bigger part of playoff basketball.”