PBT NBA Draft preview: Five sleepers to watch

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Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker? Marcus Smart or Dante Exum? How far does Andrew Wiggins fall?

We focus on the top of the draft and the likely future stars, but there are always a couple guys who get drafted farther down the board who become high quality players. The sleeper picks. You know, the guy that had fans saying, “who?” when he was picked, then three years later they blame the GM for missing such an obvious future star. For examples, Kawhi Leonard was drafted 15th in 2011, Ty Lawson slid to 18th in 2009, and back in 2008 Goran Dragic and DeAndre Jordan both fell to the second round.

Of course, if I could predict who are the sleepers in this draft are I’d have a job in the Spurs front office. Still, here’s my best shot with five sleepers to watch.

• Elfrid Payton, 6’4” point guard, Louisiana Lafayette. He’s been flying up the draft boards of a lot of teams and has been mentioned so often as a sleeper I’m not sure he qualifies anymore. There is a lot to like here, he is a tall point guard he can break down defenses off the dribble, is good at finding teammates with the pass, and uses his quickness and length to be a very good defender. The big problem is he lacks a jump shot — fix that (and shooting can be fixed) and you have a very good point guard on your hand.

• P.J. Hairston, 6’5” shooting guard, Texas Legends (D-League). Nobody really cares much about what happened at North Carolina at this point. What matters is while the rest of this draft played against boys in college he went to the D-League and played against men. And scored more than 20 a game. He can play minutes right away in the NBA. He has three point range and can put the ball on the floor plus he can attack off the bounce. He struggled to adjust his decision making to the increased the pace of the D-League games and his defense was inconsistent, but this guy can flat out ball. (Because of the D-League experience, watch him have a huge Summer League.)

• Jordan Adams, 6’5” shooting guard, UCLA. Based in LA I watched a number of UCLA games and of the three Bruins likely to get drafted in the first round he’s my favorite. He’s got a high IQ game. He finds holes in the defense to get of his shot off and is an efficient scorer, although he needs to develop a three point shot. He is a good, smart defender on and off the ball. He can be a good rotation player in the NBA for a long, long time.

• K.J. McDaniels, 6’6” small forward, Clemson. Being a good defender alone doesn’t get you taken in the lottery, but whatever team takes him late first/early second is going to like what they get. He is long (6’11” wingspan) and that helps him generate steals on defense. He’s very athletic and can guard the 1-3. He can hit an open jumper if he sets his feet, but most of his offense comes off hustle points — running in transition, hitting the offensive boards, and being physical and getting to the line. That will work off the bench as he develops his shot.

• Adreian Payne, 6’10” power forward, Michigan State. In a league that loves the stretch four Payne is going to fit in nicely — he shot 42 percent from three last season. Not just a shooter, Payne can put the ball on the floor and has a post game. He needs to add some muscle, but he can play minutes as a rookie off the bench and his game will continue to develop.

Steve Kerr on Warriors’ late possession vs. Rockets: “I wanted the timeout”

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The Houston Rockets leveled the Western Conference finals against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night by a margin of 95-92. The win for the Rockets was ugly, but it leveled the series at 2-2 heading back to Houston.

It was a close game down the stretch, and it looked like Golden State’s last chance to get the win was going to come on a possession with 11 seconds to go following a missed James Harden jumper.

The Warriors immediately turned up the floor and did not call a timeout. The resulting possession was messy, and it wound up ending on a difficult Klay Thompson turnaround jumper. Golden State would get another shot at a 3-pointer with half a second left thanks to a foul on Thompson’s miss, but many were still left wondering why Steve Kerr did not choose to call a timeout during the possession before.

Kerr addressed the decision after the game.

Via Twitter:

You sort of have to side with Kerr in principle, but if you’d seen the way the Warriors played the rest of that fourth quarter you would probably err on calling a timeout and letting them set something up. Curry was 1-of-8 in the fourth, Durant shot poorly most of the game, and Golden State scored 12 total points in the final period.

When you consider Curry got a look at a wide open 3-pointer in the corner with 0.5 seconds left on the clock when the Warriors did call a timeout on the next possession, it makes it look even worse.

In any case, Houston beat out Golden State in a close game and we’re headed back to Texas for Game 5 on Thursday.

Rockets survive gut punch from Warriors, even Western Conference Finals at 2-2

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The Houston Rockets can only win against the Golden State Warriors in one way: ugly.

During their Game 2 blowout against the defending champions, Houston’s 22-point victory was ugly for the Warriors. In Tuesday’s Game 4 win, it was ugly for the Rockets despite the 95-92 score in their favor.

Golden State came out of the gates hot, scoring the first 12 points of the game as it was clear that the Warriors were drawing off of the home crowd back in Oakland. Houston eventually settled, coming back with a massive 34-point second quarter. Mike D’Antoni, using an abbreviated rotation, found a way to up his team’s defense on the Warriors, clamping down on Golden State from the 3-point line.

The Rockets took a 53-46 lead into the half, and needed to brace for the coming changes from Steve Kerr’s squad.

Unsurprisingly, the Warriors answered with a 34 point quarter of their own to open the second half. Golden State found their range from 3-point land as — guess who — Stephen Curry started to go nuclear. Kevin Durant, who scored 27 points but shot a woeful 37.5 percent from the field, started to slow even as he got open looks off jumpers above smaller defenders.

Then came the fourth quarter.

Houston remained resolute, and full of energy as PJ Tucker and Chris Paul jumped for loose balls and battled for rebounds. Meanwhile, Golden State appeared to slowly run out of gas. Steve Kerr said as much after the game, intimating that his own shortened lineup without Andre Iguodala could have played a role.

D’Antoni, who obviously had a game plan to better defend Durant, then focused his attention toward Curry. The Warriors point guard finished the game shooting 1-for-8 in the fourth quarter, including a miss on the final shot of the game.

Curry scored 28 points with six rebounds and two assists. Durant added 12 rebounds and three assists to his scoring total. Draymond Green contributed 11 points, 14 rebounds, and eight assists.

For Houston it was Harden who led the way with 30 points, four rebounds, and four assists. Paul had 27 points to go with four assists and two rebounds. PJ Tucker, who scored just four points, grabbed a whopping 16 boards. Clint Capela was much the same, scoring eight points while grabbing 13 rebounds.

This season’s Western Conference fighters has been both puzzling and Expected. Well the variants of victory margin has been much greater than any of us anticipated for both sides, the fact that the coaches on each bench are trying to out dual each other each game Runs with the idea we have of some of the best playoff series in NBA history. In fact, the back-and-forth battle between two teams as they trade winds is perhaps what makes be later rounds of the NBA playoffs so worth watching.

Houston’s victory was gritty, and defensive, and not much to look at. True to his persona, after the final horn Rockets point guard Paul called it, “A fun game.”

While we finally got ourselves a close conference finals game out West, the question now turns to what the teams will do for Game 5 back in Houston. Will this series become more competitive? Or will Houston and Golden State continue the back-and-forth, big-margin victories we’ve seen thus far?

No matter what, there’s no doubt the Rockets will be trying to recapture the defensive aura they held in Game 4 as Golden State tries to find a way to break through it.

Report: Suns could have traded for Kristaps Porzingis last season

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I’m going to need New York next fans to read this one with their eyes closed. Right? Your we go.

The Phoenix Suns won the right to be first pick in the 2018 NBA Draft During the recent draft lottery. That means they will be adding somebody like Luka Doncic, Deandre Ayton, or Marvin Bagley to their young roster. Phoenix had the number for overall tech last year, which they used to draft Joss Jackson.

Buddy new report says that if Phoenix would have decided to instead trait that pick they could have exchanged hat selection for New York big man Kristaps Porzingis.

Seriously.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Phoenix had an opportunity to put together a package that would have sent Porzingis to Arizona. That anything the Suns had, plus the No. 4 pick, would have made that happen is just another testament to why Phil Jackson had to go in New York.

Via the Ryen Russillo show:

The Knicks actually hit on Porzingis, and although he may be out for the entire year next season, he’s a keeper to build around, not to trade. On the other side of things, why the Suns didn’t include that pick and pull the trigger is a head scratcher, although we don’t know the full details of the proposed package.

No doubt New York fans are glad the Suns didn’t decide to accept the offer without that pick.

Watch James Harden dunk all over Draymond Green (VIDEO)

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Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals started off hot for the Golden State Warriors. The defending champs scored the first 12 points of the game, but the Houston Rockets rallied before the half was over to take the lead, 53-46, at the break.

One of the biggest highlight plays from Houston came courtesy of James Harden late in the second quarter.

The play came with 6:06 left to play in the half and with the Rockets pushing on the Warriors in transition. Harden found himself with the ball at the top of the key and with an open lane. That forced Draymond Green to slide over as a help defender, and the result was a thunderous dunk for Harden over the Golden State defensive stalwart.

We’ll forget that Chris Paul probably either travelled or double-dribbled before Harden got the ball on the play.

Golden State leads the series, 2-1.