Kings coach says Nik Stauskas and Ben McLemore can play together

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The Kings can’t stop drafting shooting guards in the lottery.

In 2013, they took  Ben McLemore at No. 7. A year later, they added Nik Stauskas at No. 8.

In the lottery era, I count just just nine other teams that drafted players of the same position with top-eight picks in back-to-back years (omitting cases where players regularly handled multiple positions):

  • Chicago Bulls in 2002 and 2003 – Jay Williams and Kirk Hinrich
  • Cleveland Cavaliers in 2000 and 2001 – Chris Mihm and DeSagana Diop
  • Vancouver Grizzlies in 1997 and 1998 – Antonio Daniels and Mike Bibby
  • Denver Nuggets in 1997 and 1998 – Tony Battie and Raef LaFrentz
  • Milwaukee Bucks in 1995 and 1996 – Shawn Respert and Ray Allen
  • Philadelphia 76ers in 1993 and 1994 – Shawn Bradley and Sharone Wright
  • Dallas Mavericks in 1992 and 1993 – Jim Jackson and Jamal Mashburn
  • Minnesota Timberwolves in 1990 and 1991 – Felton Spencer and Luc Longley
  • Phoenix Suns in 1987 and 1988 Armen Gilliam and Tim Perry

Only one pair remained teammates even three full seasons – Jackson and Mashburn, whom the Mavericks both traded the following year. In their three-plus seasons together in Dallas, the team went 13-69, 36-46, 26-56 and 24-58.

On average, the listed players lasted together less than a year a half.

But not only do the Kings believe there’s room for both Stauskas and McLemore on the roster, they think there’s room for both on the court.

Sacramento coach Michael Malone, via Steven Wilson of Kings.com:

“What I’ve seen is that Ben and Nik can play together without any problems,” stated Head Coach Micahel Malone during the team’s mini-camp practices in Las Vegas this summer. “They both have a pretty good understanding of the game and they play well off of each other. When you have two guys who have the potential to shoot as well as they do, it’s going to pose problems for other teams.”

It’s not clear whether Malone plans to play Stauskas and McLemore together in the backcourt or use them as the two and three in a three-guard lineup with a true point guard like Darren Collison or Ray McCallum.

Stauskas showed he can be the lead ball-handler, run the pick-and-roll and distribute – in college. I’m not sure he’s ready to handle that role in the NBA.

A three-guard lineup would also allow Rudy Gay, who has found success in Sacramento as a small-ball four, to stay at power forward. But that grouping, even with DeMarcus Cousins at center, would be pretty small.

Really, I find it tough to see Stauskas and McLemore sharing many minutes.

However, I don’t think taking back-to-back shooting guards in itself was a mistake for the Kings. This just increases their chances of finding one who can start there long term. Even though there’s plenty of time to get on track, McLemore’s disappointing rookie year didn’t warrant Sacramento passing on the player it considered best available.

The draft is a big enough crapshoot that putting all your eggs in one basket is usually foolish. Maybe Stauskas or McLemore will pan out – but just don’t count on it happening harmoniously.

Watch Portland’s Jusuf Nurkic dunk all over Bol Bol

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Bol Bol had some impressive blocked shots during exhibition games at the NBA’s restart, but he hadn’t gotten one in his 16 limited minutes since the seeding games started. He wanted one.

So Bol tried to get in front of Jusuf Nurkic of Denver on Thursday and… that did not go well.

Bol did later get a blocked shot on Hassan Whiteside.

Nurkic, however, ended the night with 22 points, seven rebounds, and the Trail Blazers got a 125-115 win that has Portland comfortably as the ninth seed, just half-a-game back of eight-seed Memphis. Portland is setting itself up with a better-than-average chance make the playoffs

Kawhi Leonard’s 29 leads Clippers past Mavericks in potential first-round preview

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Kawhi Leonard scored 29 points to help the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Dallas Mavericks 126-111 on Thursday night in a possible playoff preview.

Paul George scored 24 points and Ivica Zubac added 21 points on 10-for-10 shooting and 15 rebounds for the Clippers, who strengthened their hold on the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference standings.

The Clippers entered the night a just half game ahead of Denver, but they shot 54% against the Mavericks to improve to 2-2 in the restart.

Kristaps Porzingis scored 30 points and Luka Doncic added 29 for Dallas, which fell to 1-3 in the restart.

Dallas likely will finish as the No. 7 seed, making a first-round matchup with the Clippers a strong possibility.

“That’s obviously going to be a tough matchup,” Porzingis said. “They’re one of the favorites to win it all. They have multiple guys that have been there already. But we’re looking forward to the challenge and getting experience in that.”

Doncic was coming off a monster game — 34 points, 20 rebounds and 12 assists against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday. He made 10 of 21 shots against the Clippers, including 6 of 13 3-pointers.

“Luka’s just a handful,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “It takes a whole team to guard him. I thought our guys did a pretty good job overall. We lost him a couple times, which you can never do. So there’s a lot of room for improvement.”

The Clippers led Dallas by 12 in the third quarter before the Mavericks rallied and tied the game at 101 midway through the fourth. Los Angeles responded with a 9-0 run to regain control. The Clippers shot 62% in the fourth quarter to pull away.

“I just liked how we played overall,” Rivers said. “We played like a team tonight, on both ends.”

Though the Mavericks fell to 1-3 in the restart, Doncic remained confident.

“We’re a great team,” he said. “We’ve always got chances, no matter what. I think some people count us out, but we’re not out. We’ll give our max.”

Devin Booker says after latest Suns’ win ‘Kobe’s with me every day’

Devin Booker Kobe
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Devin Booker grew up a huge Kobe Bryant fan. When Booker made the league in 2016 he got to play against his idol and threw up 28 points on the night. Kobe was impressed. The two talked after the game and Kobe gave him an autographed pair of shoes with an inspirational message:

“Be Legendary.”

Booker took that to heart. He got the phrase as a tattoo. He’s been writing “Be Legendary” on his Nike’s before every game in the bubble. And after he scored 20 against the Pacers Thursday, helping the Suns remain undefeated for the restart, he said Kobe is still inspiring him every day.

“Kobe’s with me every day. You guys see what I put on my shoes with the ‘Be Legendary.’ It’s a reminder.”

Whatever he’s doing, it is working. Booker hit a Kobe-like turnaround game-winner to beat the Clippers. He’s averaging 28 points and 6.5 assists a game for the restart, and shooting 40% from three. Defenses are keying on him, but with a healthy Deandre Ayton and other players stepping up — Cameron Johnson has been a surprise standout in Orlando — the Suns look sharp and keep on winning.

Kobe would be proud.

Giannis Antetokounmpo drops 33 on Heat, Bucks secure No. 1 seed

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton scored 33 points each, and the Milwaukee Bucks overcame a huge early deficit to get a 130-116 win over the Miami Heat on Thursday to clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Heat led by as many as 23 points in a first half where the team piled up 73 points despite playing without Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic. Miami cooled off after the break and the Bucks took the lead in the third quarter but were down by 6 to start the fourth.

Antetokounmpo, the favorite to win his second MVP award, sat out about five minutes of the fourth quarter after collecting his fifth foul with 11 minutes to go. Milwaukee trailed by 1 with about five minutes remaining before using a 20-0 run, with three dunks from Antetokounmpo, to make it 130-111 with less than a minute to go and cruise to the victory.

Antetokounmpo and Middleton played 30 and 34 minutes respectively after the stars both sat out the entire second half of their last game on Tuesday.

Duncan Robinson had 21 points for the Heat, who lost to Milwaukee for the first time this season after winning the first two meetings.

The Heat led by 6 with about 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter when Antetokounmpo picked up his fifth foul on a charge and headed to the bench. Andre Iguodala made a 3 for Miami before the Bucks scored the next 13 points, capped by a 3 from Bledsoe, to take a 107-103 lead with about seven minutes remaining.

Robinson made a 3-pointer to end a scoring drought of almost four minutes for Miami with about 6 ½ minutes to go and Antetokounmpo re-entered the game soon after that.

The Heat led by 12 with about 10 minutes left in third quarter before Milwaukee used a 16-3 run to take an 82-81 lead with five minutes left in the quarter. Antetokounmpo and Wesley Matthews each had five points each in that span to help close the gap.

The Bucks cut the lead to 3 with a dunk by Antetokounmpo late in the third. But the Heat wrapped up the quarter with a 5-2 spurt to take a 98-92 lead into the fourth.