PBT Awards: All-Rookie team

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Though none of us have a ballot for the NBA’s official awards, we’ll be presenting our choices and making our cases this week for each major honor.

Kurt Helin

First team

  • Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic
  • Jordan Clarkson, Los Angeles Lakers
  • Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Nikola Mirotic, Chicago Bulls
  • Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers

Second Team

  • Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics
  • Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Bojan Bogdanovic, Brooklyn Nets
  • K.J. McDaniels, Houston Rockets
  • Jusuf Nurkic, Denver Nuggets

If you’re asking why Clarkson on the first team instead of Smart, look at the numbers. Clarkson has a higher true shooting percentage (.528 to .492) while using a higher percentage of the offense. Clarkson turns the ball over a lower percentage of possessions, hits his free throws, and looks like a future starter. Smart is the better defender (by a lot) and shoots the three ball a little better, but I like Clarkson as a future NBA starting point guard.

Brett Pollakoff

First team

  • Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Nikola Mirotic, Chicago Bulls
  • Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers
  • Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic
  • Jordan Clarkson, Los Angeles Lakers

Second team

  • Jusuf Nurkic, Denver Nuggets
  • Tarik Black, Los Angeles Lakers
  • Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics
  • Bojan Bogdanovic, Brooklyn Nets
  • Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves

The first four names on the first team seem like fairly obvious choices, but then it gets murky pretty fast. Clarkson makes it based on being second among all rookies in PER — and because none of the second-team guys had a compelling enough season in total to take his spot.

Sean Highkin

First team

  • Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic
  • Nikola Mirotic, Chicago Bulls
  • Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers
  • Marcus Smart, Boson Celtics

Second team

  • Jordan Clarkson, Los Angeles Lakers
  • Jusuf Nurkic, Denver Nuggets
  • Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves
  • K.J. McDaniels, Houston Rockets
  • Bojan Bogdanovic, Brooklyn Nets

Wiggins is going to run away with Rookie of the Year, and he deserves it. Other than him, three rookies set themselves apart by showing star potential: Mirotic, Noel and Payton. Smart would be in their category if he hadn’t missed so much time, but he still gets the nod for his tremendous defensive potential and better-than-expected shooting, playing a major role on a surprise playoff team.

There’s not a very high bar to clear to make second-team All-Rookie — you basically have to stay healthy and not be a complete embarrassment. Clarkson was the only bright spot for the worst Lakers season ever. We still don’t know what position LaVine is, but he won the dunk contest, so that’s cool. Nurkic is a legitimate piece for the Nuggets. McDaniels has barely played in Houston, but he was fun in Philadelphia. Bogdanovic slipped in the second half of the season, but his hot first half is enough to get him on here.

Dan Feldman

First team

  • Nikola Mirotic, Chicago Bulls
  • Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic
  • Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers
  • Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics

Second team

  • Jordan Clarkson, Los Angeles Lakers
  • Jusuf Nurkic, Denver Nuggets
  • Bojan Bogdanovic, Brooklyn Nets
  • Rodney Hood, Utah Jazz
  • Tarik Black, Los Angeles Lakers

The top four players on my first team were easy calls. The last spot came down to Smart and Clarkson, and I really could go either way. Smart’s defense gave him the slight edge. Clarkson filled in admirably as a starting point guard, because the Lakers needed one. Smart would have provided impactful defense in any situation.

After Clarkson, the second team was difficult to fill out. Finding 10 players deserving of All-Rookie, rarely an easy task, was especially challenging this year, when so many key rookies spent only a partial season playing. How do you rate the many candidates who were only a tick above replacement level but played two to three times as much as Jabari Parker, who was much better when healthy but played just 25 games? Yeah, it was that kind of season where a 25-game-playing Jabari Parker got serious consideration.

Break up the Suns! Phoenix remains perfect in bubble defeating OKC

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Devin Booker scored 35 points, and the Phoenix Suns rolled past the short-handed Oklahoma City Thunder 128-101 on Monday to remain perfect and improve to 6-0 in the restart and improve their playoff chances.

The Suns have surged in the Western Conference standings. They entered the day just 1 1/2 games behind eighth-place Memphis and a game behind ninth-place Portland in the race to qualify for a spot in the play-in series.

“We haven’t accomplished anything,” Phoenix coach Monty Williams said. “That may sound like coach-speak, but we dug ourselves a hole with our record. We scrapped all year long and won some games, but it’s been an uphill battle.”

Williams appreciates the position the Suns are in.

“We’ve done a good job of getting to this point,” he said. “No one knew we were going to be here, but we’re here and we’re thankful for that.”

Phoenix center Deandre Ayton sat out the first quarter because he missed his coronavirus test on Sunday. He tested negative on Monday and was cleared. He started the second quarter.

“In an NBA season guys are going to make mistakes,” Williams said. “You have to be able to give people grace. It wasn’t intentional. Thankfully he was able to get tested early enough that he was able to come back and play, and the guys received him with open arms because we all understand we’re human.”

With Ayton out, Oklahoma City led 37-23 at the end of the first quarter. After Ayton entered the game, Phoenix dominated the rest of the way. He finished with 10 points and six rebounds in just over 17 minutes.

Oklahoma City was without four of its top five scorers. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (bruised right calf), Danilo Gallinari (left ankle maintenance), Dennis Schroder (birth of child) and Steven Adams (bruised left leg) sat out. Reserve center Nerlens Noel (sprained right ankle) also did not play.

Rookie Darius Bazley had 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder.

The Suns rallied from 15 points down in the second quarter to take a 65-64 lead at halftime. Phoenix opened the second half on an 11-2 run and controlled the game from there.

“I thought their pressure disrupted us,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “I thought we got a little bit stagnant. We made some pretty decent plays. We were able to get some open looks, but I thought there in the second quarter they turned up their defensive intensity and that probably took us out of some rhythm.”

Rumor: Pelicans will soon fire coach Alvin Gentry

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry
Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images
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Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry works for a lead executive – David Griffin – who inherited, rather than chose, Gentry in the first place. Gentry has had just one winning season in five years in New Orleans, and the Pelicans particularly underwhelmed this season.

Connect the dots.

William Guillory of The Athletic:

The worst-kept secret in the NBA is that Gentry’s time with the Pelicans won’t last much longer.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Executive VP David Griffin and Pelicans ownership have a decision to make with a year left on Gentry’s contract, sources said. Consider two relationships Griffin has back to his front-office days in Cleveland and Phoenix, respectively, if there’s a change in New Orleans: LA Clippers assistant Ty Lue and Los Angeles Lakers assistant Jason Kidd, sources said.

Zion Williamson was transcendent at times this season. Brandon Ingram blossomed. Youngsters Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Jaxson Hayes showed flashes. Veterans Jrue Holiday, J.J. Redick and Derrick Favors provided reliable depth and versatility.

But New Orleans was never quite as good as the sum of its parts.

Some of that falls on Gentry.

The Pelicans’ defense was often scrambled. An offensive-minded coach, Gentry hasn’t shown he can correct that issue. His lineup decisions rarely maximized the offense, either.

Lue and Kidd are unsurprising candidates. Lue had a great record working for Griffin with the Cavaliers (obligatory LeBron James mention), and Kidd is good at getting his name tied to job searches. Are Lue and Kidd the most likely coaches to replace Gentry? Maybe. Or maybe they’re just the first candidates to emerge publicly. This job search isn’t even officially underway.

But it could be soon.

76ers coach Brett Brown says he expects Joel Embiid (ankle injury) back before playoffs

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Joel Embiid injured his ankle in the 76ers’ loss to the Trail Blazers yesterday.

How serious is it?

Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

Joel Embiid is out for Tuesday’s game against the Suns with the left ankle injury he sustained in the first quarter Sunday vs. the Blazers. He’ll be undergoing treatment and evaluation at the team’s practice Monday night.

Brett Brown said he expected Embiid to play again before the playoffs, though characterized that view as “just one man’s opinion.”

That sounds like great news for Philadelphia, which is already without Ben Simmons.

Embiid can be dominant. With him, the 76ers still have a chance of advancing in the playoffs. It might even be easier to create space around Embiid – where Embiid can really feast – without Simmons (though the loss of the talented Simmons lowers Philadelphia’s ceiling).

However, the 76ers don’t deserve benefit of the doubt for setting accurate injury timelines, particularly with Embiid. There’s an element of “see it to believe it” here.

J.J. Redick loses NBA’s longest-active individual playoff streak (13 years)

Pelicans guard J.J. Redick
Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images
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As J.J. Redick stared into the distance, he had to see this coming.

Redick will miss the playoffs for the first time in his 14-year career. His Pelicans were eliminated from the postseason race yesterday.

At 13 years, Redick’s playoff streak is tied for the 13th-longest in NBA history. No current player has a longer streak at any point his career. LeBron James also had a 13-year playoff streak (which was snapped last year).

Here are the longest individual postseason streaks in NBA history:

Obviously, some of Redick’s streak was out of his control. He got drafted in 2006 by the Magic, who were rising with Dwight Howard. But Redick’s competitiveness and professionalism made him a steady contributor, and he chose winning situations with the Clippers then 76ers.

But New Orleans was too flawed to make a major leap in this Western Conference.

This clears the way for Bucks wing Kyle Korver to take over the longest active playoff streak. He has played in the last 12 postseasons, and Milwaukee has already clinched a playoff berth.

Here are the longest postseason streaks that could remain active this year.

Players whose teams have already clinched a playoff berth are in blue. Players whose teams are still in the race but haven’t clinched are in gold.

Players are listed with the teams they made the postseason with during their streaks. If they haven’t reached the playoffs with their current team, that team is listed in brackets: