PBT’s NBA Mock Draft 1.0: Things get interesting starting with New York at four.

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The order is up for discussion, but we have a pretty good idea who the top three picks in the NBA Draft will be.

Where things get interesting is with Phil Jackson’s Knicks at No. 4. Will they trade the pick? If they keep it — and they should keep it unless they get a “you can’t say no” offer — who should they take?

At PBT, we turned to our draft expert Ed Isaacson of Rotoworld and NBADraftBlog — and he differed from the pack on what the Knicks should do if they keep the pick. You can find this draft at Rotoworld.com as well.

1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke – The Timberwolves can’t go wrong adding either Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns to a lineup with Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins, but I think adding Okafor’s scoring ability in the low post right away will open up the floor even more for Wiggins, Rubio and team. Concerns about Okafor’s defensive liabilities are overblown, and he should learn and adjust over some time.

2. Los Angeles Lakers: Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Kentucky – The Lakers luck out and don’t have to make the choice between the top two players in the draft, happy to take whoever doesn’t go to Minnesota. Towns will give the Lakers a strong defensive presence in the middle, and the pairing with Julius Randle in the frontcourt will give the team some offensive weapons and rebounding on a team that desperately needs them.

3. Philadelphia 76ers: D’Angelo Russell, PG/SG, Ohio State – The picks of Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid the past two seasons have given the Sixers two big-time prospects in the frontcourt, but adding someone to get them the ball should be a priority. Russell can play either backcourt spot, able to knock down jumpers or create for others in the pick-and-roll. He’s not a very good defender, but having Noel and Embiid behind him should help with any players who get by him.

4. New York Knicks: Justise Winslow, SF, Duke – There are few areas where the Knicks don’t need a lot of help, and while point guard may be the biggest, I don’t think the options are great for them here. Trading the pick could be a good choice, but if not, Winslow will give the team an athletic young wing who can defend, as well as having the potential to be a versatile scorer.

5. Orlando Magic: Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky – The Magic have done a good job adding young, athletic players the past few years in Victor Oladipo, Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton. Cauley-Stein is the type of big man who should allow this young core to play at a quick pace, and it will play to his only real strength on offense. Plus, it gives the Magic a high-level defender and shot-blocker in the middle, something Nikola Vucevic didn’t give them last season.

6. Sacramento Kings: Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, Guangdong (China) – The Kings have looked for shooting in the lottery the last two years, and while Ben McLemore showed improvement last year, Nik Stauskas struggled. With the focus of the team on DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings should look to shore up the point guard position. Darren Collison is coming back from core muscle surgery, but Mudiay, a physical guard who likes to attack the basket, will give the Kings some long-term hopes for the position.

7. Denver Nuggets: Mario Hezonja, SG/SF, FC Barcelona (Spain) – A lot went wrong for the Nuggets last season, but they still need to add talent at just about every position. Hezonja is an athletic wing who can shoot, and is a very good ballhandler for his size. He’s probably a few years away from making any kind of real impact, but Denver can afford to get him some floor time now off the bench as he adjusts to the NBA.

8. Detroit Pistons: Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Balancesto Sevilla (Spain) – Many expect Greg Monroe to move on as a free agent, and Porzingis could be a nice complement in the frontcourt next to Andre Drummond. The 7’1” Latvian is a skilled offensive player for 19 years old, including being able to step out and knock down long-range jumpers. He’ll struggle for a while on the defensive side, but paired with Drummond, I don’t think it will hurt Detroit much, and his size on the perimeter can make it tough for opposing stretch 4’s.

9. Charlotte Hornets: Stanley Johnson, SG/SF, Arizona – Johnson is a strong, athletic wing, with the ability to knock down perimeter shots, score in transition and defend. He can be moved between the 2 and the 3, with the ability to defend either position, and though his shooting can be inconsistent, he made a lot of improvement last season. Though he’ll just be 19 at the start of next season, Johnson should be able to make immediate contributions for the Hornets.

10. Miami Heat: Devin Booker, SG, Kentucky – With Dwyane Wade’s career likely coming to an end soon, Booker will give the Heat some depth at the shooting guard position. He’s one of the top long-range shooters in the draft, as well as a strong perimeter defender. He’s certainly not a Wade-type guard, but he’ll give the Heat some needed scoring and defense, at least in the short-term.

11. Indiana Pacers: Myles Turner, C, Texas – Roy Hibbert has a player option on his contract for next season, and assuming he returns, last year was a rough one for him. Add to that a lack of depth at the position to begin with, and Turner makes a lot of sense for the Pacers at 11. Turner, who measured just shy of 7-feet tall at the NBA Combine, is very skilled for his age, especially with his shooting and shot-blocking ability. In a lot of ways, he seems to still be learning about what kind of player he wants to be, so a year learning and adjusting behind Hibbert would be great for him.

12. Utah Jazz: Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF, Kansas – Utah has a very good young core of players led by Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert. Though Dante Exum and Trey Burke have both struggled in the early parts of their careers, it’s too early for Utah to give up on them and draft another point guard. Oubre will add an athletic wing who has shown some ability to knock down jumpers and has the length to become a good defender on the perimeter. He’s still more athlete than player, so backing up Hayward for a couple of years will be good for him.

13. Phoenix Suns: Frank Kaminsky, C/PF, Wisconsin – Phoenix has a lot of pieces in place to get back to the playoffs, so adding a versatile big man like Kaminsky should give the team a good player to add to a frontcourt of the Morris twins and Alex Len. Though the tallest player at the NBA combine, Kaminsky’s lack of strength makes him more suited to be a stretch 4, though he could be used to spell Len when needed. He isn’t very quick, but he’s skilled, and he learned to be a strong team defender under Bo Ryan at Wisconsin.

14. Oklahoma City Thunder: Cameron Payne, PG, Murray State – With the trade of Reggie Jackson last season, the Thunder could be looking for a good back-up to Russell Westbrook. Payne is a good perimeter shooter, and a strong passer and decision-maker in the pick-and-roll. He is the kind of point guard who could flourish under new coach Billy Donovan, and learn a lot playing with Westbrook and Kevin Durant.

15. Atlanta Hawks: Bobby Portis, PF, Arkansas – Portis is a strong, skilled forward with the ability to score inside and out. He’s a very good perimeter defender for his size, as well as a strong rebounder on both ends of the floor, and playing under Mike Anderson at Arkansas has taught him to play hard on every possession. Paul Millsap is a free agent after this season, and while Portis may not be ready to step in immediately for a team that won 60 games, he could play valuable minutes at both the power forward and center positions.

16. Boston Celtics: Trey Lyles, PF, Boston – Boston made a great pick last year, getting Marcus Smart to pair in the backcourt with Avery Bradley, and now Isaiah Thomas, who they added at the trade deadline. They could look to add a player like Sam Dekker to add depth on the wings, but I think Lyles would also be a great addition to their frontcourt, giving some much-needed athleticism at the power forward position. Lyles mostly played out of position last season at Kentucky, but he is a versatile scorer at the 4, and though he does need to work on extending the range on his jumper the mechanics are there. He handles the ball well for 6’10” and he can be a threat attacking the basket off the dribble.

17. Milwaukee Buck: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona – Khris Middleton will be a free agent this summer, so the Bucks may be looking to add a player at the small forward position. Hollis-Jefferson will give them another long defender on the perimeter with Michael Carter-Williams and Giannis Antetokounmpo, and though offensively challenged right now, he can create his own opportunities by hitting the offensive glass. If the Bucks are looking for more of an offensive threat at the position, Sam Dekker would probably be a popular choice in Milwaukee, but I think Hollis-Jefferson may help them a bit more.

18. Houston Rockets: Jerian Grant, PG, Notre Dame – The Rockets can use some depth in the backcourt, especially at the point guard position. They should have their choice of a couple of players here, but Grant could give them some options at the position that they don’t really have now. He has good size at the point, can create off the dribble and he’s a better long-range shooter than his percentage last season. His length can be disruptive on the perimeter, and with Patrick Beverley a free agent this summer and coming off a wrist injury, Grant may be able to step in quickly and claim the spot.

19. Washington Wizards: Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville – The Wizards have a great young backcourt in John Wall and Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter’s play in the postseason was hopefully a sign of things to come for him. The frontcourt could use some athleticism, especially at the power forward position, and Harrell would be a nice addition. I’ve never been big on using the word “motor” when describing how a player plays on the floor, but it seems right for Harrell. He is slightly undersized for the position, but he is strong and athletic, can run the floor well, and rebounds and defends as well as a player 3 or 4 inches taller than him. He would certainly give Wall another good option when wanting to pick up the pace on the floor.

20. Toronto Raptors: Kevon Looney, PF, UCLA – I’m really not sure what to make of this Toronto team after seeing them down the stretch this season, so they could probably go in a lot of directions here. Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough will be free agents this summer, so they may look to add depth to the power forward spot. Looney is certainly not ready to contribute right away for the Raptors, or any team really, but he has the makings of a big forward who can stretch the floor, has the length to defend the position and has a knack for rebounding. The Raptors already need to wait at least a few years before last year’s pick, Bruno Caboclo, shows if he even belongs in the NBA, so there’s little harm in letting Looney develop over the next few years as well.

21. Dallas Mavericks: Tyus Jones, PG, Duke – The Rajon Rondo trade backfired on the Mavericks when the postseason hit, and relying on JJ Barea doesn’t seem to be a solid long-term strategy, so taking Jones, a young point guard with a knack for coming up big when it matters, could be a good fit here. Jones has very good patience for his age, sees the floor well, and knows how to hit teammates in the right spot for easy basket. He’s really not a great athlete, and may be a liability on defense, at least early in his career, but he could still add a lot of value long-term as a backup.

22. Chicago Bulls: Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin – With the uncertainty around the head coaching position for the Bulls still an issue, it is tough to determine what direction they want to go with this pick, but Dekker is easily the best player left at this point, and he could certainly help them on both ends of the floor. At 6’9”, Dekker has very good size for the small forward position, and though he played in a very structured offense at Wisconsin, he has the skill and athleticism to blossom into a versatile offensive threat on the wing. The Bulls might want to add more perimeter shooting here, or a big man to eventually replace Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah; you really can’t go wrong adding a talent like Dekker.

23. Portland Trail Blazers: Christian Wood, PF, UNLV – The status of LaMarcus Aldridge’s free agency this summer will be Portland’s biggest issue, and while Wood is certainly not a replacement for Aldridge, he is a young, athletic forward who has barely scraped the surface of what he could become as a player. Wood should eventually develop to be a good inside/outside threat, and his length and athletic ability could help him develop into a plus-defender.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers: RJ Hunter, SG, Georgia State – The trade for JR Smith and Iman Shumpert has worked for Cleveland so far, but Hunter could give them a better long-term option at the shooting guard position. He already has NBA range on his jumper, and with the good looks he would get on the floor with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, he could give them a consistent threat from the perimeter. Also, Hunter is a smart player, sees the floor well, and can be a good passer, so he could thrive without having to be a top scoring option.

25. Memphis Grizzlies: Justin Anderson, SG, Virginia – Though the Grizzlies just took Jordan Adams in the first round last year, Anderson gives them a better athlete and shooter at the shooting guard position, and his ability to defend on the perimeter should be a great fit in Memphis. Marc Gasol is a free agent this summer, though all signs seem to point to him staying in Memphis, the Grizzlies may still want to look for a big man here, but Anderson is a good enough to break into the backcourt rotation by the end of next season.

26. San Antonio Spurs: Jarell Martin, PF, LSU – At some point, maybe even next season, Tim Duncan won’t be playing power forward for the Spurs anymore, and while there isn’t any player that can replace him, the team can look to start adding production there. Martin has good size and athletic ability, is an above-average defender and rebounder and has shown some versatility on offense. The Spurs may look to free agency if Duncan decides to retire, but even so, Martin will give them a young, productive forward off the bench.

27. Los Angeles Lakers: JP Tokoto, SG, North Carolina – With the Lakers having filled a need in the frontcourt with Towns at number 2, adding some help in the backcourt could be where they go here. Jordan Clarkson emerged at the point guard spot last season, and while he may not be a long-term solution, he will still be productive. Tokoto will give them an athletic defender to pair with him, and depending on how Kobe Bryant is next season, he can give some help off the bench. Tokoto isn’t a very good shooter, but he has good vision and is a strong passer, that I think he could even back up the point guard position if needed.

28. Boston Celtics: Robert Upshaw, C, Washington – Upshaw is one of the toughest players to fit in during an exercise like this, mainly because it’s tough to gauge how teams will view the issues which led to his dismissal at Fresno State and Washington. At 28, he is definitely worth the risk, especially for a team that can use a rim protector like Upshaw. His 7’5” wingspan was tops at the NBA combine, and he was the NCAA’s top shot-blocker before his dismissal. I think the Celtics have the personnel to keep him focused on the court, and Brad Stevens may be the type of coach to get the best out of him.

29. Brooklyn Nets: Rashad Vaughn, SG, UNLV – Brooklyn is another team that can use help at almost every position, and while I think they could really use some help at point guard, they are tied up with Deron Williams and Jarrett Jack for the next few seasons. They can certainly use some more shooting, and Vaughn could develop in a couple of years into a consistent NBA three-point threat. Another option may be to draft and stash young Brazilian point guard George de Paula, but I think getting either of these players at 29 would be pretty good for the Nets.

30. Golden State Warriors: Chris McCullough, PF, Syracuse – The biggest priority for Golden State this summer will be re-signing Draymond Green, and after that, there aren’t really any major holes in the NBA’s best team. McCullough’s freshman season at Syracuse was cut short due an ACL injury, and he is still very raw as a player, but he has length and athletic ability. Golden State has done a great job using their Santa Cruz D-League affiliate to develop players, and McCullough would be perfect for them to work with over the next year or two.

Adam Silver: Older coaches may not be on bench in Orlando “in order to protect them”

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Gregg Popovich is 71. Mike D’Antoni is 68. Alvin Gentry just turned 65.

People 65 and older have proven particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus. The Center for Disease Control says 80% of COVID-19 deaths in the United States are people 65 and older.

As the NBA heads to the Walt Disney World resort complex in Orlando to resume the season, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver expressed concern for some of the league’s older coaches during an interview on TNT.

“There are people involved in this league, particularly coaches, who are obviously older people…” Silver said. “We’re going to have to work through protocols, for example, and it may be certain coaches may not able to be the bench coach. They may have to maintain social distancing protocols, and maybe they can be in the front of a room, a locker room… with a whiteboard, but when it comes to actual play we’re not going to want that that close to players in order to protect them.”

You can guess how that went over with D’Antoni and Gentry (and, likely, Popovich).

Pretty quickly, Silver was walking his statement back. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, president of the NBA Coach’s Association, was quickly on the phone with Silver.

The league may want to take coaches who are members of vulnerable populations and find a way to add layers of protection for them, but keeping them from coaching their teams would be an incredibly tough sell to everyone around the league.

NCAA sets August deadline for early draft entrants to withdraw

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — The NCAA has set a new schedule for early entrants to the NBA draft to withdraw and return to school.

The NCAA announced Thursday that it would give players until 10 days after the NBA scouting combine or Aug. 3, whichever comes earlier. This comes three weeks after the NCAA postponed its deadline, which was originally scheduled to fall on Wednesday.

That June 3 deadline was set to come 10 days after the completion of the combine, but the NBA postponed the combine amid the coronavirus pandemic and has yet to announce a new date.

The NBA has announced the date of the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery, now set for August 25. Traditionally the NBA Draft Combine would follow a few days after that, although there has been no official announcement.

The NCAA’s date will force players to decide whether or not to stay in the draft before the combine takes place, or even before many have found out if they are invited. Some players who might otherwise have returned to school now likely will keep their name in the draft, only to not get a combine invite.

In a statement, the NCAA said the Division I Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee worked with the National Association of Basketball Coaches on the new timeline and “believes this is the most equitable alternative available in these unprecedented circumstances.”

“This provides the utmost flexibility to student-athletes testing the waters to make the most informed decision about their future during this uncertain time,” NCAA Senior Vice President for Basketball Dan Gavitt said in the statement.

 

More details leak on NBA return format in Orlando, here’s a timeline breakdown

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The NBA is back.

Or will be. Soonish. Thursday the NBA owners approved a restart plan featuring 22 teams, with training camps opening in late June and games starting July 31.

What exactly will all that look like? What are the timelines, and how many games a day? Here’s a breakdown of what we know, with the latest details on format, plus some of the things we don’t yet know.

• June 15: International players who returned home called back to team market

• June 21: All players report to their team markets for workouts.

• June 22: Coronavirus testing of players and staff starts. Once teams report to the Walt Disney World facility the league wants to have daily testing. What we don’t yet know is what form of the test the league will use. While many coronavirus tests are very accurate, some studies suggest a person has to have the disease for a few days before it shows up on a test, and there are false negatives. Which is why the league wants daily testing.

• June 30: Training camps begin at team practice facilities.

• July 7: Teams travel to Orlando, continue their team training camps at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex there. The 22 teams invited are the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards from the Eastern Conference; and the Los Angeles Lakers, L.A. Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns from the Western Conference. It’s the 16 teams in playoff position when play was suspended, plus the six teams within six games of the postseason.

We do not yet know many of the health and safety protocols players will go through both on arrival at the Walt Disney World resort and facilities, save for the fact the league is doing daily testing. We do know players can golf and eat at outdoor restaurants, so long as they follow social distancing guidelines.

• July 31: NBA “seeding games” begin (the league is not calling these regular-season games). Teams will play eight games stretched over 16 days, with 5-6 games a day (played in the style of Summer League, with games starting as early as noon and extending into the evening, alternating between courts). There will be a four-hour gap on each court between games to allow time for sanitization, and then full warmups by teams.

• After the regular season, if the ninth-seeded team is within four games of the eighth-seeded team, they will have a two-game play-in matchup for the final playoff spot. The nine seed has to beat the eight seed in both games to advance (the eight seed team just needs to win one of the two).

• A full, traditional NBA playoffs follows with seven-game series in each round. Games will be played every other day (no back-to-backs in the playoffs). This will not see the long breaks often associated with the first round of the NBA playoffs (and, obviously, no need for travel days).

• October 12: The latest date for the seventh game of the NBA Finals.

• October 15: The 2020 NBA Draft takes place.

• October 18: NBA free agency opens

• November 10: Training camps open.

• December 1: The 2020-21 NBA season tips off.

Those last four dates — everything in the offseason — could be pushed back, with the NBA possibly starting as late as Christmas. Players were reportedly caught off guard by the fast turnaround. The league and players still have a lot of financial negotiations to go through after the coronavirus fallout, and the start dates likely will be part of that.

There are still a lot of health and safety questions to be answered, but Adam Silver has the owners and players on board to try and make this work.

 

NBA G League cancels remainder of season

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The NBA G League shut down play in mid-March, at the same time the NBA did after the positive coronavirus test of Rudy Gobert. However, without a big television contract or much gate revenue, there wasn’t the motivation to restart the G League season, as the NBA is doing.

Thursday the G League made the expected official, canceling the remainder of its season. It will finish without crowning a champion.

“While canceling the remainder of our season weighs heavily on us, we recognize that it is the most appropriate action to take for our league,” G League President Shareef Abdur-Rahim said in a statement. “I extend my sincere gratitude to NBA G League players and coaches for giving their all to their teams and fans this season.  And to our fans, I thank you and look forward to resuming play for the 2020-21 season.”

The Wisconsin Herd (33-10) and Salt Lake City Stars (30-12) finished the season with the best records.

The G League did take care of its players, which was the right thing to do.

With the NBA starting next season in December, the G-League will follow that schedule, with games through the winter and spring. There is a real possibility of expanded NBA rosters next season due to coronavirus fears, which will impact G League rosters as well, but there are a lot of details still to be determined.