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.

Referee bumps into waitress, tray of drinks spilled on court during Blazers game

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Katy Stevens has been a courtside server at Trail Blazers games for more than a decade — but this year has been unlike any other.

Back in December, LeBron James knocked her over, then helped her back up.

Then on Friday night, veteran referee Tony Brown backed into her and spilled an entire tray of drinks onto the court.

Let me say, as a guy who waited tables/bartended through college and a little while after — that job is hard. Katy is earning her money, and I felt terrible for her. I was not alone, as NBC Sports Northwest noted.

It was a rough night all the way around in the Moda Center. Portland, without Damian Lillard due to a groin injury, fell to the Pelicans 128-115 in a contest between two teams trying to catch Memphis for the final seed in the West (and the Grizzlies lost to the Lakers Friday).

Watch LeBron James score 32; Anthony Davis’ big second half lift Lakers past Grizzlies

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — LeBron James scored 32 points, Anthony Davis recovered from an early injury scare to get 28 points and 13 rebounds, and the Los Angeles Lakers returned from the All-Star break with a 117-105 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.

Avery Bradley added 14 points for the Western Conference-leading Lakers, who finished strong after blowing most of their 25-point lead accumulated in a superb first half. Davis had 14 points and seven rebounds in the fourth quarter as Los Angeles improved to 42-12 with its fourth straight win since Feb. 6.

Josh Jackson scored a season-high 20 points for the Grizzlies, who have lost back-to-back games in California after heading into the All-Star break with eight wins in 10. Ja Morant added 17 points as Memphis dropped to 0-2 on its four-game West Coast trip, which matches its longest road stretch of the season.

Davis departed less than two minutes after the opening tip when he bruised his right calf on an opponent’s knee. The All-Star went to the locker room and missed the rest of the first quarter, but returned early in the second before scoring 24 points in the second half.

Although James, Davis and Dwight Howard were busy in Chicago over the break, the Lakers returned with impressive defensive focus across the roster. Los Angeles held Memphis to 15-for-38 shooting and forced 11 turnovers in the first half to jump to a 19-point lead.

The Grizzlies trimmed the lead to four points early in the fourth quarter with a prolonged surge. The Lakers hung on with a series of big plays, including a jaw-dropping rebound dunk by Alex Caruso off a missed free throw by Davis with 6:16 to play.

James clinched it with a driving layup followed by a gorgeous fadeaway jumper with 1:12 left. Davis then hit his second 3-pointer in the final minute.

The Lakers improved to 3-0 against the Grizzlies this season. They meet again in Memphis on Feb. 29.

 

Pilot in Kobe Bryant helicopter crash had FAA reprimand for flying in reduced visibility

Image courtesy Kurt Helin
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The pilot of a helicopter that crashed into a Southern California hillside, killing Kobe Bryant and eight others, was reprimanded five years ago for flying without permission into airspace while he had reduced visibility, according to a Federal Aviation Administration enforcement record.

Ara Zobayan was counseled by an FAA investigator after he violated FAA rules by crossing into busy airspace near Los Angeles International Airport on May 11, 2015, according to the record, which was first reported Friday by the Los Angeles Times.

The record doesn’t indicate whether Zobayan was carrying any passengers at the time.

Zobayan, 50, died Jan. 26 when his helicopter plunged at high speed into a hillside in Calabasas, northwest of Los Angeles. Zobayan had been trying to climb above a cloud layer when the aircraft banked left and plunged 1,200 feet (366 meters) at high speed. There has been speculation that the pilot became disoriented in the foggy weather. The crash remains under investigation.

The crash also killed Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, along with six others. The victims will be honored at a Feb. 24 public memorial at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

At the time, Zaboyan was chief pilot for the charter service Island Express Helicopters Inc.

He was flying for the same company during the 2015 incident.

According to the FAA report, Zobayan’s helicopter was near the Hawthorne, California, airport and heading north when he asked the LAX tower for permission to cross LAX airspace. Zobayan was told that weather conditions didn’t meet the minimum for pilots using visual flight rules — that is, flying by sight.

Zaboyan was asked whether he could maintain “VFR conditions.”

Zaboyan replied that he could “maintain special VFR” — meaning he sought permission to fly by sight in less-than-optimal visibility.

When air traffic control denied the request and told him to stay clear of the area, Zobayan replied that he could “maintain VRF” but during the conversation, the helicopter entered the airspace, according to the record.

Zobayan contacted authorities and his company after the incident and was cooperative. But an FAA investigator faulted him for failing to properly plan and review current weather at LAX, which would have allowed him time to communicate earlier with the tower in order to receive clearance, according to the record.

The report said Zobayan “admitted his error, took responsibility for his action, and was willing to take any other necessary steps toward compliance.”

“There are no indications that this is a repeated incident and there are no signs that this incident is a trend with Mr. Zobayan,” the report said.

Zobayan was counseled “on operating in Class B airspace, special VFR weather minimums, proper planning, reviewing weather, and anticipating required action,” the report said. “He was cooperative and receptive to the counseling.”

Island Express Helicopters Inc, reported that it conducted additional ground and flight training with Zaboyan.

Veteran helicopter pilots were divided over the severity of the FAA violation, the Times reported.

“I don’t know a single pilot out there who hasn’t violated a rule,” Shawn Coyle said. “If that’s the only violation he’s ever had then I would say he’s pretty safe.”

But former Island Express pilot Kurt Deetz said entering LAX airspace without approval can be dangerous because of the possible presence of commercial jets. He also questioned Zaboyan’s communication with air traffic controllers.

“You can’t request special VFR and then they deny you and you say, ‘Oh wait a minute, actually I’m VFR’, ” he told the Times. “That’s not how it works. It shows that perhaps his understanding of special VFR as opposed to VFR was cloudy.”

Watch Zion Williamson score 25, lead Pelicans to crucial win vs. Trail Blazers

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Zion Williamson had 25 points for his seventh straight game with at least 20 points, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the short-handed Portland Trail Blazers 128-115 on Friday night.

The No. 1 draft pick was playing in just his 11th game after a right knee injury sidelined him for the first half of the season.

The Pelicans, who led by as many as 22 points, have won four of their last five games.

The Blazers, who have lost three straight, were without Damian Lillard, who is expected to miss three or more games because of a groin injury that occurred in Memphis last week. It kept Lillard out of the All-Star Game and the 3-point contest last weekend.

Lillard is averaging a career-high 29.5 points and 7.8 assists per game. His absence hurts the Blazers, who went into the game 3.5 games back of Memphis for eighth in the Western Conference standings.

And it’s not just Lillard: Portland had only nine players available for the game.

CJ McCollum took over as point guard and finished with 27 points and 10 assists. Hassan Whiteside added 19 points and 12 rebounds.

The Pelicans were among four teams, along with the Blazers, fighting for those last playoff berths with just a third of the season left. Coach Alvin Gentry said he’s treating the last 27 games like a college season.

“We want to play to get into a tournament. We want a high seed. Those are the things that we’ve talked about. Obviously, we have to play good basketball,” Gentry said.

The Pelicans also won the previous three meetings this season with Portland. Earlier this month in New Orleans, Williamson had 31 points and nine rebounds in a 138-117 victory over the Blazers.

Williamson, who played just one season at Duke before going pro, went into the game against the Blazers averaging 22.1 points and 7.5 rebounds.

His streak of games with 20-plus points is the longest among NBA rookies this season. And he was the first player since Michael Jordan to have 20 or more in eight of his first 10 NBA games.

Lonzo Ball’s 3-pointer put the Pelicans up 29-17 in the opening quarter. But the Blazers closed within 40-38 early in the second on Whiteside’s dunk. It was as close as Portland could get, and Williamson’s dunk gave New Orleans a 54-46 lead.

Williamson’s layup pushed the Pelicans’ advantage to 65-50 and New Orleans led 73-63 going into halftime. He led all players with 19 points.

Consecutive jumpers from Carmelo Anthony and Whiteside’s dunk pulled Portland within 80-75 in the third quarter. The Pelicans pulled away with a 12-0 run to head to the fourth with 102-83 lead.

Portland closed the gap a bit in the fourth when back-to-back 3-pointers from Trevor Ariza and McCollum got the Blazers within 114-105. Jrue Holiday‘s 3 and Ball’s layup extended New Orleans’ lead again and fans at the Moda Center headed for the exits.

Holiday finished with 20 points and nine assists.