Who is Kristaps Porzingis? Why does everyone want to draft him? We break down his game.

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It’s a player profile that often scares fans come the NBA Draft: A European big man who can shoot the rock, has some skills, is loaded with upside, and prefers to play on the perimeter.

Fans hear that and picture another Andrea Bargnani. On the other hand, scouts will assess those same skills and see potential in an NBA where teams are going smaller and spacing the floor.

Enter the 2015 mystery man, Kristaps Porzingis.

The Latvian big man is the guy shaking up the top of the draft board — he’s got a lot of fans in NBA front offices. They see a guy already more than seven feet tall and incredibly long, who has shooting range out to the NBA three-point line, and who is a fluid athlete.

Porzingis could go to the Sixers at No. 3, Sam Hinkie is considering it (but we hear leaning toward D’Angelo Russell). Then it’s the Knicks at No. 4 and they are willing to trade the pick if a Porzingis fan in another front office has some veterans who can help New York now. If Porzingis is on the board at five, the Magic reportedly will grab him.

Why all the love?

“The appeal of an agile seven-footer who can shoot the ball and possibly be a rim protector is why so many are high on him,” PBT’s draft expert Ed Isaacson of Rotoworld and NBADraftBlog told us. “Add that he is just 19 years old with time already spent getting good minutes in the Spanish ACB, and there is plenty to like.”

But what exactly will the team that drafts him be getting?

To break down his game, I asked two guys who watched a lot ofPorzingis film to give me their thoughts. There is PBT’s Isaacson, plus the fantastic Nate Duncan, host of the Dunc’d On Basketball podcast (a great listen) and creator of the NBA CBA Flashcards.

Any discussion of Porzingis starts with his shooting.

“His shooting is a lot more versatile than for most stretch four types, meaning he’s not just a spot-up shooter,” Duncan told PBT. “He can shoot off pick and pop, or even coming off pin downs to the three-point line. One big question though is just how often that’s going to go in ultimately?  Is he going to be a 35 percent guy from three or a 40 percent guy that you absolutely have to stick to in pick and pop?”

“At worst, he could still be a pretty good spot shooter at the NBA level, though the speed and physical nature of the NBA game could be a bigger adjustment than many seem to believe,” Isaacson added.

Porzingis brings other skills to the table as well — he’s got decent handles and can finish inside very well.

“Other than shooting, the big attribute is his height/wingspan, reported by ESPN’s Chad Ford  as 7’1 and 7’6, respectively,” Duncan said. ” You see that wingspan a ton out on the court, especially when he goes to dunk.  He’s not really athletic in a traditional sense of jumping or even lateral movement at this stage, but those long arms allow him to make a lot of plays that athletic guys can make.  So it’s the combination of the shooting skill and the long arms that people really like.”

The question isn’t can he shoot the ball, the concern for fans is the other end of the court.

His ability to defend at the NBA level is a big question mark heading into this draft,” Isaacson said. “His length is helpful, but he doesn’t have great defensive instincts or strength, and can be slow to react, so he will have a rough time defending out on the perimeter or in the post, at least early on his career.”

I am not sure how good he will be at the power forward position on defense due to what I perceive as his lack of quickness, although in fairness most people see him as more athletic than I do,” Duncan added. “He is good blocking shots when he is in position, but his speed getting over for the block and defensive awareness are a little suspect at this point.  He’s doing to need to improve both of those to play power forward, be able to defend on the perimeter, and still be effective blocking shots.”

Porzingis is going to be a project at the NBA level. Outside of his shooting, his other skills are not fully ready for the big stage. He’s got work to do.

“The three biggest issues are strength, lateral quickness, and awareness,” Duncan said. “I think he’d ultimately be amazing as a center — if he can fill out physically to that level. He certainly has the size and length.  While he has the shooting to play PF on offense, I don’t see him as a guy who is going to drive to the basket or score one-on-one for quite awhile, if ever, due to his quickness. Maybe that can be improved, maybe it can’t, but it will take time.

“Same with his awareness, both on help defense and passing the ball, at which he is remarkably poor given his high usage rate.  Maybe that improves, maybe it doesn’t.”

And there’s an added hurdle to Porzingis’ development.

Even if he were a U.S. player, he would have a lot of development, both physical and skill-wise to do, but to do it while trying to adjust to the NBA-style of game, could add at least another season,” Isaacson said. “With the size and skill he has now, we’re looking at a decent role player, but learning to defend at the NBA level could be a big challenge, and maybe having him go to a team situation where he has that adjustment time will be important. Also, with NBA defenders, he probably won’t be able to do much of what he did in Spain on offense right away.”

But for the team that drafts him, there are reasons to be optimistic about him reaching that incredibly high ceiling for his game.

“By all accounts, Porzingis is a very hard worker, so I’m not concerned about his effort to try and improve as quickly as possible, but I think those expecting a player who will make a quick impact could be disappointed,” Isaacson said. “By the end of his first season, he could be a guy who can stretch the floor as a spot shooter or pick-and-pop guy, but it’s probably another two seasons after that before he is up to speed as a more versatile offensive player and defender. Even if it takes that long, that will still make him just 22-23 years old.”

Overall, I understand why a lot of people love him, as the combo of shooting ability and that crazy wingspan and shot blocking potential is nearly unique,” Duncan said.  “I think he’ll definitely be a valuable player, but he needs to make massive gains in those three areas I highlighted to be a star level guy.”

Watch Giannis Antetokounmpo go off for 32 points, 13 boards, lead Bucks rout of Thunder

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MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 32 points and 13 rebounds and the Milwaukee Bucks surged to a 24-point lead in the second quarter in a 133-86 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night.

The 47-point loss was the Thunder’s worst of the season.

Chris Paul scored 18 points for Oklahoma City.

Both teams were without their second-leading scorers. Bucks All-Star Khris Middleton was a late scratch with a sore neck. An ankle injury kept Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari out.

The Bucks had won four in a row and the Thunder had won five straight.

The Bucks built their second-quarter lead behind 14 second-quarter points from Antetokounmpo, seven from Donte DiVincenzo, who started in place of Middleton, and back-to-back 3-pointers from Wesley Matthews.

A key moment occurred late in the second period.

With Milwaukee leading, 54-43, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer got a technical foul after approaching a referee during a timeout with 3:43 left in the quarter. That was moments after Eric Bledsoe was called for a charging foul that irked Budenholzer. After that, the Bucks went on a 17-4 run and led 71-47 at halftime.

Milwaukee outrebounded Oklahoma City, 67-36.

The Bucks made a season-high 21 3-pointers. The Thunder were 6 for 35 on 3-pointers.

Giannis Antetokounmpo shrugs off James Harden dig: ‘I’m just trying to do my job’

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There is some meat to the James Harden/Giannis Antetokounmpo beef.

Harden was pissed Antetokounmpo won Most Valuable Player over him last year and vented about it. When it came to this year’s All-Star Game, captian Antetokounmpo drafted Kemba Walker over Harden while joking he wanted someone who’d pass. After his team lost the All-Star Game, Antetokounmpo said his team’s strategy was to get the ball to whomever Harden was guarding and attack.

Harden ramped up the skirmish of words Friday when speaking to Rachel Nichols of ESPN, saying:

“I wish I could just run, run and was 7-feet and run and just dunk. That takes no skill at all. I’ve got to actually learn how to play basketball and how to have skill.”

Antetokounmpo decided to let it die when ESPN asked pregame about what Harden said.

“I’m not the type of guy to take stabs at somebody. … I’m just trying to do my job which is win games and go back home to my family. At the end of the day, if that’s what he believes that’s what he believes. I can’t say anything about it. I’ve just got to keep being focused.”

If you’re circling dates on your calendar, March 25 is what you’re looking for, the day the Bucks host the Rockets.

Harden should believe he is the best player in the game — you don’t get to be where he is without that level of confidence. Antetokounmpo should believe the same thing about himself. We could say the same things about LeBron James, Luka Doncic, and a host of others. It’s part of what makes them great, and not a surprise.

If the MVP thing is eating at Harden he might not like this season’s outcome any better. While I haven’t done a poll, most voters I’ve spoken to have The Beard third behind Antetokounmpo and LeBron James. There’s still more than six weeks of basketball before votes are cast — and the Rockets as a team are surging — but right now, the Greek Freak looks like a repeat winner from what I am hearing.

Rockets protested game despite Tilman Fertitta’s dissent

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta
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Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta talks big about his devotion to winning.

But when Houston had a chance to turn a loss into a victory by protesting due to an uncounted James Harden dunk, Fertitta balked.

Fertitta, via Kirk Bohls of Statesman:

“That’s my basketball people who got mad at ’em. Honestly, I don’t think we should have filed the protest because honestly we blew the 22-point lead. But if something is important to my players and basketball ops people, I give them a lot of leeway.”

I wonder whether Fertitta would have publicly shared his stance if the protest succeeded. I also wonder whether how supported Fertitta’s basketball employees feel considering he’s publicly revealing that he wasn’t on their side.

But this is actually one of the more encouraging stories of Fertitta’s ownership. He allowed room for debate. He listened to the other side. He posted the $10,000 protest fee.

It didn’t pay off this time, but that’s how good owners operate.

As expected, Rockets sign veteran Jeff Green for remainder of season

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Before they committed fully, Houston signed free agent Jeff Green to a 10-day contract. They just wanted to make sure the veteran forward was a fit in their small-ball system.

It turns out, he was a perfect fit.

Through four games, playing a little more than 19 minutes a game, Green averaged 9.8 points a game on a ridiculous 89.6 true shooting percentage. That’s not sustainable (he’s shooting 61.5 percent from three), but it was enough for the Rockets to sign Green for the remainder of the season, something the team announced Friday.

Green, at 6’8″, played on the wing most of his career. However, with the Rockets he backs up P.J. Tucker at center.

Green started the season a member of the Utah Jazz, but the fit there was not as clean. While he averaged 7.7 points per game in 30 appearances, the Jazz ultimately waived him to create a roster spot for Rayjon Tucker.

This contract only runs through the end of this season, but the Rockets could re-sign Green for next season, if the sides agree this summer. For now, the focus is on the Rockets’ hot streak and building on that as the league moves toward the postseason.