PBT’s live pick-by-pick NBA Draft instant analysis post

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The rumors have been flying and the smoke has been particularly thick this year — after the No. 1 pick just about anything can happen in the 2015 NBA Draft. Expect a lot of trades, plenty of surprises, and a few head scratchers.

This is the best place to follow all of it.

We will be constantly updating this post throughout the course of the night — it will be live with a quick analysis of their game and how they fit in with the team that took them. We’ll also keep up to date with the picks that get traded and make sure you know where they land.

Now on with one of the best nights on the NBA calendar.

FIRST ROUND

source:  1. Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns, 6’11” center (Kentucky). He’s a good player now who could be a great player in a few years, and should fit perfectly with Andrew Wiggins, Ricky Rubio and the rest of the Minnesota core. He’s got an NBA body and he’s athletic — he moves more like a wing than a big, especially with the ball in his hands. He can defend — on the ball he is solid, and he can come from off the ball and block shots. Offensively he’s strong scoring in the post but he shoots 82 percent from the free throw line and shows signs he could have an impressive midrange game and, eventually, all the way out to the three-point line. Best yet, he’s got Kevin Garnett as a mentor for at least the next season.
source:  2. Lakers: D’Angelo Russell, 6’5” point guard (Ohio State). The Lakers see Russell as someone who could be a big star in the league. He can score — 19.3 points per game — and shoot — 41 percent from 3 at Ohio State — but more than that is a gifted passer with phenomenal court vision. He’s also a big guard. However, there are doubters. He is not a dynamic athlete and that could be an issue at the NBA level where he will face those guys a lot of nights. Also, against quality teams he was considerably less effective. Is this a bet the Lakers can land DeMarcus Cousins or, more likely, LaMarcus Aldridge?
source:  3. 76ers: Jahlil Okafor, 6’11” center (Duke). The Sixers take the best guy left on the board, but they are loaded up front and you have to wonder if this is this a prelude to a trade (not Okafor but someone)? Okafor is as polished and skilled a post player and scorer as has come out of the college game since maybe Tim Duncan — he is going to put up points as a rookie in the NBA. He has spectacular footwork, is phenomenal with his back to the basket. His passing has improved but still needs work. Questions remain about his defense and effort on that end of the floor, but his issues down there were overstated.
source:  4. Knicks: Kristaps Porzingis, 7’0” power forward (Latvia), The Knicks are taking on player development (unless this is a draft for another team in a trade). Porzingis is the most talked about guy on the board. He is tall and long (7’6” wingspan) plus he moves fairly fluidly on the court. He’s a good shooter with NBA-three range. He’s the definition of upside (and his floor is pretty much a solid role player), but he’s also a project. It’s going to be three years before the Knicks know what they’ve got. We’ve broken his game down in more detail here.
source:  5. Magic: Mario Hezonja, 6’8” shooting guard (Croatia). Another quality young player — and finally a shooter — added to the Magic roster. Potentially the best two guard/swingman in this draft. He has good skills for a 20-year-old — smooth shooting stroke, good defensive instincts, a high level of athleticism — but it’s that he has just started to tap his potential that had scouts drooling. He’s a big two guard who moves well, and has decent handles — he could add a slashing game to his outside shooting. There is also real defensive potential. He’s exceedingly confident, which worries some observers. He also just needs more time on the court to develop his feel for the game and consistency.
source:  6. Kings: Willie Cauley-Stein, 7’0” center (Kentucky): Will George Karl like this center? He’s very athletic, but he’s getting drafted this high because of his defense — he’s a 7-footer who can show out off a pick and switch onto a guard without losing a beat. His offense is raw, poor if you want, but he can score in transition and finish around the rim, and maybe eventually have a jumper. If you like raw, long, athletic big men he’s the best in this draft. There are concerns about his foot, which was operated on more than a year ago and scared off some teams. Also, Cauley-Stein and DeMarcus Cousins means no shooters to space the floor as big men, teams will pack the paint.
source:  7. Nuggets: Emmanuel Mudiay, 6’5” point guard (United States/China). He passed up playing at SMU for Larry Brown and played in China, but he handled that professionally. After missing a lot of time due to an ankle injury, he did his rehab and made plays come the playoffs (that he stuck with it in a foreign land shows maturity). He is a big, strong, physical guard who uses that strength to try and get to the rim, especially in transition. His ability to read the play and find teammates when he drives improved playing in China. His jump shot needs to improve, and it’s hard to get a read on his defense because nobody plays any in China. This is another sign Ty Lawson will be gone from Denver.
source:  8. Pistons. Stanley Johnson, 6’8” small forward (Arizona). They needed a small forward in Detroit and they got a good one. He comes with an NBA body, but his offensive game is going to need some polish — particularly his jumper — to get to the NBA level or get a lot of minutes in a Stan Van Gundy offense. He also wasn’t great finishing around the rim against length. He has the potential to be be an impressive NBA player, he’s just a little bit of a project at the start.
source:  9. Hornets: Frank Kaminsky, 7’0” center (Wisconsin): They wanted a new four of the future, one who can space the floor, and they found it. He was the rock at the middle of Wisconsin’s run to the Final Four again, and he was as good a college player as there was last season. He is skilled, and is comfortable playing on the block or out on the perimeter. He’s not athletic by NBA standards but has great footwork that can get him space to score, he could be a real pick-and-pop threat for the Hornets. However, as a senior don’t expect a ton of development from him.
source:  10. Heat: Justise Winslow, 6’7” small forward (Duke). This is a steal for the Heat here and a perfect fit. He has an NBA body already, is physically strong and athletic, and he can defend at an NBA level now — and he can defend multiple positions. He’s good on the glass for his size. He showed some versatility to his offense at Duke, but he played a small four in college, can he create shots for himself against NBA threes? He shot 41 percent from three last season but there are questions if he can continue that at the next level.
source:  11. Pacers: Myles Turner, 6’11” center (Texas). Roy Hibbert who? Turner comes with an NBA-ready center’s body, tall and with a solid frame. He’s climbed draft boards thanks to his shooting touch (he can hit threes) and his high IQ game — he reads plays well. The concern is he doesn’t move really well and had an odd running gate, which have looked better in workouts, according to scouts, but is still a bit of a concern.
source:  12. Jazz: Trey Lyles, 6’10” power forward (Kentucky). This is more depth up front behind Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors. He’s an NBA four who was asked to play more at the three at Kentucky because of the Wildcats’ depth. He’s got a fantastic scoring touch and pretty good footwork and handles, he can face up or back down smaller defenders. He has a nice floater. He needs to develop a more consistent jump shot. Defensively he needs to improve his footwork and show more focus.

source:  13. Suns: Devin Booker, 6’5” shooting guard (Kentucky). Real steal for the Suns this far down the draft, he’s better than some of the guys above him and a great fit for up-tempo Phoenix. Also, with the Suns, you can’t get wrong with the best shooter in the draft and that’s what Booker may be. He can knock it down off the bounce or off the catch. He’s not as athletic as a lot of the guys he will match up at the two guard, but he defended well at Kentucky.
source:  14. Thunder: Cameron Payne, 6’2” point guard (Murray State). Fantastic pick for a team looking for point guard depth. He’s not an elite athlete but he does have a fantastic feel for the game and those kinds of point guards have done well in the league in recent years. He’s got a great change of pace, uses it to get into the lane and knows how to distribute. He has three-point range. He likely is a solid backup point guard.
source:  15. Wizards: Kelly Oubre, 6’7” small forward (Kansas). The Hawks picked him but traded him to the Washington Wizards (for pick No. 19 and two second rounders). Now, can the Wizards develop him, because if so, they may have steal at this point in the draft. Oubre is a project wing player. He is a freak athlete (as good as anyone in this class) who is long, has good scoring instincts, and has potential as a jump shooter. Right now he’s a straight-line driver who gets lost defensively. He needs time on the court — expect him to get some time in the D-League.
source:  16. Celtics: Terry Rozier, 6’2” point guard (Louisville). This is an unexpectedly high pick, he was expected to go late first and Boston is loaded with guards. Rozier is a guy that just knows how to score, and can do it working on or off the ball. His shot selection needs work, and he thinks shoot first, and his distribution skills improved but are still a work in progress. He’s pesky on defense when he wants to be, he just doesn’t always want to, but his defensive numbers are good. He could develop into a rotation player.
source:  17. Bucks: Rashad Vaughn, 6’5” shooting guard (UNLV). He climbed up the board in recent weeks to this spot, a lot of teams like him. He’s coming off a torn meniscus (from February) and he was not efficient overall, nor was his shot selection, something that Jason Kidd will improve. But you could see the guy that was such a highly touted prospect in flashes. He shot 38 percent from three, he likes to attack off the dribble, and he has the tools to be a very good defender. With some development he could be a quality player in the league.
source:  18. Rockets: Sam Dekker, 6’9” small forward (Wisconsin). The Rockets were looking for help at the three, this fits with that. He gained a lot of fans as one of the key players that led Wisconsin past Kentucky to the NCAA title game. He’s got the athleticism to play the three in the NBA and is good at a lot of skills (but is elite at none). He can put the ball on the floor to create a look, he’s fluid on the drive. However, he shot an inconsistent 33 percent from three in college and the Rockets love the three ball, that will need to improve. There also are questions about his defense.
source:  19. Knicks: Jerian Grant, 6’5” point guard (Notre Dame). This was the Wizards’ pick, which they will trade to the Hawks (No. 15 pick), who will move it on it on to the Knicks for Tim Hardaway Jr. Grant was one of the top two seniors in this NBA draft (along with Frank Kaminsky of Wisconsin), and has a mature game. He’s aggressive and smart on the pick-and-roll, knowing how to find shooters, but he can over dribble and take too long to get into the offense. He’s a solid defender. He could play a little two in the right situation.
source:  20. Raptors: Delon Wright, 6’6” point guard (Utah). This is a good pickup toward the end of the first round. He’s a big point guard who defends the position well. He uses his athleticism to get into the lane, he finished well against Pac 12 defenses, and he has good court vision and can find shooters. His jump shot needs to find some consistency, and there are questions about his ability to finish against NBA length. But he can give the Raptors minutes from the start and maybe develop into a starter.
source:  21. Mavericks: Justin Anderson, 6’6” small forward (Virginia). Highly touted out of high school, in three years at Virginia he never really developed as scouts had hoped. He’s athletic and can defend, he can finish at the rim and hit 46.5 percent from three last season. He has potential as a “3 and D” guy in the NBA.

source:  22. Bulls: Bobby Portis, 6’11” power forward (Arkansas). They just drafted a great high energy, Tom Thibodeau kind of guy. Welp. Bulls fans are going to like this guy because he plays hard and outworks guys at both ends of the court. He’s got a good jumper and can work off the ball on the perimeter, even hit some threes. He’s a good, fundamentally sound defender for a big and is quick enough to show out or switch onto smaller players. He’s not an explosive athlete, but his feel for the game covers that. He’s not great in the post, but put him in a modern offense (like Fred Hoiberg wants to run) and he can do well.
source:  23. Trail Blazers: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, 6’7” small forward (Arizona). UPDATE: He has been traded to the Brooklyn Nets. He could see some run for Rick Carlisle as a rookie because he can defend multiple positions, he’s one of the better perimeter defenders in this draft. Offensively, he’s got good handles and can get to the rim, but his jump shot looks uncomfortable and is not accurate. He’s got work to do on the offensive end. He seems a future role player in the NBA.

source:  24. Timberwolves (16-64, LW 30). Tyus Jones, 6’2” point guard (Duke). This was the Cavaliers pick but they are moving Jones for two second rounders in this draft. Jones will backup Ricky Rubio now. He has won pretty much everywhere he’s been, including helping Duke to a national title last season. He’s not the most athletic guy, but he plays with a very high IQ and understands how to be aggressive. He’s good off the pick-and-roll because he makes smart reads and is a creative passer. He’s got range on his jumper. He can walk in now and give backup point guard minutes. The concerns are how that lack of athleticism will play out defensively (he’s smart on that end, too, but the guys he has to guard are about to get a lot faster). There are less athletic, small point guards who have thrived in the NBA, can Jones be one of those guys?
source:  25. Grizzlies: Jarell Martin 6’9” forward (LSU). This is an odd choice because Martin seems like a guy who can play uptempo but struggles when the game grinds down, that said the Grizzlies promised him early. And Memphis grinds things down. He’s big — weighing in at 240 — and very athletic. He cleans up the glass (particularly defensively) then gets out and runs the floor well. He’s got a diverse offensive game, although his jumper needs consistency and range (but he does have a face-up game, it just needs polish). There are questions about his defense and feel for the game in the half court.
source:  26. Spurs: Nikola Milutinov, 7’0” center (Serbia). Of course the Spurs took a Euro, they do that anyway and this year they don’t want to add salary short term. The first thing you notice — he’s skinny. Seven foot and 220 pounds. To start, he’s got to add some muscle. That said he’s got potential, he’s got a fluid way of moving around the court and can play above the rim. That said, on offense he needs a lot of polish, while on defense he is not a guy who really protects the paint. It will be years before he’s over here.
source:  27. Lakers: Larry Nance Jr., 6’9” power forward (Wyoming). The senior got the attention of scouts at the Draft Combine, where he showed better than expected against his peers in this draft. He has NBA athleticism and he showed good defense in college that should translate to the NBA. His offensive game is raw, and while it has shown improvement the question is how much more he can improve. Can the Lakers develop him?
source:  28. Celtics: R.J. Hunter, 6’6” shooting guard (Georgia State). Boston has picked up a couple of scorers. Hunter can score the rock. He can shoot the three, he can get into the lane and finish, and he’s a good passer. Yes, his shooting percentage wasn’t great and his shot selection a little questionable last season, but his role was to score and defenses were geared up to stop him. Defensively he was given a green light to gamble a little. How will he adjust to the NBA where he has to play a role and be more disciplined defensively? If he adds some muscle he could be a nice scoring two guard.
source:  29. Nets: Chris McCullough, 6’9” power forward (Syracuse). He is coming off an ACL injury last January which ended his season. He’s a gifted athlete with a lot of potential at both ends. He has a nice shooting stroke, but right now his defense is ahead of his offense. And on both ends he needs a lot of polish and some added muscle to be effective. Can the Nets develop him? Are they that patient?
source:  30. Warriors: Kevon Looney, 6’9” power forward (UCLA). He’s versatile, which fits right with the Warriors plans. UCLA asked a lot of him and early in the season he delivered, but as the season wore on he faded — the lack of polish on his skills led to consistency issues. Maybe his greatest strength is on the glass. He’s got a lot of potential as both a scorer (he shot 41 percent from three) and defender, but needs to be developed. His handles, footwork, feel for the game all need to improve, and he needs to get stronger. There are concerns about his hip and if that will be a chronic issue.

SECOND ROUND
source:  31. Cavaliers: Cedi Osman, 6’8” small forward (Macedonia). This pick will go to Cleveland as part of a trade for Tyus Jones. Osman has potential as a stretch four, he already has pretty much three-point range and a quick shot, plus he can put the ball on the floor. Also he is a pretty good passer and can play at the elbow that way. However, his defense is a long way from NBA ready right now. He’s going to stay in Europe. This is a draft and stash for now.
source:  32. Rockets: Montrezl Harrell, 6’8” power forward (Louisville). This is a steal early in the second round, the Rockets are going to love him because he’s an energy guy — he busts it every possession and plays with his heart on his sleeve. He slid this far down the list because he’s undersized at the four in the NBA, plus he lacks offense — he doesn’t have a steady jump shot and his post game lacks polish. Maybe Kevin McHale can use him in a Kenneth Faried kind of role, but off the bench.
source:  33. Celtics: Jordan Mickey, 6’8” power forward (LSU). He could be a steal in the second round, it’s a nice pick by the Celtics. After Washington’s Upshaw was forced to leave that program, Mickey became the leading shot blocker in the nation. His length makes him an impressive rebounder on both ends of the floor. He’s an improved man-defender. He can score around the basket and in transition, but his offense needs work.
source:  34. Lakers: Anthony Brown, 6’7” swingman (Stanford). The Lakers got a shooter. He spent five years in Palo Alto and while there developed into a quality perimeter shooter, knocking down 44.1 percent from three this past year. If the defender closes out too fast on him too fast at the arc he can put the ball on the floor, and he plays a smart game. He’s also a solid defender. He has potential as a shooting specialist or as a “3&D” guy.
source:  35. 76ers: Guillermo Hernangomez, 6’11” center (Spain). We can make the name part easy, he goes by “Willy.” He’s good at a lot of things — offensive rebounding, he’s got solid post moves — but is not great at a lot of things. What has teams interested is he’s shown a lot of improvement over the last couple years. He could develop into a solid rotation big, but he is a draft and stash guy in the short term.
source:  36. Cavaliers: Rakeem Christmas, 6’10” power forward/center (Syracuse). The Timberwolves took him but he will go to Cleveland in the Tyus Jones trade. Christmas made some real leaps forward during his senior season at Syracuse, showing a much more polished ability to score in the lane (and draw fouls) than previous years. He’s incredibly long — a 7’5” wingspan — and is known as a shot blocker (he played in the middle of that Syracuse zone), but he has the body to defend in the NBA post. Can he defend small ball fours and fives? He could give Cavs some backup minutes off the bench this season.
source:  37. 76ers: Richaun Holms, 6’10” power forward (Bowling Green). He looks the part of an NBA big man, with a filled out, strong frame, and he has shown the needed level of athleticism to play at the NBA level. He’s got potential as a modern NBA four — he has the physical tools to grab rebounds inside, plus he hit 41 percent from three last season. He has a nice face-up game, and he’s a good defender. That said, he is a project who needs much more polish on the offensive end. He’s a good second-round pick to try and bring along.
source:  38. Pistons. Darrun Hilliard, 6’6″ small forward (Villanova). He was a good college scorer, who improved from a role player to a key guy scoring 14 points a game last season as a senior. He maybe can be a role player who fits within the system, and Stan Van Gundy must like his shooting.
source:  39. Nets: Juan Vaulet, 6’6″ small forward (Argentina). While he was drafted by the Hornets, he was quickly traded to Brooklyn. He’s pretty unheralded but according to DraftExpress has a good frame and length. He’s also had a major foot injury. The bottom line is Nets GM Billy King saw something he like and rolled the dice, which is what the second round is for.
source:  40. Heat: Josh Richardson, 6’6″ shooting guard (Tennessee). He has the physical tools of an NBA wing, complete with a 6’10” wingspan and good athleticism. He played strong defense for the Volunteers. He showed a nice catch-and-shoot jumper — he hit 35 percent from three last season — but struggled when his shot was contested.
source:  41. Trail Blazers: Pat Connaughton, 6’5” shooting guard (Notre Dame). He was selected by the Nets but traded to Portland in the Hollis-Jefferson deal. The Blazers got a guy who can shoot the rock, hitting 42 percent from three last season. He showed off a 44-inch vertical at the combine, and he used that to be a good rebounder for a guard at the college level. There are questions about his ability to defend at the NBA level.
source:  42. Jazz: Olivier Hanlan, 6’4″ guard (Boston College). He is a combo guard, equally comfortable working off the ball and with it in his hands, and he was one of the better scorers in college. In a point guard role, he works well off screens in the half court, and his first inclination is to drive the lane. On defense he works hard. Can he get time on the court on a team with Trey Burke and Dante Exum already set in the rotation?
source:  43. Pacers: Joseph Young, 6’2” guard (Oregon). As the Pac 12 Player of the Year, he knows how to score the rock. He takes a lot of threes and has NBA range (36 percent from three last year as the focus of the Oregon offense). He can put the ball on the floor but will need to prove he can finish against NBA length. He also needs to prove he can defend at the NBA level to stick.

source:  44. Suns. Andrew Harrison, 6’6” point guard (Kentucky). UPDATE: He was traded to Memphis, so Grizzlies fans this is for you. He is a big, strong point guard who knows how to use that size to bull his way to the rim (or use his change of pace) and score or draw a foul. That size also can make him a quality defender against either guard position. But does he have the handles and ability to finish against NBA athletes (he wasn’t efficient in college)? His decision-making (and mediocre handles) has some scouts doubting his ability to run an NBA offense.
source:  45. Celtics: Marcus Thornton, 6’3″ point guard (William & Mary). He used his quickness to score 20 points a game in college. He was asked to do everything at William & Mary, he’ll have to adjust to a smaller role now but that should help his efficiency. He’s going to score in transition and be a catch-and-shoot guy at the next level, but he did well on contested shots, which is a good sign.
source:  46. Bucks: Norman Powell, 6’4” shooting guard (UCLA). He can be a second-round pick who contributes for Jason Kidd. His best assets are on the defensive side, where, thanks to his great athleticism, he can guard the one and the two, using quickness and strength to stick with his man. On offense, he uses that strength to get into the paint, where he finishes pretty well. However, his jumper is inconsistent. He can become a decent rotation player.
source:  47. 76ers: Arturas Gudaitis, 6’10” center (Lithuania). Another draft and stash guy for the Sixers. This is not a soft Euro hanging out by the arc, he is 250 pounds and likes to muscle around inside and defend in the post. He moves pretty well, so he can show out on the perimeter, or be good on the roll after setting a pick. He is strong on the offensive glass. That said he has no shooting range, his feel for the game is in question, and he may struggle against bigger, stronger NBA players.
source:  48. Thunder: Dakari Johnson, 7’0” center (Kentucky). He’s got the size and athletic ability to play at the NBA level — Calipari brought him into Kentucky for a reason — but he’s got a lot of work to do in terms of fundamentals like footwork. Think of it this way: How much did you see him through the second half of Kentucky’s run? Not much. He’s got to get more polish and more moves offensively. Defensively, he’s got to learn how to use his body and wingspan better. He is just 19, he can develop and he has the tools, but it’s a project.
source:  49. Wizards: Aaron White, 6’9″ power forward (Iowa). His offensive game took a step forward in his senior season and he’s an efficient scorer. He’s got good bounce and he works hard off the ball. Pretty good energy guy. There are questions about his ability to do those things well enough at an NBA level, but it’s a solid second-round gamble.
source:  50. Hawks: Marcus Eriksson, 6’7″ shooting guard (Sweden). While he has a slightly low release, if you let him set his feet he has incredible shooting range. That sentence would sum up the notes we had on him from the 2014 Adidas EuroCamp. He’s a draft and stash, not sure he ever makes it stateside.
source:  51. Magic: Tyler Harvey, 6’4” shooting guard (Eastern Washington). He was the nation’s leading scorer at 22.9 points per game. He faced defenses geared up to shut him down, yet he showed ridiculous shooting range hitting 40.9 percent from three. He can score off the bounce or coming off screens. He’s got a quick release. But he’s not in the Big Sky anymore, can he keep doing it against the athletes and length of the NBA? Also, there are questions about his ability to defend at the next level.
source:  52. Mavericks: Satnam Singh, 7’2″ center (India). He’s big, long, he’s pretty mobile for somebody that big, and he has shown improvement working at the IMG Academy in Florida. He’s still raw with a long way to go, but he’s young and this is a good late second-round gamble.
source:  53. Cavaliers: Sir’Dominic Pointer, 6’5″ small forward (St. John’s). He’s got the physical tools you like to see in an NBA player, but he was more defender than scorer at St. John’s. He can be a little bit passive offensively, but he improved his last year of college and has shown a good passing game. He needs a vastly improved jumper if he is going to stick, but he can defend so he has a chance.
source:  54. Jazz: Daniel Diez, 6’8” small forward (Spain). He is strong on the catch-and-shoot has a great feel for the game, but there are concerns that his athleticism is not up to the NBA average. He’s not a guy with the handles or ability to create his own shot at the NBA level, he seems more strictly a shooter. He can be stashed in the Spanish league to see if he develops.
source:  55. Spurs: Cady Lalanne, 6’10 power forward (UMass). The Hatian native didn’t blow scouts away with his play his senior year of college — but he showed there is still value at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament where he stood out. So did his 7’5″ wingspan. The hope is he can become a defensive and rebounding specialist.
source:  56. Pelicans: Branden Dawson, 6’7″ power forward (Michigan State). He is a fantastic athlete, who set a school record in blocks and hit the boards hard. He is going to be a defensive and energy specialist, if he sticks at the NBA level. His offense is improved but needs work.
source:  57. Nuggets: Nikola Radicevic, 6’5″ point guard (Serbia). He was a teammate of Knicks’ No. 4 pick Porzingis, but Radicevic is a draft and stash guy. He has potential as a playmaking point guard, he’s got good size and athleticism, but he’s raw and has a lot of work to do to polish his game.
source:  58. 76ers: J.P. Tokoto, 6’6” shooting guard (North Carolina). Yes, he could have used another year in college to refine his skills, but he will develop faster here if the Sixers handle him right. He is as athletic as anyone in this draft, and he showed improvement using that in pick-and-roll situations (he’s a good passer). His shot improved as well (37.5 percent from three last season, but a small sample size). He’s fantastic in transition, but he’s raw. Very raw.
source:  59. Hawks: Dimitrios Agravanis, 6’10” power forward (Greece). He plays for Olympiacos and if you want to dream that his shooting skills can develop into him being an NBA stretch four some day, you go right ahead. I’m not going to kill that dream. But he’s a draft and stash and I’d be surprised if he ever shows up in the NBA.
source:  60. 76ers: Luka Mitrovic, 6’8″ power forward (Serbia). Draft and stash, with the emphasis on the stash.

Devin Booker reportedly could return to Suns next week

Toronto Raptors v Phoenix Suns
Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images
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The Phoenix Suns are 9-13 since Devin Booker went out with a left groin strain (which counts a few games before, but does not include, his attempted Christmas Day comeback, which lasted all of four minutes in a Suns loss). While they have bounced back lately as Chris Paul and Cameron Johnson returned, Phoenix still slid down to eighth in the standings.

The Suns need Booker to return — and they may get it next week, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker, sidelined the past five weeks because of a left groin strain, could return as soon as Tuesday against the Brooklyn Nets, sources told ESPN… Booker has been ramping up his on-court work, and is expected to join the Suns at the start of a five-game road trip that begins Friday in Boston and continues Saturday at Detroit.

Booker should be named an All-Star reserve Tuesday, despite all the time missed — he has been that good. Booker is averaging 27.1 points a game shooting 37% from 3 (a good 58.5 true shooting percentage) and is dishing out 5.1 assists per night. The bottom line, the Suns have outscored opponents by 5.1 points per 100 possessions when he is on the court this season and been outscored by 2.5 per 100 when he is out.

He returns to a team that needs a jolt and could get a couple — both the return of Booker to the rotation and a trade at the deadline to bring in depth. The Suns are likely to trade Jae Crowder at the deadline — the Bucks are considered the frontrunners but the Heat and Hawks are reportedly in the mix — which may not bring back what James Jones once hoped, but should give the team a little more depth.

If the Suns can get back to the team that started the season 15-6 they could make some noise in the West, but there is a lot for the Suns to clean up to get back to those days.

PBT Podcast: LeBron chases history, WNBA superteam and trade talk

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It’s one of the craziest weeks in the NBA — the week before the trade deadline is always insane — yet that is maybe the third biggest story in the league right now.

First, in this edition of the PBT Podcast, we dive into LeBron James chasing history and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record — what does that say about LeBron and his legacy? And his conditioning to be doing this 20 years into his NBA career.

From there, Corey Robinson of NBC Sports and myself dive into the biggest move in the basketball world this week — Breanna Stewart shaking up the WNBA and choosing the New York Liberty in free agency. She formed a superteam in New York, and there is another one in Las Vegas, and this is an opportunity for the WNBA to grow – and get charter flights for their players. From there, it’s Corey’s Jukebox and time to talk some Damian Lillard.

Then we into trade rumors from around the league and everyone waiting on the Raptors to open up the market.

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above (the Christmas games segment) or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Three things to Know: Breanna Stewart is headed to New York, WNBA must seize moment

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Three Things To Know is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Breanna Stewart is headed to New York, WNBA must seize moment

The biggest free agent in WNBA history has chosen to form a super team in league history — and that’s a real opportunity for everyone.

Former league MVP and two-time WNBA champion Breanna Stewart has chosen to leave Seattle and play for the New York Liberty.

Just a few weeks ago, the Liberty traded for 2021 WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones to pair with Sabrina Ionescu, forming one of the best pick-and-roll threats in the league. Now add Stewart and her playmaking to a roster filled with quality players —  Michaela Onyenwere, DiDi Richards, Joceyln Willoughby, Kayla Thornton — and this is a team that’s a legitimate threat to win the WNBA title next season. This is a superteam.

New York’s move comes just days after two-time former MVP and WNBA champ Candace Parker chose to join the defending WBNA champion Las Vegas Aces with reigning MVP A’ja Wilson and quality players around her such as Kelsey Plum, Jackie Young and Chelsea Gray. This is also a superteam.

It’s not a coincidence Stewart and Parker chose to go to teams with newish WNBA owners willing to spend to win, Joe Tsai in New York (also the owner of the NBA’s Nets) and Mark Davis in Las Vegas (owner of the NFL’s Raiders). Two owners who came into the WNBA wanting to spend to pay players but also improve their experience — a new practice facility in Las Vegas, for example — and grow the sport that way. Owners with the vision to know they must spend money to make money — grow the league and its popularity and franchise values will skyrocket.

Stewart in her free agency pushed charter flights for players to the top of the list of ways to improve the league. Right now, the WNBA CBA requires teams to fly commercial. It’s part of a penny-pinching mindset from some quarters that sometimes feels like it will choke off the growing league. Charter flights for every team to every game — something common in professional sports and high-level college sports, including women’s college basketball — would cost about $30 million for the league.

There’s a divide among WNBA owners, not all want to pay that added charter flight cost out of their pocket, but the league has to find a way. As Corey Robinson of NBC Sports noted in the video above, this feels a lot like when his father — Hall of Famer David Robinson — wrote an open letter in 1991 to then San Antonio Spurs owner Red McCombs asking to fly charter to games because of the competitive advantage (McCombs agreed after the public pressure, now charter flights are just expected in the NBA).

Beyond just flights, this is an inflection point for the WNBA — it has to intensify its marketing, its outreach, and do whatever else it takes to grow the league.

Stewart, a recognizable face and name to any sports fan in America (even casual ones who only know her Olympics efforts) just formed a superteam in the biggest media market in the nation. They have a natural, high-profile rival in Las Vegas with their own superstars and big names. If you can’t sell this, you’re doing it wrong — this will be great basketball (and that’s not even mentioning Brittney Griner and the Phoenix Mercury, and other good teams out there).

New York vs. Las Vegas could be the 1980s Lakers vs. Celtics moment for the WNBA. Stewart vs. Wilson can be a version of Magic vs. Bird — a rivalry and must-watch matchup that took the NBA off tape-delayed late-night television and vaulted it into prime time, putting it on the course for what it is now. This feels like that moment for the WNBA, but will WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert be able to grab the opportunity the way David Stern did? Can she get her owners to buy in the way Stern did? The WNBA must spend, it must take advantage of this opportunity. Chances and players like this don’t come around very often.

2) Timberwolves outplay Warriors in clutch, pick up quality win

Right now, this Warriors team just does not have the aura of its championship teams of years past. Even last year’s team didn’t enter the playoffs as the favorites in the West (that was the 64-win Suns), but we had seen enough to know they could be a threat to win it all with a couple of breaks. Which they got.

This year’s team… the Warriors had a 13-point lead on the Timberwolves Wednesday night with less than 11 minutes left and then got outplayed the rest of the way. While D'Angelo Russell was draining key 3-pointers, Stephen Curry, Donte DiVincenzo and  Andrew Wiggins were missing theirs, and Jonathan Kuminga was committing illegal screens. The result was the Warriors blowing their lead and the Timberwolves took advantage of it — with some critical plays by Naz Ried.

“I thought we had control of the game and then I thought we just kind of gift-wrapped it,” Kerr said postgame, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “And not to take anything away from Minnesota, I thought they were great. They took advantage of our mistakes and lack of execution. [D’Angelo Russell] got hot and guys made big shots, but we missed box-outs, we threw the ball away, we took really difficult shots.

“So everything we had done to that point to have control of the game, we stopped doing. We got what we deserved.”

This year’s Warriors are 13-14 in the clutch (games within five points in the final five minutes), with a -1.8 net rating. Make that a game within three points in the final three minutes and the Warriors are 10-12 this season.

The Warriors had won 4-of-5 before this and it felt like they may be flipping the switch, but then games like this happen and it gives you pause. These Warriors are not there yet.

3) Celtics put on a show, romp past shorthanded Nets

Boston has cooled off following its hot start to the season, but there are nights when they get focused, turn the burner back on high, get hot and remind everyone why they are the title favorites this season.

The Nets ran into those Celtics on Wednesday — Boston outscored Brooklyn 46-16 in the first quarter, hitting eight straight 3-pointers to open the game.

From there the Celtics romped to a wire-to-wire 139-96 win. Boston stayed hot from deep and hit 48.1% from 3 for the game (26-of-54). Jayson Tatum scored 31 points,  Jaylen Brown added 26, and both got to sit in the fourth quarter and watch.

The Celtics needed a win like this.

The Nets… life is tough sometimes without Kevin Durant. This is a game Brooklyn can flush and move on, even with KD it would not have helped much the way the Celtics were shooting.

ONE BONUS THING TO KNOW (or see): Give Tari Eason credit, he did not give up. That is persistence.

Nuggets’ Michael Malone to coach Team LeBron in All-Star Game

DENVER NUGGETS VS LOS ANGELES LAKERS, NBA
AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images
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Denver is comfortably in first place in the West and looking like a contender.

Which is bad news if Nuggets coach Michael Malone purchased any non-refundable plane tickets for the start of the All-Star break, because now he is headed to Salt Lake City.

With Portland beating Memphis on Wednesday, it ensured that the Nuggets will have the best record in the West on Sunday ( two weeks out from the All-Star Game, meaning Malone is now the head coach of Team LeBron.

This is Malone’s second All-Star Game as a coach, but the captains should be familiar to him. In 2019 he coached Team LeBron to a win against Team Giannis 178-164.

Boston’s Joe Mazzulla will coach Team Giannis.

The coaches do not know which players they will coach — Malone doesn’t know if he will be coaching Nikola Jokić or not. This year team captains LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo will pick their teams live, just before the game. We know the pool of starters the captains will pick from, with the reserves being announced Thursday.