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.

LeBron James, Doc Rivers, others around NBA react to, participate in protests

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The NBA family spoke out loudly and quickly in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officer.

Protests have erupted nationwide following Floyd’s death, and the NBA family is commenting on — and in the case of some players, participating in — those protests. That includes the biggest name in the sport today, LeBron James.

Pistons’ coach Dwane Casey made a powerful statement recently, and on Sunday Doc Rivers released this statement through the Clippers.

A number of players have been involved in the protest, including Karl-Anthony Towns and Josh Okogie of the Timberwolves, who were with former NBA player Stephen Jackson — a childhood friend of Floyd’s — during a protest in Minnesota.

The Celtics’ Jaylen Brown drove 15 hours from Boston to Atlanta to help lead a peaceful protest that started at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park. He was joined by the Pacers’ Malcolm Brogdon.

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Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote a brilliant op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times that talked about where the rage of the riots comes from in the black community.

“Yes, protests often are used as an excuse for some to take advantage, just as when fans celebrating a hometown sports team championship burn cars and destroy storefronts. I don’t want to see stores looted or even buildings burn. But African Americans have been living in a burning building for many years, choking on the smoke as the flames burn closer and closer. Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands. But we have to stay vigilant, because it’s always still in the air.

“So, maybe the black community’s main concern right now isn’t whether protesters are standing three or six feet apart or whether a few desperate souls steal some T-shirts or even set a police station on fire, but whether their sons, husbands, brothers and fathers will be murdered by cops or wannabe cops just for going on a walk, a jog, a drive. Or whether being black means sheltering at home for the rest of their lives because the racism virus infecting the country is more deadly than COVID-19.”

And all this is just the tip of the iceberg of involvement of the NBA family, just like the protests are the tip of the iceberg of the frustration felt in black communities around the nation.

Jonas Valanciunas on return: “It’s kind of like coming back from the summer”

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Memphis is in when the NBA returns, and in whatever form it returns. The Grizzlies had earned the eighth seed in the West behind the standout play of rookie Ja Morant, and if the NBA goes with a play-in format for the final playoff seeds (as expected), there will be teams gunning for that slot.

Memphis’ veteran big man Jonas Valanciunas will be ready, he told Michael Wallace at the team’s official website. Valanciunas spent time in Memphis and Miami during the lockdown, checking in with family back in Lithuania, but is back in the gym getting up shots. He described the return process this way.

“It’s kind of like coming back from the summer. We’ve had two-and-a-half months off. But then again, I play with the (Lithuania) National Team every summer, so it’s not like you always have so much time off every summer. So it’s sort of like coming back and getting ready for training camp again, to get back in shape and into game rhythm. It’s unusual, with guys wearing masks and stuff, but it is sort of like getting yourself ready for training camp right now.

A lot of players feel the same way, that this was sort of like an offseason (just one where they couldn’t get in the gym and work on a specific skill or weakness). Now things are ramping up again. This is why players want a handful of games before the playoffs (or play-in tournament) start, to get their legs under them.

Memphis will have strong teams, and more veteran units, coming for their playoff spot in the form of Portland and New Orleans. Valanciunas says the Grizzlies will be ready.

We’re really motivated. We don’t need to find extra motivation. We’re young. We want to establish our names and build as a unit.

It’s going to be a unique format when the NBA returns, in what has been a season turned upside down. That, however, can be a bonding experience for this young Grizzlies team, something that makes them better faster.

Some NBA players reportedly expect families can’t come to Orlando until September

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Nothing is set in stone until the owners vote on Thursday, but the NBA’s return likely will have teams reporting to the “bubble” (or campus, or whatever term of art the league ends up using) in Orlando in mid-July. Games would start July 31 and run into late September and maybe even October.

For players, that’s a long time to be stuck in a hotel without seeing family or loved ones, so families joining the players has long been part of the plan. Except, now comes a note from Tim Reynolds at the AP that some players think their families may not be able to join them until deep into the postseason.

The smaller the bubble, the easier it is to maintain with extensive testing, which is why not all 30 teams are expected to be invited and the size of team traveling parties will be smaller. It has been expected that families wouldn’t be invited to join players at least until after the first round of the playoffs (when a lot of players left).

However, if games start July 31 and the league plans to play a couple of weeks of regular-season games, followed by a play-in tournament for the final playoff spot, then it will be September by the time the NBA gets to a final eight teams. Which will have players separated from their families for a couple of months.

It’s easy to understand the players’ frustrations with that. No matter what direction Adam Silver goes with this restart, there are going to be some unhappy teams and players.

 

Sixers head into playoffs with healthy Ben Simmons but new, untested starting five

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Philadelphia heads into the NBA’s restart — in whatever format it takes — as a team that, on the surface, benefits some from the break.

Ben Simmons was expected to return from his back issues in time for the playoffs, but it was going to be close, and he wouldn’t be fully rested and ready. Now, the All-Star is healthy and not the only player trying to shake off the rust from a long break. That’s 16.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 8.2 assists a game, and some strong defense back in the lineup.

But that lineup has never really fit together this season in Philadelphia, which is why heading into the restart playoffs the Sixers will have a new one.

Philly is expected to roll out a starting five of Simmons, Shake Milton, Joel Embiid, Josh Richardson, and Tobias Harris, reports The Athletic’s Derek Bodner. That lineup has played zero minutes together this season (Milton hit his groove with the team late and by that point Embiid and Simmons were battling injuries). Learning chemistry on the fly in what will be, at best, a shortened and condensed regular season before the playoffs start, is a tough way to go.

It’s also the right move, Milton brings the shooting and floor spacing this roster needs. Philly had envisioned Al Horford as a floor-spacing four (who could spell Embiid at the five), but it hasn’t worked out. When Simmons, Embiid and Horford have been on the court this season, the team has scored less than a point per possession (defensively, they also gave up less than a point per possession, the Sixers basically played their opponents even in those minutes). It hasn’t meshed.

When Milton, Simmons, and Embiid have played together this season — in limited minutes and different situations than the one proposed — the offense has been only slightly better and the defense has been a mess. That’s likely not the case with Richardson and Harris on the court, but nobody knows exactly how this will work. It looks good on paper, but we’ve thought that all season about the 76ers.

Which makes Philadephia one of the most interesting teams to watch when games restart. All season long this team has not lived up to expectations (for which coach Brett Brown’s seat is very hot, even if blame for the roster issues should go higher up the ladder). Now comes a real test. If the 76ers suddenly get it together they become a real threat to the Bucks in the East (if the league keeps an East/West format). Or, this could be the latest Sixers lineup to fall short.

Either way, they become must-watch television.