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.

Kelly Loeffler calls WNBA players supporting her opponent for senate ‘out of control cancel culture’

Sue Bird wears shirt supporting Raphael Warnock in senate race against Kelly Loeffler
Julio Aguilar/Getty Images
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WNBA players and Kelly Loeffler hit a stalemate.

Players want to oust Loeffler as Atlanta Dream co-owner because Loeffler – a Republican U.S. Senator from Georgia – holds political stances they disagree with and is advocating against the league supporting Black Lives Matter. Loeffler said she won’t sell, and the league won’t force her out.

So, players have turned to Loeffler’s senate race, wearing “VOTE WARNOCK” shirts in support of Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock.

Holly Rowe of ESPN:

Loeffler statement:

ATLANTA—Today, political outsider and conservative businesswoman Kelly Loeffler issued the following statement in response to WNBA players wearing “VOTE WARNOCK” t-shirts. The shirts endorse Kelly’s Democrat opponent, Raphael Warnock, following her criticism of the league’s embrace of the Black Lives Matter political organization.

“This is just more proof that the out of control cancel culture wants to shut out anyone who disagrees with them. It’s clear that the league is more concerned with playing politics than basketball, and I stand by what I wrote in June:

“We come together around sports, but promoting a political agenda divides us rather than unites us. The lives of every African American matter, and there’s no place for racism in our country. But I oppose the BLM political organization due to its radical ideas and Marxist foundations, which include defunding the police and eroding the nuclear family. On the other hand, our flag represents our values of freedom and equality for all. If we can’t unite behind our flag, much less the national anthem during this struggle, then what keeps us together? It’s sad to see that there’s more interest in tearing our country apart than in solutions that bring us together. I’ll continue to defend American values and our flag, because this is not a game – it’s the future of our country. “

“Cancel culture” is a vague term with shifting definitions. But people supporting voting for one political candidate over another? That comes nowhere near any reasonable definition of cancel culture.

WNBA players are not just basketball players. They’re human beings with varied interests – including politics. That should come perfectly naturally to a self-described “political outsider” who’s a sitting senator and running for re-election. If it’s reasonable for Loeffler to be interested in politics (it is), it reasonable for WNBA players to be interested in politics.

As far as Loeffler restating her previous points, she remains errant.

Writer recants report that Larry Bird resigned as Pacers president because team didn’t spend enough

Pacers executive Larry Bird
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
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The report from ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan that Larry Bird resigned as Pacers president because the team didn’t spend enough?

Never mind.

Pacers release:

Statement from Larry Bird

“A published report indicated that I left my position as President of Basketball Operations in 2017 because ownership was not willing to spend “big money” and that it frustrated me enough to step aside. Nothing could be further from the truth. I want everyone to know I left there because it was time for me to move on from the Pacers.

“I had worked with Kevin Pritchard and at that time I felt Kevin was ready to take over and he has proven that. I can’t thank Herb and Mel Simon, along with Pacers Sports & Entertainment, for the opportunities to, at first, coach, and then later move into the front office.”

Statement from ESPN senior writer Jackie MacMullan:

“About three weeks ago during a discussion on the podcast The Hoop Collective, I misspoke when I expressed my opinion regarding the business practices of the Indiana Pacers, and inferred that Larry Bird had been frustrated during his time as team president. It was a careless remark, based solely on my opinion, and therefore should have never been said. Larry Bird never expressed those feelings to me, and I apologize to both Larry and team owner Herb Simon for poor choice of my words.”

I don’t know why the Pacers bothered quoting Bird, who still works for the organization as Advisor to the President of Basketball Operations. MacMullan’s clear recantation says everything necessary (and speaks to her integrity and humility).

It’s good this story got cleared up.

Some things that remain true:

Three Things to Know: Is it time to worry about the Laker offense?

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack — especially with games spread out every day in the bubble — so every weekday during the NBA restart we are here to help you break it all down. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.

1) Is it time to worry about the Laker offense?

The Los Angeles Lakers have the worst offense in the bubble.

We’re not just talking about the 86 points on 35.2% shooting in Wednesday’s loss to Chris Paul and the Thunder, although that was a low point.

Four games into the NBA’s restart, the Lakers are scoring less than a point per possession while shooting 39.4% overall and 25.2% from three. Their offense has been worse than the Wizards in Orlando — and how many Wizards starters could you name right now? The Lakers’ starting five — LeBron James, Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Anthony Davis, and JaVale McGee — have a dreadful 74.4 offensive rating though four games (and a -30.1 net rating).

Or, since a picture is worth 1,000 words, take a look at the Lakers’ shot chart in the restart.

That’s a lot of red.

Should Lakers’ fans be worried?

Probably not. This is some small sample size theater with just four games. Coach Frank Vogel has been playing around with the lineup rotations, things haven’t been playoff tight. Plus, after the Lakers beat the Clippers opening night they had the top seed all but sewn up, there hasn’t been real motivation for L.A. to play its best.

The Lakers players feel they are just missing shots they normally hit.

“I think it’s just as simple as making shots. We’re getting good looks. Everyone’s not shooting the ball very well, especially from three…” Anthony Davis said on a Zoom call with reporters after the Thunder loss.

I think we’re fine. I don’t think this is anything eye-opening or something that we need to be afraid of. If our defense was bad, I think we’d be a little more in shock about our team and where we are but I think our defense is where want it to be. I mean, we clinched first. We’re fine.”

The bigger reason the Lakers are fine: LeBron James. The Lakers have a very motivated LeBron (although he has shot just 42% overall and 27.3% from three over the last four games). They still have Davis, who has been one of the MVPs of the bubble so far. Those two form the best pick-and-roll combo in the league, and so long as they are on the roster the Lakers have a chance to win it all.

The shooting is a concern — and not a new problem. The Lakers were a below-average shooting team in the season before the shut down (21st in the league on open look three-point percentage). We’ve watched LeBron’s play cover up the flaws in a team and take them to the Finals for years, and it certainly could happen again, but the Lakers shooting — and right now their entire offense — is a concern.

2) Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons leaves game with a knee issue

Non-contact injuries keep fans and coaches up at night, which is why Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons walking off the court with a limp and going straight to the locker room with a knee issue Wednesday was very concerning.

Simmons did not return to the game after that.

The good news is there is reportedly no swelling and the MRI came back clean, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic. Officially, Simmons is day-to-day.

Simmons had eight points on 2-of-10 shooting when he left the court. Through three games of the restart — where he is playing more off the ball as a power forward — he’s averaged 11.7 points and seven rebounds a game.

3) Memphis lost again, now 0-4 and could fall out of the eighth seed

The Grizzlies came to the NBA’s restart in Orlando with a 3.5 game cushion for the eighth seed, all they had to do was hold on to that through eight games. Now, after and 0-4 start, that lead is down to just one game over Portland.

On Wednesday, Memphis couldn’t slow down what had been a previously struggling Utah offense and lost 124-115.

The Grizzlies next four games? The Thunder, Raptors, Celtics, and Bucks. Memphis is going to have to find a couple of wins in there without Jaren Jackson Jr., who is out for the rest of this season with a torn meniscus in his left knee.

Before games started in the bubble, the idea of two teams passing Memphis — meaning the Grizzlies would fall even out of a play-in series for the eighth seed — seemed impossible. Right now, both the Pelicans and Spurs are just two games back, and both have soft schedules the rest of the way.

Memphis wanted to get some playoff experience for their talented young roster during the restart. Well, this is it — every game becomes must-win now for the Grizzlies. They need to be a focused team that finds another gear. For them to hold on and get in a play-in series will require a couple of wins in their last four.

The race for eighth in the West remains the best thing at the NBA restart. On Thursday Portland faces Denver, while New Orleans takes on winless Sacramento.

LeBron James: On behalf of basketball community, we won’t miss Donald Trump’s viewership

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NBA players kneeled for the national anthem.

President Donald Trump called the protest – which is meant to call attention to racism, particularly through police brutality – “disgraceful” and said he stopped watching games.

And in yet another predictable turn in this news cycle, Lakers star LeBron James fired back at Trump.

LeBron:

I really don’t think the basketball community are sad about losing his viewership, him viewing the game.

And that’s all I’ve got to say. I don’t want to – I’m not going to get into a – because I already know where this could go, where it could lead to for tomorrow for me. I’m not going to get into it.

But I think our game is in a beautiful position. And we have fans all over the world. And our fans not only love the way we play the game – we try to give it back to them with our commitment to the game – but also respect what else we try to bring to the game and acknowledge what’s right and what’s wrong.

And I hope everyone – no matter the race, no matter the color, no matter their size – will see what leadership that we have at the top in our country and understand that November is right around the corner. And it’s a big moment for us as Americans. If we continue to talk about we want better, want change, we have an opportunity to do that.

But the game will go on without his eyes on it. I can sit here and speak for all of us that love the game of basketball. We could care less.

LeBron has frequently criticized the president. Trump has also criticized LeBron. That’s how it goes.

In this case (and others), LeBron has the moral high ground. Kneeling during the national anthem is a patriotic act designed to make the United States a better place for all its people to live – something far more noble than saluting a piece of cloth during a song.

However, LeBron is wrong to speak for the entire basketball community. A lot of people love basketball. They don’t all hold the same political views. Some care about remaining in the good graces of the president of the United States, whomever that is. Some even care about the approval of Trump specifically.

Is there a limit on how much you love basketball if you’d stop watching because of a peaceful protest before a game? Obviously. But there’s still room to love basketball and also care about other things.

LeBron doesn’t have to personally dignify people who care both about basketball and Trump. But LeBron shouldn’t try to speak on their behalf, either.

LeBron’s rebuke would have been powerful enough (and more fair) on its own.