2016 NBA Draft pick-by-pick tracker, analysis

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The top two picks are all but locks.

After that, the 2016 NBA Draft is going to be the Wild West — trades, surprise picks, just about anything can happen. The big trades have already started — Derrick Rose is a Knick, the Hawks will be getting the 12th pick — and many more are to come.

This is the best place to follow all of it.

We will constantly be 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.


source: 1. Philadephia 76ers: Ben Simmons, 6’9” forward (LSU). With all due respect to Mr. Ingram, Simmons is the clear No. 1 pick in this draft because of his potential to be a top-10 player in the league. The question is can he get there? He’s a long, athletic forward who can grab a rebound and lead the break, finishing it with the kind of pass that only those gifted with vision make. He’s a point forward built for the modern game. There are two issues — his jump shot needs work (it’s not broken, but it’s not good), but the bigger concern is his motor and work ethic. Overall, he has the tools to be great, but does he want to do everything it takes to get there?

source: 2. Los Angeles Lakers: Brandon Ingram, 6’9” forward (Duke). If you’re looking for the prototypical big man built for the “small ball” NBA era, you’d have Ingram. He has a smooth jumper that will grow to have NBA three-point range, plus he handles the ball well enough to put the rock on the floor and get to the rim. He has a 7’3” wingspan, which makes his jumper hard to block and makes him disruptive on defense. He has to put on muscle (he weighs less than 200 pounds) and he’ll have to adjust to the physicality of the NBA. He’s a great fit for Luke Walton’s up-tempo offense next to Julius Randle up front for Los Angeles.

source: 3. Boston Celtics: Jaylen Brown, 6’7” small forward (California). He comes with an NBA-ready body and impressive athleticism. At Cal he relied on that athleticism to get to the basket and score more than his skills, which still need work. He has used that size and strength to work in the post and can do that against smaller defenders. His shot needs reps but the form is good. He also has potential as a guy who can defend multiple positions, but again needs work on those skills. Brown has all the athletic tools to be a very good small forward, if he can be developed — and Boston has a great developmental program.

source: 4. Phoenix Suns: Dragan Bender, 7’1” power forward (Bosnia and Herzegovina). The top European and youngest player in the draft, Bender played for a high-quality program (Maccabi Tel Aviv). On paper, fits the direction NBA bigs are going because he is tall and can shoot the three to space the floor. He has good court vision and passing skills, plus he moves well and can score in transition. He needs to put on a lot of weight and while he shows some defensive promise, he is raw. Expect to hear Kristaps Porzingis comparisons — if the Suns are lucky, he eventually can be a Diet Coke version of Porzingis. Which isn’t bad. Bender just needs to get on the court and play — and he should get minutes right now in Phoenix.

source: 5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Kris Dunn, 6’4” point guard (Providence). He was a likely lottery pick a year ago, but decided to go back for his senior season and now is the top-rated point guard in the draft. Dunn has elite quickness and good size, which bode well for his future in the NBA. He uses that quickness both in transition and to get into the paint in the halfcourt. He needs to develop a better three point shot (37.2 percent last season) and at times he makes poor decisions with the ball. He’s a good team/help defender, but pedestrian on the ball. He likes to jump passing lanes and go for steals.

source: 6. New Orleans Pelicans: Buddy Hield, 6’5” shooting guard (Oklahoma). Arguably the best shooter in the draft, he will find playing time quickly in New Orleans, where they need shooting. Hield has a fantastic work ethic as proven by the fact he wasn’t a naturally great shooter, he made himself one. He has good handles and is a solid defender when engaged. Hield is not an elite athlete so there is a ceiling on what he can become, especially defensively, but if anyone in this draft has J.J. Redick potential it is Hield.

source: 7. Denver Nuggets: Jamal Murray, 6’5” shooting guard (Kentucky). Simply put, he’s one of the best shooters and scorers in the draft, able to knock down shots off the bounce or off the catch. He hit 41 percent from three last season taking almost eight a game, with the defense focused on stopping him. He’s got good all-around skills, but he is not an NBA point guard, he will be a two who can handle a little. The only concerns are that he has average size and athleticism for the two, which has made him a pretty average defender and he loses focus on that end.

source: 8. Sacramento Kings: Marquese Chriss, 6’10” power forward (Washington). The Kings made this pick for the Phoenix Suns as part of a trade. Chriss has tremendous potential but is very raw. He has only played basketball for four years and it will be a couple more before we know just how good he can really be. That said, in Phoenix he will get thrown into the fire to learn the hard way. Chriss has the perfect skills to be a power forward (and occasional center) in the direction the NBA is going — he is long, very athletic, and he shot 35 percent from three last season. What he lacks is any kind of feel for the game. For example, he led the NCAA in fouls committed last season and fouled out of 15 games. That’s what has to be developed.

source: 9. Toronto Raptors: Jakob Poeltl, 7’1” center (Utah). He is solid and sound in almost every aspect of the game — not spectacular, but solid. He is a very efficient scorer in the post. He moves well for a big man, which makes him a good pick-and-roll big man. He’s solid on the boards. He can give Toronto quality minutes off the bench from Day 1 behind Jonas Valanciunas, which matters because they will lose Bismack Biyombo in free agency. (Just a reminder Knicks fans, this was your pick.)

source: 10. Milwaukee Bucks: Thon Maker, 7’1” power forward (high school). There is potential, but he is the ultimate two years from being two years away guy. Raw is an understatement. And while he is listed as 19 some teams question if he is not a few years older. There was a lot of hype around him a few years back because he does impresses with potential — he’s tall, a fluid athlete, he can shoot the three, and he plays with a high motor. You want to see a young Kevin Garnett in his game. However, I’ve seen him in person in games a couple times, talked to scouts, and he is simply a long way from being anything, let alone even a poor man’s KG. I’m not sold he’s ever an NBA player. His handlers had him going to prep school in Canada, playing against high school talent (and not the highest levels) rather than be challenged in a college environment. I am shocked he goes this high, real gamble by the Bucks (but they nailed the Greek Freak).

source: 11. Orlando Magic: Domantas Sabonis, 6’10” power forward/center (Gonzaga). He could be on the move to Orlando as part of the Serge Ibaka trade. Yes, Domantas is the son of basketball legend Arvydas Sabonis. He will bring physicality and toughness off the bench wherever he lands, but he also comes with good footwork and he shows some touch in the post. He has a nice midrange jumper but didn’t show it much, he needs that to be a weapon at the next level. He’s not athletic or long by NBA standards and that will lead to challenges defensively, but he can make up for it with his physicality.

source: 12. Atlanta Hawks: Taurean Prince, 6’8” forward (Baylor). Utah made this pick, but they made it for the Hawks as part of the Jeff Teague trade. At 6’8” with a solid frame, Prince passes the eye test of what teams will want in a modern NBA forward. He showed some range on his jump shot, but he isn’t great at creating his own looks so he can struggle with consistency. He can drive the lane and finishes efficiently, but he’s not elite. He’s long and that allows him to defend multiple positions, but he played a lot of zone in college so there will be and adjustment period.

source: 13. Phoenix Suns: Georgios Papagainnis, 7’2” center (Greece). This is a pick for the Sacramento Kings as part of a trade tonight. Interest starts with his size — 7-2 and weighing 260 (in good shape), he is a load in the paint. He moves fairly well for someone his size and has soft hands, which has made him an offensive threat in the paint. He’s a solid rebounder who could be a beast on the boards. The questions are about his defense — he doesn’t play hard, smart, or tough on that end. He’s a project. Which is an odd fit for the Kings who already have DeMarcus Cousins and Willy Cauley-Stein up front.

source: 14. Chicago Bulls: Denzel Valentine, 6’6” shooting guard (Michigan State). With Derrick Rose gone, he will get some run. Arguably the best player in college last season, he averaged 19.2 points, 7.8 assists, and 7.2 rebounds a contest. Scouts love his leadership and see him as the highest IQ player in the draft. The word “winner” comes up a lot. He is seen as someone who can come in and help right now as a combo guard. He’s got good playmaking instincts and he can shoot the rock, but is not an elite athlete and there are defensive questions. The big concern is his knees — there is a sense this could be a Brandon Roy type situation where in a few years his body will simply betray him.

source: 15. Denver Nuggets: Juan Hernangomez, 6’9” forward (Spain). He had a breakout season in the Spanish ABC league (the second best league in the world). He’s got NBA four size and length, runs the floor well, he has a quickly-improving jumper, moves a lot off the ball, and scores in a variety of ways. He works hard on the court, which is a good sign. That said he’s raw, particularly on the defensive end, and there is a lot of work to do. That said, he’s no draft and stash, he’s likely to play here next season.

source: 16. Boston Celtics: Guerschon Yabusele, 6’8” power forward (France). He’s got the build of an old-school power forward, weighing in at 270 pounds, but he can face up on offense, shot well from three, and has a good first step and explosion at the rim. He has real potential as an NBA four, but he’s got a lot of work to do on the defensive end if he is going to stick. He is expected to be a draft and stash in Europe.

source: 17. Memphis Grizzlies: Wade Baldwin, 6’4” point guard (Vanderbilt). He has good size for a point guard and can knock it down from beyond the arc (40 percent from three over his two seasons in college), although he is more of a catch-and-shoot guy than someone who creates his own shot off the bounce. When he drives, he’s fine as long as he can use his strength to create contact, but he struggles to finish around length. Vanderbilt underachieved last season and that raised questions about Baldwin as a floor general.

source: 18. Detroit Pistons: Henry Ellenson, 6’11” power forward (Marquette). He has the prototypical size and length that NBA teams are looking for in a modern era four/five. He has a good scoring touch inside and a midrange jumper opponents must respect (with work he could be a threat from three). He has great handles for his size and moves well, but is not an elite athlete, and with that there are questions about his defense. He needs to figure out how to make his game work and play within himself at the NBA level (his shot selection was less than ideal in college). If he takes bad shots in Detroit, Stan Van Gundy will let him know in no uncertain terms.

source: 19. Denver Nuggets: Malik Beasley, 6’5” shooting guard (Florida State). A very efficient scorer at the college level, particularly in transition. He’s a bit undersized for the two/wing in the NBA, but he makes up for it with fantastic athleticism. He’s deadly on the catch-and-shoot but can put the ball on the floor and take a straight-line drive to the rim. He has potential to develop into an NBA rotation player if he works on his handles, playmaking, and defense.

source: 20. Brooklyn Nets: Caris LeVert, 6’7” guard (Michigan). He’s tall and has length, which should help Brooklyn. He is a good outside shooter — 45 percent from three last season — who showed flashes of the ability to create his own shot, but he was inconsistent and is rather a straight-line driver. He’s a good passer. There are questions about his defense, but the bigger questions are the foot issues that have ended each of the last two seasons early. Are those chronic?

source: 21. Atlanta Hawks: DeAndre Bembry, 6’6” small forward (St. Joseph’s). Arguably the best hair in the draft. He’s the kind of glue guy that coaches love on a roster, and he can defend. He has the potential to be a “3&D” guy in the NBA — if he develops a jump shot. His shooting is inconsistent. He’s got to improve on the offensive end all around. Think a poor-man’s Justise Winslow, if the jumper comes around he could stick in the league for a long time.

source: 22. Sacramento Kings: Malachi Richardson, 6’6” wing (Syracuse). This is the pick the Kings get in the deal with Charlotte (officially it was the Hornets’ pick but trade comes after July 1). He has the size and length of a prototypical wing in the NBA, and he’s a shot creator and maker (he’s particularly good on catch-and-shoot). However, he’s not as athletic as most of the guys he will go up against. He shot 35 percent from three last season and seen as an inconsistent shooter, especially inside the arc, something that will need to change if he’s going to stick in the league long term. Like anyone coming out of the Syracuse zone, scouts don’t know if he can defend in an NBA system.

source: 23. Boston Celtics: Ante Zizic, 6’11” center (Croatia). He has the size and build of a modern NBA center, and he moves well and can get up and down the court. He has a great motor, which has him being strong on the glass at both ends of the court. What he needs is polish — not the kind he gets dominating a smaller European league either. His finishing, passing, defense need to be tested and improved against NBA level athletes, but there is good potential here.

source: 24. Philadephia 76ers: Timothe Luwawu, 6’7” wing (France). This is good value here. He has the build and athleticism of a quality NBA wing player, and he has an improving shot hitting 37 percent from three in the Serbian league last year. He’s a developing player, but he showed promise as someone who can have the ball in his hands on the pick-and-roll or in transition. He has promise in the defensive end as well. He shows promise if he can be developed and the 76ers are patient.

source: 25. Los Angeles Clippers: Brice Johnson, 6’11” forward (North Carolina). The Clippers get another big man with Cole Aldrich likely moving on. Johnson is an explosive athlete, which always intrigues NBA teams. You watch his baseline offense as it developed in Chapel Hill, and you see some Ed Davis or John Henson. He doesn’t have a ton of moves, but he has a nice touch around the rim and is efficient. He’s an explosive leaper, which makes him a beast on the boards when he wants to be, but he needs to get stronger.

source: 26. Philadelphia 76ers: Furkan Korkmaz, 6’7” shooting guard (Turkey). After taking Ben Simmons No. 1, the 76ers are making a run on wings with their other two first-rounders. Korkmaz is a wing who can shoot the rock — he hit 42.5 percent of his threes in Euroleague competition. He’s strong on the catch-and-shoot, but he can put the ball on the floor and create a little. He’s just 19, needs to get stronger, and if he’s going to stick in the NBA he’s going to have to defend better. He wants to come over to NBA sooner rather than later, but the reports are he has a multi-million buyout so it could be a couple years.

source: 27. Toronto Raptors: Pascal Siakam, 6’10” power forward (New Mexico State). The Raptors went conventional with Jakob Poeltl at No. 9. It was only a matter of time until they went deep into the draft pool. Siakam is long and athletic, and he plays hard. Toronto is not afraid to gamble on players like him. A note of caution: The Cameroon native is already 22.

source: 28. Phoenix Suns: Skal Labissiere, 7’0” forward (Kentucky). This pick is for the Kings, who might now regret drafting another center at No. 13 with DeMarcus Cousins already holding down the starting spot. But who knew Labissiere would fall this far? Despite a rough college year at Kentucky (after being coddled by handlers for years, he was not ready for the tear-you-down-to-build-you-up Calipari and lost his confidence), he has the second or third highest ceiling in this draft. He’s built for the modern game, a long big man with a sweet shooting stroke who moves well and has the room to add muscle to his frame. He’s got soft hands and can finish around the rim. Defensively he has potential. He’s raw, there’s a lot of developing left for to the Kings to guide here, but if they are patient this could be a quality pick.

source: 29. San Antonio Spurs: Dejounte Murray, 6’5” guard (Washington). He played well for an up-tempo team in Washington, but how will he fit with the Spurs? They’ll either iron out his wildness, or it’ll drive them crazy. He’s got good two-guard size and athleticism (not elite but NBA level), and he’s got good scoring instincts, including a nice change of pace move, which serve him well in transition or early offense. However, he needs to improve his jump shot considerably, and be smarter with shot selection and decision making in general. He’s not the most focused defensive player but he has the tools to be better.

source: 30. Golden State Warriors: Damian Jones, 7’0” center (Vanderbilt). The last time the Warriors picked a Vanderbilt center at No. 30, it worked out with Festus Ezeli. Jones passes the eye test of being an NBA center — 7-feet tall, long wingspan, 244 pounds, and he showed off a 36-inch vertical at the combine. He shows potential as a scorer with his back to the basket on the block, and he  a solid defender who can block some shots on the defensive end. There’s a lot for Golden State fans to be excited about, but he did just have surgery on a torn pectoral that will slow his summer workouts. There’s a lot of potential here but he needs to be developed over time.


source: 31. Boston Celtics: Deyonta Davis, 6’11” power forward/center (Michigan State). Davis’ long fall is over, and Davis follows another Michigan State one-and-doner, Zach Randolph, to the Grizzlies, who traded up. Memphis gets the Nos. 31 and 35 picks for a future Clippers first-rounder, according to Jeff Goodman of ESPN. Davis has the build of a big man for the modern NBA game — tall, long (7’2” wingspan),  and athletic (plus he could easily add more muscle). Offensively, he has good footwork in the post, plus is adept at hiding on the baseline then cutting to the rim when his man helps on penetration. However, he’s going to make more of an impact defensively, where he is a solid rim protector already, using his athleticism to get in place. He’s still a bit raw, but there is a lot of potential here. Most had him going in the first round.

source: 32. Los Angeles Lakers: Ivica Zubac, 7’1” center (Bosnia and Herzegovina). The Lakers can still use immediate help at center, and they plan to bring him over next season even if he’s not going to play a ton. Zubac has an NBA center’s build, with a 7’4” wingspan and weighing 265 pounds. He moves well for a big man and also shows a deft touch around the rim, where he gets most of his buckets. He has great potential offensively. He’s going to have to become a much better defender to make an impact at the NBA level, but the physical tools are there.

source: 33. Los Angeles Clippers: Cheick Diallo, 6’9” forward (Kansas). This is for the Pelicans, who traded Nos. 39 and 40 to move up here, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. Diallo is very raw and spent much of the Kansas season coming off the bench in limited minutes, but he makes up for that with energy and potential. He’s not much of a scoring threat in the half court currently, but in transition he can run and finish strong. His length (7’4” wingspan) and energy make him a good rim protecting defender. He’s going to take time to develop, but he has the tools to intrigue. I’m not sure how he becomes a great fit with Anthony Davis, though.

source: 34. Phoenix Suns: Tyler Ulis, 5’10” point guard (Kentucky). Does this hint at another trade? The Suns already have so many guards. Still, this is a fantastic value at this spot. The obvious knock on Ulis is his height, which is officially 5’10” but that is generous. There also are medical concerns that scared some teams off. That said, he has fantastic ball handling skills, is quick and uses that to get into the lane off the pick-and-roll, he has good vision and passing skills, and he is a fantastic floor general. He’s also a pesky on defender (he was the SEC defensive player of the year). He’s not a future All-Star, but he can be a very good backup point guard off the bench.

source: 35. Boston Celtics: Rade Zagorac. 6’9” small forward (Serbia). This is another pick for the Grizzlies, who also got No. 31 when trading a future first-rounder. Zagorac is a draft and stash guy, but one who could come stateside and have an impoact. He has good size for an NBA wing and has an impressive and versatile offensive game, able to work off the ball or off the bounce. He also plays hard. He’s got a long, long way to go on the defensive end.

source: 36. Milwaukee Bucks: Malcolm Brogdon, 6’6” shooting guard (Virginia). He was the ACC Player of the Year, he shot 39.1 percent from three this season and is a good long-range shooter who is at his best coming off the screens for catch-and-shoots. He can finish when he gets to the rim and is an average ball handler. What coaches will like is he is a good one-on-one and team defender. He’s not an explosive athlete, but he’s solid on both ends of the floor and could become a nice rotation player.

source: 37. Houston Rockets: Chinanu Onuaku, 6’10” center (Louisville). He was an efficient center at the college level, shooting 62 percent on his way to 9.9 points a night, plus pulling down 8.5 rebounds and blocking a couple shots a game. He uses his 7’3” wingspan to make up for being undersized. He has no shooting range outside three feet and turns the ball over too much. Scouts have questions about whether he can continue to perform at the next level when the players get bigger and far more athletic. He won’t replace Dwight Howard, but he provides depth at center.

source: 38. Milwaukee Bucks:  Patrick McCaw, 6’7” shooting guard (UNLV). This is for the Warriors, who bought the pick, according to Wojnarowski — and McCaw provides excellent value. He has good size, length (6’10”) and is a smooth and, at times, explosive athlete. He’s an interesting combination of versatile and raw. You could see him as a good shooter (35 percent from three last season with a nice stroke), passer, plays well in transition, and he could be very good on defense. If he can be developed, McCaw would be a quality rotation player, but it’s going to take some work (from him and the team) to reach that potential.

source: 39. New Orleans Pelicans: David Michineau, 6’4″ point guard (France). The first of two straight picks for the Clippers, who traded down from 33. He has some physical tools but isn’t ready to run an NBA offense. He could be stashed.

source: 40. New Orleans Pelicans: Diamond Stone, 6’10” center (Maryland). Another pick for the Clippers. He isn’t tall for an NBA center, but he has a 7’3” wingspan and a stout, physical frame and he uses that to get looks inside. He’s got a lot skill and nice footwork in the post, and he was a good pick-and-roll big in college (with Melo Trimble). He’s solid on the defensive end for a college freshman. He’s another raw big in this draft who needs to develop some, but there is potential for a quality rotation big here if he can be developed.

source: 41. Orlando Magic: Stephen Zimmerman, 7’0” center (UNLV). The Magic traded its first-round pick in a package for Serge Ibaka, so this is their chance to add a rookie. Zimmerman has NBA size as a center but there are questions about how he translates to the next level. He is good on the boards, which does translate. He could be a good pick-and-roll big, and maybe even pick-and-pop but his shot needs to be far more consistent. He blocked 2.7 shots per game but did that more because he was big than being explosive or anticipating. What happens when the athletes are better and smarter (Zimmerman often got in foul trouble)?

source: 42. Utah Jazz: Isaiah Whitehead, 6’5″ shooting guard (Seton Hall). The Nets paid to trade up from No. 55 for this pick, according to Wojnarowski. Brooklyn gets the somewhat local kid. Whitehead can drive a coach crazy with his decision making, but he has a special ability to create off the dribble, whether for himself or for a teammate. He also brings versatility, size, and scoring ability to play either backcourt spot. If a coach can get him to reign in his inner-Lance Stephenson, Whitehead could be a great addition to any guard rotation.

source: 43. Houston Rockets: Zhou Qi, 7’2” center (China). The Rockets keep their Chinese pipeline, laid with Yao Ming, open. Zhou is not only tall, he has a nearly 7’8” wingspan — which makes him an impressive shot blocker (he led the Chinese league in that last season). He’s got soft hands and a good shot and touch (he shot 76 percent on free throws last season). He’s got to add weight (last checked in at 218 lbs.) but there is a lot of potential when he does come over (that could be next year or beyond). Houston fans can check him out during the Olympics when he plays for China.

source: 44. Atlanta Hawks: Isaia Cordinier, 6’5” shooting guard (France). He’s a very good athlete, has shown the ability to shoot the three, and he plays hard every game (and is just fine with physical play). That said he’s thin, his shot is inconsistent, and he’s not able to create his own shot. This is a guy that needs a couple more years overseas playing against better competition, then we can see if he would transition to the NBA.

source: 45. Boston Celtics: Demetrius Jackson, 6’2” (Notre Dame). He was a good floor general for the Irish. Jackson is a very good pick-and-roll point guard, albeit one who needs to be more consistent with his shot (he’s better at the catch-and-shoot than creating his own shot). Good first step and has a nice change of pace in his game. He is physically strong and can take contact when driving the rim. He’s a solid defender who struggles with bigger guards.

source: 46. Dallas Mavericks: A.J. Hammons, 7’0” center (Purdue). Good pick in the second round, he can be a sleeper. He has all the tools — long, skilled, athletic, can impact both ends of the court — but consistency has always been an issue. He did just come off his most solid season, but there are questions. His biggest impact is on the defensive end, where he is one of the best shot blockers in the draft and has the body to defend in the post well.

source: 47. Orlando Magic: Jake Layman, 6’9” small forward (Maryland). He played both as a three and a stretch four at times for Maryland in his four-year career, and it is as the latter he may find a role in the NBA. He is an explosive leaper around the rim and shot 39.9 percent from three. He needs to be more consistent as a shooter and get better at creating for himself when the catch-and-shoot option isn’t there. He has good defensive potential, if he can play well on that end he could find a place in the league.

source: 48. Chicago Bulls: Paul Zipster, 6’8” small forward (Germany). He was the standout player at this year’s Adidas EuroCamp. He looks like someone who could play some now and projects as a “3&D” guy. He shot 42 percent last season for a top German team, but on closeouts he can put the ball on the floor and has a very good first step. Both his shooting and defense need to become more consistent, but there is a lot to like with this prospect.

source: 49. Detroit Pistons: Michael Gbinije, 6’7″ shooting guard (Syracuse). You can see why Stan Van Gundy would take this guy: He can knock down threes, can put the ball on the floor a little (rather a straight line driver), and at age 24 he probably can play now. He is what he is, there’s not a lot of upside, and there are the usual Syracuse defensive questions. But he has a shot at the roster.

source: 50. Indiana Pacers: Georges Niang, 6’9″ forward (Iowa State). He’s a high IQ player who can shoot the rock, but there are questions about his ability to stick in the NBA because he simply does not have the athleticism. Many scouts had him as a guy who will have a very good career in Europe.

source: 51. Boston Celtics: Ben Bentil, 6’8” power forward (Providence). He comes with an NBA-ready build, but lacks the explosive athleticism of the guys he will go up against. He has a good jump shot that could become a three-point weapon (he shot 32 percent from three last season). He has potential on the offensive end, the questions about him are on the defensive side of the ball.

source: 52. Indiana Pacers: Joel Bolomboy, 6’9″ power forward (Weber State). He made a good impression at the NBA combine working on the glass, and as rebounding is one skill that transfers well from college to the pros he may be worth a roll of the dice. That said, there are questions about the consistency of his shooting, his defense, and his decision making with the ball.

source: 53. Denver Nuggets: Petr Cornelie, 6’11” power forward (France). Scouts got a good look at him at Adidas EuroCamp in June and saw a guy who is athletic — he moves well and can leap, making him dangerous on the boards. His jumper needs work, and he needs to get stronger. He will spend a couple more seasons overseas, then maybe the Nuggets will bring him over and see if he is ready.

source: 54. Atlanta Hawks: Kay Felder, 5’10” points guard (Oakland). The knock on him is his size. Mike Budenholzer going to like him — he plays physical, he can run a team, and he’s feircely competitive. The concerns (like with Tyler Ulis) are both size and medical concerns about his knee. He’s the kind of guy that everyone loves at Summer League but struggles to find a role come training camp.

source: 55. Brooklyn Nets: Marcus Paige, 6’2″ guard (North Carolina). The Nets made this pick for the Utah Jazz. He’s too small to play the two in the NBA, and he would be a score-first point guard who has an inconsistent shot. He’s fantastic in transition. It’s just hard to see where he fits in a deep guard rotation in Utah.

source: 56. Denver Nuggets: Daniel Hamilton, 6’8″ shooting guard (UConn). The Oklahoma City Thunder end up with his rights. Hamilton is a fantastic passer and rebounds well for his position. However, he’s a rather average athlete (which is why he struggles to finish on drives to the rim). He plays well in space when he has time to make decisions (such as in transition) but struggles with his decision making under pressure.

source: 57. Memphis Grizzlies: Wang Zhelin, 7’0″ center (China). I love his last name, for obvious reasons. He’s officially 22 years old, but nobody thinks that’s accurate, 25 probably is closer. Like other Chinese bigs, he has great touch and a nice midrange jumper, but the book has always been he lacks the feel for the game to do much at the NBA level.

source: 58. Boston Celtics: Abdel Nader, 6’6″ wing (Iowa State). He’s Egyptian. Aside from that?         ¯_(ツ)_/¯

source: 59. Sacramento Kings: Isaiah Cousins, 6’6″ shooting guard (Oklahoma). Cousins played in Buddy Hield’s shadow last season, but he is another versatile guard who can allow Dave Joerger to play around with his line-ups. He has good size at 6’4″, hit 41 percent from three, and plays solid defense. Add his ability to create in the pick-and-roll, and Cousins is a good value this late in the draft.

source: 60. Utah Jazz: Tyrone Wallace, 6’6” point guard (California). He’s a big point guard who just does everything well, but doesn’t have that standout one exceptional skill. He can run the pick-and-roll, but the knock on him is he is not a consistent shooter. His size makes him a good defender.

New York Knicks part ways with GM Scott Perry

New York Knicks Introduce New Signees
Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

When Scotty Perry came on board with the Knicks, they felt like chaos personified off the court, and on the court their best players were Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr.

That era seems like another lifetime ago. Perry, first with former team president Steve Mills and then with the next president Leon Rose, brought professionalism and stability to the New York Knicks not really known in the James Dolan era. The Knicks may not yet be contenders, but they have built a 47-win team behind Jalen Brunson with 11 first-round picks in the next seven years (to use or trade for a star). The Knicks are well-positioned for the future and Knicks fans are as optimistic as they have been in decades.

Which is why it’s news that Perry and the Knicks are parting ways, something reported by multiple sources, including Ian Begley at SNY.tv. Perry’s contract was up.

It will be interesting to see where the Knicks go from here. Former Timberwolves president Gersson Rosas was added as an executive last season. The Knicks could give Rosas the full-time position or promote another front office member, such as assistant general manager (pro scouting) Frank Zanin or assistant general manager (college scouting) Walt Perrin. Brock Aller already has a vice president title (Vice President, Basketball and Strategic Planning), so it would be an odd transition for him to move to general manager.

Perry should have interest around the NBA should he want to return to a front office job. He will have options.

New York heads into the offseason poised to chase a star free agent, should the right one become available. They also have a clean cap sheet without bad contracts weighing them down, which anchored the Knicks in the standings for years.

Perry deserves some of the credit for that.

PBT Podcast: NBA Finals preview, plus Nurse to Philly, and Bucks as opera


The NBA Finals are here and it’s not the matchup anybody predicted: The Denver Nuggets vs. the Miami Heat.

In this latest PBT Extra podcast, Kurt Helin and Corey Robinson break down that Finals matchup and if the Heat have any chance of slowing down Nikola Jokić. First the pair talk the Heat’s Game 7 win over the Boston Celtics and what this says for the future of the Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown era in Boston.

After the Finals, in Corey’s Jukebox, Corey compares the Bucks and the recent hiring of Adrian Griffin as the team’s head coach to the famed Mozart opera Don Giovanni — and that’s not a complement to Milwaukee.

Then the duo get into the news around the NBA: What does Bob Myers leaving mean for the Warriors? Is Nick Nurse a good hire in Philadelphia? And what the heck is Eric Lewis thinking?

You can watch the video of some of the podcast above 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.

Five things to watch in Heat vs. Nuggets NBA Finals (with betting tips)


Nobody had this Finals matchup on their bingo card (well, except ESPN’s Israel Gutierrez, who called this matchup before the season).

The Denver Nuggets were the best team in the West all season and kept improving as Jamal Murray got healthier and gained more confidence in his surgically repaired knee. Still, they entered the playoff facing doubts because we hadn’t seen them play at this level in the postseason since the bubble. The Nuggets answered all the questions.

Miami barely made the playoffs at all, having to come from behind in the fourth quarter of the last play-in game to beat the Bulls. But otherworldly play from Jimmy Butler, players like Caleb Martin stepping up, and a relentlessness no team in the East could match, sees them in the Finals after coming one shot short of this mark last season.

Who will hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy?

Here are four things worth watching, plus some betting advice from Vaughn Dalzell of NBC Sports Edge.

1) What is Miami’s defensive plan against Nikola Jokić?

Nobody has a good answer for stopping — or often even slowing — Nikola Jokić.

It’s been the case for three years now, but especially in these playoffs. The Los Angeles Lakers had the best defense in the NBA after the All-Star break and the best defense through the first two rounds of the playoffs, all anchored by an elite defender in Anthony Davis. Jokić averaged a triple-double of 27.8 points, 14.5 rebounds and 11.8 assists a game against them and the Nuggets torched them.

The challenge in guarding Jokić is nobody can do it all that well one-on-one, but the second the help comes — if it comes from where he can see it in particular — he carves a team apart with his elite passing skills.

Miami’s best option to defend Jokić — and what they did in the team’s regular season matchups — is to put Bam Adebayo on him and not send much help. Adebayo is not stopping Jokić one-on-one, but he’s strong and agile enough to make him work for it. Plus, if Jokić is primarily a scorer the Nuggets’ offense is less dangerous — if he scores 35+ points but with five assists the Heat can win; if he has 25 points but 12 assists the Nuggets win handily.

That strategy comes with risks, primarily foul trouble for Adebayo, but also it removes him as a roaming help defender (one of his strengths). The Lakers started with Davis on Jokić but had relative success with others taking the primary job — Rui Hachimura, LeBron James — which allowed Davis to double and help on others. Who on the Heat can take on that assignment? Caleb Martin or Jimmy Butler? Too small. Maybe Cody Zeller or Haywood Highsmith off the bench, but the Heat hurt their offense with those two out there, and neither is exactly an elite defender.

Expect heavy doses of Adebayo, with the Heat strategy being to front the post and make passes into the Joker difficult, and then live with him as a scorer but try not to let him get rolling as a passer. When Jokić is in pick-and-roll actions with Jamal Murray or on the move, expect a team defense to collapse on him.

That all sounds good, but Jokić figures defenses out, which brings us to how the Heat flummoxed the Celtics.

2) Can Denver solve Miami’s Zone?

Miami ran more zone than any team in the NBA this season (in fact, more zone than any team in more than a decade). It works for them because it’s not a conventional zone, they have active defenders out top who push out high, then they have an elite defensive decision-maker and rim protector in the back with Adebayo. More than anything, the Heat play zone with the intensity of man-to-man (something few teams do at any level).

Denver had an impressive 121 offensive rating against zone defenses this season, according to the NBA tracking data at Second Spectrum (for comparison, the Kings had the best offense in the NBA this season at 119.4). The Nuggets have had the best offense against a zone defense in the regular season and playoffs.

One key way to beat a zone is to get the ball to a good passer in the soft middle of the zone, around the free throw line — the Nuggets have Jokić. Denver is also loaded with shooters who can and will knock down shots over the top of the zone (don’t expect a Celtics-like regression in shooting).

Miami will run some zone as a change-up, but it won’t work as a steady diet as it did against Boston.

3) Aaron Gordon on Jimmy Butler

Jimmy Butler is a tough cover because he is too strong for guards to stop from getting to his spots but too quick for most forwards to stay in front of.

Denver will bet Aaron Gordon is quick enough to at least give Butler trouble (he’s done well these playoffs against Kevin Durant and LeBron this postseason). Gordon has the advantage that Butler is not a natural 3-point shooter, so he doesn’t have to play up incredibly high on him, and Gordon is strong enough to handle Butler’s physicality.

Butler is going to get his, but if Gordon can make him work for it, be physical, and start to take his legs out from under him a little, it’s a huge advantage for Denver.

4) Vaughn Dalzell’s betting recommendations

Game 1 Over Trend: Game 1’s are usually strong bets for the Over. All four Game 1’s of the second round went Over the opening total and both of the Conference Finals went Over the total in this postseason, so Game 1’s are on a 6-0 run to the Over. In the NBA Finals, four of the last five Game 1’s went for 227 or more points. Denver averages 122.0 points per game in three Game 1’s during the postseason and Miami averages 120.0 points per game in three Game 1’s. The total opened at 218.5 and is up to 219.5, so the Over looks like a solid bet.

Game 1 Favorites of -5.5 or More: Since the start of the 2013 postseason, NBA Finals favorites of -5.5 or more points have gone 14-3 on the ML and 12-4-1 ATS. Denver opens as a -8.5 point favorite. Home teams are on a 5-0 ML streak and 4-1 ATS in Game 1’s with an average margin of 14.0 points per victory. The Nuggets’ spread has a lot of value historically, despite -8.5 being such a large number.

(Check out more from Dalzell and the team at NBC Sports Edge.)

5) Wild card role players: Martin and Vincent, or is it Michael Porter Jr.

Role players always make a difference in the Finals.

Miami needs that to happen to have a chance. Caleb Martin was almost the Eastern Conference Finals MVP averaging more than 17 points a game and will have to play at that level again. How much Gabe Vincent meant to this team was obvious in Game 5 against the Celtics when he was out. Max Strus and Duncan Robinson also will be critical — and need to defend well enough to stay on the court — if the Heat are going to make a run.

For the Nuggets, Michael Porter Jr. is a walking matchup nightmare at 6’10” and with the ability to get red hot from 3. Teams tend to put a guard on him — and Miami likes to play small — and Porter Jr. just knocks down shots over the top of them. He could win Denver a game this series just with his shot.

Prediction: Nuggets in 5. This is not a knock on an impressive Miami team and run to the Finals, they earned their way here. Denver is just this good. LeBron said this was the best team he has played against since coming to Los Angeles, and that should tell you all you need to know. The Finals will be a coronation for Jokić.

Supermax for Brown? Bring back Mazzulla? Expect patience from Celtics this summer


This was supposed to be the season these Celtics took one final step forward and hang banner 18. Last June, Boston reached the NBA Finals, only to fall to a more disciplined and relentless team. In the wake of that loss, all the right words came out of the Boston locker room about lessons learned.

This season, the Celtics lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to a more disciplined and relentless team.

Boston’s Game 7 elimination on their home court is the kind of loss that makes a franchise re-evaluate itself. It’s also a loss that summed up much of the Celtics’ season: Inconsistent play, struggles when their 3-point shots didn’t fall, and a defense that was strong in the regular season but struggled in the playoffs.

Now the Celtics head into the offseason with big questions about what is required to take that finals step.

The answers will be likely to essentially run it back. For now.

Those questions start with Jaylen Brown, who was second-team All-NBA during the regular season but against the Heat, to use his own words, “We failed. I failed.” Because of his All-NBA status, Brown is eligible for a five-year, $295 million supermax contract. Some of his public comments this season could be read as him telling the Celtics he expects that max.

Expect the Celtics to pay it.

While the book may still be out on the ceiling for the Brown and Jayson Tatum pairing, the fact remains the Celtics have the kind of elite wing duo around which a championship roster can be built. Or so it would seem. Some of the concerns about this team’s inconsistency have to fall to its stars, but having those stars entering their prime gives this team a chance for growth.

There have been calls from corners of the fan base to trade Brown, and his name did come up in trade rumors — for Kevin Durant. If the Celtics can land an all-time great still playing at a high level they have to consider the trade, but if it’s not KD or someone of that stature, who is Boston getting back in a trade that is better than Brown?

The smart move by Boston is to re-sign Brown, try to win, and if in a couple of years it doesn’t work consider their options.

This leads to the next big question: Is Joe Mazzulla the coach who can lead this team to a title?

Expect the Celtics to be patient and give him time to prove he can.

That said, also expect changes in his staff, something now reported out of Boston. Mazzulla was thrown into this hot seat after the unexpected suspension (and later release) of Ime Udoka days before the start of the season, there was no time to remake his staff. It makes sense to put an experienced head coach by his side to help smooth some rough edges. The Celtics are a patient organization, one more likely to support a young coach and help him grow rather than cut him off too young. That’s how you end up with Erik Spoelstra one day.

Also, expect changes in the role players on the roster. Some of that is financial — with 12 people on the roster next season (assuming Danilo Gallinari picks up his $6.8 million option), the Celtics are already more than $4 million into the luxury tax (that is this season, with the extension for Brown kicking in next season and a future max extension for Tatum looming). The repeater tax and the second “lead apron” in the new CBA could hit this team hard in the coming seasons without some spending reduction.

Expect one of the team’s three rotation guards to be traded: Marcus Smart, Derrick White or Malcolm Brogdon. While the Celtics might want to move on from Brogdon and his $22.5 million next season, finding another team willing to take that on without a pick as a sweetener would be difficult.

Can Boston afford to re-sign restricted free agent Grant Williams? That may depend on what happens with the guards above, but if a guard is traded the Celtics could free up enough money to offer Williams something in the $10-12 million a year range. The risk is that another team that sees him as a good fit — San Antonio next to Victor Wembanyama? — might come in with a higher offer.

Boston is looking for size in a backup center who can give them solid minutes and take on a larger role when needed to keep Robert Williams III healthy. They may want a more traditional, play-making point guard to help unlock Tatum and Brown. But these are role players, Boston can’t afford a third star.

The Celtics are largely going to run it back.

Whether they can take that final step forward next season will depend more on internal growth — can Tatum and Brown finally find that consistency this team needs — than tweaks around the edges of the roster.