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Final NBC/PBT mock draft: The draft really starts at 3

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The NBA Draft starts at No. 3 this year.

The first two picks are locks — Ben Simmons (Sixers) and Brandon Ingram (Lakers). After that everything is up in the air — expect a ton of trades and surprises. There are guys deep into this draft who can make an impact in the NBA with a little time and proper development. Who goes where? NBC/PBT’sNBA Draft expert — NBA Draft Blog owner and Rotoworld writer — Ed Isaacson took a crack at the first round.

FIRST ROUND 

1. Philadelphia: Ben Simmons, PF, LSU – The suspense is gone as Philadelphia informed Simmons he will be their choice at number one, and it is the right choice. No matter fit, or any other criteria, you don’t pass up on a player as unique as Simmons, even with his flaws. His ability to handle the ball, pass, create off the dribble, and score around the rim are plenty to start with, and things like shooting will hopefully come in time.

2. Los Angeles Lakers: Brandon Ingram, SF, Duke – With Simmons gone at number one, the Lakers are still glad to get Ingram in the second spot. Ingram will give them something they sorely need, an athletic shooter on the wing, who can also get to the rim. He still needs to work on developing his body, and while having long arms, he’s not a very good defender, unless in position to block a shot, but there is a lot of potential here for Ingram to be the Lakers’ go-to guy for the future.

3. Boston: Kris Dunn, PG, Providence – Boston is still doing all they can to dump this pick to get a player who can help continue their momentum towards the top teams in the East, but if they don’t find their deal, Dunn will be a good choice here, even with their crowded backcourt. While Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, and Isaiah Thomas have their strengths, none can be the creator that Dunn is at the point, while Thomas can spend more time off the ball, where he is at his best. Add in Dunn’s defensive ability and the Celtics still add a quality player.

4. Phoenix: Marquese Chriss, PF, Washington – Like Boston, Phoenix also has multiple first-round picks, and may consider a deal here for the right player, but if not, getting a power forward who can stretch the floor could be a priority. Chriss is still somewhat raw skill-wise, and he doesn’t quite understand the game yet, but he is a high-level athlete who can run the floor, block shots, and knock down jumpers. He could turn into a good starter down the road.

5. Minnesota: Dragan Bender, PF, Croatia – While I think Minnesota would hope that Dunn falls to them here, and they may also consider a shooter like Buddy Hield or Jamal Murray, the chance to pick up the top international prospect may be too tough to pass. A young, skilled big man with the ability to knock down jumpers, put the ball on the floor a bit, and developing vision and passing skills, Bender can be a great long-term compliment to Karl Towns in the Minnesota frontcourt. While not ready to contribute anything significant soon, adding Bender to the young core could be a great thing for his development.

6. New Orleans: Buddy Hield, SG, Oklahoma – Eric Gordon is a free agent, and Jrue Holiday has a year left on his deal, so looking to either backcourt spot is the way to go. In Hield, the Pelicans can add a very good long-range shooter who can help open up the floor some more for Anthony Davis. Jamal Murray is also an option here, though Hield’s competiveness on the floor should make a good impression on his teammates.

7. Denver: Jaylen Brown, SF, California – Denver added their point guard, Emmanuel Mudiay, in this spot last season, but with the health of Danilo Galinari always a question, looking to add one of the few top-tier wing prospects could be a smart move. I’m not sold on Brown, as he didn’t really stand out as a freshman, and his lack of perimeter shooting ability hurts, but he has an NBA body and is a good athlete, both which he uses well to get to the basket. Like Boston and Phoenix, Denver also has three first-round pick and may also explore a trade here for a player who can help them now.

8. Sacramento: Jamal Murray, PG/SG, Kentucky –Dave Joerger will hopefully get things moving in the right direction in Sacramento, and they can really use some help in the backcourt. I don’t see much of a chance that Rajon Rondo is re-signed, and off-court issues with Darren Collison are a question mark, so a point guard could make sense. I’m not in the camp that Murray should, or could, play the point at the NBA level, but he does have some ability to create. What he can do is knock down threes extremely well, another thing that the Kings could use.

9. Toronto: Henry Ellenson, PF, Marquette – With Bismack Biyombo testing free agency, there will be a need to add some depth to the center position, and though Ellenson is more of a four, he is versatile enough to provide depth at both positions, especially on offense. He won’t bring the defensive potential of a Skal Labissiere or Deyonta Davis, but his combination of size and skills should allow Toronto to try some different line-ups.

10. Milwaukee: Jakob Poeltl, C, Utah – Poeltl remains in the tenth spot for the third straight draft, as this just seems like the perfect landing spot for him. Greg Monroe hasn’t really seemed to gel with Jason Kidd’s offense and defense, but Poeltl has the potential to step in and help on both ends. He has above-average potential as a rim protector, and though not the most athletic player, he is skilled on the offensive end, comfortable in the pick-and-roll, and can make an impact on the offensive boards.

11. Orlando: Deyonta Davis, PF/C, Michigan State – The Magic are another team with an exciting young core, but there are still some holes to fill, and shoring up the defense around the basket is one major area. Nikola Vucevic still has a few years left on his contract, but he doesn’t bring a major defensive presence, especially as a rim protector. Davis is young, has good size, is an improving scorer around the rim, and is a strong defensive presence, including the ability to block shots.

12. Utah (for Atlanta): Wade Baldwin, PG, Vanderbilt – The Hawks are parting with Jeff Teague in a three-way deal which gets them this pick from Utah. Stories suggest they want to combine this pick with their pick at twenty-one, but if they stay put, this would be a great spot to nab a back-up point guard for Denis Schroeder in Baldwin, a high-energy guard with long-range shooting ability and defensive potential.

13. Phoenix: Timothe Luwawu, SF, France – This is Phoenix’s second pick, and after taking Chriss at number four, they can look to add some scoring ability, length, and athleticism on the wing in Luwawu. As with their other picks, Phoenix could look to package this pick in a deal, or if Luwawu isn’t what they are looking for, they can look at another European player who should stay overseas another year or so in Furkan Korkmaz.

14. Chicago: Domantas Sabonis, PF, Gonzaga – With Derrick Rose off to New York, and the Gasol/Noah era likely at an end, the Bulls can look for another big to add to Bobby Portis for the long-term, or if they like any of the point guard prospects, take a shot there. Portis has a bright future, but Sabonis will bring more of physical style of play to the frontcourt, and he can be a difference maker on the glass on both ends.

15. Denver: Skal Labissiere, PF/C, Kentucky – While Denver really doesn’t have a lot of need in the frontcourt with the way Nikola Jokic played as a rookie, and also having Josef Nurkic, Labissiere is worth the risk if he falls here, giving a potential stretch four with shot-blocking ability. He’s not ready to really contribute now, so the focus can be on developing his game and body for another year or two down the road.

16. Boston: Furkan Korkmaz, SG, Turkey – This is Boston’s second pick of the first round, and like their first pick, there is a good chance that this pick will be dealt alone or in some package for a player they can use now. If they do use it, they could decide to look at a player they don’t need to bring here right now in Korkmaz, a talented 18-year old shooting guard. While his shooting ability has come along, there are still a lot of areas where Korkmaz needs work, and he may as well stay overseas another year or two where he can get playing time.

17. Memphis: Malachi Richardson, SG, Syracuse – Memphis is in need of some help in the backcourt, whether Mike Conley stays with the team or not, and Richardson, who has been the subject of Grizzlies’ promise rumor, may be a bit inexperienced, but he has a knack for scoring that the team can use going forward. Add to that the obsession on Richardson’s length and defensive potential, and this may be a risk worth taking for a Grizzlies team going through some changes over the next few years.

18. Detroit: Dejounte Murray, PG, Washington – The Pistons have a strong nucleus of young players, led by Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Stanley Johnson, and Tobias Harris, but they can look to add some depth now, especially at the point guard position. Murray has good size for the point, and is a high-level athlete, though prone to mistakes and not much of a scorer, but there is a lot of potential here in the freshman. The hope is Stan Van Gundy can help him learn the finer points of the game, while backing up Jackson, will take the pressure off the learn it all right away.

19. Denver: Denzel Valentine, SG, Michigan State – This will be Denver’s third pick in the first round, and assuming they haven’t swung a deal to give up any of them, they should just look to add the best player available. Valentine is a lottery-level talent, though rumors of some medical issues with his knees have caused some concern. Either way, he can shoot, create off the dribble, and defend. There is always a place for players like Valentine on any roster.

20. Indiana (for Brooklyn): Taurean Prince, SF, Baylor – Though Prince didn’t meet a lot of the high expectations for his senior season, he is a long, athletic wing who can make an impact on both ends of the floor. Prince can knock down threes and get out in transition.

21. Atlanta: DeAndre’ Bembry, SF, St. Joseph’s – This is now the Hawks’ second pick in the first round, and while they may hope to make a deal, they have some needs they can fill. They are facing a few question marks this off-season with Al Horford and Kent Bazemore both free agents. Bembry could eventually slide into Bazemore’s spot, and has some similarities to his game. Bembry is a hard-nosed defender on the wing, and can be a versatile scorer inside the arc. He needs to work on his long-range shooting, but that could come with some more experience.

22. Charlotte: Malik Beasley, SG, Florida State – Charlotte has a lot of internal free agency issues to deal with, but getting a young shooter like Beasley falling to them will help no matter what. He is a more versatile scorer than many think, and he has shown some flashes on the defensive end. Charlotte may also look for a big man here, but if Beasley gets to this spot, I can’t see the Hornets passing him up.

23. Boston: Ivica Zubac, C, Croatia – This would be Boston’s third pick in the first round, barring any deals they make, and they certainly won’t be looking to add another player to their roster, so draft-and-stash is the way to go. 7’1 and a solid 265 pounds, Zubac is a semi-skilled offensive player, with the potential to be a real low-post or pick-and-roll scoring threat. Though he has great size, he isn’t much of a rim protector, post defender, or rebounder, but with some development, he could be passable.

24. Philadelphia: Demetrius Jackson, PG, Notre Dame – With their second pick in the first round, the Sixers could look to finally address the lack of backcourt talent, and having Jackson, my pick for the best long-term point guard in the class, is a gift in this spot. A strong pick-and-roll ballhandler, and one of the best athletes in this class, Jackson has the maturity and skill to make an impact from day one. Some are concerned about his size, and the dip in his long-range shooting last season, but you can’t pass on this combination of talent and potential.

25. Los Angeles Clippers: Cheick Diallo, PF, Kansas – Diallo never really got on track after an NCAA investigation caused him to miss a part of the early season. Long, athletic, and with a motor that doesn’t quit, Diallo may be short on skill, but he makes things happen with his energy on the floor. While not exactly what the Clippers need, they get a great value this late in the first round.

26. Philadelphia: Patrick McCaw, PG/SG, UNLV – With their third pick in the first round, Philadelphia could look to add another piece to the backcourt with the dynamic McCaw. 6’7, with the ability to play either guard spot, McCaw may make some curious decisions, but it can wow with his ability to create scoring chances off the dribble, as well as having very good defensive instincts. While his perimeter shooting isn’t there yet, his versatility is a bonus, and well worth a shot on his potential this late in the first round.

27. Toronto: Ante Zizic, C, Croatia –This is more of a long-range selection for Toronto to work towards securing their frontcourt for the future. Zizic has good size, works hard, and is just 19 years old. He’s not ready to come to the NBA now, so Toronto can leave him over in Europe to gain more experience, especially with his offensive skills, and hopefully seeing him move up to better competition.

28. Phoenix: Juan Hernangomez, PF, Spain – This is Phoenix’s third pick in the first round, and I would expect them to take a player they can leave overseas for a bit longer, though some may think Hermangomez is ready to come over now. He is a skilled and athletic power forward, with the ability to stretch the floor, and he has played a good amount of minutes overseas already. He really could use another year in Spain, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Suns see if they can find a way to get him over now.

29. San Antonio: Brice Johnson, PF, North Carolina – With Tim Duncan’s future still up in the air, Johnson can at least add some athleticism to the frontcourt. While not the most skilled offensive player, he has improved a lot over the past few years, and his ability to run the floor and rebound could make him a very good value this low in the first round.

30. Golden State: Damian Jones, C, Vanderbilt – NBA Finals’ loss aside, the Warriors are still set up to be one of the league’s dominant franchises, but they will need to address their depth situation. They got Kevon Looney here last year, and now with a good chance that Festus Ezeli will be somewhere else next year, a big rim-protector could be what they need. Jones may drop a bit due to his recent surgery for a torn pectoral, but it shouldn’t be a long-term issues, and he is a great value here.

Lakers saw what happened to Jazz, Clippers, say they will not let up vs. Nuggets

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — With one comeback after another in the playoffs, the Denver Nuggets showed themselves to be a team that falls down but doesn’t stay down.

The Los Angeles Lakers noticed.

They watched the Nuggets repeatedly rally from big deficits against Utah and then the Los Angeles Clippers – and, obviously, are aware that the Jazz and the Clippers are no longer in the NBA bubble because of Denver’s comeback abilities.

So the Lakers knew that when it was their turn to face Denver, there would be no letting up no matter what the scoreboard said.

Game 2 is Sunday night. The Lakers know the job is far from over.

“No lead is safe with this team, in the game or in the series,” Lakers star Anthony Davis said. “They have proven that they are a second-half team, where they come out and just destroy teams in the second half and prove that even if they are down a series, they are a team that’s going to be resilient and keep fighting no matter what the score is, what the situation is.

“When we have a lead, we have to lock in even more.”

The Lakers did that in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, turning an 11-point halftime lead into a 27-point bulge in the second half before easing to a 126-114 victory.

“That’s a historic type of resilient team,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “We’ve got to understand that, both with the series lead 1-0 right now and wherever it goes, but also within games.”

Denver reached the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2009 by becoming the first team in NBA history to erase two 3-1 deficits in one postseason. The Nuggets trailed by 15 points in Game 5 against Utah in their first game facing elimination, then were down 16, 19, and 12 in the final three games against the Clippers.

The Nuggets are the first team with three 15-point comebacks while facing elimination in one postseason since play-by-play began being recorded digitally in 1997.

“This is an opponent we all greatly respect,” Vogel said. “Save for the comebacks, we respect what they are capable of doing on both ends of the floor.”

It won’t matter how resilient the Nuggets are if they don’t make things tougher for the Lakers defensively.

Davis shredded them so easily on his way to 37 points that the Lakers didn’t even need much scoring from LeBron James, who took only 11 shots and had 15 points and 12 assists. Los Angeles got plenty of opportunities in transition and in the paint, which were areas of emphasis for Denver.

“We were giving up layups after we scored baskets ourselves. So that indicates to me that our sense of urgency to get back was not anywhere remotely close to where it needed to be tonight,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said after the game.

When the Nuggets do get back, they need to do a better job of defending without fouling. They sent the Lakers to the line 24 times in the second quarter – Denver shot only 28 for the entire game – and both Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray had to go to the bench with three fouls in the period.

“We’ve just got to be better,” Murray said. “We’ve just got to be on point. We’ve got to talk more, talk earlier, point, whatever we’ve got to do.”

This is the first time in this postseason the Lakers will take the lead into Game 2, having dropped their opening games against both Portland and Houston. They didn’t lose again in either series.

Going into Sunday, the Lakers will have the second-best record in the postseason at 9-2, trailing only Miami. It’s a big turnaround for the Lakers, who struggled at times during the seeding games in the bubble – but, as James’ teams tend to do in the postseason, are hitting their best stride when the games matter most.

Denver is also used to playing from behind – much further behind. So even though things looked bad Friday, the Nuggets have been in much worse spots in the bubble and found their way out of them.

“We have proven it time and time again that we can learn from our losses and figure out what we need to do better going into the next game and give ourselves a much better chance to win,” Malone said.

Gordon Hayward does not plan to leave bubble for birth of son

Gordon Hayward birth of son
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When Boston first went to the NBA restart bubble in Orlando, Gordon Hayward was upfront: He was leaving the bubble for the birth of his fourth child.

Hayward ended up leaving the bubble for another reason — he severely sprained his ankle and was out for more than a month. During his rehab, Hayward left the bubble and spent time at home, returning a couple of weeks ago. Saturday he played his first game back for Boston, helping it to a win against the Heat.

Hayward’s wife, Robyn, has yet to have their son, but now Hayward does not plan to leave the bubble for the event, something first reported by Rachel Nichols of ESPN during Saturday’s game.

Hayward confirmed this after the game. So did Robyn in a social media post, adding the reports she was in labor already were not true.

I don’t envy the Hayward family having to make this choice. As a parent, I can’t imagine having missed the births of any of my children, but, like everything else in 2020, this is far from a typical decision at a typical time. The Haywards are making the best of it they can. They deserve support no matter what they choose.

LeBron James, Dion Waiters’ son engage in a little trash talk

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“Yeah, right.”

That was Dion Waiters Jr.’s response to pretty much everything LeBron James during the Lakers’ practice on Saturday before Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

LeBron was getting up some corner threes and told Waiters Jr. he would make 100 straight.

“Yeah, right.”

When LeBron missed one, “I missed that on purpose.” 

“Yeah, right.”

“I missed that on purpose, so you’d think I’m human,” LeBron joked.

Got to love Dion Waiters Jr. — he’s got some of his dad’s spunk.

Families have been allowed in the bubble for teams for a couple of weeks, although LeBron’s sons are not there, with LeBron saying it’s not a great place for kids (he’s right, for anyone over about 7 or 8, there would be little to do).

Aggressive, attacking Boston drives right into heart of Miami defense, wins Game 3

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On Boston’s first possession of the game, Marcus Smart drove right to the rim and got an and-1 on a reverse layup.

Next possession, Jaylen Brown got a bucket cutting for a layup, with the assist from Smart. Next possession, Brown drove the lane and banked in a floater. The next Boston bucket was a Jayson Tatum driving layup.

The first nine Boston points came with them attacking the heart of the Miami defense (going at Duncan Robinson in particular), and that continued all game with the Celtics getting 60 points in the paint.

“Boston came out with great force. You have to give them credit for that,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said after the game.

Throw in 31 quality minutes from Gordon Hayward in his return from a sprained ankle — providing more quality wing play and good decision making — and Boston raced out to a comfortable lead then hung on at the end for a 117-106 win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Heat lead the series 2-1, with Game 4 not until Wednesday night (a little delay to allow the West to catch up).

After a sloppy Game 2 loss where the Celtics became passive in the face of Miami’s zone defense in the second half, followed by a postgame meltdown and meeting of the minds, the guys at the heart of the Celtics young core stepped up their game on Saturday night.

Particularly Brown, who had 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting and was getting to the rim all game. He also was playing smothering defense.

Smart — an All-Defensive Team player — had his best game of the series, blanketing Goran Dragic, who had been the Heat’s best scorer and shot creator through two games. Without Dragic breaking down the Celtics’ defense and getting points in the paint, Miami has to live by the three and the Celtics defenders did a better job staying home.

“Marcus’ ball pressure on Dragic was important,” Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens said postgame. “It’s something we need to continue to look at. Marcus did a great job on a guy who is playing better than I’ve ever seen him.”

Boston also got more minutes from Gordon Hayward than expected, minutes Stevens called a “stabilizing force” for the team.

“I’m extremely tired right now. My ankle is pretty sore,” Hayward said postgame, adding with the extra days off he should be good to go for Game 4.

Hayward’s presence also allowed Boston to play small ball without Daniel Theis or any true center on the floor, the Celtics switched everything defensively, and Miami didn’t take advantage. Look for Eric Spoelstra to turn to more Bam Adebayo against that small lineup next game.

“They got us on our heels. They were out there hooping and having fun. I guess that was the difference in the game,” Bam Adebayo said postgame.

Miami didn’t shoot the ball well Saturday night, hitting just 27.3% from three. Jae Crowder, who had been hot, was 2-of-8 from deep, while Tyler Herro was 4-of-12. Adebayo had 27 points and 16 boards to lead the Heat.

Boston had four players with more than 20 points: Brown (26), Tatum (25), Kemba Walker (21), and Smart (20).

Boston will need another game like that — and they will need to close better, Miami made it interesting late — to even the series on Wednesday.

Miami said postgame they saw what happened in this game as a challenge to them. Game 4 is going to be intense.