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.

Hawks’ Collins out weeks with sprained ankle, Hunter also at least a week

Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers
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ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Hawks will be without both of their starting forwards for at least the next three games.

John Collins will miss at least the next two weeks with a sprained left ankle and De'Andre Hunter will be sidelined for at least one week with a right hip flexor strain, the Hawks said Thursday.

Both departed with injuries during Wednesday night’s win over Orlando. Hunter played only seven minutes and Collins was hurt after a dunk that didn’t count at the halftime buzzer.

Hunter is third on the Hawks in scoring at 14.9 points per game, and Collins is fourth at 12.3 points.

Hunter, a fourth-year player out of Virginia, has yet to play a full season because of various injuries.

Draymond Green wants to play 4-5 more years, ideally with Warriors, not stressed about contract

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Jordan Poole got a contract extension from the Warriors this summer. So did Andrew Wiggins.

Draymond Green did not — and he punched Poole and was away from the team for a time.

All this has led to speculation about the future of Green in Golden State. He has a $27.6 million player option for next season, but he could become a free agent this summer. With the Warriors’ payroll through the roof — Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are on max extensions, Poole and Wiggins just got paid, and contract extensions for Jonathan Kuminga and the rest of the young players are coming — there are questions about how long Green will be in the Bay Area.

In an open and honest interview with Marc Spears of ESPN’s Andscape, Green talked about everything from his relationship with Poole after the punch to his future. Here are a few highlights:

“I want to play another four or five more years. That would be enough for me.”

“You can look around the NBA right now. There are five guys that’s been on a team for 11 years-plus. We have three of them [along with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson]. It’s a very rare thing. There’s 470, 480 players in the NBA? There are five guys that’s been with his team for 11 years plus. That’s amazing. So, you don’t just give that away. So, absolutely I’d be interested in that.”

On rumors he wants to play with LeBron James and the Lakers: “I never said that. People can say what they want. I’m also not really one to react much to what one may say. I react to things when I want to react to it. I don’t react to things just because somebody said it.”

Is he worried about his next contract: “No, not at all. I have a great agent [Rich Paul]. The best agent in the business. That’s why you align yourself with an incredible agent, because they handle the business. I play basketball. That’s what I want.”

I don’t doubt there is mutual interest in Green staying with the Warriors, the question is at what price. It’s not a max. As for the threat of him bolting, Green is still an elite defender and secondary playmaker, but it’s fair to wonder what the free agent market would look like for him. Green is not the scoring threat he once was, and his unique skill set is not a plug-and-play fit with every roster and system (does he really fit on the Lakers, for example).

The conventional wisdom around the league right now is that Green will opt into the final year of his contract with the Warriors — especially if they make another deep playoff run — because that level of money is not out there for him. That said, it only takes one owner to fall in love with the idea and send his GM out to get the deal done. The market may be there for him after all, or he may be open to the security of three or four years with another team but at a lower per-year dollar amount.

Green also talks about his relationship with Poole in the Q&A and makes it sound professional and business-like. Which is all it has to be, but it’s not the “playing with joy” model the Warriors are built upon.

 

Lakers reportedly leaning toward packaging Beverley, Nunn in trade

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While the Lakers have looked better of late winning 6-of-8 with a top-10 offense and defense in the league in that stretch, plus Anthony Davis continues to play at an All-NBA level at center.

That run — which still has Los Angeles sitting 13th in the West — came against a soft part of the schedule (three wins against the Spurs, for example), and is about to get tested with a few weeks of tougher games, starting with the suddenly healthy Milwaukee Bucks on Friday. While the Lakers have been better, nobody is watching them and thinking “contender.” Are they even a playoff team?

Which is why the Lakers are still in the market for trades. But Jovan Buha reports at The Athletic the Lakers realize moving Russell Westbrook and his $47 million may not happen, so they are focused more on a smaller deal moving Patrick Beverley and Kendrick Nunn (with maybe a pick) to bring back quality role players to round out the roster).

The Lakers are leaning toward [a Nunn/Beverley trade] at this point, the team sources said. That would entail making a smaller move to marginally upgrade the roster while retaining the possibility of following up with a larger Westbrook deal later in the season…

Beverley ($13 million) and Nunn ($5.3 million) are both underperforming relative to their contracts. With the Lakers’ needs for additional size on the wing and a better complimentary big next to Anthony Davis, along with the roster’s glut of small guards, Beverley and/or Nunn are expendable. Packaged together, the Lakers could acquire a player or players in the $20 million range.

Trading Nunn and Beverley lines up with a couple of good options from the Lakers’ perspective. For example, the salaries work to get Bojan Bogdanovic out of Detroit, or it matches up with a deal for Jakob Poeltl and Josh Richardson out of San Antonio. However, neither the Pistons nor Spurs care much about adding veteran guards on expiring contracts in Nunn and Beverley, so it’s going to require the Lakers throwing in one of their first-round picks unprotected (2027 or 2029) and maybe a second-rounder to get it done. (With how well the Pacers are playing, it’s not a sure thing that a Myles Turner/Buddy Hield trade is still available.) The Spurs trade may be more appealing to the Lakers because Richardson and Poeltl are expiring contracts, so it doesn’t change the Lakers’ plans to use cap space to chase bigger names this offseason (Bogdanovic was recently given a two-year, $39.1 million extension).

These may not be the “move us into contender range” blockbuster Rob Pelinka and the front office hoped was out there, but either of those trades would make the Lakers better. It could move them into playoff-team status, and considering LeBron James turns 38 at the end of the month they can’t waste a year and retool next offseason.

The Lakers have made a number of miscalculations over the years, but they are all-in with this group now and have to find a way to maximize it, even if the cost is a little painful.

Khris Middleton reportedly set to return to Bucks Friday vs. Lakers

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The Milwaukee Bucks are about to get better. Likely a lot better.

Which should worry the rest of the league because the Bucks have looked like one of the two best teams in the Association this season: A 15-5 record with the best defense in the NBA and an MVP and Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Now they are about to get Khris Middleton back.

Middleton — the Bucks Olympian and All-Star forward — is set to make his season debut Friday night against the Lakers, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at ESPN. Middleton had been recovering from wrist surgery.

Middleton averaged 20.1 points and 5.4 rebounds and assists per game last season. More importantly in Milwaukee, Middleton is the hub of the Bucks’ halfcourt offense — he is the ball handler in the pick-and-roll at the end of games, asked to create for himself and others in the clutch (with Antetokounmpo working off the ball and sometimes setting picks). Without him so far this season, the Bucks’ halfcourt offense has struggled, ranked 21st in the NBA this season in points per possession (via Cleaning the Glass). Overall the Bucks have a middle-of-the-pack offense because of it.

That is about to change.

While Mike Budenholzer will ease him back into the rotation as he gets his wind back, having Middleton back makes the Bucks much more dangerous. Which is bad news for the rest of the NBA.