NBA Draft winners, losers: Good day for Sixers, international players

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I’ll admit this up front: Picking the winner and losers of a draft the night of a draft is an effort in futility. It takes three years before we get a clear picture of a draft — remember the 2013 draft Anthony Bennett went first, while Giannis Antetokounmpo fell to 15th and Rudy Gobert 27th. Scouts and GMs watch countless hours of film on guys, interview them, work them out, and still miss. The rest of us are just throwing darts.

That said, I’m all about futility. From where I sit, here is who won and who lost in the 2016 NBA Draft.

WINNER: Philadelphia 76ers.
This isn’t just for not blowing the top pick and taking consensus No. 1 Ben Simmons — although that does matter, they got a potential cornerstone player if he can develop. The Sixers are winners for making other smart picks late in the first round: Timothe Luwawu, a 6’7” wing out of France; and Furkan Korkmaz, 6’7” shooting guard out of Turkey. This is good value here. Luwawu has NBA athleticism and size, an improving shot, he can handle the ball, and he has defensive potential. Korkmaz can shoot the rock — he hit 42.5 percent of his threes in Euroleague competition. He’s strong on the catch-and-shoot, and he’s just 19, so there is a lot of upside. Bryan Colangelo has been talking about winning sooner rather than later, but when he didn’t see better options he stuck with “the process,” and that will pay off for the Sixers.

LOSER: Boston Celtics. Unlike some, I’m okay with their picks — I’m higher on Jaylen Brown than most, and they have some guys who may develop down the line into good players. That’s not what lands them on the wrong side of the scale, rather it’s their stymied ambition. Danny Ainge went big game hunting around the draft again, and again came home with no trophy. No Jimmy Butler. No Gordon Hayward. No Jabari Parker. Not even Khris Middleton. How available some of those guys are is up for debate, but Ainge knows he needs to land a superstar, and he continues to fall short. Not for lack of effort, but this is a results business.

WINNER: International players. It’s an NBA record: 14 of the 30 first-round picks were International players. (That does include No. 1 pick Ben Simmons, who is Australia.) Maybe it’s a sign of a weak domestic draft, maybe it’s a matter of the NBA’s need for spacing making European bigs a better fit, maybe it’s teams looking for guys they can stash for a few years (that is the big answer), but this was a good year to have come to the NBA from overseas. Dragan Bender, Juan Hernangomez and Timothe Luwawu are guys I think could pan out in a couple yars.

LOSERS: Young bigs who decided to test themselves in college. Thon Maker essentially hid from competition. Georgios Papagainnis is a major project who played a smaller role in Europe, as did Guerschon Yabusele and Ante Zizic. Meanwhile, bigs who decided to test themselves against the best in college — Skal Labissiere, Cheick Diallo, Diamond Stone and Deyonta Davis — then struggled with the adjustment paid the price by falling below all those guys listed above in this draft. It’s not that there isn’t a question about Labissiere and Davis’ ability to adjust to the NBA, but they have fewer questions than Maker by a longshot. The lessons future NBA level bigs will take from this is not to test themselves against the best because it can only hurt their draft stock.

WINNER: Denver Nuggets. I loved their draft. They need a shooter and secondary ball handler next to Emmanuel Mudiay, they had Jamal Murray fall in their laps. They got a guy who can knock down the outside shot and could develop into a rotation player in Malik Beasley. On top of that, they added Juan Hernangomez, who has real stretch-four potential in the NBA. All good picks, all fit a need, and all guys that Mike Malone is going to be able to develop.

WINNER: Oklahoma City. I know what some of you are thinking “Why would they do that if they are trying to keep Kevin Durant?” You can be sure that GM Sam Presti didn’t pull the trigger on this deal without talking to Durant about it. But if I were KD, I’d approve this move. Steven Adams and Enes Kanter can make up for what Ibaka gave them offensively last season (he struggled from three). In return, the Thunder got Victor Oladipo, who is a massive upgrade over Dion Waiters; plus they got some depth for that front line with Ersan Ilyasova and Domantas Sabonis. This move made the Thunder better (as long as Durant sticks around).

Anthony Davis scores 44, outduels Antetokounmpo (40) leading Lakers past Bucks

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Anthony Davis and LeBron James tore apart the NBA’s top-rated defense and gave Los Angeles Lakers coach Darvin Ham a triumphant return to Milwaukee.

Davis scored a season-high 44 points and James passed Magic Johnson on the NBA’s career assists list Friday night in the Lakers’ thrilling 133-129 victory over the Bucks.

It marked Ham’s first game in Milwaukee since taking over as Lakers coach after working as an assistant on Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer’s staff from 2018-22.

Ham and Budenholzer shared a big hug before the game.

“It was a beautiful night,” said Ham, who also played for the Bucks from 1999-2002.

It also was quite a night for Davis, a Green Bay Packers fan who delivered his big performance with Aaron Rodgers in the stands. Davis spoke with the Packers’ four-time MVP quarterback before and after the game.

“I saw him before the game and he said, `I need 30 tonight,”‘ Davis said. “I just saw him and he said, `I only said 30, not 40.’ It’s always good for him to come out and watch the Lakers play.”

James made a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 3:22 left and finished with 28 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. He upped his career assist total to 10,144 and moved into sixth place, ahead of Johnson’s 10,133.

“It means a lot, obviously,” James said. “The way Magic approached the game, it was very infectious. His teammates loved playing with him because of the joy he played with and the ability to pass the ball and get other guys involved. He was always excited about seeing his teammates be great. I always admired that in him. What’s even more humbling and super duper cool is the fact that I’m doing it in a Laker uniform and knowing how much Magic means to the Laker franchise.”

The Lakers had the highest point total and field-goal percentage (.536) the Bucks had allowed all season. Milwaukee entered Friday with the NBA’s top defensive rating.

“It was too easy, too easy, too easy,” Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “They were living in the paint. That’s not who we are.”

Los Angeles withstood a 40-point performance from Antetokounmpo, who also had seven rebounds and five assists.

The Lakers also spoiled the 2022-23 debut of Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton, who had 17 points and seven assists in his return from offseason wrist surgery.

Milwaukee missed two potential tying 3-pointers in the final 20 seconds.

After Davis missed a fadeaway jumper, the Bucks called a timeout with 21.4 seconds left and then found an open Grayson Allen, whose 3-point attempt went off the side of the rim.

The Lakers’ Russell Westbrook missed two free throws with 13.3 seconds remaining, but Jrue Holiday couldn’t connect on a 3-pointer with just over five seconds left. Davis made a clinching free throw with 4.5 seconds left.

“Grayson got a good look,” Budenholzer said. “Good execution. Good screening. We’ll live with that shot all the time. And Jrue, similar. We got the kick ahead, playing against a defense that’s not set. Jrue, kind of a good rhythm shot for him. It was contested, but Jrue was 6 of 12 tonight (from 3-point range). He was feeling it.”

Holiday had 28 points for the Bucks, and Bobby Portis added 15 points and 10 rebounds. Westbrook had 15 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds for the Lakers.

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.