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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).

Report: Knicks, who have No. 3 pick, to work out Darius Garland

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Duke forward R.J. Barrett is the consensus No. 3 prospect in the upcoming NBA draft. He wants to join the Knicks. The Knicks have the No. 3 pick.

Perfect match?

Maybe not.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

Maybe this is just New York doing its due diligence. The Knicks could also be trying to drum up trade interest among teams that want Garland.

But this feels a little like 2015, when Jahlil Okafor was the consensus No. 2 prospect for most of the pre-draft process but D'Angelo Russell emerged late as the Lakers’ No. 2 pick.

Barrett is a flawed prospect. He didn’t hit jumpers efficiently at Duke. His decision-making is suspect. He’s too left-handed dominant. He rarely uses his defensive tools. There’s a lot to like, to be sure. Barrett has nice size, athleticism and physicality. He’s a good ball-handler and playmaker. He seems built for a leading role.

But it wouldn’t shock me if a team likes Garland more. The point guard is a knockdown shooter with the ball-handling and footwork to get that shot off. He needs work as a distributor and lacks Barrett’s defensive potential.

Garland might not be as good as Barrett right now. But Garland’s path to success might be a little more projectable.

Harrison Barnes declining $25,102,512 player option with Kings

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Harrison Barnes‘ salary was so high, he became a talking point in the debate about WNBA salaries.

But he’s so confident he’ll get a better deal, he’s leaving $25,102,512 on the table with the Kings.

James Ham of NBC Sports California:

If they renounce all their free agents, the Kings project to have about $60 million in cap space – likely more than they know what do with.

They could re-sign Barnes. By trading for him last year, they indicated they value him more than the rest of the league does.

Even if he settles for a lower salary next season than his player option called for, this could be the 27-year-old Barnes’ opportunity to secure a long-term deal. He’s a solid outside shooter and, even if he’s better at power forward, capable of playing small forward in a league thirsty for wings.

Sacramento could definitely use a player like him.

Can the Kings lure someone better, either this summer or – if they keep their books clean – a future year? Unless way overpaid, free agents have tended to avoid Sacramento. But the rapidly improving De'Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield are leading a turnaround.

Barnes’ free agency could be a good litmus test for the Kings’ reputation now. Can they convince him to continue his role on a rising team? Will they have to pay a premium to keep him? Or does he just want to leave?

Report: Anthony Davis intends to receive full trade bonus

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The Lakers are reportedly on track to trade for Anthony Davis on July 6 – the date an important distinction in determining the Lakers’ cap space.

The other key question: Will Davis take his full $4,063,953 trade bonus?

The Pelicans will pay the bonus. It will count against the Lakers’ cap.

Especially considering Davis requested a trade, New Orleans could have pressed him to waive the trade bonus in order to accommodate him. Likewise, the Lakers – his desired team – could have made the deal contingent on Davis waiving the trade bonus.

Ramona Shelburne on ESPN:

My understanding is he doesn’t intend to waive that. He’s due the four million dollars, and he’s going to keep it. But again, as you just noted in that monologue, things can change.

If he takes the full bonus, Davis’ salary next season will increase from $27,093,018 to $31,156,971. And good for him. He earned the trade kicker in his contract.

This also supports agent Rich Paul’s contention that he puts Davis’ interests first while representing Davis, not catering to fellow client LeBron James. Because while the extra money is nice for Davis, this hurts LeBron’s Lakers.

The Lakers now project to have just $24 million in cap room. They can still get a helpful player or two, but $28 million would have gone further.

I wonder whether the Pelicans prefer to pay Davis’ bonus. Though a $4,063,953 check is nothing to sneeze at, tying up the Lakers’ cap space has value with New Orleans getting so many future draft picks from Los Angeles. Maybe the Pelicans have already made Davis getting his full bonus an essential aspect of this trade.

If not, the Lakers have a week before the Davis trade can become official to pitch free agents. Perhaps, if they line up certain free agents and show him the spending power of that extra money, Davis would waive all or some of his trade bonus.

But I wouldn’t blame him if he wants his money and puts the onus on the Lakers to build a strong team, anyway. That’d sounds a lot like another Paul client.

Kawhi Leonard leaving NBA-champion Raptors would be unlike anything we’ve ever seen

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Many Raptors fans hoped Kawhi Leonard would use yesterday’s championship parade to declare his plan to re-sign with Toronto.

They got a laugh and not much else.

But they can be heartened – or maybe eventually heartbroken –a by this: Stars almost never switched teams immediately following a title.

Before this year, there have been…

  • 49 Finals MVPs who won a championship. None switched teams that offseason.
  • 147 All-Stars who won a championship. None switched teams that offseason.
  • 124 All-NBA players who won a championship. Only one switched teams that offseason.

In 1998, Scottie Pippen got signed-and-traded from the Bulls to the Rockets. He was neither an All-Star nor Finals MVP that year, but he made the All-NBA third team. After leaving Chicago, he never achieved any of those accolades.

Leonard checked all three boxes this season – Finals MVP, All-NBA, All-Star. He looks poised to take over as the NBA’s best player for the next few several years.

It’d be unprecedented for someone like him to bolt.

The most productive player to leave a championship team immediately after winning a title? It might be Tyson Chandler, who posted 9.4 win shares for the 2011 Mavericks then got signed-and-traded to the Knicks.

Even while missing 22 games amid load management and minor injury, Leonard posted 9.5 win shares last season.

Here’s how Leonard compares to the players with the most win shares in a title-winning season who began play elsewhere the following year:

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Of course, Leonard isn’t bound by history. He’ll make his own decision. If he wants to leave the Raptors for the Clippers, Knicks or anyone else, he can.

But players just usually stick with a champion. LeBron James said he might have re-signed with the Heat if they won the 2014 title. Kyrie Irving was unhappy after the Cavaliers’ 2016 championship but didn’t request a trade until they lost in the 2017 NBA Finals. Shaq and Kobe coexisted peacefully enough until the Lakers stopped winning titles.

It’s just hard to leave a team that has proven its ability to win a championship, and Leonard would have that in Toronto.