Five other 2013 draft class members who likely join C.J. McCollum with contract extensions

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C.J. McCollum got his — four years, $106 million.

The 2013 NBA draft class can get extensions between now and the Oct. 31 deadline. But this is a class that may not see a lot of them. One reason: Many of the top players — No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett, No. 3 pick Otto Porter, No. 4 pick Cody Zeller, and on down the list— haven’t actually earned the kind of “we have to lock them up now and pay the man” extensions generally given out at this point. The other issue: There will be a different Collective Bargaining Agreement in place next summer, and that leads to uncertainty for teams (and players).

But here are five guys that should join McCollum on the list of guys getting extended and paid.

1) Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks. Considered a roll of the dice at the time, he has turned out to be the best player out of this draft class (that success may have encouraged the Bucks to draft Thon Maker so high in the 2016 draft). He is the point-forward the Bucks will entrust the ball to next season. He is their most gifted player and the cornerstone on which Milwaukee is building its future — a future that includes a new arena in downtown the team needs to fill in a few years. Antetokounmpo will help sell tickets there. The Greek Freak averaged 16.9 points per game on 50.6 percent shooting last season, with 7.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists a night as well. This clearly is a guy that gets locked up with a max extension, and he is going to accept it. The deal will get done.

2) Victor Oladipo, Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder just traded for him, and whether Russell Westbrook stays or goes Oladipo — the No. 2 pick in 2013 — looks like a key part of the Thunder’s future. Which traditionally means they would and should lock him up. Right now, everything in OKC is on hold until Westbrook tells the team his plans, but after that happens the Thunder should try to lock Oladipo down. That said, with all the uncertainty around the team, they may want to wait and let him become a restricted free agent next summer, where other teams would try to poach him.

3) Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz.
Utah is one of the teams on the rise in the West (along with Minnesota) and that bright future is largely built around a defense anchored by Gobert. He is one of the best defensive bigs in the game, a future Defensive Player of the Year, with an improving offensive game. Again, the organization has questions to face heading into next summer — starting with can they keep Gordon Hayward? — and they have to figure out just how much they can win with Gobert and Derrick Favors paired up front (do they have enough floor spacing?). But whatever the answers to those questions, locking up a defensive anchor big with a huge contract seems a no brainer.

4) Dennis Schroder, Atlanta Hawks. When the Hawks traded Jeff Teague they played their hand here — Schroder is now the point guard of the present and future in Atlanta, and they are banking on his continued development to be a key part of their future. Which means they probably lock up the 23-year-old German with an extension. However, if they want to hesitate because they are not sure they can let him go to restricted free agency next summer and let the market set his price.

5) Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit Pistons. Stan Van Gundy has put together a core of young players he likes in Detroit and Caldwell-Pope is part of that. He’s a good defender who needs to become more efficient on offense (although he did average 14.5 points per game last season). This would not be a max extension, but the two sides should be able to find a number they like. That said, Van Gundy may prefer to wait on a deal to keep a little more flexibility next summer.

Others to watch: Steven Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder (they want to keep him, but likely don’t pay to extend him to keep their flexibility); Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers; Alex Len, Phoenix Suns; Andre Roberson, Oklahoma City Thunder (not likely but possible).

Anthony Davis on sprained ankle: “Rolled it pretty bad… I’ll be fine”

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Anthony Davis has been the best Laker throughout the playoffs, particularly in the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets. Davis averaged 32.3 points a game while shooting 55.3% from the floor, and the Los Angeles Lakers are outscoring the Nuggets by seven points per 100 possessions when Davis is on the floor.

Behind the play of Davis, the Los Angeles Lakers are up 3-1 on the Denver Nuggets and now just have to do what the Jazz and Clippers couldn’t: Get one more win.

Which might be harder to do after Davis rolled his ankle midway through the fourth quarter Thursday night.

Davis stayed in the game after that, but could it impact him in Game 5?

“[My] Ankle feels fine. Got tonight, tomorrow before the game to get it back to, I don’t want to say back to where it was, but good enough to play,” Davis said postgame. “Rolled it pretty bad but not too bad. I’ll be fine.”

Laker coach Fran Vogel noted that with ankles it is often the next day when there is a sense of the severity.

“We’ll see how it responds overnight, responds to treatment,” Vogel said. “Yeah, there’s always concern with an injury like that. It was good for him to play through it, but we’ll see how he responds overnight.”

With the Lakers just one win from the NBA Finals, if Anthony Davis can walk he will play on Saturday in Game 5. The Lakers want to close this series out, they have seen what happens to teas that let the Nuggets hang around.


LeBron James speaks more on Breonna Taylor, power of Black women

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The decision not to prosecute the police officers who shot Breonna Taylor in her home has frustrated and angered NBA players. A number of them have spoken out, including Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, who played his college ball in Louisville, Taylor’s home town.

LeBron James also has spoken out, saying the walls of Taylor’s neighbors got more justice than she did.

Asked about it after the Lakers Game 4 win on Thursday, LeBron spoke about justice.

LeBron also had taken to social media to talk about the challenges Black women face.

When asked about that Tweet after Thursday’s game, James was more than willing to open up on the topic.

“You just look at the history of America and the disrespect that Black women have gotten for the last 400 years. You can’t turn a blind eye to that,” James said. “When I look at my household and see my daughter, who is five on her way to six, my wife and my mom, rest in peace my grandmother, so many Black women have done so many things for me. Seeing the sacrifices they made, especially my mom when I was growing up. They were disrespected along the way and it’s still like that today.

“In the case of Breonna Taylor’s case, it’s just shown once again that the walls of the neighbor is more important than her life.

“So not only did I want to acknowledge all the queens in this world, all the Black queens in this world, but the ones in my life, the personal ones, too. I just kind of had a moment yesterday. I mean, I have a lot of moments, but felt like it was important to let Black women know that you’re not alone. No matter the disrespect or what they may feel, don’t stop. Because that’s exactly what they want you guys to do. They want you guys to stop. They want you guys not to be as powerful as you guys are, not as strong as you guys are, as determined as you guys are. They want you all to be at bay. They want you to accept what’s going on. For sure, I won’t allow that.”

Powerful words from LeBron, who once again is using his platform to speak for a lot of others with these sentiments.

Second chance points, clutch LeBron defense earns Lakers win to go up 3-1 on Denver

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It’s a simple and obvious truth about any basketball game: The team that shoots better usually wins.

The Denver Nuggets shot 50.6% in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, including 10-of-28 from three (leading to a true shooting percentage of 62%). The Los Angeles Lakers shot 47.5% overall and 10-of-30 from three (a true shooting percentage of 59.7%). The Nuggets shot better Thursday night.

However, the better shooting team does not win when it gets crushed in another key area.

The Lakers grabbed the offensive rebound on 40.4% of their missed shots — including at three critical possessions in crunch time — and scored 25 second-chance points to Denver having six. Combine that with an aggressive and attacking LeBron James and Anthony Davis getting to the free-throw line 28 times — Denver as a team had 23 free throw attempts — and LeBron playing fantastic defense down the stretch on Jamal Murray, and a team can overcome a shooting deficit.

The result was the Lakers holding off a resilient Denver team to win 114-108, taking a commanding 3-1 series lead. Game 5 is Saturday night.

While the Nuggets came back from 3-1 down on the Jazz and Clippers, this series feels different — Denver may have run out of miracles. The way the Lakers closed out this game showed why the Lakers will not go the ways of Jazz and Clippers.

Once again, Davis was the best Laker on the floor, scoring 34 points on 10-of-15 shooting plus playing strong defense (his light rebounding numbers, five in this game, are overblown because the Lakers as a team are rebounding well).

But there are two key reasons the won the Lakers the game — two critical reasons they were able to hold off a Denver comeback when the Jazz and Clippers faltered in similar situations:

• The Lakers were dominant on the offensive glass, as mentioned above. They got a second chance on four out of 10 missed shots (the league average is about 26-27% of missed shots become offensive rebounds). Dwight Howard was doing it early, Davis was doing it late (plus Rajon Rondo had a critical one), but the Lakers getting a second chance to score and run off some clock down the stretch changed the game.

• LeBron James asked to guard Jamal Murray down the stretch — in the final five minutes of the game Murray was 0-of-3 shooting.

“LeBron asked for the assignment and obviously I granted it…” Lakers’ coach Frank Vogel said postgame. “Nothing was really working in terms of trying to slow him down until ‘Bron took that assignment.”

Vogel isn’t kidding. Murray was torching the Lakers, getting into the lane, and finding a way to finish — including maybe the best layup of the playoffs so far.

Murray finished with 32 points on 12-of-20 shooting, but LeBron held him mostly in check down the stretch (Murray did hit four free throws).

LeBron also had a strong game despite his jumper not falling because he hunted mismatches, throwing the Denver defense into a scramble, plus LeBron commands a double team when he gets the ball at the elbow or on the block and that opens things up.

Another key for Los Angeles was a great first half from Dwight Howard, who had 11 points and 10 rebounds in the first half while keeping the ball out of Jokic’s hands. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 13 points.

Davis rolled his ankle in the fourth quarter, limped around on it, stayed in the game and made some plays down the stretch. A slowed Davis would be a reason for concern for the Lakers.

“My ankle feels fine,” Davis said postgame. “I’ve got tonight, tomorrow, before the game to get it back to where it is, but it’s good enough to play. I rolled it pretty bad, but not too bad. I’ll be fine.”

If Denver is going to shock the world, it needs to keep Paul Millsap and his defense on the floor more, then the Nuggets need Gary Harris and other bench players to step up with big moments.

The Nuggets also need to find a way to slow LeBron and Davis. There may not be an answer to that question.

Watch Jamal Murray hit insane hand-switching layup around LeBron

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Are. You. Kidding. Me.

You are not going to see a better layup these playoffs than this one by Denver’s Jamal Murray, going around LeBron James near the end of the first half of Game 4.

Murray went up thinking dunk, had to change his mind because of LeBron, brought it down, went around him, and spun it in off the glass. Insane. It had some people on Twitter referencing the legendary Michael Jordan hand-switching shot. Not sure I’m willing to compare this Murray shot to a layup that helped launch a dynasty, but it’s close.

Murray had 16 in the first half but the Nuggets trailed at the break 60-55 in a high scoring first half. Anthony Davis had 19 to lead the Lakers.