Associated Press

2017 NBA Draft pick-by-pick tracker with analysis of each move

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Already the 2017 NBA Draft has been crazy — the No. 1 pick was traded for only the seventh time in NBA history. The No. 2 pick from a couple years ago has already been moved to make way for the next No. 2 pick coming to Los Angeles.

Now it is likely to get even wilder.

This is the best place to follow all of it. Just keep hitting refresh all night.

We will constantly be updating this post throughout the course of the night — it will be live with a quick analysis of every pick and how they fit in with the team that took them. We’ll also be on top of trades and everything else happening around the NBA tonight. About the only thing we know is what’s happening now with the No. 1 pick, so let’s put the Sixers on the clock.

 
Sixers small icon 1. Philadelphia 76ers: Markelle Fultz, 6’4” point guard (Washington). The Sixers hope they have their big three rounded out with Fultz. One scout I trust told me this was a one-player draft at the top — Fultz was clear and away the best guy available. What doesn’t he do well offensively? He can score off the pick-and-roll from all three levels: He makes threes, can hit mid-range pull-ups, or attack and finish above the rim. He can make plays in transition, makes good decisions off the pick-and-roll, uses both hands, and had great body control and footwork. The concerns are he can be passive, lets the game come to him a little too much, and can be a lazy defender (despite elite physical tools). Stlll, he was the clear No. 1 for a reason.

 
Lakers small icon 2. Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, 6’6” point guard (UCLA). You can’t teach his court vision and passing skills, which remind one of a LeBron/Ricky Rubio level of passer. With those skills, he is amazing in the open court. Yes, his shot is awkward (because of it he can’t pull up going to his right well), but in catch-and-shoots the ball goes in. Concerns about his shot – and his father — are overblown. The real questions are how he defends at the next level (he was disinterested for long stretches in college), and can he create in the halfcourt (he didn’t do a lot of pick-and-rolls, and on them 75 percent of his drives ended with a pass, he has to be more of a scoring threat).

WE HAVE A TRADE: The Chicago Bulls are sending Jimmy Butler to play with his old coach Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota.

Minnesota gets Butler plus the 16th pick in this draft in exchange for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and the No. 7 pick in this draft. That is a great deal for Minnesota. They now can start Ricky Rubio, Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, and they look like a playoff team.

 
Celtics small icon 3. Boston Celtics: Jayson Tatum, 6’8” forward (Duke). Maybe the player most ready to contribute offensively immediately in this draft, Tatum is a fantastic isolation scorer. He has a diverse offensive skill set, and he blew by bigger defenders in college with a strong face-up game, but will that translate to the NBA where everyone is more athletic? Can he score against NBA wings? His perimeter shot is improved but needs to get better still. He also was not a consistent defender in college, he needs to be much better now, especially if he wants to play much for Brad Stevens. Still, this guy can help right now, which is good for Boston.

 
Suns small icon4. Phoenix Suns: Josh Jackson, 6’8” forward (Kansas). Physically, and with his explosiveness, he reminds one a little of Andrew Wiggins — and Jackson has the same issue of a very inconsistent shot. Effort is a skill and one Jackson has plenty of, he outworks everyone, and could become and elite wing defender in the NBA. He had success offensively in college overwhelming opponents as a small-ball four, and he works well off the ball with cuts or getting out in transition. While his shot found a groove late in the season he needs more consistent mechanics, that shot needs work. Plenty of scouts think he has one of highest potential ceiling in this class.

 
Kings small icon 5. Sacramento Kings: De’Aaron Fox, 6’4” point guard (Kentucky). Kings’ fans, check out our feature on Fox to learn more about him. He climbed draft boards through the season and more once he got to workouts. Fox is incredibly fast with and without the ball — elite NBA level fast, and that makes him dangerous, particularly in transition. He’s a good (not great) passer, but his shot needs work (reports from workouts are that it is improving). He is a good defender (just ask Lonzo Ball) with the potential to be great. He needs to get stronger, and he needs to polish his offensive game, particularly running the pick-and-roll.

 
Magic small icon 6. Orlando Magic: Jonathan Isaac, 6’11” forward (Florida State). One of the highest ceilings in this draft — if he can be developed. He can hit threes, but is very raw and needs confidence on that end. Maybe of more interest to the Magic, his floor is pretty high thanks to his defense — he had a 25% defensive rebound percentage, a 2.4 percent steal rate, and a 6 percent block percentage, only done by Anthony Davis, Andre Roberson, Dewayne Dedmon, and Aaric Murray since 09-10 (stat via Sam Vecenie). He’s a project but could be a key part of the future new management in Orlando is trying to build.

 
Bulls small icon 7. Chicago Bulls (via Minnesota in Butler trade): Lauri Markkanen, 7’0” power forward/center (Arizona). The Bulls need shooting and they get it here. Markkanen is a stretch 4/5 who shot 42.3 percent from three — and not just spot-ups. He can come off screens, is dangerous in pick-n-pops, and can just generally shoot the rock. He needs to get stronger, and become a much better rebounder and defender. If he doesn’t, he’s kind of a Ryan Anderson type. Is only third player from Finland ever to make NBA.

 
Knicks small icon 8. New York Knicks: Frank Ntilikina, 6’5” point guard (France). He’s a big point guard with length, and in international tournaments he has been a defensive force. That caught scouts’ eyes, but so did his ability to run the team. He has shown development on the offensive end with an improved jumper. His game needs polish, and there are questions about his ceiling, but with his size and defense his floor is higher than some others in this draft range. We’ll see how he fits in the triangle, but he’s a high IQ player.

 
Mavericks small icon 9. Dallas Mavericks: Dennis Smith Jr., 6’3” point guard (North Carolina State). Dallas needed a point guard and they may have the one of the fututre. He had an inconsistent season, but the good news is he didn’t lose any athleticism from the ACL injury a couple of years back. He’s a powerful and explosive scorer, he’s talented in open floor, an impressive playmaker, and on paper has all the skills you want at the point. However, his decision making is very inconsistent — he chooses passes poorly, picks up his dribble at poor times — plus he’s got to be much better defensively.

WE HAVE A TRADE: Sacramento is rebuilding and wants to restock, Portland needs a big who can space the floor behind (and next to maybe) Jusuf Nurkic, so we have a trade.

 
Blazers small icon 10. Portland Trail Blazers (from Sacramento via trade): Zach Collins, 7’0” forward/center (Gonzaga). Few climbed the draft board more in the past month than Collins. Big men who can space the floor are in demand, and he shot 45 percent from three this season. He also was fantastic against elite players in the NCAA Final Four, which helped his cause. He’s got to get stronger to be able to handle NBA players on the defensive end. Also, he’s not athletic or fleet of foot, so if teams can draw him defensively out on the perimeter it’s an issue. Still, big men who can shoot the rock are the way the league is going and he can do it.

 
Hornets small icon 11. Charlotte Hornets: Malik Monk, 6’3” shooting guard (Kentucky). While he can be streaky, he’s an insane scorer and athlete who can fill it up like nobody else in this draft. How he will fit off the ball with Kemba Walker is a question mark (especially defensively, but he can get them buckets. The question is can he do anything other than score? He’s not been much of a defender (and he’s a bit small for an NBA two guard), he’s not a shot creator for others, nor does he rebound much. He’s kind of a scoring, volume-shooting sixth man kind of guy, think Jamal Crawford or Lou Williams.

 
Pistons small icon 12. Detroit Pistons: Luke Kennard, 6’6” shooting guard (Duke). Maybe the best pure shooter in this draft. More than just spot up, he can read screens, he’s got excellent footwork and jab series, and he’s better on the P’n’R than people realize. He’s not a great athlete so there are questions about his ability to create space for his shot. However, the bigger questions are about his defense and ability to hang with two guards at the next level (he’s not a great athlete, nor is he long).

WE HAVE A TRADE: Denver has traded the No. 13 pick the Utah Jazz

 
Jazz small icon 13. Utah Jazz (from Denver via trade): Donovan Mitchell, 6’3” shooting guard (Louisville). He’s a bit time athlete, with a 6’10” wingspan, and with all that he defends very well. That should get him run as a rookie. He has improved as a play maker, but what is his role — he was at his best last season when the Louisville PG was out injured and Mitchell had the ball in his hands. His decision making and shooting need to get far more consistent.

 
Heat small icon 14. Miami Heat: Bam Adebayo, 6’10” center (Kentucky). He’s a little small for an NBA center, but he’s physically strong enough to hold his own in the post. Defensively he’s not much of a rim protector, but if you drag him out into a pick-and-roll he can switch and defend guards well. Very limited offensive game, it’s all dunks that he gets in transition or on offensive rebounds, he’s improved on the glass and is solid there now.

 
Kings small icon 15. Sacramento Kings (via trade with Portland): Justin Jackson, 6’8” small forward (North Carolina). An All-American wing with an all-around game — including drawing some of the toughest defensive assignments for the Tar Heels. He can shoot the three, hits from the midrange, is good on the catch-and-shoot now, and has as impressive a floater as you will see. The concerns at the next level are he needs to get stronger, plus he’s not a great pick-and-roll ball handler.

 
timberwolves small icon 16. Minnesota Timberwolves (via trade with Chicago): Justin Patton, 7’0” center (Creighton). He’s got good tools — he’s a fantastic aathlete for his size and can rim run with the best — but is a project. He put up good offensive numbers but can’t create for himself, so when Creighton lost its point guard his production took a hit. The big questions are about toughness — will he play through contact? Will he be a physical defender? Plenty of potential but plenty of work to do.

 
Bucks small icon 17. Milwaukee Bucks: D.J. Wilson, 6’10” power forward (Michigan). He had flashes last season that make him an intriguing prospect as a stretch-four. He has the size and perimeter skills, was a fantastic finisher around the basket, but was a late bloomer who battled injuries, so it can be hard to read his potential. He’s not physical and with that, not much of a rebounder. He’s going to have to show more toughness to thrive at the next level.

 
Pacers small icon 18. Indiana Pacers:. T.J. Leaf, 6’10” power forward (UCLA). A fluid athlete who excelled in transition (and thrived with Lonzo Ball’s passing), he will thrive with an up-tempo team. He also shot 46.6% from three, but didn’t take many, still he could develop into a stretch four. The questions are will he grow his game to work in a half-court offense, and how he will defend (he’s not quick laterally, nor is he physical)? He’s not a bad rebounder. Could thrive with a running second unit while he develops.

 
Hawks small icon 19. Atlanta Hawks: John Collins, 6’10” power forward (Wake Forest). He is a young sophomore, which is good because it means he can develop — and he needs to. He’s become an extremely efficient offensive weapon — 67% true shooting percentage, highest PER in college — who is fantastic in the post, but can he pass? He pulled down defensive rebounds, but he’s not long and scouts question if he is a defensive playmaker. He didn’t seem to have much feel for the game on that side of the ball (which often led to foul trouble).

 
Kings small icon 20. Sacramento Kings (via trade with Portland): Harry Giles, 6’11’ center (Duke). He was the highest-ranked freshman in his class, then the injuries hit — ACL, MCL and Meniscus tears in his left knee that have required a couple of surgeries, plus another surgery on his right knee. Is he broken now? Or, because of all the missed time did that just set back his skill development, confidence, and understanding of where to be on the court (particularly on defense). Find his old physical self, then restore his confidence, and this could be the steal of the draft. But he may never be the same again.

 
Thunder small icon 21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Terrance Ferguson, 6’7” shooting guard (born in US, played last season in Australia). He’s an athletic wing player who decided to get paid to play overseas rather than play college ball stateside. He was a very good shooter, particularly spot up, in high school, but he struggled a little with that overseas (31.3% from three last year). That said he was handed a big role in a league with men and played well. His ball handling has to improve, and he needs to get stronger, and he needs to be more consistent on defense.

 
Nets small icon 22. Brooklyn Nets: Jarrett Allen, 6’11” center (Texas). With Brook Lopez traded, Allen is going to get some run. If you like tall, wildly athletic but incredibly raw big men, Allen is your guy. He may be the definition of project big. He has all the physical tools to be a Clint Capela kind of player, but does he love basketball enough to put in the work and get there? It’s a little hard to read his college production numbers because he was paired with another non-shooting big on a team without the ability to space the floor. Still, he could rim run in transition, and develop into a good pick-and-roll big.

 
Raptors small icon 23. Toronto Raptors: O.G. Anunoby, 6’8” forward (Indiana). On paper he’s everything NBA teams look for in big wings: Can play the 3 or 4, is an elite level defender (when focused), he can make threes (when given time to set his feet), and he’s super athletic. Maybe he develops into a Trevor Ariza type. The questions start with how he comes off an ACL injury. His jumper needs to be more consistent, he hit threes (36% in college) but shot 52% from the free throw line, which is a concern. The other big question is how hard he plays night in and night out — it wasn’t consistent in college.

 
Nuggets small icon 24. Denver Nuggets (via trade with Utah Jazz): Tyler Lydon, 6’10 forward (Syracuse). He shot 39.2% from three last season, so the logical conclusion is he should be a stretch four in the NBA. He can also run the floor in transition, and post up smaller defenders, but his jumper is his best weapon. The problem is he’s not particularly long nor particularly athletic for an NBA stretch four. There are questions about his defense, particularly coming out of the Syracuse zone. Scouts were really divided on Lydon and if his game translates.

WE HAVE A TRADE: Philadephia jumps back into the first round to get a quality big man who could back up Joel Embiid.

 
Sixers small icon 25. Philadelphia 76ers (via trade with Orlando): Anzejs Pasecniks, 7’2” center (Latvia). Just because he’s a 7’2” center from Latvia, don’t think he’s the next Kristaps Porzingis. That said, he’s good. Pasecniks played well and was very efficient last season in Spain, the second best league in the world. He moves well for a big man which makes him dangerous as the roll man. He’s got work to do on his outside shot, but there is potential there. He’s a bit raw but this could be steal this low if he develops.

 
Blazers small icon 26. Portland Trail Blazers: Caleb Swanigan, 6’9” power forward/center (Purdue). He transformed his body losing more than 100 pounds, and with that transformed himself into an NBA prospect. He’s strong and bullied people in the post on offense, plus he shot 44.7 percent from three. Teams like his work ethic. That said he’s not fast, he turns the ball over far too much, he’s not strong on the defensive end, and all of that leads to questions of where he fits in an NBA game. He’s young and has room to improve.

 
Lakers small icon 27. Los Angeles Lakers (via trade with Brooklyn): Kyle Kuzma, 6’9” power forward (Utah). He has the physical tools of a modern NBA four, with his 7-foot wingspan, versatile offensive game, he can play in transition, and he passes well. He’s not a bad three-point shooter (32 percent last year) but he has to be better to thrive in the NBA. He’s also got to be much better defensively. Kuzma has potential, but it’s going to take work on his part to thrive at the next level.

WE HAVE A TRADE: Utah traded away a late first round pick, now they pick up another one.

 
Jazz small icon 28. Utah Jazz (from LA Lakers via trade): Tony Bradley, 6’10” center (North Carolina). He was stuck behind some older, more experienced big men at North Carolina, limiting him to14.5 minutes per game this season, and he’s seen as a bit of a project. He’s tall, long (7’5” wingspan), plays with a high motor, and has a nice shooting stroke. However, he’s not a fantastic athlete, which worries teams. He could be a candidate for a two-way contract, but either way, he likely will spend time in the G-League developing next season.

 
Spurs small icon 29. San Antonio Spurs:. Derrick White,6’5” guard (Colorado). One of the best stories in the draft: he had no D1 college offers and just one D2, but he grew five inches at D2 school and eventually transferred to Colorado, only to make first team all Pac-12. He’s a combo guard who shot 40% from three and had 4.3 assists per game – he can shoot and create. He’s got a 6’8” wingspan which helps him make plays on defense. He’s a 23-year-old senior who may not develop much more than what we see early, but he could provide solid minutes off the bench as a rookie.

 
Lakers small icon 30. Los Angeles Lakers (via trade with Utah): Josh Hart, 6’5” shooting guard (Villanova). You may remember him from Villanova’s title run, he entered the draft last year but pulled out and returned to college. He improved his shooting, knocking down 40 percent from three last season, although he’s a spot-up guy not someone who pulls up off the dribble. He works well off screens. He’s a high IQ player. The challenge for him is he’s an average athlete by NBA standards, on offense will he be able to create space for his shot? Defensively he tries hard, he’s intense, but can he hang with better athletes night in and night out?

SECOND ROUND

 
Hornets small icon 31. Charlotte Hornets (via Atlanta in Dwight Howard trade): Frank Jackson, 6’4” shooting guard (Duke). Update: Jackson has been traded to the New Orleans Pelicans. Mike Krzyzewski’s team was loaded with quality shooting guards last season, but Jackson’s skills carved out a niche and 10.9 points per game. He’s got good length (6’7” wingspan) and is an explosive athlete (42 inch vertical) that helps him create space. He shot 39.5 percent from three but is more dangerous when he attacks straight line off the dribble because he’s strong and can finish. He’s not a playmaker for others, just himself, and there are questions about his defense going against other good athletes at the NBA level.

 
Suns small icon32. Phoenix Suns: Davon Reed, 6’6″ shooting guard (Miami of Florida). He has the potential to be a quality “3&D” guy in the NBA. Defensively he has a 7-foot wingspan and put in a lot of effort at the defensive end in college, and he’s the kind of fluid athlete NBA teams want. The senior shot 37.9 percent from three last season. The question is will he be athletic enough to do all that at the NBA level. Teams weren’t sure and that’s why he fell this far, plus as a senior there are questions about how much he develops.

 
Magic small icon 33. Orlando Magic: Wesley Iwundu, 6’7” shooting guard/wing (Kansas State). There are some things to like such as good size and length for a wing (7’1” wingspan), he’s got handles and can create shots, maybe even play some point, and he’s versatile defensively and can switch. He’s also a senior, so he’s older and farther along the development curve, he lacks polish on offense. Also, while he shot 37.6 percent from three, he needs consistency on shot. Can he get strong enough to defend NBA wings?

 
Kings small icon 34. Sacramento Kings: Frank Mason, 6’0” point guard (Kansas). The 2017 College Basketball Player of the Year, he averaged 20.3 points per game and shot 47.1 percent from three. He’s explosive attacking the rim, he can score a variety of ways, and he’s a strong floor general. Why is he being taken this late? Because he’s 6-foot in shoes, and there are real questions about how much that limits him on defense. He also needs to be a more consistent decision maker. He could be a steal this late as a second-team playmaking point guard.

 
Magic small icon 35. Orlando Magic: Ivan Rabb, 6’10” power forward/center (California). He’s this year’s cautionary tale: last year he was a potential lottery pick, certainly first rounder, yet he returned to Cal without testing the draft waters, and he fell way down the board because he didn’t show much improvement. He averaged 14 points a game, shot 40 percent from three, and can be a beast on the boards, but it can be hard to read his potential out of the mess that was the Cal offense. Is he a four or a five?

 
Sixers small icon 36. Philadelphia 76ers: Jonah Bolden, 6’10” power forward (Australia). He played a little at UCLA a year ago before heading to the Adriatic league for last season, where he won their equivalent of Rookie of the Year. He’s got the physical tools — size, reported 7’3” wingspan, athletic — and he hit 40 percent from three last season. He’s got a well-rounded offensive game and defensive potential. That said his decision making is often suspect, and that leads to consistency issues on both ends. His confidence seems to get shaken at times, and the NBA will test that.

 
Celtics small icon 37. Boston Celtics: Semi Ojeleye, 6’7” forward (SMU). Great pick this late in the draft, potential steal of the night. He spent one season at Duke as an undersized energy/athlete off the bench, then transfered to SMU where he fit better as a stretch-four, but can he play that at the next level? He’s a very good shooter, hitting 42.5% from three (he can shoot off the catch or off the bounce), plus he’s an impressive athlete (40.5 inch vertical) with a strong work ethic. The questions start with how does he adapt his game to the NBA? He’s not going to be able to be a four, but maybe he thrive as a three.

 
Bulls small icon 38. Chicago Bulls: Jordon Bell, 6’9” power forward (Oregon). UPDATE: Bell has been sold to the Golden State Warriors. Could be great pick this late. The NCAA Tournament can be overrated as a scouting tool, but NBA scouts noticed his defensive performance against Kansas — he was dominant. He did the same thing at the 5-on-5 portion of the NBA Draft Combine. He is very athletic, which should help his transition to the next level. While he has an NBA body, he is offensively very raw and unpolished (there is potential there as a guy who can score around the basket, but a lot of work needs to be done).

 
Clippers small icon 39. LA Clippers (via trade with the Philadephia 76ers). Jawun Evans, 6’1” point guard (Oklahoma State). He basically was the Oklahoma City offense last season. His strength was as a pick-and-roll point guard who passed out of that well and found the open man, he was able to score out of it as well in college but can he finish against NBA length? He shot 37 percent from three, but there are questions about how good a shooter he ultimately is. Works hard on the defensive end, but he’s not big or especially athletic so how does he do against NBA level guards?

 
Hornets small icon 40. Charlotte Hornets (via trade with New Orleans Pelicans): Dwyane Bacon, 6’6″ small forwawrd (Florida State). He has a 6’10” wingspan and passes the NBA wing eye test. He scored impressively in transition last season but has a more rounded offensive game than that and can get a team buckets. He just knows how to score when he attacks. His jumper is inconsistent (33 percent from three last season) and he’s not a focused defender. Is he enough of an athlete for the NBA level.

 
Hawks small icon 41. Atlanta Hawks: Tyler Dorsey, 6’4” shooting guard (Oregon). He probably helped his way into the second round with a fantastic performance in the NCAA Tournament. He’s a very good shooter, hitting 42.4 percent from three. He reinforced his ability to score from deep at the NBA Draft Combine where he shot 56 percent from three. The problem is he’s small for a two guard at the next level, and he doesn’t have the athleticism to cover for it. Maybe he can still get off his shot, but can he defend?

 
Lakers small icon 42. Los Angeles Lakers (via trade with Utah Jazz): Thomas Bryant, 6’10” center (Indiana). He’s a project, but he has the physical tools teams look for in a big man — he measured to have a 7’6 wingspan and a 9’4.5 standing reach at the combine. He runs the floor well, plays with a high motor (which makes him good on the offensive glass), and the potential to be a force around the rim popped up in flashes. But his efficiency dipped his sophomore season, he turns the ball over too much, and there are questions about how his game translates to the next level. Can he score consistently and defend well against NBA size and length?

 
Rockets small icon 43. Houston Rockets:
Isaiah Hartenstein, 7’0” power forward/center (played in Lithuania last season). What to like here starts with the physical profile — he has the build of an NBA center. He’s played professionally in Europe against men, he knows hot to be physical. He’s got a decent shot, although not from more than the midrange. He’s not got a go-to offensive play, and his defense is spotty. There’s potential as he develops, but it will take a little time.

 
Knicks small icon 44. New York Knicks: Damyean Dotson, 6’5″ shooting guard (Houston). He earned his way into the second round with a strong performance at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, then the NBA Draft Combine. He started his college career at Oregon but was released from there due to sexual assault allegations. He can score slashing to the basket and shot 44 percent from three last season — he can be a guy that gets a team buckets. He’s not a guy who can create shots well, and his defense is going to have to improve to stick at the NBA level.

 
Rockets small icon 45. Houston Rockets:
Dillon Brooks, 6’7” forward (Oregon). The Pac 12 Player of the year, he may be a little undersized (6’6” wingspan), and not the most athletic guy on the board, but he’s a fiery competitor and that showed against North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament. Brooks is a player who is good at everything but not really great at any one thing, which makes teams cautious. To be effective at the NBA level he’s got to improve his outside shooting and be more consistent.

 
Bucks small icon 46. Milwaukee Bucks (via trade from Philadelphia): Sterling Brown, 6’6” shooting guard (SMU). He’s the brother of former NBA player Shannon Brown. An under-the-radar guy (no NBA Draft Combine invite), he shot 44 percent from three last season, and with a 6’10 wingspan and solid build he has an NBA body. He’s got a versatile game, the questions are how his offense translates to the next level. He struggled to finish against length, and wasn’t consistent creating his own shot.

 
Pacers small icon 47. Indiana Pacers:. Ike Anigbogu, 6’10 center (UCLA). Great pick up this late in the draft, could be a steal. He’s not the tallest center, but the 7’6” wingspan and his physical strength make up for that. He’s also a quick, explosive leaper, which makes him a strong defender as both a shot-blocker and an active rebounder. On the other end, Anigbogu needs polish and a perimeter game, but he’s got good hands and knows how to finish lobs/dunks (especially in transition, he runs well), plus he can be a beast on the offensive glass. He fills a role in the modern NBA.

 
Clippers small icon 49. LA Clippers (via trade with the Milwaukee Bucks). Sindarius Thornwell, 6’5” shooting guard (South Carolina). He boosted his stock and helped get drafted based on his play in the NCAA Tournament, where he was key for the Game Cocks to get as far as he did. He’s strong, plays a physical game, has three-point shooting range, has a good basketball IQ, and plays hard. That might make him a fan favorite at Summer League, his average athleticism and lack of explosiveness had teams concerned about what he can do at the next level.

 
Nuggets small icon 49. Denver Nuggets: Vlatko Cancar, 6’8″ power forward (Slovenia). He’s a stretch four and role player at the NBA level. He’s got good size and a 6’11” wingspan, but what really matters is he can shoot the rock — 43 percent from three last season. He’s going to have to get stronger, then prove he can defend at the NBA level to stick. He played at a high level in Europe and could stay there to develop more.

 
Sixers small icon 50. Philadelphia 76ers: Mathias Lessort, 6’9” power forward/center (France). He had a strong season in the French League and the FIBA Champions’ league. He plays with high energy, and that helps make up for the fact he’s undersized by NBA standards (so does the 7’1” wingspan). He is an explosive athlete and uses that on defense and the glass well. He has the body of an NBA four but plays like a center and has to be close to the basket, he has very little shooting range.

 
Nuggets small icon 51. Denver Nuggets: Monte’ Morris, 6’3″ point guard (Iowa State). He’s a high IQ player who knows hot to run a team and doesn’t make mistakes — he led the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio three years in a row. He’s an okay shooter, but needs to improve. He’s an average athlete and that leads to defensive question marks. Also, will he be able to finish in the paint againt longer NBA rim protectors? Could become a solid backup point guard.

 
Pacers small icon 52. Indiana Pacers (pick purchased from New Orleans):. Edmond Sumner, 6’5” point guard (Xavier). How healthy is going to get and when can he play? He missed much of his freshman season with knee tendonitis, then tore his ACL during his sophomore campaign and was out the final couple months of the season. When healthy he has the physical tools to hang with any point guard in this draft, and his great first step make him fantastic as a slasher into the paint. However, he has to improve his shooting and his decision making, two things that didn’t get the chance to improve with playing time. A good gamble at this point in the draft.

 
Celtics small icon 53. Boston Celtics: Kadeem Allen, 6’2″ point guard (Arizona). If he sticks in the NBA, it’s because he will be fantastic on the defensive end (and that’s probably why Brad Stevens wanted him). He has a 6’9″ wingspan, and is a physical and irritating defender. He shot 42.7 percent from three last season. He’d be a 3&D point guard (think of the Patrick Beverley role), but that’s a hard one to carve out in the NBA. Especially on a Boston team deep at the guard spot.

 
Suns small icon54. Phoenix Suns: Alec Peters, 6’9” power forward (Valparaiso). He is coming off a stress fracture that ended his season early, the Suns are betting it was something that will not be chronic. He shot 36.9 percent from three, the hope is that he could be kind of a stretch four and a pick-and-pop threat. He plays a smart game. He’s not particularly long or athletic, can he defend at the NBA level? Is his ceiling Doug McDermott?

 
Jazz small icon 55. Utah Jazz: Nigel Williams-Goss, 6’4” point guard (Gonzaga). He is a high-IQ player who orchestrated the Gonzaga attack all the way to the NCAA title game, and he’s a natural leader who has a crafty game. He’s got the intangibles teams look for in a point guard. The challenge is he’s not terribly athletic for the position. He also needs to improve his shooting at the next level. That said, you can see why coaches will like him and may want to find a roster spot for him.

 
Celtics small icon 56. Boston Celtics: Jabari Bird, 6’6″ shooting guard (California). Very highly recruited out of high school, he never quite panned out as expected in Berkley. He’s not afraid to make a play or shoot the ball, and he hit 37 percent from three. He’s good on the catch-and-shoot. However, he’s an average athlete by NBA stanards, so their are defensive concerns, plus he needs to improve his decsion making considerably to stick at the next level.

 
Nets small icon 57. Brooklyn Nets: Aleksandar Vezenkov, 6’9″ forward (Cyprus). This is a draft and stash pick, we’ll see if he ever comes across the ocean to play here. He played for FC Barcelona last season, before that he played in the Greek League. He’s got that experience, and he has great offensive instincts and the ability to just get buckets. He shot 35 percent from three last season. He’s scored well in Europe. The reason he’s this far down the board is a lack of athleticism that makes scouts wonder if he can hang with the NBA game.

 
Knicks small icon 58. New York Knicks: Ogjen Jaramaz, 6’3″ point guard (Serbia). Another draft and stash guy, he was a former teammate of Nikola Jokic and Ivica Zubac in Europe. He impressed at Adidas Eurocamp and that got him here. He’s a good, explosive athlete who thrives pushing the ball in transition. In the half court he can use his athleticism to get to the rim. If he gets stronger and improves to develop a steady jumper he could get a shot in the NBA in a few years.

 
Spurs small icon 59. San Antonio Spurs:. Jarron Blossomgame, 6’7″ forward (Clemson). He has NBA size, including a 6-10 winspan, plus he’s a high-level athlete. He can defend at an NBA level. The knocks are that he will turn 24 by the start of the next NBA season, so there’s limited development we can expect. Also, he shot 44% from three as a junior but just 25% as a senior. He’s not hot a great offensive game and there are questions about how he scores at the next level.

 
Hawks small icon 60. Atlanta Hawks: Alpha Kaba, 6’10” center (France). A draft and stash, he has all the physical tools of an NBA center, starting with that 7’5″ wingpan, and a strong build. He finishes well around the rim, but he’s not an explosive athlete. He can hit the three, but his slow release may not transfer as well to the NBA. He’s also got work to do on the defensive end. He’s a project, but with these physical tools not a bad roll of the dice at 60.

NBA Mock Draft 7.0: The final mock before the draft starts

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We’re now less than 48 hours removed from the start of the NBA draft, so here is the latest NBC Sports projections for who will be the best fit for the teams drafting them.

1. New Orleans — Zion Williamson, Duke

2. Memphis — Ja Morant, Murray State

3. New York — R.J. Barrett, Duke

I’m not really breaking new ground with any of these picks. Frankly, I would be shocked if this went any other way on Thursday night. We all know that Zion is the top prospect in this draft. We also all know that Morant and Barrett are, depending on who you ask, the second and third best prospects in this draft. They are closer than the consensus would have you believe, but Memphis looking to replace Mike Conley longterm with the impact that an all-NBA point guard can have on an organization makes Morant the obvious fit.

Either way, here is a full scouting report for each of those three players:

4. New Orleans — Darius Garland, Vanderbilt

This is the flash point for the 2019 NBA Draft, and it is the case for a number of reasons, the most obvious of which is the presence of Garland.

There are some teams out there that believe Garland is the player with the highest ceiling that is not among the top three picks. He’s a terrific shooter that can play on or off the ball, knows how to operate a ball-screen and has the ability to create shots for himself in isolation. It’s not a perfect comparison — comparisons never are and ignore anyone that tells you otherwise — but if Garland maxes out his ability, he’ll could end up being C.J. McCollum-esque. Garland also plays the point, and there are a number of teams that are looking to add a point guard in this draft, and with the point guard crop falling off after Coby White, there is an incentive for those teams to try and move up, especially if they are one of the teams that believes Garland will be the best of the rest.

And New Orleans has an incentive to move the pick, too. Not only do they already have Lonzo Ball and Jrue Holiday on the roster, but if they can drop down a few spots in the draft while adding picks — either later in this draft or in future drafts — it makes more sense. They’ll be able to draft in a position of need without really seeing the quality of the prospect they end up with being affected; the difference between whoever gets picked fourth and the players at the back end of the lottery is not all that great.

So I’m leaving Garland slotted as the No. 4 pick for now.

I just don’t know who is actually going to be drafting him.

5. Cleveland — Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech

There are a couple of reasons why I think it makes the most sense for the Cavs to pick Culver. For starters, I think that he fits nicely alongside Collin Sexton, as I believe his future is as a secondary playmaker. Sexton is more of a scorer at heart, and adding the shot-creation and pick-and-roll ability of Culver would give John Beilein more options to initiate offense.

I also think that Culver fits in nicely with the kind of player that Beilein has had the most success with in recent years. Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, even a guy like Jordan Poole. They’re wings that were capable of creating in isolation while also thriving in ball-screens, which is where Culver does his best work. If Garland ends up going fourth, the smart play for the Cavs to make is to pick Culver.

(Here is the full scouting report on Culver.)

6. Phoenix — COBY WHITE, North Carolina

What Phoenix needs is obvious: A primary ball-handler that can be used alongside Devin Booker. The ideal pick, then, is probably Garland, but White wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize. He’s lightening quick in transition, he has three-point range and he is deadly off of the dribble. His shooting ability would also allow him to play off the ball, which fits with Booker, who has developed into more of a lead guard than many expected him to be. The concern here is that White is not known for his playmaking ability and can, at times, be ball-dominant. That is not ideal, and it would make some sense for the Suns to trade down if they can find someone willing to part with a veteran guard that fills their needs.

7. Chicago — De'Andre Hunter, Virginia

Chicago, like Phoenix, needs a point guard, as neither Zach LaVine nor Kris Dunn appear to be the longterm answer at the position. With Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. already on the roster, they certainly don’t need to target big men in this draft. So Chicago will have some choices to make. They can trade up to get a guard they want to target. They can trade down to add assets if they believe they can land a free agent to bolster their backcourt. Or they can take the best available player, which, in this case, would be Hunter.

He’s the best two-way wing available, he will be able to contribute immediately and there’s a chance that his ceiling as a scorer is higher than some believe. I think that he’ll likely end up being somewhere between DeMarre Carroll and Trevor Ariza, with a real chance of developing into an all-star down the line.

(Here is the full scouting report on Hunter.)

8. Atlanta — Cam Reddish, Duke

This is yet another pick that could every well end up being involved in a trade, as the Hawks have three picks between 8-17 and six picks in the top 44. Packaging two of their first rounders to jump up into the top five to snag Culver or Hunter seems like a very real possibility. Whatever ends up happening, eight seems like the floor for Reddish, who has a world of potential but spent his one-and-done season at Duke finding myriad ways to make people question it.

(Here is the full scouting report on Reddish.)

9. Washington — Sekou Doumbouya, France

Who knows.

The Wizards still are in front office limbo, as interim GM Tommy Sheppard will be running the draft this year. They have a thin roster loaded with aging veterans, a star in Bradley Beal that could end up being shipped out and an ailing John Wall, who is recovering from a torn Achilles. The position of need for them is on the wing, and Doumbouya is probably the guy with the highest ceiling in that spot, but there are plenty of options for them in this range — Nassir Little, Rui Hachimura, P.J. Washington, etc.

10. Atlanta — Jaxson Hayes, Texas

Hayes is a project. He’s big, he’s athletic, he has great hands, he’s mobile and he’s in theory a guy that will be a terrific rim-running, lob-catching, rim-protecting five to pair with Trae Young. He fits alongside John Collins, too. But he’s raw, he’s super-young in basketball years (he didn’t even start in high school until his senior season) and he has yet to prove himself a quality rebounder. This also could end up being a pick that is traded by the Hawks, but for now, let’s send Hayes to the A.

11. Minnesota — Brandon Clarke, Gonzaga

I understand why there will be some hesitancy when it comes to drafting Clarke. His jumper is not something that can be trusted. He’s 6-foot-8 and 220 pounds and more or less limited to playing the five in the NBA. He’s not a great passer. His efficiency, elite athleticism, shot-blocking feel and basketball savvy should make him a useful player in the NBA, but he needs the right fit.

Minnesota is that fit. He can be slotted alongside Karl Anthony-Towns, who will have the size to allow Clarke to guard opposing four and has the perimeter ability to keep the paint from getting too crowded. Clarke will also provide the Wolves with defensive cover, as KAT is not exactly known for his desire to play on that end of the floor. He can step into the league right away and contribute, and for a team that really isn’t that far away from being in the playoffs, there’s value there.

12. Charlotte — RUI HACHIMURA, Gonzaga

Charlotte needs to fill a hole at the four, and there are plenty of options in this range. Clarke and Doumbouya could both drop while Nassir Little and P.J. Washington are still on our board. But Rui makes sense to me here. He fits the Charlotte profile of drafting players that have had a ton of success at the collegiate level — he was an All-American this past year — while also having A) elite physical tools and B) plenty of room to grow. Remember, he grew up in Japan playing against totally outmatched competition. His first year at Gonzaga was spent trying to learn to speak English. He needs to continue to develop his shooting, and learn how to play defense, but he has the stroke and the athleticism to, in theory, do both.

13. Miami — P.J. WASHINGTON, Kentucky

Washington makes sense in Miami. He can compliment Bam Adebayo in the frontcourt, and he has the length and defensive ability to guard multiple positions. He’s continued to develop as a shooter and he is more athletic than he looks at first glance. His ceiling is limited, but I do think that he is the kind of player that will be a solid rotation piece for a decade in the NBA. Sam Vecenie of The Athletic called him the next Patrick Patterson, and I’m going to steal that comparison because I love it. Getting P-Patt at 13 is solid value in this draft.

14. Boston — NASSIR LITTLE, North Carolina

With the news that Al Horford is going to opt out of his contract, the Celtics will be in the market for bigs that can defend and space the floor. There are a number of them in this range — Mfiondu Kabengele, Goga Bitazde, Bol Bol, even someone like a Nic Claxton. But the Celtics also have picks at No. 20 and No. 22, and it’s likely that at least one of those four will still be on the board then. So I’m going with Little here, who is the kind of hard-nosed wing that Brad Stevens seems to love. He was a top three prospect in the class before an up-and-down season with North Carolina, but some of that was due to simply being a weird fit with Roy Williams’ system. He’s worth the risk.

15. Detroit — Tyler Herro, Kentucky

The Pistons have Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson. They need a wing, and there are plenty to choose from in this range — Romeo Langford, Keldon Johnson, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Kevin Porter Jr. For my money, Herro is the best of the group. He’s a big-time shooter with a developing off-the-dribble game, he’s wired to be a shot-maker and he’s tougher defensively than he gets credit for. I also think he has a higher ceiling than the rest of that group, save Porter.

16. Orlando — NICKEIL ALEXANDER-WALKER, Virginia Tech

The Magic need shooting, they need backcourt help and they need someone that can help take some of the playmaking load off of Markelle Fultz, as the former No. 1 pick looks to restart his career in Orlando. Alexander-Walker makes perfect sense, as he has the size and length to defend multiple positions, thrived in ball-screens under Buzz Williams this past season and has proven to me as adept as a spot-up shooter as he is as a creator.

17. Atlanta — MFIONDU KABENGELE, Florida State

If Atlanta ends up making a trade in this trade, there’s a real chance that the No. 17 pick is the one they move. At that point, all bets are off, so I’ll slot Kabengele in here, because I think that he is underrated in terms of his longterm potential, he is developed enough that he can play a role immediately and he fits with the teams that the Hawks would likely be trading with to move up in the draft — New Orleans and Cleveland.

If Atlanta ends up shipping off the No. 10 pick and Minnesota picks someone other than Clarke at No. 11, then I can see the Hawks ending up with Clarke here. He’d fit well alongside John Collins, he’d boost their defense and he would be a terrific lob target for Trae Young.

18. Indiana — ROMEO LANGFORD, Indiana

An Indiana schoolboy legend turned Hoosier that goes to play for the Pacers is just too good of a story, isn’t it? There are some very real reasons to be concerned about Langford’s upside — namely the poor perimeter shooting and the fact that he is right-hand dominant — but he spent the season playing through a thumb injury that required surgery. He’s a risk, but at No. 18, it’s a low-cost risk that could return value, both on the court and in ticket sales, if he maximizes his upside.

19. San Antonio — GOGA BITADZE, Georgia

The Spurs have some solid pieces on their perimeter, but with an again LaMarcus Aldridge anchoring their frontline, it’s time for a rebuild there. Enter Bitadze, who was impressively productive in the Euroleague and whose combination of shot-blocking and floor-spacing is intriguing.

20. Boston — BOL BOL, Oregon

I have my doubts about Bol’s future as a pro, but it’s not because I don’t see the potential there. He has a ton of red flags, as detailed in this scouting report, but he is also a 7-foot-2 center that is a lights-out three-point shooter and an elite rim-protector when he is engaged. This is also the kind of organization that will A) take a risk on a guy with red flags and B) has proven to be a place where players can develop. He needs their culture more than any other prospect in this draft.

21. Oklahoma City — Cam Johnson, North Carolina

Oklahoma City badly needs to add shooting, and Johnson may just be the best shooter in this draft. He’s a finished product, as he is already 23 years old, but he stands 6-foot-9 and can will immediately contribute to a team that needs all the floor-spacing they can get. This is also a pick that has been rumored to be on the market.

22. Boston — KEVIN PORTER JR., USC

Like Bol Bol, Porter is an extremely high-upside player that has myriad red flags. He missed six weeks with a mysterious thigh injury. He was suspended on a road trip due to what sources close to the program said was a long list of relatively small problems that kept building up. He’s immature, but that doesn’t mean that he is a bad person. With the right infrastructure and influence around him, he could thrive, and if that happens, his ceiling is as the best scorer in this draft. He is that talented.

I don’t expect Boston to end up with both Bol Bol and Porter, partly due to the fact that I can see the Celtics being active on the trade market, but both players would make perfect sense on that roster.

23. Memphis — KELDON JOHNSON, Kentucky

Johnson doesn’t have one elite skill, but there are plenty of things that he does well: He’s a willing defender if not an elite athlete. He’s a good-not-great shooter. He’s a capable straight-line driver. He’s tough. He’s versatile. He may not be the kind of a player with a super-high ceiling, but he has a floor because of how well-rounded he is. He’s good value this late in the draft.

24. Philadelphia — Ty Jerome, Virginia

I love Jerome’s toughness, shot-making ability and savvy in running ball-screens. He’s not a great athlete, but he makes up for it because of how smart he is, and it’s hard to imagine a guy that spent three years playing under Tony Bennett being a liability defensively. More importantly, he’s excellent at running off of screens and knocking down jumpers. He can be everything that Landry Shamet was for the 76ers before getting traded.

25. Portland — K.Z. Okpala, Stanford

Okpala plays a position of need for the Blazers, and while he struggled late in the season, he’s has the size, length and fluidity to project as an effective big wing down the road. Drafting him here means that you trust in his jumper, which fell off of a cliff in the last six weeks of the college hoops season.

26. Cleveland — NIC CLAXTON, Georgia

Claxton has quite a bit of upside, as he’s something of a late-bloomer that has been the biggest riser throughout the draft process. Outside of SEC nerds, I’m not sure how many people actually knew about this guy before February. He’s going to need to add some weight and continue to develop his perimeter ability, but his athleticism and versatility makes him easily projectable as a forward down the road, not just a center. Drafting Claxton is like chasing the next Pascal Siakam, and if he pans out, he could end up being the best value pick in this draft.

27. Brooklyn — Grant Williams, Tennessee

I love Grant Williams. He’s only 6-foot-6, but he has the strength and the length to guard up. He’s a very good rebounder and a super-smart passer that allowed Tennessee to run their offense through him. He’s also effective in the post and the kind of guy that is going to step up and make big plays in big moments. But I think the most important thing to note here is that his role needs context: He was not really allowed or encouraged to shoot at Tennessee, and I do believe he is going to be better in that area at the next level. I think you’re getting a 10-year pro with the potential to be a starter in the mid-to-late first round, and that is great value in my mind.

He’s precisely the kind of player that would be ideal to get into this Brooklyn organization.

28. Golden State — Dylan Windler, Belmont

I think Windler is super-interesting as a role player in the modern NBA. He can really, really shoot it, and while that’s more or less where his bread is going to be buttered, I do believe that he is better at doing the little things that he gets credit for. He can rebound, he can jump passing lanes, he makes the right reads. He was a superstar for Belmont in the OVC, but at his heart he’s built to be a complimentary. I can see him latching on for a number of years as a role player coming off the bench for a playoff team, and the Warriors have had a lot of success finding college guys that can fill a specific role for them in the late-first and second round.

29. San Antonio — LUKE SAMANIC, Serbia

For all the reasons that Bitadze makes sense in San Antonio, Samanic does as well.

30. Milwaukee — Eric Paschall, Villanova

Like many Villanova products before him, Paschall seems like he’ll fit seamlessly onto the roster of a playoff and contribute. He’s spent the last four years in a system that preaches positionless offense and switchability on defense, and with his size, athleticism and ability to knock down shots from the perimeter, he’s exactly what NBA teams are currently looking for. He’s almost 23 years old, so he’s more or less a finished product, but he’s good enough right now to play in an NBA rotation.

As expected, Khris Middleton to decline his $13 million option with Bucks

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Khris Middleton doesn’t want to leave Milwaukee, but the man does want to get paid.

Which has led to the expected: The All-Star forward is opting out of the $13 million his is owed next season and will negotiate a new contract with the Bucks, something first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Milwaukee Bucks All-Star forward Khris Middleton is declining his $13 million player option and will become an unrestricted free agent, his agent told ESPN on Wednesday…

Middleton and the Bucks are planning to work together toward a new long-term deal, league sources said. Middleton is expected to command a max contract with Milwaukee or elsewhere. He is eligible to sign a five-year, $190 million deal to stay with the Bucks, or a four-year, $141 million contract with another team.

Middleton is the Bucks’ top priority in a free-agent class that includes Malcolm Brogdon, Brook Lopez and Nikola Mirotic.

The Bucks want to keep the band together, they like the group they have around Giannis Antetokounmpo. Middleton was the second best player on a team that won 60 games and made it to the conference finals before falling to the eventual champion Raptors. This team is a contender and, while it will take them into the luxury tax, ownership wants to bring most of the roster back (Mirotic may be the odd man out).

Middleton averaged 18.3 points and 6 rebounds a game, shot 37.8 percent from three, and had a true shooting percentage of 55.8. He also plays good defense. He’s the ultimate glue guy who can do everything well, which is why a lot of teams will make calls and try to lure him out of Milwaukee this summer.

The Bucks are expected to offer the fifth year (Middleton will be 28 at the start of next season, so not a huge risk) and the max or very close to it. Middleton is expected to take it. But the Bucks need to move Tony Snell or Ersan Ilyasova to make all the pieces fit, something they are trying to do.

Milwaukee is close to a title, it will be interesting to see what moves GM Jon Horst makes this summer to try and put them over the top. Keeping Middleton is a no-brainer at the heart of that plan. The Bucks will pay up.

Utah get its point guard: Grizzlies reportedly trade Mike Conley Jr. to Jazz

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This deal had been rumored for a while, it’s something the Jazz really wanted to happen to put another high-level shot creator and shooter next to Donovan Mitchell. They got their man.

Mike Conley Jr. is going to be a member of the Utah Jazz.

Memphis reportedly is trading Conley to Utah for a package that includes Grayson Allen, Kyle Korver, Jae Crowder, the 23rd pick in Thursday’s Draft and a future first-round pick. Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the story, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN fleshed out the details.

Conley averaged 21.1 points and 6.4 assists per game last season, shot 36.4 percent from three and plays strong defense. Conley is maybe the most underrated player in the NBA, a borderline All-Star level point guard (he should have made it one year) and for Utah a healthy upgrade over Ricky Rubio at the point.

With the gate to winning the West having swung open, the Jazz believe they are ready to walk through it — a 50-win team two seasons in a row, an elite defense, an All-NBA center in Rudy Gobert, and an elite shot creator in Donovan Michell. Yet for two playoffs in a row, when Utah got bounced by Houston (4-1 in the first round this year), it was painfully clear what has kept the team from being truly elite: Another shot creator and shooter. Utah can run all the flex cuts, X cuts, Iverson cuts and everything else in its beautiful offense, but come the playoffs there is a point where a team just needs players who can just go get a bucket. Mitchell could do that, but the best teams can blanket one guy and take him away. The Jazz now have two, and a guy that fits the system.

It is expensive, however. Conley makes $32.5 million this season and has a player option he’s expected to pick up for next season at $34.5 million. This takes the Jazz out of the running in free agency. However, the Jazz have never faired all that well in free agency and this was a sure thing. Conley is expensive, but with only two years left on his contract a lot of teams (Indiana is at the front of that list) wanted to land him. Utah did.

The Grizzlies get building blocks for their rebuild with the picks and Grayson Allen. This is a team being built around Jaren Jackson Jr. and to-be-drafted Thursday Ja Morant, these other players will need to fit with them. The grit n’ grind era has been over for a while, this is just the final nail in the coffin. The Grizzlies face different challenges now.

Don’t be surprised to see Kover and Crowder are cut loose or traded to playoff teams looking for more help.

Report: Rockets want to target Jimmy Butler. Reality: Getting that cap space will be hard

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Rockets GM Daryl Morey is always thinking big. He deserves credit for that.

For the last couple of years, the Rockets have been the second best team in the West, and with the injuries (and maybe free agency) hitting the Warriors it should be Houston at the front of the line. However, Morey doesn’t want to stand pat, he wants to add another star to the roster that can put them over the top.

Such as Jimmy Butler, reports Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle.

Butler would be a good fit, although he would be another big ego in that locker room. Have fun with managing all that with a lame duck coach in Mike D’Antoni (he has yet to sign an extension to stay).

Reality, however, is going to make landing Butler tough to pull off.

The first challenge is Butler himself. Sources have told me the Sixers plan on keeping him and offering him a five-year max contract for $191 million. He’s expected to sign it. Butler will turn 30 before next season, plays a hard-charging style, and has started to rack up an injury history because of it. That guaranteed fifth season may matter a lot to him.

Next, even if Butler were willing to leave Philly and go to Houston (over, say, the Lakers, who have an interest and are trying to clear out cap space), there is still the issue of the salary cap. The Rockets are way over it. Chris Paul will make $38.5 million next season, James Harden $37.8 million, Clint Capela $16.4 and Eric Gordon $14.1. That’s $106.8 million in four players. The NBA salary cap is projected to be $109 million. Throw in P.J. Tucker and the 10 other players the need to have on the roster, cap holds and the like, and you can see the lack of cap space to sign a free agent.

Morey is reportedly willing to trade anyone on the roster not named Harden — although he and others in the organization have pushed back on the idea CP3 asked for a trade — but to do that to clear cap space means making the trade and not taking back salary that bleeds into the new season. Salaries have to be matched in a trade with teams over the cap, so the Rockets would need to convince a team with cap space to trade for Capela or Gordon and just send draft picks and non-guaranteed players back. That’s a really small market. If you’re thinking sign-and-trade, the new CBA took away the incentive of extra money for players that do it, so it just comes down to teams and the Sixers are not going to help him leave.

Expect the Rockets to make moves to shake up the roster this summer. Butler may be the ultimate dream, but getting there makes it nearly impossible to pull off.