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.

Raptors, Pascal Siakam reportedly agree to four-year, $129.9 million max contract extension

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Pascal Siakam is going to be the face of the Toronto Raptors going forward.

This was expected. Toronto was never going to let its young star slip away; the only questions were when it a contract extension got done and the price.

The answers came Saturday, with the Raptors and Siakam’s agents reaching terms on what will be a four-year, $129.9 million max extension for the reigning Most Improved Player. Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe of ESPN broke the news.

There are no player or team options, this is a straight four years.

Last season, his third in the league, Siakam made a huge leap. He averaged 16.9 points and 6.9 rebounds a game, shot 36.9 percent from three, took on a larger role as a shot creator, played impressive wing defense, and was a key part of the Raptors winning the first title in franchise history. He is at the heart of their future and a guy the Raptors wanted to keep through whatever rebuilding/retooling process comes in the next few years.

The Raptors could have played it out, and let Siakam go to restricted free agency next summer. However, in what will be a down free agent market, some team would have tried to poach the young wing — a real position of need around the league — with a max offer. The Raptors would have matched, but all that drama might have created bad blood. Maybe the Raptors overpaid a little, but they get to keep their guy and have him happy.

Siakam is the third player to get a max extension to their rookie contract this summer. Both Ben Simmons (Philadelphia) and Jamal Murray (Denver) signed five-year, $170 million max extensions. Siakam decided to take one year fewer, but also hits free agency again a little earlier.

Chinese state media says Adam Silver will face retribution for ‘defaming’ China

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Adam Silver has worked to portray the NBA as a progressive league that favored free speech. However, when push came to shove in a conflict with China over a Tweet from Rockets GM Daryl Morey supporting protesters in Hong Kong, Silver’s first statement seemed to protect the status quo and the cash the world’s largest nation generates for the NBA.

That backfired, and Silver came out with a stronger second statement that backed Morey’s right to free speech. Since then, the league has worked to emphasize that position.

In an interview at a TIME Magazine event this week, Silver added to that sentiment saying China asked for Morey to be fired and the league said no. “We made clear that we were being asked to fire him, by the Chinese government, by the parties we dealt with, government and business. We said there’s no chance that’s happening. There’s no chance we’ll even discipline him.”

The Chinese government denied this, and now Chinese State media is saying there will be retribution for Silver. From the South China Morning Post:

Chinese state media has warned that NBA commissioner Adam Silver will face “retribution” for defaming China in the latest twist to a dispute that began with a basketball team executive tweeting his support for the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong…

“Silver has spared no effort to portray himself as a fighter for free speech and used freedom of speech as an excuse to cover for Morey, who voiced his support for the violent actors in Hong Kong,” it said. “This has crossed the bottom line of the Chinese people.”

Silver’s handling of the controversy had proved his “double standards”, the broadcaster said, adding that he had “defamed” China on the international stage.

“To please some American politicians, Silver has fabricated lies out of nothing and has sought to paint China as unforgiving,” it said.

Silver didn’t fabricate this. We’re all smart enough to know how this went down: Chinese officials would never outright say “you need to fire Morey” but they could strongly imply it with words and actions. Silver’s phrasing on this — that it was “made clear that we were being asked to fire him” — suggests precisely this scenario. It’s how people with power ask for something unethical or illegal, whether we’re talking mob bosses or politicians, the ask is strongly implied but not direct, allowing denial later.

China wanted its pound of flesh, maybe to fire Morey but at least a public rebuke and fine/suspension. They got none of it. Now they can use Silver’s comment — clearly aimed at the domestic market to bolster the NBA’s image in the US — to cause a little more pain. China has shown it can hit the NBA’s bottom line, it flexed its muscle, but how far does either side really want it to progress?

As we have been saying all along, this issue is not going away anytime soon. It may fade from the spotlight, but the NBA/China relationship is a story that will be a cloud over this entire season.

 

Does the East have a better chance of winning the Finals with crowded, deep West?

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The Golden State Warriors will be hampered without Klay Thompson to start the season. The sharpshooting guard is a crucial part of what the Warriors bring to the table sans Kevin Durant, who is now with the Brooklyn Nets. Even with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George with the Los Angeles Clippers, many have considered the Western Conference to be more open for the taking this season. It’s been thought that this makes it more likely the Eastern Conference can field a second consecutive NBA champion.

Leonard’s decampment from the Toronto Raptors has made way for the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, and Milwaukee Bucks to ascend into the Finals to take on the Western Conference’s best. All of these teams have tried to add pieces with this idea of a wide-open NBA table in mind: The Sixers now have Al Horford, the Celtics Kemba Walker, and Milwaukee a cavalcade of veteran talent including Kyle Korver.

And indeed, the more proven championship-caliber teams are out east. Philadelphia, for all its growing pains and issues arising around Joel Embiid‘s conditioning, added the one player in Horford who was able to put a stop to them. Well, save for Leonard, who put in a bouncing jumper to end the Sixers’ season last year.

That again, Philadelphia is missing two key pieces from last year that we don’t know how they will make up for. JJ Redick is now with the New Orleans Pelicans, and his shooting presence will be missed. Redick made 240 threes last year for the Sixers. Landry Shamet was second on the team with 99. Jimmy Butler is now with the Miami Heat, and his dynamism on the wing will be difficult to replace.

The Celtics and the Bucks have similar issues when looking at their championship resumes. Boston has a glut of wings, although it’s not clear how good any of them are outside of Marcus Smart. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are dueling for future contract extensions. Gordon Hayward didn’t look great last season, and although there is hope he will be his old self this year, we’ll have to wait and actually see it to feel comfortable. That’s before mentioning that Horford is no longer anchoring the paint for the Celtics.

Milwaukee found a hard stop last year when it came to its playoff readiness. The Bucks were not particularly steady in the postseason, and teams were able to plan around Giannis Antetokounmpo and his lack of 3-point shooting. Last season’s MVP has said that his goal is to get better from beyond the arc, and any improvement in 2019-20 would be acceptable. Even despite the team adding Kyle Korver, they will be relying on Wesley Matthews, George Hill, and Pat Connaughton to flesh out the wing. Gone is Malcolm Brogdon to the Indiana Pacers, perhaps their most reliable player in the playoffs.

Put together, all three championship contenders in the Eastern Conference have their issues. But so to do the newly-minted challengers out west. There’s a thought that both of the Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers — who now have Anthony Davis — will show some weakness to start the year. The Clippers will need to use load management on both Leonard and George, the latter of which is still recovering from double shoulder surgery. And although the Clippers were one of the best teams in terms of depth last season, how adding two new stars changes that dynamic is not yet known.

On the other side of the hallway in Los Angeles stands the Lakers, who outside of Davis, LeBron, and Danny Green don’t have much to show for all the bluster around their title hopes. The Lakers roster is flat-out bad, and despite tons of optimism around media types, I’m just not buying that they are a championship-level squad yet. The Lakers have real injury concerns, and until they make it all the way through to the Western Conference Finals, those will always be top-of-mind.

The second-tier in the west is plucky, but not necessarily ready for overt dominance. The Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets, and Portland Trail Blazers, and San Antonio Spurs will all be in the running for the middle of the pack next year. Do any have championship rosters? Some of these teams are top-heavy, including Houston with James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Others, like the Nuggets and Jazz, will rely on their depth. Harden and Nikola Jokic could be legitimate MVP candidates, and that’s a problem in a league where it’s difficult to make it to the Finals without one.

That puts us in a difficult position in terms of “counting out” the Warriors. Thompson has said that he is going to take his time coming back from his ACL injury, but he should be a part of a Warriors playoff run in the spring of 2020. Without Durant, both Stephen Curry and Draymond Green will be extra motivated to prove themselves as the core pieces to the team that dominated the NBA long before Durant came to the Bay Area.

Health will be another concern for Golden State, particularly with Curry and his ankles. Weight, if you can call it a health concern in context of the NBA, is what most will be raising questions about when it comes to Green. He entered the season last year a bit slower, and burned off 20 pounds at the All-Star break to make a playoff run. They will need the former Defensive Player of the Year to come into the preseason already able to do what he did last year: Disrupt opposing offenses and pressure the defense with his pace-pushing offensive style.

For now, at the precipice of the season, it seems clear that the Eastern Conference is the odds-on favorite to repeat as champions. At least, as a group. This isn’t a Tiger vs. the field situation for the Clippers. They just aren’t that strong, and in this case the safer bet would be on one of the Eastern Conference powerhouses instead of just L.A. It’s possible that the Clippers are will be as dominant as projected. In that case, it would be a bitter irony for the East to be subjected to yet another super team on the West Coast just as one appears to have a chink in its armor.

New teams coming together — particularly super teams — have not always had the best track record. Will the Clippers be LeBron James with the Miami Heat in 2008? Or will they be Durant with the Warriors in 2017? Consistency and familiarity cannot be ruled out as a function of success in the NBA. It would be smart for teams in the East to continue to build on their core as long as the teams out west are starting to form theirs. They may only have a short window with which to strike before the Warriors, Clippers, or some other team takes control of the league.

Kyrie Irving: ‘There’s enough oppression and stuff going on in America’

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Kyrie Irving finally got some preseason run on Friday night. A fracture in his face had limited his time on the court, including playing just one minute in China against the Lakers, but back home in Brooklyn he put on a mask and dropped 19 points in almost 25 minutes of action.

However, the issues from China followed the Nets back to Brooklyn.

Hundreds of supporters of the Hong Kong protesters attended the Nets game, wearing “Stand with Hong Kong” T-shirts and masks.

After the game, Irving was asked about the protesters and the now scarred NBA/China relationship. He mentioned the meeting with Adam Silver and said he understood the protestors but his focus was more domestic, via Nets Daily.

“Listen, I stand for four things: inner peace, freedom, equality and world peace, man. So if that’s being conflicted inside of me, I’m definitely going to have something to say, and I left it in that room,” Irving said of his conversation with Silver [adding the teams agreed after that meeting to play the games]…

“When you think about communities across the world, a lot of people would stand for world peace,” Irving said. “Government gets involved, it impacts different communities in different ways. And the reality is as individuals it’s our job to stand up for what we believe in. Now, I understand Hong Kong and China are dealing with their issues, respectively. But there’s enough oppression and stuff going on in America for me not to be involved in the community issues here as well.

“That’s one of those four pillars that goes in terms of the black community, colored people here in America. We’re fighting for everyday freedoms. So when I think about Hong Kong and China, the people are in an uproar; and for us as Americans to comment on it, African Americans or American Indians to comment on that, you’re connected nonetheless, especially when it impacts freedoms or world peace.

“So for me as an individual I stand up for those four pillars; and when they’re being conflicted I can understand why protestors come to the games.”

That is much better handled than LeBron Jamessomewhat rambling statement that mentioned financial repercussions. Irving supported the rights of the protesters at the game, but he avoided touching the third-rail issue in China (or, at least with Chinese officials) of the protests in Hong Kong themselves. Remember, Irving does have shoes to sell.

We’ll see if there’s any fallout on the issue, but Irving is not as big a brand and target as LeBron.

Some of those lined up to bash the NBA on this issue will use what Irving said to continue doing so (and many would have no matter what Irving said). There are people who didn’t like what LeBron and Irving and Kevin Durant and others had to say when they spoke out on issues such as Black Lives Matter and now they see an opening to make lazy political points. It’s the way of the world.

However, as much as the league wishes it would the NBA/China issue is not going away. It may go dormant for a while — the NBA certainly wants it to as they try to promote the start of the season this week — but it will flare up again, one way or another. Hopefully, the league’s response next time comes with a better understanding of its priorities and what it stands for.