NBA Draft Winners, Losers: It was a good night in Philadelphia, Minnesota

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Let’s be honest, judging the winners and losers hours after the draft is throwing darts at a board. There are picks and moves we think are smart that turn out to fall flat, and there are picks that are smart we don’t see coming. This year, a lot of people around the league thought that someone in this draft between picks five and 12 would turn out to be a stud — they all have potential and flaws, but who will work and be able to fill in the holes in their game? It’s too early to know.

That doesn’t stop us from making our projections.

Here ar our 2017 NBA Draft winners and losers.

WINNERS:

The Minnesota Timberwolves. When news of them pushing for a Jimmy Butler trade came up, I thought it foolish to give up a lot of quality pieces for a guy not on the timeline with Karl-Anthony Towns. However, this deal was a good one. Minnesota got Butler and the No. 16 pick (Justin Patton) for the No. 7 pick (Lauri Markkanen), Zach LaVine (an athletic two guard coming off an ACL injury), and Kris Dunn (who was unimpressive as a rookie, but maybe bounces back). This is a great deal giving the Timberwolves both another strong defender, someone who knows Tom Thibodeau’s system, and a professional locker room leader. Minnesota now starts Ricky Rubio, Butler, Andrew Wiggins, and Towns, and they look like a playoff team next season.

The Philadelphia 76ers. Unlike a certain GM in Boston, Bryan Colangelo and the Sixers were willing to push their chips into the middle of the table to get their three stars. Now they have it after trading for the No. 1 pick (at a fairly high cost, but if you have the chips this is what they are for). Markelle Fultz was taken with the top pick to go with Ben Simmons (last year’s No. 1) and Joel Embiid. Add in quality players around them like Dario Saric and Robert Covington, and the Sixers potentially have a foundation for greatness. now they just need to keep everyone healthy for a season.

The Sacramento Kings. It seems weird to type this, but they nailed this draft. They got their point guard of the future in De'Aaron Fox (who now gets to go up against Lonzo Ball four times a season — that’s going to be fun). They traded out of the No. 10 pick to get the No. 15 and 20, and they got Justin Jackson and Harry Giles. I’m higher on Jackson than most, but he certainly should be an NBA rotation player. And Giles, if healthy and anywhere near back to form, could be the steal of this draft. Frank Mason was a solid second round get. The Kings were a smart, mature franchise for a night. We’ll see if this is a trend.

Golden State Warriors. They didn’t have a pick in this draft, but they bought one early in the second round to land Jordan Bell (Long Beach Poly shout out). He showed in the NCAA tournament against Kansas he showed how he is a fierce defender of multiple positions (and he did the same at the combine). He’s athletic, has an NBA body, but he can score a little around the basket or from farther out if left wide open — and on the Warriors he’ll be left wide open. Bell is a nice player but this is a perfect fit.

LOSERS:

The Chicago Bulls. Management deciding it couldn’t build around Jimmy Butler and it was time to move on to a real rebuild is completely legitimate — but then you’ve got to get more back for an All-NBA player who is elite on both ends of the court. Maybe Lauri Markkanen is more than just a stretch four, hopefully, Zach LaVine fully recovers from his ACL injury, and Kris Dunn can’t be a bad as he looked last year — and that’s still not enough. Butler had time left on his contract, there was no rush to get this done, yet the Bulls pulled the trigger on a sub-par package that slows those rebuilding efforts. It was not pretty in the Windy City.

Boston Celtics fans. They were teased all day with dreams of Kristaps Porzingis, or Butler, or Paul George, and in the end they got Jayson Tatum. I like the Celtics’ picks, I think Semi Ojeleye could be a steal in the second round. But all day long Celtics fans were told of big dreams, none of which yet came to pass and Danny Ainge continues to hold on to his chips. Someday he’ll make a move. Probably. But that day is not today.

Ben Simmons scores 31 points, 76ers beat Nets without Joel Embiid

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NEW YORK (AP) Ben Simmons scored a career playoff-high 31 points, Tobias Harris added 29 points and 16 rebounds and the Philadelphia 76ers shook off the absence of Joel Embiid to beat the Brooklyn Nets 131-115 on Thursday night for a 2-1 lead in the first-round series.

Without their All-Star man in the middle, the 76ers relied on Simmons slashing to the basket, and Harris and JJ Redick shooting from the perimeter.

“We have the pieces to get games, to complete games and I think everybody in the organization knows that,” Simmons said.

Simmons was 11 for 13 from the field, repeatedly getting to the rim even with the Nets sagging well off him in hopes he would shoot a jumper. He added nine assists and eventually quieted a crowd that loudly booed him every time he touched the ball early.

Harris had his playoff highs in both points and rebounds, and was 6 for 6 from 3-point range. Redick was 5 of 9 behind the arc and finished with 26 points.

“Listen, I think their big players came to play,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “Ben had a great game, I thought JJ was great, Tobias also hit some big 3s.”

Embiid warmed up before the game but the 76ers announced shortly before the start that the All-Star center wouldn’t be available because of a sore left knee. Greg Monroe started in his place and had nine points and 13 rebounds.

“Just came in, obviously with Joel down that’s a big scoring loss that we had there,” Harris said. “So just had to be aggressive from the start.”

D'Angelo Russell and Caris LeVert each scored 26 points for the Nets. They have dropped the last two games after surprising the No. 3 seed in the opener in Philadelphia.

Energized by a lively Brooklyn crowd seeing playoff basketball for the first time since 2015 and perhaps by the absence of Embiid, who averaged 22.5 points and 12.5 rebounds in the first two games, the Nets started well but then stalled. They went about 4 1/2 minutes without a basket and Philadelphia took advantage to lead 32-24 after one.

The lead quickly went into double digits in the second before LeVert got going. He scored six straight points and had Brooklyn’s first 14 of the period to tie it at 38. The 76ers regained control and opened an 11-point lead with about 2 1/2 minutes remaining before halftime, but LeVert had another burst to cut Philadelphia’s lead to 65-59 at the break. He finished with 19 points in the period.

Redick hit a pair of 3-pointers sandwiched around Harris’ three-point play, pushing it to 81-67, and another 3 by Redick had the Sixers leading 97-81 with 1:16 left in the third. But a four-point play by Spencer Dinwiddie highlighted Brooklyn’s run of nine straight points to end the period and trim it to 97-90.

The Nets cut it to six in the fourth on Russell’s 3-pointer, but the 76ers soon pulled away again.

TIP-INS

76ers: Simmons was 5 for 5 on free throws when the Nets fouled him intentionally with 3:38 remaining. He missed both, but hit two on the next possession and finished 9 for 11. … Monroe didn’t even make his Sixers debut until April 6.

Nets: Brooklyn was 8 for 39 (20.5%) from 3-point range. … LeVert’s 19 points were the most he scored in any quarter of his career. … The Nets had won their last three Game 3s.

UP NEXT

Game 4 is Saturday in Brooklyn.

Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://twitter.com/briancmahoney

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

In least surprising NBA offseason news, Dwight Howard opts into $5.6 million with Wizards

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Dwight Howard played in just nine games for the Washington Wizards last season due to injury, mostly his chronic back issues. Howard also will be 34 years old before next season starts. Because of that, the offseason market for Howard as a free agent would be somewhere between frigid and “I just stuck my hand in liquid nitrogen.”

Not shockingly, Howard has decided to take the money on the table — “just” $5.6 million, but that still buys a lot of Skittles — and has opted into his deal with the Wizards, reports Zach Lowe of ESPN.

The Wizards are still searching for their next general manager after Ernie Grunfeld was (finally!) let go near the end of last season. Maybe Tommy Sheppard gets hired from in house, maybe owner Ted Leonsis decides to go outside the organization, but there seems to be no rush to make a decision.

That GM walks into one of the toughest jobs in the NBA because of how hamstrung the roster is. John Wall will make $38.2 million next season and may not play (or only play the end of the season) because of a torn Achilles. Bradley Beal will make $27.1 million and the team needs to decide whether to extend him (he can get a supermax extension if he makes an All-NBA team, and he’s on the bubble for that) or trade him and rebuild. Ian Mahinmi will make $15.5 million. There are decisions to be made on players such as Tomas Satoransky and Sam Dekkar.

And that GM will have Dwight Howard. Good luck with that.

Report: Warriors sent in tape to complain about Patrick Beverley’s defending Kevin Durant (VIDEO)

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The saga of Patrick Beverley vs. Kevin Durant continues. The two have gone back and forth, and Beverley has gotten the best of a Durant, at least more than most would expect. The series is split between the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers heading into Thursday night’s Game 3 matchup, and there is much at stake in L.A.

In an effort to curb Beverley’s comfortability with Durant, the Warriors sent in a tape to the NBA league office complaining about purported illegal defense by the Clippers guard. That’s according to a report from Fox Sports’ Nick Wright.

Speaking on “First Thing’s First”, Wright said the Warriors wanted the NBA to see the tape before tip for Game 3.

Via Fox Sports:

The Warriors team — the organization — sent the NBA a bunch of clips leading up to Game 3 of what they think is Patrick Beverley holding, clutching, grabbing… pushing.

For some this may be too rich coming from the Golden State organization. The team has made a living getting away with moving screens as a major part of their offense for years, and indeed on split cuts they certainly seem to grab a lot of jersey as a means to get some momentum started. Remember, this is the team with Andrew Bogut on it.

That said, teams sending tapes to the league office happens almost as often as a Kardashian is annoying. It’s a daily thing, and in the playoffs teams ramp that up. What the Warriors did is not unusual.

This kind of in-your-face play is something that happens during every single NBA game, and if you had to be defended by a NBA player you would be surprised by how much physical contact they get away with that is not called as a foul.

Are the Warriors whining or are they simply trying to get a leg up on their competition? We will have to wait until these teams go after each other again on Thursday to see how — or if — the referees officiate Beverley differently.

Nets fans post ‘missing’ posters of Ben Simmons before Game 3 (PHOTO)

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Ben Simmons did not perform well in Game 1 against the Brooklyn Nets. The Philadelphia 76ers star posted a stat line of just eight points with seven rebounds, three blocks, and three steals.

More concerning was Simmons’ apparent lack of desire to shoot. He seemed to fade in the big moments of the game, and scorn came swiftly for him social media after the 76ers loss. Philly fans even booed the Sixers on the court, which angered Simmons.

But Game 3 is upon us, although Joel Embiid is not playing,  and the series has shifted back to New York. As expected, fans in Brooklyn are doing their best to troll the Sixers.

Via Twitter:

We will see how Simmons responds after all of the back and forth about booing, not to mention his whole thing with Jared Dudley. If Simmons wants to be a star, now is the time to step up for his team with Embiid out.