SMU’s Shake Milton, Wichita State’s Landry Shamet both declare for NBA draft

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Two potential combo guards — both of whom would like to climb into the first round of the draft but may go early second — have declared for the NBA Draft.

SMU’s Shake Milton and Wichita State’s Landry Shamet both have made their intentions known.

Shamet made his intentions known on Instagram.

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I was 4 when I knew I wanted to play in the NBA someday… This ball and this goal ten feet off of the ground have brought me places I wouldn’t have ever imagined I’d go; who would’ve thought I’d be a Division 1 basketball player at Wichita State? This game has created friendships and unbreakable brotherhoods, has allowed me to meet and learn from interesting people from all over and, through hard work, has lead to me having an opportunity to fulfill that dream I’d envisioned at 4 years old. With that being said, I am declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft and foregoing my junior and senior seasons at Wichita State. I want to thank the city of Wichita and all of the thousands of people I’ve gotten to meet and interact with over the years. This community has truly touched my heart in more ways than one could imagine. Every single person I’ve crossed paths with has impacted me and left a mark on me and I truly felt an obligation to give you all absolutely everything I had every time I put on that jersey. I want to thank you all, the greatest fans in the world, for the unwavering support and love through all of the ups and all of the downs and everything in between. I want to thank my family and those that have been in my close circle throughout my career for allowing me to lean on you during any and all of my trials and tribulations. You know who you are. I want to thank my coaches for putting me in a position to have the opportunity to go fulfill my one and only lifelong dream. Without this platform and without Coach Marshall giving me the opportunities he’s given me, none of this is possible. And all of the coaches who have grown me on and off the court over my years playing. And lastly, I want to thank my brothers who I went to war with night-in and night-out. My teammates put me in a position to be who I am today and they’re guys that I’m proud to call my brothers for life. I’m following my intuition and I believe in life when an opportunity that you’ve dreamed of presents itself, you’ve got to go take it. And that’s what I am doing. I hope I’ve made you all proud and I hope that I’ll continue to do so. Nothing but Love -11

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Shamet could get a team’s attention because he can shoot the rock — 44.2 percent from three on 5.9 attempts per game, and with opposing defenses focused on him. He has good NBA size and length, plays a very high IQ game, and he can knock down shots off the bounce or on catch-and-shoots. The concern, what could keep him out of the first round, is a lack of athleticism for the NBA level. An example of the concerns: In the NCAA Tournament this year against Marshall he had 11 points on 3-of-13 shooting overall and 0-of-7 from three. Can he defend well enough and create the needed space for his shot at the next level?

Big guards with playmaking skills and who can shoot will get the attention of NBA teams. Enter Shake Milton, who was SMU’s Mr. Everything this season averaging 18 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.4 assists. He made it official on Twitter, he is on his way to the NBA.

How important was Milton to the Mustangs? A broken hand forced him to miss the final 11 games of the season and SMU won just two of those.

He shot 43.3 percent from three and looks like someone who can play either guard spot at the next level (and teams love versatility). He was good on the pick-and-roll in college and showed impressive passing and floor vision. The only concern is his athleticism, he’s not explosive and the guys he is going up against will be. While he has a floater he wasn’t a great finisher inside, and there are questions about how well he can defend on one end, or on the other turn the corner on the pick-and-roll at the other.

James Harden returns to 76ers Monday night, is on minutes restriction

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The 76ers were able to keep their heads above water. For 14 games, James Harden was out with a right foot tendon sprain — both Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey missed games in that stretch as well (Maxey remains out) — and Philadelphia went 8-6 with a +2.9 net rating and the best defense in the NBA over that stretch.

Monday night in Houston, Harden returns.

This wasn’t a surprise, nor is the fact Doc Rivers confirmed Harden will be on a minutes restriction at first.

Harden averaged 22 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds a game before his injury, and while his 3-point shooting percentage was down (33.3%) he was still efficient and finding his footing as more of a facilitator than scorer.

The 76ers are 12-11 on the season and sit in a three-way tie for fifth in the East (with the Pacers and Raptors). If Harden can spark the Philadephia offense there is plenty of time for them to climb into the top four, host a first-round playoff game and position themselves for a deep playoff run. But it starts with getting their starting guards healthy again.

Harden is ready to take that on.

Trae Young frustrated ‘private conversations get out to the public’ about missed game

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Rumors and chatter of tension in Atlanta — about how Trae Young was adapting to playing with Dejonte Murray, and his pushback on coach Nate McMillan and his efforts to get the ball moving more — have been all over the league since the start of the season. Over the weekend, a little of that leaked out, with reports Young chose not to come to the arena Friday after McMillan gave him a choice of participating in shootaround or missing the game.

Young addressed the report and seemed more concerned that it got out than the report’s content.

“I mean, it was just a situation. I mean, we’re all grown men here and there’s sometimes we don’t always agree. And it’s unfortunate that private situations and private conversations get out to the public, but I guess that’s the world we live in now. Yeah, I’m just gonna just focus on basketball and focus on helping my team win. And that’s what I got to be focusing on…

“Like I said, it’s a private matter, again, made public, which is unfortunate. And if it was to stay private, it probably wouldn’t have been as big of a deal. But like I said, it’s unfortunate in my job, and my goal is to win championships. And that’s what I focus on.”

Young went through shootaround  Monday and is set to play against the Thunder.

Murray has been professional throughout this situation, saying he didn’t see anything at the shootaround Friday and backing Young and McMillan when asked.

Bringing in Murray was supposed to take some pressure off Young and spread the wealth more on offense, ideally allowing Young to be more efficient. Instead, Young’s usage rate is nearly identical to last season, he is shooting just 30.3% from 3 and his true shooting percentage has fallen below league average. The Hawks as a team make the fewest passes per game of any team in the league (stat via NBA.com). The Hawks’ offense is still a lot of Young, but it’s not as efficient as it has been in years past.

Atlanta is still 13-10 on the season, has a top-10 defense and sits fourth in the East — they are not struggling. But neither have they made the leap to become a team that could threaten Boston or Milwaukee atop the conference, and that’s what the Hawks expected.

There could be personnel moves coming in Atlanta — John Collins is available via trade, again — but if the Hawks can’t smooth out their internal, existing concerns (and get Collins and DeAndre Hunter healthy) other roster moves will be just cosmetic.

Nike, Kyrie Irving part ways, making him a sneaker free agent

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Here’s the positive spin for Kyrie Irving: He will have the chance to remake his situation into something he’s more comfortable with during 2023. As a player, he will be an unrestricted free agent and can choose where he wants to play in coming seasons (how many teams are interested and for how many years will be interesting to see).

Irving also is a sneaker free agent — Nike has cut ties with him, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Irving is happy with this.

The separation is not a surprise. Nike suspended its relationship with Irving after he Tweeted out support for an antisemitic film, did not apologize (at first), and was suspended by the Nets. Here was the company’s statement at that time:

“At Nike, we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of antisemitism. To that end, we’ve made the decision to suspend our relationship with Kyrie Irving effective immediately and will no longer launch the Kyrie 8. We are deeply saddened and disappointed by the situation and its impact on everyone.”

Nike founder Phil Knight said it was likely the end of the company’s relationship with Irving.

That’s not a small thing by Nike, Irving has had a signature shoe line since 2014 and is reported to have a deal with Nike worth more than $10 million a season because his shoes are popular. However, his contract with the shoe giant was set to end in October 2023, and there had been reports Nike did not plan to extend that deal before this current controversy started.

Nike is already looking in a new direction, at Ja Morant.

Irving now has the chance to choose his new direction.

 

Cavaliers’ Dean Wade to miss 3-4 weeks due to shoulder injury

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In Cleveland’s search for a fifth starter to play the three next to Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, Dean Wade might be the best of the group. Not that the numbers are great for him or anyone (Cedi Osman is the best statistically) but the eye test makes one think Wade could be the answer.

We’ll have to wait a while to find out as Wade will be out 3-4 weeks with an AC joint sprain in his left shoulder, the Cavaliers announced. Friday night against the Magic he suffered an aggravation to a previous injury.

Wade has been a quality floor-spacer for the Cavaliers this season, shooting 41.1% from three, and is averaging 6.4 points and 4.1 rebounds a game, playing a little more than 24 minutes a night.

When he returns, hopefully coach J.B. Bickerstaff will give him a little more run with the rest of the Cavaliers core (when they are healthy).