Winners, losers from the 2022 NBA Draft

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Let’s be honest about this thought exercise: We don’t know who the winners and losers in the 2022 NBA Draft are, and we won’t know for three or four years.

Should the Magic have actually drafted Jabari Smith over Paolo Banchero? Should the Kings have taken Jaden Ivey instead of Keegan Murray? While I like Ivey better as a prospect, we won’t likely know the answer to that question until around the 2025 draft. A lot of what follows is my perception and opinion, which could be proven wrong in a few years.

With that caveat, here are my winners and losers from the 2022 NBA Draft. Just take this (and everyone’s analysis) with a grain of salt.

Winner: Paolo Banchero and his bettors

When the betting markets took a dramatic shift starting a little more than 24 hours before the draft — money started pouring in on Paolo Banchero going No. 1 overall — suffice to say, media members and their sources inside the league were confused. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski even posted a definitive Tweet a little more than 12 hours before the draft saying Jabari Smith was going first, Chet Holmgren second, and Banchero third.

It turns out, the sharps were onto something. About an hour before the draft, the tune from Wojnarowski and other news breakers started to change. By the time Adam Silver said they were on the clock, it was clear the Magic would take Banchero. Some sharp bettors made a lot of money.

It was a brilliantly run deception by the Magic, who clearly planned to take Banchero all along but put out a perfect smokescreen. The bigger question is, why run the deception? Nobody was snapping up their guy in front of them. Was it to try to shake out a trade for Smith, so they could trade down a couple of spots and still get their guy (ala Danny Ainge giving up the No. 1 spot so Philadelphia could take Markelle Fultz, then getting Jayson Tatum at No. 3)? Maybe it was just because they could. Whatever the motivation, the plan worked.

Winner: Detroit Pistons

For my money, Detroit was the big winner and had the best draft night of any team.

Part of that was luck — Jaden Ivey fell to them at No. 5. Ivey’s explosive athleticism is a perfect one-two punch with Cade Cunningham, forming the backcourt of the future, one that could be the best backcourt in the league in a few years. Then they traded for the center of the future in Jalen Duren, out of Memphis. (Does that make it less likely they chase Deandre Ayton in free agency?)

The Pistons are a team to watch.

Losers: Knicks fans

New York didn’t do anything terribly wrong, it was just dull. The Knicks continued with Leon Rose‘s pattern of patience and cleared out a little cap space moving on from Kemba Walker.

However, patience is never what Knicks fans want. They wanted their team to trade up and land a star in Jaden Ivey, or keep the No. 13 pick from that first trade and take the center of the future in Jalen Duren (now a Piston) or do something else bold. Instead, they got a little more cap room to make a run at Jalen Brunson, who is almost certainly staying with the Mavericks anyway.

The Knicks can appease their fans with moves in free agency, but on draft night the Knicks were boring, and their fans didn’t like it.

Winner: Houston Rockets

Paolo Banchero would have been good in Houston (he would be good anywhere), but Jabari Smith is a better fit next to Jalen Green.

Smith doesn’t create shots for himself as well as Banchero, but Green and Kevin Porter Jr. do that already for the Rockets. Smith shoots the ball very well and defends his position — two things the Rockets need. Smith is going to thrive in his role in Houston, and that makes the Rockets winners.

Winner: Oklahoma City Thunder

They finished the night with lottery picks, one of whom they had to trade to get, who could/should form a critical part of the core being built in OKC.

They got the potential franchise cornerstone in Chet Holmgren at No. 2 — even after the Magic chose Banchero the Thunder stuck with the Gonzaga big man — plus traded with the Knicks to land Ousmane Dieng, then used their own pick to get Jalen Williams (not to be confused with Jaylin Williams, who they got in the second round).

These are all players that are considered to need a little time to develop, but you can see the kind of team Sam Presti is starting to build. Pair those three with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lou Dort and Josh Giddey; this becomes an interesting team to watch grow.

Loser: Fans rooting for NBA chaos

NBA fans have come to expect bold and aggressive moves in the offseason — and those still may come in the next few weeks — but the 2022 NBA Draft was a slow night for the agents of chaos.

Outside of the surprise at No. 1, there were no big trades, no record-scratch moments that shocked everyone. John Collins is somehow still a member of the Atlanta Hawks. Rudy Gobert is still with the Jazz. No huge trades, no insane picks out of nowhere (even the Kings passing on Ivey for Keegan Murray was expected, if not something anyone else would have done). Up and down the draft board, teams took players who fit pretty well.

Now it’s up to Kyrie Irving to bring the chaos. Which he is fully capable of doing.

Watch Embiid score 47, lift 76ers past Jokic, Nuggets 126-119

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embiid won the battle of MVP candidates with 47 points and 18 rebounds as the Philadelphia 76ers extended their winning streak to seven games with a 126-119 win over Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.

Jokic and Embiid have finished first and second in voting for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award over the last two seasons. Both are among the top candidates for MVP as this season hits the halfway mark, although Embiid was not named among the All-Star starters from the Eastern Conference.

“I’m used to it and it’s not the first time,” Embiid said. “I think it’s more of a motivation to go out there and try to win the whole thing. That’s the only way that I’ll get that respect.”

Jokic gave Embiid a nod for his play.

“He’s really talented,” Jokic told the Denver Post of Embiid. “Really shifty.”

James Harden had 17 points and 13 assists, and Tobias Harris scored all 14 of his points in the second half after being shut down by Denver’s defense in the first half.

“We were able to figure some things out and get some stops,” Harris said. “Guys stepping up and making shots was huge for us to cut the deficit in the fourth quarter to try and make something happen.”

Jokic had 24 points, eight rebounds and nine assists for Denver, which has lost three of its last four games. Jamal Murray chipped in 22 points and Michael Porter added 20.

“We turned it over and they just turned up the pressure on us,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “They got to the basket way too easy with their attack mentality. And we just got way too careless with the basketball.”

Embiid has scored 40 or more points nine times this season and 35 times in his career. In addition to the All-Star snub, Embiid was also given a $25,000 fine by the NBA on Friday for an on-court demonstration after-basket celebration during Wednesday night’s win over Brooklyn.

“Let’s keep offending Joel by fining him and not putting him among the All-Star starters,” Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers said sarcastically.

The Nuggets began the day with the second-best team field goal percentage at 50.7% and tops in 3-point percentage at 39.5%. In the first half, they overwhelmed Philadelphia’s perimeter defense, shooting 65.9% (29 for 44) from the floor and 10 of 17 (58.8%) from beyond the 3-point line. The hot shooting helped the Nuggets to a 73-58 lead at halftime.

Embiid started to take over toward the end of the third quarter, putting together a 16-point quarter on 5-of-6 shooting that keyed a 14-0 run that allowed the Sixers to close within 99-98 early in the fourth.

In the final quarter, Philadelphia wore down a Nuggets team playing the final game of a three-game, week-long trip. P.J. Tucker– who had switched defenively to Jokic and slowed him down in the second half- followed a Harden missed 3-pointer with a tip-in with over a minute left to stretch the lead to five. Embiid then hit a 3-pointer to restore an eight-point lead.

“I’ve always like to think I am a closer and I am,” Embiid said. “Taking the last shot or taking a last second shot with the clock ticking is fun for me. I love getting into those types of possession where you have to make the plays. That’s where you find out who is who and who is made up for those kinds of moments.”

Report: Myles Turner agrees to two-year, $60 million extension with Pacers

Indiana Pacers v Milwaukee Bucks
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Take Myles Turner off the trade market.

After months of negotiations, the Pacers and Turner have agreed to a contract extension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This has since been confirmed by other sources.

Turner — back playing his natural center spot this season with Domantas Sabonis in Sacramento — is having the best season of his career, averaging 17.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks a game. He has been one of the keys to a surprisingly good Pacers team this season.

That $60 million contract extension number can be a little misleading. Turner was already making $18 million this season, but because the Pacers are $24.4 million under the salary cap, they can do a re-negotiation and extension with the big man, giving him a $17.1 million bump right now (to a total of $35.1 million for this season) and extend off of that for two years, the first at $20.2 million and the second at $19.9 million, according to Shams Charania.

There had been a lot of trade interest in Turner, going back to last summer, most prominently with the Los Angeles Lakers in a swap that would have sent Buddy Hield and Turner to the West Coast for Russell Westbrook and two first-round picks. That draft pick compensation kept the deal from getting done (the Pacers wanted two unprotected first-rounders).

NBA refutes viral Reddit post claiming conspiracy to pad Jaren Jackson Jr.’s stats

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Jaren Jackson Jr. has been a defensive monster since coming back from foot surgery, something obvious by the eye test but backed up by impressive stats: 3.1 blocks and a steal a game, opposing players are shooting 44% on shots he contests and when he is on the court the Grizzlies have. 106.8 defensive rating (which would be best in the league by more than three points). He is the frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year right now.

That led to a conspiracy theory post on Reddit about how the Memphis scorekeeper is padding Jackson’s stats, calling his numbers fraudulent. The post went viral — we all love to think we’re in on something nobody else knows — and has gotten to the point some Las Vegas sportsbooks have taken down Defensive Player of the Year betting.

The conspiracy theory does not hold water. At all.

The NBA pushed back on that theory by reminding people that all NBA stats are audited in real-time by someone watching the video in Secaucus (rebound or blocked shots being changed during a game is not uncommon because of this).

“In order to ensure the integrity of our game statistics, auditors, independent of the statisticians on-site, review all plays and stats decisions in real-time during NBA games,” NBA spokesman Tim Frank told NBC Sports. “If changes are necessary, they are made at that time or following a postgame review. All of the plays questioned in the post on Memphis games were scored consistently within the rules set forth by the NBA statisticians manual.”

Reddit has now labeled the post “Misleading.”

Another Reddit user compiled videos of the alleged stat padding incidents called out in the post, but watching them proves the NBA’s point that these were correctly assigned. For example, Jackson gets credit for steals on tipped balls, which is how steals are calculated. The video showed that many fans don’t understand the rules and definitions of what constitutes a steal or a block.

On a more fundamental level than that, the NBA now has gambling and fantasy sports partners — if there was stat padding, those entities would be on it and the first to call out the league. The league’s statistics are big business — you can bet on the number of blocks or rebounds that Jackson or other players will get — and those gambling and fantasy entities also watch the games closely.

But we’ll be talking about this conspiracy theory again when NBA awards season pops up, because people want to believe, even in the face of evidence proving they are wrong. Not that we needed basketball to teach us that lesson.

 

Report: Nuggets might consider Bones Hyland trade for defensive help

Denver Nuggets v Milwaukee Bucks
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A year ago, it felt like the Nuggets had found their long-term backup point guard in rookie Bones Hyland, a guy who could be part of the rotation when Jamal Murray returned. Except, in his second season, Hyland hasn’t taken a step forward — although his play has been better and more aggressive in recent weeks — and free agent Bruce Brown has shown he can play some backup one (even if he is more of a combo guard).

That has the Nuggets considering trading Hyland if they can get defensive help, reports Jake Fischer at Yahoo Sports.

After his name was discussed in trade conversations around last June’s NBA Draft, Denver begun gauging the trade value of second-year guard Bones Hyland, sources said…. While Hyland has two years remaining on his rookie deal, in anticipation of Brown’s next payday [Note: He is expected to opt out and test the market], plus Hyland’s upcoming second contract, has the tax-conscious Nuggets considering their options in the backcourt. Occasional clashes between Hyland and head coach Michael Malone’s old-school mentality have also been a factor in Denver’s trade dialogue, sources said.

In exchange for Hyland, the Nuggets have expressed an interest in defensive-minded frontcourt players, sources said, and will search for a player plus a first-round pick.

Brown has played his way to a bigger contract than the $6.8 million player option he has for next season, but the Nuggets are already big spenders and not looking to go deep into the tax (Nikola Jokic’s extension kicks in next season at about $46.9 million a year to start, and both Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. will make north of $33 million next season). It is possible the Nuggets let Brown walk and keep Hyland, still on his rookie contract and set to make $2.3 million next season, partly for financial reasons. Hyland is averaging 12.4 points per game and shooting 38.5% from 3, but he struggles defensively (which is where the clashes with Malone come in).

Denver has a chance to win the West this season and defense is what will decide if that happens — if the Nuggets can land another wing/forward defender, they may jump at it and worry about the backup one spot next summer. However, finding that player in a high-priced seller’s market may prove the biggest challenge — several teams are looking for that same kind of defensive help.