Otto Porter valued in Chicago

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DETROIT – Bulls guard Zach LaVine summarized the scouting report on the Wizards the last couple years.

John Wall and Bradley Beal: “A lot of the shots were going that way.”

Otto Porter: “He was just stuck in the corner.”

Porter is spreading his wings now. After getting traded to Chicago last month, Porter is filling a bigger role on a team pleased to have him.

The Bulls, especially after trading Justin Holiday, were desperate at small forward. Denzel Valentine has missed the entire season due to injury. Chicago’s option for a bigger wing were oversized (Jabari Parker), undersized (LaVine, Wayne Selden) or inexperienced (Chandler Hutchison).

“Every team needs a guy like Otto,” Bulls coach Jim Boylen said. “But we definitely did.

“He comes in, and it’s like a calming of the sea.”

Chicago is 7-6 with Porter and 12-44 without him. Even just since acquiring Porter, the Bulls have outscored opponents by 1.2 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor and gotten outscored by 9.0 points per 100 possessions without him.

Importantly, Porter has thrived with Chicago’s other healthy core players. The Bulls are +6.6 points per 100 possessions when Porter, LaVine and Lauri Markkanen share the court.

Effectively, Porter was an early free agent addition for Chicago. The Bulls dealt two players with expiring contracts – Parker (who definitely wasn’t returning) and Bobby Portis (who might’ve returned) – and a 2023 second-rounder to Washington.

The reason Porter was available: His large contract. He’s earning $26,011,913 this season and due $55,739,815 the next two years.

The tax-dodging Wizards were ready to move on. After stumbling with Parker, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo as big additions in free agency recently, Chicago wanted the known quantity.

Porter’s $26,011,913 salary is now the third-highest by a Bull. Only Michael Jordan ($33,140,000 in 1997-98 and $30,140,000 in 1996-97) earned more.

Here are the highest salaries by anyone on Chicago’s roster in the given season:

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The Wizards’ financial commitment to Porter was brief and forced upon them. Porter signed a four-year max offer sheet with the Nets in 2017. Coming off its best season in nearly four decades, Washington matched.

Yet that same offseason, Wall openly courted Paul George as an upgrade over Porter. This January, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said his team wouldn’t trade Porter then obviously did anyway.

Porter said the Wizards never told him their intentions had changed before trading him.

“It was all business,” Porter said. “It was nothing personal.”

Porter seems more welcomed by Chicago. LaVine lights up when discussing Porter. Asked whether Porter appears to be enjoying his expanded role, LaVine offered an enthusiastic “Hell yeah!”

In Washington, Porter contributed quietly. He shot well from the perimeter and spaced the floor. He avoided mistakes. He usually played sound defense. Teams need someone to create, but Porter looked like an ideal complementary player.

Porter has been tasked with much more in Chicago. He’s averaging 18.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game with the Bulls. His usage percentage (21.7) is 3.3 percentage points higher than it ever was with the Wizards. He has already finished more plays as pick-and-roll ballhandler in Chicago (75) than he did in Washington (64) this season.

“Anything that I can bring to this team, I’m going to do it,” Porter said. “There’s no holding back.”

I’m not sold on Porter having the ball in his hands so much long-term. It makes sense with these Bulls, but better teams will likely have other players more suited for creating shots. Still, this experience should at least aid Porter’s development for Chicago’s next phase – whatever that is.

The Bulls are in line for a high draft pick and project to have about $20 million in cap space this summer. Nail those opportunities – especially by upgrading at point guard, where Kris Dunn hasn’t been the answer – and Chicago could be onto something.

Porter said he loves playing for the Bulls. He has gotten a fresh start and a leadership position.

The 25-year-old Porter has played more playoff games (31) than any other Bull. Heck, he has played nearly as many as the rest of the roster combined. Robin Lopez (28 games), Wayne Selden (six games) and Cristiano Felicio (six games) are the only other Bulls with postseason experience.

“I don’t have all the answers,” Porter said. “But the thing that it is, we can grow together, learn together.”

The Bulls needed a competent small forward. They got one much better.

Porter doesn’t solve all Chicago’s problems, but he has already improved the team’s dynamic. Young players develop better in steadier situations. The addition of Porter should help now and down the road.

“He’s a winning person and a winning player,” Boylen said, “and we’re really thankful for him.”

NBA Power Rankings: Toronto back on top as team to beat in East

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Toronto is back on top after knocking off their closest Eastern Conference foes last weekend, but we keep waiting for some team to flip the switch and demand to be No. 1 in the rankings. The Warriors are disinterested, maybe the Rockets make that push if they keep winning? We shall see, we’re just halfway through the marathon NBA season.

 
Raptors small icon 1. Raptors (31-12, last week No. 3). The Raptors showed they are the team to beat in the East last weekend knocking off the Bucks and Pacers in back-to-back games. Even better news for the Raptors is Kyle Lowry returned to the lineup on Sunday. They had missed their All-Star point guard — since his injury the Raptors had gone 10-8 (he played in some of those games trying to come back but clearly wasn’t ready). Now the Raptors are healthy (except for Jonas Valanciunas, still out most of this month with a thumb injury) and have 5-of-7 at home in a soft part of the schedule to rack up some wins.

 
Bucks small icon 2. Bucks (28-11, LW 1). The Bucks’ offense has been on an absolute tear the last five games, scoring a ridiculous 122.1 per 100, led by a starting five that can’t seem to miss a shot. However, the defense in those same five has slipped out of the top 10 and it was an inability to get stops — or slow Pascal Siakam — that cost them against the Raptors. The next few weeks is the big test for these Bucks: They travel to Houston on Wednesday night and that starts 5-of-6 and 11-of-14 on the road.

 
Pacers small icon 3. Pacers (27-13, LW 2). Indiana has won 7-of-8, but the wins were them fattening up on the soft underbelly of the East. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, Indy has been doing what good teams do — beat the bad teams consistently. The Pacers are winning despite a defense that has been middle-of-the-pack in the NBA the past five games. The good news, the offense has clicked during the winning streak and been a top-10 unit. The one loss in there was too Toronto, and next up they face Boston Wednesday.

 
Rockets small icon 4. Rockets (23-16, LW 6). In Houston’s first 20 games this season, James Harden was getting up an average of 11.4 threes per game, but he has gotten red hot and part of that is Harden raining threes — 16.2 per game in his last 10, and he’s hitting 41.4 percent of them. Also key during this 12-of-13 win streak: Clint Capela. The big man has averaged 18.5 points per game in his last 10, shooting 64.2 percent and grabbing 16.2 rebounds a game, Capela looked out of shape to start the season but he has played his way back into it and has been a force.

 
Warriors small icon 5. Warriors (27-14, LW 4). The Warriors finally got healthy and… meh. The Warriors are 9-5 since both Stephen Curry and Draymond Green returned to the lineup, with a +3.2 net rating (12th in the league). Their offense is 12th best in the NBA, their defense is middle of the pack, and overall the Warriors look meh. The Warriors (and most people around the league) are in the “don’t worry, after the All-Star Game they’ll flip the switch and be fine” camp. We’ll see. Among the reasons for optimism is that the target date for the debut of DeMarcus Cousins has been set, either Jan. 18 or 21 in Los Angeles (against the Clippers in the first game or Lakers in the second). They could use his help in the paint.

 
Thunder small icon 6. Thunder (25-15, LW 7). It’s weird to say this about a guy averaging a triple-double (again) but Russell Westbrook is in a shooting slump. It’s been going on for about a dozen games but has been worse in the last five: He’s shooting 3-of-23 from three in those last five (13%), 32% from the midrange, and just 55.6% at the rim. But with Paul George playing maybe the best basketball of his career, Westbrook still getting in the lane opening things up, and with the best defense in the NBA, the Thunder are 8-4 in those last 12 games.

 
Nuggets small icon 7. Nuggets (27-12, LW 5).. The Nuggets continue to win but their offense is carrying them — they have the fifth best offense in the NBA over the last 10 games, but the fourth worst defense. For the season Denver still has a top-10 defense, but it has fallen off sharply in recent weeks. Maybe getting Paul Millsap and Gary Harris back healthy (as happened last week) will change that, and Will Barton is expected to return to the lineup in the next week or two. That the Nuggets did as well as they did with three starters out speaks to this team’s depth. Plus they have Nikola Jokic hitting game winners.

 
Spurs small icon 8. Spurs (24-17, LW 9). It was cathartic for Spurs fans to get to boo and watch a blowout win when Kawhi Leonard came back to town in a Raptors’ uniform, and you know DeMar DeRozan savored his first ever triple-double in that game. It isn’t just Toronto that got crushed by the Spurs, San Antonio is 12-3 in its last 15 and has the best offense and the best defense in the NBA in that stretch. Monday’s in in Detroit started 7-of-10 on the road for the Spurs.

 
Celtics small icon 9. Celtics (24-15, LW 10). Kyrie Irving missed a couple of games with an eye injury and it was interesting to watch the transformation of some other players: Gordon Hayward averaged 25.5 points, 6.5 assists, and 6 rebounds a night in those two, Terry Rozier looked scary again, and Boston picked up a couple of wins with good ball movement. The Celtics need Irving to be Irving to win, but they also need a little more of what we saw in those games mixed in (which is on Irving to lift those guys up). Are Celtics fans more worried about their team’s start or Anthony Davis trade scenarios?

 
Sixers small icon 10. 76ers (27-14, LW 8). When a big three is brought together, the question becomes “who is willing to sacrifice for the good of the team?” In Miami, Chris Bosh took on the brunt of it, but Dwyane Wade sacrificed too so LeBron James could lead. In Golden State, Klay Thompson probably sacrifices the most but every one of their stars does to make the whole better. In Minnesota, who is willing to sacrifice and still contribute? That’s still a work in progress. Joel Embiid is complaining about how he is used, Jimmy Butler wants more traditional pick-and-rolls, and Ben Simmons has not fit smoothly yet either. This isn’t a Brett Brown thing, this is the players needing to sacrifice for the greater good and so far that has not happened in Philly.

 
Blazers small icon 11. Trail Blazers (24-17, LW 11). Looking for a third scorer in Portland? Look no further than Jusuf Nurkic, who has been a beast of late scoring at least 20 points in 6-of-7, including 27 points against Golden State a couple days after Christmas. Nurkic is doing most of his damage at the rim, with 75% of his shots in the last five games in the restricted area. Nurkic has made up for the slumping C.J. McCollum of late. After a tough stretch of the schedule, the Blazers are home and drinking good coffee against easier opponents for a couple.

 
Clippers small icon 12. Clippers (24-16, LW 12). The Clippers will be serious contenders on the free agent market — both Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant have been rumored… and maybe both could come — but don’t ignore the here and now. Montrezl Harrell might be the leader in the Sixth Man of the Year race and is a nightly must watch. Consistency has not been the Clippers’ hallmark of late, but the team has won three in a row and 7-of-10, using a softer part of the schedule to vault back up to the top four in the West — if the playoffs started today the Clippers would have home court in the first round.

 
Lakers small icon 13. Lakers (22-19, LW 13). The Lakers are now 2-5 with LeBron out, and where they miss him most is in the fourth quarter and in the clutch The Lakers are shooting 36.7% in the clutch (last 5 minutes, game within 5 points) since LeBron’s injury, scoring a league-worst 82.9 points per 100 in that stretch (the team is 1-3 in clutch games). Brandon Ingram just is not an “isolate him at the top of the key and let him go” kind of player, he can’t get to his spots, and he struggles. Lonzo Ball has great instincts but doesn’t read half-court plays well consistently, plus he is just not a threat to score on drives — he has no floater, can’t finish at the rim consistently, and is in his own head about free throws so he avoids contact. This is not what the Lakers imagined.

 
Jazz small icon 14. Jazz (20-21, LW 17). On paper the Jazz have been better than their record (they have the point differential of a 23-18 team) but it’s time for that to start translating to wins. Utah has 8-of-9 at home (and 12-of-15) and this is when the push needs to come. Defenses have adjusted and taken away some of what Donovan Mitchell wants to do, and while he needs to grow his game to counter those defenses, what the Jazz really need is someone to step up as a secondary scorer and athlete. Quin Snyder’s system can get them some buckets, but Utah needs a second scoring threat to reach the goals they have set for themselves this season.

 
Heat small icon 15. Heat (19-20, LW 18). Miami had won 8-of-10, Hassan Whiteside was playing impressive defense in the paint and Justise Winslow was making it work as the point guard. But then came an ugly loss to the Hawks — how is this team 0-3 to Atlanta this season? — followed by a loss to Denver as the schedule starts to turn tough. Those banked wins should help keep them in the postseason, but they can’t afford a losing streak the next couple of weeks. By the way, Dwyane Wade still knows how to make the highlight play.

 
16. Timberwolves (20-21, LW 20). Tom Thibodeau didn’t build up enough good will in the organization and community to survive the Jimmy Butler trade, and so he’s out and Ryan Saunders (son of Flip) is in. Minnesota has played better after Butler tried to sabotage the franchise, having gone 16-12 since Butler was traded (they got off to a fast a 9-3 start but are 7-9 since, mainly due to injuries to Derrick Rose, Jeff Teague, and Robert Covington). Karl-Anthony Towns has returned to his All-NBA form, but unless Andrew Wiggins consistently lives up to his status as a No. 2 option it will be difficult to grow and improve this capped-out team. Also, the Timberwolves have been dreadful in the clutch (-22.2 net rating, games within 5 points in the final 5 minutes) and that has to change.

 
Kings small icon 17. Kings (20-21, LW 14). Back in October and November, the Kings were a ridiculously good clutch team, but that has changed lately. In their last 15 games, 12 have been within 5 points in the final 5 minutes and the Kings are lucky to be 5-7 in those games considering their -20 net rating. The Kings have slipped below .500, have lost 5-of-6, and while just 2.5 games out of the playoffs they can’t afford a longer losing streak, it would be too hard to climb out of the hole. Which is why Tuesday’s loss to a Devin Booker-less Phoenix is so ugly for them. The Kings have a couple winnable games against Detroit and Charlotte at home coming up before the schedule gets tougher, De’Aaron Fox and the Kings need to get wins now.

 
Hornets small icon 18. Hornets (19-21, LW 15). How far has Frank Kaminsky fallen? Staring center Cody Zeller is out (broken hand, he’ll miss another month or so) and so James Borrego has gone to a starting front line of Devonte' Graham and Bismack Biyombo, and Willy Hernangomez got time at the give while Kaminsky ranks up DNPs. Charlotte’s best look is closing with Marvin Williams at center, but that’s not an all-game kind of thing. Kemba Walker is putting up All-Star level numbers and is even making half courters as he tries to run out the clock.

 
Nets small icon 19. Nets (20-22, LW 22). Every time I write this I still shake my head, but it’s true — if the playoffs started today Brooklyn would be in as the seven seed. It’s not going to be easy for the Nets to hold on to that (they have a one-game lead over Detroit in the ninth spot) and Brooklyn has the toughest remaining schedule in the East the rest of the way. While making the playoffs would be huge, just the fact this team is in the mix will help them lure free agents this summer (the Nets will have ample cap space and are in New York). Sean Marks has been amazing as a GM turning this franchise around.

Pelicans small icon 20. Pelicans (19-22, LW 23). Nikola Mirotic is missed in New Orleans. He has been out a dozen games now recovering from a sprained ankle, and without him the team has been 5-7, and while the offense has remained top 10 (it has slipped some without Mitotic’s floor spacing) the defense has been bottom 10 and is costing them games. I know Pelicans fans are sick of Anthony Davis trade rumors, but it’s not a media creation — teams around the league are obsessed with him and the fact the Pelicans are outside the playoffs has those teams convinced Davis is going to move on. Dell Demps is burning up the phone lines trying to trade for help, but this is a dead trade market.

 
Mavericks small icon 21. Mavericks (18-22, LW 19). Fun summer question: Will Dallas try to bring DeAndre Jordan back? Or, the better question may be: At what discounted price would the Mavericks re-sign Jordan for? Jordan is averaging an efficient 10.9 points and 14.1 rebounds a game, and he leads all NBA centers in ESPN’s defensive real plus/minus (although that is the perfect example of the eye test not matching the stats). Watch the games and he just doesn’t seem to fit with Luka Doncic and the future of the Mavs. Jordan is a free agent this summer and will likely find the market much tighter than he expects, but could that lead to staying in Dallas?

Pistons small icon 22. Pistons (17-21, 21). The Pistons do a surprisingly good job of keeping teams from getting to the rim — they have given up the second fewest shots in the restricted area of any team this season (Milwaukee is first), but when teams do get in the restricted area they are shooing 68.5 percent, the highest percentage in the NBA. Once you get past the defense, there is no rim protection. Detroit has lost 7-of-9 and slipped out of the playoffs in the East, the team has struggled to score, and now it heads out on a five-game road trip through the West. That said, the Pistons have a relatively easy schedule the second half of the season.

 
Grizzlies small icon 23. Grizzlies (18-22, LW 16). Memphis has lost six in a row, 11-of-13, during those 13 games they have a net rating of -7.3 (third worst in the NBA and below the Bulls, Hawks, and Suns), and the team has slid out of the playoffs in the West. It’s been ugly. The only thing we know for sure is Chandler Parsons will not be the Cavalry riding to the rescue (although it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where he gets traded/bought out before this summer). The Grizzlies play the red-hot Spurs Wednesday then head out for 4-of-5 on the road.

 
Magic small icon 24. Magic (17-23, LW 24). Magic fans want to see Nikola Vucevic make the All-Star team — he’s averaged 20.2 points and 12.1 rebounds a game, is shooting 38.1% from three, and his floor spacing and improved game have helped the Magic to what wins they have (17). Let’s stipulate that Joel Embiid will be the starting center for the East, after that who from that conference gets a nod over Vucevic? Brook Lopez? Al Horford? Can’t see it. The concern for Orlando is there is not just a center position, so if the coaches want to reward a lot of forwards — Pascal Siakam and Blake Griffin should make it in my book — Vucevic could get squeezed. I think Vucevic makes the cut, but it will fall to the coach’s vote (they pick the reserves).

 
Wizards small icon 25. Wizards (16-25, LW 26). Washington is 3-3 since John Wall went out for the season, with a slightly above-average offense and a slightly below-average defense. Sadly, in the East that’s enough to keep Washington’s playoff hopes alive. The Wizards might be open to being sellers at the trade deadline, and while John Wall and Bradley Beal aren’t going anywhere, the Wizards should be open to trading Trevor Ariza (again, he was picked up from Phoenix before the Wall injury). Ariza is the kind of veteran wing a number of playoff teams could want (the Lakers were very interested before), it would be a smart move by the Wizards to add some assets in a season they are not competing for anything of consequence.

 
Hawks small icon 26. Hawks (12-28, LW 25). Trae Young is being a bit more selective with his threes and has started to knock down his shots for the Hawks. In his last 10 games, Young is averaging 15.5 points a night and his hitting 50 percent of his 3.2 three-point attempts per game — a number well down from his season average of 4.9 attempts per game. He’s got the passing skills and he’s starting to figure out the NBA game. Atlanta went 0-3 on a road trip, came home for a night to beat the Hawks, and then went back on the road and fell to Toronto. Atlanta has two more games left on this road trip.

 
Suns small icon 27. Suns (10-32, LW 27). I know Suns fans want to see Devin Booker in the All-Star Game, but it’s a long shot. In part because the Suns stink. More than that, the West is just stacked at the guard spot. Stephen Curry and James Harden will be the starters (we can assume), after that there are three or four more guard spots to divide up between Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook, Klay Thompson, Luka Doncic, Mike Conley, and Donovan Mitchell, among others. Hard to see Booker, as good as he is, cracking that group. Tuesday’s come-from-behind win against Sacramento (without Booker) snapped a six-game losing streak, just in time for Phoenix hit the road for 5-of-6.

 
Bulls small icon 28. Bulls (10-30, LW 28). Chicago wants to be sellers in the next month heading into the trade deadline. They just moved Justin Holiday to Memphis, a move that frees up minutes for Chandler Hutchison. Ideally, the Bulls would like to trade Robin Lopez, but he makes $14.4 million this season and it’s going to be hard to find players to match that salary the Bulls would want to bring in. Most of the league expects the Bulls will fall short in finding a trade and will just buy him out after the deadline, and a number of teams are ready to pounce if that happens.

 
Knicks small icon 29. Knicks (10-31, LW 29). Coach David Fizdale on the Knicks’ defensive struggles: ““I think just figuring out what these kids can handle and what was a little bit too much. This first half of the season was figuring that out. I think now I’m starting to see, OK, this is the kind of thing that they can really hang their hat on and here are the things we probably should stay away from. Moving into the second half of the season we’re going to try to trim it and simplify it that way for them, so that we can maybe find some consistency in the second half.”

 
Cavaliers small icon 30. Cavaliers (8-33, LW 30). They have lost 10 in a row, Kevin Love is not going to return for a few weeks, and the one favor they did for an agent — putting together the offer sheet for Patrick McCaw to get him out of Golden State, then cutting him so he could be an unrestricted free agent — has the NBA league office investigating if the Cavs tried to circumvent the salary cap. Just nothing is going right for this team.

Three Things to Know: Who’s your MVP? James Harden drops 50-point triple-double on Lakers

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) LeBron is your MVP? James Harden drops 50-point triple-double on Lakers. It’s early in the season, but the narratives for the race for MVP are taking shape, and right now LeBron James — having a season similar in many ways to the ones he had recently in Cleveland, just now doing it in a much brighter spotlight — is near the top of a lot of lists, with a compelling narrative around him that he has turned around the worst run of Lakers’ basketball in franchise history. (If the vote were taken today Giannis Antetokounmpo would win, but LeBron would be in the mix… just my sense talking to other voters and what one straw poll found.)

James Harden, who is the reigning MVP, has put up very similar offensive numbers to last season — 30.8 points, 8.3 assists, and 5.5 rebounds a game with a 61.8 true shooting percentage and a 27.3 PER — yet his name is not mentioned in the race.

Thursday night on TNT he threw his hat back in the ring with a 50-point triple-double (10 rebounds, and 11 assists) pushing the Rockets to a 126-111 win over the Lakers, the kind of win that makes you think maybe the Rockets can turn it around.

That was Harden’s fourth 50-point triple-double, an NBA regular season record (moving him past former teammate Russell Westbrook).

It was a vintage Harden performance — he only had 26 shot attempts to get to 50 points, and he got to the free throw line for 18 shots. Lakers coach Luke Walton joined the long list of coaches who picked up a technical foul yelling at the referees that Harden was getting all the calls while his team didn’t get those same whistles (Harden is the master and drawing contact, then when he feels it throwing back his head, flailing his arms, and essentially flopping for the call… it works). LeBron and Lonzo Ball actually tried defending with their hands behind their backs for a stretch, trying to make a point to the officials. But what Harden does is just smart and practiced — he’s the master at it, and if you don’t foul he’s good enough to still put up ridiculous numbers.

Harden’s offensive skills have never been in question. However, he’s not mentioned in the MVP race because of the other end of the court — Houston is 13-14 with the second worst defense in the NBA, and Harden is part of the problem on that end. Last season the Rockets were a top-10 defense and they switched everything with the hope that the other team would then try to exploit the mismatch of Harden (or Chris Paul) guarding a big man, post up said big up and let him go to work. Except, Harden is very strong, especially in the lower body, and it’s difficult to back him down in the post and go to work. Harden is a good post defender.

This season, teams have largely abandoned that approach, they are working to exploit Harden in space or his help defense, both of which are terrible. Again. Harden is playing defense this season like the meme-worthy guy of 2014-15. Harden is not the only problem on the Rockets’ defense (Clint Capela looks a step slower, as does Chris Paul, and they miss the switchable wings they let walk last season in free agency, the communication is lacking, and much more) but he is a part of the problem. And it’s obvious.

That said, if the Rockets start to turn it around, string together some wins, get into a playoff position in the West, and Harden keeps putting up these numbers, he’s going to get some MVP votes. For now, the Rockets need more games like this from Harden to get them back into the West playoffs.

2) Dirk Nowitzki is back on the court, but the Mavericks suffer an ugly loss to Phoenix. For the 21st season in a row, Dirk Nowitzki — the future Hall of Famer, the best European player in NBA history, the talisman of the franchise — was back on the court in a Mavericks uniform. He was limited, playing just 6 minutes and scoring only one bucket, but it was good to see (just ask Mark Cuban).

Nowitzki is not why this game was a national TNT broadcast on one of the league’s showcase nights: they wanted Deandre Ayton vs. Luka Doncic. A 2018 NBA Draft showdown.

This was not vintage Doncic (the current clear leader in the Rookie of the Year race), who had 13 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists but added 4 turnovers. A couple of reasons for that, but at the top of the list is something the league tries to avoid on Thursday night showcases: it was Dallas’s third game in four nights, the second night of a back-to-back, and Doncic looked dead-legged (as did all the Mavericks). Also, Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr. seemed to take turns, trading off who would attack, rather than letting the more skilled Doncic just take over.

Ayton was not himself either, scoring 7 points on 3-of-13 shooting, matched up with the athletic veteran DeAndre Jordan. Ayton usually puts up good counting stats — he’s averaging 15.5 points and 10 rebounds a game — but his offense is limited, half his shots come right at the rim and 75 percent of his shots are set up by someone else, and his defense is dreadful. He’s got potential as an NBA big man, but he also has a lot of work to do to live up to being a No. 1 pick.

Phoenix snapped it’s 10-game losing streak with a 99-88 win.

3) The NBA tries to win over Mexico by sending them… Orlando and Chicago? If you’re an NBA fan living Mexico City fan and you get to see a couple of games in person a year, you can’t be faulted for thinking Nikola Vucevic is a legend.

The NBA put its best foot forward in Mexico City Thursday night… okay, it put a foot forward, giving them a regular season game between the Magic and Bulls. Vucevic, who is playing at an All-Star level for the Magic this season, was the best player on the court, dropping 20 points and 10 boards, leading the Magic to a 97-91 win.

The most interesting news out of Chicago is that Bulls new coach Jim Boylen will be allowed to so something Fred Hoiberg was not — bench Jabari Parker. Despite Chandler Hutchison being out, Parker got four first-half minutes and that’s it. He’s not going to be part of the regular rotation going forward. This was one of the front office’s big moves this summer, spending $20 million to bring in Parker (when no other team was offering near that much), but with Lauri Markkanen back there just shouldn’t be minutes for Parker. (Hoiberg didn’t really get to coach Markkanen this season due to injury, so he had to play Parker, even starting him a lot at the four.)

Bulls management has made some smart moves the past 18 months, but there have been a few head-scratchers, too. Parker is at the top of that list.

Bulls biding their time, except forced into action with Zach LaVine

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Bulls have a type.

Young volume scorer with suspect complementary skills who tore an ACL in February 2017.

The Bulls matched the Kings’ four-year, $78 million offer sheet to Zach LaVine and signed Jabari Parker to a two-year, $40 million deal with a team option.

Great for those players considering their injury histories. Good for Chicago?

LaVine could be worth $78 million over the next four years. The 23-year-old is a talented outside shooter and at least was an electric dunker. Those tools coupled with his age certainly give him a chance.

But he’s so far from that level, I wouldn’t have matched Sacramento’s offer sheet. That would have been a bitter to swallow after LaVine was the centerpiece of the Jimmy Butler trade, but throwing good money after bad is a mistake.

LaVine just too rarely puts his athleticism to good use in NBA games. He settles for too many jumpers, especially off the dribble. He doesn’t add anything as a defender or rebounder. Last year was a lost season for him, and while maybe that shouldn’t count too much against him, it certainly wasn’t encouraging.

The Parker signing looks much better. He showed more of an all-around game offensively before getting hurt, and he displayed his defensive potential in last year’s playoffs. He brings more functional talent to the table.

But he was available for less of a commitment because his ACL tear was his second. That’s a scary injury history, though Parker eased fears by showing his bounce after he returned last season.

I’m hardly convinced Parker will be worth $20 million either of the next two seasons. I would have preferred making the trade the Nets did with the Nuggets, absorbing bad contracts to gain draft picks. But even if it wasn’t their best option, the Bulls still helped themselves by betting on Parker. If it doesn’t work, they can drop him in a year.

Chicago’s most important decisions of the offseason weren’t LaVine and Parker, though. The big moves were drafting Wendell Carter Jr. No. 7 and Chandler Hutchison No. 22. Those are just too difficult to evaluate yet.

I was down on Carter before the draft, but I always liked his fit next to Lauri Markkanen. And Carter meaningfully impressed in summer league, reducing concerns about his defensive mobility.

If Carter and Hutchinson hit, they’d nicely complement Markkanen and send the Bulls in the right direction. Maybe even some of Kris Dunn, Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine come along.

Chicago is still figuring out what it has, and this season will be another year of evaluation and probably losing. Markkanen is the only clear keeper, which means this rebuild is still in its early stages.

The Bulls can swing big in 2019 free agency or continue their slow progress. I’d just rather move forward without LaVine’s deal, but even that could work out.

Offseason grade: C-

2018 NBA Draft pick-by-pick tracker with analysis of selections, trades

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It’s been a long time since there was so much uncertainty at the top of an NBA Draft. While the top pick was pretty much a lock with the Suns taking DeAndre Ayton, things were wide open after that with plenty of talk about trades up and down — and teams looking to move into the lottery.

We were on top of all of the big news on draft night.

Here is a breakdown of every pick, every trade — complete with analysis of how that player fits (or doesn’t) with his new surroundings.

Suns small icon 1. The Phoenix Suns: Deandre Ayton, 7’0” center (Arizona). Physically, he has the potential to be one of the game’s dominant centers — he’s big and long (7’5” wingspan), he moves incredibly well, he can knock down threes, and he can run the court. Offensively he’s going to put up numbers and be an impact player from Day 1. If he puts in the work when challenged on his defense he could be a force on both ends. He could be the franchise cornerstone the Suns need, the inside to Devin Booker‘s outside.

Kings small icon 2. Sacramento Kings: Marvin Bagley III, 6’11” forward/center (Duke). One of the best athletes in the draft and a natural scorer, he’s going to be able to get buckets in the NBA. He’s got a great bounce (an amazing second jump), attacks the glass, can finish at the rim and shot 40 percent from three for the Blue Devils. The question is can he defend — he showed poor defensive instincts and Mike Krzyzewski had to play zone at Duke last season because Bagley (and Wendell Carter) could not handle pick-and-roll coverages. He’s got to get better on that end to reach his NBA potential.

WE HAVE A TRADE: As had been rumored for a while, the Dallas Mavericks are trading with the Atlanta Hawks — the Mavericks have wanted Luka Doncic and the Hawks will take him at No. 3, then the Mavericks will take Trae Young at No. 5. (The Hawks will also receive a future first-round pick).

Hawks small icon 3. Atlanta Hawks: Luka Doncic, 6’8” point/forward (Slovenia). He will not play for the Hawks, he will be traded to the Dallas Mavericks (selecting No. 5). Doncic is the most decorated European player ever to enter the NBA Draft (EuroLeague champion and MVP, ACB champion and MVP), he is a phenom off the pick-and-roll and a great playmaker in transition. He has shooting range from the NBA three and he can finish inside. He’s been putting up numbers against men in Europe and should adapt to the NBA fairly quickly. The doubts are he’s not an elite athlete, not explosive by NBA standards. Can he defend well enough at this level, and how will he handle being guarded by those kinds of athletes?

Grizzlies small icon 4. Memphis Grizzlies: Jaren Jackson Jr., 6’11” forward/center (Michigan St.). Has the look and game of the prototypical modern NBA center — he’s got a great wingspan (7’5”) and uses that to protect the rim and block shots. He’s a good shooter out to the arc, can finish inside with either hand. He’s got to learn to play consistently harder and be better on the glass — it’s not all highlight plays, but he’s one of the youngest players in the draft and will grow. Needs to improve his passing as well. Son of 13-year NBA vet Jaren Jackson.

Mavericks small icon 5. Dallas Mavericks: Trae Young, 6’2” point guard (Oklahoma). He will not be Maverick, he will be traded to the Atlanta Hawks (for Luka Doncic and a future first-round pick). Young is a fan favorite for many because he has Stephen Curry-like range on his three out to 30 feet, plus he’s a gifted passer who sees the floor incredibly well. Scouts mostly like him, but there is some concern he’s got more Jimmer Fredette in him than Curry. Young has to learn to manage the game, not be so turnover prone. The bigger issues are defensively, he’s not big and not an elite NBA athlete like many guys he’ll be asked to guard — and his defense was poor at Oklahoma. Can he stay playable in an NBA of switching defenses?

Magic small icon 6: Orlando Magic: Mohamed Bamba 7’0” center (Texas). Maybe the highest ceiling in this draft. He has a crazy wingspan of 7’9.5” and he can be a Pterodactyl on defense that flies in and blocks or alters everything. He’s athletic and mobile enough to hold his own on switches on the perimeter. A lot of Rudy Gobert comparisons, but like Gobert he has to work hard adding muscle and getting stronger without losing quickness to reach that potential. Does Bamba have the love of the game to put in that work? He played casually at times in college. Offensively, he’s raw and has a long, long way to go. This is a high ceiling, but low floor pick.

Bulls small icon 7: Chicago Bulls: Wendell Carter Jr., 6’10” center (Duke). He’s a throwback, physical force inside around the rim, but more well rounded than that on offense. He can back guys down in the post, has an outside shot, is a fantastic passer, and shows impressive footwork for someone so young. Very versatile on offense (think Al Horford). On defense, however, he’s slow-footed, doesn’t move great laterally, and could find himself exposed against pick-and-rolls. Can he stay on the court late in games in a switching, speedy NBA?

Cavaliers small icon 8: Cleveland Cavaliers: Collin Sexton, 6’2” point guard (Alabama). You remember him as the guy who dropped 40 when Alabama had to play 3-on-5 early in the college season, Sexton has the potential to be a very good at the one in the NBA. He’s long (6’7” wingspan), athletic, and with a great work ethic. He attacks the lane and knows how to draw fouls. He’s got to become more consistent as a shooter and a decision maker to thrive in the NBA, but he has the potential. Could play with LeBron James or be a building block if he bolts (although shoot-first Sexton and never-pass Jordan Clarkson might literally fight over the ball).

Knicks small icon 9. New York Knicks: Kevin Knox, 6’9” forward (Kentucky ). A guy who shot up draft boards with his showings at the NBA Draft Combine and private workouts. He can be an athletic three or a small ball four — if he can solidify his inconsistent jump shot (he shot 34 percent from three in college, he will find more space to shoot in the NBA). He struggled to defend quicker players in college (there are more of them in the NBA) and there are concerns about his toughness. A lot of potential here to be a quality NBA player at a position of need.

Sixers small icon 10. Philadelphia 76ers: Mikal Bridges, 6’7” forward (Villanova). He has been traded to the Phoenix Suns. Bridges is a solid role player on the wing who can guard multiple positions (the 7’2” wingspan helps) and knock down threes (43.5 percent last season). He’s also performed well on the big stages of the NCAA tournament, he can handle pressure. He has to prove he’s an elite defender on ball, but this guy is a solid NBA player and will be in the league for years.

Hornets small icon 11. Charlotte Hornets: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 6’6” guard (Kentucky). He will be traded to the Los Angeles Clippers (scroll down a little for the details). A fast-rising point guard on draft boards this season, Gilgeous-Alexander is a big point guard (7’0” wingspan) and is not explosive but finds open spaces in the defense. He needs to become an improved shooter, especially from three, and his handles and game management need to take steps forward. Still a lot of potential as a rotation point guard and he showed that growth potential in Kentucky becoming the leader of that team.

WE HAVE A TRADE: The Hornets are going to trade Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to the Clippers for the No. 12 pick plus two future second-round picks. The Clippers have wanted a point guard who could be a core part of their future (with all due respect to Austin Rivers).

Clippers small icon 12. Los Angeles Clippers: Miles Bridges, 6’6” forward (Michigan St.). He will be traded to the Charlotte Hornets as part of the deal mentioned directly above. Bridges’ return to college to lift his draft stock didn’t really work that way, but he still looks like a quality NBA wing rotation player. He can hit threes (36.4 percent shooting them last season), he’s strong on the glass, and he’s an athlete who knows how to attack the rim. He can guard threes and fours and will be able switch and fit in the modern NBA.

Clippers small icon 13. Los Angeles Clippers: Jerome Robinson, 6’5” point guard (Boston College). He played point in college — and was very productive there — but likely will be more of a combo guard in the NBA. He brings a high IQ game, three point shooting and he can shoot off the bounce. Is he athletic enough and with that can he defend well enough to be a regular rotation guy for the Clippers? Teams thought so as he shot up draft boards at the end.

Nuggets small icon 14. Denver Nuggets: Michael Porter Jr., 6’10” forward (Missouri). He slid a long, long way down the board but this is a good gamble for the Nuggets at 14. Before the injury he was thought of as a top-three pick, play like that and this is a steal. There are concerns about his back injury (a microdiscetomy that forced him to miss much of last season) and a rumored “diva” attitude (already). The physical tools and potential is what had teams drooling — he’s big and can score inside and out. He has the potential to be a very dangerous stretch four because he’s a fantastic shooter and a high-level athlete. Will he put in the work to reach his potential?

Wizards small icon 15. Washington Wizards: Troy Brown, 6-7, wing (Oregon). Another draft board climber in recent weeks. He has great length (6’11” wingspan) and was one of the top recruits in his class. He brings the kind of versatility on the wing that NBA teams crave. However, there are questions about how good of an athlete he is and his shooting needs work to be consistent. That said, he’s one of the younger guys in the draft and should develop over time.

Suns small icon 16. The Phoenix Suns: Zhaire Smith, 6’5” small forward (Texas Tech). He has been traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for Mikal Bridges and Miami’s 2021 first-round pick. This is a pick about potential — on paper he’s what teams are looking for in a modern NBA swingman. Smith fits with the Sixers’ style, he’s of the best athletes in the draft, has a 6’11” wingpan, and showed good defensive instincts. He’s got a lot of work to do on offense, his handles need work, his instincts aren’t sharp, and scouts don’t trust his shot. High upside, but it’s going to take some development.

WE HAVE A TRADE: The Sixers are not keeping the hometown kid — Mikal Bridges of Villanova is being traded to Phoenix (where he will pair with Josh Jackson on the wing) for Zhaire Smith and Miami’s 2021 first-round pick. Smith fits right in with the Sixers drafting pattern — long, athletic, and a real project.

Bucks small icon 17. Milwaukee Bucks: Donte DiVincenzo, 6’5” point guard (Villanova). You may remember him as the hero of the NCAA Championship game (31 points for the Wildcats), but after that he turned heads at the NBA Combine by testing better athletically than expected. He can play either guard position, can space the floor as a shooter (but needs to be more consistent), is a good passer, and plays hard at both ends. Coaches will like him and his effort, and he should be a solid rotation guard player.

Spurs small icon 18. San Antonio Spurs: Lonnie Walker IV, 6-‘4” shooting guard, (Miami). Good gamble this far down in the draft by the Spurs, some teams thought he was a lottery pick. Walker is all about the upside — a tremendous athlete who has a 6’10” wingspan and has shown he can be a playmaker. He’s got a lot of work to put in to live up to that potential at the NBA level — his handle needs to get better, his shot needs to get better, he needs to show a real commitment on the defensive end. Was he just misused in Miami? No better spot to develop than on the Spurs.

Hawks small icon 19. Atlanta Hawks: Kevin Huerter, 6’7” shooting guard (Maryland). He turned some heads with a strong showing at the NBA Combine and climbed draft boards after that. Could develop into a catch-and-shoot specialist with some positional versatility that teams crave. He’s not an elite athlete or ball handler, his ability to defend at the NBA level is in question, but he showed an ability to shoot the rock, is a good passer, and he plays smart. He had surgery on ligaments in his right wrist before the draft and he will be out through Summer League but should be ready for training camp.

20. Minnesota Timberwolves: Josh Okogie, 6’4” shooting guard (Georgia Tech). He had a strong NBA Combine and impressed in team workouts, which helped him climb the board. He’s a good defender with a long wingspan (7’0”) and the potential to be a multi-positional defender — which is how you get drafted by Tom Thibodeau. He’s athletic, can shoot the ball off the dribble or on the move (and man, does Minnesota need shooting, but Okogie needs to be more consistent). He looks like he could become a useful rotation player in the modern NBA.

Jazz small icon 21. Utah Jazz: Grayson Allen, 6’4” shooting guard (Duke). A very good shooter (if a bit streaky, he had a major slump in the middle of last season) he is athletic enough to create space off the ball then turn and hit the open look. As a four-year senior, he comes in more ready to contribute now than most in this draft. There are questions about his defense and his decision making as a passer, but if he can shoot the rock in the NBA like he did as a Blue Devil he will fit in perfectly (and from Day 1) with the floor-spacing Utah Jazz.

Bulls small icon 22: Chicago Bulls: Chandler Hutchison, 6’7” wing (Boise St.). He fits in the modern NBA — the guy is a smooth athlete who just knows how to get buckets, and he shoots well on the move. He needs to improve that shooting and add some range to really impact the NBA, but he should be a good fit as a rotation player.

Pacers small icon 23. Indiana Pacers: Aaron Holiday, 6’1” point guard (UCLA). A point guard who showed this season he can handle the ball and run an offense, but the previous season played well off the ball with Lonzo Ball. A good shooter who can space the floor. There is some real upside, although he projects more as a backup PG/rotation player, but one who can defend and make plays. His brothers are Jrue Holiday of the Pelicans and Justin Holiday of the Bulls.

Blazers small icon 24. Portland Trail Blazers: Anfernee Simons, 6’4” shooting guard (IMG Academy). Considered one of the top recruits last season, he returned to prep school to make a high school to NBA jump (same as Thon Maker). He’s an elite athlete with a lot of upside, he has a good shot that needs polish, but he knows how to score (Simons tends to be ball dominant, plays more like a combo guard). He’s a project but a guy with a high upside.

Lakers small icon 25. Los Angeles Lakers: Moritz Wagner, 6’11” center (Michigan). He helped his stock in the NCAA tournament, being a key to the Wolverines’ run. He is a good shooter who can knock down threes and space the floor, but can also score off the dribble or in the post. He needs room to get off that jumper (slow release) and he doesn’t do much other than score (not a rebounder or shot blocker of any note). Likely a reserve big in the NBA.

Sixers small icon 26. Philadelphia 76ers: Landry Shamet, 6’4” point guard (Wichita St). He can shoot, he plays smart, he knows how to run an offense, and all that makes up for him being an average athlete (by NBA standards). He’s versatile, can fit the Sixers system, and projects as a backup point guard in the NBA. That’s not a position of need for the Sixers, but he could be a third guard or get a chance at the two.

Celtics small icon 27. Boston Celtics: Robert Williams, 6’10” center (Texas A&M). Things keep breaking Danny Ainge’s way — this is a steal at 27, some teams thought he could go in the late lottery. Williams has the tools to be an elite NBA defender — he’s got a 7’5.5” wingspan and incredible athleticism — and in college he used those tools to be a shot blocking and rebounding force. Can rim run and catch alley-oops but needs to expand his offensive game beyond that. This is a guy with a high ceiling, but there are serious questions about his work ethic and love of the game — is he going to put in the work to reach that potential?

Warriors small icon 28. Golden State Warriors: Jacob Evans, 6’6” wing, (Cincinnati). He passes the eye test as an NBA wing — he has good size, he defends well, and he can knock down threes. So yes, he sounds like a perfect fit on Golden State. He’s a player who is good at just about everything but not necessarily elite at any one thing. The concern is that he can just blend in and not be aggressive enough, but he does understand how to play a role, something he will get a chance to do in Golden State. Also, what’s his ring size?

Nets small icon 29. Brooklyn Nets: Dzanan Musa, 6’9” small forward (Bosnia and Herzegovina). He’s an aggressive swingman who is best attacking off the dribble and getting into the paint, where he’s a good scorer and playmaker. He plays with his heart on his sleeve (and occasionally goes over the top with it). Average athlete by NBA standards who has to prove he can defend at the NBA level. Heavily scouted for years, he’s just 19 with room to improve. He played last season in the Croatian league and wants to come over now, we’ll see if the Nets want to draft and stash for a year or two.

Hawks small icon 30. Atlanta Hawks: Omari Spellman, 6’9” power forward (Villanova). He plays a bruising style inside, but he can shoot the rock from the outside and has the handles to get a basket against a closeout. He plays below the rim and will have to find out ways to use his shooting to find space on the floor where he can operate. His conditioning needs to improve. Think a younger Mo Speights kind of game.

SECOND ROUND

Suns small icon 31. The Phoenix Suns: Elie Okobo, 6’3” point guard (France). He played last season for Pau-Orthez in the top level French league and averaged 13.2 points on 57 percent shooting (38 percent from threee) plus 4.4 assists per game. A 44-point game in the French playoffs turned some heads. He’s athletic, knows how to score, and has all the physical tools teams look for in a point guard. He’s going to have to develop and adapt to the NBA game, but this could be a very smart pick in the second round.

Grizzlies small icon 32. Memphis Grizzlies: Jevon Carter, 6’2” point guard (West Virginia). He’s aggressive defensively (maybe the best defensive PG in the draft), and he’s a good shooter and playmaker. He’s not an elite athlete, his first step isn’t going to blow by anybody, but he’s gritty and tough — perfect for the Memphis grit n’ grind. He should make a quality backup point guard behind Mike Conley in Memphis.

Hawks small icon 33. Atlanta Hawks: Jalen Brunson, 6’2” point guard (Villanova). He is bound for the Dallas Mavericks via trade. As he showed leading the Wildcats to the NCAA crown, he’s a high IQ player whose game is polished and NBA ready — he’s a pass-first point guard with great vision. Could be a Fred Van Vleet type. However, not athletic by NBA standards and struggled to defend elite point guards in college. Will make a good backup point guard who can help a team quickly, coaches will love him, but the ceiling is not that high.

Mavericks small icon 34. Dallas Mavericks: Devonte’ Graham, 6’2” point guard (Kansas). He is bound for Charlotte via trade. A four-year senior who was the Big 12 Player of the Year last season, he is a skilled point guard who can gets buckets and knows how to run a team. He’s not the level of athlete and has average size, but he projects as someone who can help an NBA right away as a solid backup point guard off the bench.

Magic small icon 35. Orlando Magic: Melvin Frazier, 6’6” small forward (Tulane). Great second round pick, a lot of teams projected him late in the first. Potential future “3&D” wing — he has a 7’2” wingspan and shot 38.5 percent from three. The questions revolve around whether he is really that good a shooter — he hit 55 percent of his free throws last season. He’s good at scoring on the move, but he’s going to have to learn how to move off the ball and catch-and-shoot at the NBA level. Still, great potential for a need position.

Knicks small icon 36. New York Knicks: Mitchell Robinson, 6’11” center (Western Kentucky). One of the top recruits of 2017, he signed with Western Kentucky, changed his mind and wanted to transfer out but couldn’t, said he wanted to return, then just spent the year in training for the draft. He’s a big man with elite athleticism and plays an old-school style as a rim protector on one end and a rim runner on the other. Going to take some time to develop, but a good gamble in the second round for the Knicks, if they can develop him.

Kings small icon 37. Sacramento Kings: Gary Trent Jr., 6’5” shooting guard (Duke). He has been traded to the Portland Trail Blazers, where he will fit in as a floor spacer. Trent Jr. is one of the best and most fearless shooters in this draft — he has NBA range and then some. His handles need to improve as do his playmaking to handle the closeouts that will come in the NBA, but if you can shoot (and shoot on the move) there is a place for you in the NBA.

Sixers small icon 38. Philadelphia 76ers: Khyri Thomas, 6-3 shooting guard (Creighton). He will be traded to Detroit, which is a steal for the Pistons. Thomas projects as a “3&D” style two-guard who was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year (the 6’10” wingspan helps) and shot 41 percent from three. His ball handling needs to improve, he’s going to have to get his shot off a little quicker at the NBA level, and he’s not the level of athlete that gives him a super-high ceiling, but he also has a high floor — he’s going to fit in and be able to help.

Sixers small icon 39. Philadelphia 76ers: Isaac Bonga, 6’8” small forward (Germany). A lot of potential but also a long way to go to get his skills to an NBA level. He’s a ball-handling wing with great pick-and-roll instincts both as a scorer and playmaker. His game overall, and his shot in particular, need to take leaps forward and against superior competition. A good roll of the dice in the second round that could pan out down the line.

Nets small icon 40. Brooklyn Nets: Rodions Kurucs, 6’9” forward (Latvia). Very possibly a draft-and-stash who stays to develop in Europe. He plays for FC Barcelona, although his minutes have been limited this past season. Plays hard and is a decent athlete who loves (and is good at) the midrange game but needs to stretch out his shot at the NBA level. His tools are intriguing but he has a lot of work to do to bring it all together.

Magic small icon 41. Orlando Magic: Jarred Vanderbilt, 6’8” small forward (Kentucky). He has been traded to the Denver Nuggets. He’s a physical player who is strong on the defensive end, and can score off the bounce on the other. He needs to improve his shot to stick in the NBA. He comes with foot injury concerns. He injured it twice in high school and it forced him to miss the start of the Wildcats’ season last year.

Pistons small icon 42. Detroit Pistons: Bruce Brown, 6’5” shooting guard (Miami). He has all the physical tools — good size, long wingspan (6’10”) and is athletic. Shows a lot of promise on the defensive end. The challenge is the offensive end, where he struggles with his shot and is turnover prone. Has potential as a rotation two guard with some development, but he’s a project.

Nuggets small icon 43. Denver Nuggets: Justin Jackson, 6’7” forward (Maryland). He has potential as a “3&D” wing with some development. He has great length for his size (7’3” wingspan) and in college he guarded positions 1-4. He plays with a high motor but is not an elite athlete. If his handles can improve and his jump shot becomes consistent — and his release becomes faster — he can find a role in the league.

Wizards small icon 44. Washington Wizards: Issuf Sanon, 6’4” guard (Ukraine). Likely a draft-and-stash, but one the Wizards could bring over in a few years. Sanon turned heads at the NBA Global Camp in Treviso, Italy, because he was a high-motor player who could both score and defend well. His shot needs to become more consistent, his defensive understanding needs to improve, but he’s not yet 19 and could develop into a solid NBA player.

Nets small icon 45. Brooklyn Nets: Hamidou Diallo, 6’5” shooting guard (Kentucky). He has been traded to the Charlotte Hornets. He is incredibly athletic and also incredibly raw. There’s a lot of potential here but he needs to develop his skills (which could mean stints in the D-League if he sticks with the Hornets, maybe a candidate for a two-way contract). He’s best in transition, and he attacks in the halfcourt with a fantastic first step. He can become a good defender, but his jumper still needs a lot of work.

Rockets small icon 46. Houston Rockets: De'Anthony Melton, 6’3” guard (USC). You may remember him as the focus of the FBI investigation that rocked college basketball, and with that he did not play last season. He spent the season working out then had to impress teams in workouts. He was a top recruit because of his athleticism, can guard positions 1-3, and he can do some ball handling.

Lakers small icon 47. Los Angeles Lakers: Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, 6’8” shooting guard (Kansas). He’s from the Ukraine originally and averaged 14.6 points per game for Kansas last season. He’s got a good basketball IQ, can shoot the rock (44 percent from three last season), and has good size for the position. Real questions about his athleticism and if he can hang at the next level.

48. Minnesota Timberwolves: Keita Bates-Diop, 6-7 forward (Ohio St.). He’s got good size to play on the wing in the NBA, with the skills to post up smaller defenders and is a good shooter out on the perimeter. Out in transition he can be a force. However, he’s a bit slow footed and that shows up in both his first step on offense and concerns about him being a target of switches on defense. Can develop into a solid NBA role player.

Spurs small icon 49. San Antonio Spurs: Chimezie Metu, 6’10” power forward/center (USC). The man knows how to get buckets. He’s very athletic and put up some poster dunks. He’s also very raw and needs a lot of polish (a G-League stint is not out of the question). Good roll of the dice here deep in the second round for the Spurs.

Pacers small icon 50. Indiana Pacers: Alize Johnson, 6’9” power forward (Missouri St.). A power forward who can handle the rock and can do a little bit of everything, but doesn’t have that one standout NBA-level skill. Will have to earn his way onto the roster with Summer League/training camp play.

Pelicans small icon 51. New Orleans Pelicans: Tony Carr, 6’3” point guard (Penn St.). He’s got good size for a point guard, shot 43 percent from three last season, and has an old-man-at-the-Y game that gets him to the rim. The problem is his lack of athleticism means he struggles to finish when he does get to the rim, and there are questions about his defense.

Rockets small icon 52. Houston Rockets: Vince Edwards, 6’8″ forward (Purdue). He knows how to get buckets, averaging 14.6 points per game his senior season, and he can score on the move well. However, he is not athletic on the NBA level and with that struggles defensively. He’s going to have to show consistent shooting and improved defense to stick in the NBA.

Thunder small icon 53. Oklahoma City Thunder: Devon Hall, 6’5” shooting guard (Virginia). Good roll of the dice by the Thunder this deep in the draft. Hall was a core two-way player for the Cavaliers, and he has NBA level shooting ability and basketball IQ. There are questions about him being athletic enough for the next level, but he is the kind of guy who could develop into a role player.

Mavericks small icon 54. Dallas Mavericks: Shake Milton, 6’6” guard (SMU). He is headed to Philadelphia in a trade — and this could be the steal of the second round by the Sixers. Milton could play the one or the two, and has the length (7’1” wingspan) to defend 1-3. He battled injury at SMU and is considered a better shooter than he showed in college, and he has the handles to create space then shoot well off the bounce. He’s pass first as a PG and can force some things that become turnovers when he should have gotten his own shot.

Hornets small icon 55. Charlotte Hornets: Arnoldas Kulboka, 6’9″ forward (Lithuania). This is a draft-and-stash pick. A very good shooter with range who plays well off the ball with a high IQ game, but the question is does he have the athleticism to play in the NBA.

Sixers small icon 56. Philadelphia 76ers: Ray Spaulding, 6’10” center (Louisville). He is headed to Dallas as part of a trade. He passes the eye test and moves well for a big man. He came to Louisville highly recruited and with a world of potential, but he never seemed to live up to it. He needs to get stronger and be more consistent with his shot, but the big questions are about his motor. The potential is there.

Thunder small icon 57. Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Hervey, 6’7” small forward (Texas Arlington). He tore his right ACL in high school, and his left ACL last year. Considering that, it’s impressive that he bounced back to average 20.5 points per game this past season, then look good at the NBA Draft Combine. He can score around the rim and has a solid jumper. The concerns, as might have been expected, are how his knees hold up. There are also serious defensive concerns.

Nuggets small icon 58. Denver Nuggets: Thomas Welsh, 7’0″ center (UCLA). An old-school, throwback big man who knows how to score around the basket and has a midrange game out to about 15 feet. However, he’s not athletic enough and his game doesn’t fit with what is asked of the modern NBA big man. He entered the NBA a couple decades too late.

Suns small icon 59. The Phoenix Suns: George King, 6’6” small forward (Colorado). This was the Raptors’ pick before they traded it. He’s got an NBA-ready body, is plenty athletic, and knows how to shoot the rock. That all sounds good, but at age 24 already there are questions about how much better he gets, and he doesn’t have an NBA level first-step — he’s not quite able to create space at this level. Still, good roll of the dice this deep.

Sixers small icon 60. Philadelphia 76ers: Kostas Antetokounmpo, 6’10” forward (Dayton). He is headed to Dallas as part of a trade. The other Antetokounmpo — yes, he is Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s brother — isn’t the same level of prospect, but he has potential. The younger Antetokounmpo is raw — he is years away. He’s going to spend time in the G-League. He’s not a ball handling point forward, more of an athletic big who can block shots and run the floor — he does move with the speed and long strides of his brother. There’s a long way to go on his jumper.