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Trail Blazers spend to keep problems from compounding, but not enough to get better

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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 Trail Blazers didn’t extend Shabazz Napier his $3,452,308 qualifying offer, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent. Portland replaced him with Seth Curry, who signed for $2,795,000 for one year. It appeared to be a cost-cutting swap.

But Napier signed with the Nets for just $1,942,422 next season (with an unguaranteed second year, to boot). Maybe the Trail Blazers were actually paying to upgrade their third guard.

Or maybe they just misread the market.

It wouldn’t be the first time.

Portland is still hamstrung from its summer of 2016, when the salary cap skyrocketed and the Trail Blazers splurged on several subpar players. They haven’t won a playoff series since, and the last two offseasons have included a slow bleed of talent from Portland.

At least the bleed is truly slow.

The Trail Blazers’ biggest loss was Ed Davis, who signed a one-year, $4,449,000 contract with Brooklyn. He was a solid backup who fortified the rotation. Portland will surely bank on second-year big Zach Collins to play a larger role, and maybe he’ll be up for the challenge. But it would have been reassuring if Davis were available as insurance in the event the younger Collins isn’t ready.

On the bright side, the Trail Blazers are fast-tracking Collins only into a larger reserve role – not into the starting lineup.

Portland re-signed starting center Jusuf Nurkic to an astonishingly reasonable four-year, $48 million contract. It seemed possible the Trail Blazers would be content to let Nurkic take his qualifying offer, play cheap next season then walk next summer as Collins ascends. But Nurkic agreed to this team-friendly number, and Portland wisely spent more than necessary this season to secure him for the following three years.

The Trail Blazers also paid cash as part of a trade for the No. 37 pick to get Gary Trent Jr., a superb shooter who should be more ready to contribute than No. 24 pick Anfernee Simons, a de facto high schooler.

Portland is still on track to pay the luxury tax this season. The cost-saving moves of the summer might just reduce the bill. Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen is far more willing to spend than most, and it’s to his team’s benefit.

The panic of Portland quickly agreeing to a minimum contract with Nik Stauskas in the opening moments of free agency was overwrought. Nearly all teams fill the end of their roster with minimum players. The Trail Blazers just aggressively targeted the minimum player they wanted before conducting other business or hoping a better player fell into the minimum tier. It’s a strategy more teams should take.

But Portland getting the clear-minimum player it wanted is not exactly inspiring. None of this offseason was.

The Trail Blazers seem to be just waiting out the contracts of Evan Turner and Meyers Leonard and hoping for the best. With Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum in their primes, that stagnancy is disappointing.

I’m just not sure there’s a better alternative short of a massive luxury-tax bill for a team that’d still land in the same success range Portland has been the last few years. That seems unfair to ask of Allen.

Offseason grade: C

Neil Olshey’s big plan in Portland is to wait. Do they have enough time?

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Neil Olshey has begun to lose some of the polish he once held in the eyes of Portland Trail Blazers fans. The team’s general manager failed to re-sign Ed Davis for a pithy sum of $4 million this offseason. Publicly, that move was justified as an allowance for getting second-year big man Zach Collins some more minutes this upcoming season. As we have written about before here on Pro Basketball Talk, it was also to dodge a significant luxury tax bill.

Now, by early August, Olshey has completed the major moves of his offseason. As was expected, Portland re-signed big man Jusuf Nurkic to a reasonable $12 million-a-year salary. Unfortunately, Olshey failed to use the trade exception the Blazers gained from the Allen Crabbe swap, and did not bring in a veteran wing like they wanted.

Olshey is now out in the Portland sun, hiking the public relations trail while trying to craft a narrative around his quiet offseason. The Blazers GM recently sat down with TV reporter Brooke Olzendam to explain his position on Portland’s moves.

During a 30-minute video released by the team this week, Olshey mentioned two things of note. The first was that he was surprised that there was not a larger market for his trade exception. Olshey said that he figured that he would be able to absorb some contracts from the 2016 season with that $13 million chip, but was unable to find a suitor.

Honestly we were caught off guard. We thought for sure the Allen Crabbe trade exception would have huge value in the league. And like I said, teams are just not in the business of giving up quality players the way they were because I think everybody understand they’re going to have to pay the freight this summer for what everybody did back in 2016. There just wasn’t as many pieces in the marketplace to do the absorption deals we’ve seen in the past.

Olshey also eventually worked his way around to saying that he does not believe that moving either Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum is the right choice going forward. The murmur out of the City of Roses is that McCollum, the team’s most readily movable trade chip, has not been and will continue to stay off the trade block.

We’re keeping the core together, knowing Dame and CJ have at least three years left on their contracts, and we give that group the best chance to win without impeding our ability long-term in terms of being into a number that’s completely non-liquid.

Portland’s trade exception expired on July 25th, and after a week-and-a-half spent contemplating, it now seems clear what Olshey is plan is for the short-term future. That is, to duck as much luxury tax as possible, build around Lillard and McCollum, and wait out the rest of the Western Conference. The justification for this plan — which mostly involves doing nothing — is twofold.

First, Golden State’s dominance in the West is unchallenged, even if Olshey was unwilling to admit that to Olzendam during the above interview. Internally, the Blazers know Golden State won’t run into real salary problems until the 2019-20 season, and it appears they would rather sit tight as that issue resolves itself.

Second, Olshey has decided to try to reduce the salary cap figure simply as a mechanism of being a good financial planner. And, if we believe the wait-and-see strategy to be true, then tighter budgeting must follow in kind. There is no sense for the Blazers to spend over the cap more than they need to if they agree to concede the next couple of years in the West.

Publicly they’ll never admit that, but it’s exactly what they’re doing.

Whether this is the right move or not isn’t clear. No doubt fans in Portland will do what they do every year. They’ll continue to be excited about and support the development of young guys on the roster including Gary Trent Jr. and Anfernee Simons. Meanwhile, they will restlessly stir about whether or not the team should make big moves, including trading McCollum or as has been the case the past couple of years, firing Terry Stotts.

 

What is more apparent now more than ever is how little control Olshey has over the team’s destiny. His big free agent move in 2016 was to nab Evan Turner, and re-sign Crabbe to use as a trade chip. Neither of those decisions turned out well for Portland, either on the floor or in terms of their salary cap impact. With no flexibility from his own accord, and no reason to combat the dynasty of a generation in the conference, Olshey has to sit tight.

He can spin his transactions to the public however he likes, and no doubt he deserves credit for some of his craftier moves. But those small deals seem to be Olshey’s limit at this point, whether it be finding added value in the draft or picking up replacement players for the back half of the bench for 60% of their year-over-year cost.

Perhaps most interestingly, now that he’s in Chief Financial Officer mode, it’s unclear whether Olshey will ever see his vision for this team to fruition.

Turner has just two more seasons left on his albatross of a contract, but after that comes Lillard and McCollum, due for extensions the season after. Olshey is taking a serious gamble using the patience of his two stars as betting chips by managing the luxury tax and trying to develop small-time talent as he clock-watches the Warriors.

Blazers general managers have always been measured by two things: the ability to create a roster that can win, and the elusive Big Trade or Big Free Agent Signing. Bob Whitsitt famously went down swinging in the early 2000s, trading anyone and everyone. Olshey might get the boot in a couple of years, with hardly a murmur, unless he finds a way to stave off elimination.

 

No doubt if you asked him, Olshey would point out his victories — the smart trade for Robin Lopez, the under-market signing of Al-Farouq Aminu, the Nurkic-for-Mason Plumlee swap, the Shabazz Napier trade, and the refusal of Chandler Parson’s contract demands. But those moves have largely been balanced by a dogged dedication to the Lillard-McCollum pairing, the Turner signing, the Meyers Leonard and Moe Harkless contracts, the Arron Afflalo trade, the Nicolas Batum trade, the Festus Ezeli deal, and the Allen Crabbe trade.

Any way you slice it, Olshey’s performance as head of the Blazers has been evened out, leveled with the reality of a star in Lillard itching to know just when they’re going to climb the next peak. The team has made the playoffs the past five seasons in a row largely due to Lillard, whose draft selection in 2012 was the brainchild of the man directly before Olshey in Chad Buchanan.

What Portland is playing for now is not about next season, or free agents, or the luxury tax, or player development. Because of their position of extreme negative equity, the Blazers long-term plans are now about holding on to Lillard past 2020-21.

Whether Olshey will be there to negotiate that extension is up for debate.

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As Summer League ends, what are teams taking away from Las Vegas?

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LAS VEGAS — Knicks fans were lined up out the door, literally overflowing the Cox Arena on the UNLV campus to get a glimpse of Kevin Knox, who averaged 21.3 points per game at Summer League and suddenly was seen as the newest star on Broadway — the perfect pairing for Kristaps Porzingis.

Top pick Deandre Ayton filled the building and had Suns’ fans dreaming of rings with his star power. Memphis’ fans were saying they saw the future of the franchise with Jaren Jackson’s combination of shooting and shot blocking. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander‘s looked like a steal and his play gave Clippers’ fans hope. Atlanta’s Trae Young went from “bust” to “future franchise cornerstone” over the course of two weeks as his play improved through July.

As Summer League has grown over the years — all 30 NBA teams were represented in Las Vegas, every game was televised nationally — so has the importance of these July exhibitions in the minds of fans.

But what do teams — their coaches, scouts, and GMs — take away from Las Vegas?

A baseline.

“It’s just benchmarks for the guys,” new Hawks’ coach Lloyd Pierce told NBC Sports in Las Vegas. “I got bear cubs right now. I saw Omari (Spellman) at Villanova, but I hadn’t touched him. I saw Trae (Young) at Oklahoma, but I hadn’t touched him. Kevin (Huerter) I still haven’t touched (hand surgery).

“So we have a couple areas with Trae, and we have a couple areas with John Collins and a couple areas with Tyler Dorsey where we say, ‘you know what, I know what we need to work on.’ More will come, but at least I have a starting point, and we can have a conversation now.”

That conversation is about how much more work needs to be done.

Summer League has become big business for the NBA, it’s marketed and put on a bigger stage, and with that it’s natural that Summer League games have grown in importance in the eyes of fans (and media). But for teams, the purpose hasn’t changed since the games were an almost forgotten part of the NBA season at the Pyramid on the Long Beach State campus.

Multiple NBA coaches and executives told NBC Sports is just the first post-draft step in evaluation, and where a player is on the scale right now is not nearly as important as where he goes from here. Those decision makers know that 90 percent of the players in Las Vegas will not even be invited to an NBA training camp, then combine that with limited practices and there is only so much big-picture evaluation that can take place.

“I don’t get wrapped up into the rookies, as far as being discouraged with what you see here,” said Bobby Marks, former assistant general manager with the Brooklyn Nets and current ESPN analyst. “I think I’m more discouraged if I have a second- or third-year player who does not play well here…

“You take gradual steps. You look at where you were when you first get to Vegas, where they were at the end of June or early July, then you see where they are in the middle of July.”

A lot of the evaluation from teams is not in those televised Las Vegas games, but rather on the practice court.

“The first thing is you evaluate how coachable they are, because you don’t have a lot of time, but there’s a few things you emphasize just to see if they do it,” said Utah Jazz Summer League coach Alex Jensen. “Summer League is one of those things where they are always trying to showcase themselves, so sometimes it’s not the easiest thing to do, but we want to see how coachable they are.”

For those first-round and high second-round picks, it’s also a chance to put players in NBA situations. For example, Portland Summer League coach Jim Moran said they run a lot of the same sets in Las Vegas they will run come the fall, with the goal of getting guys like Gary Trent Jr. or Anfernee Simons shots they will see come the games that matter.

“We’re trying to put them in situations they’ll be put in the regular season,” Moran said. “So whether it be defensively having our bigs switch out on smaller guys, or learning how to move and keep smaller guys in front of them, or offensively just getting them a feel for where their shots are going to come from in certain plays, we want to see it.”

For a first-round pick such as Portland’s Simons or the Knicks’ Knox or Atlanta’s Young, Summer League is a showcase. Every first-round pick has a guaranteed NBA contract — they are going to get paid come the fall. That’s not to say they don’t play hard or take it seriously, but no matter what happens in Las Vegas they will be on a roster come October.

The real business of Summer League is second-round picks, undrafted players, and guys coming back from playing overseas trying to get noticed — by NBA teams, ideally, but at least by European scouts who can land them good paying gigs playing basketball. It’s an on-court job application for almost everyone in uniform. NBA staffs are taking notes on these guys, as well.

“Second-rounders, undrafted guys, guys you might sign to two-ways, guys you might need to call up on a two way, because you don’t really know,” ESPN’s Marks said of who he watched closely at Summer League in his executive days. “There could be guys who were playing in Europe last year, or maybe from lower level schools and you didn’t bring them in for a workout, there’s a newness to this. So I think it benefits them more than your first round picks.”

Put in a good showing and guys can find their way onto a roster — Trevon Bluiett out of Xavier averaged 18.3 points per game for the Pelicans, and they signed him to a two-way contract. A handful of other guys did the same, or will get training camp invites out of Las Vegas.

Because of that those guys are hustling — say what you want about the glorified pick-up game nature of Summer League play, guys go hard because paychecks are on the line.

However, for bigger name, higher drafted players, performance in Las Vegas matters more to fans than it does the franchise.

“There are takeaways, it gives you a baseline for the rest of the summer,” Marks said.

And that’s just the first step. By Halloween, all these games will be a distant memory.

Damian Lillard: ‘I’m not unhappy. I love where I live, I love where I am.’

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LAS VEGAS — Damian Lillard ended up in the middle of the NBA’s silly season, and he’s not exactly sure how.

He sent out a Tweet after Portland let Ed Davis walk to Brooklyn (one of Lillard’s good friends on the team). That spiraled into speculation he was unhappy with the Blazers because he wants to compete in the gauntlet that is the West and Portland has largely stood pat this summer. Combine that with another Tweet and somehow — in the minds of warped Laker fans/sports talk radio hosts looking for a shock — became “Lillard wants to play with LeBron James and the Lakers.”

Lillard shot all that down in Las Vegas.

“I’m not unhappy. I love where I live. I love the organization. I love our coaching staff. I love where I am,” Lillard said, holding court during Summer League.

Portland is one of the many teams cash-strapped this summer, and fans are pissed. Thanks to the foolish 2016 contracts of Evan Turner and Meyers Leonard (plus don’t forget the now-traded Allen Crabbe), the Blazers are flirting with the luxury tax line. Forget chasing big name free agents, they lost Davis and a couple other rotation players, Shabazz Napier and Pat Connaughton. They made a smart signing with Seth Curry (who can help if he is healthy) but are leaning on guys playing in Las Vegas this week,  Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr., to handle rotation minutes.

Lillard was honest, he didn’t want Davis to go.

“Obviously, I loved Ed,’’ Lillard said. “He was one of my best friends in the league; one of my favorite teammates I’ve played with. We lose him – that’s a loss for our team. Bazz played big minutes for us, Pat played big minutes for us – so we lose three rotation players that gave us a lot and contributed to our season last year. But I guess now we look forward to who can come in and replace those minutes and give us that type of quality.’’

Does Lillard want to compete? Yes. He met with ownership last year to express that directly. But he wants to do it In Portland, where he has spent all of his six-year career.

“We got people out here going all out to try and make it happen, and I want us to do the same thing,” Lillard said. “And I feel like we are trying to do that.”

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.