R.J. Barrett

2019 NBA Draft Prospect Profile: Bol Bol is going to get someone fired one way or another

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Over the course of the next two weeks, as the 2019 NBA Draft draws closer and closer, we at Pro Basketball Talk will be taking deep dives into some of the best and most intriguing prospects that will be making their way to the NBA.

Today, we are looking at Bol Bol.

Previous draft profiles:

In theory, I get it.

Bol Bol is 7-foot-2. He has a 7-foot-8 wingspan. He is one of the very best big man shooters that we have ever seen, and when he is engaged and motivated and in the mood to play, he can be a dominant shot-blocking presence.

In the modern NBA, there is a ton of value in players that can protect the rim on one end of the floor and space the court at the other end. And Bol doesn’t just space the floor. He’s 7-foot-2 and gangly and can do things like this:

If you’re an NBA GM and you pass on the next Dirk Nowitzki, you’re going to find yourself in search of employment.

But when it comes to Bol, the truth is that there is no in-between with him on a basketball court. What he does well he does at an elite level. What he doesn’t do well is very hard to watch.

Let’s start with the part that, for my money, is the deal-breaker strictly as a basketball player: For someone that can be such a high-level rim protector when he wants to be, Bol is just a terrible defender. In an era where versatility and positionless basketball has become king, the saying you’ll hear in coaching circles is, “You are who you can guard.”

I have no idea who Bol is going to be able to guard at the next level. He was listed at 235 pounds by Oregon, but he checked in at just 208 pounds at the NBA combine. Combine that with his incredibly high hips and his total aversion to physical contact in the paint, and the idea of Bol trying to guard the likes of Boogie Cousins, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and any other five that I’ve watched play in an NBA game makes my head spin. He was abused by Iowa’s frontline, and frankly, this was the norm for Bol despite the fact that he averaged 2.7 blocks on the season:

He also has nowhere near the footspeed or lateral quickness to be able to defend anyone on the perimeter. The idea of asking him to switch a pick-and-roll and try to stay in front of any NBA guard will cost his coaching staff next season at least two hours of sleep every night before a game.

If it sounds like I’m killing him here, I am. As tantalizing as his talent is offensively, he is a long, long way from actually being able to stay on the floor during an NBA game.

And while I think that, in theory, it certainly is possible for him to be able to get to a point where he can be a really good pro, the other major red flag with Bol is that questions about just how much he actually likes basketball have surrounded him since early in his high school career. He needs to live in the weight room for his first two or three seasons in the NBA. When he’s not in the weight room, he needs to be in the practice gym, learning how to play and where to be on the defensive side of the ball. Does he have the work ethic to actually improve the flaws in his game? And even if he does add the muscle and learn where he needs to be and when he needs to be there defensively, will it matter if he is afraid of physicality? If his conditioning was an issue playing just nine games at the college level, will he be able to handle the rigors of an 82-game season while carrying 250-260 pounds in an ideal world?

I think the answer to both of those questions is ‘no’.

Which leads me to the final red flag.

Bol missed the final two months of the season with a fractured navicular bone, which is a terrifying injury for any player, let alone a 7-foot-2 center that needs to add weight while getting in shape. Can he avoid reaggravating the injury when he has 50 more pounds on his frame? Can he do that while putting in the work that it will take to get into NBA shape with that extra weight?

And we’re asking all of this from a kid that already has work ethic concerns?

There’s a very real chance that Bol could end up being out of the league quicker than Anthony Bennett or Hasheem Thabeet. Drafting him early and getting absolutely nothing out of the pick is another way to find yourself filing for unemployment.

Like I said, I get the upside.

But if I am an NBA GM, I’m letting someone — anyone — else deal with that stress.

Report: Lakers trying to keep Kyle Kuzma out of Anthony Davis trade talks

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Updates on the Anthony Davis trade drama keep coming out…

Which is to say spin from the various sides has been put forward to promote their interests. However, some interesting tidbits do come out through all of this. Here are the latest updates — from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and Marc Stein of the New York Times — with some thoughts/commentary on what we’re seeing.

There’s nothing new here in terms of news. That the Celtics are not backing off their efforts to get Davis in the wake of Davis’ agent Rich Paul saying AD would not re-sign in Boston is not a surprise or a change from what we reported before. Same with the note in Wojnarowski’s story that the Nets and Clippers have gained some “traction” in talks with the Pelicans.

However, this getting leaked, much like Pelicans VP David Griffin saying there is no timeline to make a trade, sounds like spin from the Pelicans camp to keep the pressure on the Lakers to come up with a better deal than whatever is on the table now.

And what is on the table now is not Kyle Kuzma, Stein reports (and Wojnarowski confirms).

If I’m a Lakers fan, I’m feeling pretty good right now, it sounds like they are the clear frontrunners. That said, Griffin and the Pelicans know they get just one shot at this and they will push hard for the best deal possible. As they should. I’d want Kuzma in a deal, and if he’s not there, the Lakers need to get someone else that the Pelicans want with that fourth pick.

If there is a team that has fallen in love with Jarrett Culver or Darius Garland in this draft and is willing to move up and get them, then the Lakers could get that needed player to entice New Orleans. The challenge is, almost every scout I’ve spoken to sees a drop off after three (or, some see a drop off after two and Ja Morant, there are some not high on R.J. Barrett). Will the Lakers be able to spin this pick into a player that the Pelicans want?

This is a trade that almost certainly gets done before the draft, and the Lakers are in a strong position, but getting this over the line is not going to be easy.

2019 NBA Draft Prospect Profile: Cam Reddish and the importance of evaluating context

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Over the course of the next two weeks, as the 2019 NBA Draft draws closer and closer, we at Pro Basketball Talk will be taking deep dives into some of the best and most intriguing prospects that will be making their way to the NBA.

Today, we are looking at Cam Reddish.

Previous draft profiles:

Context matters in every aspect of life, and that includes when evaluating prospects for the NBA.

In this year’s draft, there is no player where context matters more than with Cam Reddish.

Heading into the season, there were people that believed that Reddish was the prospect with the highest ceiling in the Class of 2018, and it’s not all that difficult to see why. Reddish looks exactly like everything that you would want out of a big wing in the modern NBA. He’s 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan. His shooting stroke is effortless and clean. He spent the majority of his high school and AAU career playing on the ball as a lead guard, and it shows when he’s allowed to operate in isolation or when running ball-screens. His mechanics, his footwork, his release, they are all polished, whether he’s catching-and-shooting or pulling up off the dribble. He’s smooth and fairly athletic, and he has a frame that looks like it can be developed in an NBA strength and conditioning program.

Watch him at his best and it’s not hard to see why names like Paul George and Jayson Tatum get invoked when talking about him:

The upside is there.

The problem is the productivity never consistently matched his potential. Reddish shot just 33 percent from beyond the arc for Duke and under 40 percent from two-point range. His PER was a dreadful 13.8. Smaller defenders were able to climb up under him and take him completely out of rhythm. For a guy that spent so long playing as a point guard, it’s concerning that his assist rate (10.7) was half his turnover rate (20.7) with Duke. His effort level was never consistent; one of the criticisms of Reddish dating back to his high school days is that he lacks focus, that he doesn’t care enough, and he certainly did not shake that reputation while playing for Duke. He seemed to lack confidence, something that wasn’t helped by the fact that teams quickly figured out that he lacked the strength and toughness to consistently handle the physicality at that level of basketball. Concerns about toughness certainly weren’t helped when he mysteriously sat out Duke’s Sweet 16 matchup with Virginia Tech.

It’s also not hard to see why he also gets compared to the likes of Andrew Wiggins and Rudy Gay.

This is where we really need to consider the context surrounding his one season at Duke.

For starters, Reddish has always been the star with the ball in his hands at every level of basketball that he has played. He was identified very early on as a future superstar, having been invited to participate in the Team USA Junior National Team minicamp in 2014, before he turned 15 years old. He’s had every team that he has played one more or less built around him since then. Even when playing for an absolutely loaded Westtown team, his coach put Reddish at the point in order to keep the ball in his hands as much as possible.

That was never going to be the case at Duke, where R.J. Barrett dominated Duke’s touches and Zion Williamson dominated the touches that didn’t go to Barrett. Reddish was asked to essentially be a floor-spacer, someone out there to punish defenses that overhelp on Duke’s Big Two. It’s something that he had never done before in his basketball career, and to his credit, he never publicly complained about it. We never so much as heard about “sources close to Reddish” being upset about what he was asked to do or being worried about his role hurting his draft stock. He accepted his role and tried to do his job.

And even that wasn’t the best situation.

Reddish was literally the only player on that roster that opponents had to worry about from the perimeter. Defensive game-plans centered around staying connected to Reddish while completely ignoring the likes of Tre Jones, Jordan Goldwire and Jack White.

How much of a role did that play in Reddish’s three-point shooting struggles this year?

And how much did the lack of spacing offensively hinder Reddish’s ability to finish around the rim?

Because that is the other major concern with his game. He didn’t just struggle as a three-point shooter. He shot under 40 percent from two-point range, which is tragically low for someone with his physical tools. Was this the result of a total lack of space in the paint? Or was this a by-product of some of Reddish’s lacking physical tools? Is he functionally athletic enough to finish around the rim at the NBA level? Will he ever learn how to avoid charges? Is he strong enough to handle physicality in the paint?

And all of that leads us to the biggest question that NBA franchises are going to have to ask themselves in regards to Reddish: Is he wired to be a pro? Is he a “winner”? Does he have that killer instinct?

Was his disappointing one-and-done season a result of a player that accepted but struggled dealing with the role of being a good teammate, or is he a player who will build a career out of convincing teams that they will finally be the ones to get his on-court output to match his on-paper potential?

Because you can watch viral clips like this to see just how naturally gifted he really is:

Then go back and actually watch the film and see just how rare it was to see him do something like this during a game.

2019 NBA Draft Prospect Profile: De’Andre Hunter is a near-certainty, which may hurt him on draft night

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Over the course of the next two weeks, as the 2019 NBA Draft draws closer and closer, we at Pro Basketball Talk will be taking deep dives into some of the best and most intriguing prospects that will be making their way to the NBA.

Today, we are looking at De'Andre Hunter.

Previous draft profiles:

What is the value of a draft pick?

When you are picking early in the lottery, what, exactly, are you looking for out of that pick?

How much are you willing to change the way that you answer those first two questions based on the crop of players available?

Those are the things that are going to determine where De’Andre Hunter ends up starting his professional basketball career.

Generally speaking, teams that are picking in the top five are bad basketball teams. That’s why they are given those early picks, to try and spread talent and superstars around the league. Competitive balance and all that. The entire philosophy behind tanking is that the only way for certain organizations to attract franchise-changing talents is to draft them, so you lose on purpose to pick earlier and end up with a better chance of landing a future Hall of Famer.

That is where the conundrum of drafting De’Andre Hunter lies.

There may not be a safer pick in this year’s draft outside of Zion Williamson. There may not be a player in the entire draft that is better prepared to immediately impact an NBA game or an NBA playoff series than Hunter. He turns 22 years old in December — remember, he’s a sophomore, but he spent his first year in Charlottesville redshirting — and, at 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, is a ready-made, multi-positional defensive menace right now. He is the perfect blend of big-enough-to-guard-fours and quick-enough-to-switch-onto-guards while also shooting 43.8 percent from three this past season and just under 42 percent from three on 160 attempts in his two-year career with the Wahoos. He’s stiff, and he’s more or less limited to being a straight-line driver, but playing as a small-ball four in a league where the three-point line is pushed back and the space created offensively makes the college game look as muddled as a mojito, he should be able to attack close-outs just fine.

In a worst-case scenario, you’re getting the healthy version of O.G. Anunoby. What’s more likely is that you end up with DeMarre Carroll.

I don’t say this lightly — if you put Hunter on the Warriors last night, their chances of beating the Raptors in Game 3 of the Finals would have increased rather significantly. He’s big enough and dominant enough defensively to get thrown on Kawhi Leonard or Pascal Siakam and do as well as anyone would in slowing them down, and he has good enough feet that can can be switched onto Toronto’s guards — either Kyle Lowry or Fred VanVleet — and do a job on them, too, all while helping keep the floor spaced due to his shooting.

Simply put, I do not think there is a better defensive prospect in this draft, and I would not be surprised if Hunter ends up making NBA All-Defensive teams during his career.

The fact that he can do all of that while, in theory, being able to knockdown threes and attack closeouts makes him a valuable and in-demand player in the modern NBA.

The problem, however, is that Hunter’s ceiling isn’t all that much higher than his floor.

Which is where the question about the value of a draft pick and what a team is looking for when picking in the first half of the lottery comes into play.

Hunter, at this point, is something of a finished product. There are things that he can improve on — his handle can be loose, there are some folks that aren’t fully convinced that his stroke will translate to the NBA three-point line, being more aggressive offensively would make him more dangerous — but whoever ends up drafting him knows exactly what they are getting. He’s going to be an elite defender that has the upside of being one of the more useful 3-and-D role players in the NBA.

Is that enough to pick him in the top five?

If you are the Lakers, it might make some sense. LeBron is not getting any younger, meaning that their window to win now is closing. Hunter fits there, just like he would make some sense on New Orleans if the Pelicans end up getting the No. 4 pick as compensation for a trade involving Anthony Davis.

But how does drafting a guy whose career arc screams “role player for the next decade” help Cleveland? Would John Beilein rather draft a guy that needs good players around him to thrive when he doesn’t actually have those good players yet, or would it make more sense to take a swing on someone like Cam Reddish, a player with inherently more risk but whose ceiling is much, much higher than Hunter’s?

It seems unlikely that either Phoenix or Chicago would draft anything other than a point guard, which means that there is a real chance Hunter could end up dropping all the way to eighth, if not further.

Which is wild, when you think about it.

The top three in this draft is set. We all know that. But things get murky once you get to the fourth pick and murkier once you get to pick No. 8. There is no clear-cut fourth-best prospect in this draft, which puts these organizations into a tough spot.

Do you take Hunter, a guy that will spend the next decade helping you matchup with the very best teams in the NBA while you still need to find the stars that will allow you to compete with those teams, or do you draft Cam Reddish or Darius Garland, betting on the 10 percent chance that they eventually develop into, say, Joe Johnson or C.J. McCollum, respectively?

It’s not an easy question to answer.

R.J. Barrett works out for Knicks: ‘This is the place I want to be’

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Former Duke star R.J. Barrett is going to be taken third in the NBA Draft on June 20.

The New York Knicks own the third pick.

Barrett worked out for the Knicks and said afterward he is not working out for any other teams, he wants to be a Knick. Via Ian Bagley of SNY.

For Barrett to get what he wants, the Knicks have to hold on to the third pick — they are shopping it around, both in potential Anthony Davis trade scenarios and other deals out there. The Knicks are willing to move it, and whatever team would trade for it would do so because they want Barrett.

And there is a lot to like, as our own Rob Dauster recently broke down for us at NBC.

Barrett, for all the criticism that he faced throughout the season, became the first high-major player since Anfernee Hardaway to averaged 22 points, seven boards and four assists in one season. Barrett did it as an 18-year old (he turns 19 on June 14th) playing in the ACC. Hardaway did it as a 21-year old junior playing in the Great Midwest Conference.

Barrett quite literally did something this season that we’ve never seen a teenager do in college basketball.

Barrett is going to be a good NBA player, the only question is will that be with the Knicks.