Terence Davis

Mississippi State forward Robert Woodard
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Mississippi State’s Robert Woodard II entering NBA draft as borderline first-rounder

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Will Robert Woodard II become the first first-round pick out of Mississippi State since Arnett Moultrie in 2012 and just the second since Erick Dampier and Dontae’ Jones in 1996?

Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

Mississippi State sophomore Robert Woodard II is entering the 2020 NBA draft, he told ESPN on Thursday.

“I am going into the draft with the intention of not going back to school,” Woodard told ESPN. “I am maintaining my eligibility because of the uncertainty about the dates and what workouts will look like, but I don’t look it at is as testing the waters. I am all-in with this thing.”

Woodard projects as a borderline first-round pick.

NBA teams can’t get enough small forwards, and Woodard (6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and good athleticism) looks the part. He can defend multiple positions. His 3-point percentage (43) was high.

But don’t assume Woodard will make it as a 3-and-D player. He shot a low volume of 3s, waiting for the best looks. His free-throw percentage – a key indicator of shooting ability – was just 64.

Beyond his 3-and-D skills, there’s even more reason for concern. Woodard is a lackluster ball-handler and distributor.

That said, teams should place more value on players like Woodard in the draft. It’s worth rolling the dice on wings with the tools to pan out. Many won’t. But the ones who do will fill a position where options are scarce.

Correction: This article previously said Raptors forward Terence Davis attended Mississippi State. He went to Mississippi.

Mock NBA expansion draft: Celtics, Nets, Knicks, 76ers, Raptors

Mock NBA expansion draft
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The NBA season is on hiatus. NBC Sports is not – even if we have to venture into fantasy.

We’re holding a mock NBA expansion draft. Keith Smith is setting protected lists for existing teams. Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman will run two new teams as this project culminates in an expansion draft.

Current teams can protect up to eight players. Each team must make at least one player available. If selected, restricted free agents become unrestricted free agents. Pending options can be decided before or after the expansion draft at the discretion of the option-holder. Anyone selected in the expansion draft can’t return to his prior team for one year. Players entering unrestricted free agency and players on two-way contracts are essentially ignored.

We’re unveiling protected/unprotected lists by division. Players are listed with their 2020-21 salary. Up now, the Atlantic:

Boston Celtics

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 7

Ineligible – 0

Analysis: Boston’s decisions are fairly cut and dry. Jayson Tatum, Romeo Langford, Grant Williams and Robert Williams are all on their rookie-scale contracts. Jaylen Brown will be starting a four-year contract extension. Kemba Walker was just signed to a max contract. Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis are good values and key rotation players.

The toughest decision was on Gordon Hayward. Carrying a salary over $34 million, the Celtics are betting he’ll go undrafted and will return to the team. Everyone else was a fairly easy decision to leave unprotected.

Brooklyn Nets

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 5

Ineligible – 2

Analysis: The Nets are keeping their big four in Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert. Jarrett Allen is still on his rookie-scale contract, so that’s an easy decision. With over $101 million on the books for just Durant, Irving, Dinwiddie and LeVert, Nicolas Claxton and Rodions Kurucs help bring some low-cost upside to the back-end of the roster.

DeAndre Jordan will likely go unselected, given his age and $30 million-plus owed through 2022-23. If Jordan is selected, Brooklyn can bank some potential luxury tax savings down the line. Taurean Prince was on the fence, but given his disappointing play this season, and lack of fit in a lineup featuring Durant, the Nets will take their chances he’ll be selected.

New York Knicks

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 6

Ineligible – 1

  • Maurice Harkless

Analysis: The Knicks are clearing the decks for a run at free agency this summer. The expansion draft could only help along that way. New York is protecting their young players with upside, as well as Julius Randle, last year’s big free agent addition. The Knicks are also protecting Damyean Dotson and Allonzo Trier. Not out of fear of losing them, but in hopes that either of the expansion teams will select a bigger salary and take it off the New York cap sheet.

Dennis Smith Jr. was the only questionable player to leave unprotected, but $5.7 million is simply too much for a player out of the rotation. The other five players aren’t part of the future in New York, so that decision was easy.

Philadelphia 76ers

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 3

Ineligible – 4

Analysis: Philadelphia’s decisions make themselves. The highly paid players are key rotation players. Furkan Korkmaz and Shake Milton are steals on minimum contracts. Matisse Thybulle is only entering year two of his rookie scale deal. Zhaire Smith was on the bubble, but he’s young enough, and under team control, that he’s worth protecting.

Al Horford is very unprotected. His signing simply hasn’t worked out for the Sixers. He’s a player Philadelphia is open to talking about a trade with either of the expansion teams. With an extra first-round pick, the 76ers hope to dangle it to entice a team to select Horford.

Toronto Raptors

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 3

Ineligible – 4

Analysis: The Raptors don’t have to expose any of their core rotation players in the expansion draft. Up front, Pascal Siakam just inked his contract extension, and OG Anunoby is still on his rookie scale deal. Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are all free agents. In the backcourt, Toronto can protect Kyle Lowry and Norman Powell, along with undrafted find Terence Davis. And Fred VanVleet is a free agent.

The leaves just a handful of players who don’t have a role for the Raptors. Toronto could even entertain offering a second-round pick to entice either expansion team to select Stanley Johnson and take his $3.8 million off the cap/tax.

Best in the East by far, Giannis Antetokounmpo leads Bucks past Raptors 108-97

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TORONTO — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 19 points and 19 rebounds, Khris Middleton scored 22 points and the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Toronto Raptors 108-97 on Tuesday night in a matchup between the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

Eric Bledsoe scored 17 points and Brook Lopez had 15 as the NBA-leading Bucks won their fifth straight and 18th of 20. Milwaukee (50-8) was playing the second game of a back-to-back after winning in overtime at Washington Monday.

Antetokounmpo finished with eight assists, narrowly missing a triple-double.

Behind by 12 points late in the second quarter, the Bucks rallied to beat the Raptors in their first game in Toronto since losing Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals last May, completing a disappointing collapse after winning the first two games of that series at home.

The Bucks beat the Raptors 115-105 when the teams met in Milwaukee on Nov. 2. They’ll face each other again in consecutive games on April 1 and 3.

Pascal Siakam scored 22 points and Fred VanVleet had 14 as the defending NBA champion Raptors lost for the second time in 19 games. Toronto was beaten at home for the first time since Jan. 12 against San Antonio, ending a nine-game run.

It was a rough night for Raptors starters Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry. Ibaka made 2 of 15 shots and Lowry shot 2 for 12. Ibaka went 1 for 10 from 3-point range while Lowry was 1 for 7.

Lowry, Terence Davis and Chris Boucher all scored 10 points for the Raptors.

Toronto trailed 84-71 to begin the fourth, but Davis scored five points as the Raptors closed the gap with a 7-0 spurt over the first 90 seconds of the final quarter.

VanVleet’s four-point play with 2:23 left cut it to 101-94, and the Raptors forced a steal on Milwaukee’s next possession but VanVleet missed a 3. Antetokounmpo hit a 3 at the other end, restoring the double-digit advantage.

Six of Toronto’s 10 field goals in the first quarter were 3-pointers, including a pair from Siakam. The Raptors led 27-25 after one.

Toronto was up 51-39, its biggest lead of the game, after OG Anunoby dunked over Antetokounmpo with 2:58 to go in the second. Milwaukee closed the quarter with an 11-1 spurt, cutting the deficit to 52-50 at halftime.

After missing 10 of 11 attempts from 3-point range in the second, the Bucks hit three in a row from distance during their closing surge. All five of Antetokounmpo’s points in the quarter came during that stretch.

Middleton made just one of five shots in the first half but went 3 for 3 in the third and scored nine points as the Bucks outscored the Raptors 34-19 to take an 84-71 lead into the fourth.

Pascal Siakam scores 37, Raptors remain red hot with win vs. Suns

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TORONTO — Pascal Siakam had 37 points and 12 rebounds and the Toronto Raptors beat the Phoenix Suns 118-101 on Friday night for their 16th victory in 17 games.

Serge Ibaka scored 16 points, Fred VanVleet and Terence Davis each had 14, Kyle Lowry had 13 points and 10 assists and OG Anunoby aded 12 points for the defending NBA champion Raptors.

After Toronto’s franchise-record 15-game winning streak ended with a loss at Brooklyn in the final game before the All-Star break, the Raptors bounced back by starting the second half with their eighth consecutive home victory.

The Raptors have not lost back-to-back games since an overtime loss at Indiana on Dec. 23 and a home loss to Boston on Christmas Day. Toronto has gone 19-1 since.

Siakam connected on 12 of 19 attempts, going 5 of 9 from 3-point range.

That was just one fewer than the six 3-pointers the Suns managed on 34 attempts. Phoenix shot 17.6%t from long range, its lowest mark of the season. No Suns player made more than one shot from distance.

Devin Booker scored 21 points and Deandre Ayton had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Phoenix. The Suns lost for the seventh time in nine games.

Ayton returned to the starting lineup after missing the final two games before the All-Star break because of a sore left ankle.

Phoenix trailed 93-78 through three quarters, but the Suns cut the gap to six points, 96-90 on a basket by Ayton with 8:08 left to play. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson made a pair from the line, and VanVleet and Siakam both scored to put the Raptors up 102-90 with 6:58 remaining.

Booker missed a 3 with 4:45 left that would have made it a four-point game. Anunoby scored on a dunk and, after another missed 3 by the Suns, Ibaka banked home a 3-pointer to restore Toronto’s 12-point cushion.

Terence Davis, who entered NBA on his own terms, already putting stamp on Raptors

Terence Davis
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Terence Davis was miserable.

He had just addressed 40-50 family members and friends on draft night 2019. Holding back tears, he explained he wouldn’t get picked. His mind raced. He thought about providing for his son, who was born six days earlier.

“I really became a man that night,” Davis said.

Davis also put himself in position to become a successful NBA player that night.

***

The NBA G League Elite Camp offers an opportunity for less-heralded draft prospects to work out for both NBA and minor-league teams. The top performers even get promoted to the NBA combine. Forty draft-eligible players got invited to last year’s NBA G League Elite Camp.

Davis didn’t make the cut. Snubbed from an event for players not good enough for the main event.

His agent eventually campaigned him in. When Davis arrived, his jersey didn’t even have his name on the back.

He made a name for himself, anyway. Davis played well, earned an invitation to the NBA combine then continued to team workouts. By draft night, he was 80% sure he’d get picked.

“I was supposed to be selected late first round, early second,” Davis said. “That’s what I was hearing from different teams, and my agent was hearing that as well.”

But the draft went deeper and deeper without Davis’ name being called. He said a few teams offered to draft him if he’d accept a two-way contract – the Timberwolves, Celtics and another team he couldn’t recall.

“I really washed them teams from my memory, honestly,” Davis said.

He doesn’t want to prove to those teams they should have valued him more?

“I want to prove to the league that I should have been selected,” Davis said.

“I’m always out to prove. That’s just how I am, how I’m wired. I’ve been underrated my whole life, the underdog.”

Born and raised in Mississippi, Davis became a high school football star. He surprised many by choosing to play basketball in college. Davis spent four years University of Mississippi, breaking out as a sophomore then growing into an All-SEC second-teamer as a senior.

So, Davis is willing to carve his own path.

That’s why he rejected getting drafted and signing a two-way deal. Davis didn’t want to give away his exclusive negotiating rights just to get paid a relatively low salary and spend time in the NBA’s minor league. He was better off as an undrafted free agent.

It’s a path more players should take. But it’s also difficult to break from the pack when every norm says players should celebrate getting drafted.

“I’m a different breed, man,” Davis said. “Honestly. I mean that in the humblest way ever. I really look at myself as a different breed.”

Still, Davis was uncertain after the draft. Even if he had more freedom as a free agent, teams just indicated their collective disinterest by not drafting him.

Soon enough, though, Nuggets president Tim Connelly called. Davis liked the Nuggets because they had no minor-league affiliate to stash him on. And Denver, Connelly said, liked Davis. Rejuvenated by Connelly’s faith in him, Davis perked up. He agreed to play for the Nuggets in summer league.

Davis quickly impressed during scrimmages in Denver. The Nuggets went to Las Vegas, and Davis led them with 22 points in their summer-league opening win over the Magic.

After the game, Davis – still wearing Denver gear – sat in the stands when his agent informed him the Raptors would sign him to an NBA contract with a fully guaranteed salary. Davis kept asking, “Is this real?”

Later that night, Davis called Nuggets summer-league coach Jordi Fernandez to express his appreciation. After he hung up, Fernandez called his wife and said, “If this job is worth it, it’s for moments like this.”

“It’s been one of the best moments in my probably NBA career,” said Fernandez, a Denver assistant. “Because I know you may think the big stories. Yeah, a big story is when a super-high draft pick or whatever, right? But to me, this is a big story, a kid that had to go in a different route. And he was all about the right things. And he makes it. Again, it makes our lives as coaches, that’s what makes it special.”

***

After finishing summer league with the Raptors, Davis joined Toronto players to work out in Los Angeles. According to Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, Davis was quite brash during pickup games. On one hand, VanVleet found it a little naïve and tried to put the youngster in his place. On the other hand, VanVleet – whose path to the NBA as undrafted player was similar to Davis’ – appreciated the confidence.

Now, VanVleet just watches and laughs when his teammate gets going.

“He’s talking to refs, and he’s talking trash to other players,” VanVleet said. “You would think he’s been around 15 years.”

Davis just looks like he belongs.

He’s already a rotation player on one of the NBA’s top teams. His 7.7 points per game are modest, but his contributions are often more subtle. Davis leads all rookies in real plus-minus (+4.32).

Here are the rookie leaders in real plus-minus (minimum: 100 minutes):

Davis isn’t as good as, say, Ja Morant. But this shows how well Davis fills his role.

At 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, Davis has the athleticism for practically any matchup. He’s a dogged defender and confident shooter. He’s making 42% of his 3-pointers on a high enough volume to spread the floor.

Davis could join a rare group of undrafted All-Rookie teamers: Yogi Ferrell, Langston Galloway, Gary Neal, Jamario Moon, Walter Herrmann, Jorge Garbajosa, Marquis Daniels, Udonis Haslem, J.R. Bremer, Chucky Atkins, Matt Maloney and Larry Stewart. Only Ferrell, Galloway, Daniels, Bremer, Stewart did it in their first professional season.

Yet, Davis got bypassed for Rising Stars.

Davis didn’t make a big stink. He brushed it off as just “another time that I don’t get selected for something.” Then, he scored 31 points in Toronto’s win over the Bulls yesterday.

What if Davis were producing like this but had the stature that comes with getting drafted?

“I would be in that Rising Stars game, no doubt,” Davis said. “No doubt. ”

He’s happy with his path, though.

A big advantage: Davis can hit free agency sooner. His contract includes an unguaranteed second season, but he’s headed toward free agency (likely restricted free agency) in 2021.

Of the 30 second-round picks last year:

  • Four rejected the required tender. Without getting paid a dime, they allow their team to retain their exclusive NBA negotiating rights.
  • Eight signed a two-way contract. They got their foot in the door to the NBA, but their salaries are relatively meager.
  • Seventeen signed a three- or four-year deal. Most of those contracts include a year or two or even three of unguaranteed minimum salary on the back end. So, if the player is performing well, his team will keep him for cheap. If he’s not performing well, he’ll get cut with no severance pay.

Only Talen Horton-Tucker, the No. 46 pick who went to the Lakers, signed a standard NBA contract for fewer than three seasons.

Horton-Tucker and Davis are earning just the rookie minimum ($898,310) this season. Seven second-rounders got between $1 million and $1.5 million. But they’re all locked up at least three seasons.

It’s easy to envision Davis earning about $5 million in his third season. The second-rounders who signed for that long will receive just $1,782,621.

Of course, that’s well down the road.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse was recently looking ahead, though not that quite far ahead. Nurse believes Davis missed Rising Stars because the guard is playing too little (16.8 minutes per game) to post eye-catching numbers. It’s the consequence of joining a good team.

“Maybe next year,” Nurse said. “Can he still do it next year?”

Of course. Rising Stars is for rookies and sophomores.

But considering how much he has already done to put himself on the map, it’s easy to forget Davis is in only his first season.