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AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian

Rumor: Team promised to draft Boise State senior Chandler Hutchinson in late first round

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NBA teams are increasingly using three, even four, versatile wings at once. Such lineups can spread the floor, play fast and switch.

But teams haven’t quite caught up to emphasizing wings in the draft. The top seven picks in our mock draft are bigs and point guards.

There are plenty of wings available lower in the draft, though. Is a team particularly intrigued by Boise State senior Chandler Hutchinson?

Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

Hutchinson is a 22-year-old who didn’t really excel until he became older than most of his mid-major-conference competition. I’m skeptical of any prospects of that rough mold.

Hutchinson impresses as a driver – particularly against closeouts or in transition. His strides are long, and he adeptly changes speeds and direction. He finishes well at the rim and even passes well while attacking.

But those opportunities to drive against closeouts won’t exist if his outside shot isn’t a threat. Though he’s significantly improved, his 3-pointer is not reliable. He’s far better on catch-and-shoots than hoisting off the dribble from deep, and he’ll likely eliminate those low-efficiency pull-up attempts while in a smaller role in the pros. So, that should help.

At 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, Hutchinson has the physical to defend well in the NBA. But he’ll have a lot to learn after playing in Boise State’s zone.

Hutchinson has a projectable skill set for a league that increasingly desires players of his style. That ought to get him strong consideration. But becoming convinced he’s worth a first-round investment? That’s a tougher case.

Apparently, at least one team is sold, though.

Elfrid Payton gets haircut

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin
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Elfrid Payton‘s distinctive hairstyle has been blamed for his poor shooting.

That won’t be a problem now.

Former Magic teammate Evan Fournier:

Payton will be a free agent this summer. (The Suns can make restricted.) Could this actually improve his offers?

I know this: If Payton shoots better next season, his haircut will be seen as the primary reason, accurate or not.

Report: Hawks were ‘really determined’ to get Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2013 NBA draft

AP Photo/Morry Gash
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Mike Budenholzer just worked his way out of Atlanta to Milwaukee to coach Giannis Antetokounmpo. Antetokounmpo, just 23, is already a superstar. Helping to mold him is a once-in-a-generation opportunity.

But what if Budenholzer could have been coaching Antetokounmpo all along?

The Bucks drafted Antetokounmpo No. 15 in 2013, but they had competition from the Hawks, as Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst of ESPN detailed on The Woj Pod:

  • Wojnarowski: “That night with Giannis, Atlanta was really – Brian, you both know this. Atlanta was really determined to get him.”
  • Windhorst: “Oh, yes. I’ve listened to Danny Ferry’s sob story about this one.”
  • Wojnarowski: “Danny Ferry, Wes Wilcox were really focused on him.”

The Hawks entered the draft with the No. 17 and No. 18 picks. How determined were they if they couldn’t move ahead of Milwaukee picking 15th?

I believe Ferry and Wilcox, both since ousted, liked Antetokounmpo more than most teams did. But if they had an inkling Antetokounmpo would even near the level he actually has, the Hawks would have gotten him. He fell all the way to No. 15!

Instead, Atlanta traded up from No. 18 to No. 16 with the Mavericks – who have their own Antetokounmpo draft-night story – and got Lucas Nogueira. The Hawks took Dennis Schroder No. 17.

Of course, only the near-hits get leaked. All the times Ferry and Wilcox were “really determined” to trade for a player who wound up a bust, you’ll never hear about it.

Still, I’m fascinated by the “what if?” Atlanta already had Al Horford, Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver. That same summer, the Hawks signed Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll to complete the starting lineup that would win 60 games a couple seasons later. Imagine that team with Antetokounmpo coming into his own.

Celtics must still prove they can win on road

AP Photo/Charles Krupa
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LeBron James has made clear he’s not intimidated by road playoff games. That’s the luxury of being an all-time great player with years of experience. No situation is too big for LeBron.

But that’s not necessarily true of his Cavaliers teammates. And it’s almost certainly not true of their opponent in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Celtics won Games 1 and 2 in Boston, but they now must travel to Cleveland for Game 3 Saturday and Game 4 Monday. The Celtics have (unexpectedly) proven themselves to be a strong team this postseason, but they’ve done most of the heavy lifting at home.

Boston is 7-0 at home and 1-4 on the road this postseason. That 80-percentage-point difference between home and road record is tied for the sixth-largest of all-time (minimum: eight games):

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That could just be a small-sample issue. The Celtics have played only three different opponents and nine games at home and five games and two different opponents on the road.

But there’s also a belief (which could be self-fulfilling, especially given the early results) that young players are especially prone to large home-road splits. And Boston is relying on plenty of young players – notably Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier.

One of the Celtics’ veterans, Marcus Smart, isn’t discounting the issue – nor is he surrendering. Associated Press:

Marcus Smart, who was all over the court in the Celtics’ Game 2 win , didn’t take any offense to Cavs coach Tyronn Lue’s comment that the Celtics have “shown they haven’t played that well on the road.”

“We haven’t played well. We know that and understand that,” Smart said. “We understand that other teams see that and try to exploit it. But that’s the beauty about this game. It just takes one game. You never know. Things change. Our confidence is high. Who knows?”

Kevin Durant’s isolations are symptom, solution, problem for Warriors

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Asked about his team isolating so much in Game 1, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said, “I mean, that was the best thing we had. I don’t know why it’s bad.”

Asked about his team isolating so much in Game 2, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, “Yeah, we didn’t play well, obviously, at either end of the floor.”

Houston’s offensive style became a major talking point after Game 1, but Golden State has fallen deep into isolation. The Warriors aren’t nearly as comfortable with that tactic, but it’s central to their Western Conference finals.

Both teams want to score in transition and semi-transition. Golden State is just far more eager and capable. The goal changes once facing a set, halfcourt defense. The Rockets prefer to isolate with James Harden or Chris Paul. The Warriors want to move the ball and run more complex sets.

But Houston’s switching defense was built to shut down that very attack. The Rocket struggled to keep up in Game 1, but they settled in in Game 2 (made easier by scoring more efficiently and getting more chances to set their defense). Houston became especially effective by treating Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala as non-threats to score, devoting more attention to gumming up the works for Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

Golden State anticipated this problem a couple years ago and found a highly charged solution – signing Kevin Durant. Durant fits well into the Warriors’ dynamic offense, but he’s also an elite one-on-one scorer when things break down.

With the offense broken down more often against the Rockets, Golden State kept turning to Durant. And he has answered the call.

He scored 37 points in Game 1 and 38 points in Game 2. He’s making 58% of his 2-pointers (21-of-36), 46% of his 3-pointers (6-of-13) and 100% of his free throws (15-of-15) in the series. His combination of usage percentage (37%) and true shooting percentage (67%) is off the charts.

The Warriors can easily get a mismatched defender switched onto Durant. He has cooked James Harden, Clint Capela, Chris Paul and Eric Gordon. But Durant has also excelled against better-equipped defenders in Trevor Ariza and P.J. Tucker.

This is mostly translating to the team level. Golden State’s offensive rating with Durant on the floor (113.3) would have led the NBA in the regular season.

So, what’s the downside?

There’s a ceiling on Durant dominating from mid-range. Sometimes, that’ll beat Houston’s 3-point heavy attack (102.7 offensive rating in Game 1). Sometimes, it won’t (Houston’s offensive rating in Game 2: 122.3).

Durant has taken 49 shots this series while dishing only assist. Since the NBA instituted a 16-team postseason format in 1984, players have taken more shots with so few assists in consecutive games of a playoff series just six times:

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Golden State is just 1-6 this season, regular-season and playoffs, when Durant has scored at least 38 points. That’s not because his scoring is harmful, but because the Warriors turn to him so much only faced with other problems.

Durant’s isolations can then create new issues.

When the ball is sticking with Durant to such an extent, are his teammates still working as hard off the ball to generate even more efficient looks? Is Durant defending as hard when he expends all that energy on offense? Are his teammates defending as hard when they’re not involved offensively?

In a sport with real humans who get fatigued and have emotions, there are downsides to funneling the offense through Durant – even if he directly scores efficiently.

The Rockets have spent all season adjusting to those issues. Golden State isolating so much threatens its identity.

It’s working alright for the Warriors so far. The series is 1-1, after all.

But they’re aiming higher and surely aren’t content to keep playing this way.