AP Photo/Richard W. Rodriguez

First five picks of 2018 NBA draft make All-Rookie first team

1 Comment

Remember the first five picks of last year’s draft?

1. Suns: Deandre Ayton

2. Kings: Marvin Bagley

3. Hawks (to Mavericks): Luka Doncic

4. Grizzlies: Jaren Jackson Jr.

5. Mavericks (to Hawks): Trae Young

A year later, and those same five players comprise the All-Rookie first team.

Here’s the full voting (first-place votes, second-place votes and voting points in parentheses):

First team

Luka Doncic, DAL (100-0-200)

Trae Young, ATL (100-0-200)

Deandre Ayton, PHO (95-5-195)

Jaren Jackson Jr., MEM (60-39-159)

Marvin Bagley III, SAC (56-44-156)

Second team

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, LAC (40-58-138)

Collin Sexton, CLE (39-54-132)

Landry Shamet, LAC (3-79-85)

Mitchell Robinson, NYK (3-71-77)

Kevin Huerter, ATL (1-43-45)

Also receiving votes: Mikal Bridges, PHO (1-29-31); Kevin Knox, NYK (0-22-22); Josh Okogie, MIN (1-10-12); Jalen Brunson, DAL (0-10-10); Allonzo Trier, NYK (0-10-10); Rodions Kurucs, BRK (0-9-9); Wendell Carter Jr., CHI (0-7-7); Miles Bridges, CHA (1-4-6); Bruce Brown, DET (0-2-2); Harry Giles III, SAC (0-2-2); Mo Bamba, ORL (0-1-1); Aaron Holiday, IND (0-1-1)

This is only the second time the top five picks all made the ensuing All-Rookie first team. The other: 1984-85, when the top five picks were:

1. Rockets: Hakeem Olajuwon

2. Trail Blazers: Sam Bowie

3. Bulls: Michael Jordan

4. Mavericks: Sam Perkins

5. 76ers: Charles Barkley

I don’t think voters erred by favoring bigger-name players this year. I had the same first-team picks.

My only quibble: I would’ve put Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson on the second team over Kevin Huerter and Collin Sexton. Sexton made incredible strides during the season, but focusing on that obscures his awful start in what I think should be a full-season assessment. His box plus-minus (-5.2) is the worst ever for an All-Rookie teamer since Adam Morrison in 2007 (-5.5).

But if Sexton continues on the track he showed within the season, nobody will view him as another bust.

This is an impressive rookie class, led by Doncic. This will be the first of many honors for several of these players.

Meyers Leonard delivers all-time out-of-nowhere playoff performance

Steve Dykes/Getty Images
1 Comment

In 1967, Richie Guerin retired. The former Knicks star had been the St. Louis Hawks’ player-coach a few years, and he shifted fully into coaching. He even won Coach of the Year that season. As the Hawks moved to Atlanta the next year, he occasionally returned to the lineup, but played sparingly while focused on coaching. He played even less the following season, scoring just seven points in eight games.

But when the Hawks were facing injuries, inexperience and a 3-0 deficit to the Lakers 1970 Western Division finals, a 37-year-old Guerin stepped up on the court. He scored 31 points in Game 4, though Los Angeles completed the sweep.

Afterward, Hawks publicity director Tom McCollister called in the game’s stats to the league office:

”Guerin played 35 minutes,” reported McCollister, quietly, ”made 12 of 17 field goal attempts, 7 for 7 free throws, had 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 personal fouls. Thirty-one points.” Pause. ”They are burying him tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock.”

That was a rare time someone with a lower scoring average than Meyers Leonard scored 30 points in a playoff game.

Leonard – who averaged 5.9 points per game in the regular season – scored 30 points in the Trail Blazers’ Game 4 loss to the Warriors last night. He scored 25 in the first half!

This was the same Leonard who was in and out of the rotation all season, who had a DNP-CD in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, who had a previous career high of 24 points. That came in 2015, preceding a much-maligned four-year, $41 million contract.

But when Portland needed a more-mobile defender at center, Leonard started. He played well in Game 3, scoring 16 points and dishing four assists. That wad already an unexpectedly good night for him.

Yet, Leonard upped the ante yesterday. For a while, he was going shot-for-shot with Stephen Curry. Though he couldn’t keep up with Curry (37 points), Leonard went 12-of-16, including 5-of-8 on 3-pointers.

Here are the players to score 30 points in a playoff game with the lowest regular-season scoring averages:

image

The only other player besides Guerin to drop 30 in a playoff game after scoring so little in the regular season was Daniel Gibson. Boobie averaged 4.6 points per game his rookie year then scored 31 points on 5-of-5 3-point shooting in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Pistons, helping send the Cavs to their first NBA Finals.

“If I’m dreaming, please don’t wake me up,” Gibson said. “This was perfect, to win it for Cleveland.”

The most recent player to crack the leaderboard was CJ McCollum, who averaged 6.8 points per game in 2014-15 then scored 33 in a season-ending Game 5 loss to the Grizzlies in the first round. McCollum won Most Improved Player the next year and has remained a near-star ever since.

Could Leonard make a similar jump for the Trail Blazers? Don’t count on it. McCollum was in only his second season. Leonard, who just finished his seventh season, has been in the league even longer than McCollum now.

But appreciate Leonard’s scoring binge for what it was – one heck of an outlier.

2019 NBA draft lottery featured historically massive shakeup

AP Photo/Nuccio DiNuzzo
7 Comments

The Knicks winning the lottery was treated as an inevitability.

New York had the lottery’s No. 1 seed. No team had better odds than the Knicks. New York fans salivated over Zion Williamson. The Knicks sent Patrick Ewing, their last No. 1 pick and player they got by winning the initial lottery, to represent them on stage. Nearly every mock draft until last night slotted the Knicks No. 1. Reports emerged about what New York would do with the No. 1 pick (try to trade it for Anthony Davis).

Some of this was overstated. The Knicks, Cavaliers and Suns had an equal chance at the top pick. New York’s higher lottery seed would be relevant only if not getting drawn into the top four. Yet, Cleveland and Phoenix often got left from the discussion.

Some of this was innocent. There’s no other prospect in this draft whose hype nears Williamson’s, and other fan bases got preemptively excited about the idea of adding him. Using lottery seeds to order a mock draft before the lottery is just practical. The Knicks should be planning for every eventuality.

But it all created a feedback loop: Talk about the No. 1 pick, talk about the Knicks. Talk about the Knicks, talk about the No. 1 pick. And on and on, the noise amplified by the world’s biggest media market.

Lost in the hoopla: 86%.

Those were the quite-high odds New York wouldn’t get the No. 1 pick.

Of course, New York didn’t get the top pick – an expected outcome amid one of the most chaotic (and most important) lotteries of all-time.

The NBA reformed the lottery this year – flattening the odds and drawing the top four, rather than top three, picks. That didn’t ensure a wild outcome, but it increased the potential. And we got pandemonium.

The Pelicans (No. 7 seed) drew the No. 1 pick. The Grizzlies (No. 6 seed) landed the No. 2 pick. The Lakers (No. 11 seed) jumped even further, to the No. 4 pick.

Those leaps are among the biggest in lottery history.

No lottery had ever included even two teams moving five slots between their lottery seed and draft pick. The 2019 lottery had three teams move six slots.

Here are the biggest movements between lottery seed and draft pick of all-time:

image

With the mediocre Pelicans, Grizzlies and Lakers moving up, some awful teams had to get displaced.

And there were some truly awful teams this year.

New York (17-65), Cleveland (19-63) and Phoenix (19-63) stunk then leaned into tanking. Though lottery reform gave the three worst teams equal lottery odds, the fourth-worst Bulls (22-60) didn’t allow much cushion to win meaningless games. Every additional ping-pong-ball combination improved the odds of getting Williamson. Plus, standings within the bottom three still determined draft order if not selected in the lottery.

Before this year, the average draft position for a sub-20-win team in the lottery era was slightly better than No. 3. The Knicks, Cavaliers and Suns will pick Nos. 3, 5, 6.

Phoenix’s No. 6 pick is the worst in the lottery era for a team that won fewer than 20 games. Cleveland’s No. 5 pick is tied for second-worst. And in this weak-looking draft, it’s not as if New York should rejoice about getting No. 3.

Here’s every team to win fewer than 20 games in the lottery era (or the equivalent in a lockout-shortened season), sorted by ensuing draft pick:

image

All told, 11 of the 14 teams in last night’s lottery got a pick that didn’t match their seed.

The Pelicans (7 to 1), Grizzlies (8 to 2) and Lakers (11 to 4) moved up.

The Knicks (1 to 3), Cavaliers (2 to 5), Suns (3 to 6), Bulls (4 to 7), Hawks (5 to 8), Wizards (6 to 9), Hawks via Mavericks (9 to 10) and Timberwolves (10 to 11) moved down.

Only the Hornets (12), Heat (13) and Celtics via Kings (14) remained in place.

Originally, the lottery determined where every non-playoff team picked and gave each team equal odds of each pick. That system sometimes produced less movement than last night’s lottery.

Yesterday, the 14 lottery teams averaged moving 2.7 slots between their lottery seed and draft pick – the third-biggest shakeup ever.

Here’s every lottery, sorted by average movement between lottery seed and draft pick for each lottery team:

image

In 1993, the Magic – despite holding the lowest odds – jumped to the No. 1 pick. That produced plenty of backlash, especially considering Orlando also won the previous lottery.

In 1986, one of two years with the initial lottery system, the seven lottery teams, picked, in order of seed: 5, 4, 7, 3, 2, 1, 6. And the Cavaliers got a bonus pick to be slotted after Dallas (which owned Cleveland’s own pick) as compensation for Ted Stepien’s numerous missteps on condition of him selling the team. It was chaos.

Both situations prompted change. The NBA instituted the Stepien rule, limiting teams’ ability to trade future draft picks. The league didn’t want a team to be so hopeless, it’d need dispensation. The NBA also changed lottery rules for 1994, improving odds for the worst teams and therefore trimming odds for teams – like the Magic the year prior – that barely missed the playoffs.

Eventually, that led to an outbreak of tanking. Nobody pushed the limits further than former 76ers general manger Sam Hinkie and his Process. He, more than anyone, prompted this lottery reform.

Last night’s lottery won’t change everything.

But it worked exactly as intended.

Pelicans win NBA Draft Lottery throwing twist into Anthony Davis sweepstakes

Associated Press
26 Comments

Anthony Davis and Zion Williamson together in New Orleans?

That’s not likely to happen — Davis’ camp quickly sent out word their trade demand stood — but for a Pelicans’ fan base that felt betrayed and punched in the gut, this result makes the inevitable Davis trade easier to swallow.

The New Orleans Pelicans won the NBA Draft Lottery and will draft Zion Williamson No. 1 (that’s not official yet, but come on).

How did Pelicans’ coach Alvin Gentry and president David Griffin feel about it?

This result throws a wrench in the plans of teams that wanted to use the pick to jump into the Davis sweepstakes — we’re looking at you, New York Knicks — but gave other teams, such as the Lakers, another asset that could be part of a trade for Davis or another star player.

The Pelicans had a six percent chance of landing the top pick but leapfrogged up to the top spot, where they will undoubtedly take the Duke star. The NBA flattened out the lottery odds in hopes of reducing tanking by teams — the team with the worst record in the league went from having a 25 percent chance at the top spot to just 14 percent — and it worked, there was a lot of lottery movement.

Memphis and the L.A. Lakers all jumped also jumped up into the top four, joining the New York Knicks. That pushed Cleveland, Phoenix, and Chicago down the ladder.

Here is the NBA Draft order.

1. New Orleans
2. Memphis
3. New York
4. L.A. Lakers
5. Cleveland
6. Phoenix
7. Chicago
8. Atlanta
9. Washington
10. Atlanta (via Dallas)
11. Minnesota
12. Charlotte
13. Miami
14. Boston (via Sacramento)

Some other quick thoughts out of the lottery.

• Memphis will likely take consensus No. 2 pick Ja Morant with their selection, which makes it even more likely they trade Mike Conley this summer.

• The Celtics will take this result because Memphis still owes a pick to Boston. Said pick is top-6 protected in 2020. If it doesn’t convey to Boston in 2020, it becomes unprotected in 2021. That is more valuable in a trade package for someone such as Davis.

• The Lakers had a 78 percent chance of selecting 11th, by jumping up to No. 4 they have a more valuable trade asset — if they can get back in the Davis sweepstakes, or can target someone else — or at the very least a better young player to go with their young core.

Kyle Kuzma, the Lakers’ representative at the Draft Lottery, on the team jumping seven spots: “Must have been my purple jacket.” I thought it was the Hand of the King pin he wore on his lapel for the event.

• The Knicks had hoped to land the top spot to use that pick — read: Zion — to tempt the Pelicans in a potential Davis trade. Now it’s more difficult to construct a Knicks trade that would tempt the Pelicans, New York has other young players and future picks, but the Pels don’t want to totally bottom out. Never say never, but the odds got longer for New York.

• Atlanta has two picks at 8 and 11, but don’t expect them to package the picks to move up in the draft. First, that just doesn’t happen as often in the NBA as it does in the NFL or other sports. Second, there aren’t a lot of players worth moving up for in what is seen as a down draft after No. 1, and teams with the top picks will not give them up for later picks.

Ranking the biggest NBA draft lotteries of all-time

Leave a comment

The 2019 NBA draft lottery appears particularly important.

Where does it rank all-time?

Here are the five biggest lotteries, based on what we knew entering the drawing:

1. 1997 (Tim Duncan)

Duncan looked like a ready-made superstar coming out of Wake Forest, where he played for four years. That gave NBA teams plenty of time to salivate over him.

The Celtics tanked their way to a 15-67 record and traded Eric Montross to the Mavericks for another lottery pick. Boston had a 36% chance of getting the No. 1 pick and treated it as a likelihood.

Instead, the Spurs got the top pick and built a dynasty around Duncan. Boston settled for and made little use of the No. 3 pick (Chauncey Billups) and No. 6 pick (Ron Mercer).

2. 1985 (Patrick Ewing)

The NBA’s first lottery came just in time. Ewing looked like a generational prospect at Georgetown. Teams would have tanked hard for him.

At first, every lottery team had an equal chance at each pick in the lottery. So, this was an important experiment for determining how, and how not, to structure the drawing.

The Knicks won the lottery that sparked a thousand conspiracies, and Ewing manned the pivot in New York for a decade and a half. Every team saw the importance of getting a high pick – and just how fickle attempting to land one could be.

Ewing was the clear prize, but the next few picks – Wayman Tisdale, Benoit Benjamin, Xavier McDaniel, Jon Koncak – retroactively made clear the importance of getting No. 1 this year.

3. 2012 (Anthony Davis)

Davis was a special prospect, but at this point, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist also impressive. At least everyone was right about Davis, whom New Orleans got. (Kidd-Gilchrist went No. 2 to Charlotte).

In addition to the big name at the top, a couple protected picks had lasting ramifications.

The Warriors, with the No. 7 lottery seed and a top-seven-protected pick, stayed at No. 7. They used that pick on Harrison Barnes, who became a starter on their 2015 title team and 73-win team the following year.

On the other hand, the Nets stayed at No. 6 and conveyed their top-three-protected pick to the Trail Blazers. Portland took Damian Lillard and have since built a conference finalist around him. Brooklyn soon entered a dark period it’s now just escaping.

2003 (LeBron James)

LeBron was on the cover of Sports Illustrated in high school… as a junior. The hype was palpable, especially with his hometown team – the Cleveland Cavaliers – having the best odds of getting the No. 1 pick.

But by the time of the lottery, Darko Milicic and Carmelo Anthony had emerged as great consolation prizes. Chris Bosh was working his way into an impressive fourth prospect. The draft appeared to remain deep throughout the lottery with a strong group that’d later be headlined by Dwyane Wade. So, as coveted as LeBron was, it was also important just to have a pick in this lottery.

That’s why two protected selections loomed so large.

The Grizzlies kept their own pick only on the 6% chance they got No. 1. So, it was LeBron or bust. Memphis busted, though its conveyed pick – No. 2 to the Pistons, who took Darko – was also the rare bust in this draft.

The Hawks, the No. 8 seed in the lottery, owed the Bucks a top-three-protected first-rounder. Atlanta stayed at No. 8 and gave Milwaukee the pick used on T.J. Ford.

5. 2019 (Zion Williamson)

See here.

Honorable mention:

2007 (Greg Oden and Kevin Durant): With two projected superstars in the draft, it didn’t feel as essential to get the No. 1 pick over the No. 2 pick – slightly lowering the perceived importance of this lottery. Oops.

2009 (Blake Griffin): Griffin stood alone as the top prospect, but Ricky Rubio was a highly rated second prospect – who surprisingly fell to No. 5.

1987 (David Robinson): As great as Robinson was, there was too much uncertainty about when he’d jump to the NBA from Navy, including whether he’d actually join the team that drafted him in 1987.

1992 (Shaquille O’Neal): Shaq looked awesome and became the (correct) No. 1 pick, but eventual Nos. 2 and 3 picks Alonzo Mourning and Christian Laettner softened the blow of not landing the top pick, at least in the theory of the time.