Coming off a second championship in three years, the Golden State Warriors have changed the way the NBA game is played. Versatility and shooting are the becoming the most important factors in a prospect’s ceiling. With the NBA Draft just a day away, front offices need to adjust their board accordingly. Plodding big men and non-shooters will get played off the court in crunch situations, severely limiting their value to the team. With those aspects in mind, here is my big board for the 2017 NBA Draft.
- Markelle Fultz – Has such a natural feel for the game. He possesses great body control and change of pace. Fultz can shoot, pass, defend, has good size and a high IQ. He navigates the pick and roll with ease. He has a tendency to get lazy on defense, but his massive 6’9” wingspan and natural athletic prowess give him the tools to be successful on that end. Don’t let Washington’s underperformance fool you, Fultz did everything for that team and he should be able to do even more when surrounded by better talent.
- Jayson Tatum – Smart, smooth, versatile player who can swing between either forward spot. Has a vast arsenal of moves and excellent footwork with the ball. He will need to firm up his three point shot and add a notch to his explosiveness, but his consistent improvement in nearly every facet of the game over the course of his lone college season leaves nothing but optimism for his future.
- Lonzo Ball – Terrific passer, sees the game at a different level. Able to identify passing lanes before they even come open and then make the pass with either hand; he’s remarkable in the open court. He’s a finesse player though, who can struggle with size/athleticism around the rim. Defensively he has a hard time fighting his way through screens. His length allows him to make plays in the passing lanes, but quicker guards can blow past him one on one. The real question with him will be if his shot can stay consistent when stretched out to NBA distances.
- Josh Jackson – An elite athlete and a relentless defender with a nonstop motor, which allows him to impact the game in many different ways. He’s a good passer who can navigate the pick and roll. As with Ball, though, his shooting stroke will be the deciding factor on his ceiling. He shot a solid percentage from deep but his mechanics are flawed. He loads the ball low and doesn’t snap through his release. He shot a disturbing 56% from the free throw line, one of the strongest indicators of future shooting success. He’ll be great defensively and in transition, but could really struggle in half court sets.
- Dennis Smith, Jr. – Strong, physical presence with a quick first step and ability to finish way above the rim; absorbs contact well around the basket. Pesky defender when he wants to be. Plays an NBA style game. Smith’s biggest weakness is that he’s wildly inconsistent with decision-making, effort, and technique. If he can clean that up, he has the natural tools to be the best player in this draft.
- Jonathan Isaac – 19 year old who can hit threes on one end and block shots on the other. He has the potential to guard all 5 positions, an invaluable skill in today’s game. Isaac needs to add a lot of muscle and it will take some time for him to figure it all out, but you can’t teach the combination of tools and size that he possesses. He’s custom made for the modern NBA.
- Malik Monk – He’s the type of dude who can score 20 in a quarter. Can get his shot off, and make it, from anywhere. He shot nearly 40% on off-the-dribble threes, which should make him effective in the spread pick and roll as either the ball handler or floor spacer. Needs to add muscle and clean up his decision making, and he’ll never be more than an average defender, but he’ll be scoring in the league for a long time to come.
- De’Aaron Fox – Electric in the open court, plays his best in big games, and is an elite athlete. He can step in and defend from day one. But guards who struggle to shoot the ball tend to disappoint against NBA competition. Teams will go under picks and clog driving lanes against him. You’re hoping that Fox becomes John Wall, but it’s more likely he’s Elfrid Payton.
- OG Anunoby – An athletic freak; 6’8 with an unofficial 7’6 wingspan, can jump out of the gym. He’s quick enough and physical enough to guard all five positions. He’s very raw though, especially on the offensive end, where he can get lost and doesn’t always have a plan. It takes him awhile to get his shot off, but it’s not broken and he can make open looks. There just aren’t many players that offer his combination of size and agility. His upside is worth the risk.
- Frank Ntilikina – Can come in and defend opposing guards from day one; quick feet, good awareness, extremely long arms, and navigates screens well. He can make open looks, but needs time to load his long release. He lacks the initial burst to get around defenders, and has a high dribble that causes problems in tight spaces. Avoids contact around the rim, relying on his length instead. He’ll earn his playing time on the defensive end of the floor.
- Lauri Markkanen – He has a quick, high release with good footwork. He’s tailor-made for the pick and pop game. But that’s it. He gets pushed around under the basket too much and doesn’t have the quickness to guard on the perimeter at the next level. When games get tight, opponents will attack him in the pick and roll and play him off the floor.
- Zach Collins – Lacks the physicality to bang with bigs on the inside, but has good touch on his jumper and the mechanics to stretch his range out to the three point line. Shows good instincts in help defense, and enough agility to hinder guards on the perimeter. Pursues rebounds well but gets knocked off course by more physical players. If he can add enough strength to play center while keeping his relative quickness on the perimeter, he can turn into a very useful player.
- Donovan Mitchell – 6’3 with a 6’10 wingspan and a high motor gives him the opportunity to be a menace at the defensive end and in transition. He still needs to work on his decision making and shooting consistency, but he could be a nice fit on one of the many teams with a point forward who can take away some of the pressure of initiating the offense.
- Semi Ojeleye – Will fall to the back end of the first round, but he’s the type of guy you take a chance on. He’s big and physical but also comfortable playing on the perimeter, having made 42% of his 4.9 three pointers attempted per game. He’s already 23 years old, but he has all the characteristics of a rotational 3-and-D wing player.
Follow David on Twitter @dmcgowan24
Clippers’ Paul George Booed by Pacers Fans
Los Angeles Clipper superstar Paul George wasn’t fazed by the relentless boos showered down on him during Monday’s game in Indianapolis against the Indiana Pacers, the team he spent several seasons with before requesting a trade in 2017, in fact, George teased a tell-all in which he will tell his side of the story that led to his trade request, hinting that he is set to take aim at many within the organization.
As far as the boos, George says the fans are booing the wrong people. George, who dropped 36 points in the victory, was booed every time he touched the ball, and was subjected to chants of “Paul George s—!” during the game, was playing back in Indiana for the third time since the trade.
“I’m not surprised,” George said, according to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. “That’s Indiana for you. It’s a Hoosier thing.”
“You know, someday I’ll do a tell-all and tell the leading events of how I left Indiana,” George said. “And I promise you, I’m not the one to boo.”
“… I’m not gonna share the teaser,” George continued. “… I like being the villain. I’m here two nights out of the year. The people they should boo is here a lot longer than I am.”
George was pressed by the media to divulge details, specifically about general manager Kevin Pritchard who said George’s trade request was like a punch to the gut.
“You’re getting close to trying to get this story out, aren’t you?” George asked. “… I’m not going to bad-mouth KP. That’s just Kevin’s side of the story.”
George has excelled in every game back in Indiana since the trade, and Monday’s game marked the third straight time he scored 31 points or more against his former team. However, judging from George’s post-game comments, he may be saving his best performance yet against the Pacers organization.
Carmelo Anthony Warned Chris Paul About Houston Rockets
Portland Trail Blazers’ forward Carmelo Anthony and Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Chris Paul have both spent time with the Houston Rockets, and both had unceremonious exits from the organization.
But upon his exit from the Rockets after only 10 games, Anthony says that his experience prompted him to warn his close friend Paul to “be careful” with the Rockets organization, who ended up trading Paul a few days after general manager Daryl Morrey told Paul they weren’t going to trade him.
Anthony wasn’t shocked at how things played out for Paul in Houston.
“No, I wasn’t surprised at all,” Anthony said, according to ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “When my situation happened in Houston, he was the first person that I called to come to my room. And we had to clear some things up, and I wanted to know if he had anything to do with it. And that was the first thing that I wanted to know, and he told me, ‘No.’ And from that point on, I told him, looked him in his eyes and said, ‘Look, just be careful.’ You know what I mean? Just be careful. And damn sure if [the same situation] didn’t happen to him.”
Paul was dealt to the Thunder over the summer in package that brought point guard Russell Westbrook to the Rockets.
“I was shocked,” Paul said, according to The Undefeated. “Truth be told, I just talked to Daryl a couple days before the trade, and he said he wasn’t going to trade me [to Oklahoma City]. That’s funny because that is going to be the alert that pops up on everybody’s phone because nobody knows that. But what the hell, I just said it.”
“I haven’t talked to nobody in their organization, no,” Anthony said. “I’m not angry. I’m not bitter at it. It happens. I wish I had an explanation when it happened, but I’m past it.”
Anthony also discussed a potential vibe around the league that the Rockets may not forthcoming, with the situations involving he and Paul as examples as to why some may be weary with the Rockets organization.
“Well, nobody has an answer, right?” Anthony said. “My situation and Chris’ situation is totally different, but nobody has an answer. Like, nobody really has an answer for my situation. Still. The only people that know is me. Me and them. That’s it. And I don’t even think they know. It’s just something that was already established before I even got there. It was on a trial-run basis. You look back at it, and 10 games is an evaluation. So that’s the business, right? You see New York have a press conference eight games in, 10 games. So that’s the new analytics. That’s the new game. Everything’s based off of your first 10 games. And once you know that, it gives you clarity on a lot of things.”
Anthony says that he did speak to Paul following Paul’s trade to the Thunder.
“No, he didn’t say I was right,” Anthony said. “He was in Vegas when all of that happened, so we was talking. And when I talked to him, he was like, ‘Man, look, I understand it. It’s messed up, but I understand it.’ And for me, I’m like, ‘Yo, it took me months to kind of, like, get past that.’ My pride was hit. My ego was hit. I had to really get past that. To a point where it was like, ‘Man, Chris, is you good?’ I wanted to make sure he was good. So he told me he was good, and that was that.”
Lakers’ LeBron James Praises Luke Walton
Los Angeles Lakers’ superstar forward LeBron James is praising former Lakers’ head coach Luke Walton, who is now the head coach of the Sacramento Kings, when the Kings came in to play the Lakers on Friday.
James says that with all the devastating injuries and the non-stop distractions of the constant trade rumors, Walton “did as great of a job as you could do under the circumstances”, according to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk.
Walton was the head coach during James’ first season with the Lakers in 2018-2019 and led the team to a 37-45 record, missing the playoffs.
“Throughout everything that was going on, we were two of the guys that just tried to remain positive and patient, even with the circumstances that we had,” James said during shootaround on Friday.
James reflected on the challenges of last season, pointing to key injuries as contributing factors to the disappointing season.
“I mean, we were right where we wanted to be on Dec. 25, went up into Golden State and played against a very good team and had a very good game,” James said. “And then the injury happened and I’m out 6½ weeks.
“I don’t think anyone could have predicted that, including myself and including Luke. And we were just behind the eight ball. But throughout it all we just tried to remain positive, even throughout with the young guys, with the older guys and whatever the case may be. So I think he did as great of a job as you could do under the circumstances.”
“Um, I agree with LeBron,” Walton said. “[There’s] a longer answer and I’ve spent time reflecting on last season, but for now, couple of hours before a game, it is more focused on tonight’s task and our game planning and rotations and things like that.”
Walton is now at the helm in Sacramento, but he talked about how special it is to return to Los Angeles, even on the opposing side.
“It’s always a special place for me to come into this building,” Walton said. “I have a lot of great memories in L.A. It’s a great opportunity playing here and coaching here.”
“LeBron, he’s one of the greatest players of all time if not the greatest,” Walton said. “So I’m sure last year getting hurt, not making the playoffs, I mean, he’s going right now. And this team kind of follows that lead. They’re playing incredibly well. Their defense and offense starts with him. He looks really good.”
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