With the NBA Draft less than two weeks away, many key NBA talent evaluators have descended upon Treviso, Italy, for the annual Adidas Eurocamp, a spotlight event featuring 40 international players (many of whom are draft-eligible) competing in games and drills.
Here were some of the standouts from the first two days.
Paul Zipser #32 – One of the most experienced players in the Treviso Camp, Zipser plays focused and locked in. He does a good job of making the simple play. He knows who he is as a player and plays within himself, rarely trying to do too much. He is a very effective and mobile pick-and-pop forward, which is a desired skill set with the way the NBA is increasingly utilizing small-ball lineups. He is a skinny screener, meaning he doesn’t do a great job of head hunting the playmaker’s defender, popping his feet (coming to a jump stop so he doesn’t set a moving screen) and cracking the defender on the screen. He sets narrow screens, often times never creating contact with the defender. When he is paired with a playmaker who can come off the ball screen and engage his defender, he can be a knockdown pick-and-pop man. He aggressively attacks his defender off a close out and initiates contact with his defender, which allows him to be a physical straight line driver. He has to work on his dribble counters to become more of an effective handler in “short roll” situations and when high-level defenders cut his straight line drives off. He looked comfortable on his one-dribble pull up when defenders took away his straight line drive.
Additionally, Zipser was vocal on defense, calling the ball-screen coverage and off-ball screens. He is quick, physical and tough enough to defend power forwards in a perimeter isolation situation. But when he switches onto guards, he needs to play with active hands above the ball and arms wide to take away passing angles and to create a defensive presence while building a wall to take away paint penetrations. Laterally, he can’t guard NBA small forwards. He has to play the four at the NBA level. He plays with an athletic mentality without being an elite athlete, which is not very common in European players. Because of his mismatch as a pick-and-pop four, he can create long closeouts, which allow him to pump fake and attack. He can really develop a knack for getting fouled with his shooting skill set and physical mindset.
Petr Cornelie #43 – Cornelie is mobile and plays with a high motor. He is an active, out of area rebounder. Additionally, he is an early-effort rebounder, meaning when a player has started his shooing motion, he is flying in for the rebound, instead of standing on the perimeter waiting for an invitation to the rebounding party. He hustles to the rim from wherever he is when the shot goes up. He looks for tip-dunk and tip-in opportunities. He uses his length to contest shots and disrupt the release point on shooters from the outside, and has the discipline to block shots within the paint without swinging violently at the ball, which decreases the likelihood of fouling on the block attempt. He has the mobility and anticipation to be a weak side shot blocker and plays with the motor and effort that is needed to be a trail shot blocker. He has a quick second jump, which allows him to effectively challenge multiple shots in the same defensive possession or miss his own shot and explode back up quicker than his defender for a put-back opportunity.
Furthermore, he is a great teammate – constantly clapping and pointing at teammates when he is on the bench and getting off the bench to embrace them when a timeout is called. He sets hard and physical screens, which often creates an offensive advantage for his team. He posts hard, but he goes to the dork fade against similarly sized players. While posting a guard on a switch, he tries to get to the midline for his hook shot. He has the touch and skill to shoot over both shoulders in these situations. Cornelie can also put it on the floor for two dribbles from the perimeter, but off of his sweeps and shot fakes, his first step is toward the short corner instead of attacking with his lead foot to the rim, which would allow him to take a scoring angle to the basket. He struggled to keep control of his dribble off of a quick attack on a closeout when the defender initiates contact with him. He does not absorb contact well when finishing around the rim either, as he often had to turn the angle of his body after taking contact from the defender to get his shot off instead of powering through the defender at the same angle for the finish.
His lack of upper body and core strength can be mistaken as a sign for softness, but he is not a soft player. He is an active communicator on defense, frequently calling coverages and actions. When he switches on to guards off of ball screens, he has to learn to be a defensive presence with his hands wide. His hands live by his side, instead of wide in the air taking away passing angles. He has the ability and motor to become a player who can consistently make two plays (for example, blocking a shot from the weakside or trail position and then racing the floor for a tip dunk). He can defend pivots and fakes from the post, but is antsy on his feet when defending a guard on the perimeter. He needs to learn to use his length to create a cushion where he is still close enough to disrupt the shot and contain off the dribble.
Kenan Sipahi #11 – Kenan is a point guard with great size. He is crafty playing off pick-and-rolls, using in and outs and change of direction to cut back off of the pick and engage the big defender. However, he is not a great shooter. He brings the ball over his head, causing him to shoot the ball with the motion of a catapult, which is why his shot is so flat. Opponents will often go under on in pick-and-roll coverages in order to expose his poor shooting. One major way he can improve his perimeter shooting is increasing his arch.
Kenan is not an explosive athlete and doesn’t have blazing speed, but he plays with an effective change of pace in the half court. Even though he doesn’t have elite level open court speed, he has good vision in the open court and is willing to pitch the ball head. He is also one of those point guards who acts as a coach on the floor. He also does a good job of making an effort to defend, but he doesn’t have the lateral quickness to defend many of the explosive guards at the NBA level.
Leon Kratzer #33 – Kratzer has a role as a screener, roller and rebounder. He sets hard and physical screens. Since he does not have great touch outside of seven feet, he has to learn race on the role off of the pick, and role to seal (meaning when the play maker comes off the pick, he has to be able to create a passing angle for the play maker by racing on the roll to the rim). Then, when the play maker skips the ball to the weak side 45 (free throw line extended on the wing), he has to find his defender, create contact and seal him to create a passing angle from the 45.
He is not a top athlete, and he doesn’t have a high level of skill with post footwork, so he has to learn to use angles, leverage and physicality by finding the defense and sealing them to create high percentage shots that don’t require great footwork or touch in the post. He has a good hook attacking the midline and an ability to counter baseline with a spin move. He communicates on defense. He is a very active rebounder and this is without question his best skill. However, he is a liability on the floor at the end of games since he is a poor free throw shooter.
Boris Dallo #48 – Dallo has great size for the point guard position, with very good court vision. He sees passing angles and plays before they develop. However, he can be a high turnover point guard since his teammates don’t read and process plays as quickly as he does and he throws passes based on where his teammates should go, not necessarily where they do go. He over dribbles at times, which allows the defense to recover, taking away the offensive advantage that was created off of the ball screen action. He has to learn to pitch the ball ahead and move the ball as quickly as possible to allow his team to take advantage of closeout defense.
Furthermore, he uses his physical size to finish well around the rim. He doesn’t have great mechanics on his shot as he brings the ball from the left side of his face. Specifically, he is moving the ball from the right side of his body at the beginning of his shot, to the left side of his body in the middle of his shot, back to the right side before the release and then up towards the basket at the point of release. He is a player teams are going to go under or switch on in ball-screen coverage and shrink the floor to force him to make outside shots.
Dallo doesn’t give great effort as an on-ball defender and is often times out of stance, resting on defense when he is in the help side position. Lacking high effort on defense combined with average lateral quickness makes him a defensive liability against guards with a great first step. He cannot defend his position at the elite level.
Michael Fusek #67 – For a 7’3 prospect who recently added muscle mass, I was impressed with Fusek’s upside. He is a player I can see drastically improving over the next two years if he joins a club that will create a development plan for him. He blocks shots without fouling, using his length to block and then secure the shot instead of trying to swat the ball out of bounds. However, he needs to work on improving his quickness in 10-20 foot races in the half court – racing to a help-side defensive position, racing to create separation from his defender when setting a ball screen, or racing for an out of area rebound.
Fusek has good mobility for his size, but he can really evolve as a prospect when he has great mobility for his size. He is often times behind the ball in transition, taking him away from his greatest scoring strength, which is being around the rim for lobs, dump downs and put backs. Because of this, he is often times caught on back to back possessions in between the three-point lines. He will get rebounds, make an outlet pass and then wait one to two seconds before really trying to race the floor. He has to be able to make an outlet pass and then immediately take off down the floor. He is a willing passer from the post. When he adjusts to his new body and embraces racing the floor, he will be very intriguing as a prospect.
Arnoldas Kulboka #37 – Kulboka has a good basketball IQ for his age. He is one of three players born in 1998 in the camp and one of the better wings at reading the defense on cuts and off ball screens. If he makes a backdoor cut, and you jump to the paint, he will read the defender and pop back to the three-point line for a wide open shot. If you shoot the gap on a pin down, he will read the defender and fade to the corner.
He has great shooting mechanics with a high arch that can develop to a consistent three-point threat from NBA range or further. He is a good athlete, but he has not embraced playing an athletic brand of basketball. He has a slight build and doesn’t play with a physical mind set. Very rarely is he making an out of area rebound or making an early effort to fly in from the wing for a tip dunk or tip in. He has the ability to become a great shot fake player with his ability to space the floor. He struggles to stay on his driving angle with contact from defender as he allows the contact to knock him off course of his scoring angle.
Kulboka can make plays for others off of two dribbles or less and is a willing passer, but he has to continue developing his ability to read help side defenders. Defensively, he can contain wings off of a close out and chest them up, keeping them out of the paint. But when he switches on to a guard in a pick-and-roll situation, he gets beat on late turns (i.e. when a playmaker turns the corner on a defender by the second dribble, giving them a direct driving angle to the rim). He is young, inexperienced and doesn’t have the extra gear yet where he can take over a game offensively. He has to develop his motor and physicality to continue to grow into a real high-level prospect, but the potential is there.
Basketball Insiders will have more updates as Eurocamp in Italy rolls on.
Deep Bench Stays Ready for the Pelicans
Though out of the rotation, DeAndre Liggins and Jordan Crawford are staying ready to step up and contribute for New Orleans, writes David Yapkowitz.
As DeAndre Liggins is standing by his locker talking about what his next move might be in terms of free agency, he gets a ringing endorsement from the New Orleans Pelicans’ franchise guy, Anthony Davis.
“He ain’t going nowhere,” Davis shouts from across the locker room. “He ain’t going nowhere.”
Liggins pauses for a moment, lets out a laugh and then turns back.
“I don’t know, I’ll have to talk to Dell [Demps],” Liggins told Basketball Insiders with a grin.
With the NBA playoffs in full swing, there are always those guys on the fringe — players who may not always know when they’ll have a chance to get into a game. It can be tough sitting on the bench and watching the rest of the team partake in the postseason.
For players like Liggins, however, they’re just as much a part of the team as the guys in the rotation. They do bring value to the team. And they patiently await their turn, however long that may take. Even if he doesn’t get to play in an actual playoff game, Liggins believes he understands the atmosphere.
“It started off in Orlando, a playoff team. OKC was a playoff team. I’ve been in the playoffs twice,” Liggins told Basketball Insiders. “I haven’t experienced playing minutes, but I know what the feeling is like, I know what the vibe is like. It’ll be great going into the playoffs, we’ll be ready.”
Liggins has never spent more than one season with any team. He’s spent the past seven years shuffling between the Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder, Miami HEAT, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Milwaukee Bucks and now New Orleans.
He had a bit of a breakthrough with Cleveland where he emerged as one of the better perimeter defenders on the team. He started 19 games for the Cavaliers last season and shot 37.8 percent from the three-point line. It’s been that 3 and D calling card that’s allowed him to latch on from team to team despite never really playing major minutes.
“Just bringing that defensive energy. I do all the little things like take charges, all the intangibles,” Liggins told Basketball Insiders. “I was the same way at Kentucky. You got to stick to what you know, what you do, and play a role. Especially when you’re in the league and being on this type of team.”
Liggins has a non-guaranteed contract for next season. It’s too early to know what the Pelicans front office will decide to do. He isn’t focused on that right now though. Right now, the focus is helping New Orleans make a deep playoff run even if he isn’t on the court that much.
He joined the Pelicans around mid-season after being cut by the Bucks. Although he hasn’t been on the team for very long, he’s already noticed the competitiveness and togetherness of this group. They rallied around each other following the season ending injury to DeMarcus Cousins.
“We just clicked and gelled when [Cousins] went down,” Liggins told Basketball Insiders. “I think we lost three or four in a row then after that we just started changing the way we play.”
Aside from Liggins, the Pelicans also feature Jordan Crawford who is in a similar situation right now. Their career beginnings may be a bit different, Crawford was a regular rotation player for playoff teams in the past, but as playoff rotations have tightened up, Crawford has also found himself on the outside looking in.
He was on the Pelicans roster to begin the season but was cut in favor of Jameer Nelson when an injury to Rajon Rondo precipitated the need for point guard help. He had been a key player in the rotation but upon his return near the end of the season, he found himself mostly glued to the bench.
Crawford initially was a bench scorer for the Pelicans, capable of getting hot quickly and putting up a flurry of points on the board. He was nicknamed ‘Instant Grits’ by Cousins due to his penchant for scoring. He’s a little bit unsure though of what he’s going to be asked to do this time around.
“I have no clue. I’m going to try to find out,” Crawford told Basketball Insiders. “I’m going to work my way through, do what I got to do to make the coaches happy and stuff like that. But I don’t know my role yet.”
When Crawford signed with the Pelicans earlier this month, his contract was only for the duration of the regular season and playoffs. He too will be entering free agency this summer, and due to his lack of postseason playing time, he might have to rely on past performances to secure that next contract.
He also isn’t too concerned about that right now. While he is anticipating the summertime, he’s just thrilled to be back with a familiar team, even if the playing time is scarce right now.
“I’m looking forward to the summer, definitely looking forward to the offseason,” Crawford told Basketball Insiders. “I’m happy I accomplished getting back on the team for the season. That’s good right now, I’m satisfied with that for right now.”
Although he was cut despite having initially carved out an important role on the team, Crawford always remained positive and believed things would eventually fall into place. He wasn’t sure if that place would be New Orleans, but he’s glad that it was them who came calling once again.
“I didn’t think I’d be back here. They did stay kind of connected with me, talked to me,” Crawford told Basketball Insiders. “I did have a good time while I was here, so it wasn’t no bad attitude, hard feelings or nothing. It always could’ve worked and by not having a bad attitude it allowed it to work again. It’s been a blessing.”
They stayed in contact with him and made him feel like a part of the team again. And for players like Crawford and Liggins, players who may not know who their next contract is coming from or when their next minute on the court might be, sometimes that makes all the difference
NBA Daily: 2018 60-Pick NBA Mock Draft – 4/24/18
The deadline for early entry into the 2018 NBA Draft has passed, so Basketball Insiders Publisher Steve Kyler offers up another 60-pick Mock Draft.
The Deadline for early entry into the 2018 NBA Draft was April 22, however, the NBA hasn’t yet released the full list of eligible players. There appear to be more than 153 underclassmen that have declared to “test the waters” according to reports. By way of comparison, last year there were 137 players from college and an additional 45 from international basketball that declared early, with 73 of those players pulling out after going through the process.
The 2018 Draft class could be shaping up to be one of the biggest, especially when you consider the volume of highly draftable seniors.
There are still some dates to keep in mind:
The NBA Draft Lottery will be held in Chicago on May 15. The annual NBA Draft Combine will get underway on May 16, also in Chicago. In any given draft year, roughly 70 percent of players invited to the Combine end up being drafted into the NBA, so a Combine invite is a significant draft milestone.
The NCAA requires all players wishing to maintain their college eligibility, without penalty, to withdraw from the NBA Draft by 11:59 pm on May 30. That is an NCAA mandated date, not related to anything involving the NBA, and that notice must be delivered in writing.
The NBA’s draft withdrawal date is June 11 by 5:00 pm ET. The NBA’s date allows a prospect to remain NBA draft eligible for future NBA drafts and is not related to any NCAA rule or date. There are ways for college players that did not accept benefits to return to college, however, they may be subject to NCAA penalties.
Here is this week’s 2018 NBA Mock Draft, based on the final pre-draft lottery draft order:
Here are some of the pick swaps and how they landed where they are currently projected:
The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer. The Brooklyn Nets traded several unprotected picks to Boston as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trades in 2015.
The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers’ 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015. The 76ers traded that pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the draft pick trade that became Markelle Fultz before the draft; it has 2 through 5 protections. Based on the final regular-season standings should convey to Philadelphia if the draft lottery holds true to the standings.
The LA Clippers are owed the Detroit Pistons first-round pick in 2018 as a result of the Blake Griffin trade. The pick is top four protected and would convey if the draft lottery holds true to the standings.
The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the final NBA standings.
The Phoenix Suns were owed the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick would only convey if the Bucks pick landed between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the final NBA standings did not convey. The Suns will now receive the Bucks 2019 first-round pick assuming it falls between the fourth and 16th pick.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first-round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick was lottery protected and would convey to Atlanta based on the final NBA standings.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Jazz/Wolves Ricky Rubio trade this past summer. The Jazz acquired the pick as part of the Thunder’s deal to obtain Enes Kanter in 2015. The pick was lottery protected and would convey based on the final NBA standings.
The Chicago Bulls are owed the New Orleans Pelicans first-round pick as a result of the Nikola Mirotic trade. The pick was top-five protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey
The LA Lakers are owed the Cleveland Cavaliers first-round pick as a result of Jordan Clarkson/Larry Nance Jr. trade. The pick was top-three protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey
The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors’ first-round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick was lottery protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets’ first-round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick was top-three protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey
Check out the Basketball Insiders’ Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects – http://www.basketballinsiders.com/top-100-nba-draft-prospects/
NBA Daily: Trail Blazers Come Up Short and Now Search For Answers
The Portland Trail Blazers were swept in the first round of the Playoffs and now face tough questions, writes James Blancarte.
The playoffs have been a wild ride so far. On Sunday, all three Eastern Conference playoff games were exciting matches that featured star players stepping up in the clutch. As a result, each series is tied up, two games each. The other game of the day featured the San Antonio Spurs, who stayed in control and never once allowed the Golden State Warriors to take the lead. The Spurs managed to get a win against the defending champs despite missing their best player and now their head coach indefinitely.
For the Portland Trail Blazers, there was no such Game 4 turnaround. In fact, with the Spurs win, the Trail Blazers have the lamentable distinction of being the only team to be swept in the first round of the playoffs. This is just one way to describe how disappointing and surprising this playoff series loss to the New Orleans Pelicans was for Portland. Many NBA observers and Pelicans fans were quick to point out that every ESPN NBA personality chose the Trail Blazers to win the series, as did select writers of the Basketball Insiders team.
The Trail Blazers’ players and front office also made it clear how surprised they were at the result. Forward Evan Turner shared his surprise.
“Obviously finishing so quickly wasn’t definitely the plan and to a certain extent it was shocking,” Turner said.
General Manager Neil Olshey chimed in as well.
“Nobody expected [the playoff sweep] to happen. It did. We had our chances in Game 1, we had our chances in Game 2. Clearly Game 3 was a setback,” Olshey stated when describing his surprise at how the series ended. “Stunned, I think disappointed.”
Credit should be given to the Pelicans and their ability to fully harness their talent and impose their will in the series. Turner was effusive in praising the talent and ability of the Pelicans.
“Unlocked Jrue is pretty dangerous and we all see how Rondo plays. He’s a homerun hitter but he is always solid. He can mess around. He’ll get two or three triple doubles. Anthony Davis is a problem,” Turner said.
When asked how he felt about the playoff exit, starting center Jusuf Nurkic stated that he is beyond disappointed.
“I mean, the way I finish the season, I feel shame. The way we have a season, like a team and group, and being in position to be third in the West, and finish like this, is not good,” Nurkic stated. “It’s not something you should be proud of, because all you do through the year, fight for playoff and to be in position to have a good postseason.”
Despite the early exit, many within the organization were quick to highlight that they continue to see the regular season in a positive light, including Head Coach Terry Stotts.
“I thought we had a very good regular season, I thought we had a very disappointing end of the season,” Stotts stated.
Damian Lillard shared a similar sentiment when reflecting on the season as a whole.
“I think I’ll always remember the way [the season] ended. But I won’t forget the kind of season we had. You can’t ignore the fact we won a division title in a division where there was some great teams,” Lillard stated. “We came out on top.”
Still, the success of the regular season makes the playoff result that much harder to grasp and deal with for some. Nurkic again didn’t hold back when comparing the success of the regular season with the team’s playoff failure.
“Very surprised,” Nurkic stated. “You definitely didn’t see the team who we are in the playoffs.”
Explaining why the Trail Blazers came up short against the Pelicans is no easy task. Clearly Portland’s attempt to feature its two premiere guards failed as the Pelicans were able to clamp down on Lillard and McCollum effectively in each game. Complicating matters further was the inability of the Trail Blazers to effectively utilize Nurkic on both ends of the court. However, there was at least some praise to be heaped on the backup bigs, Zach Collins and Ed Davis.
“I think Zach played really well for us,” Olshey stated. “He had an impact defensively.”
Also, Al-Farouq Aminu was able to do his part as an acceptable defensive option against Davis while spreading the floor with his outside shooting
Regardless, Turner shared his assessment that the team failed to have an adequate game plan for a scenario where their two best players are neutralized.
“One thing that may help, it’s no jabs or anything, but building the identity outside of our two strong scorers,” Turned stated. “[W]e sometimes go downhill when a team fully focuses on a lot of attention on our stars […] But I think we might need certain plays, certain structures that kind of prepare just in case that occurs.”
With their postseason concluded, the Trail Blazers are suddenly left trying to answer questions with no easy answers. Who, if anyone, is to blame for what happened? So far, many head coaches have been let go and unsurprisingly some speculation has turned toward Coach Stotts. Stotts, when asked, focused on the team and deflected any analysis of his performance.
“I’m not going to evaluate the job I did,” Stotts said.
Lillard, on the other hand, was effusive in his praise of his coach.
“Coach Stotts has done a great job from day one. We’ve been in the playoffs five years straight,” Lillard said.
For now, there does not appear to be strong rumblings about Stotts. With the offseason just beginning for the team there is still time to reflect and assess what went wrong. Additionally, the team has to resolve what to do regarding its own free agents. No name looms larger than Nurkic, who despite his poor showing, represents one of the team’s top talents and expressed his guarded optimism regarding a return.
“I want to be here, it’s no secret,” Nurkic stated when asked if he wants an extension in Portland. “Yes, definitely.”
Nurkic ended the thought by stating, a bit ominously, that he did his part and a deal may or may not get worked out.
“My agent and people here are going to figure out the rest, or not,” Nurkic said.
Complicating the desire to retain Nurkic is the team’s financial situation as the team is currently over the cap and under obligation to center Meyers Leonard, who has struggled to stay in the rotation and is earning roughly $21.8 million over the next two years.
“It’s our job to be measured and not to overreact. [Because] when you overreact is when you make mistakes,” Olshey stated.
Lillard was quick to emphatically shut down the notion of splitting up him and McCollum when asked if that would be a good idea.
“I mean, I don’t agree with it. I think it’s that simple,” Lillard declared.
When asked what the team plans to do going forward, Olshey expressed optimism but tried again to pay credit to the season’s effort overall.
“We’re going to do everything we can to upgrade the roster as we always do but we also aren’t going to lose sight of the success throughout the course of the season,” Olshey said.
“I don’t have all the answers for you today,” Olshey surmised. “A lot of times you don’t know where your help is coming from.”