The NBA will hold its annual draft on Thursday night.
The top two prospects are widely believed to be LSU’s Ben Simmons and Duke’s Brandon Ingram, although it’s yet to be determined if the Philadelphia 76ers (first overall) and Los Angeles Lakers (second) agree.
Every draft class is unique. Some produce multiple All-Stars, but are shallow in depth. Others can boast a long list of starters, but few to no superstars.
Naturally, it takes time for young players to develop into franchise players. The last three draft classes have yet to produce a single All-Star, but Minnesota Timberwolves forward/center Karl-Anthony Towns, taken first in 2014, looks like he’ll start earning that honor relatively quickly.
The 2010 class produced All-Stars in Paul George, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, but 58.3 percent either didn’t make the league or fell out within five years.
How will Thursday’s 60 prospects fare? The challenge for teams, when selecting a number of 18- or 19-year-old kids, is guessing correctly.
The true answer may not be clear for a handful of years.
Some teams are more successful than others, as detailed in A Decade of Drafts: Which Teams Fared Best?
The following is a breakdown of the last 10 drafts, focusing on the number of All-Stars and starters in each class – along with a count of players who weren’t on NBA rosters after five season:
|Class||Individual All-Stars||Total Appearances||Average Appearances per Year|
The 2009 class generated the most individual All-Stars and was just one shy of matching 2006’s total appearances mark, despite the latter class’ three-year head start.
None of the last three classes have produced All-Stars, yet. Only Blake Griffin was named an All-Star as a rookie, and that technically was in his second year of service after injuries knocked him out for the 2009-10 season.
Six players were named All-Stars in their second season (Brandon Roy, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis, Derrick Rose and Griffin – noting the argument that the Clippers forward was still considered a rookie).
Five were All-Stars in their third year (Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Paul George and Kevin Love).
By that standard, the 2015 class may not be behind without any All-Stars, but 2013 and 2014 are lagging.
Meanwhile, the Portland Trail Blazers, Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder (formerly the Seattle SuperSonics) and Golden State Warriors each drafted the most All-Stars over the last 10 years (three apiece) – although Oklahoma City’s James Harden wasn’t honored as such until he was traded to the Houston Rockets.
Highest Paid Players by Class
* The exact figures for Lillard’s extension won’t be established until early July.
Numbers include past and future NBA earnings, including any option years ahead.
Lillard beat out Anthony Davis, by virtue of a bigger contract extension qualifying for the “Rose Rule.” Lillard qualified by two All-NBA honors (second team for 2015-16 and third team in 2013-14). Davis was named to the All-NBA First Team in 2015 and voted in as an All-Star starter once – but he needed two of either to qualify the bigger extension.
Gasol not only tops the list in career earnings, but he’s the only second-round pick on the list.
|Class||50+ Starts on Average for Career||50+ Starts at least 40% of Career||Not Yet in NBA||Out in Five Years or Less||Total|
|2006||6 (10.0%)||11 (18.3%)||8 (13.3%)||28 (46.7%)||36 (60.0%)|
|2007||7 (11.7%)||12 (20.0%)||11 (18.3%)||22 (36.7%)||33 (55.0%)|
|2008||11 (18.3%)||19 (31.7%)||9 (15.0%)||16 (26.7%)||25 (41.7%)|
|2009||8 (13.3%)||14 (23.3%)||10 (16.7%)||17 (28.3%)||27 (45.0%)|
|2010||5 (8.3%)||11 (18.3%)||9 (15.0%)||26 (43.3%)||35 (58.3%)|
|2011||9 (15.0%)||15 (25.0%)||7 (11.7%)||19 (31.7%)||26 (43.3%)|
|2012||7 (11.7%)||10 (16.7%)||5 (8.3%)||23 (38.3%)||28 (46.7%)|
|2013||8 (13.3%)||8 (13.3%)||11 (18.3%)||13 (21.7%)||24 (40.0%)|
|2014||4 (6.7%)||11 (18.3%)||10 (16.7%)||6 (10.0%)||16 (26.7%)|
|2015||4 (6.7%)||4 (6.7%)||20 (33.3%)||0 (0.0%)||20 (33.3%)|
|Total||69 (11.5%)||115 (19.2%)||100 (16.7%)||170 (28.3%)||270 (45.0%)|
Few players hit the NBA as a starter. The 2008 class yielded 19 players who started at least 50 games over a minimum of 40 percent of their careers. The 2014 class has early starter depth, while 2013 is lagging.
Twenty players from the most recent draft in 2015 have yet to sign in the NBA. Based on previous years, between nine and 15 will eventually make their way (like recent rookies Nikola Jokic, Nemanja Bjelica and Sasha Kaun). The Philadelphia 76ers hope to have Dario Saric (2014-12th) ink this summer after staying overseas for two seasons.
Results by Tier
The following table shows the league averages over every five picks in the first round, and every 10 in the second:
|Tier||All-Star||Starter||Not in NBA|
|1-5||12 (24%)||30 (60%)||3 (6%)|
|6-10||8 (16%)||30 (60%)||7 (14%)|
|11-15||2 (4%)||12 (24%)||8 (16%)|
|16-20||3 (6%)||10 (20%)||8 (16%)|
|21-25||2 (4%)||8 (16%)||15 (30%)|
|26-30||1 (2%)||5 (10%)||20 (40%)|
|31-40||1 (2%)||11 (11%)||52 (52%)|
|41-50||2 (2%)||8 (8%)||70 (70%)|
|51-60||1 (1%)||1 (1%)||87 (87%)|
|Total||32 (5.3%)||115 (19.7%)||270 (45.0%)|
The odds of finding an All-Star in the 15-30 range were better than it was in the second round, but the majority were top-10 picks. The same can be said of starters, where 60 of the 115 starters (52.2 percent) were taken the top 10.
Teams were twice as likely to find an All-Star with a top-10 pick – and six times more likely to land a starter – than choose a player who didn’t last more than five years.
The lone stand-out in the 51-60 range is Isaiah Thomas, the 60th pick in 2011. Only 13 of 100 players (87 percent) in that same tier lasted more than five years in the league.
The data for the most recent drafts is inherently incomplete. The 2015 class has only had one year to prove itself.
Year by Year
The numbers for the 2011 lockout-shortened season are adjusted up from 66 games to 82. Teams listed are after any pre-career trades. Frontcourt (FC) includes forwards and centers; Backcourt (BC) includes guards. Some fall between the two, and a subjective decision was made case by case.
Count: FC 37 (61.7 percent) — lottery nine (64.3 percent); BC 23 (38.3 percent) — lottery five (35.7 percent)
All-Stars: LaMarcus Aldridge (2nd — Portland Trail Blazers), Brandon Roy (6th — Trail Blazers), Rajon Rondo (21st — Boston Celtics), Kyle Lowry (24th — Memphis Grizzlies), Paul Millsap (47th — Utah Jazz)
Lottery Misses: Andrea Bargnani (1st — Toronto Raptors), Adam Morrison (3rd — Charlotte Hornets née Bobcats), Tyrus Thomas (4th — Chicago Bulls), Shelden Williams (5th — Atlanta Hawks), Patrick O’Bryant (9th — Golden State Warriors), Mouhamed Sene (10th — Oklahoma City Thunder née Seattle SuperSonics), Hilton Armstrong (12th — New Orleans Pelicans née Hornets)
Second-Round Steal(s): Paul Millsap (47th)
Between All-Stars and Misses: Randy Foye (7th — Minnesota Timberwolves), Rudy Gay (8th — Memphis Grizzlies), J.J. Redick (11th — Orlando Magic), Thabo Sefolosha (13th — Bulls), Ronnie Brewer (14th — Jazz), Shannon Brown (25th — Cleveland Cavaliers), Jordan Farmar (26th — Los Angeles Lakers), Steve Novak (31st — Houston Rockets), P.J. Tucker (35th — Raptors), Daniel Gibson (42 — Cavaliers), Ryan Hollins (50th — Hornets)
At Least 50 Starts
Career average — Six players (10.0 percent)
In 40+ percent of years — 11 (18.3 percent)
Yet to Reach NBA: Eight (13.3 percent)
Out in Five Years or Fewer: 28 (46.7 percent); FC 18; BC 10
Notable: Four of the first six drafted played briefly in the NBA. Roy was a tremendous player whose career was derailed by injury. Leon Powe (49th) was a contributor with the Boston Celtics before injury.
Count: FC 38 (63.3 percent) — lottery 12 (86.0 percent); BC 22 (36.7 percent) — lottery two (14.0 percent)
All-Stars: Kevin Durant (2nd — Thunder née Sonics), Al Horford (3rd — Hawks), Joakim Noah (9th — Bulls), Marc Gasol (48th — Grizzlies via Lakers)
Lottery Misses: Greg Oden (1st — Blazers), Yi Jianlian (6th — Milwaukee Bucks), Acie Law (11th — Hawks), Julian Wright (13th — Pelicans née Hornets), Al Thornton (14th — Clippers)
Second-Round Steal(s): Marc Gasol (48th), Ramon Sessions (56th — Milwaukee Bucks)
Between All-Stars and Misses: Mike Conley (4th — Grizzlies), Jeff Green (5th Thunder née Sonics), Corey Brewer (9th — Timberwolves), Brandan Wright (8th — Warriors), Spencer Hawes (10th — Kings), Thaddeus Young (12th — 76ers), Rodney Stuckey (15th — Pistons), Nick Young (16th — Wizards), Marco Belinelli (18th — Warriors), Jason Smith (20th — 76ers), Jared Dudley (22nd — Hornets née Bobcats), Wilson Chandler (23rd — Knicks), Aaron Brooks (26th — Rockets), Arron Afflalo (27th — Pistons), Tiago Splitter (28th — Spurs), Carl Landry (31st — Rockets), Glen Davis (35th — Celtics), Josh McRoberts (37th — Blazers) and Ramon Sessions (56th).
At Least 50 Starts
Career average — Seven players (11.7 percent)
In 40+ percent of years — 12 (20.0 percent)
Yet to Reach NBA: 11 (18.3 percent)
Out in Five Years or Fewer: 22 (36.7 percent); FC 13; BC nine
Overall, a quality draft, with a high volume of still-active players. But for the second year in a row, the top overall pick was dramatically overshadowed by the second.
Count: FC 39 (65.0 percent) — lottery seven (50.0 percent); BC 22 (36.7 percent) — lottery seven (50.0 percent)
All-Stars: Derrick Rose (1st — Bulls), Russell Westbrook (4th — Thunder née Sonics), Kevin Love (5th — Timberwolves), Brook Lopez (10th — Nets), Roy Hibbert (17th — Pacers)
Lottery Misses: Michael Beasley (2nd — Heat), O.J. Mayo (3rd — Grizzlies), Joe Alexander (8th — Bucks), Anthony Randolph (14th — Warriors)
Second-Round Steal(s): DeAndre Jordan (35th — Clippers), Goran Dragic (45th — Suns)
Between All-Stars and Misses: Danilo Gallinari (6th — Knicks), Eric Gordon (7th — Clippers), D.J. Augustin (9th — Hornets née Bobcats), Jerryd Bayless (11th — Blazers), Jason Thompson (12th — Kings), Brandon Rush (13th — Pacers), Robin Lopez (15th — Suns), Marreese Speights (16th –76ers), JaVale McGee (18th — Wizards), J.J. Hickson (19th — Cavaliers), Alexis Ajinca (20th — Hornets née Bobcats), Ryan Anderson (21st — Nets), Courtney Lee (22nd — Magic), Kosta Koufos (23rd — Jazz), Serge Ibaka (24th — Thunder née Sonics), Nicolas Batum (25th — Blazers), George Hill (26th — Spurs), Darell Arthur (27th — Grizzlies), Nikola Pekovic (31st — Wolves), Mario Chalmers (34th — HEAT), Omer Asik (36th — Bulls), Luc Mbah a Moute (37th — Bucks) and Sasha Kaun (56th — Cavaliers).
At Least 50 Starts
Career average — 11 players (18.3 percent)
In 40+ percent of years — 17 (28.3 percent)
Yet to Reach NBA: Nine (15.0 percent)
Out in Five Years or Fewer: 16 (26.7 percent); FC eight; BC eight
Notable: Beasley and Mayo have had productive years in the NBA — “miss” may not be fair — but neither should have gone before Westbrook. Kaun was just a rookie this last season, his fate as a hit or a miss is still to be determined.
Count: FC 30 (50.0 percent) — lottery five (35.7 percent); BC 30 (50.0 percent) — lottery nine (64.3 percent)
All-Stars: Blake Griffin (1st — Clippers), James Harden (3rd — Thunder), Stephen Curry (7th — Warriors), DeMar DeRozan (9th — Raptors), Jrue Holiday (17th — 76ers), Jeff Teague (19th — Hawks)
Lottery Misses: Hasheem Thabeet (2nd — Grizzlies), Jonny Flynn (6th — Wolves), Terrence Williams (11th — Nets); While Griffin and Harden are certainly justifiable, Tyreke Evans (4th — Kings) and Ricky Rubio (5th — Wolves) should not have been taken before Curry.
Second-Round Steal(s): Danny Green (46th — Cavaliers), although Cleveland let him go after a year, giving the Spurs the chance to sign and develop an important championship role player.
Between All-Stars and Misses: Jordan Hill (8th — Knicks), Brandon Jennings (10th — Bucks), Gerald Henderson (12th — Hornets née Bobcats), Tyler Hansbrough (13th — Pacers), James Johnson (16th — Bulls), Ty Lawson (18th — Nuggets),Darren Collison (21st — Pelicans née Hornets), Omri Casspi (23rd — Kings), Taj Gibson (26th — Bulls), DeMarre Carroll (27th — Grizzlies), Wayne Ellington (28th — Wolves), Toney Douglas (29th — Knicks), Jeff Ayres (31st — Kings), Dante Cunningham (33rd — Blazers), DeJuan Blair (37th — Pistons), Jonas Jerebko (39th — Pistons), Jodie Meeks (41st — Bucks), Patrick Beverley (42nd — Heat), Chase Budinger (44th — Pistons), Patty Mills (55th — Blazers).
At Least 50 Starts
Career average — eight players (13.3 percent)
In 40+ percent of years — 14 (23.3 percent)
Yet to Reach NBA: 10 (16.7 percent)
Out in Five Years or Fewer: 17 (28.3 percent); FC nine; BC eight
Notable: Evans and Rubio should not be considered misses outside of overlooking Curry.
Count: FC 44 (73.3 percent) — lottery 11 (78.6 percent); BC 16 (26.7 percent) — lottery three (21.4 percent)
All-Stars: John Wall (1st — Wizards), DeMarcus Cousins (5th — Kings), Paul George (10th — Pacers)
Lottery Misses: Evan Turner (2nd — 76ers), Wesley Johnson (4th — Wolves) — neither should have been taken before Cousins; Ekpe Udoh (6th — Warriors), Xavier Henry (12th — Grizzlies); also any non-All-Stars taken before Paul George.
Second-Round Steal(s): Lance Stephenson (40th — Pacers), Hassan Whiteside (33rd — Kings) would have been a steal, but he didn’t last in Sacramento.
Between All-Stars and Misses: Derrick Favors (2nd — Nets), Greg Monroe (7th -Pistons), Al-Farouq Aminu (8th — Clippers), Gordon Hayward (9th — Jazz), Cole Aldrich (11th — Thunder), Ed Davis (13th — Raptors), Patrick Patterson (14th — Rockets), Luke Babbitt (16th — Blazers), Kevin Seraphin (17th — Wizards), Eric Bledsoe (18th — Clippers), Avery Bradley (19th — Celtics), James Anderson (20th — Spurs), Trevor Booker (23rd — Wizards), Quincy Pondexter (26th — Pelicans née Hornets), Greivis Vasquez (28th — Grizzlies), Landry Fields (29th — Knicks), Jeremy Evans (55th — Jazz)
At Least 50 Starts
Career average — five players (8.3 percent)
In 40+ percent of years — 11 (18.3 percent)
Yet to Reach NBA: Nine (15.0 percent)
Out in Five Years or Fewer: 26 (43.3 percent); FC 18; BC eight
Notable: Bledsoe and Bradley were two sharp, non-lottery picks. Turner was a very productive player with the Celtics last season. Johnson has contributed as a role player, but they were both drafted too high. Both Tibor Pleiss (31st — Jazz via Thunder) and Nemanja Bjelica (35th — Wolves) were rookies last season; too soon to declare either a hit or a miss. Larry Sanders (15th — Bucks) was initially productive, but left the NBA for personal reasons. Fields also had a short, five-year career.
Count: FC 33 (55.0 percent) — lottery eight (57.2 percent); BC 27 (45.0 percent) — lottery six (42.9 percent)
All-Stars: Kyrie Irving (1st — Cavaliers), Klay Thompson (11th — Warriors), Kawhi Leonard (15th — Spurs), Jimmy Butler (30th — Bulls), Isaiah Thomas (60th — Kings)
Lottery Misses: Derrick Williams (2nd — Wolves), Jan Vesely (6th — Wizards, Jimmer Fredette (10th — Kings)
Second-Round Steal(s): Chandler Parsons (38th — Rockets), Isaiah Thomas (60th — Kings)
Between All-Stars and Misses: Enes Kanter (3rd — Jazz), Tristan Thompson (4th — Cavaliers), Jonas Valanciunas (5th — Raptors), Bismack Biyombo (7th — Hornets née Bobcats), Brandon Knight (8th — Pistons), Kemba Walker — Hornets née Bobcats), Alec Burks (12th — Jazz), Markieff Morris (13th — Suns), Marcus Morris (14th — Rockets), Nikola Vucevic (16th — 76ers), Iman Shumpert (17th — Knicks), Tobias Harris (19th — Bucks), Donatas Motiejunas (20th — Rockets), Kenneth Faried (22nd — Nuggets), Nikola Mirotic (23rd — Bulls), Reggie Jackson (24th — Thunder), Norris Cole (28th — Miami), Cory Joseph (29th — Spurs), Bojan Bogdanovic (31st — Wolves), Shelvin Mack (34th — Wizards), Jon Leuer (40th — Bucks), Lavoy Allen (50th — 76ers), E’Twaun Moore (55th — Celtics)
At Least 50 Starts
Career average — nine players (15.0 percent)
In 40+ percent of years — 15 (25.0 percent)
Yet to Reach NBA: Seven (11.7 percent)
Currently Out Through Fifth Year: 19 (31.7 percent); FC 11; BC eight
Notable: The best first-round picks outside of the lottery were Leonard and Butler. Other strong selections were Faried and Joseph. Andrew Goudelock (46th — Lakers) is hoping to stick in the league again on a non-guaranteed deal with the Rockets.
Count: FC 39 (65.0 percent) — lottery seven (50.0 percent); BC 21 (35.0 percent) — lottery seven (50.0 percent)
All-Stars: Anthony Davis (1st — Pelicans née Hornets), Damian Lillard (6th — Blazers), Andre Drummond (9th — Pistons), Draymond Green (35th — Warriors)
Lottery Misses: Thomas Robinson (5th — Kings), Austin Rivers (10th — Pelicans née Hornets), Kendall Marshall (13th — Suns); Honorable mention to any non-All-Stars taken ahead of Lillard.
Second-Round Steal(s): Jae Crowder (34th — Mavericks), Green, Khris Middleton (39th — Pistons), Will Barton (40th — Blazers)
Between All-Stars and Misses: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2nd — Hornets née Bobcats), Bradley Beal (32nd — Wizards), Dion Waiters (4th — Cavaliers), Harrison Barnes (7th — Warriors), Terrence Ross (8th — Raptors), Meyers Leonard (11th — Blazers), Jeremy Lamb (12th — Rockets), John Henson (14th — Bucks), Moe Harkless (15th — Magic), Tyler Zeller (17th — Cavaliers), Terrence Jones (18th — Rockets), Andrew Nicholson (19th — Magic), Evan Fournier (20th — Nuggets), Jared Sullinger (21st — Celtics), John Jenkins (23rd — Hawks), Tony Wroten (25th — Grizzlies), Miles Plumlee (26th — Pacers), Festus Ezeli — (30th — Warriors), Quincy Acy (38th — Raptors), Mike Scott (43rd — Hawks), Kyle O’Quinn (49th — Magic), Robert Sacre (60th — Lakers)
At Least 50 Starts
Career average — seven players (10.0 percent), rounding up Kidd-Gilchrist from 49.5
In 40+ percent of years — 10 (16.7 percent)
Yet to Reach NBA: Five (8.3 percent)
Currently Out Through Fourth Year: 23 (38.3 percent); FC 14; BC nine
Notable: Rivers has found a valuable role the past two seasons on the Clippers, but he wasn’t especially successful on the Pelicans. Marshall has found a place in the NBA, but was cut early by the Suns. Royce White (16th — Rockets) and Fab Melo (22nd — Celtics) have yet to find footholds in the league.
Count: FC 33 (55.0 percent) — lottery eight (57.1 percent); BC 27 (45.0 percent) — lottery six (42.9 percent)
Lottery Misses: Anthony Bennett (1st — Cavaliers), Trey Burke (9th — Jazz)
Second-Round Steal(s): Perhaps Allen Crabbe (31st), Isaiah Canaan (34th) and/or Joffrey Lauvergne (55th)
Between All-Stars and Misses: Victor Oladipo (2nd — Magic), Otto Porter (3rd — Wizard), Cody Zeller (4th — Hornets née Bobcats), Alex Len (5th — Suns), Nerlens Noel (6th — 76ers), Ben McLemore (7th — Kings), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (8th — Pistons), C.J. McCollum (10th — Blazers), Michael Carter-Williams (11th — 76ers), Steven Adams (12th — Thunder), Kelly Olynyk (13th — Celtics), Shabazz Muhammad (14th — Wolves), Giannis Antetokounmpo (15th — Bucks), Lucas Nogueira (16th — Raptors), Dennis Schroder (17th — Hawks), Shane Larkin (18th — Mavericks), Sergey Karasev (19th — Cavaliers), Tony Snell (20th — Bulls). Rudy Gobert (27th — Jazz), Archie Goodwin (29th — Suns), Jeff Withey (39th — Pelicans), Mike Muscala (44th — Hawks), Raul Neto (47th — Jazz), Ryan Kelly (48th — Lakers), James Ennis (50th — Heat), Lorenzo Brown (52nd — 76ers)
At Least 50 Starts
Career average — eight (13.3 percent), rounding up for Miles Plumlee from 49.7
In 40+ percent of years — eight (13.3 percent)
Yet to Reach NBA: 11 (18.3 percent)
Currently Out Through Third Year: 13 (21.7 percent); FC four; BC nine
Notable: Gobert was a tremendous selection by Utah late in the first. Others who stands out with the All-Star potential include Antetokounmpo and McCollum.
Count: FC 35 (58.3 percent) — lottery nine (64.3 percent); BC 25 (41.7 percent) — lottery five (35.7 percent)
Lottery Misses: Nik Stauskas (8th — Kings), although he showed he still has potential in stretches after a trade to the 76ers.
Second-Round Steal(s): Nikola Jokic (41st), Jordan Clarkson (46th)
Between All-Stars and Misses: Too early to say, too many to list.
At Least 50 Starts
Career average — four (6.7 percent)
In 40+ percent of years — 11 (18.3 percent)
Yet to Reach NBA: 10 (16.7 percent)
Currently Out Through Second Year: Six (10.0 percent); FC three; BC three
Notable: Two lottery picks are expected to make their debut next season with the Sixers – Joel Embiid (3rd) and Dario Saric (12th).
Count: FC 36 (60.0 percent) — lottery nine (64.3 percent); BC 24 (40.0 percent) — lottery five (35.7 percent)
Lottery Misses: To be determined.
Second-Round Steal(s): Josh Richardson (40th — HEAT), Norman Powell (46th — Raptors)
Between All-Stars and Misses: Too early to say, too many to list.
At Least 50 Starts: Four (6.7 percent)
Yet to Reach NBA: 20 (33.3 percent)
Currently Out Through First Year: None
Notable: Devin Booker (13th — Suns) was an excellent late-lottery pick. Larry Nance Jr. (27th — Lakers) was also a solid find.
NBA Daily: Boston’s Potential Crisis
The Kyrie drama may finally be over in Boston, but some tough decisions could be on the horizon for the Celtics, writes Matt John.
It’s hard to get a read on what exactly the Boston Celtics are going to be this upcoming season.
Losing a talent with the rap sheet that Kyrie Irving has at only 27 years old would usually spell misery for any fanbase. Yet, after all that transpired this season, there may not be a fanbase happier to see an NBA superstar in his prime walk than Celtics Nation was when Irving bolted.
Besides, the sting of his departure was mitigated by the arrival of Kemba Walker. Kemba is a slight downgrade from Kyrie, but his consistent improvement, as well as his reputation as a team player, has some believing that he may be able to produce more effectively than Kyrie did as a Celtic.
The most damaging loss the Celtics suffered from the summer is Al Horford. Horford’s all-around game was the perfect fit in Brad Stevens’ system. His floor-spacing, vision, defense, and unselfishness benefitted the team in so many ways that it would be almost impossible to replace every dimension he brought to the Celtics by himself.
Instead of finding a replacement for Horford, the Celtics thought outside of the box by bringing in Enes Kanter. Kanter can’t do everything that Horford does – comparing those two defensively alone is downright laughable – but Kanter still commands double-teams, is one of the league’s best rebounders and is joining a team that ranked 22nd in rebounds per game. It’s definitely a downgrade, but Enes has proven he can be a solid contributor.
That’s not even factoring in the other unknowns facing the Celtics this season. Jayson Tatum in year three; Jaylen Brown in year four; Gordon Hayward being two years removed from his leg injury. After a down year so difficult that pretty much everyone involved took a step back, it’s hard to say where the bar should be set for this team.
Presently, Boston’s ceiling is drastically lower than it was at this exact time a year ago. But when you consider that they won 49 games, is it delusional to think they’ll be able to exceed that win total with a seemingly lesser roster?
That will depend on whether they can solve a possible crisis that their roster as constructed could produce.
In basketball, it’s common sense that if you want to win, you put your five best players on the court when things matter most. As long as those best players can actually play together on the court. That’s the Celtics’ problem right there.
Boston’s five best players are slated to be the following:
With Kanter designated as the starting center – this may change as the season progresses – one of these five is going to start the season coming off the bench, which Brad Stevens will figure out with due time. Hayward, Brown, and Smart have all played significant minutes with the second unit recently so it shouldn’t be much of an adjustment there.
The problem is, if all five of those players play to the best of their abilities, all of them are too good to be wasting away on the bench in crunch time. But if they all are on the court to close out games, who plays center? The only one out of the five who has any experience playing the five position is Hayward, which came last year and he only played one percent of his minutes there.
Brad Stevens has always been one to experiment. He’s never been hesitant to thrust players who aren’t usually the center type into the role of the small-ball five. From Brandon Bass to Jonas Jerebko to Semi Ojeleye, Stevens can really commit to the small in small-ball.
There’s just one problem. The Celtics’ top competitors for the crown this season sports some of the best centers in the league, which include Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, and Nikola Jokic among others. Should Boston try to use its projected best players in its crunchtime lineup, they won’t stand much of a chance. Gordon Hayward and Marcus Smart are good defenders, but they’re not that good.
Boston right now isn’t really considered a contender by most people who follow the NBA but adding the 29-year-old Walker, who is now entering the prime of his career, signaled that they aim to be one. Say Boston tries the Walker-Smart-Brown-Tatum-Hayward lineup, and it does not pan out, they may have to trade one of them in order to balance out the roster and crunchtime lineup.
Who they would ship out is the real mystery. They’re definitely not trading Kemba after they just added him. Jayson Tatum’s trade availability expired the second Anthony Davis was traded to the Lakers. Many fans are clamoring for it after a not-so-stellar comeback, but Gordon Hayward is unlikely to be traded. His contract at this moment is an albatross, and when teams trade the star free agents they lured to them shortly after said luring, it’s not a good look for the franchise, especially after what Hayward has gone through.
For better or worse, Gordon Hayward is remaining a Boston Celtic. That leaves Smart and Brown. This is where this hypothetical crisis gets interesting. If Danny Ainge’s hand is forced to choose between the two, who does he trade?
If Ainge wants to keep the one with the highest ceiling, it’s Brown. Jaylen did not have the easiest start last season. He was so bad in fact that they benched him for Smart. Over time, Brown found his game again off the bench. As good as he was, a man of Brown’s talents should not be relegated to the bench.
If that’s not enough, remember that just the year prior, Brown was one of the most vital contributors on a team that was within inches of the NBA Finals. Eighteen points on 46/39/64 splits in 18 of what had to be the most important games of his life as a 21-year-old cemented Brown’s status as a high-upside, possible star player.
Between Brown and Smart, Brown has a higher ceiling.
If Ainge wants to keep the one who solidifies the team culture, it’s Smart. Smart may never have the scoring prowess or the reliable jumper that Brown has, but ask anyone who sets the tone for the game more, and it’s Smart.
Ever since he first walked on the court, Smart’s been one of the most intense, high-energy players in the league. His playmaking and defense inspire the Celtics to play at their best. When the Celtics’ 2018 playoff run comes up, people talk about how impressive the youngsters were, but they forget that their fortunes may not have turned out so well if Smart had not come back in time from injury.
It’s true that his love for the game puts his flaws on display, but Marcus Smart is what helped catapult the Brad Stevens era and establish a successful culture in Boston. His efforts probably won’t lead to any All-Star appearance, but they solidify him as an impact player for a championship team.
Between Brown and Smart, Smart brings more of a winning culture.
Some other components at play – Brown is in a contract year, and he should have suitors next offseason, while Smart is currently being paid $12 million (salary that could be used in a possible trade for a star player).
Now there’s the chance that none of this happens. The Celtics may go forward with the core they have right now, and maybe they have something up their sleeve that nobody knows about. There’s also the chance they may trade both Smart and Brown for an upgrade or trade someone else.
There’s obviously no way to tell what will happen at this point. However, these are the pertinent questions that the Celtics need to ask themselves as we approach the upcoming season.
High-Performance Mindfulness: Incorporating The Mental Health Resource Into The NBA
Jake Rauchbach outlines best practices and working parameters for integrating a mental health/Mental Performance resource into the coaching staff.
As NBA teams begin to integrate mental health resources into the overall working structure of their organizations, several key points should be taken into consideration so that practitioners can be most effective when working with players.
Before we dive in, it is important to note that, within the mental health spectrum, there are generally two avenues.
There is the clinical side, which focuses on diagnosing and treating behavioral disorders like depression, substance abuse and learning disabilities. There is also the applied/performance-related side, where the end goal is to improve on-court performance through techniques such as High-Performance Mindfulness.
Let’s jump in and break down some of the best practices and key considerations for successfully installing this resource within your staff:
Best Practices & Key Considerations
Player buy-in should be the number one priority. All other considerations should directly feed into facilitating and supporting this. With any sort of coaching, trust and rapport with the player are vital. The same thing holds for mental health resources/High-Performance Mindfulness coaches. Credibility and strong rapport with the player must be built.
This responsibility lies on the shoulders of the interpersonal skill-sets of the High-Performance Coach. However, much more of this responsibility resides with the decision-makers, who define the working parameters for the resource. If players do not like, trust or see value in the resource and the services offered, it is going to be very tough to make much headway. Before any substantial progress, this foundation must be in place first.
Staff Buy-In (Cooperation)
If a player senses that staff members, especially decision-makers, surrounding that player do not support or are sending mixed messages regarding the value, effectiveness, and acceptance of the mental health work, it can derail or block the initiative. When leaders within the organization outwardly support the role of the practitioner and initiative, it makes it that much easier to effectively serve the player.
In a perfect world, all levels of the organization are sending the same message to the player(s) regarding the role, value and implementation of the mental health practitioner. More realistically, outward support and clear definition of the practitioner’s role goes a long way.
- Defined Role: Clearly defining the role, will properly position the resource. It will also put players and staff members on notice regarding working parameters.
- Embed Resource in Coaching Staff: The highest probability for success is by having the resource sit on the bench during the game, ideally right between the player rotation. This is ultra-effective in improving performance and halting performance issues straight away as they arise during the game.
- The Dallas Mavericks, the Temple University Men’s Basketball Program, and Ironi Ness-Ziona Basketball Club of the Israeli Super League (FIBA Europe Cup) have all employed this set-up with success. Embedding a High-Performance Coach reinforces credibility and shows players that the team means business regarding the integration of the mental side of the game within the overall team dynamic.
- Direct Line of Communication: A direct line of communication from the mental health resource/performance coach to the decision-makers within the organization is vital. The mental and emotional responses of athletes are illogical and often unpredictable. So is the performance improvement of the player. It is very rarely a straight line up. A clean and clear feedback loop from the mental health expert to the decision-makers make this job much easier.
- Expert feedback presented consistently is a must, ideally in weekly or bi-weekly meetings. Confidentiality is always a major consideration. However, performance results and projective performance trajectories of a player are different than confidential information. When it comes to player performance, results, trajectories and player progression can be shared and must be put into context.
In High-Performance Mindfulness, there should be measurables, or metrics, showing the improvement for the player. Performance coaches should be judged by the tangible production they can facilitate for a player or set of players. In a results-based business such as professional basketball, showing the value add via statistical improvement is important. This is especially true in a growth space such as Mental Performance.
Finding a way to do this so that it does not infringe upon the domains of other coaching staff members is also a consideration. However, not acknowledging that Mental Performance has the potential for improving statistical on-court performance would be missing the point.
There is a gestation period that exists in High-Performance Mindfulness Coaching. Just like any other type of coaching, there is a period between the implementation of the work and the actual production improvement results. Understanding this will provide clarity and context.
There are just some of the best practices for helping jump-start your mental health and High-Performance Mindfulness initiatives at the NBA and professional basketball level.
The application of the mental health and High-Performance Mindfulness resources within the NBA and professional basketball is a little like the wild west right now. Through trial and error, organizations will see what works and what doesn’t within the context of their given situation.
One thing is for sure, though: This space is growing and growing fast, and decision-makers better have foundational understanding for how to give this initiative the best probability for success.
NBA Daily: Grading The Offseason – Denver Nuggets
James Blancarte continues Basketball Insiders’ “Grading The Offseason” series by examining the Denver Nuggets’ deep roster.
James Blancarte continues Basketball Insiders’ “Grading the Offseason” series analyzing the Denver Nuggets.
Throughout the offseason, Basketball Insiders has been taking a look at each respective franchise’s roster after the draft, offseason signings and trades. In doing so, we look to analyze and determine how each team did as they prepare for next season and beyond.
There are numerous strategies teams can take when it comes to the future. Some teams look to acquire various assets in exchange for taking on players with undesirable contracts. Having cleared up cap space, other teams use the offseason targeting free agents with the hope of making a big leap going forward. This offseason was one for the ages with a few teams willing to take huge risks and spend a treasure trove of assets to build an instant contender. Successful teams oftentimes resist the urge to make any major additions or subtractions and take a bet on internal growth and continuity.
And that leads us to the Denver Nuggets. Denver is fresh off a playoff run that nearly saw the franchise return to the Western Conference Finals. Some teams in big markets seem to come away with the biggest free agents. This offseason, Denver mostly did not come up with any top-tier acquisitions. However, with the talent and youth of their key players, the Nuggets shouldn’t be concerned. A year older, more mature and with the benefit of continuity, the Nuggets again enters the upcoming season as a Western Conference contender.
Last year, the Nuggets jumped up to second place in the west after finishing in ninth the prior two seasons. With that jump, Denver finally returned to the postseason, ending a five-season playoff drought. Jumping up seven seeds is an impressive season-to-season jump not often seen in the NBA. However, many Nuggets followers would argue that the team had been better than their prior results and the jump shouldn’t come across as a major surprise.
Credit the Nuggets’ investment and patience in their core players for last year’s results. The team has allowed their franchise star Nikola Jokic to fully explore his talents as his minutes, effectiveness and usage have increased year-to-year. Alongside Jokic, the team has seen significant development and improve play from Gary Harris and Jamal Murray.
Last year saw the two-man game between Jokic and Murray take off to a new level. Their intuitive and fluid two-man game created a foundation on offense that the team thrived on. Throw in a full season of Paul Millsap and the team became that much more dangerous. The year prior, the Nuggets acquired the multi-skilled Millsap but an injury kept him out much of the year and prevented the team from gelling fast enough to get back into the playoff picture. With a full season of Millsap in addition to the team’s young core, the Nuggets were able to hit another level.
The Nuggets should be lauded for their ability to draft, acquire and develop young talent. This past season saw second-year guard Monte Morris join the rotation and establish himself as another key contributor. Malik Beasley, a first-round pick for Denver in 2016, also had his best year so far and started in 18 games. Longtime mainstay Will Barton did struggle with injury last season. With his explosiveness somewhat limited, Barton didn’t have the same overall impact he has had in year’s past.
The Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers matchup in the semifinals produced fireworks. Denver came out of the wrong end of an unbelievable quadruple-overtime game. Losing that marathon game could have easily been the kind of loss that a team doesn’t recover from in a close matchup. Instead, the Nuggets came back and even led the series 3-2. Despite going toe-to-toe, the Nuggets came up just short in the final quarter of game seven.
Unlike a few other teams this year, there is no splashy star acquisition and that is just fine. Having come so close to making the Conference Finals and having already seen year-to-year growth from multiple key contributors, slow and steady may still win the race for the Nuggets. Jokic is arguably a top-10 player and is a realistic MVP candidate entering this upcoming season. Also, Jamal Murray was signed to a five-year, $170 million extension. Murray is an emerging talent and has the skill to be a dynamic offensive force in the future.
Just because the Nuggets didn’t sign or trade for a top-tier free agent doesn’t mean they would never consider it. There have been murmurs at times about whether Denver would or should pull the trigger and use their wealth of young talent to acquire a potentially available star like Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal. That speculation never seemed to amount to much and the team opted for a few smaller transactions.
On June 29, Denver exercised their team option to keep Millsap for $30 million for the 2019-20 season. Again, Millsap played well last season and helps make the Nuggets more versatile on both ends of the floor.
The Nuggets also acquired forward Jerami Grant by jumping into the Thunder fire sale of assets that started with the Paul George trade. In exchange for a 2020 first-round pick, the Nuggets picked up a versatile and capable defensive forward to help round out their deep roster.
There are a few other minor transactions to take note of. The Nuggets closed the book on Trey Lyles, who has been in the team’s big man rotation for the past few years. In spot play, he contributed at times but didn’t make an overall impact sufficient to justify the continued investment.
Denver has a deep roster and will need to stay flexible and figure out their best rotations next season. Barton will be looking to re-establish himself. Juan Hernangómez, who can play on the wing or as a small-ball four, will again be trying to find a permanent place in the rotation. Center Mason Plumlee formed a towering two-man front-court tandem that allowed Jokic to play from the perimeter, in addition to his backup center minutes. Plumlee may be wary of Jerami Grant, who could usurp some of those frontcourt minutes alongside Jokic.
PLAYERS IN: Jerami Grant, P.J. Dozier, Tyler Cook, Vlatko Cancar
PLAYERS OUT: Isaiah Thomas, Trey Lyles, Tyler Lydon, Brandon Goodwin, Thomas Welsh
Finishing second in the west, being a quarter away from the Conference Finals and bringing back the same squad of up and coming players should make the Nuggets a near lock to be a top-shelf team again. Continued development from many of their young players and an MVP season from Jokic could easily place them in the top-tier of the Conference again.
Unfortunately, the Nuggets will have to contend with newly minted contenders in the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers. Add a stellar offseason for the Utah Jazz and the possibility that the James Harden-Russell Westbrook experiment could succeed and there are at least four other realistic contenders for the top two spots in the west.
Simply holding the two spot will be quite the challenge. However, the Nuggets have the benefit of youth, player development and continuity. Few teams can tout continuity as a major asset the way Denver can. This upcoming season will be an interesting test to see how important continuity is in an always-improving Western Conference.
Offseason Grade: B+