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A Decade of NBA Draft Ups and Downs

Eric Pincus breaks down each individual class from the last 10 NBA Drafts.

Eric Pincus

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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:

All-Stars

Class Individual All-Stars Total Appearances Average Appearances per Year
2006 5 17 1.7
2007 4 15 1.7
2008 5 14 1.8
2009 6 16 2.3
2010 3 8 1.3
2011 5 9 1.8
2012 4 7 1.8
2013 0 0 0
2014 0 0 0
2015 0 0 0
Total 32 (5.3%) 86 12.4

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

Class Player Total
2006 LaMarcus Aldridge $171,154,937
2007 Marc Gasol $180,435,514
2008 Kevin Love $172,106,169
2009 Blake Griffin $117,873,362
2010 John Wall $108,639,665
2011 Kyrie Irving $117,541,135
2012 Damian Lillard $154,260,167*
2013 Victor Oladipo $21,487,440
2014 Andrew Wiggins $24,850,243
2015 Karl-Anthony Towns $25,720,035
Total $1,090,140,842*

* 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.

Starters

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.

2006

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.

2007

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

Notable:
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.

2008

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.

2009

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.

2010

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.

2011

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.

2012

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.

2013

Count: FC 33 (55.0 percent) — lottery eight (57.1 percent); BC 27 (45.0 percent) — lottery six (42.9 percent)

All-Stars: None

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.

2014

Count: FC 35 (58.3 percent) — lottery nine (64.3 percent); BC 25 (41.7 percent) — lottery five (35.7 percent)

All-Stars: None

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).

2015

Count: FC 36 (60.0 percent) — lottery nine (64.3 percent); BC 24 (40.0 percent) — lottery five (35.7 percent)

All-Stars: None

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.

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NBA

NBA Sunday: Kristaps Porzingis Sure Looks Ready To Be The Franchise

The Knicks hope Kristaps Porzingis can become their franchise. Thus far, he seems up to the challenge.

Moke Hamilton

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He stood in front of his mentor, isolated, just like they used to do in practice.

He’d seen the jab steps before and the head fakes—they were nothing new. And when Carmelo Anthony mustered the acceleration he still has in his 33-year-old legs to drive around Kristaps Porzingis, Anthony knew he had the 7-foot-3 Latvian big man beat.

Anthony triumphantly rose to the basket and delicately attempted his right-handed layup. Before he knew what hit him, though, Anthony’s shot had been sent to the free throw line.

The message was clear—Kristaps had taken the torch.

“It was fun,” Porzingis said about his confrontation with Anthony. “We went at it in practices a lot and one-on-one after practices.

“It was a lot of fun knowing what he was going to do and try to stop him.”

The Oklahoma City Thunder were much closer to the NBA Finals than the Knicks were last season, and removing Anthony from the Knicks and pairing him with Russell Westbrook and Paul George gives the Thunder a triumvirate that can at least conceivably challenge the Golden State Warriors. They are perhaps the only team in the entire league with enough firepower and defensive pieces.

So no, the Knicks may not be hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy anytime soon, but at the very least, the franchise seems to be in good hands—the big, soft hands of Porzingis.

As young NBA players come into their own and attempt to fulfill the lofty expectations that everyone has of them, the third year is the charm, almost invariably. And in that that year, a young player can’t control the other pieces that are around him—that’s why they shouldn’t be judged by their team’s wins and losses.

In that third year, a young player also can’t really control the frequency of his injuries. The simple truth is that many 21 or 22-year-old players simply lack the hardened bones of a fully grown adult that most men become after the age of 25.

But what the young player can prove is that he is prepared to shoulder the burden and take the fight to anyone who stands before him. Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks epitomizes this ideal better than any other young player in the league. He is absolutely fearless and it’s a pleasure to watch.

So is Porzingis.

Since the influx of European-born players began about 20 years ago, we have seen our fair share of “soft” European players. His talent aside (which is considerable), Porzingis has proven to be anything but, and that by itself can help players go a very long way.

In what must have felt like the longest summer ever, Porzingis saw the franchise that drafted him undergo an overhaul that resulted in a light beaming so brightly on him, you would have thought the third-year forward was starring in a Broadway musical.

Say what you want about Porzingis, but he has already done all that he can to notify everyone that have anything to do with the Knicks that his bony shoulders aren’t indicative of the weight he’s capable of carrying.

And in Oklahoma City, against his mentor, Porzingis did the heavy lifting.

“I saw energy,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said after his team’s opening night loss.

“He was great moving. He played 38 minutes, and maybe last year that would be a struggle. He would maybe get tired, and get some silly fouls, but even toward the end on that 37th or 38th minute, he was still up hollering, moving, blocking shots and getting rebounds, so he had a great game and we expect a lot more of that from him.”

Being a Knicks fan is something that nobody should wish on their worst enemy. The franchise has made scores of maneuvers that lacked wisdom and seemingly gone out of its way to alienate people beloved by the franchise. On top of it all, Knicks tickets are among the highest in the entire league.

Fans as passionate and dedicated as Knicks fans deserve a team they can be proud of and a front office that dedicates itself to putting winning ahead of petty feuds and politics.

The hiring of Scott Perry may signify just that.

So when the Knicks traded Carmelo Anthony and ended up getting back 10 cents on the dollar for his value, everyone should have prepared for a long season in New York City.

Coming in, Knicks fans once again found themselves in the unenviable predicament of having to talk themselves into believing that Ramon Session, Michael Beasley and Tim Hardaway were capable of giving this team feel good moments. And while they certainly are, they will surely pale in comparison to the amount of losses that the club accrues along the way.

If there’s one thing the Philadelphia 76ers have taught everyone, however, it’s that the losses don’t necessarily need to be in vain.

So heading into this season, what Knicks fans should have been looking forward to and hoping for is nothing more than the installation of a culture that’s marked by effort, communication and selfless basketball—the hallmarks of the Golden State Warriors.

Aside from that, yes, they should have also come in with the hope that Kristaps Porzingis would take an appreciable step forward and prove himself to truly be a capable franchise cornerstone.

To this point, from the way he holds his head highly, despite a win or a loss, and the way he competes to the best of his abilities, despite his limitations. For now, it’s really all that could reasonably be asked of him.

When it was all said and done—when Porzingis looked the Knicks’ past in the eyes after the Thunder had soundly defeated his New York Knicks—Carmelo Anthony probably told him that he was proud of him and that he wished him all the luck in the world.

He probably told him to continue to work on his game and hone his craft and to block out the background noise.

And above all else, Carmelo probably told Kristaps that he believes he is capable of being his successor.

With his nodding head and serious demeanor, Porzingis, in all his glory, listened intently. Even more so, he believed every word. 

It doesn’t take all day to figure out whether the sun is shining—it’s an adage that remains as true in basketball as it does on a May Day in New York.

For Porzinigis, the bright sky and the beaming sunlight—he’s basking in it all. Not only has he becomes the Knicks’ franchise by default, he believes he’s capable of shouldering the burden.

In this town, that’s more than half the battle.

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NBA

Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal

The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz

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It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.

Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.

There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.

Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.

Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.

That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.

Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.

At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.

One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.

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NBA

NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind

Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.

Dennis Chambers

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When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.

“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.

Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.

That didn’t last long.

“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”

With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.

As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.

After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.

In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.

“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”

Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.

“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”

Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.

“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”

After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.

Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.

“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”

All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.

“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”

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