For a little over half of an hour Monday night on ESPN, the basketball world was glued to the television screen awaiting the next step in Marvin Bagley III’s career.
Would the 18-year-old five-star forward go back to Sierra Canyon High School for his senior season? Or would the Class of 2018’s top prospect forgo that final year of school and make his jump to college? And if so, where would he play?
Well, through multiple teases and cliff-hanging commercials, ESPN and Bagley finally chopped it up shortly after 11:30 p.m. and revealed the information that many had waited to hear. Bagley would be heading to college this fall to play for the Duke Blue Devils.
Oh, how the rich get richer.
While already sporting commitments from the Class of 2017’s top point guard (Trevon Duval), top shooting guard (Gary Trent Jr.), and No. 4 overall prospect (Wendell Carter Jr.), the Blue Devils had the second-ranked recruiting class in the nation. Adding Bagley to the mix almost makes things unfair.
However, for as important as a singular season in college will be for Bagley, the ultimate goal for a player of his caliber will always be the NBA. And with his transition to college this year, the 6-foot-11 forward will become eligible for next June’s draft where he will almost certainly be in the mix for the top overall pick.
At his current size, 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot wingspan, Bagley possesses a unique size for the set of skills that he employs on the basketball court. As a ball-handler, Bagley is well above average for players with similar builds, and he even excels in the open court with the rock using his abilities to make plays for his teammates or create his own shot. While he isn’t a knockdown shooter by any means at this stage of his game — just 28-116 from beyond the arc in 49 Nike EYBL and Sierra Canyon games — his age and upside suggest Bagley could clean up his jumper as he moves forward.
Through the power of social media, casual basketball fans know the names of Zion Williamson and LaMelo Ball. So much so that nearly a million people logged on this summer to watch a live stream showing between the two players’ respective AAU teams. Williamson is lauded for his freakish athletic ability and rim rocking dunks, while Ball is well-known because of his deep three-pointers, his outspoken father, and his older brother who just so happens to be the point guard of the Los Angeles Lakers.
That’s all well and good, they can keep their spotlight. Neither player is in the same atmosphere of talent as Bagley.
ESPN’s director of recruiting, Paul Biancardi believes that Bagley is in such a rarified air, that he may be the best player he’s seen come out of high school in quite some time.
“This class has a once in a decade type of player in Marvin Bagley,” Biancardi told USA Today. “He may be the best prospect I’ve seen in my time at ESPN.”
At the top of next year’s draft, Bagley will be vying for the attention of NBA front office personnel with Michael Porter Jr., DeAndre Ayton, Luka Doncic, Miles Bridges and Mohamed Bamba. Bagley’s reclassification essentially makes a loaded top half of the draft lottery next season even more loaded. But what makes his jump look even more impressive is that Bagley immediately leapfrogs almost every one of those players, sans Porter Jr., in the discussion for the best player available.
On the heels of Bagley’s decision, Jonathan Givony of ESPN released his first edition of the 2018 NBA Mock Draft. Where did Bagley make his debut after being a part of this draft class for less than 12 hours? Second overall, right behind Porter Jr.
Bagley is coming in hot next season to college, and it would be safe to assume that just about every decision maker in the NBA will be keeping close tabs on the talented forward.
Despite dealing with some life altering decisions this summer, Bagley still made his way onto the court and a pretty famous court at that. Bagley suited up alongside James Harden and Chris Paul in the famed Drew League for LAUNFD, logging minutes playing with and against NBA players.
There was even reportedly a sequence where Bagley guarded JaVale McGee — who’s now a world champion — and dealt with multiple offensive moves and crossovers, sticking with McGee the whole time and ultimately forcing a 24-second shot clock violation. Obviously, McGee isn’t Anthony Davis or Karl-Anthony Towns, but he’s a legitimate NBA player, and an 18-year-old kid stuck with him the entire time. There’s something to be said for that.
After seeing him for a short time in the Drew League, LAUNFD’s head coach Wally Moore was as sure of his skill as almost everyone else who gets a chance to watch Bagley play.
“Coming out of college after a year there, he’s going to be top three pick in the NBA Draft easily,” Moore said. ‘He’s going to have a lengthy professional career. He’s really well seasoned. Now in the NBA, you’re tall, long, can run the floor, dribble, you can last 15 years.”
The takeaways from Bagley onlookers usually end with rave reviews. However, being a teenager, there is still plenty of room to grow for this super prospect. Despite being nearly seven-feet tall and having a decent frame, Bagley weighs in currently at about 220 pounds. In order to avoid getting banged around down low at the professional level, he’ll need to put on some size. But being just 18 years old means that Bagley’s body still has plenty of time to mature, so that concern will most likely be addressed at some point.
In terms of his on-the-court ability, Bagley can do just about everything. Despite the inconsistencies in his shooting, Bagley brings a unique ability to create his own shot and get to the basket from the perimeter for someone his size. And while he gets praised for his ability to be able to switch defensively on multiple positions, there are consistently questions about his “motor” and if Bagley can continuously compete with 100 percent effort.
When a prospect is as naturally talented as Bagley there will always be a reason to nitpick at flaws. No player is perfect, so finding areas that could use improvement always become magnified for the players that separate themselves from the pack.
For his detractors though, Bagley knows they aren’t as informed as they think they are.
“I just laugh at them. I put a lot of work into this. I wasn’t just born with this,” Bagley said. “I worked hard. I do a lot to make sure that I’m ready for big moments. They don’t really know what goes on behind the scenes.”
If Monday night was the first time you heard the name Marvin Bagley III, consider that your introduction to the player who could very well be basketball’s next superstar.
Updating the Buyout Market: Who Could Still Become Available?
Shanes Rhodes examines the buyout market to see which players could soon be joining playoff contenders.
While it may not be as exciting as the NBA Trade Deadline, another important date is approaching for NBA teams: the Playoff Eligibility Waiver Deadline.
March 1 is the final day players can be bought out or waived and still be eligible to play in the postseason should they sign with another team. As teams continue to fine-tune their rosters, plenty of eyes will be on the waiver wire and buyout market looking for players that can make an impact.
So who could still become available?
Joakim Noah, New York Knicks
This seems almost too obvious.
The relationship between Joakim Noah and the New York Knicks hasn’t been a pleasant one. Noah, who signed a four-year, $72 million contract in 2016, has done next to nothing this season after an underwhelming debut season in New York and has averaged just 5.7 minutes per game.
After an altercation between himself and Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek at practice, Noah isn’t expected to return to the team. At this point, the best thing for both sides seems likely a clean break; there is no reason to keep that cloud over the Knicks locker room for the remainder of the season.
Noah may not help a playoff contender, but he should certainly be available come the end of the season.
Arron Afflalo, Orlando Magic
Arron Afflalo isn’t the player he once was. But he can still help any contender in need of some shooting.
Afflalo is averaging a career-low 12.9 minutes per game with the Orlando Magic this season. He is playing for just over $2 million so a buyout wouldn’t be hard to come by if he went asking and he can still shoot the basketball. A career 38.6 percent shooter from long distance, Afflalo can certainly get it done beyond the arc for a team looking to add some shooting or some depth on the wing. He doesn’t add the perimeter defense he could earlier in his career, but he could contribute in certain situations.
Vince Carter, Sacramento Kings
Vince Carter was signed by the Sacramento Kings last offseason to play limited minutes off the bench while providing a mentor for the Sacramento Kings up-and-coming players. And Carter may very well enjoy that role.
But, to a degree, the old man can still ball — certainly enough to help a contender.
Carter is 41-years-old, there is no getting around his age, but he can still provide some solid minutes off the bench. Playing 17.1 minutes per night across 38 games this season, Carter has averaged five points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists while shooting 35.3 percent from three-point range. Combining all of that with his playoff experience and the quality of leadership he brings to the table, Carter may be an ideal addition for a contender looking to make a deep playoff run.
Zach Randolph, Sacramento Kings
Like Carter, Zach Randolph was brought in by the Kings to contribute solid minutes off the bench while also filling in as a mentor to the young roster. Unlike Carter, however, Randolph has played much of the season in a starting role — something that is likely to change as the season winds down.
Randolph has averaged 14.6 points, seven rebounds and 2.1 assists in 25.6 minutes per game; quality numbers that any team would be happy to take on. But, in the midst of a rebuild, the Kings should not be taking minutes away from Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere and (eventually) Harry Giles in order to keep Randolph on the floor.
As he proved last season, Randolph can excel in a sixth-man role and would likely occupy a top bench spot with a team looking to add rebounding, scoring or just a big to their rotation down the stretch.
Wesley Matthews, Dallas Mavericks
Wesley Matthews remains one of the most underrated players in the NBA. He provides positional versatility on the floor and is a solid player on both sides of the ball.
So, with Mark Cuban all but saying the Mavericks will not be trying to win for the remainder of the season, Matthews is likely poised for a minutes dip and seems like an obvious buyout candidate. Matthews, who has a player option for next season, has averaged 12.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.2 steals this season across 34.1 minutes per game this season.
If Cuban is true to his word, both parties would be better served parting ways; the Mavericks can attempt to lose as many games as possible while Matthews can latch on to a team looking to win a title. It’s a win-win.
Isaiah Thomas, Los Angeles Lakers
Isaiah Thomas’ three-game stint with the Los Angeles Lakers before the All-Star break looked much like his short tenure with the Cleveland Cavaliers: up-and-down. Thomas shined in his Laker debut, putting up 25 points and six assists in just over 30 minutes.
He then followed that up with three points and two assists, and seven points along with five assists in his second and third games with the team, respectively.
Thomas needs time to get himself right before he can start playing his best basketball. Re-establishing his value is likely his top priority.
But will he be willing to come off the bench for a team that won’t be making the postseason?
With Lonzo Ball close to returning, Thomas will likely move to the Laker bench. Adamant in recent years that he is a starting guard in the NBA, Thomas may be more inclined to take on that role for a team poised to make a deep playoff run — there is no shortage of teams that would be willing to add Thomas’ potential scoring prowess while simultaneously setting himself up for a contract and, potentially, a starting role somewhere next season.
Other Names to Look Out For: Channing Frye, Shabazz Muhammed, Kosta Koufos
There are still plenty of players that can make an impact for playoff-bound teams should they reach a buyout with their current squads. And, as the Postseason Eligibility Waiver Deadline approaches, plenty of teams out of the running will move quickly in order to provide their guys an opportunity to find their way to a contender.
NBA Daily: Eric Gordon, The Houston Rockets’ Ex-Factor
James Harden and Chris Paul are stars that have faltered in the playoffs. Eric Gordon could be their ex-factor
The 2017-18 Houston Rockets are shaping up to be one of the league’s best regular-season teams over the past decade. The squad features a fan-friendly and fun to watch style, two legitimate superstar talents and a seemingly well-rounded contingent of role players willing to do whatever it takes to help the team get to the next level.
But as strong of a force as the Rockets appear to be developing into, there are still major question marks about how this team will perform in the playoffs when the game gets tighter, bench rotations are reduced and the spotlight glares the brightest.
All-Star guard James Harden has played in 88 career playoff games over the course of his career – 45 with the Rockets where he’s averaging 27.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 7.1 assists. The statistics look good in the aggregate, however, Harden has noticeably faded down the stretch during pivotal playoff moments in the team’s recent runs. The most recent example being Game 5 of the 2018 Western Conference Finals versus the San Antonio Spurs where Harden finished with just 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting from the floor.
The Rockets other superstar, Chris Paul, has never reached the Western Conference Finals in a career dating back to the 2005-06 season. Paul’s most memorable playoff collapse came when he was a member of the Los Angeles Clippers. His team surrendered a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference semifinals to the Harden’s Rockets back in 2015.
While there are undoubtedly questions at the top, their bench unit is anchored by 2017 Sixth Man of the Year Eric Gordon, once considered one of the rising shooting guards in the league while he was a member of the Clippers.
Gordon, was traded as part of a package by Los Angeles to acquire Paul from New Orleans. Since then, a combination of injuries and reported frustration in New Orleans seemingly derailed Gordon from the once promising ascent and trajectory he was projected to achieve. But Gordon has gotten his career on track. Once injury prone, Gordon suited up for 75 games in 2017 and is on pace to play 73 games this season.
“It’s almost like it is consistent to be here now,” Gordon said during All-Star weekend. “It’s been great. When I’ve been healthy, I’ve always had that chance to do some good things.
When you’re winning things come easier. You’re scoring easier [and] it’s easier to come into work and play well every single practice and game.”
Gordon believes there’s something special about this Rockets team because of how quickly they have gained cohesion since training camp. Gordon is averaging 18.5 points in 32 minutes per contest on the season. The guard will play an integral role off the Rockets’ bench and will play heavy minutes in any playoff series involving the Western Conference elite teams – namely Golden State and San Antonio. In three games versus the Warriors this season, Gordon is averaging 20 points on 43 percent shooting from the field.
“We definitely have to figure things out but we just clicked so quickly and early in the season,” Gordon said. “We just knew we had a chance to maybe win it. I’d say at this point we know what we need to do and it’s all about being consistent enough on both sides of the ball for us to have a chance.”
Golden State, as defending champs, have to be respected as the better team until proven otherwise. Many do believe the Rockets have at the very least a puncher’s chance because of how they can score the ball in bunches. The Warriors, for all of their past defensive prowess, have slipped on that side of the floor this season with declining efficiency numbers. But is that slippage enough for the Rockets to gain ground or are the Warriors’ defensive struggles a combination of regular season boredom and a lack of enthusiasm.
In a seven-game playoff series, the cream rises to the top. Are the Rockets legit? Or are they a team best suited for the regular season as in seasons past? They currently lead the season series against the Warriors 2-1 and are 2-0 versus the Spurs to date. We have witnessed regular-season dominance from Paul and Harden in the past. Is this the year both guys put it all together and finally get over the hump? Time will tell and Eric Gordon figures to play a big role in determining the outcome.
The Rockets resume play on Friday versus the Minnesota Timberwolves.
NBA Daily: Rich Cho Out As Charlotte Hornets GM
The Charlotte Hornets opted to not move forward with GM Rich Cho and are expected to pursue former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak.
The fateful moment for Rich Cho came days after he was hired as GM of the Charlotte Hornets in June of 2011. With the NBA Draft coming just nine days later, Cho started work on a three-team trade that would land Charlotte a second top-10 pick to pair with its own ninth pick, which was used to draft franchise cornerstone Kemba Walker.
In that draft, Klay Thompson went 11th to the Golden State Warriors and Kawhi Leonard 15th to the Pacers. Of the 17 players selected after Bismack Biyombo, who went to the Hornets with the seventh pick, 12 are regular contributors on current NBA rosters. The Orlando Magic are currently outscored by 11.6 points per 100 possessions with Biyombo on court, a rotation-worst.
Today, Hornets owner Michael Jordan announced that Cho is out as Charlotte’s GM.
“Rich worked tirelessly on behalf of our team and instituted a number of management tools that have benefited our organization,” said Jordan in a press release. “We are deeply committed to our fans and to the city of Charlotte to provide a consistent winner on the court. The search will now begin for our next head of basketball operations who will help us achieve that goal.”
While the failure to obtain Thompson, Leonard or any of the numerous impact players in the 2011 draft will always mar Cho’s record, falling to the second pick in the 2012 NBA Draft will continue to haunt Charlotte. Despite a brutal 7-59 record in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, which set the record for lowest win percentage in an NBA season (.110), the New Orleans Pelicans won the right to the first overall pick and selected Anthony Davis.
The Hornets selected Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the second pick. Although the 2012 Draft wasn’t nearly as deep as 2011’s, the Hornets still left players like Bradley Beal (third) and Andre Drummond (ninth) on the board. Either would have been an outstanding compliment to Walker, who remains with the team despite rumors of his availability leading up the the trade deadline.
“I feel like I’m going to be in Charlotte,” said Walker at his All-Star media availability. “So that’s where I’m at, that’s where I’m playing. So I never really sat and thought about any other teams.”
Walker made his second All-Star appearance after Kristaps Porzingis suffered a season-ending ACL injury.
“I wish K.P. hadn’t gotten hurt,” said Walker. “Everybody hates to see guys go down, especially great players like him. But when I was able to get the call to replace him, it was a really good feeling.”
Another fateful moment in Cho’s tenure came during the 2015 NBA Draft. According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, the Boston Celtics offered the 15th and 16th picks, a future protected first rounder from the Brooklyn Nets and a future first from either the Grizzlies or Timberwolves in exchange for the ninth pick, which Cho used to draft Frank Kaminsky.
“If it was such a no-brainer for us, why would another team want to do it,” Cho asked rhetorically in defense of the Kaminsky selection, according to Lowe.
Years later, it’s evident that the Celtics dodged a bullet when both Charlotte and the Miami HEAT rebuffed its attempts to move up and draft Justise Winslow. The latter has not panned out while Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, the players Boston subsequently obtained with Brooklyn’s picks, have developed into starters.
Chris Mannix of Yahoo! Sports reported in the first week of February that Charlotte may target former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak for a high-ranking role in the organization. Kupchak, like Jordan, is a former UNC star. Kupchak would join Jordan’s UNC teammate and Charlotte assistant GM Buzz Peterson.
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