Tyler Harris, the Unorthodox Path and Following the Process
By Moke Hamilton
Another hotel room.
According to his father and his older brother, it’s all just a part of the journey.
So in many ways, then, it was fitting for Tyler Harris to wake up on Father’s Day in 2016 in a foreign country, nowhere near his father Terrell.
Only about 500 miles from his home of Long Island, New York, geographically, the neophyte isn’t very far from home.
From where it all began, though, still, somehow, he is worlds away.
Crown Jewel: The King Brings It Home
By Ben Dowsett
The era of the narrative might be dying in some NBA circles.
The information age has changed the game, the analytics revolution ushering in a precision and scientific feel in place of raw swings of emotion. Everything can be quantified now. There’s less space for platitudes like momentum, grit and emotion.
For a night, for a moment, forget about all that.
Nothing about these Finals felt calculable over the last three games, least of all Sunday’s breathtaking finale. Draymond Green’s fiery start, and overall masterpiece of a game as he searched for redemption; Kevin Love’s game-high plus-19 on the floor, deserved, and punctuated by a perfect defensive possession on Steph Curry down the stretch; Kyrie Irving’s ludicrous shot-making, back just in time to sink a juggernaut.
Executives Love Skal’s Potential
By Alex Kennedy
“Potential” is one of the most overused words during the NBA’s draft process, but that’s because executives fall in love with young, high-upside players every single year. These players are typically raw, but they’re ripe for molding and couldsomeday become a star. If you’re a teenager with freakish athleticism, jaw-dropping measurements, some nice game film and the ability to showcase your skill set in workouts, the NBA draft process will be kind to you.
Which brings us to Skal Labissiere, who spent last season with the Kentucky Wildcats. In his lone collegiate season, Labissiere averaged 6.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in just 15.8 minutes per game.
A Decade of Drafts: Which Teams Fared Best?
By Eric Pincus
On Thursday, another 60 prospects will be chosen in the NBA Draft.
Every year, the draft can be a minefield as teams hope to find a franchise-altering player, often choosing among under-developed 18- or 19-year-olds. Even the most-heralded prospects may not live up to their “potential.”
Simply landing a starter in the draft can be a win, especially for those teams picking outside of the lottery’s top 14 selections.
A team like the Oklahoma City Thunder is a rarity – drafting all five of its current starters. Having the fortune of landing Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (as the Seattle SuperSonics) played a big part, but then so did smart decisions in selecting Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams and Andre Roberson. That group was one win away from an NBA Finals berth.
Is Dragan Bender The Next Big Thing?
By Steve Kyler
For most high draft prospects, there is a clear-cut plan: Attend a high-profile college, have a breakout season, showcase all of the great things about your game, generate a lot of buzz and get drafted in the first 10 picks.
For international players, it’s a little harder. For 7’1 big man Dragan Bender, his season for Maccabi Tel Aviv was supposed to be his breakout showcase. After all, Maccabi historically has been one of the best teams in international basketball and routinely plays some of the best talent in the Euroleague. What better place to show the basketball world you are ready for the next level?
The problem is Maccabi wasn’t very good last season; in fact they were a downright disappointment, which in many ways derailed what should have been a promising year for Bender.
What’s Next for the Bulls, Knicks After Deal?
By Cody Taylor
The New York Knicks acquired point guard Derrick Rose on Wednesday from the Chicago Bulls in a five-player deal that figures to set up the Knicks nicely as they try to make a splashy free agency addition this summer.
In the deal, the Knicks also obtained Justin Holiday and a future second-round pick in exchange for Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon and Jerian Grant.
“We will always be grateful to Derrick,” Bulls general manager Gar Forman said in a statement. “He was a great teammate who put winning first, and nobody fought harder through injuries and disappointment. He wowed us all when he was on the floor and at his best. His MVP season was one for the ages. We wish Derrick nothing but the best moving forward.”
Pro and Cons of Knicks’ Trade for Derrick Rose
By Tommy Beer
We all knew the New York Knicks desperately needed to upgrade their backcourt this summer. Phil Jackson decided he’d rather not wait until free agency to address the point guard position.
On Thursday afternoon, the Knicks officially announced they had traded center Robin Lopez, guard Jose Calderon and guard Jerian Grant to Chicago in exchange for guard Derrick Rose, guard Justin Holiday and a 2017 second-round pick.
It’s an interesting and confusing trade, in which there does not appear to be a clear-cut winner – at least not at first blush. Let’s dig into the pros and cons from the Knicks’ perspective.
#3 Boston Celtics: Jaylen Brown
By Jesse Blancarte
With the third overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics selected forward Jaylen Brown.
It’s been no secret that the first two picks would be used on Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram. However, it was not clear what the Celtics would do with the third overall pick, especially since the Boston has been one of the most active teams in trade talks. Reports surfaced that the Celtics were in advance trade talks with the Chicago Bulls to acquire swingman Jimmy Butler, but not deal materialized and the Celtics instead selected Jaylen Brown out of the University of California Berkley.
#4 Phoenix Suns: Dragan Bender
By Jabari Davis
With the fourth overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns select Croatian power forward Dragan Bender of Maccabi Tel Aviv. The 7’1, 225-pound big man played sparingly for Maccabi this past season, but is just 18 years old and has impressed many scouts with the makings of a well-rounded offensive skill set and a fluidity that is really coveted at his position these days.
Scouts with the most knowledge of him warn against the lazy and somewhat convenient comparisons to last year’s No. 4 overall pick in Kristaps Porzingis. Bender has excellent footwork and agility around the court. He can space the floor as a pick-and-pop shooter and get out on the break in transition. He’s still described as a project (especially on the defensive end) at just 18 years old, but has already shown the type of foot-speed and lateral quickness that should translate to being able to defend or at least help when switched onto perimeter players.
#5 Minnesota Timberwolves: Kris Dunn
By Jonathan Concool
With the fifth pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Kris Dunn (who played his college career at Providence College).
With Dunn sliding to number five, Minnesota was quick to pull the trigger on the 6’4 guard from New London, Connecticut. Dunn averaged 16.4 points per game his senior season at Providence to go along with 6.2 assists, 5.8 rebounds and 2.5 steals. Most scouts look at Dunn as the most NBA-ready guard in the draft because of his age and maturity.
Dunn is a versatile scorer who can explode to the basket and use his strength to finish around the rim as he stands at 220 pounds, but also somebody who has incredible vision on the court and is always looking for his teammates.
#7 Denver Nuggets: Jamal Murray
By Kyle Cape-Lindelin
With the seventh overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Denver Nuggets have selected guard Jamal Murray. After concluding his freshman season at Kentucky, Murray joins a young Nuggets team with the chance to develop into a starter thanks to his skill set that should earn him playing time right away in his rookie season.
The 6’5 guard averaged 20 points per game for the Wildcats in his freshman season, immediately separating himself from his talented freshman teammates with his impressive 45 percent shooting percentage and 40 percent from the three-point line. Murray’s shooting ability will translate easily to the NBA level and fills an immediate need for the Nuggets who only shot 33 percent as a team from the three-point line last season.
Presti’s Moves Show OKC’s Desire To Be Great
By Lang Greene
While chemistry is an underrated aspect of team building, holding on to a particular core group for too long can ultimately lead to stagnation. Because of this, there’s a delicate balance NBA front office executives continually play before making significant roster moves.
Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti made one of those decisions, to change, on draft night by dealing long time starting power forward Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic, which came as a surprise to some.
The Thunder will reportedly acquire guard Victor Oladipo, forward Ersan Ilyasova and the draft rights to forward Domantas Sabonis from the Magic in exchange for Ibaka.
Correcting Draft Mistakes
By Joel Brigham
It never fails. Every NBA draft, there are a handful of moments that make the people watching shake their heads in disbelief, but this year it seemed as though there were more questionable draft picks than usual. Those surprises are obviously a big reason why this particular NBA event is so entertaining to watch, but thanks to what many considered to be a pretty flat class of potential draftees after the top couple of tiers, as well as the recent success of international stud Kristaps Porzingis, teams felt the need to gamble on a lot of international players in spots that didn’t always make a whole lot of sense.
Hindsight is always 20/20, and anybody who’s ever done a live fantasy basketball or football draft with their friends knows how easy it is to get caught up in the moment and just flat-out pick the wrong guy. Going back over the draft results not 10 minutes after the thing ends, we have zero issues finding holes in our draft results. It’s a whole lot of, “I can’t believe I did that when I could have done this.”
But that’s what we’re doing here, looking at some of the most surprising and questionable picks of the 2016 NBA Draft and making a serious attempt at giving the offending teams a better shot at making the right choice.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team
Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.
“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”
Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN