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.
NBA Daily: Rookie Contributors Lifting Playoff Teams
This year’s impressive rookie class has translated their regular season performances to the playoff stage.
This past NBA season had the luxury of an incredibly entertaining and high-powered rookie class. Every other day it seemed like the feats of either Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, Lauri Markkanen, Dennis Smith Jr., Kyle Kuzma, or Ben Simmons were dominating the discussion about how advanced the league’s crop of newbies appeared to be.
As a result, the 2017-18 Rookie of the Year race was a much more heated discussion than the year before.
With the impressive campaign these NBA freshmen put together, it should come as no surprise that on the on bright stage of playoff basketball, three of the aforementioned crop are helping lead their team’s in tight first-round battles.
Donovan Mitchell has been the leading scorer for the Utah Jazz through two games in their series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Jayson Tatum is stepping up for the Boston Celtics to help fill in the void of Kyrie Irving as they take on the Milwaukee Bucks. Ben Simmons is nearly averaging a triple-double through three games for the Philadelphia 76ers in their matchup with the Miami HEAT.
Lottery pick talents are expected in today’s NBA to come in and have some level of impact for their clubs. Usually, they play the role as a foundational building block that shows flashes of promise with an expected up-and-down first season. While these three playoff contributors haven’t been perfect all year long, under the pressure of the postseason, they’ve stepped up their play and appear to be avoiding the learning curve.
With that, let’s highlight further what Mitchell, Tatum, and Simmons have been able to do thus far in the postseason.
Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz
All season long Mitchell threw the entire scoring load of Salt Lake City on his back for the Jazz and helped carry them to a 5-seed in the Western Conference when early season projections suggested they should head towards in the wake of Rudy Gobert’s injury.
However, the 13th pick out of Louisville had no intentions of missing out on the postseason. And from the looks of his production so far, who can blame him?
Through the first two games of the Jazz-Thunder series, Mitchell yet again placed his name in the same breath as Michael Jordan. Mitchell’s 55 points in his first two playoff games broke Jordan’s record of 53 for most points scored by a rookie guard in that scenario.
Mitchell’s 27 points in Game 1 and 28 points in Game 2 led the Jazz to even the series and steal home court advantage from the Thunder. While he hasn’t been responsible for setting up the team’s offense, tallying just five assists through those two games, Mitchell is fulfilling the role of Gordon Hayward as the team’s primary scorer.
In a series against a team that features the likes of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony, Utah needs Mitchell to go out there and get as many buckets as he possibly can.
So far, he appears to be welcoming the challenge.
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
When it was announced that Kyrie Irving would be lost for the entire postseason due to injury, the Boston Celtics’ hold on the 2-seed seemed a lot less intimidating than it once was in the Eastern Conference.
However, three games into the first round series against the Bucks, the Celtics hold a 2-1 lead. A lot part of that has to do with the role Tatum has been able to step in and play right away with the Celtics down their main scorer and playmaker.
Throughout the first three games of the series, Tatum 12.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 2.3 steals. The third overall pick in the 2017 draft started the series off with 19 points, 10 rebounds, and three steals to help Boston start off the matchup with a 1-0 lead.
At just 20 years old, Tatum is matching his age number with his usage percentage thus far against Milwaukee. For some perspective, Jaylen Brown managed just 12 minutes a night for the Celtics last season as a rookie when the playoffs rolled around.
Granted, injuries and missing players are helping in Tatum being on the court as much as he has, but the rookie is earning his time out there on the court.
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
The perceived frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, Ben Simmons has taken control in his first ever playoff series.
For starters, Simmons is averaging nearly a triple double over his first three games against the HEAT; 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 9.7 assists.
On top of his triple double ways, Simmons has upped arguably his biggest weakness so far in the playoffs, shooting 75 percent from the charity stripe. During the regular season, Simmons struggled from the line, hitting only 56 percent of his attempts.
With the offensive prowess of Simmons obvious, it’s the job he’s doing on the defensive end of the court against an aggressive and tough Miami squad that’s elevating his play to the next level.
Simmons’ ability to switch all over the defensive end of the court has placed his responsibilities from Goran Dragic to Justise Winslow to James Johnson, and seemingly everywhere in between.
Now with Joel Embiid back in the fold for the Sixers and Simmons, the rookie point guard has his defensive partner on the floor to help ease the workload on that end. A two-way performance each night will be imperative for Simmons in helping lead the young Sixers past the experienced HEAT team.
Pelicans Role Players are Key to Success
The supporting cast in New Orleans is a big part of their playoff surge, writes David Yapkowitz.
The New Orleans Pelicans have taken a commanding 3-0 lead in their first-round playoff series again the Portland Trail Blazers. While surprising to some, the Pelicans only finished one game behind the Blazers in the standings. The Pelicans have the best player in the series in Anthony Davis and the defensive duo of Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday have stifled Portland’s backcourt.
The truth is, the Pelicans have been a good team all season long. A lot of attention and recognition has been given to Davis, Rondo and Holiday this season and playoffs, and rightfully so. But New Orleans wouldn’t be where they are without the important contributions of some of their role players.
Take E’Twaun Moore, for example. Moore bounced around the NBA early in his career, with stops in Boston, Orlando and Chicago before finding long-term stability contract wise with the Pelicans. He’s primarily been a bench player with them before this season, his second in New Orleans, his first as a full-time starter.
He’s given the Pelicans a huge boost, especially from the three-point line. He’s put up 12.5 points per game on 50.8 percent shooting from the field, both career-highs. He’s shooting 42.5 percent from three-point range.
“I think it’s just our style of play,” Moore told Basketball Insiders. “We play fast and open. Coach [Gentry] gives us a lot of freedom, a lot of confidence. That’s why my game is up, my shooting is up.”
It’s not just offensively though. Moore has always been one of the more underrated defensive guards in the league. Paired up alongside Rondo and Holiday, the trio form a solid wing defensive unit. They’re a big reason for Portland’s offensive struggles.
Moore is the type of role player that every playoff contender needs to succeed. He knows that his role may change from game to game. Some nights he may be asked to score a little more. Other nights his defense is going to be called upon. Whatever it may be, he’s always ready to do what’s asked of him.
“I bring the energy. I bring a spark,” Moore told Basketball Insiders. “It’s knocking down shots, playing defense, getting out in transition. Just trying to be a spark.”
The Pelicans bench has also been a huge factor all season long. Their depth took a major hit early in the season with the injury to Solomon Hill. Hill has since returned to the lineup, but his absence paved the way for other players such as Darius Miller to step up.
This is Miller’s second stint with the Pelicans after spending two years overseas. Drafted 46th overall in 2012, he didn’t play much his first three years in the NBA. In 2014, he was cut by the Pelicans only about a month into the season. This year was different, he was thrown into the rotation from the get-go.
“This is a huge opportunity,” Miller told Basketball Insiders. “I just come in and try to work every day, try to get better every day. My teammates have done a great job of putting me in situations where I can be successful.”
Miller has given the Pelicans a capable stretch four in the second unit who can slide over to small forward if need be. He’s averaging a career-best 7.8 points per game, the most out of any of New Orleans’ reserves. He’s their best three-point shooter off the bench, connecting on 41.1 percent of his long-range attempts.
While he acknowledges that he’s enjoying his best season yet as an NBA player, he’s quick to praise his teammates for allowing him to flourish.
“I just try to bring a spark off the bench. I come in and try to knock some shots down,” Miller told Basketball Insiders. “My teammates do a great job of finding me when I’m open, I just try and knock down shots and compete.”
Sometimes time away from the NBA helps players grow and mature. The NBA game is fast paced and it can take awhile to get used to it. While some players have begun to use the G-League as a means of preparing for the league, Miller took an alternate route of heading to Germany.
For him, it’s a big reason why he’s been able to make an easier transition back to the NBA. His contract for next season is non-guaranteed, but he’s probably done enough to warrant the Pelicans keeping him around. He’s a much different and much-improved player. If not, he’s sure to draw interest from other teams.
“It was a lot to learn for me personally,” Miller told Basketball Insiders. “I had to learn a lot of different things like how to take care of my body, how to manage my time, a whole bunch of stuff like that. The time overseas really helped me to mature and grow up and learn a few things.”
These Pelicans have most certainly turned quite a few heads since the playoffs began. We shouldn’t deal too much with hypotheticals, but it’s interesting to wonder what this team’s ceiling would’ve been had DeMarcus Cousins not been lost for the season due to injury.
This is a confident bunch, however. They’ve beaten both the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets during the regular season. They’ve already shattered a lot of expert predictions with their performance in the first-round. The Pelicans feel like they can hang with anyone out West.
“As far as we want to go,” Miller told Basketball Insiders. “I feel like we’ve competed with all the best teams in the league this whole season. We just got to come out, stay focused and do what we do.”
Is LeBron Enough For Cavs To Get Through The East?
Cleveland’s offense has struggled through the first two games of the playoffs. Can the four-time MVP consistently bail them out? Spencer Davies writes.
After a less-than-encouraging series opener versus the Indiana Pacers, LeBron James responded emphatically and led the Cleveland Cavaliers to a bounce back 100-97 victory to even things up at one game apiece.
Scoring the first 13 points of the game itself, The King was a one-man wrecking crew out of the gate and carried that momentum throughout all four quarters of Game 2. His 46 points were James’ second-highest scoring mark between the regular season and the playoffs. In addition, he shot above 70 percent from the field for the sixth time this year.
The four-time MVP pulled down 12 rebounds total, and but all but one of those boards were defensive—the most he’s had since Saint Patrick’s Day in Chicago a month ago.
What James did was another classic instance where LeBron reminds us that through all the injuries, drama, and on-court issues, whatever team he’s on always has a chance to go all the way. But having said all of that—can the Cavaliers realistically depend on that kind of spectacular effort for the rest of the postseason? It’s a fair question.
Kevin Love is a solid secondary go-to guy, but he’s struggled to find his rhythm in the first two games. He’s done a solid job defensively between both, but he’s getting banged up and is dealing with knocked knees and a reported torn thumb ligament in the same hand he broke earlier in the season.
Love has admitted that he’d like more post touches instead of strictly hanging out on the perimeter, but it’s on him to demand the ball more and he knows it. But finding that flow can be challenging when James has it going and is in all-out attack mode.
Kyle Korver came to the rescue for Cleveland as the only shooter that consistently converted on open looks. Outside of those three, and maybe J.R. Smith, really, there hasn’t been a tangible threat that’s a part of the offense during this series.
We all pondered whether or not the “new guys” would be able to step up when their respective numbers were called. So far, that hasn’t been the case for the most part.
Jordan Clarkson looks rushed with tunnel vision. Rodney Hood has had good body language out there, but seems reluctant to shoot off dribble hand-offs and is second-guessing what he wants to do. The hustle and effort from Larry Nance Jr. is obvious, but he’s also a good bet to get into foul trouble. Plus, he’s had some struggles on an island against Pacer guards.
As for George Hill, the good news is the impact on the floor just based on his mere presence on both ends (game-high +16 on Wednesday), but he hasn’t really done any scoring and fouled out of Game 2.
Maybe these things change on the road, who knows. But those four, the rest of the rotation, absolutely have to step up in order for the Cavaliers to win this series and fend off this hungry Indiana group, which brings us to another point.
Let’s not forget, the offensive issues aren’t simply because of themselves. After all, the Cavs were a team that had little trouble scoring the basketball in the regular season, so give a ton of credit to the Pacers’ scheme and McMillan’s teachings to play hard-nosed.
Unlike many teams in the league, the strategy for them is to pressure the ball and avoid switches as much as possible on screens. The more they go over the pick and stick on their assignments, the better chance they have of forcing a bad shot or a turnover. That’s what happened in Game 1 and in the majority of the second half of Game 2.
Cleveland has also somewhat surprisingly brought the fight on defense as well. In the first two contests of the series, they’ve allowed under 100 points. Lue’s said multiple times that they’re willing to give up the interior buckets in order to secure the outside, and it’s worked. It doesn’t seem smart when there’s a yellow-colored layup line going on at times, but it certainly paid off by only allowing 34 percent of Indiana’s threes to go down.
Still, looking ahead to what the Cavaliers can do in the playoffs as a whole, it doesn’t bode well. They’re not only locked in a tug-of-war with Indiana, but if they get past them, they could have a Toronto Raptors group chomping at the bit for revenge.
If they’re having this much trouble in the first round, what should make us believe they can barrel through the Eastern Conference as they’ve done in the past?
It’s not quite as obvious or as bad as Cleveland’s 2007 version of James and the rest, but it feels eerily similar for as much as he’s put the team on his back so far. The organization better hope improvement comes fast from his supporting cast, or else it could be a longer summer than they’d hoped for.