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Cheap Seats: Which Prospect Has Biggest Impact Next Year?

Which 2014 NBA Draft prospect will be able to help their team the most from day one? Basketball Insiders’ interns discuss.

Basketball Insiders



Which 2014 NBA Draft prospect will be able to help their team the most from day one? Basketball Insiders’ interns Jesse Blancarte, John Zitzler and Cody Taylor discuss:

Marcus Smart

The upcoming draft features a ton of talent, but many of these young players are praised for their potential more than their actual production at this point. However, there are some players who are ready to produce at the NBA level from day one. The player who will have the biggest impact next year, in my opinion, is Marcus Smart.

Today’s NBA is loaded with top-level point guards. That means that on any given night, a team will need a player who can slow down these talented guards. This is where Smart can make an immediate impact.

At the NBA Combine, Smart measured 6’3.25 in shoes with a 6’9.25 wingspan, and weighed in at 227 pounds. Smart has the size to match up with point guards as big as John Wall and Russell Westbrook, and the speed to stay in front of the quicker guards like Chris Paul and Eric Bledsoe.

While Smart won’t lock down these point guards every single night, he will make life difficult for them. Westbrook may be able to score while guarded by Smart, but he will likely have a tough shooting night from the field and he’ll have to work for those points, which is pretty much all you can hope for against a player like Westbrook. For a team that struggles to defend against opposing point guards – such as the Los Angeles Lakers, who ran Kendall Marshall, Jordan Farmar and Steve Nash at point guard this season – Smart would make a significant impact immediately. He is also the type of point guard who can play alongside another point guard since he is big enough and strong enough to guard some NBA shooting guards, similar to Jarrett Jack.

In addition to slowing down point guards, Smart also plays the passing lanes very well, evidenced by his 2.9 steals per game last season. This is important because Smart is very tough to stop in the open court and when he drives the ball to the rim. With his size, Smart is able to bull his way through opposing players and finish at the rim, or make an easy pass to an open teammate. Smart won’t be able to do this as easily against NBA players, but with his size, he already stands over many of the best guards in the league.

Smart also draws contact well, as he averaged 9.9 free throws per 40-minutes. This will help him score at the next level, especially if he can improve on his 72.8 percent free throw percentage, which is likely considering he shot 77 percent from the free throw line as a freshman. While Smart will score attacking the basket and from the free throw line, his outside shooting does need work.

Too often Smart settles for tough jumpers, which defenses dare him to make. While his shooting mechanics are decent, his 29.9 percentage from beyond the arc is an issue. However, many prospects suffer from issues in their shooting mechanics entering the league, but they are often corrected with the help of shooting coaches. Though perimeter shooting is not a strength for Smart, it won’t affect his ability to contribute from day one, as Smart managed a 55 percent true shooting percentage last season, showing that his shaky perimeter shooting is offset by his ability to score in other ways efficiently.

Perhaps the biggest reason why Smart will be able to make a big impact from day one in the NBA is because of how versatile he is. Smart averaged 5.9 rebounds per game, a great number for a point guard. Smart isn’t just big at his position, but he also knows how to use his size effectively against his opponents. He uses his size to fight with bigger players for rebounds and move the ball in transition. He uses his ability to attack the rim as a means to set up teammates for easy layups, or wide open shots on the perimeter (he averaged 4.8 assists per game). He does not need to score to have a significant impact, as he can rebound, run the offense, get his teammates involved and check other point guards. But just in case a team does need Smart to score, he can do that as well, as he averaged 18 points per game last season.

With two years in college, unlike most of the other top prospects, Smart is ahead of the curve. Almost all of his stats improved in his second season at Oklahoma State and he has more experience than his colleagues. However, Smart was suspended for three games in February for shoving a fan during a game. The hope is that Smart learned from the incident, and will be able to handle those situations more appropriately moving forward.

Whoever drafts Smart will get a tough competitor, defender and multi-skilled player. Smart would be an especially good pick for the Lakers, who need a point guard to build around. He could learn from Kobe Bryant over the next two seasons, and take his game to another level. Smart will likely succeed wherever he ends up though, as he is a complete package with an NBA ready skill-set. In fact, don’t be surprised if Smart wins Rookie of the Year next season.

– Jesse Blancarte

Jabari Parker

Jabari Parker had big expectations upon his arrival at Duke. Outside of Andrew Wiggins, there wasn’t a more heralded prospect entering this season. In his only year at the collegiate level, Parker showed exactly why he was considered one of the best players in the nation.

In Parker’s second college game, Duke faced off against Kansas, with Wiggins and Joel Embiid. Despite playing against two potential top picks, Parker was the best player on the floor, scoring 27 points on 18 shots, grabbing nine rebounds and knocking down four threes. He displayed a polished skill set rarely seen by players at that stage in their career. The rest of the season was much of the same, as Parker finished the year averaging 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds on his way to becoming ACC Freshmen of the Year and landing a spot on the All-ACC First Team. It would be unreasonable to expect him to replicate those numbers as a rookie, but depending on his situation, he may not be too far off.

At 6’8 and 240 pounds, Parker has the ability to play both the three and the four. His versatility will be a huge asset at the next level. He will be able to create mismatches from day one with his unique combination of strength and speed, something that is becoming increasingly more valuable in today’s NBA. Of course, you could argue that on the defensive end he may be exploited, which is a concern and certainly something he will have to work on, but Parker has the physical tools to become an adequate defender.

His most translatable skill from college to the NBA is his ability to score the ball. His array of offensive moves made him a nightmare for college coaches across the country this season. At his size, Parker has the unique ability to score from the post, off the dribble and from the perimeter. He is an adept ball handler and can penetrate the lane and use his strength to finish around the rim. This will surely be more difficult with NBA big men lurking around the basket but Parker, with his physical attributes, should have less trouble than most adjusting from the collegiate ranks to the pros. Additionally, his ability to get to into the lane should allow him to get to the free throw line frequently and draw a number of fouls.

Parker has the ability to shoot both off the dribble and in spot-up situations. When matched up against a less mobile defender, Parker can take two hard dribbles and pull up to knock mid-range shots. At the same time, if the defender sags off fearing the drive, Parker has the ability to hit the three. He was a little inconsistent from downtown at Duke, but showed nice range shooting from outside in spurts. His ability to attract the attention of defenders and spread the floor will be something can help an NBA team on the offensive end immediately.

His assist numbers at Duke were not spectacular by any means, but despite that Parker exhibited good vision, particularly in post situations. He was frequently doubled on the block and did a nice job finding cutting teammates or kicking it back outside to avoid a turnover or forced shot. At Duke, the offense relied heavily on him to score the ball but even so Parker maintained an unselfish style of play. At the NBA level, defenses won’t be able to key on him as much but if they do Parker will have no problem finding the open man.

On the glass, Parker is able to use his wide body to get in great rebounding position. He isn’t a player who relies on his athleticism rebounding the ball but instead is fundamentally sound boxing out and holding off his man before retrieving the ball. This is one skill coaches are constantly preaching and one that will benefit Parker greatly in NBA. He won’t possess the same strength advantage in the NBA, but his ability get himself in proper position is something that will be effective no matter the level of play and should make him an above average rebounder from the get go.

Parker’s ability to rebound will be valuable at the next level, but just as valuable is his ability to push the ball in transition following a rebound. He can put immense pressure on the defense with his ability in the open court. He can get up the court quickly and if he gets in the lane at full speed, more times than not he will finish at the rim or get to the line.

Parker is one of the most polished offensive players in this year’s draft. This, combined with his athleticism, should mean he’ll have little trouble adjusting to the next level and making an immediate impact. Barring something unexpected, Parker will be in the running for Rookie of the Year and be a leader in many statistical categories among rookies.

– John Zitzler

Joel Embiid

Back in the day, the Detroit Pistons with Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn set their team’s identity by playing intimidating and physical basketball. One member of the Bad Boys was quoted as saying an NBA team is nothing without some sort of identity and that still holds true in today’s NBA. Each player in this year’s draft class has a chance to change their future team’s identity, and while not all of them will have an impact like the Bad Boys had with the Pistons, their impact will still be felt on some level.

The team that drafts Joel Embiid on June 26 will have drafted the player most capable of having the biggest impact to their team. At this point, with less than three weeks to go until draft night, there is no lock as to which team will take Embiid. The Cleveland Cavaliers have been rumored to want Embiid with the No. 1 overall pick, but their recent draft history indicates they could quite possibly pick a player that no one expects them to take. Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker are also in the mix for the top overall pick. The Milwaukee Bucks need help everywhere, meaning they could take Parker, Embiid or Wiggins as well. With the third pick, the Philadelphia 76ers are in a position to take the remaining player out of Embiid, Wiggins or Parker (assuming they don’t trade up), but recent reports indicate they want Wiggins and they want him bad. Throw in Dante Exum, who is also reportedly drawing interest from teams in the top three, and potential trades, and there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the top of this draft.

It remains to be seen where Embiid will go, but the team that does get him will be highly rewarded. Embiid has the potential to be a star, and he may contribute at a high level much quicker than expected. Embiid made huge strides in his lone collegiate season at Kansas, entering the year as a ridiculously raw center and leaving as a potential No. 1 overall pick. His teammates and coaches were amazed at his rapid development, since he’s only been playing basketball for four years yet picks up on concepts extremely fast. This should allow him to make a smooth transition to the NBA. Once he’s in an NBA team’s development program and has the best resources in the world at his disposal, he should be able to continue his ascent and make an immediate impact.

If Embiid lands in Milwaukee or Philadelphia, he’ll be able to play a ton of minutes from day one and there won’t be much pressure on him since those franchises aren’t expecting to make the playoffs anytime soon. That kind of opportunity and patience would be perfect for Embiid, who is viewed as a player with great tools to become an elite big man. He could continue to learn while putting up monster numbers, similar to what Michael Carter-Williams did last year on a depleted 76ers team.

At this point, many analysts are searching for an NBA comparison for each prospect and Embiid has drawn many comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon. The comparisons derive from Embiid’s great footwork in the post, shot-blocking ability and overall fundamentals. Standing at 7’0 and weighing 250 pounds, Embiid brings great size to the position and he won’t be bullied at center. Embiid still stands to add some bulk to be able to ultimately compete with players like Dwight Howard, Joakim Noah and DeAndre Jordan, but the fact that there aren’t many dominant centers in the NBA today should also help him as he looks to make an immediate impact. Marcus Smart will have to face a star-level point guard on most nights and Jabari Parker will have his hands full with the league’s plethora of talented wings, but there won’t be nearly as many tough match-ups for Embiid. His 7’5 wingspan will also help him, presenting a problem in the post each and every night and allowing him to become a dominant rim protector. Embiid runs the floor exceptionally well for his size and draws comparisons to Anthony Davis in that regard. Don’t be surprised if, like other young big men Davis and Andre Drummond, Embiid is able to impose his will and contribute in a big way sooner than later.

In an era where the center position is getting less and less notoriety, Embiid will help keep it alive. With his ability to play both ends of the floor and change the game dramatically, Embiid is certainly the player with the most upside in this draft. However, it’s very possible that he makes the biggest immediate impact as well.

– Cody Taylor

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Mock Drafts

NBA AM: The First 2018 NBA Mock Draft

With College Basketball getting underway and things starting to get interesting in the standings of the NBA, what better time to drop a 2018 Mock Draft than on Thanksgiving.

Steve Kyler



The Thanksgiving 2018 NBA Mock Draft

With College Basketball getting underway and things starting to get interesting in the standings of the NBA, what better time to drop a 2018 Mock Draft than on Thanksgiving.

So with that in mind here is my first Mock Draft of the 2018 Season, look for more of these are we march on (and hopefully you like the new Mock Draft table design.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this summer.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the current standings.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Milwaukee Bucks first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick only conveys if the Bucks pick lands between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the standings today would convey.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Ricky Rubio trade this summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves first round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors first round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets first round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.

Check out our Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @MikeAScotto, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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NBA AM: A Look At The 2018 NBA Draft Class

With the NCAA basketball season gearing up, here is an early look at some of the names to watch as it gets rolling.

Steve Kyler



A Look At The Top Of the 2018 NBA Draft Class

With the college basketball season getting ready to get underway, it’s time to take our first look at the names to watch in what could be a very flat 2018 NBA Draft class. While the draft class always evolves as the season goes on, there are a few names that look more likely to be sure things than others, and here are a few:

Luka Dončić – Real Madrid

The 6-foot-7 Dončić looks to be the front-runner of the 2018 class. While not a college player, Dončić has been on the NBA radar for some time and took part in NBA preseason last year when the Oklahoma City Thunder faced off against Real Madrid.

Dončić is considered by many to be the next can’t miss International player, with some labeling him a basketball prodigy. Dončić has spent his offseasons training in the U.S. at the famed P3 Performance Training Center in Santa Barbara, so he is no stranger to the NBA style of play or how hard you have to train got be great at the NBA level.

Dončić is listed as a forward but tends to play with the ball in his hands a lot for Real Madrid, where many label him as more of a point forward. Dončić is a polished shooter, with the game all the way to the three-point line.

It will take something pretty special (or tragic) to happen for Dončić not to be the top overall player this June. He is absolutely the name to watch.

Michael Porter Jr. – Missouri

Of all of the college players with a shot at a top-three pick in June, the 6-foot-10 Michael Porter Jr. might be the best of the bunch. With an amazing set of skills, Porter has been the star of the high school all-star circuit and has cemented himself as a very serious NBA prospect. The problem with Michael Porter Jr. isn’t anything he does on the basketball court, it a reputation that’s followed him for a while that he may not have the right circle of influence.

In what has become all too common in the AAU/high school, players have started to amass a circle of influence that’s been clouding the star of some of the top players.

Dallas’ Dennis Smith Jr had similar concerns last year, which was a big contributing factor to him sliding to the Dallas Mavericks and the ninth pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.

For Porter, NBA teams are going to want to see him shake some of the labels around his game and gauge how coachable he can be at the next level.

From a pure talent and skill point of view, though, Porter might be the next best talent in the eventual 2018 NBA draft pool, it will be interesting to see if Porter and a very solid recruiting class can get Missouri into the elite of the college basketball. It would go a long way towards quieting the noise around him that doesn’t have anything to do with the game.

Marvin Bagley III – Duke

If Porter isn’t the guy for whatever reason, the next guy looks to be Duke’s Marvin Bagley III. He re-classified this summer making him eligible for this season and one of the younger prospects on the board. At a legit 6-foot-11, Bagley has the whole package for a big man. He is an incredible athlete that can score from everywhere. He is explosive around the basket and a lethal at-the-rim scorer.

Given Duke’s loaded recruiting class, Bagley looks likely to be playing deep into March this year, and that could bode well for his eventual draft stock.

Collin Sexton – Alabama

Alabama’s Collin Sexton looks to be the top point guard prospect in the eventual 2019 NBA Draft class. He is a legit 6’2 and as cat quick as they come. Sexton was a star on the high school All-Star circuit and looks to have the whole pack for an NBA caliber guard.

The big thing Sexton is going to need to show at the next level is that he can be a playmaker as well as a scorer. The High School/AAU platform has shown that Sexton can score at will, NBA teams are going to want to see him create for others.

It’s no secret that the NBA is built around point guard play, and like Smith Jr, who is flourishing in the NBA with the Mavericks. Sexton could be equally as potent, especially after a season playing for Avery Johnson at Alabama.

Miles Bridges – Michigan State

Surprisingly, Bridges opted to return for another season at Michigan State. Historically most players don’t add to their draft stock returning to school, but in Bridges case, he could find himself towards the top of the class with a dominating season for the Spartans.

Bridges is more of a combo forward. The knock on his game is he is more of a tweener, with a limited outside game. If he can take over in his Sophomore season and prove he has improved as a perimeter threat, he could add some serious value to what many expected was 15-20 draft range in 2017.

The problem for Bridges is that scouts tend to latch on to an idea around a player and unless he shakes the label, it’s generally viewed as a negative if a player does not improve.

Bridges has the potential to leap way up in his draft stock, which is pretty rare. The question is, is there another level to his game in college basketball?

Trevon Duval – Duke

Duke has a great recruiting class, but the enigma of the bunch may be guard Trevon Duval. A start for IMG and one of the top high school/prep players in the Nation, the buzz around Duval has dropped considerably. Most NBA scouts are eager to see how Duval handles being coached by Mike Krzyzewski.

Duval has all the tools to be an elite point guard prospect, but like Porter Jr, there are questions about his circle of influence and how much he wants to win at the college level.

With some many prospects looking past their college season into an eventual NBA career, scouts and executives seem to be interesting in seeing how Duval leads a team like Duke and how much latitude Coach K gives him throughout the season.

The one this to know about any future draft class at this point in the calendar is that everything is subject to change. However, history has proven time and time again that the top names on NBA scouting boards in November, usually end up being in the top 10 when the draft rolls around in June.

Once some of these guys log actual games, we’ll start dropping our monthly NBA Mock Drafts, so stay tuned for that as the college basketball season ramps up.

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @MikeAScotto, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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The Best of the Undrafted Players

David Yapkowitz breaks down the best players who weren’t drafted in Thursday night’s NBA Draft.

David Yapkowitz



Ben Wallace, Raja Bell, Avery Johnson, David Wesley, John Starks; those are just a few former NBA players who didn’t hear their name called on draft night, yet went on to have pretty impressive careers.

Each year there are a few undrafted players who end up making a team’s roster and turn out to be solid contributors. This past season, players like Ron Baker of the New York Knicks, Yogi Ferrell of the Dallas Mavericks, and Derrick Jones Jr. of the Phoenix Suns went undrafted in 2016 yet ended up as regular rotation guys for their teams. In Ferrell’s case, he became a starter.

With the 2017 NBA Draft come and gone, here’s a look at some of the top undrafted players who might be able to strengthen a team’s roster.

Johnathan Motley

Johnathan Motley was the best player on a Baylor team that was a No.3 seed and made it to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament. He averaged 17.3 points per game on 52.2 percent shooting and pulled down 9.9 rebounds per game.

At 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds, Motley is definitely in the mold of a versatile wing player who can play multiple positions and thrive and in today’s NBA. What he needs to do, however, is improve his outside shot. He shot only 28.1 percent from three-point range. One crucial aspect for hybrid forwards is to be able to step out and hit long range jumpers.

His stock often fluctuated in various mock drafts; some had him going in the first round, others in the second. Per The Vertical’s Shams Charania, Motley signed a two-way contract with the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday.

P.J. Dozier

P.J. Dozier was one-half of South Carolina’s star duo that helped propel them to a Cinderella run to the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament. The other half, Sindarius Thornwell, had his name called, but at the end of the night, Dozier was still waiting.

Only a sophomore, Dozier was the second leading scorer for the Gamecocks with 13.9 points per game. He was always projected to go in the second round on most mocks and perhaps he came out a bit too early. The talent is there though.

He can have success as a team’s combo guard off the bench. He will need to work on his shooting though. He shot only 40.7 percent from the field, 29.8 percent from three. He’ll be in summer league with the Los Angeles Lakers, and from there will hope to entice a team to bring him to training camp.

Melo Trimble

Melo Trimble might have been one of those players that needed to strike while the iron’s hot. Two years ago, he was talked about as a probable first-round pick had he declared for the draft after his freshman year at Maryland. Instead, he stayed until his junior year and his stock fell.

He actually turned in an impressive junior campaign with 16.8 points per game, 3.6 rebounds, and 3.7 assists. He shot a respectable 44.4 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from three-point range.

Trimble will play summer league with the Philadelphia 76ers, and like most undrafted free agents, will look to turn his performance into a training camp invitation. He probably projects to be a backup point guard should he find a place in the league. He had first round and possible lottery talent before, however, so maybe all he needs is an opportunity.

Devin Robinson

In today’s game, where teams put a premium on versatile, do it all type players who can play multiple positions, Devin Robinson certainly fits that description. Robinson is a long, athletic forward who can step out and hit outside jumpers while locking up his opponent’s best wing scorer.

Florida had a surprisingly solid run in the NCAA Tournament and Robinson was a big part of that. His junior year, his best year yet, saw him average 11.1 points per game on 47.5 percent from the field and 6.1 rebounds. He showed a much improved outside shot, connecting on 39.1 percent of his looks from downtown. In the tournament, he upped his averages to 28.3 points on similar shooting percentages.

Robinson will be in summer league with the Washington Wizards, a team that often times lacked production off their bench last season. Depending on how he performs in summer league, don’t be surprised to see him on the Wizards roster come opening night.

Nigel Hayes

Playing in the shadow of Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker in years past, Nigel Hayes was given an opportunity as a senior at Wisconsin to show what he could do as the focal point of an offense. His numbers didn’t jump off the page, but he did play well enough to be given a shot at making a team’s roster.

His 14 points per game were good enough to tie teammate Ethan Happ for the second leading scorer on the team. As a power forward, he was actually the second leading assist man with 2.7. One area he’ll need to improve on to make an impact in the NBA is his outside jumper. He shot 39.6 percent from three his sophomore season. This year it was down to 31.4 despite taking a similar number of attempts (2.5 and 1.9 respectively).

Hayes looks to be one of those players in between positions. He lacks the quickness and range to thrive at small forward but is a bit undersized at the NBA level for power forward. He is an incredible energy player, though, and players like that have been able to carve out nice careers. He’ll be in summer league with the Knicks, and given their current state of affairs, they need all the help they can get.

L.J. Peak

In the mock drafts that projected him to be drafted, L.J. Peak was most likely going to be a second round pick. That’s not to say he doesn’t have first round talent. He’s a big guard that can play both guard positions.

Despite Georgetown’s futile record this season, Peak was a standout. He was the team’s second-leading scorer at 16.2 points per game on 48 percent shooting from the field. He was also their top playmaker, dishing out 3.5 assists. In the NBA, he most likely can find a role for some team as a combo guard off the bench. He only shot 32.7 percent from the beyond the arc, however, so if he wants to make an impact in the league that’s one area he’ll need some work.

He’s set to go to summer league with the Houston Rockets. Depending on what roster moves the Rockets make, it will be tough for Peak to make the final team. They already have two guards capable of playing both guard spots off the bench in Lou Williams and Isaiah Taylor. Taylor’s contract isn’t guaranteed, but he probably has the inside track due to his familiarity with the team. In any case, a strong summer showing should lead Peak to a training camp invite with another team, if not the Rockets.

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