For the sixth consecutive year, the McDonald’s All-American high school All-Star games are taking place in Chicago at the United Center, and while most basketball fans are honed in on the forthcoming NBA playoffs or even their NCAA tournament brackets, the McDonald’s All-American game later this week is a good first nationally-televised glimpse of next year’s biggest college stars who could very well find themselves in the NBA just 15 months from now.
Any current NBA mock draft right now is absolutely loaded with potential lottery picks that played in this high school exhibition just a year ago. Both Brandon Ingram and Ben Simmons were there last spring, as was Jaylen Brown, Henry Ellenson, Deyonta Davis and Ivan Rabb, all players that could and probably will be selected in the lottery this coming June.
This year’s crop of graduating high school seniors is especially impressive, particularly for the University of Kentucky, who somehow landed three of the consensus top eight prospects in the country, and Duke, who arguably signed the two most talented high school players in the nation, though one of them (Harry Giles) tore his ACL this past autumn.
Not all of the top prospects are headed to those two universities, but regardless of where these players park themselves for the next year, the important thing is that many of them will be in the NBA in no time. Here’s a look at those most likely to make that leap most successfully and the quickest:
Josh Jackson, SF, Michigan (Undecided) – It seems like every year there’s at least one high-profile recruit who heads into the McDonald’s All-American game without having chosen a school, and this year that player is arguably the top recruit in the nation, Josh Jackson, who reportedly is deciding between Michigan State, Arizona and Kansas.
All three of those schools have to be waiting on his decision with baited breath because he already looks like an NBA player thanks to his athleticism, handles and uncanny ability to finish around the basket. He’s got a strong Andrew Wiggins vibe to him, which obviously is good for his chances as a future NBA prospect. He’s a dunk contest trophy waiting to happen, and whichever school he chooses should end up one of college basketball’s top-rated teams before the season. This kid’s a highlight reel.
Jayson Tatum, SF, Missouri (Duke) – While Jackson is the real show-stopper in this crop of high school all-stars, Tatum is just as effective if only about a quarter as exciting to watch. Nearly every scouting report of Tatum on the internet calls his play “clean,” and watching the video of him it’s pretty clear that he’s a fundamentally-sound, smooth-shooting small forward that flat-out does good work on both ends of the ball. In typical fashion for a Duke recruit, he’s just about the furthest thing from a showboat, but scouts love his versatility on both offense and defense. He looks like the kind of heady, steady player that has a long career in the NBA.
De’Aaron Fox, PG, Texas (Kentucky) – At only 6’3, you don’t expect the stringy Fox to be as athletic as he is, but the kid is a leaper who essentially serves as a walking AND1 Mix Tape. He’s small and rail thin, but the young man has hops for days and sees the floor the way a top-rated point guard recruit should. With Jamal Murray, Isaiah Briscoe and Tyler Ulis all likely headed to the NBA this summer, Fox could have plenty of opportunities to see the floor next season and, on a loaded Kentucky team, that could lead to some highly-entertaining college basketball.
Malik Monk, SG, Arkansas (Kentucky) – Also headed to Lexington is Monk, the top shooting guard prospect in the country this year. Put as simply as possible, Monk is a scorer, and he’s able to pour in buckets from all over the court. Like a lot of the other top prospects in the country, Monk has no problem dabbling above the rim, but at some point his hops are going to be necessary to help him overcome his 6’3 frame. He’s a little small and undeniably thin for the NBA, but he’s crafty enough to overcome all of that. Muscle always can be added later, but a skillset like the one this kid has is unique enough to land him a spot on the most reputable NBA factory in college hoops.
Bam Abedayo, PF, North Carolina (Kentucky) – The last of the UK triumvirate is Abedayo, who is ranked as high as #4 in the country by some outlets. While he’s a little rawer than some of the other top recruits, his quickness and agility out of the four spot make him look like a nightmare to guard, especially with a trademark spin move like the one he really likes to use. He’s strong, aggressive and skilled, all of which are great qualities for a power forward that likes to smash the glass and throw down whatever alley-oops are lobbed his way. Expect him and Fox to connect a lot next season in all sorts of really fun ways.
Lonzo Ball, PG, California (UCLA) – Not every top prospect is headed to Duke or Kentucky, as Lonzo Ball is proving by staying in-state to play at UCLA, which is a good omen considering how well big point guards from UCLA have fared in the NBA. As a 6’5 point guard, Ball towers over most defenders at the high school level, which helps him to see the court about as well as any prep player in the country. The young man can dish a rock, but he can also knock down a shot and run a fast break. He’s thrilling to watch and already is so polished despite his age. He looks like a sure-thing NBA player in the not-so-distant future.
Mile Bridges, SF, West Virginia (Michigan State) – ESPN compares Bridges to former NBA combo forward Rodney Rogers, a powerful-yet-jumpy undersized power forward that sort of scored from all over the floor. Bridges is versatile like that, but he’s also incredibly strong and arguably has one of the more NBA-ready bodies in this group of All-Americans. He and Josh Jackson are good friends through AAU and reportedly have discussed playing together for Tom Izzo, but whatever happens with Jackson, Bridges is enough to keep the Spartans relevant next season after their early tourney exit this year. Easily a top five-to-seven recruit, this kid is a winner and one of the most well-rounded recruits in the country this year.
There are, of course, several other McDonald’s All-Americans of note that easily find their ways to NBA teams, but that’s why the game itself is worth watching. Tune into ESPN on Wednesday, March 30th at 9:00 p.m. ET, and see for yourself which of these players is most primed for the NBA. Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James all played in this game. Is the next big NBA superstar on one of these rosters this year?
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
NBA PM: Patrick Beverley Set the Tone for Clippers in Season Opener
Patrick Beverley set the tone for the L.A. Clippers with his aggressive defense in their season opener.
“The LA Clippers are going to the Western Conference Finals. Guaranteed.”
That bold statement was made by Charles Barkley during TNT’s coverage of last night’s matchup between the Lakers and Clippers.
While Barkley may have had his hot take canon primed and in mid-season form, that should not overshadow the fact that the Los Angeles Clippers put together a strong showing in their first regular season game since the departure of Chris Paul.
Blake Griffin logged 29 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals and knocked down three of his six three-point attempts. Griffin was aggressive and showed no hesitation on his jumper, which seemed to open up lanes for him to drive to the basket (where he is most effective). DeAndre Jordan was fantastic as well, contributing 14 points, 24 rebounds, one assist and one steal.
While the Clippers lost some significant contributors from last season, including J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute and Jamal Crawford, the team had some returning and new players show that they are capable of filling the void.
Milos Teodosic was just 2-9 from the field, but knocked down two three-pointers and looked comfortable and effective running the team’s offense. Danilo Gallinarni shot just 3-13 from the field but looked healthy and spry, displaying the kind of mobility that is necessary to play the small forward position. His ability to act as a secondary playmaker wasn’t on full display, but there were moments where it was apparent that he could be a big help in generating open looks for his teammates. Lou Williams also looked good in his Clippers debut, scoring in a variety of ways off the bench and contributing six assists as well. Wesley Johnson continues to look confident and aggressive, a continuation from his preseason performances, and is starting to knock down the open shots his teammates are creating for him (which has been a problem for him in the past).
While the Clippers looked solid in their opening act without Paul, it should be noted that the Lakers are a young team overall and their defense has been a major problem for the last few seasons. While the Lakers have added some promising young talent over the offseason, like most young teams, they are going to struggle to slow down veteran teams with potent offenses. It would be a mistake to think the Clippers can replicate this sort of offensive performance every night, especially against the better defensive teams in the league. However, perhaps the most promising part of the Clippers’ season debut was the fact that they seemed to feed off of and embrace the gritty demeanor and style of play that Patrick Beverley brings to the court each and every night.
Last night’s game was the NBA debut for rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, who many predict will develop into a star player. Unfortunately for Ball, his opening night matchup came against Beverley, who earned a spot on the 2017 All-Defensive First Team. Beverley repeatedly guarded Ball past half court, pushed him around and did everything he could to throw him off of his game. He held Ball to three points, nine rebounds and four assists in 29 minutes of action.
Beverley, like every NBA player, has heard the hype and noise surrounding Ball and his future in the league (most of it from his outspoken father, LaVar).
“I just had to set the tone,” Beverley said. “I told him after the game that due to all the riffraff his dad brings, that he’s going to get a lot of people coming at him. I let him know that after the game. What a better way to start than spending 94 feet guarding him tonight — welcome the young guy to the NBA.”
Beverley is one of the more aggressive defenders in the NBA and is known for trying to get under the skin of his opponents, so Lonzo may not face this level of intensity in every game. But based on Beverley’s comments, it’s clear that he expects other players around the league to defend Lonzo aggressively as well.
Snoop Dogg, the rapper and passionate Lakers fan, summed up the issue for Ball arguably better than anyone else has so far.
“His father put him in the lion’s den with pork chop drawers on,” said Snoop.
For his part, Lonzo complimented Beverley on his aggressive defense.
“[Beverley] plays hard. He knows his job. He does it very well,” said Ball. “He gets under people’s skin and plays defense and does what he can to help his team win.”
Beverley set the tone for the Clippers, who looked crisp and confident throughout the game. Griffin’s three-point shot looks like it could finally be a reliable part of his offensive arsenal. Jordan was very active on the glass, pulling down 24 rebounds (possibly inspired in part by his commitment to donate $100 per rebound this season to help the effort to rebuild his hometown of Houston after the damage inflicted by Hurricane Harvey). The rest of the supporting cast played with the sort of cohesion and confidence that takes at least a few weeks into the season to develop. Again, the Clippers’ performance could have stemmed primarily from the Lakers’ shaky defense, but it was encouraging to see the team play with such force and confidence in the absence of Paul.
The Western Conference is extremely talented and deep, so it’s unlikely that the Clippers will make it to the Western Conference Finals as Barkley predicted. However, challenging for a spot in the playoffs and perhaps even doing some damage once there seems to be in the realm of possibility. This is especially the case considering how much of an impact Beverley had Thursday night, both defensively and in setting the tone for the rest of his new teammates.
Morris Bringing Leadership To Celtics
Marcus Morris chats with Basketball Insiders for a one-on-one exclusive.
Returning just one starter from last year’s top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics underwent wholesale changes this past offseason.
Gordon Hayward signed a super max contract. Danny Ainge pried Kyrie Irving away from the Cleveland Cavaliers in a blockbuster deal. Jayson Tatum was selected with the third overall pick in the NBA Draft.
In early July, though, there was an under-the-radar trade executed that hasn’t been mentioned much. Surprisingly, Celtics guard Avery Bradley was sent to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Marcus Morris, a heady wing with size and versatility to add to a revamped core of players.
Bradley was a mainstay with the franchise for seven years and played a vital role as a part of Brad Stevens’ system, but Boston decided to move in a different direction. As for the man they got in return, he’s thrilled to be there.
“It makes me feel good,” Morris told Basketball Insiders of Ainge dealing one of his best former players for him. “It makes you feel wanted.
“This is my first time since I’ve been in the NBA I’ve been on a team with a bunch of guys that [are] All-Stars. With the maturity of the team being this high and having them high expectations on us, I’m excited to get the season going and see how far we can take this.”
The Detroit Pistons likely wanted to keep him, but the organization clearly felt Bradley’s skill set was too good to pass up. For Morris, he insisted there was no indication that his old team would send him away, but he hasn’t been bashful about talking up his new home.
“Had no idea that I was gonna be a Boston Celtic, but I’m ready for the challenge, you know?” Morris said. “I’m excited. Boston, being a Celtic—it’s something that growing up you don’t really see happening, but when it happens it’s an amazing thing.
“It’s like playing for the Patriots, you know what I mean? One of the most heralded teams and most heralded franchises, and Boston is one of those.”
Entering the seventh season of his career, Morris has remained a steady part of the league. During his time in Detroit, he started nearly every game for the Pistons and found a comfort zone that he believes will carry over in Boston.
“Just continue to be consistent, continue to build on my last past couple of years,” Morris said of his personal goals. “I really felt like I carved my spot in the NBA the last two years—averaging 14 a year and helping my team get to the playoffs one of those years, so I really think I’ve carved a niche in this league.”
The success has come thanks to his versatility and the NBA’s current direction pointing towards that type of game. All of a sudden, not having a defined position makes a player more valuable, something Morris is thankful for as he continues to bring a little bit of everything to the table.
“For guys like me, it’s great,” Morris said. “Coming into the league, I had this ‘tweener’ thing on my back and now it’s like [freaking] great to be a ‘tweener’ at this time. I’m actually happy that it’s switching to my position and guys that can do multiple things are being utilized more in this league.”
Putting the ball in the basket has come fairly easy for Morris, who averaged 14.1 points per game on 42.6 percent from the field over 159 games with Detroit. He’s able to stretch the floor and provide solid spacing offensively, and he envisions doing more than that for this Celtics group.
“And leadership,” Morris said. “I’m not too much of a vocal guy, but I’m a passionate guy on the court. I think that’ll rub off on guys. I love scoring. I love shooting the ball. But that’s not the only thing I do.
“I’ve been a tough defender around this league for the last past years and I’m really looking forward to hanging my hat on that again and just doing whatever it takes for my team to get to that next level.”
Stevens is aware of the impact Morris can bring in the locker room and on the floor. When he returns from a sore knee to make his debut for Boston, that’ll show through his play.
“He’s a guy that can stretch the floor at the four,” Stevens said. “He’s a guy that can guard two through four. He’s tough. He’s smart. He works the right way. We’ll be better with Marcus Morris for sure. The versatility is a very important part of what we want to be.
“Whether he is starting in a couple of weeks or whether he’s coming off the bench, at the end of the day he’s gonna be a critical, critical part of our team.”
While he’s waited to come back, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have stepped up in his absence. With Hayward likely sidelined for the rest of the season, that success will have to be sustained. Morris is a big believer in this promising duo and sees how grounded they are to make that happen.
“They’re mature guys for their age,” Morris said. “Jaylen, I think he’s 20. He’s definitely a lot more mature than I thought. Jayson, too. He’s way more mature than your average 19-year-old.
“At the end of the day, it’s just basketball. I think those guys, they’re ready for the challenge. They love the game. They always in the gym, so I think it’ll be easy for ‘em.”
Part of Morris’ role is guiding those two and the other younger pieces that Boston has as they try and establish themselves as professionals. He’s kind of a coach per se, which is somewhat fitting considering what he did this summer.
Most basketball fans are aware of “The Basketball Tournament” that takes nationwide. For those that aren’t, it’s a single-elimination competition between 64 teams in which the champion receives a $2 million prize. Morris was the head coach of Team FOE—standing for Family Over Everything.
Along with his fellow Kansas alums, including his brother Markieff and Thomas Robinson, Morris coached his team to the final game. Team FOE was in front most of the game but ultimately fell to Boeheim’s Army, a squad filled with former Syracuse Orangemen.
“I was on my way man,” Morris said of coming close. “I actually liked it. I’m a smart guy. Me and basketball stuff, I can put it together real well. I was kinda upset we lost in the fashion that we lost, but we’ll be back next year.
“I’m a smart player,” he said regarding a potential future on the sidelines. “I know the game really well. Coaching comes easy for some guys and I’m just one of those guys.”
You could hear “Coach Morris” down the line, but for now and for years to come, Marcus is focused on his first year with Boston. It’s a team that surely has the talent to be the top team in the East it’s pegged to be. Stevens is a basketball savant with great leadership.
Even without an All-Star like Hayward and a 0-2 start, the Celtics should still be a force to be reckoned with. There’s an even greater demand for them to achieve their potential, especially knowing eyes will be on them, but Morris welcomes the challenge.
“Man, it’s pressure on every team,” Morris said. “It ain’t like it’s just all on the Boston Celtics. It’s pressure on every team. What’s a game without pressure anyway?
“Pressure makes it the best thing. That’s what we need to do anyway. I enjoy the pressure. Me personally.”
Shouldering the load won’t be easy, but if it comes down to it, Morris will be swimming instead of sinking. When all is said and done, he shares the same aspirations as most players do—raising the Larry O’Brien trophy in the summer.
“I want to the win the championship,” Morris said. “You put this type of team together to get to those positions. I’m looking to be playing in June and trying to get to a championship.”