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Hairston: D-League is Tougher Than College

P.J. Hairston made a name for himself this year punishing NBDL defenders, which he says were tougher than those in NCAA.

Joel Brigham

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P.J. Hairston has not taken the traditional road to the NBA Draft’s first round, where he is expected to be selected next month in Brooklyn, NY.

He didn’t play a single game at the University of North Carolina this season, nor did he notch a single minute overseas. Rather, Hairston followed up a falling out with UNC by catching on with the NBA Development League’s Texas Legends, and what happened next was enough to put the D-League in national headlines almost immediately.

That’s because in Hairston’s first handful of games with the Legends he scored 40 or more points twice, proving his prowess as a scorer against defenders that are more accomplished than the ones he would have faced at Chapel Hill.

“Playing against [D-League players] really prepares you for that next level,” Hairston said at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. “You play against other pro guys, guys that have played in the NBA that were sent down to play in the D-League a few games. For example, I had Bernard James, Jae Crowder and Shane Larkin come down and play on our team. Just playing with those guys, you can tell how their mentality was and how they have such a pro outlook on things.”

In other words, despite the stigma that D-League defenders are no good and points scored in D-League games don’t matter, Hairston’s belief is that the defenders there are even better than in the NCAA, meaning his scoring binge was even more special in the NBDL than if he had done something similar in the NCAA.

That, he believes, is what will make him the first player to be selected in the first round coming out of the D-League.

“It’s professional,” Hairston said. “It’s not college. You don’t have anyone holding your hand telling you not to shoot this or not to shoot that. It’s basically up to you.

“In Texas I put the ball on the floor a lot more. I became a better finisher – not perfect – but a better finisher. One of the other things I’m also working on is being able to take the ball through the court, coast-to-coast and finish. Things that I didn’t do a lot at North Carolina that I did in Texas is where I really showed my improvement and became a versatile player.”

Of course, if Hairston had had his druthers, he would have accepted a lesser punishment from the university for his questionable off-court associations and returned to the Tar Heels later in the season. In fact, he didn’t enter that season even considering the fact that he’d end it in a D-League uniform.

“It was a real big shock. I was expecting, ‘Hey, P.J. in 8-10 games you’ll be back,’” Hairston admitted. “When I was told I couldn’t play, it was probably the worst thing I could hear in my life.”

He’s not the kind of player to sit and sulk, however. Almost immediately after getting the news that UNC would not seek his reinstatement, Hairston was already game-planning how to finish out his year in preparation of this summer’s draft.

“I couldn’t sit around and sob and cry and be mad at myself,” Hairston said. “I had to figure out what my next step was, and transferring was an option, but I couldn’t do that. Overseas was an option, but I couldn’t take my online courses and couldn’t take my classes to graduate on time. The D-League was the last option where I could still take my online courses and still be able to graduate on time.”

So that’s what he did, and he did it pretty well.

“I took a communications class this spring and I actually got a B+ in the class,” he said. “That’s my main thing, I really want to graduate and have a degree. Like they say, the ball will stop bouncing one day and I always wanted to have something to fall back on where I could have a good job.”

It looks like he’s about to have a pretty good job as it is, though where he ends up in this upcoming draft is still anybody’s guess. Glen Rice Jr. took a similar path last season and ended up getting chosen by the Washington Wizards with 35th overall pick after his stint with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Hairston would much rather enjoy the guaranteed money that a first-round pick provides, but he’ll have to wait several more weeks to see whether he ends up there or not.

In the meantime, he can do nothing but count his blessings that things worked out okay in the end. Leaving North Carolina wasn’t his plan, but if the end result is getting to wear some team’s snapback while shaking NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s hand this summer, very little else is likely to matter.

Joel Brigham is a senior writer for Basketball Insiders, covering the Central Division and fantasy basketball.

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Mock Drafts

NBA Daily: A New 2018 NBA Mock Draft – 2/13/18

With the NBA Trade Deadline passed, Basketball Insiders Publisher Steve Kyler turns focus toward the 2018 NBA Draft.

Steve Kyler

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Time To Focus On The Draft

With the NBA Trade Deadline out of the way, the next transactional window to watch becomes the 2018 NBA Draft; we’ll start dropping more Mock Drafts as we get closer, including our annual weekly Consensus Mock Draft.

There is something of a consensus starting to take shape in NBA circles on who the top 100 players truly are, although the range on players remains somewhat wide depending on who you talk to.

With all of that in mind, here is the latest Mock Draft:

Here are some of the pick swaps and how they landed where they are currently projected:

The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer. The Brooklyn Nets traded several unprotected picks to Boston as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trades in 2015.

The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers’ 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015. The 76ers traded that pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the draft pick trade that became Markelle Fultz before the draft; it has 2 through 5 protections and based on the standings today would convey to Philadelphia.

The LA Clippers are owed the Detroit Pistons first-round pick in 2018 as a result of the Blake Griffin trade. The pick is top four protected and based on the current standings would convey.

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 Chicago Bulls are owed the New Orleans Pelicans first-round pick as a result of the Nikola Mirotic trade. The pick is top-five protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Jazz/Wolves Ricky Rubio trade this past summer. The Jazz acquired the pick as part of the Thunder’s deal to obtain Enes Kanter in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

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 not 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 LA Lakers are owed the Cleveland Cavaliers first-round pick as a result of Jordan Clarkson/Larry Nance Jr trade. The pick is top-three 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 the Basketball Insiders’ Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects – http://www.basketballinsiders.com/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, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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NBA Daily: The Top of The 2018 Draft Is Getting Crowded

The top of the projected 2018 NBA Draft is starting to get interesting, mainly because so many potential draft prospects are having incredibly dominant seasons.

Steve Kyler

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Things Are Getting Interesting

While the projected 2018 NBA Draft class doesn’t seem to have a future superstar sitting at the top of the board, there are potentially four players that are really looking the part of future NBA All-Stars and it’s making the top of the class very interesting.

Say what you want about stats, but there is little doubt that the numbers some of the top prospects are posting so far this season are pretty compelling.

Duke’s Marvin Bagley III is averaging 21.1 points per game to go with 10.9 rebounds. His 61.7 percent field goal average is impressive, especially when you consider he’s knocking in 34.6% of his three (9-26 on the season). Bagley has a 32.2 PER with a 64.6 True Shooting percentage and a 26.7 usage rate. In short, highly productive almost everywhere without having to own the basketball.

Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton is posting similarly ridiculous numbers, 19.5 points per game with 11.4 rebounds. His 61.7 percent from the field also comes with an impressive 30.4 percent three-point average (7-23 on the season). Ayton’s 32.3 PER is a nose higher than Bagley. He is also posting a whopping 65.6 True Shooting percentage with a 26.7 percentage usage rate. Again, highly productive in every way without being so ball-dominant to skew the numbers. Ayton hit the ground running at Arizona and really hasn’t had a bad game yet.

Oklahoma’s Trae Young has burst into the top-five discussion in a huge way. His 6’2 180-pound frame looks small on the court, but his game has been tremendous. Young is posting 28.7 points per game with a monster 10.4 assists per contest. He is grabbing 3.5 rebounds while shooting 48.5 percent from the field, 57.1 percent from two-point range and a scorching 41.1 percent from three (44 of 107 on the season). Young’s 38 PER is tops in all of college basketball. He has a 65.2 True Shooting percentage and a 36.1 usage rate. Unlike Bagley and Ayton, Young does control the ball, but that’s typical for an impact scoring point guard. He offsets the ball dominance with incredible assist numbers. He is also pretty spectacular to watch.

International phenom Luka Dončić is having a solid season in his own right, although his averages are lower because he doesn’t play the same volume of minutes as the NCAA collegiate prospects. In 26 games in both the Euroleague and the ACB, Dončić is posting 16.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists per contest. He is shooting 48.4 percent from the field and 35.6 percent from international three (48 of 135 on the season). Dončić is posting a 28.2 PER in Euroleague play and a 23.7 PER in ACB play. Dončić’s True Shooting numbers in Euroleague play are impressive at 66.2 percent. In ACB play his number drop a bit to 58.1 percent. His usage numbers illustrate the same slip. In Euroleague play, he posts a 30 percent usage rate while posting a 26.6 percent usage rate in ACB. Dončić typically plays more minutes and a larger role in Euroleague play. Hence the stat shift. If you haven’t seen him play, he’s so instinctual and gifted it easy to see why many see him as the top pick.

There are some compelling storylines to watch towards the top of the NBA draft board, which is likely why so many NBA executives seem split on who they would peg as the top talent in the projected 2018 Draft class.

So, with that out the way, lets jump into the latest first-round 2018 NBA Mock Draft:

Here are some of the pick swaps and how they landed where they are currently projected:

The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers’ 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015. The 76ers traded that pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the draft pick trade that became Markelle Fultz before the draft; it has 2 through 5 protections and based on the standings today would convey to Boston.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer. The Brooklyn Nets traded several unprotected picks to Boston as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trades in 2015.

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 not convey.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Jazz/Wolves Ricky Rubio trade this past summer. The Jazz acquired the pick as part of the Thunder’s deal to obtain Enes Kanter in 2015. 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 the Basketball Insiders’ Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects http://www.basketballinsiders.com/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 Daily: Another 2018 NBA Mock Draft – 12/13/17

Basketball Insiders’ publisher Steve Kyler drops his latest 2018 first-round NBA Mock Draft.

Steve Kyler

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A little less than a month ago we dropped the first 2018 NBA Mock Draft, which was met with a lot of disdain. Which is often a good thing because it sparks the discussion in NBA circles.

Since that Mock dropped, we’ve seen a bit more play out of some of the top prospects and many of the assumptions made almost a month ago are starting to settle into place a little more clearly.

The prevailing thought from NBA scouts and executives is that the possible 2018 NBA Draft class has a lot more questions than answers. The common view is that outside of the top 3 or 4 players there could be a very wide range on who the next 10-12 players will be; so expect for the second tier to evolve a lot over the course of the college basketball season.

A couple of things have started to surface among NBA scouts and executives, there seem to be three camps emerging around the top overall player – Duke’s Marvin Bagley III and international phenom Luka Dončić, seem to be the leading names mentioned most, with Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton making a strong push into the discussion. We can safely call this a three-horse race at this point.

The prevailing belief is that none of the three is far and away better than the other as a professional prospect, making it more likely than not that the top player selected will have a lot more to do with which team ultimately lands the pick, more so than the player themselves.

This class also seems to be brimming with promising athletic point guards, which unlike last year’s draft, could provide a lot of options for teams still trying to find that impact point guard.

There also looks to be 27 players in the projected top 100 that are 6’10 or bigger, eight of which project in the top 30. To put that into perspective, there were 11 players 6’10 or bigger drafted in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, and 17 total in the 60 2017 NBA Draft selections.

As we get into the 2018 calendar year, we’ll start to do deeper dives into the tiers of players and their possible NBA strengths and weakness.

So, with all of that in mind, here is the second 2018 first-round NBA Mock Draft.

Here are some of the pick swaps and how they landed where they are currently projected:

The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015.

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

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 not convey.

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 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 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 not 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 the Basketball Insiders’ Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects http://www.basketballinsiders.com/top-100-nba-draft-prospects/

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