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NBA AM: Did Bledsoe Deal Set The Market?

Will Eric Bledsoe’s five year $70 million deal with the Suns impact the price for the next wave of Rookie scale extensions?

Steve Kyler

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Did Bledsoe Set The Market?:  As the players drafted in 2011 close in on their own deadlines to reach early contract extensions of their rookie scale deals, many around the league watched how the Eric Bledsoe restricted free agency drama played out in Phoenix closely. Bledsoe’s new five year, fully-guaranteed $70 million deal may set the bar for what some other players are looking for especially when you factor in Bledsoe’s injury history and production.

Here are the players eligible for extensions and where some of them may be headed:

2011 Draft position – Player Name (Team)

2 – Derrick Williams (Sacramento Kings)

It is unlikely that Williams is extended before the October 31 deadline for rookie scale extensions. Williams has never really lived up to his second overall pick status and while the Kings like him, they are unlikely to lock him in unless it’s a deal that’s a landslide in their favor. It’s more likely than not that Williams hits restricted free agency in July than gets a deal in October.

3 – Enes Kanter (Utah Jazz)

Like Williams, an extension for Kanter seems unlikely. The Jazz still are unsure where Kanter fits in the big picture and with a new coaching staff in place, Kanter will need to blow some people away this season or he could find himself on the trading block rather than in line for a big payday. His performance in camp could earn him a deal, but that’s unlikely given the premium placed on bigs. Kanter needs to have a solid season to land his big payday.

4 – Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers)

Fresh off a $70 million deal with Phoenix, Thompson’s agency Klutch Sports will start in on the Cavs next. Word is there have not been any meaningful extension talks yet. It’s more likely that Thompson gets his deal next summer for a lot of reasons, but the biggest is this year Thompson could arguably cement himself into a real role with the Cavs and up his value. Given that Thompson is represented by the same agent as LeBron James, its pretty clear that unless Thompson really does poorly, he’ll get his new deal. The questions becomes how much and for how long and the answer to that might be best served after understanding where Thompson really fits into the new-look Cavs.

7 – Bismack Biyombo (Charlotte Hornets)

It is doubtful that Biyombo is extended; it’s more likely that he takes a trip through restricted free agency next summer and someone else sets his price. With so much uncertainty about the roster in Charlotte beyond this season – namely big man Al Jefferson’s pending free agency – locking in Biyombo to a larger deal doesn’t make a lot of sense.

8 – Brandon Knight (Milwaukee Bucks)

The Milwaukee Bucks like Brandon Knight, but view him as more of an off-guard. Clearly Knight’s camp uses Bledsoe’s number to re-enforce Knight as a $10-$12 million a year guard. That’s not likely a number Milwaukee buys in October, which means unless Knight’s price comes down to around the $7-$8 million a year range he’s headed to restricted free agency. The Bucks are in transition so unless an extension deal plays in their favor, they may wait out a deal for Knight.

9 – Kemba Walker (Charlotte Hornets)

If anyone’s price went up yesterday is was arguably Walker’s. Kemba put up similar numbers to Bledsoe last season and he is clearly a starting caliber guard on the rise. The question is will Charlotte ink a deal now and lock him in or do they wait and play things out in restricted free agency like Phoenix did with Bledsoe? There is risk that another team tacks an extra million or two on to the deal, much like Charlotte did with Gordon Hayward this summer. Given the similarities in their production Walker’s price likely comes in the $13-$14 million a season range today and that’s likely up a couple of million after the Bledsoe deal.

11 – Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)

Thompson’s camp had been talking max money before the Bledsoe deal, and with five years and $70 million being the bench mark for a top level scorer, Thompon’s position got a little stronger yesterday. The Warriors are saying all the right things about Thompson and wanting to keep him long-term, the questions is will they ink him to a max money, $16 million per year deal or will they try and get something done just under that before the October 31 deadline? If the Warriors let Thompson hit restricted free agency, it’s more likely than not that one of the 12-14 teams looking at hefty cap space put a big number on the table in July. So the issue for the Warriors is should they pay now or pay later? Like Bledsoe, the Warriors might get a near max deal done now. If Thompson has another solid season, the absolute max is more likely.

12 – Alec Burks (Utah Jazz)

Burks isn’t a likely candidate for an extension unless it’s on the cheap. This will be a big season for Burks to prove not only that he’s a bona fide starter, but that he’s worth investing in. With a new staff and a lot of competition for minutes Burks is going to have to stand out in a major way or he could not only be headed towards restricted free agency, he could be trade bait. The Jazz have some duplication and could look to carve out bigger roles for rookies like Dante Exum and Rodney Hood, both of which could see time at the two spot.

13 – Markieff Morris (Phoenix Suns)

This one is interesting, because Markieff is the one worth investing in, but the Morris twins have already floated the notion that they are a package deal. Phoenix likes Markieff, a lot, and doing an extension makes sense for the Suns, but only at the right price. As we saw with Eric Bledsoe, the Suns might let this flow into restricted free agency if only to see how he progresses. There is a thought that Markieff might emerge as a starter and that’s a totally different price for a player than a borderline starter, which is what he is today. The right price for Markieff might be the $9 million per year guys like Taj Gibson got in early extensions. However, with Bledsoe getting $14 million will the price go up appreciably or will the Suns reach a package deal and trim the annual cost on Markieff a little lower by getting something done with Marcus?

14 – Marcus Morris (Phoenix Suns)

As mentioned above there is a sense that both Morris twins want to stay together and do their deals as a package deal. Amusingly during the draft process in 2011, most thought Marcus would be the more dominating NBA prospect, however Markieff was drafted higher and it seems Markieff has emerged as the guy with starter’s potential. Marcus could likely earn more on a another team and carve out his own role somewhere else, but if the goal is to stay with his brother, he may have to take less to achieve that.

15 – Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)

If Bledsoe got five years and $70 million, there is almost no scenario in which Kawhi Leonard doesn’t get max money or awfully close to it. The question is do the Spurs lock it now and keep things running smoothly, or do they let the possibility of restricted free agency seep into their locker room? The Spurs did a new deal with Tony Parker to close that door for him, so it seems inevitable that Leonard will get his deal before the October 31 deadline. Leverage for the team sort of goes out the window when a guy helps lead them to a championship and is named Finals MVP.

16 – Nikola Vučević (Orlando Magic)

This one is interesting because the Magic may be better suited waiting the season out and seeing how their team comes together, especially after giving Channing Frye four years and $32 million. Word is the numbers being kicked around with Vucevic are closer to four years and $40-$45 million; it’s unclear if that’s a deal that’s going to get done before the deadline. Vucevic is a heck of an offensive player, but he really leaves a lot to be desired on the defensive end. The Magic have the cash for the foreseeable future to pay Vucevic, so this isn’t a cap space issue. It’s a valuation issue and given how much the fans like Vucevic it might be foolish to not make a deal, especially if the Magic can get something done that gives them flexibility like a team option along the way.

17 – Iman Shumpert (New York Knicks)

It’s unlikely that Shumpert gets an extension. All the right things are being said by both Shumpert and the Knicks, but reaching an extension before the deadline is not expected. For Shumpert to have a real future with the Knicks he is going to have to prove he can be that big point guard Phil Jackson loves in the triangle. He’ll have to be a facilitator and knock down shots. If Shumpert can’t play the one for head coach Derek Fisher than he is battling for minutes with Tim Hardaway Jr and JR Smith and he may lose that battle as both are likely better two guards in the triangle than he is. For Shumpert’s part, he’s put in the work. He lived at IMG Academy in Bradenton for most of the summer and really tuned up his body, handle and jump shot. Shumpert will get his chance, but he has a lot to show before a new deal in New York becomes realistic.

19 – Tobias Harris (Orlando Magic)

Like Vucevic, the Magic may be best suited waiting out the season and seeing what comes together before investing in any of their players. Harris isn’t going to command crazy money, likely something in the $7-$9 million per year range. If that sounds excessive, keep in mind that Harris averaged 14.6 points and seven rebounds a game last season with 36 starts. Chandler Parsons averaged 16.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game on 74 starts and landed a three year, $45 million deal. Harris is not viewed around the league like Parsons was, but impact scorers like Harris have gotten paid this summer. It’s believed that Harris would do a reasonable deal with Orlando to remove the burden of pending free agency, but his biggest payday might come as a restricted free agent after posting a strong season. The issue for Harris is there is a logjam at his position and if he falls out of favor for any reason his stock could decline. Harris is happy in Orlando, so there is room for a deal, but from a business point of view it may be better for all parties to see what the season brings.

22 – Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets)

Last summer Faried had told a group of players he was going to get a max extension. At the time that seemed laughable. Today, that seems a lot more realistic. Faired erupted late last season for the Nuggets and backed that up with a stellar showing for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup. If the Nuggets don’t get a deal done before the deadline, there is a real chance they will find themselves in a bidding war with a couple of the teams that will have more than $20 million in possible cap space next summer. It seems unlikely that Faried doesn’t get a max level offer as a restricted free agent, so do the Nuggets try and shave a little bit off a deal now, or do like they did with Ty Lawson and get Faried to defer a little cash down the road in exchange for a deal today. Lawson’s deal got done because he was willing to help the Nuggets out in the cash flow department. If Faried is willing to do the same, a deal likely gets done before the deadline and you can expect the deal to be north of $75 million.

24 – Reggie Jackson (Oklahoma City Thunder)

Jackson is an interesting one too. He wants to be a starter and there was talk all summer that Russell Westbrook may see a lot more time at the two guard spot with Jackson running the point. That lineup solved a lot of problems during the playoffs, and it would solve Jackson’s biggest hurdle of commanding a starter’s contract. The next part is will the Thunder do a deal before the deadline? With Bledsoe setting the ceiling for guards at likely $70 million, is Jackson worth $60 million and will the Thunder pay it? The Thunder are not opposed to extensions, in fact they are usually pretty aggressive in getting that discussion going so that contracts are not a distraction during the season. The smart money says Jackson gets his new deal and it’s a hefty agreement. The Thunder can’t afford to let another talented guard walk away and with Kevin Durant’s free agency just around the corner, locking guys in for a title run again makes the most sense both in the short term and the long term.

28 – Norris Cole (Miami HEAT)

Given where the HEAT are as a team, it’s more likely that Norris hits restricted free agency. The HEAT re-signed Mario Chalmers, so overpaying Cole might not be in the plans. This is likely a case of reaching a reasonable deal in an extension or waiting until July and seeing how the season plays out and what the market believe Norris is worth. Like some on this list, a strong showing could really change the financial landscape for Cole. He would be wise to wait it out rather than taking what his perceived value is today.

29 – Cory Joseph (San Antonio Spurs)

It’s highly unlikely that Joseph gets a deal before the deadline, unless it’s a landslide in San Antonio’s favor. Joseph hasn’t emerged enough yet to justify an extension, unless it’s on the cheap, which his camp may look at. The smart money says Joseph is a restricted free agent next season and both sides play it from there.

30 – Jimmy Butler (Chicago Bulls)

Butler is in a tough spot. He had a stellar season two years ago, which is likely a lot closer to his norm, but he posted a ho-hum season last year, logging a ton of minutes while playing through some nagging injuries that clearly affected his offensive game. The Bulls have been at the table, so there is a desire to get something done, but much like the Bulls did with Taj Gibson, they are trying to lock Butler in on the cheap side. For Butler, he could get a deal today if he wanted to sign one, but it would be based off what his value was last season, not on what his potential is going forward. Do you bet on yourself that you can get healthy and return to your norm, or do you take the security of a deal now? Butler could go either way. There are a number of teams that are going to have cap space, and if Butler logs a solid season he could see a $10-$12 million a year payday through restricted free agency. The Bulls like Butler a lot, especially on the defensive side of the ball. He may have to come into camp and prove that his offensive numbers can return to what they were two seasons ago and maybe he gets his deal. Both sides are talking, but to think that something is close really comes down to Butler and what kind of season he thinks he can have.

Teams have until October 31 to reach extensions on rookie scale contracts. If teams do not reach a deal, they will have the option to restrict a players’ free agency with a qualifying offer.

If you are curious what those numbers look like, checkout the Basketball Insiders salary database.

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, @AlexKennedyNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @SusanBible @TommyBeer, @JabariDavisNBA , @NateDuncanNBA , @MokeHamilton , @JCameratoNBA and @YannisNBA.

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The X-Factors: Portland

Spencer Davies continues Basketball Insiders’ “X-Factor” series by looking at potential game-changers for the Portland Trail Blazers when the NBA returns.

Spencer Davies

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Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

That’s probably an appropriate way to characterize the steam that’s been picking up over the last week regarding the eventual return of the NBA. What the plan exactly will be is yet to be determined, but there are potential scenarios surfacing left and right. And with the NHL officially having a resumption blueprint set in stone, we’re probably not too far away from learning The Association’s fate.

In an effort to prepare ourselves for that day, Basketball Insiders has begun an x-factor series for each team around the current playoff picture. Basically, “if this happens…” or “what if this player is healthy?” type of scenarios are what we’re looking at. Ben Nadeau kicked us off Tuesday with Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans. Today, we’re going to look at the Portland Trail Blazers, who are in a similar situation out in the Western Conference.

Scratching and clawing for that final seed to make the postseason for the seventh straight season, the Blazers have work to do at 29-37. They’re going to need help in the standings race with several other squads surrounding them chasing after the same thing. Along with the Pelicans and Sacramento Kings, Portland is 3.5 games back of the West’s eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies. Even the San Antonio Spurs are hanging by a thread with their playoff streak in jeopardy with a four-game hole in the standings.

We can technically call this our first dependent situation. There is going to be a ton of schedule watching around these five teams. It’s all contingent on the NBA’s decision about how to go about a return — a 72-game benchmark, a play-in tournament, straight to the postseason, etc. Who’s going to have an easier schedule? Who’s going to have more games to play and increase their chances?

For example, the Blazers could have six games left to play to make up that gap on the Grizzlies, a team that was next up on their list in a pivotal head-to-head scenario. The Spurs, however, would have nine games to try and right the ship — by far the highest amount of contests in comparison to the four others they’re fighting against. None of this is concrete because we don’t know what solution the league is going to agree upon; that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t come to mind as a hypothetical.

Then, there’s that Damian Lillard guy. You know, the dude that is Portland’s franchise. The man that went on a mid-January to early February eight-game run where he absurdly averaged over 45 points, 9.6 assists and 5.5 rebounds, while nailing 53 percent of both his field goals and three-balls. He averaged 40 minutes in this stretch, quite literally putting the team on his back to keep pace with the surging Grizzlies.

Lillard’s publicly come out and said flat-out that if the league elects to go with the benchmark idea, he wouldn’t participate. He’d gladly support his teammates and join them, just not on the court for games. Speaking with Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, the All-Star point guard expressed his desire for a tournament-style setup where there are playoff implications on the line. Suiting up to satisfy certain criteria with no incentive isn’t his preferred method of return. He wants to compete and, considering the effect of rustiness and other unknowns that could play a factor in these hypothetical matchups, Lillard would love for Portland to be the group that knocks others out unexpectedly.

Let’s not forget that the Blazers could have two starting-caliber players back that would’ve made their return from injury at some point this past March, either. Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins have their own specific capabilities that can dramatically improve what the team’s been missing since the beginning of the year.

Nurkic is an outstanding interior presence that brings physicality and finishing ability, as well as a big body to secure rebounds and dare opponents to come into the paint. This is no knock on Hassan Whiteside, who has arguably had the best season of his career as a blocking and boarding machine. It’s more about the lack of depth behind him, which is where Nurkic can step right in without Portland losing its reliability at the five. It’s been a revolving door at backup center for the Blazers, which has allowed the opposition to attack at will and get easy buckets. Nurkic’s return will shut that right off, as well as give the second unit a reliable scoring option.

Collins, his frontcourt partner, was supposed to have a breakout campaign in store for the league. Instead, the athletic third-year big man suffered a dislocated left shoulder just three games into the season. While it has sidelined him since then, he was targeting March as a return target. Obviously, with the league suspending operations, that didn’t happen as planned. But with the calendar turning to June in less than a week, and with his optimism shining through his rehab, it’s probably OK to assume Collins is close to being in the clear for a comeback.

Collins brings things to the table that neither Nurkic nor Whiteside does — an ability to stretch the floor being the most obvious skill that stands out. He can knock down triples at a decent rate and, more importantly, create space for Lillard and CJ McCollum to operate. The 6-foot-11 power forward has quicker foot speed than the other bigs Portland has, too.

Though the Blazers should be plenty excited about Nurkic and Collins’ impending return, they also have to be realistic about how much those two will play. We already mentioned Collins’ shoulder dislocation, but Nurkic hasn’t been on the floor since Mar. 25 of last year. Terry Stotts and his coaching staff will have to pay close attention to each of their minutes. How that whole situation is handled will be crucial to ensure there’s no long-term damage done for any party.

Just like the rest of their competition, the Blazers will have to also monitor how their older veterans handle ramping things back up again. Carmelo Anthony and Trevor Ariza are both in their mid-30s and have taken on a heavy minute load. They are starters who average over 30 minutes per game that just abruptly stopped playing for months. It isn’t going to be easy on anybody, but the younger players can probably recover and restart easier than those seasoned vets.

Gary Trent Jr. and Anfernee Simons are likely to come out of this hiatus with the most energy out of anybody simply because they’re the youngest guys on the team. We all know how hungry the dynamic duo of Lillard and McCollum is going to be. It’s exciting to think about.

All we can do now is wait to find out what the next steps are toward a restart.

Luckily for us, that news might not be too far away.

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The X-Factors: New Orleans

Ben Nadeau kicks off a new Basketball Insiders series by examining potential game-changers for when the NBA resumes play.

Ben Nadeau

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Basketball is back, baby.

Well, sorta. OK, actually, not really. But they’re talking about it. Finally.

Beyond that, they’re apparently making true, meaningful progress. And although the NBA is circling through potential scenarios — bubble games, re-seeding, ignoring conferences, etc. — there’s a very real chance that this shindig gets underway by mid-July.

To celebrate the re-arrival of actual talk and analysis, Basketball Insiders is kicking off its newest series — this time, one that focuses on a real-life hypothetical. The idea of an x-factor is inherently goofy, typically leading to sentences like: “Well, if Player Z hits 43 percent of his three-pointers, they’ll be tough to beat.” And, yeah, duh.

Given the sport-wide break, there are some perfectly valid questions to be asked. For example, with an extra two months off, where does Victor Oladipo’s health stand? If he’s fully healthy, the Indiana Pacers are going to be a whirlwind of a problem for their higher-seeded first-round matchup. Could the return of Jonathan Isaac to the Orlando Magic ensure their postseason place? And, finally, Kevin Durant – a decision that looms large over every other potential proceeding.

But that’s not why we’ve gathered at this particular URL right now – that would be to discuss the New Orleans Pelicans, a franchise that currently finds itself 3.5 games out of the final playoff spot. Naturally, any chance for success depends on the NBA ratifying a plan that behooves the Pelicans’ hopes. Whether that’s a return to the regular season or a totally-invented play-in series, it doesn’t matter as New Orleans needs some help outside of their own good fortunes.

Should they get the opportunity to control their own fate, there’d be plenty to research and anoint as a Holier Than Thou X-Factor. We could talk about J.J. Redick’s 45.2 percent mark from three-point range or how his 110 postseason games are 28 more than the rest of the roster combined.

Maybe there’d be a paragraph or two on Brandon Ingram’s steady ascent to stardom. Ingram’s post-Los Angeles quest to become a sure-fire No. 1 option has been a compelling narrative, but can he do it when the games matter most? Lonzo Ball, the playmaking point guard, knocked down 21 of his 36 attempts from deep over the final four Pelicans games — if that were a permanent level of consistency for the pass-first general, then that would change everything, too.

And Jrue Holiday, the remaining cornerstone following the departure of Anthony Davis, would get his first chance to anoint himself as a hero in the football-heavy city. Surely, if the Pelicans are to sneak into the altered postseason — and, dare we say it, make some noise — those would be important conditions to quantify.

Still, for all the positives, negatives and worthy storylines out there for New Orleans, not a single one matters as much as Zion Williamson does.

Since the 19-year-old phenom debuted on Jan. 22, the Pelicans went 11-9. It’s not a spectacular showing, but one dragged down by losses to the Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers twice. Generally speaking, however, Williamson wasted no time acclimating to the NBA and the numbers speak for themselves: 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds on 56.9 percent shooting.

The highlights include the 35 points he hung on the Lakers and six other occasions of 25 or more in just 19 games. Moreover, Williamson has only scored under 20 points on three occasions and shot worse than 50 percent twice — once 8-for-18 (44) in the other showing versus Los Angeles and a tough 5-for-19 effort (26.3) against the league-leading Bucks. Of course, if they hobbled into the postseason, they’d have to play those very same Lakers over and over again.

Alas, the so-called chosen one will have his fair share of questions when the season resumes. Remember that 4-for-4 explosion against the San Antonio Spurs in his career debut? Well, he’s just 2-for-9 otherwise, often going entire games without even hoisting from long range. Williamson wasn’t supposed to enter professional basketball as a three-point marksman, but that epic – and believe us, we don’t use that word lightly – introduction might have skewed the outlook.

At Duke, Williamson went just 24-for-71 (33.8 percent) from deep and it’ll be a weak link that follows him – just as it does Ben Simmons – for the time being. Free throws weren’t expected to be a major, glaring issue either as he hit on 64 percent in college and, well, he’s right around the same mark currently. If you ignore 1-for-6 and 3-for-8 showings during a couple of double-digit victories versus the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors, that number looks even better too.

But enough about the few cons – of which Williamson has certainly made a focus during his quarantine workouts – what’s the ceiling? And how much should we be pulling for a postseason debut here? In a crazy campaign like this, the added bonus of Williamson-made magic might be a thread worth pulling for – even at the rejection of a Ja Morant-led foray instead.

Needless to say, if the resumed regular scenario arrives and the Pelicans have just five or so attempts to make up a 3.5 game deficit in the standings, Williamson probably wouldn’t play at all. It’s also certainly possible that the rookie was just shaking off the rust before — just ask the aforementioned Oladipo. After taking an entire year to recover from a brutal ruptured tendon, the former All-Star only averaged 13.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists on 39.1 percent shooting, all would-be career-lows.

Bet your bottom dollar, however, that with an extra 60 days of training at full speed under his belt, Oladipo will be closer to 100 percent than ever – a much-needed boost to an already well-rounded Pacers side. Could a trained-up Williamson provide the same type of edge? Upon his debut, one of the few worries that lingered – aside from re-injury – was about his perceived stamina and fatigue. Getting dropped into high-intensity workouts against adults twice your age is no joke, but try it after three months of rehab following a preseason meniscus tear.

With that context, the fact that Williams averaged 20-plus points on nearly 30 minutes per game is a superhero-level accomplishment.

At 37.2 percent, the Pelicans are the NBA’s fourth-best three-point shooting franchise – so even if Williamson doesn’t come back ready to unleash from deep, his team will be. On top of that, New Orleans’ 116.2 points per game are tied for fourth-best, too. Between Williamson, Holiday, Ball, Ingram and Redick, scoring appears to be the least of their issues headed into a restarted season.

But the defensive rating of 111.6 is a cause for concern, the second-worst standing of any team still within arm’s reach of the postseason (Portland, 113.6). Williamson has posted an encouraging mark of 103.1 on that end through 19 games, which also happens to be the highest mark of anybody employed by New Orleans right now.

In fact, Williamson’s multi-position defense and overall athleticism have already left quite the footprint. Since his debut in January, the Pelicans have posted a defensive rating of 109.2 – good enough for the No. 8 spot across the entire league. The Williamson Effect is here to stay and it’ll only improve as the roster meshes and the rookie acclimates even further – that seems to be a foregone conclusion.

If you thought Williamson was impressive coming off a serious injury with no stamina, his elevated play – whether in assumed individual efficiencies or overall team impact – could push the Pelicans into new territory. Elsewhere, there are aspects of New Orleans that deserve attention but none are as postseason-transforming as the second return of Williamson – let us just hope that the NBA provides a stage for the show.

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Looking Back At The Draft: The No. 12 Picks

David Yapkowitz assesses the 12th picks made in recent NBA Drafts and identifies the hits, misses and everything in-between.

David Yapkowitz

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The further you get into the NBA draft, the harder it is to categorize hits and misses. There aren’t many expectations with later draft picks, especially in the second round. If a player ends up panning out, then great. If they don’t, it’s no big financial loss for the team and they can easily cut ties. When you’re still in the lottery, however, you probably expect a little more than just an average player. Superstars are never guaranteed, especially with late lottery selections. But you probably would expect to have a quality rotation player if not probable starter with a late lottery pick.

Here at Basketball Insiders, we’re continuing our look back at the draft, pick by pick, with each of the No. 12 picks going back the last 10 drafts. Let’s see how those picks have panned out.

The Hits

Steven Adams – Oklahoma City Thunder – 2013

The OKC Thunder didn’t have a lottery pick in the 2013 draft, but they acquired it from the Houston Rockets as part of the James Harden trade. With Adams, the Thunder certainly hit the mark. Only Giannis Antetokounmpo (who 13 other teams in addition to the Thunder passed on) and Rudy Gobert are players picked after Adams who have fared better.

Adams has become one of the best defensive players and rebounders in the league as well as a great screen setter and roll man in the pick and roll. He plays his role to perfection and is a starting-caliber center. He may not have hit All-Star status, but he is a legit starter and with a lottery pick, that’s probably what you would expect.

Gerald Henderson – Charlotte Bobcats – 2009

I’m going with a hit on this one. Henderson played nearly all of his eight-year career with the Bobcats with the exception of his final two years with the Portland Trail Blazers and Philadelphia 76ers respectively. He was unfortunately forced into early retirement due to nagging injury issues.

But for the eight years he was in the NBA, he was a capable scorer and mostly a starting-caliber wing player. As mentioned, with a late lottery pick, a starting-caliber player is what you should expect. Henderson averaged double-digits in scoring for most of his career and he shot in the mid-’40s from the field. If not for injuries, he probably would have played in the NBA for a few more years.

The Misses

Xavier Henry – Memphis Grizzlies – 2010

Going back to the last ten drafts, Henry is the only player picked No. 12 that I would consider to be a miss thus far. He had some hype coming out of Kansas and was expected to be a first-round pick and NBA contributor. He didn’t play much as a rookie with the Grizzlies and was traded to the New Orleans Hornets.

He showed some brief flashes with the Hornets but never really was able to sustain any sort of consistent success. He got hurt during his stint with the Los Angeles Lakers and that pretty much ended his NBA career after five years. He’s had a couple of G League appearances since then but didn’t really show that he was ready for an NBA return.

The Middle of the Road

Taurean Prince – Atlanta Hawks – 2016

Again, for a late lottery pick, a starting-caliber player is what you expect your selection to develop into. Prince is here under the middle of the road rather than hits because it’s still too early in his career to determine if he is truly a full-time starter.

With the Hawks, he certainly looked the part. After a so-so rookie year, he stepped up in a big way, becoming a scorer and deadly three-point shooter with solid defensive capabilities. When he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets last summer, he was considered to be a big pick up. This season, although he started in 61 of the 64 games he suited up in Brooklyn, his shooting suffered and he wasn’t as effective as he had been in Atlanta. There is still time for him to be considered a hit though.

Jeremy Lamb – Houston Rockets – 2012

Lamb is another player who had some high expectations coming out of college but got off to a rocky start in the NBA. He showed some flashes in Oklahoma City but was wildly inconsistent. But like many players, a change of scenery seemed to be all he needed.
He broke out when he arrived in Charlotte, becoming a solid bench scoring threat and becoming more of a regular in the starting lineup as the years went on.

He rightfully earned himself a solid payday from the Indiana Pacers and he started 42 of the 46 games he played in. Unfortunately for him, he suffered a season-ending injury in February. The Pacers are hoping he can bounce back from that.

Luke Kennard – Detroit Pistons – 2017

Another player that is still a little early to categorize. For now, he appears to be a middle of the ground type player. This is only his third year in the NBA, and he’s shown improvement each year. This season was a breakout year for him.

Since coming to the league, he’s been a very good three-point shooter. This season he was knocking down 39.9 percent of his attempts. His scoring has gone up every season and this year he had broken through to double-digits. He has some injury concerns, and he was actually out when the NBA suspended the season. But if he can bounce back healthy, then he certainly looks like a solid pick at No. 12.

The Role Players

Trey Lyles – Utah Jazz – 2015

In a league where the game is changing and traditional big men aren’t as common as they used to be, Lyles fits right in. Lyles seemingly was another case of a player who needed a change of scenery to find his niche. He wasn’t able to stick in either Utah or Denver, and it wasn’t until this season, his first in San Antonio, that he looked like a capable role player.

Lyles became a regular starter for the Spurs, and again, that’s what you want from a lottery pick. He isn’t included in the hits yet because this is the first season out of his five that he’s shown this. He doesn’t have a big enough sample size. He shot a career-best 38.7 percent from three and if he keeps this up, he’ll be a good pick albeit a late bloomer.

Alec Burks – Utah Jazz – 2011

Burks once looked like he was going to become more than just a solid NBA player. He might have had borderline All-Star potential. At least a starting-caliber shooting guard. But unfortunately for him, his career was seemingly derailed by early injuries.

He has since bounced back though. He’s reinvented himself as a scoring threat off the bench. He put up a career-high 16.1 points per game with the Golden State Warriors in the first half of the season. On a playoff team though, he’s a second unit player and that’s exactly what the 76ers were hoping for when they traded for him. He only had 11 games in Philly before the season was halted, but he’s done well to change his game and be effective despite major injuries.

Too Early to Tell

Dario Saric – Orlando Magic – 2014

I’m introducing a new category here, the too early to tell group. These players either don’t have a big enough sample size, or they have had circumstances that may have hindered their abilities. Saric falls into the latter part of that. He’s been a solid starting stretch-four when he’s gotten consistent playing time. But he struggled to adapt to being thrown around in different roles and inconsistent minutes with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns. He’s a pending restricted free agent who might not figure to be in the Suns future plans. Quite a few teams should consider throwing an offer his way.

Miles Bridges – Charlotte Bobcats – 2018

It’s a bit too early to make any major assessments on Bridges. This is only his second year in the NBA, a season that has been cut short. He mostly came off the bench as a rookie and had a pretty solid year with some aspects he could certainly improve upon. He looked much improved this season albeit some areas he could still work on.

He became a regular starting small forward for the Bobcats this season. He upped his scoring and rebounding and he’s often asked to guard multiple positions. He’s young and has a lot of room to improve. I don’t quite feel comfortable yet placing him in one of the above categories so that’s why he’s too early to tell. The future does look good for him though.

The later you go in the draft, the fewer expectations you put on the player you drafted. Franchise level players are not common, there are only a handful in the league. But at least with first-rounders, and especially a lottery pick, you’d expect to get at least a quality rotation player.
Judging by the production of the all the No. 12 picks for the past ten years, it’s safe to say that they all have, or look like they will pan out in some capacity. Only one of them is a sure-fire miss.

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