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NBA AM: Larkin Needs Opportunity, Stability

After playing for 3 teams (and 4 coaches) in 3 years, Shane Larkin wants to show what he learned.

Alex Kennedy

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Larkin Needs an Opportunity and Stability

Shane Larkin has played for three teams in his first three seasons in the NBA, and that number could easily become four teams in four seasons depending on what happens this July. That’s because Larkin opted out of the final $1.5 million of his contract, meaning he is an unrestricted free agent.

Larkin, the 18th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, has played for the Dallas Mavericks, New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets. He signed with Brooklyn last offseason because he loved New York and wanted an opportunity to play. With the Nets, he delivered the best season of his NBA career thus far.

The 23-year-old point guard averaged 7.3 points, 4.4 assists, 2.3 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 22.4 minutes for Brooklyn, and his per-100-possessions numbers were 16.3 points, 9.8 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 2.7 steals. In his 17 games as a starter this season, he averaged 9.5 points, 5.8 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 29.4 minutes. Larkin also shot a career-high 44.2 percent from the field and 36.1 percent from three-point range in Brooklyn.

He scored in double-figures 22 times this season and had a number of impressive performances throughout the year. In Brooklyn’s final back-to-back, Larkin was one of the team’s most productive players. He had 15 points, eight assists, four rebounds and one steal against the Indiana Pacers and then followed it up with 20 points (on 9-13 shooting from the field), seven assists and six rebounds against the Washington Wizards the next night. In late March, he led Brooklyn to consecutive wins over the Cleveland Cavaliers (contributing 16 points on 7-10 from the field, seven assists and three rebounds) and the Pacers (recording 14 points on 4-6 from the field, five assists and three steals).

Larkin has opted out of his contract and will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He did stress that he loves New York and that he would love to stay with Brooklyn if the franchise wants to grow with him moving forward. But it’s clear that Larkin is seeking stability and, preferably, a long-term home.

“I’m not a guy who wants to play a 10-year career with eight different teams; I want to find a home and really lock in with a team where I know what the coach wants, what my teammates want and we can just all grow together,” Larkin told Basketball Insiders. “I feel like that’s how you get the best out of your players. It’s not like, ‘Alright, let’s get this guy here for a year, he can fill in this void for us and then [move on].’ I just turned 23, so I’m still young. Being able to get with a team on a two-year deal or three-year deal saying, ‘This is what we want you to be. We want you to spark our offense, push the tempo, be this guy and this is what we feel you can do for the team,’ then that’s perfect. Whether I’m a starter or whatever, it’s cool either way. I just want to find a situation where a team wants to see me grow with them and not just [have me as] a fill-in. That’s the kind of situation I’d be looking for.”

The Nets won just 21 games this season, which led to big changes throughout the organization. Head coach Lionel Hollins was fired (Tony Brown became the interim coach) and general manager Billy King was replaced by Sean Marks. Also, the team announced on Sunday that it had hired Atlanta Hawks assistant coach Kenny Atkinson to be its new head coach. The front-office change could impact Larkin’s future since the general manager that signed him is no longer calling the shots. The coaching change affected him as well and he had to make a difficult midseason adjustment.

“It’s tough, especially as a point guard because you’re an extension of the coach on the floor,” Larkin said. “I mean, at the beginning of the year, there were several articles saying, ‘Oh, it’s Larkin’s breakout year, he’s finally found himself, averaging this and that, shooting well from the three.’ I was really comfortable with Coach Hollins. But after 37 games, to be exact, Coach Hollins was out of here and Billy King was released or whatever it was so it was like we didn’t really have a lot of direction. Coach Tony was kind of just handed the job like, ‘Alright, here you go.’ It was kind of like, ‘Just like go play basketball.’ [Until mid-February], there was no GM telling him who he wants to be played, what he wants to do. It changes everything because there’s no real direction. There’s no, ‘Oh, let’s play the young guys in this type of system.’ It’s kind of just like, ‘Okay, here’s the guys you have – go out and try to win basketball games.’ I mean, that’s tough. Coach Tony wanted to change some things up, whether it’s not running as many pick-and-rolls or playing more up-tempo, post feeds, cuts, stuff like that.

“It’s just difficult, when I’ve now been with four coaches in three years. It’s definitely easier when you’re with a team for a while and you know what your coach wants and you know what he expects from you. He knows what you can do, he knows the pros and cons to your game and he could put you in a position to be successful. So not really being able to be in that type of situation is difficult. But at the same time, I’m learning [from each coach], just like I did with the Triangle in New York and the system in Dallas. When I do get to a situation where I’m comfortable, all those things will help me be a better player. It’s tough, but I just have to keep working. No excuses.”

On the other hand, there are some positives that come with playing for so many coaches. Larkin has gotten the chance to pick the brain of Rick Carlisle, Derek Fisher, Hollins and Brown, while learning to play differently for each of them.

“You can see the chemistry that Brook [Lopez] and I have with the back-door cuts and everything, and I learned that from the Triangle,” Larkin said. “Before that – my rookie year in Dallas – I didn’t really have that knowledge of how to cut off the post and what not, but the Triangle taught me that. For whatever reason, some people don’t like the Triangle, but it really helped me in terms of playing off of the post. So I’ll throw it into Brook, make my read off the post and me and him are really deadly in that when he’s dropping it off to me when I’m cutting to the basket. I’d say that helped me this year. It helped me take another step up, progressing in the pick-and-roll, learning when to drop the pocket pass, when to feed the big, when to shoot the pull-up. I’ve just been progressing every single year.”

While this past year was certainly frustrating at times, Larkin is remaining positive and looking for lessons from the campaign. He acknowledges that he still has a lot of room for growth, but did say that he grew as a player during his third NBA season.

“I’ve learned a lot,” Larkin said. “This is really my first year being in the pick-and-roll system since my rookie year, but I missed half of that with a broken ankle. So it’s just been a progression on reads, what I should be looking for when we are in the single eye, double eye and just being patient in the pick-and-roll. That was something that Coach Hollins was really preaching to me at the beginning of the year: making the right reads, the pick-and-roll, defensively what I need to do more of and things like that. The more you play, the more experience you gain. Overall, I’ve learned a lot this year.”

When players enter the NBA out of college, they’re often asked what NBA players they study. Well, as a point guard, Larkin spends most evenings playing against some of the best basketball players on the planet since there are so many stars at his position. When asked which players he has learned from since being in the league and who he tries to model his game after, Larkin mainly focused on Los Angeles Clippers floor general Chris Paul.

“Every time Chris Paul plays, I try to watch him just because he’s masterful in the pick-and-roll,” Larkin said. “There are certain guys you can’t really watch and play like, you know? You see Steph Curry and you can’t do Steph Curry stuff. You can’t do what Russell Westbrook does because he’s 6’4 and he beats everybody off the dribble. CP is my size, he’s not the quickest guy in the league and he just plays with a nice pace to his game. He always sets his man up, gets in the lane, knows when to throw the lob, when to throw the pocket pass and he just knows where all his people are on the court. I would say he’s somebody that I really watch a lot. [Shooting coach] David Nurse sends me clips of him constantly. Steve Nash is another guy I get sent clips of often. Those are the guys that I watch and try to learn from.”

While Larkin’s career hasn’t gotten off to the start that many expected, it’s important to note that he has improved each year and played well when put in position to succeed. Sometimes, it takes some time before a player is given a great opportunity or put in the perfect situation

It wasn’t until Chauncey Billups was in his sixth season (and on his fifth team, the Detroit Pistons) that he became a full-time starter and thrived.

Or take Kyle Lowry, for example. It took several years and changes of scenery before he became the perennial All-Star everyone knows today. Now that Lowry is a star, it’s easy to forget that he didn’t become a starter until his fifth season in the NBA and wasn’t an All-Star until he was 28 years old and in his ninth year in the league.

Larkin looks at Billups’ and Lowry’s journeys and hopes he can have a similar path to success after bouncing around the league during his first three seasons.

“A lot of the NBA is about your situation,” Larkin said. “Kyle Lowry was in Memphis his first couple years and he wasn’t playing bad, but he was a back-up with solid numbers like eight or nine points a game and a couple assists. Then, he went to Houston, started there and then it was 12 or 13 points a game, not really killing it. But then he got to Toronto and he’s taking off now. He’s been an All-Star two years in a row and he’s one of the best point guards in the league.

“It’s just progression. It’s about work ethic and finding the right situation. That’s really all it’s about. You just have to get to a situation where the team really wants you to progress and excel so you can go far with the team and grow with them. I feel like I can do that. It’s possible – you just have to keep working, keep getting better and just find the right situation.”

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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NBA Announces 2018 NBA Draft Early Entry Candidates

The NBA announced the 2018 NBA Draft Early Entry list, including 181 players from colleges and post-graduate institutions and 55 international players.

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NEW YORK, April 24, 2018 – The National Basketball Association announced today that 236 players — 181 players from colleges and post-graduate institutions and 55 international players — have filed as early entry candidates for the 2018 NBA Draft presented by State Farm.

Players wishing to enter the 2018 NBA Draft were required to submit a letter to the NBA to be received no later than Sunday, April 22. Players who have applied for early entry have the right to withdraw their names from consideration for the Draft by notifying the NBA of their decision in writing no later than 5 p.m. ET on Monday, June 11. Under NCAA rules, in order to retain college basketball eligibility, underclassmen who have entered the 2018 Draft must withdraw by Wednesday, May 30.

Following is the list of players from colleges and post-graduate institutions who have applied for early entry into the 2018 NBA Draft, which will be held Thursday, June 21 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

EARLY ENTRY CANDIDATES FOR 2018 NBA DRAFT

Player  School  Height  Status
Aaron Holiday  UCLA  6-1  Junior
Aaron Menzies  Seattle  7-3  Junior
Abdul Lewis  NJIT  6-10  Junior
Adjin Penava  Marshall  6-9  Junior
Admiral Schofield  Tennessee  6-5  Junior
Admon Gilder  Texas A&M  6-4  Junior
Ahmaad Rorie  Montana  6-1  Junior
Allonzo Trier  Arizona  6-5  Junior
Andrien White  Charlotte  6-3  Junior
Anfernee Simons  IMG Academy  6-4  Post-Graduate
Austin Wiley  Auburn  6-11  Freshman
Barry Brown Jr.  Kansas State  6-3  Junior
Billy Preston  Kansas  6-10  Freshman
Brandon McCoy  UNLV  7-1  Freshman
Brandon Sampson  LSU  6-5  Junior
Brian Bowen II  South Carolina  6-7  Freshman
Bruce Brown Jr.  Miami  6-5  Sophomore
Bruno Fernando  Maryland  6-10  Freshman
Bryant Crawford  Wake Forest  6-3  Junior
Bryce Brown  Auburn  6-3  Junior
C.J. Burks  Marshall  6-4  Junior
Caleb Martin  Nevada  6-7  Junior
Carsen Edwards  Purdue  6-1  Sophomore
Charles Matthews  Michigan  6-6  Sophomore
Chimezie Metu  USC  6-11  Junior
Chris Clemons  Campbell  5-9  Junior
Chris Silva  South Carolina  6-9  Junior
Christian Keeling  Charleston Southern  6-4  Sophomore
Christian Mekowulu  Tennessee State  6-9  Junior
Christian Vital  Connecticut  6-2  Sophomore
Cody Martin  Nevada  6-7  Junior
Cody Riley  UCLA  6-10  Freshman
Collin Sexton  Alabama  6-3  Freshman
Corey Sanders  Rutgers  6-2  Junior
Deandre Ayton  Arizona  7-1  Freshman
DeAngelo Isby  Utah State  6-5  Junior
Demajeo Wiggins  Bowling Green  6-10  Junior
Deng Adel  Louisville  6-7  Junior
Deshon Taylor  Fresno State  6-2  Junior
Devonte Klines  Montana State  6-0  Junior
Dewan Huell  Miami  6-11  Sophomore
Dextor Foster  ASA College (FL)  6-5  Junior
De’Anthony Melton  USC  6-4  Freshman
Dikembe Dixson  UIC  6-7  Sophomore
DJ Hogg  Texas A&M  6-9  Junior
Dominic Magee  Southern Mississippi  6-4  Junior
Donte DiVincenzo  Villanova  6-5  Sophomore
Doral Moore  Wake Forest  7-1  Junior
Drew Eubanks  Oregon State  6-10  Junior
Elijah Bryant  BYU  6-5  Junior
Eric Davis Jr.  Texas  6-3  Junior
Esa Ahmad  West Virginia  6-8  Junior
Ethan Happ  Wisconsin  6-10  Junior
Eugene German  Northern Illinois  6-0  Sophomore
Fletcher Magee  Wofford  6-4  Junior
Fred Sims Jr.  Chicago State  6-4  Junior
Gary Trent Jr.  Duke  6-6  Freshman
Haanif Cheatham  FGCU  6-5  Junior
Hamidou Diallo  Kentucky  6-5  Freshman
Isaac Copeland Jr.  Nebraska  6-9  Junior
Isaiah Moss  Iowa  6-5  Sophomore
Isaiah Reese  Canisius  6-5  Sophomore
Ismaila Kane  Atlanta Metropolitan  6-9  Freshman
Jacob Evans  Cincinnati  6-6  Junior
Jalen Brunson  Villanova  6-3  Junior
Jalen Hudson  Florida  6-6  Junior
Jalen McDaniels  San Diego State  6-10  Freshman
Jalon Pipkins  Cal State-Northridge  6-4  Freshman
James Palmer Jr.  Nebraska  6-6  Junior
Jared Harper  Auburn  5-10  Sophomore
Jaren Jackson Jr.  Michigan State  6-11  Freshman
Jarred Vanderbilt  Kentucky  6-9  Freshman
Jarrey Foster  SMU  6-6  Junior
Jaylen Hands  UCLA  6-3  Freshman
Jaylin Walker  Kent State  6-1  Junior
Jerome Robinson  Boston College  6-6  Junior
Jessie Govan  Georgetown  6-10  Junior
Jon Davis  Charlotte  6-3  Junior
Jon Elmore  Marshall  6-3  Junior
Jontay Porter  Missouri  6-11  Freshman
Jordan Brangers  South Plains College (TX)  6-2 S  ophomore
Jordan Caroline  Nevada  6-7  Junior
Jordan Davis  Northern Colorado  6-2  Junior
Jordan Murdock  Friends University  6-4  Junior
Josh Okogie  Georgia Tech  6-4  Sophomore
Justin Jackson  Maryland  6-7  Sophomore
Justin James  Wyoming  6-7  Junior
Justin Wright-Foreman  Hofstra  6-1  Junior
Juwan Morgan  Indiana  6-8  Junior
Kaiser Gates  Xavier  6-8  Junior
Kalob Ledoux  McNeese State  6-3  Sophomore
Kameron Chatman  Detroit  6-9  Junior
Keanu Peters  Salt Lake CC (UT)  6-2  Sophomore
Keita Bates-Diop  Ohio State  6-7  Junior
Kerwin Roach II  Texas  6-4  Junior
Kevin Huerter  Maryland  6-7  Sophomore
Kevin Knox  Kentucky  6-9  Freshman
Khyri Thomas  Creighton  6-3  Junior
Kostas Antetokounmpo  Dayton  6-10  Freshman
Kris Wilkes  UCLA  6-8  Freshman
Ky Bowman  Boston College  6-1  Sophomore
Lagerald Vick  Kansas  6-5  Junior
Lamar Peters  Mississippi State  6-0  Sophomore
Lamonte Bearden  Western Kentucky  6-3  Junior
Landry Shamet  Wichita State  6-4  Sophomore
Leron Black  Illinois  6-7  Junior
Lindell Wigginton  Iowa State  6-2  Freshman
Lonnie Walker  Miami  6-4  Freshman
Luke Maye  North Carolina  6-8  Junior
Makinde London  Tennessee-Chattanooga  6-10 Juni  or
Malik Hines  Massachusetts  6-10  Junior
Malik Martin  South Florida  6-11  Junior
Malik Newman  Kansas  6-3  Sophomore
Marcquise Reed  Clemson  6-3  Junior
Marcus Derrickson  Georgetown  6-7  Junior
Markis McDuffie  Wichita State  6-8  Junior
Marquez Letcher-Ellis  Rice  6-7  Sophomore
Marvin Bagley III  Duke  6-11  Freshman
Matt Morgan  Cornell  6-3  Junior
Max Montana  San Diego State  6-9  Junior
Melvin Frazier Jr.  Tulane  6-6  Junior
Micah Seaborn  Monmouth  6-5  Junior
Michael Gilmore  FGCU  6-10  Junior
Michael Porter Jr.  Missouri  6-10  Freshman
Mikal Bridges  Villanova  6-6  Junior
Mike Amius  Western Carolina  6-7  Junior
Mike Daum  South Dakota State  6-9  Junior
Miles Bridges  Michigan State  6-7  Sophomore
Mitchell Robinson  Western Kentucky  7-0  Freshman
Mohamed Bamba  Texas  6-11  Freshman
Moritz Wagner  Michigan  6-11  Junior
Mustapha Heron  Auburn  6-5  Sophomore
Nick Ward  Michigan State  6-8  Sophomore
Noah Dickerson  Washington  6-8  Junior
Nojel Eastern  Purdue  6-6  Freshman
Omari Spellman  Villanova  6-9  Freshman
PJ Washington  Kentucky  6-7  Freshman
Quinndary Weatherspoon  Mississippi State  6-4  Junior
Quinton Rose  Temple  6-8  Sophomore
Rawle Alkins  Arizona  6-5  Sophomore
Ray Ona Embo  Tulane  6-5  Sophomore
Ray Spalding  Louisville  6-9  Junior
Reid Travis  Stanford  6-8  Junior
Robert Franks Jr.  Washington State  6-7  Junior
Robert Williams III  Texas A&M  6-10  Sophomore
Ronshad Shabazz  Appalachian State  6-5  Junior
Sagaba Konate  West Virginia  6-8  Sophomore
Sedrick Barefield  Utah  6-2  Junior
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander  Kentucky  6-6  Freshman
Shake Milton  SMU  6-6  Junior
Shamorie Ponds  St. John痴  6-1  Sophomore
Shawntrez Davis  Bethune-Cookman  6-9  Junior
Shelton Mitchell  Clemson  6-3  Junior
Takal Molson  Canisius  6-5  Freshman
Tashawn Berry  Dakota College (ND)  6-3  Sophomore
Tavarius Shine  Oklahoma State  6-6  Junior
Terence Davis  Mississippi  6-4  Junior
Terry Larrier  Connecticut  6-8  Junior
Tony Carr  Penn State  6-5  Sophomore
Torin Dorn  North Carolina State  6-5  Junior
Trae Young  Oklahoma  6-2  Freshman
Tramaine Isabell Jr.  Drexel  6-1  Junior
Travis Munnings  Louisiana-Monroe  6-6  Junior
Tremaine Fraiser  Westchester CC (NY)  6-3  Sophomore
Tremont Waters  LSU  5-11  Freshman
Trevon Duval  Duke  6-3  Freshman
Troy Brown Jr.  Oregon  6-7  Freshman
Tyler Cook  Iowa  6-9  Sophomore
Tyler Davis  Texas A&M  6-10  Junior
Tyler Hall  Montana State  6-4  Junior
Tyus Battle  Syracuse  6-6  Sophomore
Udoka Azubuike  Kansas  7-0  Sophomore
Victor Lewis II  West Texas A&M  6-3  Junior
Wendell Carter Jr.  Duke  6-10  Freshman
Wenyen Gabriel  Kentucky  6-9  Sophomore
Yankuba Sima  Oklahoma State  6-11  Junior
Yoeli Childs  BYU  6-8  Sophomore
Zach Hankins  Ferris State  6-10  Junior
Zach Johnson  FGCU  6-2  Junior
Zane Martin  Towson  6-4  Sophomore
Zhaire Smith  Texas Tech  6-5  Freshman

The following is the list of international players who have applied for early entry into the 2018 NBA Draft:

Player  Team/Country of Team  Height  Status
Adam Mokoka  Gravelines (France)  6-4  1998 DOB
Aleksander Dziewa  Slask Wroclaw (Poland)  6-9  1997 DOB
Amine Noua  ASVEL (France)  6-8  1997 DOB
Antonios Koniaris  PAOK (Greece)  6-4  1997 DOB
Arnoldas Kulboka  Capo d丹rlando (Italy)  6-10  1998 DOB
Berkan Durmaz  Tofas (Turkey)  6-9  1997 DOB
Berke Atar  Bandirma Kirmizi (Turkey)  6-11  1999 DOB
Blaz Mesicek  Brindisi (Italy)  6-6  1997 DOB
Darel Poirier  Charleville (France)  6-9  1997 DOB
Dzanan Musa  Cedevita (Croatia)  6-8  1999 DOB
Elie Okobo  Pau Orthez (France)  6-2  1997 DOB
Emanuel Cate  Prat (Spain)  6-9  1997 DOB
Erxhan Osmani  Bandirma Kirmizi (Turkey)  6-9  1998 DOB
Etienne Ca  Chalon (France)  6-11  1997 DOB
Filip Zagrajski  Beli Manastir (Croatia)  6-4  1997 DOB
Gabriel Galvanini  Bauru (Brazil)  6-8  1998 DOB
Georgios Kalaitzakis  Panathinaikos (Greece)  6-6  1999 DOB
Goga Bitadze  Mega Bemax (Serbia)  6-11  1999 DOB
Ibrahima Faye  Poitiers (France)  6-10  1997 DOB
Isaac Bonga  Fraport Skyliners (Germany)  6-9  1999 DOB
Issuf Sanon  Olimpija (Slovenia)  6-3  1999 DOB
Jean-Marc Pansa  Nanterre (France)  6-10  1997 DOB
Karim Jallow  Bayern Munich (Germany)  6-7  1997 DOB
Laurynas Beliauskas  Neptunas (Lithuania)  6-4  1997 DOB
Laurynas Birutis  Siauliai (Lithuania)  7-0  1997 DOB
Leon Kratzer  Wuerzburg (Germany)  6-11  1997 DOB
Leonardo Tote  Verona (Italy)  6-10  1997 DOB
LiAngelo Ball  UCLA/Vytautas (Lithuania)  6-5  1998 DOB
Louis Olinde  Brose Baskets (Germany)  6-9  1998 DOB
Luka Doncic  Real Madrid (Spain)  6-7  1999 DOB
Marcel Ponitka  Asseco (Poland)  6-5  1997 DOB
Martynas Echodas  Lietuvos Rytas (Lithuania)  6-9  1997 DOB
Martynas Varnas  Pieno Zvaigzdes (Lithuania)  6-5  1997 DOB
Matas Jogela  Zalgiris II (Lithuania)  6-6  1998 DOB
Matur Maker  CIBA (Canada)  6-11  1998 DOB
Melvyn Govindy  Cholet (France)  7-0  1997 DOB
Michael Uchendu  Bauru (Brazil)  6-9  1998 DOB
Michal Kolenda  Trefl Sopot (Poland)  6-7  1997 DOB
Muhaymin Mustafa  Anadolu Efes (Turkey)  6-5  1999 DOB
Rihards Berzins  Liepaja (Latvia)  6-11  1997 DOB
Rodions Kurucs  Barcelona (Spain)  6-9  1998 DOB
Romaric Belemene  Oviedo (Spain)  6-9  1997 DOB
Shekinah Munanga  Monaco (France)  6-7  1997 DOB
Sigfredo Casero-Ortiz  GET Vosges (France)  6-1  1997 DOB
Stephane Gombauld  Lille Metropole (France)  6-9  1997 DOB
Tadas Sedekerskis  Nevezis (Lithuania)  6-8  1998 DOB
Tryggvi Hlinason  Valencia (Spain)  7-1  1997 DOB
Vanja Marinkovic  Partizan (Serbia)  6-6  1997 DOB
Vasileios Charalampopoulos P  AOK (Greece)  6-9  1997 DOB
Viny Okouo  Unicaja (Spain)  7-1  1997 DOB
William McDowell-White B  aunach (Germany) 6  -5  1998 DOB
Williams Narace  Nancy (France)  6-8  1997 DOB
Xabier Lopez-Arostegui  Joventut Badalona (Spain)  6-6  1997 DOB
Yago Dos Santos  Paulistano (Brazil)  5-10  1999 DOB
Yoan Granvorka  Monthey (Switzerland)  6-7  1997 DOB

Check out the latest Basketball Insiders Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects.

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NBA Daily: Deep Bench Stays Ready for the Pelicans

Though out of the rotation, DeAndre Liggins and Jordan Crawford are staying ready to step up and contribute for New Orleans, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz

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As DeAndre Liggins is standing by his locker talking about what his next move might be in terms of free agency, he gets a ringing endorsement from the New Orleans Pelicans’ franchise guy, Anthony Davis.

“He ain’t going nowhere,” Davis shouts from across the locker room. “He ain’t going nowhere.”

Liggins pauses for a moment, lets out a laugh and then turns back.

“I don’t know, I’ll have to talk to Dell [Demps],” Liggins told Basketball Insiders with a grin.

With the NBA playoffs in full swing, there are always those guys on the fringe — players who may not always know when they’ll have a chance to get into a game. It can be tough sitting on the bench and watching the rest of the team partake in the postseason.

For players like Liggins, however, they’re just as much a part of the team as the guys in the rotation. They do bring value to the team. And they patiently await their turn, however long that may take. Even if he doesn’t get to play in an actual playoff game, Liggins believes he understands the atmosphere.

“It started off in Orlando, a playoff team. OKC was a playoff team. I’ve been in the playoffs twice,” Liggins told Basketball Insiders. “I haven’t experienced playing minutes, but I know what the feeling is like, I know what the vibe is like. It’ll be great going into the playoffs, we’ll be ready.”

Liggins has never spent more than one season with any team. He’s spent the past seven years shuffling between the Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder, Miami HEAT, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Milwaukee Bucks and now New Orleans.

He had a bit of a breakthrough with Cleveland where he emerged as one of the better perimeter defenders on the team. He started 19 games for the Cavaliers last season and shot 37.8 percent from the three-point line. It’s been that 3 and D calling card that’s allowed him to latch on from team to team despite never really playing major minutes.

“Just bringing that defensive energy. I do all the little things like take charges, all the intangibles,” Liggins told Basketball Insiders. “I was the same way at Kentucky. You got to stick to what you know, what you do, and play a role. Especially when you’re in the league and being on this type of team.”

Liggins has a non-guaranteed contract for next season. It’s too early to know what the Pelicans front office will decide to do. He isn’t focused on that right now though. Right now, the focus is helping New Orleans make a deep playoff run even if he isn’t on the court that much.

He joined the Pelicans around mid-season after being cut by the Bucks. Although he hasn’t been on the team for very long, he’s already noticed the competitiveness and togetherness of this group. They rallied around each other following the season ending injury to DeMarcus Cousins.

“We just clicked and gelled when [Cousins] went down,” Liggins told Basketball Insiders. “I think we lost three or four in a row then after that we just started changing the way we play.”

Aside from Liggins, the Pelicans also feature Jordan Crawford who is in a similar situation right now. Their career beginnings may be a bit different, Crawford was a regular rotation player for playoff teams in the past, but as playoff rotations have tightened up, Crawford has also found himself on the outside looking in.

He was on the Pelicans roster to begin the season but was cut in favor of Jameer Nelson when an injury to Rajon Rondo precipitated the need for point guard help. He had been a key player in the rotation but upon his return near the end of the season, he found himself mostly glued to the bench.

Crawford initially was a bench scorer for the Pelicans, capable of getting hot quickly and putting up a flurry of points on the board. He was nicknamed ‘Instant Grits’ by Cousins due to his penchant for scoring. He’s a little bit unsure though of what he’s going to be asked to do this time around.

“I have no clue. I’m going to try to find out,” Crawford told Basketball Insiders. “I’m going to work my way through, do what I got to do to make the coaches happy and stuff like that. But I don’t know my role yet.”

When Crawford signed with the Pelicans earlier this month, his contract was only for the duration of the regular season and playoffs. He too will be entering free agency this summer, and due to his lack of postseason playing time, he might have to rely on past performances to secure that next contract.

He also isn’t too concerned about that right now. While he is anticipating the summertime, he’s just thrilled to be back with a familiar team, even if the playing time is scarce right now.

“I’m looking forward to the summer, definitely looking forward to the offseason,” Crawford told Basketball Insiders. “I’m happy I accomplished getting back on the team for the season. That’s good right now, I’m satisfied with that for right now.”

Although he was cut despite having initially carved out an important role on the team, Crawford always remained positive and believed things would eventually fall into place. He wasn’t sure if that place would be New Orleans, but he’s glad that it was them who came calling once again.

“I didn’t think I’d be back here. They did stay kind of connected with me, talked to me,” Crawford told Basketball Insiders. “I did have a good time while I was here, so it wasn’t no bad attitude, hard feelings or nothing. It always could’ve worked and by not having a bad attitude it allowed it to work again. It’s been a blessing.”

They stayed in contact with him and made him feel like a part of the team again. And for players like Crawford and Liggins, players who may not know who their next contract is coming from or when their next minute on the court might be, sometimes that makes all the difference

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