With 2018 finally (mercifully) here and All-Star voting well underway, now is a perfectly appropriate time to take a closer look at which breakout players could be on the cusp of making their first All-Star teams.
Victor Oladipo, G, Indiana Pacers
Of all the players mentioned here, Oladipo is far and away the most likely to appear on his first All-Star team come February. He transformed into the savior Indiana fans did not know they were getting in the Paul George trade and is already doing things that George didn’t (like hitting game-winning shots).
Among the top-10 scorers in the NBA this year and first among Eastern Conference guards, Oladipo has put up the numbers but also has shouldered the load of a team that absolutely would not be in playoff contention without his transcendence. He seems like a lock to make the team, and based on merit, would even be worthy of starting.
Joel Embiid, C, Philadelphia 76ers
While the Sixers have not taken the step forward as a team we all would have liked, Embiid himself has continued along the path he was on his rookie season before succumbing to injury. Assuming he stays healthy through February, he could very well be on track to make his first All-Star team this year, perhaps even through the popular fan vote. That wouldn’t be shocking considering his affluence on Twitter and charismatic gleam, but the numbers support a nod, too. Embiid is first among Eastern Conference centers in scoring, fourth in rebounds, third in assists and second in blocks. All that plus his penchant for generating social media gold could easily get him in.
Ben Simmons, G, Philadelphia 76ers
Embiid’s teammate Ben Simmons will get some consideration, too, though making the All-Star team as a rookie always has been a tough row to hoe. In fact, nobody has done that since Blake Griffin in 2011, and while it’s not likely a sub-.500 team ends up with two All-Stars, Simmons has the numbers to at least stake a claim. Currently, he is averaging 16.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game, while also chipping in nearly a steal and two blocks every contest. Frankly, his candidacy boils down to how the NBA world feels about John Wall and Kemba Walker, as those two guys are likely to be his stiffest competition at the end of the Eastern Conference guard rotation.
Kristaps Porzingis, F, New York Knicks
The Knicks are back in playoff contention for the first time in half a decade, and Porzingis’ continued rise into the NBA elite is a big reason why. Currently fifth among all Eastern Conference scorers at 24.5 points per game, Porzingis is now the unquestioned cornerstone of the franchise who has done everything asked of him. He’s shooting a career-high from three, averaging a career-high 2.2 blocks per game, and currently boasting a career-high 22.5 PER. Most importantly, his team is winning way more games than expected, which combined with his stats is more than enough to earn him serious consideration for this year’s seemingly wide-open Eastern Conference All-Star squad.
Bradley Beal, G, Washington Wizards
For those that haven’t been paying close attention to the Washington Wizards this season, it looks for now as though Beal has a better chance of making the All-Star team than his All-Star teammate John Wall. The funny thing is that he’s not really doing anything different from a year ago except shooting a little less efficiently and hauling in a career-high 4.4 rebounds per game. But his ability to take over games and his transformation into a mature veteran leader in Washington has really put him on the map this year, especially with the exodus of some of last year’s Eastern Conference All-Stars to the West. On New Year’s Eve, for example, Beal dropped a 39-9-9 line on the Chicago Bulls and scored 15 straight points in a key stretch of the fourth quarter to help spark a win, and it’s that kind of thing that’s going to boost the trumpeting that Beal finally deserves his spot on this team.
Clint Capela, C, Houston Rockets
Out West, where there are so many more big names (and so many more Golden State Warriors), potential newbs are going to have a harder time sneaking into the All-Star Game. Take Clint Capela for example, who is having a career year for the West’s second-best team. While his 14 points per game don’t appear transcendent, he’s doing it shooting a league-best 68.2 percent from the field while also hauling in 11.1 rebounds per game, which is fourth among Western Conference players. His 26.5 PER is one of the highest in the league among big men, and despite a December skid, his team is one of the best in the league. He’s not making the All-Star team ahead of some of the flashier personalities in this pool, but his play this year has at least earned him some recognition. He’ll end up with an appropriate number of votes if he does fall short of earning a roster spot.
Nikola Jokic, C, Denver Nuggets
Jokic’s style of play is about as easy on the eyes as it gets for NBA big men, and his 2017-2018 campaign has been every bit as good as his 2016-2017 breakout year. Despite averaging a double-double for the first time in his three-year career, Jokic’s insane field goal percentage from a year ago is down, even as he shoots and makes more of his three-pointers. Even more convincing is that Denver currently is the sixth-best team in the West, even after having lost Paul Millsap. For Jokic, making an All-Star squad is more than justifiable. There’s nothing really new to report here, as Jokic is everything he was a year ago. That wasn’t enough to make him in All-Star in 2017, though. Will it be enough this year?
Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Minnesota Timberwolves
There’s just something about those Kentucky big men in the Western Conference. Towns, as well as Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, all are averaging 20/10 double-doubles this season, though Towns, at 20.3 points and 11.5 boards per game, has been the “least dominant” of the three. While everything is relative, those 20.3 points are down 20 percent from a year ago, likely a result of working Jimmy Butler into that Minnesota offense, but the Wolves are fourth in that tough conference and Towns is as deserving as anybody on the team to represent Minnesota in the All-Star Game.
NBA All-Star voting remains open, so if there is a first-time All-Star you’d like to see represent their conference at the All-Star game in just under seven weeks, now is the time to get your votes in to help ensure they make it there.
NBA Daily: Jaylen Hands Makes Good Showing at the NBA Combine
Jaylen Hands made a good showing at the NBA Combine by displaying his offensive skills and defensive intensity.
UCLA has produced a few of the NBA’s top point guards over the last decade or so, including Russell Westbrook and Jrue Holiday. Jrue’s younger brother, Aaron Holiday, has declared for this year’s draft and is projected by several NBA insiders to be selected with a first-round pick (likely in the 20-30 range). But Aaron Holiday isn’t the only UCLA point guard who may end up taking his talents to the NBA this offseason. Jaylen Hands, who is still just 19 years old and finished his freshman season, has also entered his name into this year’s draft.
While Hands has entered his name into the draft and participated in the NBA Combine, he has not hired an agent, which preserves his ability to return to college (Hands has until June 11 to make a final decision). Considering Hands’ young age and raw skill set, he isn’t projected by many insiders to hear his name called on draft night. But he certainly helped his cause in the Combine, showcasing his offensive talents, the muscle he has added to his slight frame since the end of his freshman season and aggressiveness on defense.
Basketball Insiders spoke with Hands at the Combine about his development, going through the pre-draft process, competing against familiar faces and more.
“It’s crazy, it’s crazy because when we were younger, they said the exact thing: ‘You guys are going to see each other forever.’” Hands said when asked about competing against many of the same players over the years and now at the Combine. “And you don’t really believe what they’re saying. But now you go through high school, you’re a senior, All-Star activities and you go to the Combine, you see the same people. It’s crazy.”
Hands has a notable skill set but is a raw prospect that many believe would be better served spending another year in college. While Hands needs to continue filling out his frame, he did register decent measurements at the Combine in relation to a top guard prospect – Trae Young of Oklahoma. Hands weighed in at 1.2 lbs heavier than Young, and outmatched Young in height (with and without shoes), standing reach and wingspan. Ironically, Hands has the smallest hands of all players that participated in the Combine. While these measurements don’t mean that he is currently a comparable prospect to Young, they could address some concerns about his current physical profile and how it may ultimately translate to the NBA.
Hands proved himself to be a confident and aggressive player in his freshman season at UCLA – something that he believes has led to misconceptions about his game.
“I’m not a point guard,” Hands said when asked about what misconceptions people have about his game.
I wouldn’t say it’s common, like it’s the main thing. But I’ve heard that I shoot first or something like that. I just feel like I attack a lot. I think I attack a lot and I’m of size to being a [two guard], so I think some people get it misconstrued. I just think I’m attack first, set my teammates up, get what I get.”
Hands is clearly aware of the common perceptions and current shortcomings in his game, which is why he is working hard to improve his overall skill set and is testing the NBA waters to get feedback from teams.
“Before I came here, just being more steady working on my shot, making good reads out of the pick and roll, finishing.” Hands said when asked about what parts of his game he was working on before coming to the Combine.
Hands was asked to clarify what he believes is his best strength at this point. Hands didn’t hesitate and pointed toward his ability to make plays off the dribble.
“My best strength is getting in the paint. So I get in the paint and make plays,” Hands said.
Hands is also clearly aware of UCLA’s history of producing quality point guards and has a chance to one day develop into a quality guard at the NBA level. However, with Holiday heading to the NBA and no major competition for the starting point guard position at UCLA next season, it may benefit Hands to hold off on turning pro for at least another year.
Whether he stays at UCLA or commits to this year’s draft, there’s no doubt that Hands is going to keep pushing to develop into a quality NBA player.
“I want to be the best player I can in the league,” Hands said. “That’s my goal.”
NBA Daily: 2018 60-Pick NBA Mock Draft – 5/22/18
The final 2018 NBA Draft order is set and Basketball Insiders’ publisher Steve Kyler offers up his latest 60-pick NBA Mock Draft.
Lots of Draft Movement
With the draft order now set for the 2018 NBA Draft, there is some sense of how the draft might play out.
The buzz coming out of the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago is that a number of picks could be had in trade include all three of the top selections. Word is the initial asking price is very high and more of an indication to the San Antonio Spurs that if they do want to part with disgruntled star Kawhi Leonard, they are open for business.
It’s also worth noting that there is a growing sense that both the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawk may be far higher on some of the domestic bigs in the draft more so than euro sensation Luka Dončić. Both teams are expected to take a long look at Dončić, so their views on him could change as we get closer to the draft, but for now, Dončić may go lower.
Here is the latest 60-Pick NBA Mock Draft, reflecting the final draft order and the latest buzz, rumors, and intel from in and around the NBA:Dates To Know:
The NCAA requires all players wishing to maintain their college eligibility, without penalty, to withdraw from the NBA Draft by 11:59 pm on May 30. That is an NCAA mandated date, not related to anything involving the NBA, and that notice must be delivered in writing.
The NBA’s draft withdrawal date is June 11 by 5:00 pm ET. The NBA’s date allows a prospect to remain NBA draft eligible for future NBA drafts and is not related to any NCAA rule or date. There are ways for college players that did not accept benefits to return to college. However, they may be subject to NCAA penalties.
The 2018 NBA Draft is June 21.
The Pick Swaps:
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. This pick will convey.
The LA Clippers are owed the Detroit Pistons first-round pick in 2018 as a result of the Blake Griffin trade.
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 final NBA standings.
The Phoenix Suns were owed the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick would only convey if the Bucks pick landed between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the final NBA standings did not convey. The Suns will now receive the Bucks 2019 first-round pick assuming it falls between the fourth and 16th pick.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first-round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick was lottery protected and would convey to Atlanta based on the final NBA standings.
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 was lottery protected and would convey based on the final NBA standings.
The Chicago Bulls are owed the New Orleans Pelicans first-round pick as a result of the Nikola Mirotic trade. The pick was top-five protected and based on the final NBA 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 was top-three protected and based on the final NBA 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 was lottery protected and based on the final NBA 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 was top-three protected and based on the final NBA 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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NBA Daily: Shamet Comfortable With Steady Self Going Into Draft
With a natural feel for the game, Wichita State guard Landry Shamet has more than enough of a chance to carve his own path of success in the NBA.
No matter what professional field a person wants to work in, there are multiple ways to show why they belong.
A positive attitude is everything, confidence goes a long way and honesty truly is the best policy.
Speaking with Wichita State product Landry Shamet this past week at the NBA Combine in Chicago, it’s clear that he has all three of those boxes checked off.
“It’s been great,” Shamet said of the event. “Just trying to absorb everything, soak everything up. It’s a big learning experience for sure. A lot of knowledge to be attained (at the Combine). With interviews and playing on the court, being coached by NBA guys, it’s been cool so far.”
During his three years with the Shockers, the 6-foot-4, 188-pound guard accomplished quite a few feats, but his junior season was arguably the most spectacular. Not only did Shamet lead his team in multiple ways, but he also topped out in four statistical categories in the American Athletic Conference—the school’s first year there after moving on from the Missouri Valley.
Shamet’s 166 assists (5.2 per game average) were the most in the AAC by far. In addition, his true shooting percentage (65.5) and three-point percentage (44.2) ranked number one among his peers.
From entering the program in 2015 to now, he feels that he’s grown dramatically as a player—but in what areas, specifically?
“I would say being a point guard honestly,” Shamet said. “I was recruited in as a two. But just kinda that leadership role, that accountability. Knowing that you’re gonna get a lot of scrutiny (after) a loss and you’re gonna be responsible for a win. Regardless of how the game goes, it’s your responsibility.”
Much of his development at Wichita State was courtesy of a hands-on approach with Gregg Marshall, one of the most revered head coaches in college basketball. Thanks to his guidance, Shamet feels ready, even in aspects outside of his offensive ability.
“On the defensive end, I feel comfortable with my positioning,” Shamet said. “Obviously, need to get better. You can always get better on the defensive end. That’s one thing I’ve been focusing on. Trying to get more athletic. Just be better defensively. He gave me the groundwork for sure. 100 percent.”
Shamet has kept in touch with Marshall throughout the entire pre-draft process. He was told to “smile and relax” in interviews and to be confident, which he’s certainly followed through with.
A similar message has come from Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet, two former Shockers who have each made their mark at the professional level.
“Just be yourself, you know,” Shamet said of VanVleet’s pointers. “That’s really what it boils down to I think. He’s been great to have him in my corner—a guy like that who’s been through a lot of adversity on his way to the NBA, so I’m gonna listen to him 10 times out of 10.”
VanVleet’s career is already taking off with the Toronto Raptors as a part of their young and hungry bench. But with four more inches of height and a similar feel for the game, Shamet has more than enough of a chance to carve his own path of success in the NBA.
And it won’t require flash or making a daily highlight-reel to do so.
“I’d like to just say versatile,” Shamet said of his game. “Just try to stay solid. I don’t ever try to make spectacular plays all the time. Try to just do what I feel I can do—play multiple positions, both positions, on or off the ball. I’m comfortable at either spot, honestly. Whether it’s facilitating, scoring, whatever the case may be.
“I feel like I have a high IQ as well. Just a cerebral player. Not gonna ‘wow’ you with crossing people up and doing things that a lot of the guys in the limelight do all the time. But I feel like I’m a solid player. Pretty steady across the board.”
However, just because he rarely shows off on the court doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the ability to do it.
“I feel like I’m a little more athletic than I might get credit for,” Shamet said. “I think I’m a better athlete than I get credit for.”
Shamet is projected to go anywhere from the middle-to-late first round of the draft in June. Whoever lands the Kansas City native will be getting a tireless worker who does things the right way and is all about the team.
But for now, he’s soaking in everything he possibly can before that night comes.
“I don’t have all the answers,” Shamet candidly said. “I’m a 21-year-old kid, man I guess. So just trying to learn as much as I can, gain some knowledge, get good feedback—because at the end of the day, I’m not a perfect player. I know that.”