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NBA AM: Pre Free Agency Message to Gordon Hayward

Gordon Hayward is headed to free agency with plenty of options. But the best is to stay put.

Lang Greene

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This is a pre free agency message for Utah Jazz All-Star forward Gordon Hayward. Please see this as a note. The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence.

As the Golden State Warriors continue to run roughshod through the NBA playoffs and head into Cleveland with a commanding 2-0 Finals lead, the narrative has slowly transitioned to how dominant the team is and whether or not they are the greatest roster to ever be assembled. This is the topic dominating sports talk radio. Vegas odds makers have joined the fray and are releasing spreads that favor the 2016-17 Warriors over historical units that have actually won titles.

This is where we are, and the Warriors haven’t even won a game on the Cavaliers’ home court.

Lots of the talk, of course, is coming from a die-hard fan base and a media full of hyperbole. To some degree, we are all prisoners of the moment. The Warriors are indeed a phenomenal team. These Warriors are absolutely one of the best-constructed teams in recent memory and arguably league history.

But no matter how great the team, competition ultimately balances things out. This is, after all, sports at the highest level. Pride, ego and heart won’t allow guys to roll over and play dead for the Warriors over a long period of time.

There will be obstacles and challenges to overcome—no matter the situation, no matter the circumstance. The 72-win Bulls team from 1996 was pushed to six games in the NBA finals. The 73-win Golden State Warriors team from last season lost in the Finals in seven games after holding a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 series lead.

Competition.

If you listen to all the talking heads right now, it’s as if all other teams in NBA will just roll over and not complete. This is simply not the case. All periods of dominance will ultimately be met with a period of rebellion. Empires fall. No matter the sport, competition eventually steps up to the plate. Sometimes the competition comes from unlikely sources.

Case in point.

When LeBron James was a member of the Miami HEAT, one of his biggest nemeses in the playoffs during that four-year stretch was arguably the overachieving Indiana Pacers. The young upstart Pacers team gave Miami absolute fits every time they met up in the playoffs. The games were competitive, intense and filled with drama. While the Pacers were unable to unseat the HEAT during this time span, their ability to compete proved that all great teams have their own set of flaws.

Eventually, the Warriors will run into a team that matches up well against them, that will drive them batty and cause frustration. This is where we transition this back to Hayward; the Jazz could be the thorn in the Warriors’ side over the next few years.

This is where we transition this back to Hayward; the Jazz could be the thorn in the Warriors’ side over the next few years.

There are a lot of similarities between the early decade Pacers and the current Jazz roster. For starters, look at the point guard position, which is manned by the same floor general: George Hill. The veteran was a member of the Pacers unit that gave Miami the chills in those dramatic playoff series and although Golden State swept Utah out of the playoffs this season, it is important to note that Hill was unavailable due to injury.

Moving on, those Pacers teams also featured a strong frontcourt with Roy Hibbert playing at an All-Star level at center and a power forward with an All-Star game at power forward in David West. Does this sound familiar? The Jazz features a certified Defensive Player of the Year candidate at center in Rudy Gobert and, if fully healthy, power forward Derrick Favors possesses All Star level talent,  similar to an in-prime David West.

On the wing, the Pacers had a rising star in forward Paul George with the ability to put up 25 points on any given night and just barely scratching the surface of his potential. Does this sound familiar to you? This is where Hayward fits into the equation. Hayward proved throughout his playoff career that he’s not going to shy away from big moments. On the bench, the Pacers team had a young Frank Vogel who was held in high regard and the Jazz have an up and coming sideline general in Quin Snyder.

Indiana featured depth on the wings to guard James with players like George and Lance Stephenson. The Jazz have depth on the wings with guys such as Rodney Hood, Alec Burks and Dante Exum.

Make no mistake, trying to wrestle supremacy away from a team like the Warriors is not going to be an easy task, and we are not implying that the current iteration of this Jazz team is going to be the chosen ones to do it. But in the sake of competition, from a purely basketball standpoint, Hayward is in a great position to compete, year-in and year-out in the West. Sure, Hayward can go out East and land on a team like Boston. There is some familiarity there with Brad Stevens, his college coach, sitting on the bench. But in Boston, he arguably goes from the number one option to the number two behind All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas.

The grass isn’t Greener from a legacy standpoint either. Sure, the current talking point is how Durant might be sparking a wave of guys that want to pick their own situations – especially if it results in a fast track to the championship. It’s understandable given the Warriors’ current success, however, guys have been doing this for a long time and it has always been a mixed bag. Just take a look at the career trajectory of guys that opted to take their respective talents elsewhere in free agency: San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge, New York’s Carmelo Anthony and Chicago’s Dwyane Wade immediately come to mind with situations that clearly haven’t panned out. For additional examples, you can look at the career trajectory of guys like Deron Williams and Dwight Howard after forcing trades to new situations that were seemingly “better” for title aspirations.

As a free agent to be, Hayward has a right to take his talent anywhere he should choose. Hayward earned this decision to make next month by giving his service, his blood, sweat and tears to the Utah Jazz and developing into a homegrown All-Star level talent.

The grass may be greener, but that doesn’t mean it is healthier on the other side of the fence. The Warriors may be an all-time great team, but it doesn’t mean that greatness is never challenged or overcome. It’s the reason why sports is so loved, because of the intense competition from fearless spirits that overcome the odds. Look at Ken Norton and the trouble he gave Muhammad Ali. Look at Iran Barkley and the ruckus he brought to Thomas Hearns every time they scrapped. Look at the frustration levels the upstart Pacers gave the James, Wade and Chris Bosh led Miami Heat.

Sometimes, greatness forces others to become great and the challengers go down in history for putting up and staging the great fight. The Sacramento Kings of the early 2000s will live on because of the challenge they gave the Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant and their Los Angeles Lakers. The Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks squads of the early to mid-90s are constantly talked about to this day for the challenges they gave to the Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.

So while it appears Durant was able to choose the perfect situation in free agency and appears to be coasting his way to a title, just remember there will always be a challenger that desires the crown and is willing to fight for the throne. This is Hayward’s chance to put his nose right in the thick of things in the Western Conference for the foreseeable future… provided he jots his signature on a new deal with Utah in just over a month.

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons

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NBA

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.

Jesse Blancarte

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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.”

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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.

Steve Kyler

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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/

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, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, @mike_yaffe, @MattJohnNBA, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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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.

Spencer Davies

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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.”

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