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Who Goes Third in 2016 NBA Draft?

Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram will be the top two picks in the draft, but who goes #3?

Joel Brigham

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Who’s the Third Pick in the 2016 NBA Draft?

For months, all we’ve heard about in terms of the forthcoming NBA is draft is that Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram are going to be the top two players selected in some order, which makes a ton of sense considering both players’ talent and upside, but there are a heck of a lot more than two draft picks in an NBA Draft. Knowing that whichever two teams draft No. 1 and No. 2 are going to end up with those guys, it leaves a very interesting conundrum for the team tasked with selecting third overall. Which of the remaining field is most worthy of that No. 3 overall selection?

It’s a legitimate debate and not an enviable position from which to be selecting prospects this summer. There are a handful of possibilities that exist for that spot, each of which offers its own unique combination of risk of reward.

Here’s a look at the players who, as of now, find themselves in the mix for that third overall selection:

Dragan Bender, Croatia – Bender is, at the very least, confusing. At worst, he’s a full-on enigma who’s impossible to judge as NBA prospect because he just hasn’t had the professional experience and playing time to prove himself worthy of a top-three pick.

That said, he’s listed as the third guy in the overwhelming majority of respected mock drafts right now, probably due at least in some part to the success that Kristaps Porzingis had his first year with the New York Knicks this past season. It’s easy to forget, but Porzingis kind of crept up out of nowhere as an elite draft prospect in the weeks leading up to the draft, as teams saw him work out and display a pretty unique skill set for a guy his size.

Well, Bender has a pretty similar skill set and is equally mysterious because of his lack of playing time for Maccabi Tel Aviv this past season. In Chad Ford’s most recent mock draft for ESPN, he mentioned that he’s hearing some scouts express some doubt about Bender after having seen him in person, with the concern being that he’s still too far away to make any sort of immediate impact in the NBA. If he’s Porzingis (or even Porzingis lite), he’s a no-brainer as the third overall pick in the draft. But what if he’s Nikoloz Tskitishvili?

Buddy Hield, Oklahoma – Anybody who watched any amount of college basketball this past season knows that Hield was easily the best player in the country, but it’s not often any more than NBA teams use their high lottery picks on college seniors when there are so many gifted 19-year-olds who, for all they know, could be the next Kevin Durant or Carmelo Anthony. NBA teams have proven time and time again that they value a high ceiling over a high floor, so while it looks like an absolute certainty that Hield will play a significant role on an NBA team for quite some time whether he’s an All-Star or not, the fact that he’s not as long or tall or freakishly athletic as some of the other younger guys around him makes him look like a liability with a pick as high as the No. 3.

All that said, he’s an outstanding basketball player, plain and simple. His path to this point in his career was not an easy one, so not only does he have the drive to be excellent, he also has shown how much he’s been able to improve in just the past four years. At 22 years old, he’s a virtual senior citizen by draft standards. But by the same token, he’s only in consideration for the top three because he killed it in the NCAA tournament. He feels like a sure-thing top-seven draft pick who could go as high as three, depending on the team selecting. Most, though, will go with the upside of Bender or Jamal Murray in hopes that they prove to live up to their hype.

Jamal Murray, Kentucky – Murray is pure upside. He has the ability to play both guard positions in the NBA and actually is one of the more polished shooters in the draft class. He may serve as a happy medium between the youth and potential provided by Bender and the proven pedigree and years of experience a team would get from Hield. Murray certainly experienced his fair share of struggles as a freshmen at Kentucky this past year, but he made steady improvements throughout the year and has showed enough that he’s an elite talent in this draft class who still just so happens to be only 19 years old.

While there aren’t many mock drafts right now that feature him as the third overall draft selection, it is an idea that could pick up steam for teams that are afraid of Bender being a bust or Hield being too unremarkable at the NBA level. He’s got proven talent and upside, which helps explain his rise up the lottery over the course of the last couple of months.

Kris Dunn, Providence – Dunn seems to have fallen out of favor a bit in mock drafts lately considering Providence’s late-season issues and inability to advance to the later rounds of the NCAA tournament, but he always was going to be a questionable NBA point guard prospect because he really is an unimpressive three-point shooter.

Everything else about the kid is pure magic, though, and he’s maybe the most entertaining player in the lottery. But NBA teams want point guards who can knock down outside shots. That’s more valuable to modern offenses, and Dunn looks as if he’s fallen behind Murray in that respect. He does have two more years of college experience in his favor (or working against him, depending on how you look at it), but there’s no telling how that may play into his draft position. Frankly, No. 3 feels high for him now, even though it seemed like a real possibility just a few months ago. Things change quickly when it comes to the draft, but the good news for Dunn is that they still have plenty of time to change quickly again.

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There obviously are other talented players in the NBA Draft this year, but none who look like they’ll have much of an opportunity to unseat one of the aforementioned four players for the third draft selection overall. It looks for now as though it will be one of Bender, Murray, Hield or Dunn, any of whom could be a star or a disappointment, and all of whom are mere consolation prizes in what many consider to be a two-man draft.

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

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Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal

The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz

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It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.

Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.

There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.

Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.

Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.

That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.

Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.

At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.

One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.

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NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind

Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.

Dennis Chambers

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When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.

“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.

Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.

That didn’t last long.

“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”

With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.

As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.

After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.

In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.

“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”

Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.

“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”

Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.

“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”

After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.

Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.

“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”

All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.

“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”

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Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team

Basketball Insiders

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Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.

“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”

Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN

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