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NBA AM: Who Wants To Move A Pick?

With the 2014 NBA Draft order set, which teams in the top nine are angling to trade their pick?… Up Close With Elfrid Payton.

Steve Kyler

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Who Is Moving A Pick?:  Tuesday’s 2014 NBA Draft Lottery did not go as scripted with the Cleveland Cavalier hopping up from the projected ninth pick to the top overall pick. With Cleveland’s good fortune came some tough realities for other teams hoping for some lottery luck of their own; the biggest being that they may not be able to pick the player they ultimately covet.

Virtually every team that gets a top tier pick explores what that pick might be worth in trade simply as part of a due diligence process and in this draft class more than most, moving down a few spots could gain a team an equally promising prospect and possible additional assets. The odds that any of the teams at the top actually trade their pick is small, but here is what we know about the results and where the teams holding the top nine picks seem to stand:

#1 – Cleveland Cavaliers:
The Cavaliers are open for business. They are open to trading the top overall pick, but they want a bona fide All-star in return. Minnesota big man Kevin Love has been linked to the Cavs and he is absolutely a player the Cavs would move the top pick to obtain. The Cavs would require Love to opt-in to the final contract year of his deal as part of a transaction. It’s unclear if Minnesota or Love are open to that kind of deal.

The Cavs were not expecting a pick this high in the draft and have started to work through the process including scheduling visits and workouts with the top five or six guys. Early reports peg the Cavs as having eyes for former Kansas stars Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins.

There is a ton of uncertainty surrounding Embiid and his back and the Cavaliers are eager to understand what’s real and what is gamesmanship by his agent. Should Embiid pass Cleveland’s  medical evaluation there is a real strong chance he could be the top overall pick. If there are doubts or conflicting opinions about Embiid’s back, the Cavs would turn to Wiggins.

Duke star Jabari Parker is not out of the mix in Cleveland, but according to sources is a little lower on the board than Wiggins and Embiid. A strong workout could swing things in his favor, but it’s believed that if Cleveland keeps the pick it’s down to Embiid and Wiggins at this stage of the process.

Data: Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects

#2 – Milwaukee Bucks :
Like most teams at the top, Milwaukee will gauge what their pick is worth, but sitting at number two isn’t a bad situation for Milwaukee. They had been planning for a top tier pick and with the second pick they still could end up with the player that was near the top of their board.

The Bucks have had eyes for Embiid for most of the season, but it seems pretty clear that his agents are trying to steer him away from Milwaukee. That’s not going to stop the Bucks from doing their due diligence on him in the event that Cleveland passes.

Word from the Draft Combine was that Jabari Parker and Dante Exum were the top two candidates for the Bucks and both may be there when the Bucks select at number two. There is a sense that new ownership in Milwaukee is going to have a lot of say in where this pick gets used and as much as the current management may want to go with Exum and set them up going forward, there may be a desire from ownership to pick a named guy that the fans can connect with.

Whether its Parker or Exum, the Bucks will come away with a solid player, which is what they were hoping for.

#3 – Philadelphia 76ers:
Coming into the process the Sixers had eyes on Wiggins and Exum and there is a chance that both players are gone when they pick at number three. Sources close to the process say the 76ers are lukewarm on Embiid, but that does not mean they wouldn’t look at him hard or entertain a trade where they draft Embiid and trade him to move down to gain additional assets.

If Embiid is off the board when Philly picks it likely means one of the guys they like is there. There is a sense that Philly likes Exum a great deal and would have no issues pairing him with last year’s Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams. Should Wiggins fall to the third spot, Philly likely grabs him. If Parker falls to three that might give Philly a little pause, but it’s believed they would take him as well.

There are a couple of dark horses in the 76ers scenario and that includes Indiana big man Noah Vonleh and Arizona star Aaron Gordon, both are said to be intriguing to Philly, but it would seem more likely that going with one of those guys would be part of a trade down scenario.

The 76ers seem like they are going to stay at number three and it seems like they will be ready to catch whichever of the top four prospects fall their way.

It is unlikely that Philly lets a great prospect get past them, even if it is simply to trade him later in the draft.

The 76ers endured a tough season of losing to get to this point and with two lottery level picks in their pockets the franchise seems poised to come out of the draft in really good shape going forward.

If Philly has proven anything in the Sam Hinkie era, it’s that they will be aggressive and creative, so don’t be surprised to see the 76ers jockey the third pick into a lot more if the players they covet are off the board.

Story: 2014 Consensus Mock Draft Ver. 2.0

#4 – Orlando Magic:
The Magic are also very much open for business. They hold two lottery level draft picks, have a roster full of promising young talent and they have the creatively structured contract of Jameer Nelson ($8 million salary, $2 million guaranteed) and shooting guard Aaron Afflalo to dangle in would-be trades. The Magic may also have an ample amount of cap space in July to absorb a big contract if required.

The Magic have been linked to Golden State’s David Lee, although sources in Orlando down played that report as one of many things being presented their way. Take that to mean, it’s something they could do if they wanted to.

The Magic did not jump up in the draft, in fact they fell back a spot, but that fundamentally hasn’t changed what the Magic had planned for this draft which was to look at maybe 30 players in the draft pool. Five or six related to their top pick and at least 20 related to their 12th pick.

There is a sense the Magic would like to see Exum fall to them and that still remains a possibility, but at four they may have to settle for who else is there.

The Magic have been high on Wiggins and Parker all season, so if one of them is there at four the Magic likely grab them. The question becomes what about Embiid? If Embiid is there at four it likely means there are serious questions lingering about his back and would the Magic take the risk on Embiid given his potential?

The Magic have the luxury of a loaded roster and a promising big in Nikola Vucevic, so in theory they could draft Embiid, let him work through the medical parts of his rehab and develop him slowly. It all comes down to how bad is the injury?

Reports from Kansas during the Final Four pegged Embiid’s injury as a stress fracture which is called Spondylolysis, which is a small crack in the pars interarticularis portion of the lumbar spine. This injury usually heals normally with rest and rehab. The unknown in this equation is if the condition is really Spondylolisthesis, which is a recurring stress reaction, related to vertebra shifting forward and sitting on nerves. The surgical treatment for that is surgical fusion, which is a scary concept for NBA teams. It is believed this is the second time Embiid has had this injury, which is why there is so much debate and concern.

There is a sense that Embiid’s agent is playing this coy to steer him to the right team, however with such a huge unknown looming around his draft stock it’s hard to peg what’s real and what’s not.

Orlando could have the option of being the Embiid broker with the fourth pick, however if he is there it means three other teams passed on his back, because his potential as a player is off the charts.

There are a couple of dark horse candidates for the Magic with the fourth pick. If Wiggins, Parker and Exum are off the board the Magic may look at Marcus Smart and Noah Vonleh. Smart was a player the Magic thoroughly scouted last year; they are very familiar with his game and were high on a season ago. Vonleh may be more of a reach for the Magic who have similar size and position players on the roster already, but are said to be high on his character and his potential in the NBA.

The smart money says the Magic catch whoever falls to four. The Magic do have some assets to dangle to move up including the number 12 pick; however, sources close to the process don’t see that happening at this point.

The Magic expect to be busy with individual workouts all the way up to the draft and have been trying to schedule as many guys as they can, so they will be involved in a lot leading up to the draft.

#5 – Utah Jazz:
The Jazz are in a tough spot, mainly because at five, they won’t get any of the studs of the draft and will be left with picks from the next tier. There is a sense that the Jazz would like to move up or move back, which means the number five could be had.

The players that are projected possible at number five play positions the Jazz are either stocked at or have invested in. Noah Vonleh, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon would both need time at the four spot. Adding depth and versatility behind Derrick Favors might make sense, but do you use the fifth pick on guys that need minutes you don’t have to give? The Jazz drafted Trey Burke last year so do they add Marcus Smart and try and play him off the ball? Where does that put Alec Burks?

The Jazz have a need at center, is Vonleh truly a center at the next level? Do they slide Favors to center and pair him with Vonleh, Randle or Gordon?

The Jazz, like most teams outside the top four, have to wait and see what falls to them. If Embiid starts to tumble do the Jazz grab him at five and roll the dice?

There is a sense the Jazz are open for business in either direction, up or down, but they will due their due diligence on a ton of players.

The smart money says the Jazz slide back in this draft, especially if the players that really solve problems for them are gone.

There is also a scenario where the Jazz trade out of the draft completely, flipping the fifth pick for a proven veteran. That is believed to be very much on the table in Utah.

#6 – Boston Celtics:
The Celtics again found no luck with the ping-pong balls of the lottery, and like Utah now find themselves in wait-and-see mode.

The good news for the Celtics is there are a number of players that make a lot of sense for their roster: Vonleh, Gordon, Randle, Doug McDermott and Dario Saric.

The Celtics have been angling for Kevin Love in a trade with the Timberwolves and while the sixth pick isn’t nearly as a sexy at a top three pick, they are very much open to trading their pick and some roster players to get a proven player like Love.

The Celtics are absolutely in consolation prize mode in this draft at number six. If they stay there they will end up with a solid NBA prospect, but this draft isn’t shaping up how Boston hoped when the season ended.

The Celtics are absolutely one of the teams to watch if Embiid takes a tumble, mainly because they have some experience drafting injured players and seem to be OK with the risk-reward scenario associated, especially with the sixth pick.

The dark horse pick for Boston could be Bosnian big man Jusuf Nurkic. He measures in at 6’11.5 in shoes, with a monster 7’2’ wingspan and averaged 11 points and 5.7 rebounds per game in the Adriatic league this season. Nurkic is considered the second best NBA center prospect in the draft. If Utah doesn’t grab him with the fifth pick, Boston might be where he lands with the sixth.

Story: Potential Trade Destinations for Kevin Love

#7 – LA Lakers:
There were a couple of players that seemed perfect for the Lakers – Embiid being the first, Exum being the second and barring something silly occurring both should be long gone when the Lakers draft with the seventh pick.

Like the Celtics, the Lakers are actively exploring the trade market looking to flip their pick into a veteran player, the problem is the seventh pick isn’t sexy at all in trade talks.

The smart money says the Lakers stay right where they are and draft the best player at seven. That looks to be one of Smart, Vonleh or Randle with the possibility of McDermott and Saric on the outside of the bubble.

Smart makes the most sense going forward because he can play right away. Vonleh may have some serious upside and could be a nice anchor piece for the Lakers future but will need some time to develop, where Randle could be the best all-around player of the bunch.

The Lakers are open to moving up or down in the draft, however with just four players on the roster (Robert Sacre, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Kendall Marshall) they do not have a lot to offer as a sweetner in a deal.

#8 – Sacramento Kings:
The Kings are absolutely open for business, but the problem for Sacramento is who really knows what they are selling? The eight pick really does not have a lot of appeal yet, its value becomes more apparent after picks start coming off the board.

The Kings are one of those teams that could move down or out of the draft for the right veteran players as they view themselves in win-now mode, or at least want to be in win-now mode.

Given what the eighth pick looks to be, they could be towards the bottom of the list in terms of teams trying to move a pick.

There are some interesting prospects that look to be available at number eight, including Gordon, possibly Randal or Vonleh and Saric would be in interesting fit in Sacramento especially if Rudy Gay opts out of his contract.

Eight is also where McDermott, Nik Stauskas and James Young become possibilities. The latter two would be a bit of a reach at eight but both would fit in nicely with the Kings.

As the 2014 NBA Draft starts to take shape the value of the Kings pick might increase. The smart money say they will be drafting with the eight pick, but if they could find a deal that gets them a proven player they seem more than open to it.

#9 – Charlotte Hornets:
The Cavaliers were not the only team to get some lottery luck, by virtue of the Cavs moving up, everyone else moved down and that moved the ninth pick back into Charlotte’s pocket, where it was expected to be Detroit’s pick.

The Hornets find themselves with a lot of options that make sense for them. McDermott fits how the Hornets want to play as does Young and Stauskas. Gordon could still be on the board at nine and that would be a huge get for the Hornets. Saric could also be here for the Hornets and he could be a ready-to-play right away guy in a very Hedo Turkoglu kind of way.

The Hornets are one of the teams open to moving up, so if Utah wants to move to nine there may be a deal to be made here.

The Hornets are playing with house money on this pick as they were not planning for it.

Now that they have it, they are being active in exploring what it can return either in terms of a draft prospect or a veteran player or some combination.

The Hornets have had affections for Orlando’s Arron Afflalo for some time. It’s doubtful that the ninth pick gets Orlando off the dime on Afflalo, but some combination of assets that includes the ninth pick might get consideration.

The Hornets would rather come out of this draft with a proven player, that’s where McDermott becomes interesting for Charlotte if they cannot find a trade they can consummate.

Most pick related trades happen on draft day, mainly because teams tend to go down to the wire on what they ultimately want to do in the draft. There have been a few cases where picks have been traded before the draft, although the majority of deals involving picks happen on draft night or later.

Deals that move off salary usually get consummated on draft day, however don’t become official until July when the new salary cap year begins and teams with ending contracts convert those deals into cap space.

Those kinds of deals that involve draft picks usually result in a team drafting a player specifically for another team and trading his draft rights to the acquiring team at some point in early July.

Up Close With Elfrid Payton :  Louisiana-Lafayette guard Elfrid Payton could be one of the top four point guards drafted in the 2014 NBA Draft. He talks about preparing for workouts, what he hopes to show NBA teams and where he thinks he fits.

 
Six Things You Need To Read:  Every so often we try and point the spotlight on things you may have missed, here are six things you really should read:

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

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NBA Daily: Let The NBA Trade Chatter Begin

More than 95 NBA players become trade-eligible this week. Steve Kyler breaks them down.

Steve Kyler

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Let The Trade Chatter Begin

While NBA teams are always talking, whether aggressively or casually, the date most teams circle on the calendar to start really exploring trade options is December 15.

That’s mainly because that’s when the bulk of trade restrictions on players signed during the offseason to free agent deals lifts, but also because most teams have played 25 or more games.

While it’s easy to talk about trades, especially for teams that get off to a slow start, it’s also important to realize teams put in mountains of works assembling their rosters. That includes weeks and weeks of development and planning work, so rushing to tear it all up after a slow start isn’t always smart. Take the Cavaliers as a perfect example. The Cavs were 3-4 entering November looking dreadful, since then, the Cavs have gone 17-4.

Most teams want to give the roster they built a chance because change does not always equal improvement. However, as teams get to the 30-game mark, there is enough of a sample size to know where you stand, which is why trade talk tends to be lower until mid-December.

With more than 95 players becoming trade eligible tomorrow, trade talks are going to start to heat up.

NBA teams are prohibited from trading players signed during the offseason for 90 days or December 15th, whichever is greater.

Players who re-signed with the same team and received more than a 20 percent increase in salary from last season, are further restricted until January 15th.

Players that signed one-year deals with the same team, also gain the ability to veto trades, as do rookie scale players that signed a Qualifying Offer.

Equally, players who had free agent offer sheets matched, like Washington’s Otto Porter Jr., also gain veto rights for the first calendar year of their deal.

With all of that said, here is how the 2017 free agent trade eligibility breaks down:

Atlanta Hawks

Luke Babbitt
Dewayne Dedmon
Ersan Ilyasova (Veto Rights)
Mike Muscala (Veto Rights) 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None

 

Boston Celtics

Aron Baynes
Gordon Hayward
Shane Larkin
Daniel Theis 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Brooklyn Nets

Tyler Zeller 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Charlotte Hornets

Michael Carter-Williams
Julyan Stone 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Chicago Bulls

Justin Holiday

Trade Eligible January 15th

Cristiano Felicio
Nikola Mirotic  

Cleveland Cavaliers

Jose Calderon
Jeff Green
Kyle Korver
Derrick Rose

Trade Eligible January 15th

None  

Dallas Mavericks

Maxi Kleber
Jeff Withey
Nerlens Noel (Veto Rights)
Dirk Nowitzki (Veto Rights)

Trade Eligible January 15th

None  

Denver Nuggets

Paul Millsap 

Trade Eligible January 15th

Mason Plumlee 

Detroit Pistons

Reggie Bullock
Langston Galloway
Eric Moreland
Anthony Tolliver 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Golden State Warriors

Nick Young
Omri Casspi
Zaza Pachulia (Veto Rights)
Kevin Durant (Veto Rights)
David West (Veto Rights)
JaVale McGee (Veto Rights)
 

Trade Eligible January 15th

Andre Iguodala
Shaun Livingston 

Houston Rockets

Tarik Black
Nene
Luc Mbah a Moute
P.J. Tucker
Troy Williams 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Indiana Pacers

Bojan Bogdanovic
Darren Collison
Damien Wilkins 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Los Angeles Clippers

Danilo Gallinari
Marshall Plumlee
Willie Reed
Milos Teodosic 

Trade Eligible January 15th

Blake Griffin 

Los Angeles Lakers

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Tyler Ennis
  

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Memphis Grizzlies

Mario Chalmers
Tyreke Evans
Ben McLemore
Wayne Selden
 

Trade Eligible January 15th

JaMychal Green 

Miami Heat

James Johnson
Jordan Mickey
Kelly Olynyk
Dion Waiters
Udonis Haslem (Veto Rights)

Trade Eligible January 15th

None  

Milwaukee Bucks

None

Trade Eligible January 15th

Tony Snell  

Minnesota Timberwolves

Jamal Crawford
Jeff Teague
Marcus Georges-Hunt
Taj Gibson
Shabazz Muhammad (Veto Rights)

Trade Eligible January 15th

None   

New Orleans Pelicans

Tony Allen
Ian Clark
Darius Miller
Rajon Rondo

Trade Eligible January 15th

Jrue Holiday  

New York Knicks

Ron Baker
Michael Beasley
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Jarrett Jack
Ramon Sessions

Trade Eligible January 15th

None  

Oklahoma City Thunder

Raymond Felton
Patrick Patterson
Nick Collison (Veto Rights)

Trade Eligible January 15th

Andre Roberson  

Orlando Magic

Arron Afflalo
Khem Birch
Shelvin Mack
Jonathon Simmons
Marreese Speights

Trade Eligible January 15th

None  

Philadelphia 76ers

Amir Johnson
J.J. Redick
Phoenix Suns
Alan Williams

Trade Eligible January 15th

None  

Phoenix Suns

Alan Williams

Trade Eligible January 15th

None   

Portland Trail Blazers

None 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None

 

Sacramento Kings

Vince Carter
George Hill
Zach Randolph 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None

 

San Antonio Spurs

Pau Gasol
Rudy Gay
Manu Ginobili
Joffrey Lauvergne
Brandon Paul 

Trade Eligible January 15th

Patty Mills

 

Toronto Raptors

Alfonzo McKinnie
C.J. Miles
  

Trade Eligible January 15th

Serge Ibaka
Kyle Lowry 

Utah Jazz

Jonas Jerebko
Royce O’Neale
Thabo Sefolosha
Ekpe Udoh 

Trade Eligible January 15th

Joe Ingles

 

Washington Wizards

Jodie Meeks
Mike Scott 

Trade Eligible January 15th

Otto Porter (Veto Rights) 

Tracking all of these details is pretty tedious, which is what makes Basketball Insiders’ salary cap guru Eric Pincus so amazing. If you want to know more about each teams’ cap situation, make sure to check out the team links here for a detailed break down of every team’s cap position and restrictions.

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, @MikeAScotto, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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NBA Daily: One Year Later, Yogi Ferrell Continues To Rise

One year after a turbulent start to his NBA career, Yogi Ferrell is still thriving with the Dallas Mavericks.

Ben Nadeau

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It was never going to be easy for Yogi Ferrell.

At just 6-foot-0, there were major concerns about Ferrell and his ability to effectively contribute at the professional level, so the 24-year-old was a near-lock to go undrafted despite his impressive haul of collegiate honors. In 2016, he did not hear his name called on draft night — but for a gamer like Ferrell, pushing on was always the only option.

However, on this particularly cold mid-season evening, Ferrell sits at his locker and studies film on a tablet. He looks comfortable and focused as if he knows that this moment cannot be ripped away from him once again. Today, Ferrell is the Dallas Mavericks’ backup point guard and is settled into a consistent, steady role amongst a currently crowded backcourt. For Ferrell, he now finally has the life of an everyday NBA player.

But just over one year ago, Ferrell had to take the road less traveled to reach professional basketball for good.

“It was actually about this time [last year] when [the Nets] decided to waive me and I went back to Long Island,” Ferrell told Basketball Insiders. “I didn’t know I’d be here. I’m just thankful for the opportunity the Mavericks gave me and I’m just still trying to be here in Dallas.”

To be exact, the Brooklyn Nets waived Ferrell on December 8th, 2016. 365 days (and counting) later, Ferrell has earned his guaranteed contract but he’s still playing like he has something to prove.

* * * * * *

In order to fully understand Ferrell’s winding journey, it’s necessary to go back to where his story really kicked off: Summer League. Following a solid audition in Las Vegas — 8.8 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game — Ferrell was shifted to Brooklyn’s G-League affiliate, the Long Island Nets. With the offseason signings of Jeremy Lin and Greivis Vasquez, plus the addition of rookie point guard Isaiah Whitehead, there was no room for Ferrell and he was the last man cut in training camp.

Before the Nets could even blink, Vasquez re-injured his problematic ankle just three games into the campaign, an ailment that would eventually require season-ending surgery. Lin, of course, lasted just two more games before a hamstring injury derailed the key free agent acquisition until deep into the season.

Out of nowhere, it was time for Ferrell.

After waiving Vasquez, the Nets signed Ferrell on November 9th — the same day as his NBA debut, where he logged five points and three assists in a 14-point loss to the New York Knicks. But as the Nets continued to free fall without their veteran point guards, Ferrell grew more confidently into his role and was a solid fit in head coach Kenny Atkinson’s three-point heavy rotation. Over 10 contests with Brooklyn, Ferrell tallied just 5.4 points and 1.7 assists in 15 minutes per game. Nonetheless, for a suddenly talent-deficient roster, it appeared as if the point guard was poised to stick around through the winter.

In a surprise twist of fate, the Nets waived Ferrell to sign Spencer Dinwiddie to a partially guaranteed three-year deal, opting to tie their future to a different G-League point guard instead. Just like that, it was back to Long Island for Ferrell — but surprisingly, it wasn’t something that he hung his head over for too long.

“I knew my next opportunity was going to come — I didn’t know when, but I just wanted to make sure I was ready for it,” Ferrell said. “I had a great coach — coach [Ronald] Nored — and he told me to still go about my business as if I was still in the NBA. I didn’t get all the luxuries, but if you treat yourself like a pro, like you’re there now, once you get there, it’ll make it easier and you can make a splash.”

Upon returning to the G-League, Ferrell continued his hot streak and ended up averaging 18.7 points and 5.8 rebounds over a total of 18 games — both before and after his NBA call-up with the Nets. Ultimately, it wasn’t long before another franchise took notice of the enigmatic guard and the Mavericks capitalized, signing Ferrell to a 10-day contract while both Deron Williams and Devin Harris were hampered by injury. His debut with Dallas saw Ferrell tally nine points and seven assists in a win over the San Antonio Spurs and future Hall of Famer Tony Parker — but somehow, that was only the beginning

Affectionately nicknamed Yogi-Mania — a play on Linsanity, Lin’s historic stretch with the Knicks back in 2012 — Ferrell re-joined the NBA red-hot, even leading Dallas to back-to-back wins over the Cleveland Cavaliers and Philadelphia 76ers. Quickly thereafter, Ferrell signed a multi-year deal with Dallas and then promptly torched the Portland Trail Blazers for nine three-pointers and a total of 32 points. Over his initial two-week stretch with the Mavericks, Ferrell scored 10 or more points in seven of his first nine games and made a serious claim for a permanent spot in the rotation.

Of course, the multi-year contract offered Ferrell something else he hadn’t yet experienced in the NBA: Job security. After Ferrell’s team option was picked up last June, he was happy to have a role with the Mavericks once again, no matter how big or small. Without the worry of being on borrowed time, Ferrell was able to train, learn the system and embrace of the city of Dallas during the offseason.

“The offseason was pretty good, I played summer league with some of the young guys,” Ferrell said. “It was great to work every day and get to know the coaches better, the area of Dallas better. Headed into training camp, I just wanted to work on my game and I had lot more confidence.”

One of those coaches he’s gotten to know better is Rick Carlisle, an old-school guard that has found success as both a player and coach. Under Carlisle, Ferrell has averaged 28.3 minutes per game so far as a sophomore, good for the third-highest total on the entire roster. Ferrell, who was in the G-League at this time last year, has merited more playing time than any other point guard on the team — a list that includes rookie sensation Dennis Smith Jr. (28.1), J.J. Barea (22.5), and the aforementioned Harris (18.9). For Ferrell, much of his second-year successes have come from simply putting Carlisle’s words of wisdom into action.

“He’s just always telling me to be a threat,” Ferrell told Basketball Insiders of Carlisle. “First of all, be a threat to score because that’s what opens up everything else. If you’re pushing the pace and getting in the paint, attacking, especially for somebody like myself in my position. You want to just cause 2-on-1s and kicks and find whatever the defense gives us.”

While Yogi-Mania was built off of an electric career-altering hot streak, Ferrell has been a contributor this season in a more consistent, experienced way. Building off the All-NBA Rookie Second Team berth Ferrell earned in just 36 games with Dallas last season, the point guard is now often one of the first guards off the bench, a role that Barea has long excelled in. The comparisons between Ferrell and Barea are all too obvious, the latter being another 6-foot-nothing guard that has carved out a 12-year career after going undrafted in 2006.

During the Mavericks’ championship-winning playoff run in 2011, Barea averaged 8.9 points and 3.4 assists, including massive back-to-back 15-plus point outings in Dallas’ series-defining Game 5 and 6 victories. These days, Ferrell is just thankful to have teammates like Barea and Harris to learn from on and off the court.

“I always say that I like watching them, especially how they play,” Ferrell said. “I try to mimic the older guys, Devin and J.J., they’re so synced together when they play, it’s something special to watch. I just try to go out there and mimic what they do, they’ve been successful at it and been in this league for a long time, so I’m just trying to learn from guys like them.”

* * * * * *

Precisely, it’s been 370 days since Ferrell was first waived by Brooklyn and found success at the NBA level that little believed was possible. Not one to let an obstacle get in his way, Ferrell went undrafted and still managed to earn a multi-year contract before he even hit 20 career appearances. For his dominating stretch in the G-League last season, Ferrell was named an All-Star — although he was too busy with Dallas to attend the festivities — and he still went on to earn a spot with the All-NBA Rookie Second Team as well.

Overcoming roadblocks and adversity at every turn, it’d be easy to now exhale and relax — after all, his contract is currently guaranteed and he’s got a solidified role in an NBA rotation — but Ferrell, forever hungry, isn’t ready to stop there. Staying motivated isn’t difficult for Ferrell because he knows that much of his journey is still left in front of him and he’s ready to keep climbing upward.

“I’m a winner, I came from a winning program,” Ferrell said. “My mentality is still to prove that I belong here. I just want to win, that’s it.”

For Ferrell, this isn’t the end of an underdog story — this is just the beginning of something even greater.

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NBA

Rookie of The Year Watch – 12/13/17

Shane Rhodes checks back in on what’s become a relatively consistent Rookie of the Year race.

Shane Rhodes

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It has been a pretty ho-hum Rookie of The Year race so far in the 2017-18 season, with the top rookies staking their claims to this list at the beginning of the season and, for the most part, staying there. While there has been some movement up and down over the season and since our last installment, for the large part those who were on the list remain on the list.

Those players have earned their spots on this list with their play, however. This rookie class is one of the better, more exciting classes in recent memory. These players have just managed to remain at the top of the hill.

Let’s take a look at this week’s rankings.

stockup456. Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls (Last Week: Unranked)

By virtue of John Collins missing time due to injury, Markkanen jumps back onto this list. However, that’s not to say Markkanen has played poorly this season. On the contrary, the former Arizona Wildcat and current Chicago Bull has played very well; it’s just hard to get recognized when you are on the worst team in the league.

Markkanen is averaging 14.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, third and second among rookies, respectively, while adding 1.3 assists per game as well. Athletic enough to get his own shot and big enough to be a mismatch when he’s on the floor, Markkanen is probably the best (healthy) offensively player the Bulls have. While his defensive game isn’t great, his defensive rating of 106.4 still ranks ninth amongst rookies.

Perhaps most importantly, Markkanen inspires hope for a brighter future in Bulls fans that have watched the team plummet from the 50-win team it was just three seasons ago.

stockup455. Dennis Smith, Jr., Dallas Mavericks (Last Week: 6)

His shooting percentages continue to underwhelm and the Dallas Mavericks still have one of the worst records in the NBA, but Dennis Smith Jr. has been one of the Mavs’ bright spots this season while averaging 14.4 points, four rebounds and four assists per game.

While he hasn’t been a great shooter overall, Smith Jr. has managed to be a big contributor on offense for the Mavs, with an offensive rating of 101.4, ninth among rookies, and an assist percentage of 25.2 percent, fourth among rookies. He is second on the team in scoring behind Harrison Barnes’ 18.4 points per game as well. He is still a work in progress, but Dallas has found a keeper in Smith Jr.

stockdown454. Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers (Last Week: 3)

While the Lakers have stumbled over the past few weeks, Kuzma continues to play well when he is on the floor. He still paces the Los Angeles Lakers in scoring with an average of 16.1 points per game, third among rookies, while also dishing in 6.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game.

Kuzma is now second among rookies in double-doubles with eight on the season and three in his last five games. With a diverse offensive game, the power forward should continue to impress as the season goes along.

stockup453. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz (Last Week: 4)

Donovan Mitchell has been electrifying in recent weeks. Second in scoring among rookies, Mitchell is averaging 17.3 points per game to go along with three rebounds and 3.2 assists. As his confidence has grown, so to have his field goal percentage and three-point percentages. Mitchell has led the Utah Jazz in scoring in 11 of their 27 games, and is second on the Jazz in scoring too, behind Rodney Hood’s 17.7 points per game.

Mitchell became the second rookie ever, first since Blake Griffin in 2011, to score more than 40 points in a single game after going for 41 against the New Orleans Pelicans. Coupling that with his high-flying athleticism, Mitchell has been one of the best rookies to watch this season.

stocknochanges452. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics (Last Week: 2)

Jayson Tatum is on pace to be only the second rookie ever to lead the league in three-point percentage. In over 38 years, the only other player to do it was Anthony Morrow, who shot 46.7 percent on 2.7 attempts per game during the 2008-09 regular season. Tatum is currently shooting 50 percent on over three attempts per game.

The 19-year-old forward has also made a near seamless transition from the isolation-dominated basketball that he played at Duke, and has flourished as the third, fourth and sometimes even fifth option on offense, having scored in double digits in 25 of 29 games and averaging 13.8 points per game on the season. His defense continues to be better than advertised as well.

Tatum has been Mr. Clutch among rookies as well. In the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime, Tatum has 14 field goals on 21 attempts, seventh in the entire NBA and tops among rookies. In fact, Tatum is the only other rookie in the top 15 in clutch field goals.

While Mitchell has been on fire recently, Tatum has performed well enough to this point where he is still in control of the number two spot among rookies. But the race for this second spot is close and will continue to be close throughout the season. The race for the number one spot on the other hand? Not so much.

stocknochanges451. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers (Last Week: 1)

It would make for a very boring race if Ben Simmons remained at the top of this list for the entire season. And it looks increasingly likely that that is going to be the case.

Try as they might, the other rookies just can’t hang with Simmons; none of them have the right combination of production and physicality to keep pace with the point-forward. Tatum has been better than advertised while Mitchell and Kuzma have exceeded all predraft expectations, but none of them can produce what Simmons has. With averages of 17.5 points, 8.9 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game, Simmons would be just the second rookie in NBA history, the first since Oscar Robertson during the 1960-61 season, to finish the season with that stat line.

So, unless they combine their powers to become a being with superhuman basketball skills, the other rookies don’t stand a chance against Simmons in the race for Rookie of the Year.

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