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NBA PM: One on One With Myles Turner

Indiana Pacers big man Myles Turner discusses his rookie season, toughest match-ups and much more.

Alex Kennedy

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One on One With Myles Turner

With the 11th pick in this year’s draft, the Indiana Pacers selected a player with ridiculous upside. There was a lot of talk about Myles Turner’s potential and how he could develop into the type of big man that NBA executives are in love with these days. However, what some pundits didn’t realize is that the 20-year-old was capable of making an immediate impact.

MylesTurnerInside1This season, Turner has averaged 10.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks while shooting 49.4 percent from the field. And he has done all of this playing just 23.1 minutes per night. He missed some time due to injury, but he has been very productive in his 55 games. In his 29 games as a starter, he’s averaged 11.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 28 minutes.

He’s one of only seven rookies averaging double figures in points (and the only one of those seven currently whose team is in the playoff picture). He also ranks third in the class in blocks per game. Turner has become a significant contributor for the Pacers, who currently have a 41-36 record and occupy the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. I recently caught up with Turner for in-depth interview:

Basketball Insiders: How much have you learned throughout the course of this season?

Myles Turner: “I’ve learned a whole lot. Just being around these guys, being around the league and seeing stuff that happens on the court and off the floor, I’ve just learned a lot more this year than I expected. It’s a lot to take in, but I feel like I’m doing well adjusting. I’ve learned a lot about schemes and the need for unique players and a lot about different styles of offenses and what it takes to guard the best players in the world night in and night out.”

BI: Were there any particular players who were tough to match up against? At the start of this season, Los Angeles Lakers power forward Larry Nance Jr. told me some of the experienced role players, like Toronto Raptors power forward Luis Scola, were the toughest for him because of their strength and array of moves. Anyone stand out for you?

Turner: “Yeah, there’s a couple. My toughest match-up of the year was probably guarding DeMarcus Cousins because he is just so big and agile and he does a lot of different things. That was my first real tough match-up. Then, I’ve been cross-matched a couple of times with guys like Kevin Durant, you know? KD was one of my favorite players and I’ve played against him a few times, so he’s always a tough cover. Then, transitioning and playing more four than I have before, I was guarding a lot of these faster perimeter guys like Marvin Williams of Charlotte. He had a heck of a game, just because a lot of the stuff I was doing when I first was playing was more in the paint, so I didn’t really know where to be position-wise so he got a lot of shots up. Those three really stick out to me the most this year.”

BI: Now that you’re playing against NBA players, it’s even easier to take bits and pieces of other players’ skill set and add them to your own arsenal. Which players, on or off your team, have you learned from?

Turner: “I mean, some of the guys on my team like Jordan Hill. I think he’s deadly in the post. Man, he’s a heck of a player down there – he bodies everyone at practice, and just seeing what he does in the game [has helped me]. I love his footwork and it’s almost very nonchalant how he plays, but that’s what might throw you off and it’s just funny to me; I’ve learned a lot of stuff from Jordan Hill this year. Ian Mahinmi is another guy I take some stuff from. It’s funny you mention Luis Scola because I love watching him play because he gets the job done and just hurts you in so many different areas. I watched some of the stuff that he did when he played against us. Al Jefferson too. When we played Charlotte, I just kind of keyed in on some of the stuff that he was doing.”

BI: You’ve now played in 55 games and started 29 contests. How much more comfortable and confident are you when you’re on the floor?

Turner: “The confidence is definitely starting to grow more and more since the beginning of the season. Watching all the film and going through it in the game, it’s like my mind just takes me there now. In the beginning of the season, I was trying to figure it out and now it’s just like I automatically do it. I’ve adapted and adjusted a lot faster than I thought I would, so it’s definitely coming a lot easier just because of how natural I can do things now.”

BI: Before the draft, people talked about you having a lot of potential, but you’ve made a day-one impact with Indiana. At that time, there were also some people who doubted you and questioned your NBA readiness and even your running style. How does it feel to play this well after hearing all of that?

Turner: “Man, I’ll tell you I absolutely love it – just coming out here and proving people wrong. That’s one of my favorite parts about this game, going out there and doing things people said you can’t do. The fact that I’ve had an impact and just seeing the way people have kind of turned their head toward me is definitely something I’ve taken some notice of. Not too much, but I do pay attention though. You are going to have on and off nights and people are going to say what they want about you. But that is one thing that I definitely took a lot of pride in this year, proving a lot of doubters wrong from the draft [process].”

BI: What’s been the hardest part of your transition from college to the NBA?

Turner: “Definitely the physicality of the game; it’s a lot different than college. The refs don’t blow the whistle as often, they let you play through a lot of stuff. When the refs do blow the whistle often, you are going to get a lot of calls on you for being a rook – a lot of bogus calls, so that’s one thing I’ve had to adjust to as well. That’s not going to last too much longer though; well, hopefully not. The travels tough too though. The traveling definitely takes a toll on your body. About three to four weeks ago, I just found out I hit a little bit of a wall – being so tired all of the time, not really wanting to move, not wanting to practice. I’m over it now, of course, but my wall was a little different. I hit it a little later in the season because I missed all of those games and stuff. When all of the other rookies were hitting their walls, that’s when I was kind of just getting started and had all of that energy and stuff like that. Yeah, so I’ve learned to adjust to the travel, learned to get my rest. You have to manage your rest better than you did in college and you have to really manage your off-court stuff too. When you’re not practicing you’re doing this appearance or you’re signing these autographs or XYZ. Managing your personal life is a big thing that I heard about in college, but now it’s definitely different when you are living it.”

BI: How difficult was it for you to be sidelined due to injury for a chunk of the season?

Turner: “It was very frustrating because when we started losing some games, I saw some stuff out there where I really thought I could have helped and stuff out there that I really could have done [to help] defensively and a little bit offensively as well. Also, it was just rough not establishing myself with my teammates yet. I had missed a little bit of training camp because of I had to rest my knee a bit and then in the beginning of the year I had some soreness from Summer League, but that’s long gone now and trainers have done a good job with me. But at that point, it’s almost like I look like a prima donna to my teammates. You have to prove yourself to your teammates and that’s very important because those are the guys you are going to war with. If they can’t trust you to go out there and fight with them, then you are already losing the battle. Establishing the trust of my vets was something I had to do.”

BI: When did you feel like you had established that trust with your veteran leaders?

Turner: “I think I got it in practice when I came back. Some of the guys were resting and what not because we were at that point in the season, but I was just going so hard in practice and going so hard in the four-on-four stuff and five-on-five stuff. I think that’s when I started to earn the trust. I was staying late at night working, shooting in the gym at like 2 or 3 a.m. I’d be in the gym two hours before practice, that kind of stuff. I think that’s when I started earning the trust of my teammates.”

BI: You guys are fighting for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference. How intense are things right now?

Turner: “Man, it’s really intense right now. It’s a dog fight, especially in the East right now with everyone’s record being so close, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m getting that experience of the playoff intensity before the playoffs even get here. I always hear ‘playoff intensity this, playoff intensity that, everything is so different in the playoffs’ and now I’m kind of starting to see that. It’s really cool and I’m blessed to be one of the rookies to be in the position to do this right now early in my career. It’s definitely a whole different atmosphere and whole different vibe because everybody plays so much harder because a lot is on the line.”

BI: How much have you learned from Coach Frank Vogel?

Turner: “It’s been incredible and I have learned, like, light years of information from him. I’ve learned a lot defensively, especially during that time I was out watching a bunch of film and everything. I’ve definitely added a lot of stuff to my game and I’ve taken a lot of strides since my freshman year of college [last year]. I’ve learned a lot and the coaches have definitely done a great job with me to this point.”

The Pacers have five games left in the season – three at home and two on the road.

NBA Announces Players of the Month

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James and the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook today were named the Kia NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Month, respectively, for games played in March.

James ranked second in the East in scoring (25.6 ppg) and fifth in assists (7.1 apg) as the Cavaliers went 11-5 for the month (10-4 with James in the lineup).  He added 8.2 rebounds and shot 53.8 percent from the field.  James was the only player in the NBA to average at least 25.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists in March.  He posted seven double-doubles and recorded two triple-doubles.  In a 107-87 win over the Brooklyn Nets on March 31, James scored 24 points to move into 12th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list (he is now 11th).

Westbrook led the Thunder to an 11-5 record behind averages of 21.7 points, 10.6 assists (third in the NBA) and 8.3 rebounds.  His seven triple-doubles in March were the most in a calendar month since Michael Jordan had seven in April 1989.  Those performances increased Westbrook’s season total to 16 triple-doubles, the most since Magic Johnson had 17 in 1988-89.  Westbrook scored at least 20 points in 11 of 16 games for the month and logged nine games with double-digit assists, including a career-high 19 in a 120-109 win over the Clippers on March 9.

Other nominees for the Kia NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Month were Atlanta’s Paul Millsap, Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, Charlotte’s Kemba Walker, Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki, Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Houston’s James Harden, Miami’s Hassan Whiteside, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, Portland’s Damian Lillard, San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard, and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan.

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

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Is LeBron Enough For Cavs To Get Through The East?

Cleveland’s offense has struggled through the first two games of the playoffs. Can the four-time MVP consistently bail them out? Spencer Davies writes.

Spencer Davies

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After a less-than-encouraging series opener versus the Indiana Pacers, LeBron James responded emphatically and led the Cleveland Cavaliers to a bounce back 100-97 victory to even things up at one game apiece.

Scoring the first 13 points of the game itself, The King was a one-man wrecking crew out of the gate and carried that momentum throughout all four quarters of Game 2. His 46 points were James’ second-highest scoring mark between the regular season and the playoffs. In addition, he shot above 70 percent from the field for the sixth time this year.

The four-time MVP pulled down 12 rebounds total, and but all but one of those boards were defensive—the most he’s had since Saint Patrick’s Day in Chicago a month ago.

What James did was another classic instance where LeBron reminds us that through all the injuries, drama, and on-court issues, whatever team he’s on always has a chance to go all the way. But having said all of that—can the Cavaliers realistically depend on that kind of spectacular effort for the rest of the postseason? It’s a fair question.

Kevin Love is a solid secondary go-to guy, but he’s struggled to find his rhythm in the first two games. He’s done a solid job defensively between both, but he’s getting banged up and is dealing with knocked knees and a reported torn thumb ligament in the same hand he broke earlier in the season.

Love has admitted that he’d like more post touches instead of strictly hanging out on the perimeter, but it’s on him to demand the ball more and he knows it. But finding that flow can be challenging when James has it going and is in all-out attack mode.

Kyle Korver came to the rescue for Cleveland as the only shooter that consistently converted on open looks. Outside of those three, and maybe J.R. Smith, really, there hasn’t been a tangible threat that’s a part of the offense during this series.

We all pondered whether or not the “new guys” would be able to step up when their respective numbers were called. So far, that hasn’t been the case for the most part.

Jordan Clarkson looks rushed with tunnel vision. Rodney Hood has had good body language out there, but seems reluctant to shoot off dribble hand-offs and is second-guessing what he wants to do. The hustle and effort from Larry Nance Jr. is obvious, but he’s also a good bet to get into foul trouble. Plus, he’s had some struggles on an island against Pacer guards.

As for George Hill, the good news is the impact on the floor just based on his mere presence on both ends (game-high +16 on Wednesday), but he hasn’t really done any scoring and fouled out of Game 2.

Maybe these things change on the road, who knows. But those four, the rest of the rotation, absolutely have to step up in order for the Cavaliers to win this series and fend off this hungry Indiana group, which brings us to another point.

Let’s not forget, the offensive issues aren’t simply because of themselves. After all, the Cavs were a team that had little trouble scoring the basketball in the regular season, so give a ton of credit to the Pacers’ scheme and McMillan’s teachings to play hard-nosed.

Unlike many teams in the league, the strategy for them is to pressure the ball and avoid switches as much as possible on screens. The more they go over the pick and stick on their assignments, the better chance they have of forcing a bad shot or a turnover. That’s what happened in Game 1 and in the majority of the second half of Game 2.

Cleveland has also somewhat surprisingly brought the fight on defense as well. In the first two contests of the series, they’ve allowed under 100 points. Lue’s said multiple times that they’re willing to give up the interior buckets in order to secure the outside, and it’s worked. It doesn’t seem smart when there’s a yellow-colored layup line going on at times, but it certainly paid off by only allowing 34 percent of Indiana’s threes to go down.

Still, looking ahead to what the Cavaliers can do in the playoffs as a whole, it doesn’t bode well. They’re not only locked in a tug-of-war with Indiana, but if they get past them, they could have a Toronto Raptors group chomping at the bit for revenge.

If they’re having this much trouble in the first round, what should make us believe they can barrel through the Eastern Conference as they’ve done in the past?

It’s not quite as obvious or as bad as Cleveland’s 2007 version of James and the rest, but it feels eerily similar for as much as he’s put the team on his back so far. The organization better hope improvement comes fast from his supporting cast, or else it could be a longer summer than they’d hoped for.

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2017-18 NBA Report Card: Third-Year Players

Among the third-year players a few budding superstars have emerged, along with some role players who are helping their teams in the 2017-18 NBA Playoffs.

Mike Yaffe

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The 2015 NBA Draft has provided the league with a limited quantity of talent so far. After Terry Rozier (at 16th), it’s unlikely that anyone remaining has All-Star potential. Despite the lack of depth, the highest draft slot traded was at number 15, when the Atlanta Hawks moved down to enable the Washington Wizards to select Kelly Oubre Jr.

But placing a definitive “boom” or “bust” label on these athletes might be premature as the rookie contract is standardized at four seasons with an option for a fifth. If their employers are given a fourth year to decide whether a draftee is worth keeping, it seems reasonable to earmark the NBA Juniors’ progress for now and see how they’ve fared after next season’s campaign before making their letter grades official.

The Top Dogs

Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves: Given the dearth of premier choices and their glaring need up front, it’s hard to envision the T-Wolves drafting anyone but KAT if they had to do it again. Although his scoring average is down from last season (21.3 vs. 25.1 PPG), that trend could be explained by the addition of Jimmy Butler and the team’s deliberate pace (24th out of 30 teams).

To his credit, Towns had career highs in three-point percentage (42.1 percent) and free throws (85.8 percent), while finishing second overall in offensive rating (126.7). His continued improvement in these areas could explain why the Timberwolves ended their 14-year playoff drought.

Nikola Jokić, Denver Nuggets: Although he was a 2014 draft pick, Jokić’s NBA debut was delayed due to his last year of commitment to the Adriatic League. His productivity as a rookie was limited by both foul trouble and a logjam at the center position, but he still managed 10.0 PPG.

With Joffrey Lauvergne and Jusuf Nurkic off the depth chart, Jokić became the clear-cut starter this season and rewarded Denver’s confidence by averaging 18.5 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. And by chipping in 6.1 APG, he provides rare value as a center with triple-double potential.

Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks: Although he has never played a full season since joining the league, Porzingis has provided enough evidence that he can be a force when healthy. Before his junior campaign was derailed, the Latvian was enjoying career highs of 22.7 PPG and 39.5 percent shooting from behind the arc.

Unfortunately, the Knicks haven’t provided much support at point guard to help with Porzingis’ development. Trey Burke looked impressive down the stretch in Zinger’s absence, but that was in a score-first capacity. Meanwhile, both Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay have underwhelmed. On the plus side, Porzingis’ outside ability paired nicely in the frontcourt with Enes Kanter, who prefers to bully his way underneath.

Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns: Like Porzingis, Booker’s third year in the NBA was cut short by injuries, but that didn’t stop him from achieving career highs in points (24.9 per game), assists (4.7) and three-pointers (38.3 percent) on an otherwise moribund Suns team. Indeed, cracking the 40-point barrier three times in 54 contests was an achievement in and of itself.

While his short-term prospects would’ve been far better on a team like the Philadelphia Sixers (who might have taken him instead of Jahlil Okafor in a re-draft), Booker can still become a franchise cornerstone for the Suns if they are able to build around a young core that also includes T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson.

Solid Potential

Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers: Despite an inconsistent freshman season at Texas, Turner has become a stabilizing influence at center for the Pacers, whose blueprint consists of surrounding a go-to scorer with role players. While he hasn’t shown drastic improvement in any particular area, he has produced double-digit PPG averages all three years as a pro.

Although Turner’s shot-blocking ability fuels his reputation as a defensive maven, the reality is his 104.8 defensive rating (which is just OK) was skewed by his 110.9 d-rating in losses (it was 100.8 in wins). In order to merit consideration for the NBA’s all-defensive team, he will need to bridge the gap in this discrepancy and impact his team’s ability to win more games in the process.

D’Angelo Russell, Brooklyn Nets: Following their respective trades, Russell has fared better in the Big Apple than his 2015 lottery counterpart Emmanuel Mudiay, as the Los Angeles Lakers were forced to cut bait to draft Lonzo Ball. While Ball has shown promise as a rookie, the Lakers’ perception of Russell may have been premature, as the former Buckeye has stabilized a Nets backcourt that had been characterized more by athleticism than consistency.

Despite missing a significant stretch of mid-season games, Russell provided similar numbers for Brooklyn to that of his sophomore season; but without a pick until number 29 in the upcoming NBA Draft, the Nets will have to bank on improved production from DLo and his raw teammates to contend for the eight-seed in the East.

Terry Rozier, Boston Celtics: Injuries have paved the way for Rozier to showcase his talent, most recently with a 23-point, 8-assist effort in game two against the Milwaukee Bucks. But Rozier was already making headlines as a fill-in for Kyrie Irving whenever he was injured. Now that the starting point guard reins have been handed to the former mid-round pick, he has become one of the more pleasant surprises of the 2017-18 NBA season.

The biggest impediment to Rozier’s success might be the regression to limited playing time once Irving returns. While the Celtics could “sell high” and trade Rozier on the basis of his recent performances, they may opt to retain him as insurance while he is still cap-friendly.

Best of the Rest

Larry Nance Jr., Cleveland Cavaliers: Following the trade deadline, Nance has provided a spark for a Cavs frontcourt that has been bereft of viable options aside from Kevin Love.

Josh Richardson, Miami HEAT: A jack-of-all-trades at the small forward position, Richardson has evolved into a three-and-D player that has meshed well with the HEAT’s shut-down focus.

Willie Cauley-Stein, Sacramento Kings: Thrust into the starting center role after the trade of DeMarcus Cousins, WCS has provided serviceable (albeit unspectacular) play as the next man up.

Delon Wright, Toronto Raptors: A key contributor for the East’s top seed, Wright was instrumental in the Raptors’ game one victory over the Washington Wizards with 18 points off the bench.

Bobby Portis, Chicago Bulls: The former Razorback has flashed double-double potential, but playing time at his true position (power forward) has been limited by the emergence of rookie Lauri Markkanen.

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NBA Daily: Looking At The 2018 Draft Class By Tiers

The NBA Draft is a hard thing to predict, especially when it comes to draft order and individual team needs, Basketball Insiders publisher Steve Kyler takes a look at how this draft looks in tiers.

Steve Kyler

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Looking At The 2018 Draft In Tiers

While Mock Drafts are an easy way to look at how the NBA Draft might play out, what they do no do is give a sense of what a specific player might be as a player at the next level. With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at how some of the notable NBA draft prospects project.

It’s important to point out that situation and circumstance often impact how a player develops, even more so than almost any other variable.

So while the goal here is to give a sense of how some NBA teams and insiders see a draft prospect’s likely potential, it is by no means meant to suggest that a player can’t break out of his projection and become more or sometimes less than his he was thought to be.

Every draft class has examples of players projected to be one thing that turns out to be something else entirely, so these projections are not meant to be some kind of final empirical judgment or to imply a specific draft position, as each team may value prospects differently.

So, with that in mind, let’s look at the 2018 NBA Draft in Tiers.

The Potential Future All-Stars

DeAndre Ayton – Arizona – C – 7’0″ – 245 lbs – 20 yrs
Luka Doncic – Real Madrid – SG – 6’7″ – 218 lbs – 19 yrs
Michael Porter Jr – Missouri – SF/PF – 6’10” – 216 lbs – 20 yrs

Maybe Stars, But Likely High-Level Starters

Jaren Jackson Jr. – Michigan State – PF – 6’10” – 225 lbs – 19 yrs
Marvin Bagley III – Duke – PF – 6’11” – 220 lbs – 19 yrs
Wendell Carter – Duke – PF – 6’10” – 257 lbs – 19 yrs
Mohamed Bamba – Texas – C – 7’0″ – 216 lbs – 20 yrs
Collin Sexton – Alabama – PG – 6’2″ – 184 lbs – 19 yrs
Mikal Bridges – Villanova – SG/SF – 6’7″ – 210 lbs – 22 yrs
Robert Williams – Texas A&M – C – 6’9″ – 235 lbs – 21 yrs
Miles Bridges – Michigan State – SF/PF – 6’7″ – 230 lbs – 20 yrs
Dzanan Musa – Cedevita – SF – 6′ 9″ – 195 lbs – 19 yrs
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Kentucky – SG – 6′ 6″ – 181 lbs – 20 yrs
Trae Young – Oklahoma – PG – 6’2″ – 180 lbs – 20 yrs

Maybe Starters, But Surely Rotation Players

Kevin Knox – Kentucky – SF – 6’9″ – 206 lbs – 19 yrs
Troy Brown – Oregon – SG – 6’6″ – 210 lbs – 19 yrs
Khyri Thomas – Creighton – SG – 6′ 3″ – 210 lbs – 22 yrs
Zhaire Smith – Texas Tech – SG – 6′ 5″ – 195 lbs – 19 yrs
Rodions Kurucs – FC Barcelona B – SF – 6′ 9″ – 220 lbs – 20 yrs
Aaron Holiday – UCLA – PG – 6′ 1″ – 185 lbs – 22 yrs
Jacob Evans – Cincinnati – SF – 6′ 6″ – 210 lbs – 21 yrs
De’Anthony Melton – USC – PG – 6’4″ – 190 lbs – 20 yrs

The Swing For The Fence Prospects – AKA Boom-Or-Bust

Lonnie Walker – Miami – SG – 6’4″ – 206 lbs – 20 yrs
Mitchell Robinson – Chalmette HS – C – 7′ 0″ – 223 lbs – 20 yrs
Anfernee Simons – IMG Academy – SG – 6′ 5″ – 177 lbs – 19 yrs
Jontay Porter – Missouri – C – 6′ 11″ – 240 lbs – 19 yrs
Lindell Wigginton – Iowa State – PG – 6′ 2″ – 185 lbs – 20 yrs
Bruce Brown – Miami – SG – 6’5″ – 191 lbs – 22 yrs
Isaac Bonga – Skyliners (Germany) – SF/SG – 6’9″ – 203 lbs – 19 yrs
Hamidou Diallo – Kentucky – SG – 6’5″ – 197 lbs – 20 yrs

Players not listed are simply draft prospects that could be drafted, but don’t project clearly into any of these tiers.

If you are looking for a specific player, check out the Basketball Insiders Top 100 Prospects list, this listing is updated weekly.

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

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