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NBA PM: The NBA Draft Is A Crap Shoot

Drafting well isn’t as easy as you may think. A look back at the last fifteen years illustrates the randomness of the process.

Steve Kyler

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The Draft Is A Crap Shoot:  The NBA Draft is a huge part of team building in the NBA, and as costs for free agents soar under a new cap environment fueled by blossoming media rights fees, the value of getting the NBA draft right is going to matter more and more. While some teams have had more hits than misses in the Draft process, the history of each pick isn’t nearly as neat and tidy. Here is how the last fifteen drafts have played out in the top 10:

First Overall Pick

2015 Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky – Minnesota Timberwolves

2014 Andrew Wiggins, Kansas – Cleveland Cavaliers

2013 Anthony Bennett, UNLV – Cleveland Cavaliers

2012 Anthony Davis, Kentucky – New Orleans Hornets

2011 Kyrie Irving, Duke – Cleveland Cavaliers

2010 John Wall, Kentucky – Washington Wizards

2009 Blake Griffin, Oklahoma – L.A. Clippers

2008 Derrick Rose, Memphis – Chicago Bulls

2007 Greg Oden, Ohio State – Portland Trail Blazers

2006 Andrea Bargnani, Italy – Toronto Raptors

2005 Andrew Bogut, Utah – Milwaukee Bucks

2004 Dwight Howard, SW Atlanta Christian Academy (GA) – Orlando Magic

2003 LeBron James, St. Vincent-St. Mary HS (OH) – Cleveland Cavaliers

2002 Yao Ming, China – Houston Rockets

2001 Kwame Brown, Glynn Academy – Washington Wizards

2000 Kenyon Martin, Cincinnati – New Jersey Nets

Best Selection: LeBron James

Hard to make a case against LeBron James as the top number one pick over the last 15 years. Anthony Davis looks like he’s headed in the right direction, but King James is hands down the most accomplished and proven player of his generation.

Worst Selection: Anthony Bennett

The heart break of Greg Oden, the underwhelming play of Andrea Bargnani all get a hit tip here, but none of them have come near the utter collapse that’s been Anthony Bennett. It’s still early in his career, but comparatively, he may be the worst top overall pick in the history of the game.

Second Overall Pick

2015 D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State – Los Angeles Lakers

2014 Jabari Parker, Duke – Milwaukee Bucks

2013 Victor Oladipo, Indiana – Orlando Magic

2012 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky – Charlotte Bobcats

2011 Derrick Williams, Arizona – Minnesota Timberwolves

2010 Evan Turner, Ohio State – Philadelphia 76ers

2009 Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut – Memphis Grizzlies

2008 Michael Beasley, Kansas State – Miami HEAT

2007 Kevin Durant, Texas – Seattle Supersonics

2006 LaMarcus Aldridge, Texas – Chicago Bulls (Draft rights traded to Portland Trail Blazers)

2005 Marvin Williams, North Carolina – Atlanta Hawks

2004 Emeka Okafor, Connecticut – Charlotte Bobcats

2003 Darko Milicic, Serbia & Montenegro – Detroit Pistons

2002 Jay Williams, Duke – Chicago Bulls

2001 Tyson Chandler, Dominguez HS (Calif.) – L.A. Clippers (Draft rights traded to Chicago Bulls)

2000 Stromile Swift, LSU – Vancouver Grizzlies

Best Selection: Kevin Durant

A lot of very good players have come out of the second overall pick, but Kevin Durant is the best of the bunch since 2000.

Worst Selection: Hasheem Thabeet

There are a bunch of worthy candidates for this spot: Michael Beasley, Stromile Swift or Darko Milicic, for example. But none of them have ended up being as bad as Thabeet. Milicic gets railed on more than most because of the other players on the board in 2003, but at least Darko had some serviceable years in the NBA. Hard to say that about Thabeet.

Third Overall Pick

2015 Jahlil Okafor, Duke – Philadelphia 76ers

2014 Joel Embiid, Kansas – Philadelphia 76ers

2013 Otto Porter, Georgetown – Washington Wizards

2012 Bradley Beal, Florida – Washington Wizards

2011 Enes Kanter, Kentucky – Utah Jazz

2010 Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech – New Jersey Nets

2009 James Harden, Arizona State – Oklahoma City Thunder

2008 O.J. Mayo, USC – Minnesota Timberwolves

2007 Al Horford, Florida – Atlanta Hawks

2006 Adam Morrison, Gonzaga – Charlotte Bobcats

2005 Deron Williams, Illinois – Utah Jazz

2004 Ben Gordon, Connecticut – Chicago Bulls

2003 Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse – Denver Nuggets

2002 Mike Dunleavy, Duke – Golden State Warriors

2001 Pau Gasol, Spain – Atlanta Hawks

2000 Darius Miles, East St. Louis HS (Mo.) – L.A. Clippers

Best Selection: Pau Gasol

This one was tougher than you might think because James Harden has become an elite NBA player as has Carmelo Anthony. But the complete body of work Gasol has put in and the number of wins he has on his resume is awfully hard to ignore. If there is a hall of famer in the bunch, it’s likely Gasol.

Worst Selection: Adam Morrison

While the full story on Joel Embiid has yet to be written, the story on Adam Morrison has been and it’s not a good story at all. Morrison might not only be one the worst top five picks since 2000, he might be one of the worst top five picks in NBA history, especially considering how good he was in college.

Fourth Overall Pick

2015 Kristaps Porzingis, Baloncesta Sevilla – New York Knicks

2014 Aaron Gordon, Arizona – Orlando Magic

2013 Cody Zeller, Indiana – Charlotte Bobcats

2012 Dion Waiters, Syracuse – Cleveland Cavaliers

2011 Tristan Thompson, Texas – Cleveland Cavaliers

2010 Wesley Johnson, Syracuse – Minnesota

2009 Tyreke Evans, Memphis – Sacramento Kings

2008 Russell Westbrook, UCLA – Seattle Supersonics

2007 Mike Conley Jr, Ohio State – Memphis Grizzlies

2006 Tyrus Thomas, Louisiana State – Portland Trail Blazers

2005 Chris Paul, Wake Forest – New Orleans Hornets

2004 Shaun Livingston, Peoria HS (IL) – L.A. Clippers

2003 Chris Bosh, Georgia Tech – Toronto Raptors

2002 Drew Gooden, Kansas – Memphis Grizzlies

2001 Eddy Curry, Thornwood HS (IL) – Chicago Bulls

2000 Marcus Fizer, Iowa State – Chicago Bulls

Best Selection: Chris Paul

This one was tough as well as there is a case to be made here for Russell Westbrook too. However, Paul has the larger body of work and is generally considered the better overall player, but the gap between the two isn’t nearly as great as you would think. This one could go either way.

Worst Selection: Marcus Fizer

This one could have gone one of three ways: Fizer, Tyrus Thomas or Wes Johnson. Regarding Thomas and Johnson, while neither lived up to their draft status, both have had NBA careers. Fizer flamed out in the worst way, especially considering how good of a draft prospect he seemed to be coming into the NBA.

Fifth Overall Pick

2015 Mario Hezonja, FC Barcelona Basquet – Orlando Magic

2014 Dante Exum, Australia – Utah Jazz

2013 Alex Len, Maryland – Phoenix Suns

2012 Thomas Robinson, Kansas – Sacramento Kings

2011 Jonas Valanciunas, Lithuania – Toronto Raptors

2010 Demarcus Cousins, Kentucky – Sacramento Kings

2009 Ricky Rubio, Spain – Minnesota Timberwolves

2008 Kevin Love, UCLA – Memphis Grizzlies

2007 Jeff Green, Georgetown – Boston Celtics

2006 Shelden Williams, Duke – Atlanta Hawks

2005 Raymond Felton, North Carolina – Charlotte Bobcats

2004 Devin Harris, Wisconsin – Washington Wizards

2003 Dwyane Wade, Marquette – Miami HEAT

2002 Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Italy – Denver Nuggets

2001 Jason Richardson, Michigan State – Golden State Warriors

2000 Mike Miller, Florida – Orlando Magic

Best Selection: Dwyane Wade

There are a couple of guys on the rise from this list, specifically DeMarcus Cousins. That said, no one this list has accomplished more than Wade and in the last fifteen years he is far and away the best player drafted with the fifth pick. He is a lock Hall of Famer and a multi-time NBA Champion.

Worst Selection: Nikoloz Tskitishvili

There are some stinkers on this list for sure: Shelden Williams and Thomas Robinson included. But none of them compare to how bad Nikoloz Tskitishvili turned out. The fifth pick has been spotty for sure, but Tskitishvili sets the bar for futility here.

Sixth Overall Pick

2015 Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky – Sacramento Kings

2014 Marcus Smart, Oklahoma St. – Boston Celtics

2013 Nerlens Noel, Kentucky – New Orleans Pelicans

2012 Damian Lillard, Weber State – Portland Trail Blazers

2011 Jan Vesely, Czech Republic – Washington Wizards

2010 Ekpe Udoh, Baylor – Golden State Warriors

2009 Johnny Flynn, Syracuse – Minnesota Timberwolves

2008 Danilo Gallinari, Italy – New York Knicks

2007 Yi Jianlian, China – Milwaukee Bucks

2006 Brandon Roy, Washington – Minnesota Timberwolves

2005 Martell Webster, Seattle Prep HS – Portland Trail Blazers

2004 Josh Childress, Stanford – Atlanta Hawks

2003 Chris Kaman, Central Michigan – L.A. Clippers

2002 Dajuan Wagner, Memphis – Cleveland Cavaliers

2001 Shane Battier, Duke – Memphis Grizzlies

2000 DerMarr Johnson, Cincinnati – Atlanta Hawks

Best Selection: Damian Lillard

This one was tough. Lillard has been an instant star in the NBA, while former Blazer Brandon Roy might be a bit more accomplished. A case can be made for either, but given that the sky seems to be the limit for Lillard going forward, he gets the edge here, but not by much. Also, while he was never a star, Shane Battier set the standard for being a model teammate and playing an important role for a rather lengthy NBA career. So he is worth noting in this context, but Lillard gets the nod as the top selection since 2000.

Worst Selection: Yi Jianlian

This one was tough, as there are a number of guys that could have landed here: Jan Vesely is already out of the league. Johnny Flynn flamed out almost as fast. Dajuan Wagner was an impact scorer coming into the NBA but never made it. All of them could have taken the top spot, but considering the hype surrounding Yi Jianlian (that he would be the next iconic Chinese player) and the fact that it never worked for him at this level puts him at the top spot. The expectations were so high for Jianlian and he failed to come anywhere close to what he was expected to be.

Seventh Overall Pick

2015 Emmanuel Mudiay, Guangdong Tigers – Denver Nuggets

2014 Julius Randle, Kentucky – Los Angeles Lakers

2013 Ben McLemore, Kansas – Sacramento Kings

2012 Harrison Barnes, UNC – Golden State Warriors

2011 Bismack Biyombo, Congo – Sacramento Kings

2010 Greg Monroe, Georgetown – Detroit Pistons

2009 Stephen Curry, Davidson – Golden State Warriors

2008 Eric Gordon, Indiana – L.A. Clippers

2007 Corey Brewer, Florida – Minnesota Timberwolves

2006 Randy Foye, Villanova – Boston Celtics

2005 Charlie Villanueva, Connecticut – Toronto Raptors

2004 Luol Deng, Duke – Phoenix Suns

2003 Kirk Hinrich, Kansas – Chicago Bulls

2002 Nene Hilario, Brazil – New York

2001 Eddie Griffin, Seton Hall – New Jersey

2000 Chris Mihm, Texas – Chicago Bulls

Best Selection: Stephen Curry

Over the last fifteen years, it’s pretty clear that Steph Curry is the best seventh overall pick. In fact, he may be the best seventh pick in the history of the draft. Other notable picks at seven include Kevin Johnson (1987), Chris Mullin (1985), Pat Riley (1967) and John Havlicek (1962). Considering these players, it’s close, but Curry is still in the early parts of his career so there are more accomplishments to be had.

Worst Selection: Eddie Griffin

Tough to put someone who died so early in life on this list. However considering how many assets the Rockets gave up to acquire Griffin and how poorly his career turned out, this one is hard to ignore even with the tragic circumstances of his death. In the span being looked at, the seventh pick hasn’t yielded a lot of misses and certainly none that are bigger than Griffin.

Eighth Overall Pick

2015 Stanley Johnson, Arizona – Detroit Pistons

2014 Nik Stauskas, Michigan – Sacramento Kings

2013 Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia – Detroit Pistons

2012 Terrence Ross, Washington – Toronto Raptors

2011 Brandon Knight, Kentucky – Detroit Pistons

2010 Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest – L.A. Clippers

2009 Jordan Hill, Arizona – New York Knicks

2008 Joe Alexander, West Virginia – Milwaukee Bucks

2007 Brandan Wright, North Carolina – Charlotte Bobcats (Draft rights traded to Golden State Warriors)

2006 Rudy Gay, Connecticut – Houston Rockets (Draft rights traded to Memphis Grizzlies)

2005 Channing Frye, Arizona – New York Knicks

2004 Rafael Araujo, BYU – Toronto Raptors

2003 T.J. Ford, Texas – Milwaukee Bucks

2002 Chris Wilcox, Maryland – L.A. Clippers

2001 DeSagana Diop, Oak Hill Academy (Va.) – Cleveland Cavaliers

2000 Jamal Crawford, Michigan – Cleveland Cavaliers (Draft rights traded to Chicago Bulls)

Best Selection: Jamal Crawford

The top eighth pick since 2000 might be Rudy Gay. That said, it’s hard to overlook what Jamal Crawford has done, especially considering he is playing on his sixth NBA team. Crawford is constantly in the sixth man of the year discussion and has been amazingly dependable for most of his career.

Worst Selection: Joe Alexander

There are some duds on this list and one of the biggest might be Rafael Araujo. That said, Joe Alexander lands in the top spot for two reasons: he was projected to be a stud in the NBA and he flamed out massively. Araujo was a massive draft reach, so he gets a little bit of a pass, but could have very easily landed in the top spot.

Ninth Overall Pick

2015 Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin – Charlotte Hornets

2014 Noah Vonleh, Indiana – Charlotte Hornets

2013 Trey Burke, Michigan – Minnesota Timberwolves

2012 Andre Drummond, Connecticut – Detroit Pistons

2011 Kemba Walker, Connecticut – Charlotte Bobcats

2010 Gordon Hayward, Butler – Utah Jazz

2009 DeMar DeRozan, USC – Toronto Raptors

2008 D.J. Augustin, Texas – Charlotte Bobcats

2007 Joakim Noah, Florida – Chicago Bulls

2006 Patrick O’Bryant, Bradley – Golden State Warriors

2005 Ike Diogu, Arizona State – Golden State Warriors

2004 Andre Iguodala, Arizona – Philadelphia 76ers

2003 Mike Sweetney, Georgetown – New York Knicks

2002 Amare Stoudemire, Cypress Creek HS (Fla.) – Phoenix Suns

2001 Rodney White, UNC-Charlotte – Detroit Pistons

2000 Joel Przybilla, Minnesota – Houston Rockets

Best Selection: Amare Stoudemire

This one was tough because there are a couple of guys who could have fit here as equally as Stoudemire: DeMar DeRozan, Joakim Noah and Andre Iguodala are all very accomplished NBA players. That said, for a huge chunk of his career Stoudemire was the top player at his position, which got him the nod over a deserving field of candidates.

Worst Selection: Ike Diogu

This one was tough as well as there were some serious lets downs on this list: Patrick O’Bryant, Mike Sweetney and Rodney White. However, Ike Diogu won out because of expectations. He looked like a solid NBA player coming into the league, but just never made it. He is not as bad of a selection as some others listed here, but he certainly was a big miss.

Tenth Overall Pick

2015 Justise Winslow, Duke – Miami HEAT

2014 Elfrid Payton, Louisiana Layfayette – Orlando Magic

2013 C.J. McCollum, Lehigh – Portland Trail Blazers

2012 Austin Rivers, UNC – New Orleans Hornets

2011 Jimmer Fredette, BYU – Milwaukee Bucks

2010 Paul George, Fresno State – Indiana Pacers

2009 Brandon Jennings, Italy – Milwaukee Bucks

2008 Brook Lopez, Stanford – New Jersey Nets

2007 Spencer Hawes, Washington – Sacramento Kings

2006 Saer Sene, Senegal – Seattle Supersonics

2005 Andrew Bynum, St. Joseph (NJ) HS – L.A. Lakers

2004 Luke Jackson, Oregon – Cleveland Cavaliers

2003 Jarvis Hayes, Georgia – Washington Wizards

2002 Caron Butler, Connecticut – Miami HEAT

2001 Joe Johnson, Arkansas – Boston Celtics

2000 Keyon Dooling, Missouri – Orlando Magic

Best Selection: Paul George

Hard not to have Paul George in the top spot here. But before we declare him as the top guy, it’s worth mentioning that before his knees gave out, Andrew Bynum was a pretty special player. He struggled with injuries throughout his career, so that rules him out, but he was worth a mention here, as is Joe Johnson. Known mostly for his enormous contract Johnson has been a multi-time All-Star and a consistent performer for most of his NBA career. George gets the nod, but Bynum and Johnson were solid picks at the ten spot.

Worst Selection: Saer Sene

You could make a case for Luke Jackson since his body and back gave out on him. Jarvis Hayes had some upside but injuries ended his career early as well. But the worst spot belongs to Saer Sene and it’s not even close. This was a pick based strictly on upside and it never materialized. Considering what the tenth pick has produced historically, Sene gets the top spot for sure.

Curious how some of the other picks played out? You can look back at the history of every pick here.

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, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @SusanBible, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton, @JCameratoNBA, @iamdpick, @jblancartenba and @CodyTaylorNBA .

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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NBA Daily: Grading The Offseason – Houston Rockets

Ben Nadeau continues Basketball Insiders’ “Grading The Offseason” series by analyzing the Houston Rockets.

Ben Nadeau

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Over the course of July and August, Basketball Insiders embarked on grading all 30 NBA teams for their offseasons — additions, subtractions, draft picks, trades, etc — and their potential headed into the 2019-20 campaign. Between today and autumn, franchises will be tasked with figuring out how their roster pieces, both new and old, might mesh together on the floor. At long last, the journey has nearly reached its conclusion but a reshuffling of the hierarchy has left the recently-superior conference in a state of unpredictability.

Between Kevin Durant leaving for new opportunities, Anthony Davis finally getting his way and Kawhi Leonard teaming up with Paul George, the Western Conference, for now, is anybody’s best guess. Among those with an imaginable volatile future, the Houston Rockets will be a mystery box of highs and lows, anchored by two ball-dominant MVPs and former teammates. James Harden and Russell Westbrook need no introduction, but their fit has been questioned since the latter was snagged in a shock deal for the oft-injured Chris Paul.

There are other pieces here, most definitely, as general manager Daryl Morey continues to find gems in the league’s tiniest nooks and crannies, but make no mistake: The Rockets’ ceiling will only rise as far as Harden and Westbrook can co-habitat. It’s both the million-dollar query and a philosophical wonder, a beard-sized challenge that’ll come to define the new-look NBA by January — for better or for worse, however, that remains to be seen.

Overview

But before any Westbrook-related fireworks can commence, it’s worth looking back on a mostly successful campaign for Houston in 2018-19.

Despite experiencing major turnover to a roster that was once an ill-timed Paul injury away from eliminating the perpetually historic Warriors during the previous postseason, Houston recovered better than many expected. An early, ugly spat between Paul and the Lakers’ Rajon Rondo, a long-time rival, helped to put the Rockets in a 1-5 hole to start the season, where an ever-so-slight inkling of worry began to creep in. But Harden — the eventual runner-up in a contested MVP race, only bested by Giannis Antetokounmpo’s other-worldly efforts — erased those apprehensions with an electric effort every night.

For the Rockets, that was often more than enough.

Harden played 36.8 minutes per game, practically a dead tie with Bradley Beal and Paul George for the league lead, and finished as one of two players with a PER over 30 (Antetokounmpo). The feared iso-ball mastermind tallied 36.1 points per game — a staggering eight full points ahead of the second-placed George — and ended as the seventh-best assister (7.5) on the ladder too. The former MVP made 4.8 three-pointers and nabbed an even two steals per game too, numbers that placed Harden, once again, as second-best in the NBA. Not a single player attempted or made more free throws than Harden either — a result largely thanks to the bearded-assassin’s flat-out insane 40.47 usage percent, the second-highest season-long rate in basketball history.

(Westbrook’s 41.65 rate in 2016-17, his MVP-worthy campaign, ranks first all-time, but that is a detail better suited for another section.)

To cap off a list of personal achievements that could truly run the length of this entire piece, Harden scored 30 or more points in 57 games, topped 50 in nine of them and hit 60 twice. For everybody else that stepped on the court for Houston in 2018-19, they reached the 30 point-mark a combined total of five times (Eric Gordon, 3; Clint Capela, 1; Paul, 1).

After the All-Star break, when Harden embarked on the equivalent of a nirvana-induced bender in all the best ways, the Rockets went 20-5 and secured the conference’s fourth seed. Unfortunately, a significantly tight race in the standings left Houston on the same side of the bracket as Golden State, who dispatched them in a tough six-game series during the second round and eliminated the Rockets for the fourth time in the last five postseasons.

All and all, it was a concentrated, historic effort for a franchise that was doubted after losing key rotation pieces like Luc Mbah a Moute and Trevor Ariza the summer beforehand.

But what they did next might’ve been even more unbelievable.

Offseason

So, Russell Westbrook — let’s get into it, finally.

On Jul. 11, the Rockets pushed all-in by trading Paul and first-round picks in 2024 and 2026, plus pick swaps in 2021 and 2025, for Westbrook. Apparently, James Harden was a loud, positive voice during the acquisition of the point guard and believes that the union can work.

In any case, Westbrook is an upgrade over Paul, if nothing else, given his nearly clean bill of health over the last half-decade. 80, 81, 80, 73 in the games played department for Westbrook compares so generously to Paul’s injury-riddled count of 74, 61, 58, 58 that the Rockets might consider the reliability worth the blind leap of faith alone. Since Harden and Durant departed Oklahoma City, Westbrook turned into a usage beast and evolved into the type of No. 1 option that many had envisioned for the floor-running, high-flying future Hall of Famer.

Additionally, Westbrook’s 10.7 assists per game crushed second- and third-placed Kyle Lowry (8.7) and Paul (8.2), respectively, while his rebounding efforts should help a Rockets side that ranked almost dead-last in rebounds per game last year at 42.1. On offense, the ball-hawking, aggressive duo should get Houston in transition early and often, a place where they succeeded all year long by putting up 18 points per game off opponent turnovers. When considering a near-perfect outcome, the pair would have to reignite their dynamic partnership, equally share responsibilities and not end up watching alternate possessions as the other isolates.

However, the Rockets have built their brand on volume three-point shooting — that, naturally, is one of Westbrook’s weakest tendencies. At 16.1 three-pointers made (and a ridiculous 45.4 attempted), Houston blew away opposition from behind the arc in 2018-19. The season before that, they did it again (15.3, 42.3) — but how about the year prior? You guessed it: The Rockets’ 14.4 three-pointers made on 40.3 attempts per game during 2016-17 also lead the entire league. Simply put, it’s the key tenant of Houston’s up-tempo offense and the forward-thinking Morey often fills out the roster with like-minded players during free agency to boot.

Westbrook has only shot over 34 percent from three-point range on one occasion over his 11-year career and is coming off a disappointing 29 percent effort during his final season in Oklahoma City. Like most professionals, Westbrook can get scorching-hot from deep but it’s inconsistent enough to question his perimeter fit alongside Harden, an elite penetrator that often drives and kicks to open three-point shooters. Still, mixing two recent MVPs, and getting out from under Paul’s albatross-sized deal, is a chance the Rockets will swing on every time — so, at this moment, the only thing left is to wait and see.

Of course, Houston made other moves too — that certainly happened!

Danuel House, Austin Rivers and Gerald Green all returned to the fold after dipping their toes into free agency — more of those athletic, adequate three-point shooters, obviously — while Iman Shumpert and Kenneth Faried both departed. On Jul. 19, the Rockets snagged Tyson Chandler to backup the blossoming Capela, then took fliers on Ben McLemore and Anthony Bennett a week later.

As a small note, Houston left the 2019 NBA Draft with no new additions.

PLAYERS IN: Russell Westbrook, Danuel House, Austin Rivers, Gerald Green, Ben McLemore, Anthony Bennett

PLAYERS OUT: Chris Paul, Kenneth Faried, Iman Shumpert

What’s Next

Lots of prayers, right?

There’s an undeniable magnetism in joining Harden and Westbrook together once more — two former MVPs in their respective primes — but how that practice plays out is still a relative unknown. The Rockets will continue to shoot a metaphorical truckload of three-pointers — hopefully, with some better looks than he got in Oklahoma City, Westbrook can get closer to the league-wide average. Even if he doesn’t, Houston holds plenty of deep-hitting cards to use at head coach Mike D’Antoni’s fast-paced, high-volume mercy.

Clint Capela, bless him, has taken a backseat in discussions all summer because of Westbrook, but the 25-year-old has continued his ascent and recently averaged 16.6 points and 12.7 rebounds, both career-highs, on 64.8 percent shooting. He’s still range-limited but with Harden and Westbrook dishing open looks, and surrounded by many capable three-point shooters, Capela fills his role perfectly. In spite of some draft-time chatter of a possible Capela trade, Morey held onto his 6-foot-10, rim-protecting stalwart — a decision that’ll keep the Rockets from bleeding points in the paint for years to come.

So, then, what is next? Is their ceiling higher than last year? Lower? With an injured Thompson and departed Durant, could this be their year to enact revenge on the Warriors? Or did they fall behind the other conference risers? In August, these are some heavy questions that don’t have answers today, understandably.

Honestly, it’s impossible to fully and accurately predict the Rockets’ forecast — still, there is one fact already written in the stars, however:

It’ll be fun as hell, so buckle up and enjoy the show.

OFFSEASON GRADE: B

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High-Performance Mindfulness: Energy Psychology – The NBA’s Best Kept Secret

Jake Rauchbach takes a deep dive into the positive correlation between the effectiveness of leading-edge Energy Psychology techniques in removing mental baggage and improving on-court statistical performance.

Jake Rauchbach

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With the NBA’s latest initiative requiring all 30 teams to have mental health professionals on staff, the door has now been kicked wide open on in regards to High-Performance Mindfulness and mind-based holistic methods that support the well-being of the player both on and off the court.

As teams all around the league begin to expand their mental health groups, and the scope of their player development departments, the next logical step in player support could be the application of Energy Psychology-based techniques. These techniques zero in on the elimination of subconscious performance blockages for the direct aim of exponentializing on-court statistical improvement.

Before we discuss how NBA, college and international professional teams are implementing these High-Performance Mindfulness modalities to move the dial on on-court statistical performance, let’s first discuss the foundational mechanics of the player mindset, starting with the subconscious mind.

Energy Psychology techniques interface directly with the subconscious mind of the athlete for the goal of unlocking the player’s full potential.

The Subconscious Mind

Science tells us that the conscious mind makes up 1-10 percent of total brain capacity, while the subconscious mind makes up 90-99 percent. The conscious can focus on one to two things at any given time (reading and writing, e.g.), while the unconscious can manage thousands of tasks all at once, doing so while a person is generally unaware that it is happening.

The subconscious mind is about habit, pattern and muscle memory. For a player, tending to the subconscious is vital, because all hours of practice, training and repetition get logged there. A player’s subconscious is like a supercomputer, storing all programs (thoughts, emotions, feelings, images) from life’s past experiences.

Subconscious Performance Blocks

If not fully processed on the mental and emotional levels, thoughts, emotions, feelings and images from negatively-charged past experiences can often become trapped within the player’s subconscious mind. When this happens, performance blocks occur, ultimately throwing a wrench into instinctual response, muscle memory and on-court performance execution.

A prime example is Nick Anderson’s missed free throws in the 1995 NBA Finals, and the unresolved subconscious loop of blocking thoughts, emotions and feelings that ensued and sabotaged the remainder of his career.

Mental blocks can stem from on and/or off-court experiences. Off-court situations that seemingly have nothing to do with basketball frequently present the biggest challenges when improving performance by working through the mind.

Many times, players are unaware that the unresolved thoughts and feelings from their past are acting as performance impediments to success. Furthermore, these players generally do not have the skills to resolve these performance-blocking imbalances on their own.

From the pool of NBA, college, international and national team players that I have observed, below are some of the most common subconscious blocks to on-court statistical improvement:

1.    Epic Failure: Epically failing the team, no matter the level of basketball, is one of the most commonly observed performance-blocking experiences. Often, the anxiety, embarrassment and shame attached to these unresolved memories can be carried throughout a career, effectively hampering performance. Case in point is Nick Anderson.

2.    Freshman Year of College: When a player has not quite solidified their role or found their confidence and rhythm within the context of the team, volatile experiences on both the mental/emotional and performance levels can occur. The first few games of a college career can be overwhelming. Players often carry forward emotional discord from these events, until resolved.

3.     DNPs & Injuries: When a player does not play for an extended period, it can mess with the psyche. NBA veterans who have experienced these stretches often carry it with them throughout their career with emotions such as lack of confidence, confusion and frustration. Watching teammates contribute while they are resigned to the bench can be debilitating.

4.     Family & Home Life: Many performance issues at the deepest levels map back to off-the-court issues. It is important to note that the older the blocking emotional discord, generally, the more debilitating to performance it can become.

5.    Recent Poor Performances: Subconscious blocks relating to recent hiccups in performance are common. It is prudent to address these immediately when fresh in the mind of the athlete so that long-term performance barriers do not occur.

With this breakdown, we are providing context to what coaches and players intuitively already understand: past negativity can affect future performance if it is allowed to linger.

This being said, when performance blocks exist, there is generally no amount of additional skill-development repetition, film study or strength and conditioning work that will help to unblock or unlock big time improvement for the player. The root cause of down trending performance held at the unconscious level has to be eliminated first.

This is something that many player development approaches have historically overlooked.

The Gap Within the Traditional Player Development Model 

Although closing fast, a gap has existed within old constructs of traditional player development strategies.

Players have been viewed as purely mechanical commodities as if they were robots repeatedly able to generate top-level performance by the click of a button. Outside of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and maybe a couple of other all-world players, this is simply not the case.

Players are multi-dimensional beings requiring customized, specific support at all levels of their awareness (especially the subconscious, where performance habits are created and fostered).

Only addressing the physical component (on-court work/strength and conditioning), or only addressing the conscious mind/analytical component through film analysis and scouting, neglects possibly the most important aspect of the athlete – the subconscious (muscle memory) element, which directly influences the player’s effectiveness in each one of these areas.

Tweaking the player development model, by addressing this aspect, may present the best opportunity to date for helping players consistently optimize on-court performance throughout a season and a career.

This, then, begets the question: What is the most effective way to do this when incorporated within the context of an overall team dynamic? Enter Psychology.

Closing the Gap Through Energy Psychology

Energy Psychology or EP is quite possibly the best-kept secret in basketball player development, and may be on the verge of breaking out big-time as a way to facilitate massive statistical on-court performance improvement for players.

Based on ancient traditional Chinese healing principals, and rooted in empirically-based results, EP works directly with the natural energetic flow, or meridian system of the body, to unburden and unblock past lingering experiences still residing within the subconscious mind of an athlete.

This has the effect of freeing up the player’s ability to perform better and, quite possibly, could be the fastest way to supercharge on-court statistical performance when integrated within the totality of an existing player development program.

Once deemed nonsensical and out there, techniques like Touch-Point tapping, muscle testing and Reiki and Quantum-Touch are now being implemented by NBA teams, high-major Division-1 college programs, and European ball clubs, as ways to supercharge performance.

Players and coaches are beginning to turn to these methods to dramatically improve three-point shooting percentage, free-throw percentage, assist-to-turnover ratio, VAL analytics, plus-minus offensive efficiencies and defensive efficiencies, mental focus, confidence, decision-making and leadership qualities, just to name a few.

This past season, the Los Angeles Clippers and their Integrated Player Development Department, employed the next level skill-sets of Dr. Laura Wilde, a cutting edge High-Performance Consultant who has been working with professional athletes for years. Dr. Wilde is a pioneer in this space, applying advanced Energy Psychology methods as a way to promote player well-being and to improve performance.

The Utah Jazz rely on Graham Betchart’s expertise as a long-time Elite Mental Skills Coach to star NBA players as a way to support their players both on and off the court.

As awareness around this space continues to build and these practices become common knowledge for helping players, roles for the High-Performance coaches who administer these Energy Psychology–Player Development-based techniques will become more defined.

For now, the most effective implementation of this type of specialist is likely as an embedded, trusted resource within an overall coaching staff or player development department.

The bottom line: The trend for improving performance through unlocking the mind is growing, and so too are the innovative and proven ways for producing positive change for players.

Energy Psychology and other types of High-Performance Mindfulness methods like it are now coming on-line as player development – secret weapons – in facilitating big-time statistical performance improvement for players.

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NBA

NBA Daily: Grading The Offseason – Philadelphia 76ers

In this edition of Basketball Insiders’ “Grading The Offseason” series, Matt John takes a look at the Philadelphia 76ers, one of the most talented albeit confusing teams in the league

Matt John

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When evaluating a team’s offseason, it can take a while to complete.

Between going over what happened last season, what they did this summer and predicting what lies ahead – it’s quite the exercise. You could almost call it a process.

Oh hey, speaking of processes, the next team up in this series? The Philadelphia 76ers.

Philadelphia has to feel good about itself. It came within a literal buzzer-beater from overtaking the reigning champion Toronto Raptors. They don’t have the same team that they did three months ago, but they still have a team that, should things break their way, can feasibly win its first title since 1983.

Their roster makeup is a tad confusing at the moment. Then again, saying that would imply that their roster construction has always made sense in the Embiid-Simmons era, which it hasn’t.

One thing is for sure, though: This team is going to be good. With Kawhi Leonard out of the Eastern Conference and Kevin Durant probably out for the year, the Sixers have a bigger window than they’ve had in decades.

Overview

Give Elton Brand credit. In just his first year as general manager, the guy didn’t shy away from shaking things up. Between Philly’s so-so start to their season to the trade deadline, Brand made the following moves.

  • Traded for a bonafide scorer who was available for cheap (Jimmy Butler)
  • Gave up on a prospect whose lack of progress was not helping the team (Markelle Fultz)
  • Acquired a pseudo star whose abilities fit like a glove next to Simmons and Embiid (Tobias Harris)

Since starting from scratch in 2013, Philly has always been about the future. The moves they made signified that the future was now. Butler wasn’t the best fit next to Embiid and Simmons, and Harris had never been on a team with aspirations nearly as high as Philly’s, but the talent that the Sixers had at their arsenal was gargantuan – gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated-like gargantuan.

Though Butler and Harris clearly made the Sixers a bigger threat for a title, progress was kind of slow after adding both of them.

Without Butler/Without Harris: 9-6 (Winning percentage of 60), Offensive Rating: 106.8 (19th overall), Defensive Rating: 106.9 (9th overall)

With Butler/Without Harris: 25-14 (Winning percentage of 64), Offensive Rating: 113 (7th overall), Defensive Rating: 108.9 (13th overall)

With Butler/With Harris: 17-11 (Winning Percentage of 61), Offensive Rating: 112.1 (10th overall), Defensive Rating: 110.3 (15th overall)

There are other factors that played into this. For example, it could’ve been the opponents who they played in those time frames. Or maybe it was Joel Embiid missing 18 games. Still, the Sixers somehow didn’t really take that next step they were hoping for. They finished the season 51-31, which qualified them for the third seed.

With Toronto and Milwaukee as their primary competition, that’s a mark the Sixers should be proud of. Maybe it would have been different if they had Butler and Harris from the get-go.

In their defense, some growing pains are in order when you shake up the roster to the degree that the Sixers did. When the playoffs come around, you can’t afford to wait for progress. When the Sixers entered the postseason, the progress they desired came, and it came swiftly.

After making quick work of the upstart Brooklyn Nets – and making someone look really dumb in the process – Philadelphia had quite the duel with Toronto. There were times where the Sixers looked completely outmatched against the Raptors. There were times where they completely outclassed the Raptors. To make a long story short, the craziest buzzer-beater – perhaps in playoff history – took them out for good.

As heartbreaking as that was, when you look at how the rest of the postseason turned out, the Sixers were the closest to eliminating the team who ended the Golden State superteam. Even if things didn’t end the way they wanted to, last season proved that Philadelphia is on the right track.

Offseason

In a perfect world, the Sixers would have retained all three of Butler, Harris, and J.J. Redick. As we know, not everything went according to plan. That doesn’t mean the Sixers had a bad offseason. Far from it.

It all started with the draft. The Sixers had five picks coming into the draft and wound up keeping two of them. They wound up with Matisse Thybulle and Marial Shayok. There’s not much to say about Shayok besides that the best hope for him is adding some guard depth.

For Thybulle, he could add so much to the 76ers. He was one of the best defenders coming out of this draft. At the very least, he should make Philadelphia much stronger on that end of the floor. He’s not necessarily a future star, but his potential as an impact player is very high. Expect him to be in Philly’s rotation sooner rather than later.

As for free agency, well, the Sixers were among the teams that went through quite a bit of turnover.

Let’s just get to the main course. Jimmy Butler decided to take his talents to South Beach, which honestly was a “surprised, but not surprised” type of move. Unlike say, oh, Kyrie Irving and Boston, Butler didn’t leave Philly on bad terms. In fact, he didn’t leave the Sixers empty-handed either.

While Butler is gone, in comes Josh Richardson. There is definitely a talent disparity between Butler and Richardson. In fact, there were many times where Butler carried the Sixers on his back when the team could not get things going. Richardson doesn’t command the same kind of respect, but he brings certain advantages that Butler does not.

-At 25 years old, Richardson fits better with Simmons and Embiid’s timeline than Butler does
-As a career near-37 percent shooter from three, Richardson is a better floor spacer than Butler is
-At $10 million, he’s one of the best bargain contracts in the league with his production

Brand probably would have preferred keeping Butler, but considering the alternative – letting Jimmy Buckets walk for nothing – getting Richardson expertly salvaged the situation.

That wasn’t the only sly move Brand made this summer.

When you’re building a contender, nothing helps your chances better like taking away a valuable piece from one of your biggest rivals. Philly took Al Horford right under from Boston’s nose, simultaneously giving the team another dimension while knocking the Celtics down a peg.

Over the last two years, Horford has established himself as one of the better defensive bigs in the league. He’s not a rim protector, nor is he the best pick-pocket, but his elite defense comes from his smarts. You wouldn’t think he could match up against Embiid’s girth or the footwork to contain Ben Simmons’ speed, but he can and he has.

As one of the few players who has shown the ability to slow both Simmons and Embiid, Horford has been Philly’s worst nightmare since “The Process” went full-throttle. With him on board, both of their young stars should be able to play their games more smoothly, especially against Boston.

That would be more plausible if Horford’s fit on the Sixers was a perfect one, which it isn’t. Horford is slated to start at power forward, which he only played eight percent of the time last year. At 33 years old, Horford’s footwork is on the decline. Plus, last season, he struggled to play well on back-to-backs. The Sixers already have enough worries on their hands with Embiid’s conditioning. With Horford, they’re going to have all their fingers crossed.

The Sixers also brought in plenty of new faces to help round out the roster. Raul Neto and Trey Burke are good flyers to take when looking for a second or third-string point guard. Kyle O’Quinn didn’t do much for the Pacers last season, but he’s an upgrade over the likes of Greg Monroe and Amir Johnson.

This offseason hasn’t just been about who they brought in, but who they brought back.

Considering what they gave up for them, the Sixers had to keep at least one of Jimmy Butler or Tobias Harris. Butler leaving for Miami increased the urgency to keep Harris at all costs. The Sixers definitely took that to heart, as they gave him a five-year/$188 million extension.

Harris is a talented scorer. Before he was traded to Philadelphia, he gained a lot of well-deserved All-Star recognition. He didn’t put up the same numbers as a Sixer – with some of that understandably coming from less touches – but those numbers fell further in the playoffs. Being traded mid-season gives him the benefit of the doubt. With more time, maybe he’ll figure it out.

That’s going to be hard though, because with Horford on the team, Harris is going to be playing a lot more at small forward now than he’s played in years. His best position is playing a stretch four because he’s not quick enough to cover wings, but his strength holds up against power forwards.

He could make the proper adjustments, but if he doesn’t, that could spell trouble. What makes it more troubling is that the Sixers paid Harris superstar money when the man, as good as he’s been, is not a superstar. If he’s put in the right role, keeping Tobias could be the right move no matter what he gets paid. Finding that role is going to be hard with the frontcourt logjam.

The Sixers wanted to keep their wing depth this summer. Along with Harris, management brought back James Ennis III – who carried his weight in the playoffs – and Mike Scott, who, regardless of his production, will get plenty of attention because of The Office.

Oh, and the Sixers are going to have to adjust to losing three-point marksman that is J.J. Redick. Redick’s three-point shooting was a threat. Richardson and Horford have a respected deep ball, but they don’t command the same respect that Redick did. He fit perfectly next to Simmons/Embiid. Playing without him is going to take some time to adjust to.

Losing Butler and Redick bites, but Philadelphia compensated well in response to their departure.

PLAYERS IN: Al Horford, Josh Richardson, Matisse Thybulle, Raul Neto, Trey Burke, Kyle O’Quinn, Shake Milton, Isaiah Miles, Chris Koumadje, Norvel Pelle (two-way), Marial Shayok (two-Way)

PLAYERS OUT: Jimmy Butler, J.J. Redick, Greg Monroe, Boban Marjanovic, TJ McConnell, Amir Johnson

What’s Next

Boston, Milwaukee, Toronto and Philadelphia all lost a player(s) that played an important role in each team’s success. The difference between Philadelphia and the aforementioned teams is that they brought in a fair amount of talent to cover its losses. But was it the right talent?

This has been said about the Sixers all summer, but it bears repeating: This roster doesn’t make a whole lot of sense right now. Brett Brown is a good coach, and he redeemed himself pretty well in the playoffs following an embarrassing loss at the hands of the Celtics in 2018, but he’s got a lot on his plate this season.

This can go right or it can go so very, very wrong. It’s not just about who the Sixers gained and lost this summer. There still remains the question as to whether Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons can reach their full potential when they play together. Simmons may never get a respectable jump shot, and Embiid’s conditioning is still an issue.

Both are two of the best young players in the game. If the Sixers are serious, they may have to choose between one or the other going forward. This isn’t something that needs to be taken care of now, but it is something that the Sixers should be paying close attention to.

This season could be the one where the Sixers finally cash in on the process just as much as it could be the confirmation that Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons will never co-exist on a championship team.

OFFSEASON GRADE: B+

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