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NBA Sunday: Better Off Without DeAndre?

In the long run, Mark Cuban shouldn’t worry too much about losing out on DeAndre Jordan, writes Moke Hamilton.

Moke Hamilton

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It was a mere 48 hours since DeAndre Jordan had spurned his Dallas Mavericks and did an about-face by re-signing with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Mark Cuban—who was no stranger to the limelight—found himself with the cameras on him and the recorders rolling.

“I pick my nose at the table,” Cuban said to the crowd that had appeared around him in an impromptu media session at Cox Pavilion during the 2015 NBA Summer League.

“I don’t give a [f***] about etiquette,” he said.

“Etiquette” was the word that was used during a discussion that focused—albeit for only a few minutes—on DeAndre Jordan.

With a shrug of his shoulders and with his typically nonchalant, tell it like it is tone, Cuban offered a two-word phrase to end the discussion.

“[Sh**] happens,” he said. “This is business. It’s the real world. … You move on.”

That, he has.

As it relates to the Mavericks, “etiquette” might be an appropriate word to come up in that context, as Jordan did violate one of the industry’s long-held practices and unwritten rules.

He wasn’t the first, though, and he won’t be the last. Cuban, a businessman to his core, understands this quite well.

“Selfish” would have been equally appropriate, but if there’s one word I would use to describe what many consider to be one of the low moments for the Mavericks since Cuban became the team’s majority owner in 2000, it would be “fortunate,” because in the long run, the Mavericks are better off having not committed $80 million to Jordan.

* * * * *

Anyone who knows me or reads my work even semi-regularly is probably aware of my affinity for Chris Paul’s basketball talent. This past spring’s 3-1 debacle aside, I once took heat for arguing that Paul’s on-court talent and contributions, to me, put him in the same “category” as an in-prime Jason Kidd. There’s no question in my mind that if Paul played with another superstar of his caliber, he would be held in much higher esteem than he currently is because he would have experienced much more team success to this point in his career.

Still, that’s a different argument for a different day.

What routinely gets overlooked as it relates to excellent floor generals, like Paul, is the impact that they have on the other players around them. One of the greatest gifts that Rajon Rondo prominently and regularly displayed was the ability to not only deliver the ball to his teammates, but to actually know his teammates. Rondo knew where his teammates hot spots were, what their tendencies were, where they were most effective and how, amazingly, to find them at the right moment—right when they were ready to score.

Kidd, unquestionably one of the greatest point guards to ever play the game, is the best player I have ever seen in that regard. As a member of both the Phoenix Suns and especially the New Jersey Nets, Kidd helped players like Clifford Robinson, Rodney Rogers, Kenyon Martin and Kerry Kittles find levels of productivity that they struggled to match without him.

Even as Kidd ripened and had one foot out the door as a member of the New York Knicks, although a step slower, he still had his amazing court vision and awareness and ability to impact the game simply because he knew how, where and when to find his teammates. It’s no surprise that the Knicks were a 50-win team with Kidd and just a 37-win team the year after he left.

Steve Nash is among the greats, as well, and Amar’e Stoudemire, Raja Bell and Quentin Richardson would all agree.

All of this relates back to Paul because of one simple question that many of us are not brave enough to ask or perhaps intuitive enough to even ponder: Where would Jordan be without Paul?

Would he have led the entire league in shooting percentage over the past three seasons without Paul? Could he have converted 71 percent of his field goal attempts last season without Paul? Would he be as highly regarded across the league had he not spent the last four seasons playing with Paul?

The answer to each of those questions is easy: absolutely not. Of course, though answered factually and assertively, that’s merely an opinion that Jordan was eager to prove wrong.

It is wanting to prove those of us that believe that Jordan’s success, at least on the offensive end, is due in very large part to Paul that drove Jordan to agree to terms with the Mavericks in the first place.

Fortunately, for both parties, Jordan came back to his senses.

Typically, men who are seven feet tall have trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time. Jordan’s nimbleness, athleticism and agility are gifts in and of themselves. On the offensive end, he is one of the game’s best pick-and-roll readers and reactors and as a center with explosive finishing ability, that makes him an asset—so long as he is playing with a ball handler who can consistently find him.

More than anything else, what Jordan needs to excel in the NBA is a point guard who can create for him. Although he does possess what I believe to be is a better back-to-the-basket game than most of us realize, the simple fact is that Jordan is still most effective as a finisher at or near the rim. Playing with a legion of offensive threats and three other players who are capable of pressuring opposing defenses by having the ability to create their own shot, the last thing Jordan ever needs to worry about as a member of the Clippers is being the primary object of another team’s scouting assignment.

Defensively, his timing and instincts are nothing short of amazing. Despite his atrocious free-throw shooting, he will certainly impact the game on the defensive end. He is a game-changer, I’m just not sure that he would have been worth the kind of commitment that the Mavericks were prepared to make to him.

The very real question as it relates to Jordan is whether he is more Shaquille O’Neal than he is Tyson Chandler. But before you formulate an answer, just recall that Chandler averaged a career-best 11.8 points per game during the 2007-08 season—when he played with Chris Paul.

It was Paul’s job to make Chandler look good then as much as it is his job to make Jordan look good now, and of that, he had done a damn good job.

In fact, Jordan is a specialist whose skills and talents are perfectly suited to the situation in which he finds himself in Los Angeles. Without Rondo or Monta Ellis in Dallas and being paid $20 million per year, Jordan would have been expected to shoulder a burden that he probably would not have been able to manage. If you want an example of what that can do to a player’s psyche or morale, look no further than the man that effectively replaced Jordan in Dallas—Deron Williams.

And yes, while the cap may increase dramatically over the next few years, paying a specialist as much as 20 percent of your cap is no recipe for success. The key to winning in the NBA, whether the cap is $50 million, $60 million or $100 million is return on investment, and as great as Jordan has been for the Clippers, he would not have been able to emerge into a $20 million per year player for the Mavericks.

So, on this day in Las Vegas, if you wondered why Cuban seemed so nonchalant and passive about the entire situation, it’s because, deep down inside, he probably realized that.

Best believe, if there is one thing Cuban knows a thing or two about, it’s success. And that is exactly why his Mavericks, even without Jordan, will rise again.

* * * * *

In the aftermath of Jordan recommitting to Doc Rivers and ensuring the continuance of the Clippers as a contender in the Western Conference, Cuban has done his best to not only dispose of the cap space that was earmarked for Jordan—but to make wise and prudent decisions with the durations and dollars that he is committing in new contracts.

Yes, the Mavericks have moved on, but they now do so with spare parts instead of fresh, new tires. In the end, the moves that they have made look good on paper but will most likely result in a lateral move, at best.

The Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and Clippers should be the top teams in the Western Conference. The Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder are all easily better, as well. That puts the Mavericks at seventh (at best), but also does not consider that the New Orleans Pelicans, Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz all have major upside that could result in a surprisingly productive season.

So now, after Rondo, Ellis and Chandler have each defected, the Mavericks again find themselves as a team that’s on a journey to nowhere. The NBA is a business and you have to field a team and compete, even when you know that you’re not contending for a championship. That is exactly where Cuban and his team is. As the sun sets on Dirk Nowitzki’s career, Cuban is aimlessly searching for the superstar that can lead his franchise into tomorrow.

Jordan is not that guy.

So yes, without him, Cuban and Donnie Nelson continue to lead their franchise on a journey to a destination, only they are not sure how they will get there. They do not have a GPS or a map, but what they do have, in Cuban and Nelson, are capable navigators.

If there is one thing that we have learned from the Summer of 2015—the summer where the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers each failed to attract a marquee free agent—it is that the contemporary NBA superstar values a winning culture more than he does a big market.

Gone are the days where a player needs to be in a city with bright lights in order to become an international superstar. With Twitter, NBA League Pass and the growing popularity of international basketball, LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Monroe—the biggest free agents to switch teams this summer—opted for basketball culture over bright lights.

That is exactly why anytime there is a free agent out there that thinks he needs a change of scenery, he will be listening to Cuban. Amongst NBA players, Cuban has the reputation of being a “player’s owner” and of someone who not only runs a first class organization, but someone who is amazingly transparent in all facets of his business.

And believe me, in the NBA, that is difficult to find.

With his track record of success since taking over the Mavericks 15 years ago and his championship trophy from the 2011 NBA Finals, Cuban will never have a problem generating interest in his club. Had he become aware of Jordan’s intention to re-sign with the Clippers on, say, July 2, there is no doubt in my mind that he would have ended up with either Roy Hibbert or David Lee, because players simply want to play for an owner like Cuban.

I don’t know if Kevin Durant is going to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder next summer, but I do know that if he decides to consider the idea and visit a short list of teams, the Mavericks will be one of them.

Amongst the league’s front offices and scores of its player personnel, Cuban has something that Jordan would not have been able to buy, not even with the $80 million he left on the table in Dallas—respect.

In the end, that will go much further for Cuban and the Mavericks than Jordan would have.

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Mock Drafts

NBA Daily: 60-Pick Mock Draft – 6/18/2019

The 2019 NBA Draft is Thursday and things seem to be taking shape at the top of the draft board. However, the middle of the draft could be wildly unpredictable. Steve Kyler offers up another 60-pick Mock Draft.

Steve Kyler

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The NBA Draft is upon us, and while there still seems to be a lot of things in play in the middle of the draft, the top of the board seems to be settling in on a defined order.

Assuming the top 10 picks stay where they are, the draft could go pretty much as scripted. After the top 10, it seems this could be a wildly unpredictable draft, with what’s shaping up to be a lot of pick movement, especially as certain guys rise or fall.

Here are some of the situation to watch:

The New Orleans Pelicans, fresh off their agreed Anthony Davis trade with the LA Lakers, are still exploring moves that could involve the fourth overall pick. The prevailing thought is if New Orleans can flip the pick for a solid veteran they would, but there has also been recent talk that they would like to try and trade up to grab Duke forward RJ Barrett in front of the Knicks. It doesn’t seem likely that Memphis would do such a deal unless they were assured they would get Murray State’s Ja Morant at four. The Knicks have been pretty locked in on keeping the third pick and have made it clear to local media that they would be happy with either Barrett or Morant, likely killing any traction on a Memphis-Pelicans swap.

The Cleveland Cavaliers had been linked to the Atlanta Hawks in a deal for the fifth overall pick, but traction on that seems to have died off once the Pelicans got control of the fourth pick and seem to have zeroed in on Texas Tech guard Jarrett Culver if they keep the pick. The Hawks have been exploring options on moving one of their middle first round picks, either the 10 or the 17, which they will receive from Brooklyn as part of the pending Allen Crabbe salary dump. League sources doubt the Hawks keep all of their picks, but it’s unclear where those moved picks would land as of today.

Speaking of moved picks, the Boston Celtics have been exploring options on their three first-round picks; it is believed the Celtics will ultimately deal the player they select with the 20th overall pick, although league sources say Boston is open to moving all of them if the return is right.

There could be some teams to watch in terms of trading into the draft; The Houston Rockets have explored deals that would get them into the late lottery, it does not seem like there is traction on anything as of today, but it’s a situation to watch.

The Denver Nuggets have also explored deals to get into the first round, mainly to obtain inexpensive bench players. The Nuggets could be one of the teams to watch for with one of the Celtics or Hawks picks.

With all of that in mind, here is the latest NBA Mock Draft. You can look for the Final Consensus Mock Draft tomorrow.

UPDATED: 6/18 - 4:00pm

Stay tuned to Basketball Insiders for the latest news and rumors surrounding the 2019 NBA Draft and instant reaction pieces on all the picks in the first round.

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, @TommyBeer, @jblancartenba, @SpinDavies, @JamesB_NBA, @MattJohnNBA, @DrewMaresca, @JordanHicksNBA, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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NBA

NBA Daily: Admiral Schofield Set On Building His Own Reputation

Admiral Schofield’s mindset carried him throughout his four-year career with the Tennessee Volunteers, and it will continue to take him to new heights in the NBA. Spencer Davies writes.

Spencer Davies

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Admiral Schofield lives for the late-game heroics.

“A lot of people talk about the clutch gene,” the former Tennessee forward told reporters at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago with a grin. “ I don’t think it’s a gene. I just think it comes from a mindset, comes from your preparation and how you approach the game.”

On March 9, 2017, Schofield had an opportunity. With the ninth-seeded Volunteers down by two to the third-seeded Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Tournament, he hoisted a shot for the victory from the left elbow.

To everyone’s dismay, Schofield’s attempt fell short. Tennessee was eliminated and their season was over. Then a sophomore, he and his teammates were scrambling to find somebody to take it. He admittedly was not ready to be in that spot.

That’s when something clicked in his head.

“I think my mindset changed to ‘I will never be in a position where the last shot is decided for me and I won’t make it,’” Schofield said in a farewell video post on Twitter back in March.

“I just want to contribute to winning,” Schofield said at the Combine. “Whether it’s defending for the last shot being on the defensive end, whether it’s taking that corner three or taking that kick-out three or making a play, I’m that guy. I want to be that guy…”

Ever since then, that mentality has stuck with him.

Do a quick Google search on Schofield. Amidst the highlight-reel flashes of athleticism, it’s guaranteed that you’ll find more than a handful of different moments where the fearless 22-year-old stepped up during crunch time.

On December 8 this past year, Schofield led then-seventh-ranked Tennessee to a win over the top-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs. En route to a career-high 30 points, he caught fire in the second half and knocked down the go-ahead three from the top of the perimeter with 22 seconds left in the game.

The story didn’t change in conference play. A month later with his team up by two on Florida, Schofield went to the right corner and hit a dagger with 41 seconds to play. In a one-point affair vs. Ole Miss later in the season, he took a game-clinching charge.

When the NCAA Tournament came around, Schofield stepped up once again. Tussling in the first round with an upset-minded Colgate squad, he nailed two triples from the same right corner spot with less than two minutes to go. Before getting eliminated in overtime by Purdue in the Sweet 16, he drained a deep three above the break to give the Vols the lead with five minutes left in regulation.

“I mean if you ask guys like Kobe [Bryant], they won’t tell you it’s a clutch gene. It’s just the thousands of shots. It’s another shot that he shot a thousand times,” Schofield said at the Combine.

“It’s the same thing for me. I stay in the gym. I work on my mindset. I work on situational things in the gym and [I’m] always staying ready, staying prepared for the next shot and being prepared for that big shot. And I just feel like in that moment in time, I think I’m the best option.

If you can’t tell by the infectious smile, Schofield is beaming with confidence—and why wouldn’t he be?

When he arrived in Knoxville in 2015, things weren’t great. The coach that recruited him to come to Tennessee, Donnie Tyndall, was fired after his lone underwhelming season for the program. Rick Barnes came in as a replacement and the results were poor in his first couple of seasons, too.

But over the last two years, the Volunteers are 57-15. They’ve appeared in back-to-back March Madness tournaments and won the regular season SEC Championship in 2018. For the first time in school history, they were ranked No. 1 in the country during the month of January. It was the first time they had been the nation’s top team in over a decade.

The turnaround was monumental, and Schofield realizes how big of a piece he was to that puzzle.

“It felt great because, to be honest, I was part of that foundation building that culture,” Schofield said. “And to be on top in the end really is just a testament to the hard work. And everything that we built in those first two years, it really started to pay off in those last few years.

“But to say that I was one of the guys that helped start that is a blessing. We had a great year. We had a great run.”

Transitioning to the next level, Schofield feels as ready as anybody. Under Barnes, he says everything was “pro-structured.” The Vols were constantly pushed. They were always prepared. Perhaps most importantly, everybody was held accountable, which is essential when players are going to be on their own in the pros.

Because of his experiences, Schofield believes in himself. It’s not about him simply sticking around the league. He desires much more than that.

“I think I can contribute to any team or any organization that brings me in, not just with my play,” Schofield said. “But just being a great teammate, being an ambassador for that organization and for that community, really coming in and being a positive influence, having some type of leadership. Not saying I’ll come in and be ‘the guy’ or ‘the leader.’ There’s many ways you can lead.”

In discussing his character, it’s hard not to bring up one of the most selfless moments in his college career. With Tennessee and Iowa knotted up prior to heading into overtime, Schofield—who was one hack away from fouling out—told Barnes to take him out in favor of teammate Kyle Alexander.

Cold from the field and in danger of being disqualified, Schofield made the request knowing Alexander would be a game-changer. It paid off in a victory.

“I’m a winner,” Schofield said after the 83-77 win in extra time. “At the end of the day, if I don’t have to be on the floor to win, that’s fine.”

While there’s plenty of other times he’s put his leadership on display, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more perfect example of Schofield’s team-first outlook. Combine those intangibles with the skill set and you have yourself one hell of a basketball player.

Schofield views himself as a positionless player with the ability to guard two through four or five, switching and slowing down scorers and doing the little things on the defensive end. Within offensive sets, converting on shots from the corner, coming off pin-downs and utilizing dribble hand-offs are his forte. He also has incredible athleticism, whether it’s skying for a huge dunk or swatting an opponent.

NBA teams can clearly see the 40 percent rate from three over the last three years. Still, there’s more than meets the eye to that, according to Schofield.

“[I want to] show ’em that not only can I shoot the ball, I can defend and do multiple things – create a little bit for others and pass the ball well,” Schofield said. “I don’t credit for how well I pass the ball either because I haven’t been in many situations at Tennessee to pass the ball. But I do pass it pretty well.”

Schofield maintains he deserves to be picked in the first round. As one of three draft hopefuls from Tennessee—Grant Williams and Jordan Bone being the others—who hopes to hear his name called Thursday night, that’s what he’s aiming for.

If he gets his wish, Admiral will become the second professional athlete in the Schofield family. His older brother, O’Brien, is an NFL linebacker who was a part of the 2014 Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.

“He’s helped me a lot,” Admiral said of his O’Brien. “But more than anything, I’ve just been very observant seeing how he did things, even though it was football. Just got a little taste of that type of spotlight, him being an NFL Champion, playing on the Seahawks.

“Just seeing the process of that, seeing what it takes to win on that level, seeing some of the things that they did—I was able to implement that at the University of Tennessee, but I also I’ll be able to take that with me going forward when I get to the league.”

Individually, there’s always room to get better. You can develop better dribbling, improve your passing or tweak your jumper. But can you make an impact on winning?

Schofield does.

And that’s what will separate him from the rest.

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NBA

NBA Daily: What’s Next For The Lakers?

With Anthony Davis onboard to make them a contender, the Lakers must decide how they will spend their money this summer, write Matt John.

Matt John

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The NBA season ended literally just days ago, and we already may have seen the most significant move made this offseason.

The Los Angeles Lakers went all-in when they traded 95 percent of the farm on Friday for Anthony Davis, pairing him up with LeBron to make up one of the most fearsome duos in the league.

There’s a lot of risk going into this. LeBron will be 35 in December, and Davis doesn’t have a whole lot of playoff success to his name. Many think the Lakers may have overshot their hand when they made this deal. They traded almost all the young talent they had – plus, three picks and two pick swaps is a king’s ransom for a guy on an expiring contract.

Let’s not mince words. LA definitely paid more than they could afford in the long run with this trade, but Anthony Davis is the type of guy you overshoot your hand for. When you have one of the league’s top players in the game, and you have the chance to add another one, you pay the piper.

Now all that remains is what to do with the rest of the roster. All props need to go to Rob Pelinka for creating a title window for the Lakers when the clock was ticking, but let’s not overlook that the roster he constructed last summer turned out to be a complete disaster. It was an intriguing idea to put a bunch of playmakers around LeBron, but the lack of spacing manifested a clogged toilet offense.

Even after adding Anthony Davis and his $25+ million contract, the Lakers will still have plenty of cap room at their arsenal this summer. If getting the Lakers their 17th title is truly his concern, he needs to build the best roster he can around LeBron and AD. In order to do that, the Lakers have two options to go to

Get The Third Star

Now it’s clear as day that this is what the Lakers are hoping for. Shortly after the Davis trade was announced, Marc Stein reported that the team will make Kemba Walker its primary target in free agency.

Having a third star has been LeBron’s MO for every destination he’s gone to since “The Decision.” First, it was Chris Bosh in Miami, and then it was Kevin Love in Cleveland. Neither matched the production that they had with their previous teams before they joined LeBron, but they did give the team an undeniable edge that helped them win a championship.

Getting that third banana takes the pressure off of James and Davis to produce on a nightly basis, and it can help stagger minutes for James who, all things considered, isn’t getting any younger.

Now, Davis can handle a fair amount of the load as James continues to age, but a third star would only make his life easier. As we all know, Davis wasn’t exactly happy that he had to carry much of the scoring burden in the Big Easy, so having someone else pick up the slack would not make it feel like a repeat of what happened with the Pelicans.

Luckily for the Lakers, this summer has one of the best free agent classes of all time. Kevin Durant, who’s still getting the max with or without a healthy Achilles, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson, Khris Middleton and Walker. Adding one of those names would solidify the Lakers’ odds as the title favorite (if they aren’t already).

The only problem with getting this third star on presumably a maximum contract is that, with all that money invested in James, Davis and Player X, there is little money to spend elsewhere. The only other contracts that can be handed out are the Mid-Level Exception and veteran minimum contracts. This summer, a lot of teams are going to have cap space, and not everyone is going to have that happy ending this offseason.

Because of that, expect lesser players to get paid far more than what they are worth. That’s going to make it difficult for the Lakers to get valued rotation players on veteran’s minimum level contracts.

That’s why it could be better for LA to consider the other option.

Get Reliable Role Players

The Lakers have two of the league’s best players. As long as they stay on the court, LA should be one of the best teams in the league. With the Warriors appearing to disband this summer, the NBA will have some parity for the first time since 2016. Now that the next title may be up for grabs, LeBron and Davis could be enough star power alone to power the Lakers to a title.

Emphasis on star power. Of course, they can’t win a title without any productive players in their rotation. They could get them, but that would probably mean they wouldn’t be able to add a third banana. Then again, maybe that’s not the worst thing in the world.

If we learned anything from the Warriors from the last few weeks, it’s that a lack of depth can really kill you in the Finals. One of the reasons why Toronto won so handily – besides the unfortunate injuries – was because of its full-balanced attack against Golden State. The Warriors may have had the edge in star power, but Marc Gasol, Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka and Norm Powell took advantage of the Warriors’ lack of versatility as a team.

You need those types of players to win the championship. No one knows that better than LeBron. Things didn’t start out great in Miami, but after the team added the likes of Shane Battier, Ray Allen and Chris Andersen, the HEAT got that extra push to win a championship.

Ditto for Cleveland. The Cavaliers didn’t have the greatest start when he came back. Then they added JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, Timofey Mozgov and Channing Frye- and that made a huge difference.

Something that we all know by now is that LeBron thrives when he has players who can shoot. The Lakers could bring back some of their designated “shooters” from last season, including Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Mike Muscala and Reggie Bullock, but there are better options this summer

Danny Green, Nikola Mirotic, JJ Redick, Trevor Ariza and Darren Collison to name a few are all guys who can shoot the rock that on paper would be an excellent fit next to LeBron. At the very least, they would help LeBron play the type of basketball that he loves to play in.

The problem is, those guys can’t be asked to do more than what their specialty is. If and when LeBron and Davis are having an off-night, you can’t rely on a sharpshooter to carry the team when it’s down.

There’s always the possibility that the Lakers, even if they don’t sign a star player, believe they have their third banana in Kyle Kuzma. That’s a lot of pressure for a third-year player, but Kuzma has been exceeding expectations since he came into the league. Maybe he’s only scratching the surface of his potential.

There is no wrong answer for the Lakers here. It’s exciting enough that with Davis on board, they now have options this summer. They no longer have to bank on the cavalry coming in the near future because the cavalry has arrived. They’re not a finished product, but they finally have a product on their hands.

All that said, which door do you think the Lakers should choose?

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