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NBA Sunday: Current And Future NBA Players Shine At EuroBasket

Buddy Grizzard evaluates several current and future NBA players performing at EuroBasket 2017.

Buddy Grizzard

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EuroBasket 2017 is packed with past, present and future NBA talent, and that talent has been on full display as the tournament enters the knockout stage. Here we’ll check in on some of the top performers currently on NBA rosters, as well as a couple of the top players outside the NBA.

Goran Dragic

Dragic is fifth in scoring (21.2) and third in total points (127) at EuroBasket. However, he has shot just 46 percent overall (28th) and 31.8 percent from three (76th). His all-around contributions included 3.6 rebounds per game, ranking 17th among guards. His five assists per game are good for 14th and 1.8 steals tied for ninth. Dragic is the seventh most efficient player in the tournament according to FIBA’s overall efficiency stat.

Slovenia was fortunate to survive an off game from Dragic in the quarterfinals against Ukraine as he shot just 2-for-12 for five points with four rebounds and four assists in 21 minutes. Despite the struggles, Slovenia advances to the round of eight and Dragic will have a chance to close the tournament on a more positive note. Slovenia will face Kristaps Porzingis and Latvia in the round of eight on Tuesday.

Dennis Schroder

Dennis Schroder is EuroBasket 2017’s leader in points per game (23.2) and total points (139), but he hasn’t been supremely efficient. His 46.9 percent field goal shooting ranks well down the list at 25th, while his wayward three-pointer has connected only 33.3 percent of the time, ranking 68th. His 5.2 assists per game and 1.8 steals both tied for ninth, and he rated 13th per FIBA’s efficiency stat.

While Schroder has shown some of the same defensive lapses throughout the tournament that marred his 2016-17 NBA season, he clearly wanted it in yesterday’s round of 16 elimination game against France. Schroder dove on the floor for loose balls and consistently beat the French to 50-50 balls. Nobody could stay in front of him — not Evan Fournier and certainly not the unfortunate Boris Diaw, who got stuck defending him on several switches.

Schroder was able to find seams, pull multiple defenders into the paint and either finish through them or find teammates for dump-off passes. During one memorable sequence in the comeback win for Germany, Schroder got a steal and saved it to Robin Benzing. Schroder received a return pass and drew Diaw to the basket before setting up Daniel Theis to posterize him.

Kristaps Porzingis

Porzingis is second in total points for the tournament (131) and third in points per game (21.8). He continues to show the range that makes his ceiling so high, hitting 44 percent on threes, which ranks 28th. However, you would have liked to see something greater than 5.7 rebounds per game. Porzingis does lead the tournament with two blocks per game, showing the rare combination of outside shooting and rim protection that makes him such a special player. FIBA rates Porzingis as the fourth most efficient player in the tournament.

Porzingis dropped 19 points, including two of three three-pointers and six rebounds to lead Latvia past Montenegro earlier today in the round of 16. That sets up Tuesday’s round of eight contest with Dragic and Slovenia.

Bojan Bogdanovic

Bojan Bogdanovic is seventh in field goal percentage (56.4) and three-point percentage (55.6) and is one of the tournament’s most efficient scorers. The Pacers’ free agent signing is fourth with 21.4 points per game and tied with Marco Belinelli for sixth with 107 total points. He’s also fifth among guards in rebounding at five per game. FIBA ranks Bogdanovice eighth in efficiency. However, at only one assist per game, Bojan ties for 152nd. Bogdanovic and Croatia tip off against Russia today in the round of 16.

Lauri Markkanen

There have been hugely encouraging signs for Bulls fans with supremely efficient scoring from rookie Lauri Markkanen. His 19.5 points per game are seventh in the tournament while he ranks 11th in field goal percentage. His 117 total points at EuroBasket ranked a hugely-impressive fourth following Finland’s elimination at the hands of Italy in the round of 16. At 53.3 percent field goal shooting, Markkanen is one of only four NBA players in the tournament’s top 12. He also shot 47.8 percent from three, ranking 17th. His 5.7 rebounds per game tied him for a respectable 22nd and he rated 14th in efficiency according to FIBA. Markkanen didn’t do anything at EuroBasket to quiet those who doubt his ability to defend at an NBA level, but his impressive showing is a great sign for Chicago.

Alexey Shved

One player we’ll mention that is not NBA-bound is Russian Alexey Shved, who departed CSKA Moscow for the Timberwolves in 2012, but was traded three times in three NBA seasons. Shved signed a three-year deal with Khimki Moscow in 2015 and is second in points per game for EuroBasket (23) and fifth in total points (115). He’s the only player among the tournament’s top eight scorers that is not currently under contract with an NBA team. However, his 43.4 percent field goal shooting hasn’t blown anyone away. On the plus side, he has hit 40.4 percent of his threes and ranked seventh with 5.6 assists per game. He also tied for eighth in efficiency. Shved faces Bojan Bogdanovic and Croatia today in the round of 16.

Marco Belinelli

The new Atlanta Hawk is ninth in scoring (17.8) and tied for sixth in total points (107). His 51.1 percent three-point shooting ranks 10th at EuroBasket and he joins Bojan Bogdanovic as the only other NBA player in the top 10. Unfortunately, his 43 percent overall field goal shooting ranks all the way down at 39th. His 2.8 rebounds per game were also decent for a guard, and his 2.2 steals per game ranked fourth. Belinelli led the way with 22 points, four rebounds, and two assists to move Italy past Markkanen and Finland in the round of 16. Italy will face Bogdan Bogdanovic and Serbia Wednesday in the round of eight.

Pau Gasol

Spain’s mainstay is 15th in scoring (16.8) and ninth in field goal percentage (53.7) for the tournament. He’s also hit threes at a 44.4 percent clip, good for 26th, while his 8.8 rebounds per game rank fourth. Gasol also ranked third in FIBA’s overall efficiency stat. Spain, the prohibitive favorites to win EuroBasket, tip off later today against Turkey in the round of 16.

Evan Fournier

Fournier is 17th in scoring (15.8) and tenth in total points (95) on 47.7 percent field goal shooting, which ranks 23rd. Fournier hit 37 percent of his threes, which was good for an unimpressive 52nd. He did contribute 1.5 steals per game, which tied for 16th. Fournier erupted for 27 points, including three of eight three-pointers against Germany, but it wasn’t enough to stop Schroder’s national team from coming back to advance to face the Spain-Turkey winner.

Mindaugas Kuzminskas

At 19th in scoring (15.3) and tied for 13th in total points (92), Kuzminskas also connected on 36.4 percent of his threes. The New York Knick led Lithuania in the round of 16 with 20 points, but it wasn’t enough as Greece eliminated them to advance to advance to face the Russia-Croatia winner.

Dario Saric

Croatia’s Dario Saric is 21st in scoring (15.2) and his field goal shooting (43.9 percent, 36th in the tournament) and three point shooting (31.3 percent, 78th) have not impressed. He ranked in the top 10 in rebounding, however (7.4, tied for ninth). His 1.2 blocks per game tie him for fifth, and he was tied for second in double-doubles with three. His all-around performance was good enough for 19th in efficiency per FIBA’s metric. Russia awaits later today in the round of 16.

Bogdan Bogdanovic

Bogdan has shot just 44.7 percent from the field, ranking a tepid 32nd. The recipient of the largest rookie contract in NBA history — thanks to countryman and Kings GM Vlade Divac — shot just 29.3 percent on three pointers, ranking 87th. His 3.6 rebounds per game ranked 16th among players listed as guards. The saving grace for his tournament is that his 5.2 assists per game tied for ninth and his 1.6 steals rated 13th. Somehow, despite his shooting struggles, FIBA ranks him in the top 10 in efficiency. Bogdanovic led the way with 17 points and six assists as Serbia dominated Hungary in the round of 16. Serbia advances to face Italy on Wednesday.

Cedi Osman

The Cavaliers’ new utility wing is 17th in total points with 88 and an impressive 11th in points per game (17.6). However, he’s shot just 40 percent, which ties him for 45th. He did show some range with 36.7 percent three-point shooting and contributed a respectable 5.2 rebounds, which ranked 30th. Also showing his all-around game, Osman ranked 28th with 1.8 assists per game and tied for fifth with two steals. FIBA ranked Osman 12th in efficiency. He’ll have his work cut out for him today as Turkey received an unfavorable draw and must face Spain to open the round of 16.

Luka Doncic

The projected high lottery pick in next summer’s draft has shot just 41.8 percent for the tournament, ranking 41st. Perhaps most impressively, Doncic has pulled down 7.5 rebounds per game, which ranks eighth among all players but first among players listed as guards by FIBA. He also rated 17th in efficiency. Overshadowed for much of the tournament by Dragic, Doncic showed up when Slovenia needed him. He had 14 points, nine rebounds and six assists as Dragic struggled from the field, helping Slovenia reach the round of eight.

Doncic is a multi-talented player who will be tracked by NBA draft prognosticators through next summer. With Slovenia still alive, along with most of the players on this list, EuroBasket 2017 continues to provide an early fix for NBA junkies yearning for training camp to start in a few short weeks. Dragic has been perhaps the tournament’s most outstanding player, but Schroder is nipping at his heels. If Spain gets past Turkey today, it will set Schroder up for his biggest test against a Spain roster packed with NBA talent.

Buddy Grizzard has written for ESPN.com and BBallBreakdown and served as an editor for ESPN TrueHoop Network.

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NBA Daily: Credit Ujiri And Raptors For Taking The Risk

Perhaps emboldened by OKC’s ability to retain Paul George, the Raptors are taking a gamble of their own.

Lang Greene

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In any given NBA season, at the most, there are only five legitimate title contenders in play. The rest of the league could be considered as either on the rise, middle of the pack or in the hunt for a lottery pick.

There are far too many teams around the league that are content with solely making the playoffs while not seriously contending for a title. This is why the Toronto Raptors organization along with team president Masai Ujiri should be given credit for taking the ultimate gamble in acquiring a top-five player, even one who could amount to a one-year rental.

The Raptors shipped four-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan, center Jakob Poeltl and a protected first-round pick to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for former NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and veteran wing Danny Green.

The move is the ultimate gamble for an organization that has turned itself into a perennial playoff presence with five consecutive postseason appearances and three straight 50-win campaigns. DeRozan, 28, was locked under contract the next three seasons and the organization could have theoretically decided to ride the DeRozan and fellow All-Star guard Kyle Lowry duo until the proverbial wheels fell off.

But instead, Ujiri unexpectedly shipped their star player, who wanted to be in Toronto long-term, to acquire Leonard who reportedly has his eyes dead set on joining one of the Los Angeles franchises once he hits free agency in 2019.

Think about this for a moment.

While Toronto has served as LeBron James’ playoff punching bag as of late, make no mistake, Raptors basketball is undoubtedly experiencing the peak of its golden era.

Sure, the team’s former stars such as Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and Chris Bosh will likely go down in history considered better than DeRozan (and Lowry). But none of the aforementioned players led the franchise to a 50-win season while with the organization. None of those guys led the Raptors to a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. DeRozan was a vital cog in breaking new ground while with the team, defiantly re-signing with the Raptors despite overtures from his hometown Los Angeles Lakers in 2016.

Perhaps emboldened by the success the Oklahoma City Thunder recently had in taking a similar risk last summer, the Raptors took the gamble. The Thunder traded for All-Star forward Paul George, who also reportedly also had Los Angeles dreams, last summer, and were able to convince the wing to re-sign earlier this month to a long-term deal.

Toronto has never been a free agency hot spot and the aforementioned stars all forced their way out of town early in their careers. What if Leonard doesn’t buy the soup Ujiri is cooking? There are already some reports stating the forward has no desire to play with the Raptors at all.

Even if this is the case, Ujiri and company still have options. Leonard can still be dealt before next February’s trade deadline. Ujiri could theoretically create a bidding war between the Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers for Leonard’s services with an attractive.

At the bare minimum, the Raptors are all-in this season for a championship run in an Eastern Conference no longer facing the talents of LeBron James. If things don’t work out, DeRozan’s $54 million owed after this season is off the books. Lowry will be owed $33 million in 2020 but could potentially be an attractive expiring contract. All of this to say, the Raptors are simultaneously preparing for a title run and bracing for a rebuild of their current roster.

Far too many teams become content with just making the playoffs and not rocking the boat. Ujiri took his shot to boost the Raptors up the league’s hierarchy. The ultimate risk. Much respect for taking it.

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NBA Daily: Quality Free Agents Still Available

Many quality free agents are still available nearly three weeks into free agency, writes James Blancarte.

James Blancarte

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With the NBA Summer League over and training camps a few months away, the NBA would normally be quiet this time of year. Apparently the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors didn’t get the memo as they agreed to a trade centered around Kawhi Leonard and DeMar DeRozan. Additionally, Carmelo Anthony has finally been traded to relieve the Oklahoma City Thunder from a tremendous tax burden.

As the dust settles from these trades, many free agents continue to wait in the wings. The list includes many talented players who will eventually make their way back onto an NBA team’s roster. Some will return to the team they played for last year, which is especially likely for restricted free agents (e.g., Marcus Smart). Some may, for a variety of reasons, not return to an NBA roster. Last year Rodney Stuckey sat the year out and used the time to improve his health in order to make a comeback this year. Former All-Star center Roy Hibbert just announced his retirement at age 31 after not being active last season.

The list of available restricted free agents has seriously dwindled now nearly three weeks into the free agency period. RFAs such as Marcus Smart (back to the Boston Celtics) and Jabari Parker (to the Chicago Bulls) have recently signed new contracts. These signings, among others, leaves Houston Rockets RFA center Clint Capela and Los Angeles Clippers RFA center Montrezl Harrell as two of the bigger names left on the board.

Available Restricted Free Agents:

Clint Capela

Clint Capela is coming off of his best and most efficient season averaging 13.9 points, 10.8 rebounds, 1.9 blocks in 27.5 minutes a game (all career highs) and he is only 24 years old. Capela also spearheaded a defense that, when combined with James Harden’s offensive mastery, pushed the Golden State Warriors to the brink in the Western Conference Finals. Reports are that Capela has turned down an initial offer to re-sign for well below his max. While the clock ticks on the Rockets and Capela, Capela finds himself in what remains a punitive free agent market. The Sacramento Kings is the only other team capable of immediately signing Capela to a competitive contract to lure him away from the Rockets. To make matters worse, the Kings have been committed to stocking their roster with as many big men as possible making them a less-than-ideal suitor for Capela’s services.

Montrezl Harrell

Montrezl Harrell won’t generate as many headlines as the other RFAs that have been in the news lately but don’t sleep on him. In a season that never went according to plan for the Clippers, Harrell was one of the bright spots for the team. Harrell, acquired by the Clippers in the Chris Paul trade, showed tenacity on offense as he served as a strong offensive rebounder, floor runner and helped the Clippers weather a five-game stretch where center DeAndre Jordan was unavailable. Harrell played especially well in place of Jordan. However, working against Harrell is the Clipper’s roster crunch. The team has 18 players on the roster, not counting Harrell. If the Clippers do ultimately decide to bring back Harrell, the Clippers will have to make several moves to clear roster spots.

Rodney Hood

Cleveland Cavaliers RFA wing Rodney Hood also remains available. Utah Jazz fans can relate to the ups and downs of cheering for Hood who has flashes of brilliant play but remains inconsistent. Hood was acquired during last season to help bolster the Cavaliers’ championship run. However, Hood’s scoring, three-point shooting, overall statistics and minutes went down significantly due to his uneven play. While Hood is still a capable player, his time with the Cavaliers did not end well, which has impacted his stock around the league. It didn’t help Hood’s cause when he was benched in the postseason and he subsequently refused to enter the game when instructed to. The Kings, in need of help on the wing, could be a suitor for Hood’s services. However, Cleveland could match any such offer as the franchise continues to build a new team after the loss of LeBron James.

Available Unrestricted Free Agents:

Dwyane Wade

The group of remaining unrestricted free agents is a mixed bag. As mentioned above, there is at least a chance that one of these players may not even make a roster when the dust settles this offseason. Dwyane Wade has bounced around the league the last few years with stints with the Bulls, Cavaliers and a most recent return to the Miami HEAT under his belt. Wade remains capable of spurts of offense and is a fan favorite in Miami. The most obvious result here is a return to Miami. However, Wade himself commented regarding a potential return or possibly retirement.

“When I get back from China, I’ll focus on that [decision],” Wade said while in China. “The basketball will take care of itself. I’ll sit down and figure that out once I get back from this tour at some point.”

Michael Beasley

Michael Beasley remains unsigned despite a strong outing last season for the New York Knicks. Beasley started 30 of 74 games played. His numbers don’t jump off the boxscore: 13.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists in 22.3 minutes. However, these are some of the best numbers he’s put up in years and the most consistent he has played since 2012-13. The Knicks may likely move on from Beasley but he remains a viable scorer who could come off the bench and start in a pinch for many teams if the price is right.

Jamal Crawford and Nick Young

Jamal Crawford and Nick Young remain unsigned veterans who offer potential teams a scoring punch off the bench. Young has the benefit of showing that he contributed in spurts to the Warrior’s championship season while not becoming a distraction. Both are known for knocking down difficult outside shots but can be inefficient scorers and potential liabilities on defense.

Honorable Mentions

A few notable big men remain available as well. Phoenix Center Alex Len never became the elite big man the Suns had hoped for when they used the fifth pick in the 2013 draft to acquire him. However he remains a serviceable player. For his career, Len averages 7.2 points and 6.2 rebounds in 19.9 minutes. He is somewhat mobile and could be a strong option for a team looking for a backup center. Centers Al Jefferson and Jahill Okafor can both score the basketball but have to directly combat the notion that they have become antiquated. The modern game calls for mobile centers that shoot reliably from the outside to stretch the floor, are efficient on offense, can guard the rim as well as being at least somewhat capale of covering ball handlers on switches. Okafar and Jefferson don’t fit that profile and will have to convince potential suitors that despite their meager contributions over the last few seasons that they can sufficiently adapt to the modern game and make a positive impact.

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NBA: Kawhi Leonard for DeMar DeRozan Makes Sense

In an unexpected move, DeMar DeRozan and Kawhi Leonard swapped teams, and it makes complete sense.

Dennis Chambers

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The Kawhi Leonard saga in San Antonio is finally over.

In the wee hours of the morning on Wednesday, news broke via Twitter that Leonard was about to be shipped across the Canadian border to the Toronto Raptors for — get this — DeMar DeRozan.

Leonard, and his deteriorated relationship with the San Antonio Spurs, dominated the offseason headlines, and while reports constantly whizzed around about where the All-Star small forward would wind up — maybe Los Angeles, maybe Philadelphia, maybe Boston — his final destination is one that came completely out of left field (despite the current odds).

While many people viewed the situation with Leonard as a chance for San Antonio to start fresh and plan for the future, the Spurs appeared to have no interest in that avenue. The entirety of the deal, Leonard and Danny Green for DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a top-20 protected 2019 first-round pick displays a win-now outcome for each party.

After winning 59 games and obtaining the top overall seed in the Eastern Conference, the Raptors eventually were bounced by the Cleveland Cavaliers in a sweeping fashion. Dwane Casey, the 2017-18 Coach of the Year, was fired after not being able to extend the franchises’ best season to an NBA Finals appearance. It appeared, with LeBron moving West, that the Raptors were going to run it back one more time to see if they could finally break through to the game’s biggest stage.

On the other side, the Spurs were coming off of a season in which they won 47 games and were two games out of the Western Conference’s third seed — all of which they achieved without Leonard. In the waning years of Gregg Popovich’s career, it appeared his team was still talented enough, and system still effective enough, to make relevant noise in the playoffs without a superstar player.

At its core, this deal comes down to each team swapping their best player for the other’s. Leonard gets out of San Antonio, to a team whose core won 59 games in the East. DeRozan gets the benefit of fitting into a system with the best head coach in the league, on a very competitive roster.

Now, it remains to be seen how happy each player will be in their situations. Reports surfaced early Wednesday morning that both players were dissatisfied with the trade outcome. But, as we all know, winning cures everything.

On the Spurs’ front, it’s interesting how little they considered trade packages for future picks and quality role players. ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported San Antonio rebuffed offers from the Sixers and Celtics that were centered around future assets, in turn focusing their trade efforts on the likes of Ben Simmons, and the Celtics’ young core. Instead of landing a handful of assets or players that may not materialize until Popovich is gone, the Spurs reeled in a player who is a year removed from averaging 27 points per game. Oh, by the way, he’s also under contract for the next three seasons.

DeRozan keeps the Spurs relevant. Maybe he doesn’t help them beat the Golden State Warriors (in fact, he most certainly doesn’t), but he allows his new team the chance to win meaningful games in the postseason over the next three years.

From everything that’s been reported, there was no way Popovich was going to commit the final few years of his NBA life to a rebuild. With a man like that at the helm, and a star player like DeRozan under contract, who knows what other tricks San Antonio might have up its sleeve.

Up in Toronto, if the Raptors can convince Leonard to play this season, their core plus an upgrade on the wing might finally be enough to break through to the Finals. New head coach Nick Nurse suddenly has a player widely regarded as a top-five talent in the league on his roster to accompany a deep and talented core. Although, just like in San Antonio, Leonard might not add enough to the Raptors to dethrone the Warriors. However, he suddenly has a better supporting cast to try and give Golden State a run for its money.

Plus, given Toronto’s inability to get out of the East, a Finals appearance in its own right would be considered a success next season.

All around, maybe this wasn’t the deal we expected to get Leonard out of San Antonio, but digesting the move from all angles, it appears to be the most sensible.

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