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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



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 and BBallBreakdown and served as an editor for ESPN TrueHoop Network.


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Emeka Okafor Impacting 2018 Western Conference Playoff Race

Sidelined for several years with a neck injury, Emeka Okafor is back in the NBA and helping the Pelicans fight for a playoff seed.

Jesse Blancarte



When DeMarcus Cousins ruptured his Achilles tendon, most people in and around the league assumed the New Orleans Pelicans would eventually fall out of the Western Conference Playoff race. It was a fair assumption. In 48 games this season, Cousins averaged 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.6 blocks while shooting 47 percent from the field and 35.4 percent from beyond the arc.

Anthony Davis and the Pelicans had other plans. Davis put the team on his shoulders, played at an elite level and, arguably, has forced his way into the MVP race. Behind Davis’ efforts, the Pelicans are currently 39-29, have won 7 of their last 10 games and hold the sixth seed in the Western Conference.

While Davis has been carrying the team since the loss of Cousins, he has received significant help from his teammates, including Emeka Okafor.

More recent NBA fans may be less familiar with Okafor since he has been out of the league since the end of the 2012-13 season. For context, in Okafor’s last season, David Lee led the league in double-doubles, Luol Deng led the league in minutes per game and Joakim Noah made the NBA All-Defensive First Team. However, Okafor entered the NBA with a lot of excited and expectations. He was drafted second overall, right behind Dwight Howard. Okafor played in 9 relatively successful NBA seasons until being sidelined indefinitely with a herniated disc in his neck prior to the start of the 2013-14 season.

Okafor was medically cleared to play in May of last year and played in five preseason games with the Philadelphia 76ers but was ultimately waived in October, prior to the start of the regular season. However, with the injury to Cousins, the Pelicans were in need of help at the center position and signed Okafor to a 10-day contract. Okafor earned a second 10-day contract and ultimately landed a contract for the rest of this season.

Okafor has played in 14 games so far for the Pelicans has is receiving limited playing time thus far. Despite the lack of playing time, Okafor is making his presence felt when he is on the court. Known as a defensive specialist, Okafor has provided some much needed rim protection and has rebounded effectively as well.

He has been [helpful] since the day he got here,” Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry said about Okafor after New Orleans’ recent victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. “I think his rim protection has been great. But, he’s capable of making a little jump shot and you can see that today. But just having him in there, his presence there has been great.”

Okafor has never been known as an elite offensive player, but he did average 15.1 points per game in his rookie season and has shown glimpses of an improved jump shot in his limited run with the Pelicans.

“You know, I’m happy it’s falling,” Okafor said after he helped seal the victory over the Clippers. “Kept in my back pocket. I was invoked to use it, so figured I’d dust it off and show it.”

Okafor was then asked if he has any other moves in his back pocket that he hasn’t displayed so far this season.

“A little bit. I don’t want to give it all,” Okafor told Basketball Insiders. “There’s a couple shots still. But we’ll see what opportunities unveil themselves coming forward.”

Okafor will never have the elite offensive skill set that Cousins has but his overall contributions have had a positive impact for a New Orleans squad that was desperate for additional production after Cousin’s Achilles tear.

“It’s impossible to replace a guy that was playing at an MVP level,” Gentry said recently. “For us, Emeka’s giving us something that we desperately missed with Cousins. The same thing with Niko. Niko’s given us something as far as spacing the floor. Between those guys, they’ve done the best they could to fill in for that. But we didn’t expect anyone to fill in and replace what Cousins was doing for us.”

Okafor is currently averaging 6.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game while shooting 54.5 percent from the field. While his averages don’t jump off the page, it should be noted that his per minute production is surprisingly impressive. Per 36 minutes, Okafor is averaging 13.4 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.9 blocks. Those numbers are nearly identical to his averages from the 2012-13 season, though he is averaging twice as many blocks (up from 1.4).

The Pelicans have exceeded expectations and currently are ahead of teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers in the extremely tight Western Conference Playoff race. Okafor is doing more than could have reasonably been expected when he first signed with the Pelicans, though he would be the first person to pass the credit toward Anthony Davis.

When asked about Davis’ recent play, Okafor enthusiastically heaped praise toward his superstar teammate.

“It’s to the point where it’s like, ‘Alright, he has 40 doesn’t he?’ It’s impressive,” Okafor said about Davis. But it’s becoming so commonplace now.

He’s just an impressive individual. He gives it all. He’s relentless. And then off the court too, he’s a very, very nice kid. He really takes the leadership role seriously. I’m even more impressed with that part.”

There is still plenty of regular season basketball to be played and even a two-game losing streak can drastic consequences. But the Pelicans have proved to be very resilient and Okafor is confident in the team’s potential and outlook.

“I think we’re all hitting a good grove here and we’re playing very good basketball, said Okafor.”

Whether the Pelicans make the playoffs or not, it’s great to see Okafor back in the NBA and playing meaningful minutes for a team in the playoff race.

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NBA Daily: Nothing’s Promised, Not Even For The Warriors

The Warriors are wounded, and with Chris Paul, the Rockets may be equipped to take advantage.

Moke Hamilton



The Warriors are wounded, and for those that thought their waltzing into a four consecutive NBA Finals was a given, the Houston Rockets may have other ideas. Especially when one considers that the beloved Dubs are trying to buck history.

Steph Curry has ankle problems, Klay has a fractured thumb and Kevin Durant—the most recent of the team’s lynchpins to find himself on the disabled list—has a rib injury.

Sure, the Dubs might shake off their injuries and find themselves at or near 100 percent once the playoffs begin, but seldom do teams in the NBA get healthier as the year progresses.

Winning in the NBA is difficult. In order to take all the marbles, teams need a bunch of different ingredients, chief among them are good fortune and health. And in many ways, the two are entwined.

Simply put: the human body isn’t built to play as often and as hard as NBA players do. Those that we recognize as being among the greatest ever—Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James among them—had one thing in common. They were all exceptionally durable.

Over the years, we’ve seen attrition and fragility cost the likes of Anfernee Hardaway, Yao Ming and Derrick Rose what seemed to be careers full of accolades and accomplishments. And the simple truth is that you never know which player, players or teams will be next to be undercut by injuries and progressive fatigue.

Just to keep things in perspective, the Warriors are attempting to become just the fifth team since 1970 to win at least three NBA championships in a four-year span.

The Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA Finals in 1985, 1987 and 1988 before Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls completed their three-peat from 1991-93. The Bulls would again do the same between 1996 and 1998, and Shaquille O’Neal and his Los Angeles Lakers accomplished the same from 2000 to 2002.

There are reasons why so few teams have been able to win as frequently as the Lakers and Bulls have, and health is certainly one of them. That’s especially interesting to note considering the fact that the Warriors may have been champions in 2016 had they had their team at full strength. Mind you, both Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala were severely limited in their abilities, while Andrew Bogut missed the fateful and decisive Game 6 and Game 7 of those Finals with injuries to his left leg.

At the end of the day, injuries are a part of the game. The best teams are often able to overcome them, while the luckiest teams often don’t have to deal with them. To this point, the Warriors have been both the best and incredibly lucky, but at a certain point, the sheer volume of basketball games is likely to have an adverse effect on at least a few members of the team.

We may be seeing that now.

En route to winning the 2015 NBA Finals, the Warriors turned in a playoff record of 16-5. In 2016, they were 15-9 and in 2017, they were 16-1. In total, the 62 playoff games would have worn a bit of tread off of their collective tires, just as their 73-9 regular season record may have.  In becoming a historically great team, the Warriors have expending the energy necessary of a team wishing to remain a contender, and that’s not easy.

As an aside, those that understand the difficulty in competing at a high level every single night are the ones who rightfully give LeBron James the respect he’s due for even having the opportunity to play into June eight consecutive years. Win or lose, in terms of consistent effort and constant production, James has shown as things we’ve never seen before.

Today, it’s fair to wonder whether the Warriors have that same capability.

We’ll find out in short order.

* * * * * *

As the Houston Rockets appear headed toward ending the Warriors’ regular season reign atop the Western Conference, there’s something awfully coincidental about the fact that the team seems to have taken the next step after the addition of Chris Paul.

Paul knows a thing or two about attrition and how unlucky bouts with injuries at inopportune times can cost a team everything. As much as anything else, it probably has something to do with why Paul continues to believe in the ability of the Rockets to achieve immortality.

On the first night of the regular season, mind you, in one horrific moment, Gordon Hayward and the Boston Celtics reminded us that on any given play, the outlook of an entire season—and perhaps, even a career—can change.

A twisted knee here, a sprained ankle there, and who knows?

With just over three weeks remaining in the regular season, the Warriors—the team that everyone knew would win the Western Conference again this season—has some concerns. Their primary weapons are hurting, their chances of securing home court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs are all but nil and their road to the Finals may end up being more difficult than they could have possibly imagined.

If the season ended today and the seeds held, the Warriors would draw the San Antonio Spurs in the first round and the Portland Trail Blazers in the second round before squaring off against the Rockets in the Western Conference Finals.

Of all teams, the Spurs are probably the last team the Warriors would want to see in the playoffs, much less the first round. While the outcome of that series would be determined by the health of Kawhi Leonard, there’s no doubt that Gregg Popovich would at least be able to effectively game plan for Golden State.

While the Blazers might not provide incredible resistance to the Warriors, the Oklahoma City Thunder will enter play on March 18 just two games behind the Blazers for the third seed out West. With the two teams squaring off against one another on March 25, it’s possible for Russell Westbrook and his crew having the opportunity to square off against the Dubs in the playoffs.

For Golden State, their path to the Finals having to go through San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Houston would absolutely be a worst case scenario. The only thing that could make it even more terrible for Steve Kerr would be having to do it with a platoon that was less than 100 percent.

Funny. In yet another season where everyone thought that it was the Warriors and everyone else, there are quite a few questions facing the defending champs heading into the final few weeks of the regular season.

Indeed, the Warriors are wounded. And whether they can be nursed back up to full strength is perhaps the most interesting thing to watch as the calendar turns to April and playoff basketball draws nearer.

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NBA Daily: The Golden State Warriors Need to Enter Rest Mode

With a bevy of injuries to their stars, the Golden State Warriors should rest up the remainder of the regular season to avoid any playoff letdowns.

Dennis Chambers



After a three-year-long run of dominating the NBA, the Golden State Warriors are showing some cracks in their armor.

Granted, those cracks aren’t a result of a botched system or poor play, but rather the injury bug biting the team in full force as they come down the regular season stretch.

First, it was Steph Curry and the ankle that’s bothered him all season — and for most of his career — when he tweaked it yet again on March 8 against the San Antonio Spurs. Golden State announced he would miss at least four games. Then it was Klay Thompson, who fractured his thumb three days later against the Minnesota Timberwolves — he’ll miss at least two weeks.

Now it’s Kevin Durant. Last year’s Finals MVP suffered an incomplete rib cartilage fracture and was ruled out of Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings. Durant is expected to be sidelined for at least two weeks. The Warriors would go on to lose that contest 95-93.

In about two weeks time, the Warriors went from having one of the most formidable offenses and scoring trios in the entire league, to having  Quinn Cook and Nick Young logging starter minutes.

Luckily for the Warriors, they’ve built up a big enough lead in the standings to achieve a 52-17 record, good for second place in the Western Conference. But the issue for the remainder of the season now becomes how healthy will the Warriors be come playoff time?

Curry and Durant have injury histories. Curry particularly has been bothered by this ankle since he entered the league. Without either of them, the Warriors — while still incredibly talented — will be on a completely even playing field with the Houston Rockets, and possibly other teams in the gauntlet that will be the Western Conference playoffs.

The bigger issue on top of the pending injury concerns becomes whether the Warriors should just pack it in for the rest of the regular season, and regroup for another expected title run.

Steve Kerr doesn’t seem to be thinking that way, however.

“All these injuries seem to be temporary,” Kerr told reporters. “A couple weeks, a week, two weeks – whatever. We’re in good shape. We’ve just got to survive this next slate of games and hopefully, start getting guys back and get rolling again for the playoffs.”

That’s true. None of the aforementioned injuries seem to be anything more serious than a few weeks of rest and relaxation. But that’s assuming the best case scenario for these players.

Should we assume that the Warriors are without their scoring trio for the next couple of weeks as their health updates have indicated, that would put their return roughly around April 1. At that time, Golden State would have six games remaining on their schedule. Four coming against playoff teams (Oklahoma City, Indiana, New Orleans, and Utah) with the other two games against Phoenix.

After missing the last few weeks on the court, with injuries that most likely won’t be at 100 percent, tossing their most valuable contributors back into the fray against a slate of playoff teams probably isn’t the smartest idea.

At this point, the Warriors postseason position is locked up. They likely won’t take the top seed away from Houston, and their lead is big enough to keep their second seed intact regardless of who’s on the court. The only thing left now is the determining who Golden State will play in the first round. With the revolving carousel that is the playoff standings out West, that’s anybody’s guess right now.

The only thing that’s certain is whichever team coming into Oracle Arena for that first round will be battle tested and talented based off of the dogfight they had to survive just to make the playoffs. The last thing the Warriors need to be is a banged up in a postseason with their first opponent smelling blood in the water.

In all likelihood, the Warriors — should everything go according to plan — will play the Houston Rockets for a chance to return to their fourth straight NBA Finals. Only this time, a potential Game 7 won’t be at Oracle Arena. It will be in downtown Houston, at the Toyota Center.

An advantage as big as the Warriors’ homecourt can never be understated. Operating in a do-or-die situation away from home will be newfound territory for this bunch. Regardless of talent or team success, at that point, it’s anybody’s game.

It won’t be easy for the Golden State Warriors as they try to extend their dynasty’s reign. This might be their most difficult year yet.

Durant, in his own words, can’t even laugh right now without feeling pain. The league’s only unanimous MVP is operating on one and a half ankles, and the team’s second Splash Brother has an injury on his shooting hand.

Resting up the team’s stars should be the team’s top priority right now, at risk of entering the postseason hobbled. Track record means nothing if the Warriors don’t have their full arsenal at disposal when the games matter most.

Hey, a 16-seed finally won a first-round game in the NCAA Tournament. Anything is possible on a basketball court, and the Warriors should do everything possible to ensure they’re not the next major upset candidate in line.

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