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NBA Sunday: Erik Spoelstra Is Here To Stay

In extending Erik Spoelstra, the Miami HEAT prove that, as a franchise, they see the entire picture.

Moke Hamilton

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On the first day of 2017, it’s nice to get a reminder that not all NBA front offices are obtuse and unrealistic. For that, we can thank the Miami HEAT, who recently announced that head coach Erik Spoelstra has been signed to a contract extension.

Spoelstra is the second-longest tenured head coach in the NBA, trailing only Gregg Popovich. Hired just 11 days before Rick Carlisle back in 2008, Spoelstra has been on the job for almost nine years. Since day one, he has been everything that a head coach should be, and in a world where NBA franchises change leaders on the bench as often as the sun rises, it’s a refreshing decision that was also the correct one.

* * * * * *

Back in 2012, when the Barclays Center still had the new car smell, Avery Johnson was beaming with excitement. A little more than two years earlier, he had assumed the helm for a franchise that was coming off of a 12-70 season. At the time, the Nets had no present, but were hopeful for the future. The circumstances under which Johnson accepted the job with the Nets was simple: ride the futility out until the team relocates to Brooklyn, and by then, contention would be imminent.

Johnson, a proud and serious competitor, was the same as a head coach. After being Don Nelson’s understudy in Dallas for a few years, Johnson accomplished the rare feat of leading his team to a 60-win season in his first year on the job. During the 2005-06 season, under his leadership, the Mavs went 60-22 before following that up with a 67-15 record the following season.

Johnson had seemingly worn his players thin in Dallas, and despite his 178-68 record and his becoming the fastest head coach to reach 150 wins, Mark Cuban and his front office decided to part ways with Johnson. It would be two years before he would land the head coaching gig in Brooklyn.

The Nets were nowhere near being competitive and Johnson knew it. He agreed to take the inevitable losses onto his career record with the carrot being that, in Brooklyn, things would be different. In the time that passed, the Nets acquired Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace. Heading into its first season in Brooklyn, everyone was optimistic—nobody more so than Johnson.

The 2012-13 season began and the Nets got off to an 11-4 start. Johnson won the NBA’s Coach of the Month Award for October/November, so it came as a complete shock to learn that, less than two months later, after the team had won just three of its next 13 games, the Nets decided to fire Johnson.

In hindsight, it looks an awful lot like the franchise, for whatever reason, was merely using Johnson to bide time. Despite all he had given to the team, at the first sign of rugged terrain, he was thrown out like bad leftovers. Since then, across coaching circles, Johnson has become a cautionary tale.

Over the years, coaches have become increasingly disposable. We’ve seen the likes of Terry Porter and Maurice Cheeks fail to last as much as a full season with the Phoenix Suns and the Detroit Pistons, respectively. Others, such as Mike Brown weren’t even seemingly given the opportunity to prove that they could win with their respective squads.

It’s a trend that has only become more and more prevalent in the National Basketball Association, and it’s one that the Miami HEAT seem to understand is foolish and shortsighted.

* * * * * *

Under Erik Spoelstra, the Miami HEAT have accomplished unprecedented success. With LeBron James and Chris Bosh joining Dwyane Wade, the team would win the Eastern Conference four consecutive years and win the NBA Finals in 2012 and 2013. Those that don’t understand the challenges and nuances of succeeding as a coach at the NBA level would foolishly argue that “any” coach could succeed with the type of talent that Spoelstra had without recounting the scores of talented NBA teams that failed to achieve at the highest level.

In the NBA, a talented team is like a fast race car. A coach is the driver. One without the other is nothing more than a false pretense. Spoelstra concocted a game plan for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to succeed, figured out how to mold Chris Bosh into an All-NBA level defender and managed to keep his team ready and motivated for the targets that they carried on their back for so long.

Even before that trio joined the HEAT in Miami, though, Spoelstra made it his duty to maximize the talent (or lack thereof) that he had at his disposal.

In Pat Riley’s final season coaching the team, the HEAT managed to win just 15 games. For their trouble, they received the second overall pick in the 2008 draft, which they used to draft Michael Beasley. The following season, Spoelstra led the HEAT to a 25-game turnaround, winning 43 games and returning the franchise to the playoffs. In all fairness, Riley’s 15-win season was coached mostly without Dwyane Wade. That Spoelstra got him back was a primary catalyst for the turnaround, but if you ask Wade himself, the respect that he has with Spoelstra is one that is unique and pure. One simply doesn’t rise up through the rank of a franchise the way he did without being a meticulous thinker and hard worker. Those are two words that have come to exemplify his spirit.

Now in his ninth year as the head coach in Miami, Spoelstra trails only Pat Riley as the franchise’s all-time leader in games coached and games won. He leads the franchise in playoff games coached, playoff wins, championships and regular season win percentage, though. That the HEAT are a franchise with a relatively short history (the team began competition in 1988 and has only employed six different head coaches), in many ways, Spoelstra has become synonymous with the culture of the HEAT.

The truth is, that’s the way it should be. All but a few teams need continuity and familiarity to succeed. We commonly point toward the coaching carousel as being the cause of a team’s futility, when it’s more likely that the front office’s impatience, shortsightedness and lack of understanding is the root of the problem.

Fortunately, none of the above can be said of the HEAT.

* * * * * *

Dwyane Wade’s departure to the Chicago Bulls was something that few predicted. As the best player in franchise history, his decision to leave sent the HEAT on the path to rebuilding in a much more dramatic fashion than many anticipated.

Still, though, through it all, it’s nice to know that Miami is realistic about the causes of their post-Wade futility and, even more so, aware of the fact that they have a head coach who embodies nothing but positivity.

Other front offices should take note.

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NBA

NBA Daily: Jaylen Hands Makes Good Showing at the NBA Combine

Jaylen Hands made a good showing at the NBA Combine by displaying his offensive skills and defensive intensity.

Jesse Blancarte

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UCLA has produced a few of the NBA’s top point guards over the last decade or so, including Russell Westbrook and Jrue Holiday. Jrue’s younger brother, Aaron Holiday, has declared for this year’s draft and is projected by several NBA insiders to be selected with a first-round pick (likely in the 20-30 range). But Aaron Holiday isn’t the only UCLA point guard who may end up taking his talents to the NBA this offseason. Jaylen Hands, who is still just 19 years old and finished his freshman season, has also entered his name into this year’s draft.

While Hands has entered his name into the draft and participated in the NBA Combine, he has not hired an agent, which preserves his ability to return to college (Hands has until June 11 to make a final decision). Considering Hands’ young age and raw skill set, he isn’t projected by many insiders to hear his name called on draft night. But he certainly helped his cause in the Combine, showcasing his offensive talents, the muscle he has added to his slight frame since the end of his freshman season and aggressiveness on defense.

Basketball Insiders spoke with Hands at the Combine about his development, going through the pre-draft process, competing against familiar faces and more.

“It’s crazy, it’s crazy because when we were younger, they said the exact thing: ‘You guys are going to see each other forever.’” Hands said when asked about competing against many of the same players over the years and now at the Combine. “And you don’t really believe what they’re saying. But now you go through high school, you’re a senior, All-Star activities and you go to the Combine, you see the same people. It’s crazy.”

Hands has a notable skill set but is a raw prospect that many believe would be better served spending another year in college. While Hands needs to continue filling out his frame, he did register decent measurements at the Combine in relation to a top guard prospect – Trae Young of Oklahoma. Hands weighed in at 1.2 lbs heavier than Young, and outmatched Young in height (with and without shoes), standing reach and wingspan. Ironically, Hands has the smallest hands of all players that participated in the Combine. While these measurements don’t mean that he is currently a comparable prospect to Young, they could address some concerns about his current physical profile and how it may ultimately translate to the NBA.

Hands proved himself to be a confident and aggressive player in his freshman season at UCLA – something that he believes has led to misconceptions about his game.

“I’m not a point guard,” Hands said when asked about what misconceptions people have about his game.

I wouldn’t say it’s common, like it’s the main thing. But I’ve heard that I shoot first or something like that. I just feel like I attack a lot. I think I attack a lot and I’m of size to being a [two guard], so I think some people get it misconstrued. I just think I’m attack first, set my teammates up, get what I get.”

Hands is clearly aware of the common perceptions and current shortcomings in his game, which is why he is working hard to improve his overall skill set and is testing the NBA waters to get feedback from teams.

“Before I came here, just being more steady working on my shot, making good reads out of the pick and roll, finishing.” Hands said when asked about what parts of his game he was working on before coming to the Combine.

Hands was asked to clarify what he believes is his best strength at this point. Hands didn’t hesitate and pointed toward his ability to make plays off the dribble.

“My best strength is getting in the paint. So I get in the paint and make plays,” Hands said.

Hands is also clearly aware of UCLA’s history of producing quality point guards and has a chance to one day develop into a quality guard at the NBA level. However, with Holiday heading to the NBA and no major competition for the starting point guard position at UCLA next season, it may benefit Hands to hold off on turning pro for at least another year.

Whether he stays at UCLA or commits to this year’s draft, there’s no doubt that Hands is going to keep pushing to develop into a quality NBA player.

“I want to be the best player I can in the league,” Hands said. “That’s my goal.”

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Mock Drafts

NBA Daily: 2018 60-Pick NBA Mock Draft – 5/22/18

The final 2018 NBA Draft order is set and Basketball Insiders’ publisher Steve Kyler offers up his latest 60-pick NBA Mock Draft.

Steve Kyler

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Lots of Draft Movement

With the draft order now set for the 2018 NBA Draft, there is some sense of how the draft might play out.

The buzz coming out of the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago is that a number of picks could be had in trade include all three of the top selections. Word is the initial asking price is very high and more of an indication to the San Antonio Spurs that if they do want to part with disgruntled star Kawhi Leonard, they are open for business.

It’s also worth noting that there is a growing sense that both the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawk may be far higher on some of the domestic bigs in the draft more so than euro sensation Luka Dončić. Both teams are expected to take a long look at Dončić, so their views on him could change as we get closer to the draft, but for now, Dončić may go lower.

Here is the latest 60-Pick NBA Mock Draft, reflecting the final draft order and the latest buzz, rumors, and intel from in and around the NBA:

Dates To Know:

The NCAA requires all players wishing to maintain their college eligibility, without penalty, to withdraw from the NBA Draft by 11:59 pm on May 30. That is an NCAA mandated date, not related to anything involving the NBA, and that notice must be delivered in writing.

The NBA’s draft withdrawal date is June 11 by 5:00 pm ET. The NBA’s date allows a prospect to remain NBA draft eligible for future NBA drafts and is not related to any NCAA rule or date. There are ways for college players that did not accept benefits to return to college. However, they may be subject to NCAA penalties.

The 2018 NBA Draft is June 21.

The Pick Swaps:

The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer. The Brooklyn Nets traded several unprotected picks to Boston as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trades in 2015.

The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers’ 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015. The 76ers traded that pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the draft pick trade that became Markelle Fultz before the draft; it has 2 through 5 protections. This pick will convey.

The LA Clippers are owed the Detroit Pistons first-round pick in 2018 as a result of the Blake Griffin trade.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the final NBA standings.

The Phoenix Suns were owed the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick would only convey if the Bucks pick landed between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the final NBA standings did not convey. The Suns will now receive the Bucks 2019 first-round pick assuming it falls between the fourth and 16th pick.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first-round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick was lottery protected and would convey to Atlanta based on the final NBA standings.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Jazz/Wolves Ricky Rubio trade this past summer. The Jazz acquired the pick as part of the Thunder’s deal to obtain Enes Kanter in 2015. The pick was lottery protected and would convey based on the final NBA standings.

The Chicago Bulls are owed the New Orleans Pelicans first-round pick as a result of the Nikola Mirotic trade. The pick was top-five protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

The LA Lakers are owed the Cleveland Cavaliers first-round pick as a result of Jordan Clarkson/Larry Nance Jr. trade. The pick was top-three protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors’ first-round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick was lottery protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets’ first-round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick was top-three protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

Check out the Basketball Insiders’ Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects – http://www.basketballinsiders.com/top-100-nba-draft-prospects/

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, @mike_yaffe, @MattJohnNBA, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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NBA Daily: Shamet Comfortable With Steady Self Going Into Draft

With a natural feel for the game, Wichita State guard Landry Shamet has more than enough of a chance to carve his own path of success in the NBA.

Spencer Davies

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No matter what professional field a person wants to work in, there are multiple ways to show why they belong.

A positive attitude is everything, confidence goes a long way and honesty truly is the best policy.

Speaking with Wichita State product Landry Shamet this past week at the NBA Combine in Chicago, it’s clear that he has all three of those boxes checked off.

“It’s been great,” Shamet said of the event. “Just trying to absorb everything, soak everything up. It’s a big learning experience for sure. A lot of knowledge to be attained (at the Combine). With interviews and playing on the court, being coached by NBA guys, it’s been cool so far.”

During his three years with the Shockers, the 6-foot-4, 188-pound guard accomplished quite a few feats, but his junior season was arguably the most spectacular. Not only did Shamet lead his team in multiple ways, but he also topped out in four statistical categories in the American Athletic Conference—the school’s first year there after moving on from the Missouri Valley.

Shamet’s 166 assists (5.2 per game average) were the most in the AAC by far. In addition, his true shooting percentage (65.5) and three-point percentage (44.2) ranked number one among his peers.

From entering the program in 2015 to now, he feels that he’s grown dramatically as a player—but in what areas, specifically?

“I would say being a point guard honestly,” Shamet said. “I was recruited in as a two. But just kinda that leadership role, that accountability. Knowing that you’re gonna get a lot of scrutiny (after) a loss and you’re gonna be responsible for a win. Regardless of how the game goes, it’s your responsibility.”

Much of his development at Wichita State was courtesy of a hands-on approach with Gregg Marshall, one of the most revered head coaches in college basketball. Thanks to his guidance, Shamet feels ready, even in aspects outside of his offensive ability.

“On the defensive end, I feel comfortable with my positioning,” Shamet said. “Obviously, need to get better. You can always get better on the defensive end. That’s one thing I’ve been focusing on. Trying to get more athletic. Just be better defensively. He gave me the groundwork for sure. 100 percent.”

Shamet has kept in touch with Marshall throughout the entire pre-draft process. He was told to “smile and relax” in interviews and to be confident, which he’s certainly followed through with.

A similar message has come from Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet, two former Shockers who have each made their mark at the professional level.

“Just be yourself, you know,” Shamet said of VanVleet’s pointers. “That’s really what it boils down to I think. He’s been great to have him in my corner—a guy like that who’s been through a lot of adversity on his way to the NBA, so I’m gonna listen to him 10 times out of 10.”

VanVleet’s career is already taking off with the Toronto Raptors as a part of their young and hungry bench. But with four more inches of height and a similar feel for the game, Shamet has more than enough of a chance to carve his own path of success in the NBA.

And it won’t require flash or making a daily highlight-reel to do so.

“I’d like to just say versatile,” Shamet said of his game. “Just try to stay solid. I don’t ever try to make spectacular plays all the time. Try to just do what I feel I can do—play multiple positions, both positions, on or off the ball. I’m comfortable at either spot, honestly. Whether it’s facilitating, scoring, whatever the case may be.

“I feel like I have a high IQ as well. Just a cerebral player. Not gonna ‘wow’ you with crossing people up and doing things that a lot of the guys in the limelight do all the time. But I feel like I’m a solid player. Pretty steady across the board.”

However, just because he rarely shows off on the court doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the ability to do it.

“I feel like I’m a little more athletic than I might get credit for,” Shamet said. “I think I’m a better athlete than I get credit for.”

Shamet is projected to go anywhere from the middle-to-late first round of the draft in June. Whoever lands the Kansas City native will be getting a tireless worker who does things the right way and is all about the team.

But for now, he’s soaking in everything he possibly can before that night comes.

“I don’t have all the answers,” Shamet candidly said. “I’m a 21-year-old kid, man I guess. So just trying to learn as much as I can, gain some knowledge, get good feedback—because at the end of the day, I’m not a perfect player. I know that.”

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