As we reach the end of the week, we also reach the end of our latest series here at Basketball Insiders. With the NBA’s trade deadline on the horizon, chatter has been heating up around the league. With our final installment of this series, we take a look at the Pacific Division.
Golden State Warriors (34-9)
What more needs to be said about the Warriors? They have the best record in the NBA and clearly appear to be head and shoulders above the rest of the league. They’ve got the best starting lineup in the NBA and one of the best benches; there really isn’t anything that this team needs.
Notable Ending Contracts:
Kevin Durant – $25,000,000(player option)
Nick Young – $5,192,000
Zaza Pachulia – $3,477,600
Kevon Looney – $1,471,382
Pat McCaw – $1,312,611(qualifying offer)
Names Worth Talking About:
Despite the Warriors’ overall dominance, there are a couple of players that could see their names come up in trade rumors. One is backup big man JaVale McGee. McGee played a key role off the bench on last season’s championship team. He came into this season looking to reprise that role. He’s seen his playing time dwindle, however, and veteran David West appears to be the backup center for now.
McGee’s name has already appeared in early trade reports. If he is moved, he’s not going to net the Warriors anything of real value in return. It will most likely be a salary dump to accommodate McGee by having him go to a team with regular minutes available for him.
The other player who might come up in trade chatter is Kevon Looney. Looney’s battled injuries since coming into the NBA, and he’s never been able to really crack the rotation. He has received rotation minutes here and there this season and he’s produced when called upon. It’s unlikely that he has a major role on this team going forward and being young enough, he could draw interest from other teams. Like McGee, a Looney trade likely doesn’t yield anything major for the Warriors.
Biggest Area of Need at the Deadline:
Honestly, there isn’t anything the Warriors really need at the deadline. Provided the front office can keep this group together, they are set up to contend for championships for the next several years. If the right deal comes along that would make the Warriors even stronger, they should definitely consider it. Otherwise, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Los Angeles Clippers (20-21)
A couple months ago, the Clippers were at a bit of a crossroads. They suffered some major injuries to key starters such as Blake Griffin, Patrick Beverly, Danilo Gallinari, and Milos Teodosic. They were mired in a seven-game losing streak. There was talk abound on whether they should mail it in, trade away their veterans, and hit the reset button. They’ve started to get healthy now, however, and have played their way right back into the playoff picture.
Notable Ending Contracts:
DeAndre Jordan – $24,119,025(player option)
Austin Rivers – $12,650,000(player option)
Lou Williams – $7,000,000
Milos Teodosic – $6,300,000
Patrick Beverly – $5,027,028(non-guaranteed)
Names Worth Talking About:
When the Clippers looked as if the wheels were coming off, DeAndre Jordan’s name was being mentioned as a possible trade candidate. Our own Michael Scotto just reported that the Clippers approached the Minnesota Timberwolves about a trade centered around Griffin and Karl-Anthony Towns. Lou Williams is another name that has surfaced recently. Williams is having a career-year and could certainly help a few contenders.
This was a team that, when healthy, started out strong with Griffin playing like an MVP candidate. A lot of the big name trade chatter started gaining momentum when the team was floundering amidst all their injuries and looking like they might fall too far out of the playoff race.
Their front office has an interesting choice to make here. If they keep up their current play, do they stay the course and see how this team fares in the playoffs before making any changes? Or do they get some value for their guys now and start all over? As it stands, they’re only 1.5 games out of fifth place in the Western Conference.
Biggest Area of Need at the Deadline:
Again, the Clippers could go one of two ways here. If they’re able to overtake a few of the teams ahead of them in the standings, they’ll probably stand pat. If that’s the case, a veteran point guard is probably their most pressing need. Patrick Beverly is out for the year, and Milos Teodosic has been in and out of the lineup due to injury. Rookie Jawun Evans has filled in admirably as a starter, but they’ll need a more seasoned player if they want to compete in the playoffs.
Then there’s the other possible direction. Maybe the Clippers don’t make a move in the standings. Maybe they drop more games and a playoff appearance starts to look bleak. If that happens, trade chatter involving Griffin, Jordan, and Williams will likely reappear. If they’re unable to make something happen record-wise in the next month or so, their biggest area of need likely becomes young players and draft picks.
Phoenix Suns (16-27)
The Suns are where many probably expected them to be. Some of their young talent is finally starting to shine through, but they aren’t really close to becoming a playoff team. They completed their big move of the year when they dealt Eric Bledsoe to the Milwaukee Bucks to accommodate his trade request and to open up playing time for the young guys.
Notable Ending Contracts:
Greg Monroe – $17,844,176
Alex Len – $4,187,599
Tyler Ulis – $1,312,611(non-guaranteed)
Names Worth Talking About:
There are some players on the Suns whose names will likely surface as the trade deadline gets closer. The one guy whose name is probably going to pop up quite a bit is Greg Monroe. Monroe played a big role off the Bucks bench last season, especially in the playoffs. He’s not in the rotation in Phoenix, but he can certainly still help a contending team.
The other name who might come up is Tyson Chandler. Chandler has been the starting center for the Suns for most of the year, and he’s played well for them. He may not be the player he once was, but he still provides an interior defensive and rebounding presence. He’d definitely help a contending team. He can come in and still start if need be.
Both Monroe and Chandler have fairly large contracts which might make them a bit difficult to move. It’s likely that the Suns wouldn’t be expecting much in return for either of them. If they’re able to get back any young prospects or picks, that would obviously be ideal. But since those contracts are big, they’re going to need to take back some salary as well.
Biggest Area of Need at the Deadline:
Firmly out of the playoff race and headed to another lottery finish, the Suns just need to maintain course. Find a way to get their young guys as much playing time as possible. Monroe isn’t in the rotation, so if they can’t move him it doesn’t matter much. He’s an expiring contract anyway. If they can find a taker for Chandler that makes sense, they should do it.
More playing time for the younger big men such as Alex Len and Dragan Bender will likely benefit them. They’ve both shown improvement this season and would stand to benefit most if Chandler is moved. Chandler’s been a positive presence for the Suns but going forward, it’s unlikely he’s in their long-term plans. Len and Bender might not be either, but the Suns won’t know unless they try it out.
Los Angeles Lakers (14-27)
The Lakers are another team that’s right where they should be. They were never going to be a good team this year. They were always going to lose a lot of games. But they’re often times exciting while doing so. They’ve got some intriguing young talent on the team, talent that might be worth developing and worth standing by rather than chasing dreams of LeBron James or Paul George in the purple and gold.
Notable Ending Contracts:
Brook Lopez – $22,642,350
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – $17,745,894
Julius Randle – $4,149,242(qualifying offer)
Corey Brewer – $7,579,366
Names Worth Talking About:
There are a couple guys on the Lakers roster whose names have already been talked about in trade rumors. The most prominent one is probably Luol Deng. As the new front office tries to undo the mistakes of the previous regime, Deng has been on the inactive list since the first game of the season. The Lakers would love to get out from under his contract, but finding a taker is going to be incredibly difficult.
Other than that, they do have a few guys that have been mentioned in trade chatter who probably have some value around the league. Both Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson have seen their names in trade rumors since the offseason. Moving either or both has been seen as a precursor to pursuing James and George in the summer. They’ve both been solid for the Lakers, however, especially Randle, who is having a stellar year despite a decrease in playing time.
Randle, in particular, is someone the Lakers will need to make a decision on soon. He is set to become a restricted free agent this summer and is likely in line for a nice payday. The Lakers have to decide if they want to be the ones to pay him or not.
Biggest Area of Need at the Deadline:
The Lakers’ biggest need is quite obvious: to ship out Deng. That’s unlikely to happen given his contract situation, so their next biggest area of need is to decide what to do with Randle. If they don’t think he’s part of the team’s future, then it’s best to trade him before the deadline and get something in return, rather than lose him for nothing in the summer when another team will inevitably pay him.
They also have to decide if it’s worth it to go all in for a couple of max contract guys this offseason. If so, they’ll need to look at potential deadline deals that will clear out some salary.
Sacramento Kings (13-28)
The bottom of the Western Conference is probably where you would have expected the Kings to be, and that’s exactly where they are. They did have a solid draft, but it’s going to take some time for that talent to yield on-court results. This is a team that’s been in the lottery forever, it seems, and so far they have nothing to show for it. This upcoming draft is looking very top-heavy so maybe the Kings will get lucky and finally hit the lottery jackpot.
Notable Ending Contracts:
Kosta Koufos – $8,393,000
Vince Carter – $8,000,000
Garrett Temple – $8,000,000
Names Worth Talking About:
The biggest name on the Kings’ roster who will certainly factor into trade rumors is George Hill. It wasn’t too long ago that Hill spoke about his disappointment with how the Kings’ season was going. He was one of the Kings’ prized offseason acquisitions, but he hasn’t panned out as initially hoped.
He’s got quite a hefty contract, so if he’s moved the Kings are going to have to take some salary back in return. He’s still a valuable player who just isn’t fitting that well with the Kings. There are plenty of teams out there, playoff contenders at that, who could use him.
Another name that’s come up is Kosta Koufos. Koufos has a bargain of a contract and is one of the Kings most productive players. He’d definitely help fortify a contending team’s second unit. Should the Kings decide to move him, it would probably be a bit easier than moving Hill. In any potential deal, the Kings should be looking at getting some prospects and/or picks that can help with the rebuild.
Biggest Area of Need at the Deadline:
Other than finding a taker for Hill, if that’s what they want to do, the Kings should sit this deadline out. They need to use the remainder of the season to evaluate the guys they currently have. It’s been over a decade since the Kings were relevant, but there’s no need to rush.
If they can add any intriguing young players or picks, then, by all means, do it. But that’s all they should be looking to add.
With the trade deadline less than a month away now, look for more and more chatter to pick up. For the teams in the Pacific Division, the teams to look out for are the Clippers and Lakers. The Clippers will need to decide what path they want to take, and the Lakers will need to determine what their offseason goals will be. Those two teams are where most of the talk might come from. Look for the other teams, especially the Warriors, to stay put.
The X-Factors: Portland
Spencer Davies continues Basketball Insiders’ “X-Factor” series by looking at potential game-changers for the Portland Trail Blazers when the NBA returns.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
That’s probably an appropriate way to characterize the steam that’s been picking up over the last week regarding the eventual return of the NBA. What the plan exactly will be is yet to be determined, but there are potential scenarios surfacing left and right. And with the NHL officially having a resumption blueprint set in stone, we’re probably not too far away from learning The Association’s fate.
In an effort to prepare ourselves for that day, Basketball Insiders has begun an x-factor series for each team around the current playoff picture. Basically, “if this happens…” or “what if this player is healthy?” type of scenarios are what we’re looking at. Ben Nadeau kicked us off Tuesday with Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans. Today, we’re going to look at the Portland Trail Blazers, who are in a similar situation out in the Western Conference.
Scratching and clawing for that final seed to make the postseason for the seventh straight season, the Blazers have work to do at 29-37. They’re going to need help in the standings race with several other squads surrounding them chasing after the same thing. Along with the Pelicans and Sacramento Kings, Portland is 3.5 games back of the West’s eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies. Even the San Antonio Spurs are hanging by a thread with their playoff streak in jeopardy with a four-game hole in the standings.
We can technically call this our first dependent situation. There is going to be a ton of schedule watching around these five teams. It’s all contingent on the NBA’s decision about how to go about a return — a 72-game benchmark, a play-in tournament, straight to the postseason, etc. Who’s going to have an easier schedule? Who’s going to have more games to play and increase their chances?
For example, the Blazers could have six games left to play to make up that gap on the Grizzlies, a team that was next up on their list in a pivotal head-to-head scenario. The Spurs, however, would have nine games to try and right the ship — by far the highest amount of contests in comparison to the four others they’re fighting against. None of this is concrete because we don’t know what solution the league is going to agree upon; that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t come to mind as a hypothetical.
Then, there’s that Damian Lillard guy. You know, the dude that is Portland’s franchise. The man that went on a mid-January to early February eight-game run where he absurdly averaged over 45 points, 9.6 assists and 5.5 rebounds, while nailing 53 percent of both his field goals and three-balls. He averaged 40 minutes in this stretch, quite literally putting the team on his back to keep pace with the surging Grizzlies.
Lillard’s publicly come out and said flat-out that if the league elects to go with the benchmark idea, he wouldn’t participate. He’d gladly support his teammates and join them, just not on the court for games. Speaking with Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, the All-Star point guard expressed his desire for a tournament-style setup where there are playoff implications on the line. Suiting up to satisfy certain criteria with no incentive isn’t his preferred method of return. He wants to compete and, considering the effect of rustiness and other unknowns that could play a factor in these hypothetical matchups, Lillard would love for Portland to be the group that knocks others out unexpectedly.
Let’s not forget that the Blazers could have two starting-caliber players back that would’ve made their return from injury at some point this past March, either. Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins have their own specific capabilities that can dramatically improve what the team’s been missing since the beginning of the year.
Nurkic is an outstanding interior presence that brings physicality and finishing ability, as well as a big body to secure rebounds and dare opponents to come into the paint. This is no knock on Hassan Whiteside, who has arguably had the best season of his career as a blocking and boarding machine. It’s more about the lack of depth behind him, which is where Nurkic can step right in without Portland losing its reliability at the five. It’s been a revolving door at backup center for the Blazers, which has allowed the opposition to attack at will and get easy buckets. Nurkic’s return will shut that right off, as well as give the second unit a reliable scoring option.
Collins, his frontcourt partner, was supposed to have a breakout campaign in store for the league. Instead, the athletic third-year big man suffered a dislocated left shoulder just three games into the season. While it has sidelined him since then, he was targeting March as a return target. Obviously, with the league suspending operations, that didn’t happen as planned. But with the calendar turning to June in less than a week, and with his optimism shining through his rehab, it’s probably OK to assume Collins is close to being in the clear for a comeback.
Collins brings things to the table that neither Nurkic nor Whiteside does — an ability to stretch the floor being the most obvious skill that stands out. He can knock down triples at a decent rate and, more importantly, create space for Lillard and CJ McCollum to operate. The 6-foot-11 power forward has quicker foot speed than the other bigs Portland has, too.
Though the Blazers should be plenty excited about Nurkic and Collins’ impending return, they also have to be realistic about how much those two will play. We already mentioned Collins’ shoulder dislocation, but Nurkic hasn’t been on the floor since Mar. 25 of last year. Terry Stotts and his coaching staff will have to pay close attention to each of their minutes. How that whole situation is handled will be crucial to ensure there’s no long-term damage done for any party.
Just like the rest of their competition, the Blazers will have to also monitor how their older veterans handle ramping things back up again. Carmelo Anthony and Trevor Ariza are both in their mid-30s and have taken on a heavy minute load. They are starters who average over 30 minutes per game that just abruptly stopped playing for months. It isn’t going to be easy on anybody, but the younger players can probably recover and restart easier than those seasoned vets.
Gary Trent Jr. and Anfernee Simons are likely to come out of this hiatus with the most energy out of anybody simply because they’re the youngest guys on the team. We all know how hungry the dynamic duo of Lillard and McCollum is going to be. It’s exciting to think about.
All we can do now is wait to find out what the next steps are toward a restart.
Luckily for us, that news might not be too far away.
The X-Factors: New Orleans
Ben Nadeau kicks off a new Basketball Insiders series by examining potential game-changers for when the NBA resumes play.
Basketball is back, baby.
Well, sorta. OK, actually, not really. But they’re talking about it. Finally.
Beyond that, they’re apparently making true, meaningful progress. And although the NBA is circling through potential scenarios — bubble games, re-seeding, ignoring conferences, etc. — there’s a very real chance that this shindig gets underway by mid-July.
To celebrate the re-arrival of actual talk and analysis, Basketball Insiders is kicking off its newest series — this time, one that focuses on a real-life hypothetical. The idea of an x-factor is inherently goofy, typically leading to sentences like: “Well, if Player Z hits 43 percent of his three-pointers, they’ll be tough to beat.” And, yeah, duh.
Given the sport-wide break, there are some perfectly valid questions to be asked. For example, with an extra two months off, where does Victor Oladipo’s health stand? If he’s fully healthy, the Indiana Pacers are going to be a whirlwind of a problem for their higher-seeded first-round matchup. Could the return of Jonathan Isaac to the Orlando Magic ensure their postseason place? And, finally, Kevin Durant – a decision that looms large over every other potential proceeding.
But that’s not why we’ve gathered at this particular URL right now – that would be to discuss the New Orleans Pelicans, a franchise that currently finds itself 3.5 games out of the final playoff spot. Naturally, any chance for success depends on the NBA ratifying a plan that behooves the Pelicans’ hopes. Whether that’s a return to the regular season or a totally-invented play-in series, it doesn’t matter as New Orleans needs some help outside of their own good fortunes.
Should they get the opportunity to control their own fate, there’d be plenty to research and anoint as a Holier Than Thou X-Factor. We could talk about J.J. Redick’s 45.2 percent mark from three-point range or how his 110 postseason games are 28 more than the rest of the roster combined.
Maybe there’d be a paragraph or two on Brandon Ingram’s steady ascent to stardom. Ingram’s post-Los Angeles quest to become a sure-fire No. 1 option has been a compelling narrative, but can he do it when the games matter most? Lonzo Ball, the playmaking point guard, knocked down 21 of his 36 attempts from deep over the final four Pelicans games — if that were a permanent level of consistency for the pass-first general, then that would change everything, too.
And Jrue Holiday, the remaining cornerstone following the departure of Anthony Davis, would get his first chance to anoint himself as a hero in the football-heavy city. Surely, if the Pelicans are to sneak into the altered postseason — and, dare we say it, make some noise — those would be important conditions to quantify.
Still, for all the positives, negatives and worthy storylines out there for New Orleans, not a single one matters as much as Zion Williamson does.
Since the 19-year-old phenom debuted on Jan. 22, the Pelicans went 11-9. It’s not a spectacular showing, but one dragged down by losses to the Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers twice. Generally speaking, however, Williamson wasted no time acclimating to the NBA and the numbers speak for themselves: 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds on 56.9 percent shooting.
The highlights include the 35 points he hung on the Lakers and six other occasions of 25 or more in just 19 games. Moreover, Williamson has only scored under 20 points on three occasions and shot worse than 50 percent twice — once 8-for-18 (44) in the other showing versus Los Angeles and a tough 5-for-19 effort (26.3) against the league-leading Bucks. Of course, if they hobbled into the postseason, they’d have to play those very same Lakers over and over again.
Alas, the so-called chosen one will have his fair share of questions when the season resumes. Remember that 4-for-4 explosion against the San Antonio Spurs in his career debut? Well, he’s just 2-for-9 otherwise, often going entire games without even hoisting from long range. Williamson wasn’t supposed to enter professional basketball as a three-point marksman, but that epic – and believe us, we don’t use that word lightly – introduction might have skewed the outlook.
At Duke, Williamson went just 24-for-71 (33.8 percent) from deep and it’ll be a weak link that follows him – just as it does Ben Simmons – for the time being. Free throws weren’t expected to be a major, glaring issue either as he hit on 64 percent in college and, well, he’s right around the same mark currently. If you ignore 1-for-6 and 3-for-8 showings during a couple of double-digit victories versus the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors, that number looks even better too.
But enough about the few cons – of which Williamson has certainly made a focus during his quarantine workouts – what’s the ceiling? And how much should we be pulling for a postseason debut here? In a crazy campaign like this, the added bonus of Williamson-made magic might be a thread worth pulling for – even at the rejection of a Ja Morant-led foray instead.
Needless to say, if the resumed regular scenario arrives and the Pelicans have just five or so attempts to make up a 3.5 game deficit in the standings, Williamson probably wouldn’t play at all. It’s also certainly possible that the rookie was just shaking off the rust before — just ask the aforementioned Oladipo. After taking an entire year to recover from a brutal ruptured tendon, the former All-Star only averaged 13.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists on 39.1 percent shooting, all would-be career-lows.
Bet your bottom dollar, however, that with an extra 60 days of training at full speed under his belt, Oladipo will be closer to 100 percent than ever – a much-needed boost to an already well-rounded Pacers side. Could a trained-up Williamson provide the same type of edge? Upon his debut, one of the few worries that lingered – aside from re-injury – was about his perceived stamina and fatigue. Getting dropped into high-intensity workouts against adults twice your age is no joke, but try it after three months of rehab following a preseason meniscus tear.
With that context, the fact that Williams averaged 20-plus points on nearly 30 minutes per game is a superhero-level accomplishment.
At 37.2 percent, the Pelicans are the NBA’s fourth-best three-point shooting franchise – so even if Williamson doesn’t come back ready to unleash from deep, his team will be. On top of that, New Orleans’ 116.2 points per game are tied for fourth-best, too. Between Williamson, Holiday, Ball, Ingram and Redick, scoring appears to be the least of their issues headed into a restarted season.
But the defensive rating of 111.6 is a cause for concern, the second-worst standing of any team still within arm’s reach of the postseason (Portland, 113.6). Williamson has posted an encouraging mark of 103.1 on that end through 19 games, which also happens to be the highest mark of anybody employed by New Orleans right now.
In fact, Williamson’s multi-position defense and overall athleticism have already left quite the footprint. Since his debut in January, the Pelicans have posted a defensive rating of 109.2 – good enough for the No. 8 spot across the entire league. The Williamson Effect is here to stay and it’ll only improve as the roster meshes and the rookie acclimates even further – that seems to be a foregone conclusion.
If you thought Williamson was impressive coming off a serious injury with no stamina, his elevated play – whether in assumed individual efficiencies or overall team impact – could push the Pelicans into new territory. Elsewhere, there are aspects of New Orleans that deserve attention but none are as postseason-transforming as the second return of Williamson – let us just hope that the NBA provides a stage for the show.
Looking Back At The Draft: The No. 12 Picks
David Yapkowitz assesses the 12th picks made in recent NBA Drafts and identifies the hits, misses and everything in-between.
The further you get into the NBA draft, the harder it is to categorize hits and misses. There aren’t many expectations with later draft picks, especially in the second round. If a player ends up panning out, then great. If they don’t, it’s no big financial loss for the team and they can easily cut ties. When you’re still in the lottery, however, you probably expect a little more than just an average player. Superstars are never guaranteed, especially with late lottery selections. But you probably would expect to have a quality rotation player if not probable starter with a late lottery pick.
Here at Basketball Insiders, we’re continuing our look back at the draft, pick by pick, with each of the No. 12 picks going back the last 10 drafts. Let’s see how those picks have panned out.
Steven Adams – Oklahoma City Thunder – 2013
The OKC Thunder didn’t have a lottery pick in the 2013 draft, but they acquired it from the Houston Rockets as part of the James Harden trade. With Adams, the Thunder certainly hit the mark. Only Giannis Antetokounmpo (who 13 other teams in addition to the Thunder passed on) and Rudy Gobert are players picked after Adams who have fared better.
Adams has become one of the best defensive players and rebounders in the league as well as a great screen setter and roll man in the pick and roll. He plays his role to perfection and is a starting-caliber center. He may not have hit All-Star status, but he is a legit starter and with a lottery pick, that’s probably what you would expect.
Gerald Henderson – Charlotte Bobcats – 2009
I’m going with a hit on this one. Henderson played nearly all of his eight-year career with the Bobcats with the exception of his final two years with the Portland Trail Blazers and Philadelphia 76ers respectively. He was unfortunately forced into early retirement due to nagging injury issues.
But for the eight years he was in the NBA, he was a capable scorer and mostly a starting-caliber wing player. As mentioned, with a late lottery pick, a starting-caliber player is what you should expect. Henderson averaged double-digits in scoring for most of his career and he shot in the mid-’40s from the field. If not for injuries, he probably would have played in the NBA for a few more years.
Xavier Henry – Memphis Grizzlies – 2010
Going back to the last ten drafts, Henry is the only player picked No. 12 that I would consider to be a miss thus far. He had some hype coming out of Kansas and was expected to be a first-round pick and NBA contributor. He didn’t play much as a rookie with the Grizzlies and was traded to the New Orleans Hornets.
He showed some brief flashes with the Hornets but never really was able to sustain any sort of consistent success. He got hurt during his stint with the Los Angeles Lakers and that pretty much ended his NBA career after five years. He’s had a couple of G League appearances since then but didn’t really show that he was ready for an NBA return.
The Middle of the Road
Taurean Prince – Atlanta Hawks – 2016
Again, for a late lottery pick, a starting-caliber player is what you expect your selection to develop into. Prince is here under the middle of the road rather than hits because it’s still too early in his career to determine if he is truly a full-time starter.
With the Hawks, he certainly looked the part. After a so-so rookie year, he stepped up in a big way, becoming a scorer and deadly three-point shooter with solid defensive capabilities. When he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets last summer, he was considered to be a big pick up. This season, although he started in 61 of the 64 games he suited up in Brooklyn, his shooting suffered and he wasn’t as effective as he had been in Atlanta. There is still time for him to be considered a hit though.
Jeremy Lamb – Houston Rockets – 2012
Lamb is another player who had some high expectations coming out of college but got off to a rocky start in the NBA. He showed some flashes in Oklahoma City but was wildly inconsistent. But like many players, a change of scenery seemed to be all he needed.
He broke out when he arrived in Charlotte, becoming a solid bench scoring threat and becoming more of a regular in the starting lineup as the years went on.
He rightfully earned himself a solid payday from the Indiana Pacers and he started 42 of the 46 games he played in. Unfortunately for him, he suffered a season-ending injury in February. The Pacers are hoping he can bounce back from that.
Luke Kennard – Detroit Pistons – 2017
Another player that is still a little early to categorize. For now, he appears to be a middle of the ground type player. This is only his third year in the NBA, and he’s shown improvement each year. This season was a breakout year for him.
Since coming to the league, he’s been a very good three-point shooter. This season he was knocking down 39.9 percent of his attempts. His scoring has gone up every season and this year he had broken through to double-digits. He has some injury concerns, and he was actually out when the NBA suspended the season. But if he can bounce back healthy, then he certainly looks like a solid pick at No. 12.
The Role Players
Trey Lyles – Utah Jazz – 2015
In a league where the game is changing and traditional big men aren’t as common as they used to be, Lyles fits right in. Lyles seemingly was another case of a player who needed a change of scenery to find his niche. He wasn’t able to stick in either Utah or Denver, and it wasn’t until this season, his first in San Antonio, that he looked like a capable role player.
Lyles became a regular starter for the Spurs, and again, that’s what you want from a lottery pick. He isn’t included in the hits yet because this is the first season out of his five that he’s shown this. He doesn’t have a big enough sample size. He shot a career-best 38.7 percent from three and if he keeps this up, he’ll be a good pick albeit a late bloomer.
Alec Burks – Utah Jazz – 2011
Burks once looked like he was going to become more than just a solid NBA player. He might have had borderline All-Star potential. At least a starting-caliber shooting guard. But unfortunately for him, his career was seemingly derailed by early injuries.
He has since bounced back though. He’s reinvented himself as a scoring threat off the bench. He put up a career-high 16.1 points per game with the Golden State Warriors in the first half of the season. On a playoff team though, he’s a second unit player and that’s exactly what the 76ers were hoping for when they traded for him. He only had 11 games in Philly before the season was halted, but he’s done well to change his game and be effective despite major injuries.
Too Early to Tell
Dario Saric – Orlando Magic – 2014
I’m introducing a new category here, the too early to tell group. These players either don’t have a big enough sample size, or they have had circumstances that may have hindered their abilities. Saric falls into the latter part of that. He’s been a solid starting stretch-four when he’s gotten consistent playing time. But he struggled to adapt to being thrown around in different roles and inconsistent minutes with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns. He’s a pending restricted free agent who might not figure to be in the Suns future plans. Quite a few teams should consider throwing an offer his way.
Miles Bridges – Charlotte Bobcats – 2018
It’s a bit too early to make any major assessments on Bridges. This is only his second year in the NBA, a season that has been cut short. He mostly came off the bench as a rookie and had a pretty solid year with some aspects he could certainly improve upon. He looked much improved this season albeit some areas he could still work on.
He became a regular starting small forward for the Bobcats this season. He upped his scoring and rebounding and he’s often asked to guard multiple positions. He’s young and has a lot of room to improve. I don’t quite feel comfortable yet placing him in one of the above categories so that’s why he’s too early to tell. The future does look good for him though.
The later you go in the draft, the fewer expectations you put on the player you drafted. Franchise level players are not common, there are only a handful in the league. But at least with first-rounders, and especially a lottery pick, you’d expect to get at least a quality rotation player.
Judging by the production of the all the No. 12 picks for the past ten years, it’s safe to say that they all have, or look like they will pan out in some capacity. Only one of them is a sure-fire miss.