Already considered as one of the greatest matchups in league history, the NBA Finals feature seven current All-Stars with Hall of Fame potential.
These talented players have been to big stage multiple times, but there are six individuals participating for the first time in their respective careers.
David West, Kyle Korver, and Deron Williams are widely known, well-respected veterans that had to wait until now to be a part of it. It took the three of them a combined 40 years of hard work to get here.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you’ve got guys like Kay Felder, Patrick McCaw, and Damian Jones, who are lucky enough to experience the pageantry of the event in their rookie season. It’s an opportunity that they appreciate more because of their older teammates.
“These guys that have been in the league for a very long time—very great players—that are experiencing their first NBA Finals just as I am, it just goes to show that a lot of people work to get in this position,” McCaw told Basketball Insiders. “And me, in my first year, it’s truly a blessing.”
“Some guys even go longer than that without reaching the Finals, so it’s definitely a great moment,” Felder told Basketball Insiders.
Excluding the scores and leads, the overall aura of the league’s pinnacle phenomenon has left the Cleveland Cavaliers’ rookie in awe.
“I mean, coming from where I come from I don’t really get to experience this, you know,” Felder said. “Having this dream as a little boy, it’s like a dream come true to get to experience this and to get to be around all the great vets on this team. It’s just a special moment for me man. I’ll never take it for granted.”
McCaw was ready for an entertaining series between the top two teams in the league, but he didn’t anticipate the happenings going on between days and nights.
“It’s been unbelievable,” he said. “Just the atmosphere, all of the craziness, the madness that comes into it, the media, everything that surrounds the Finals. I mean, I didn’t expect all of this. But there’s so much more that ties all into the Finals, and it’s crazy man.”
The saying “what a difference a year makes” definitely applies to both of these young men. At this point last June, Felder recalled being in Dallas working out and getting ready for the draft. McCaw couldn’t remember where he was but knew he was preparing for the same thing.
Though on different sidelines, the two have great respect for one another on the court and developed a friendship over time. Thanks to their teams’ dominance, they’ve gotten the chance to catch up.
“I’ve definitely talked to McCaw said what’s up to ‘em,” Felder said. “I used to talk to McCaw a lot. I used to see him at a lot of workouts doing the pre-draft thing, so when I’d seen him in Golden State we talked a couple times. He’s a good friend of mine.”
For McCaw, the feeling is mutual.
“He’s a really cool dude,” he said of Felder. “We matched up against each other a lot and we were on the same team a lot, so it was fun just going up against him—his aggressiveness, how hard he plays. We’ve built a great relationship.”
Things are quite different between them as far as their paths have gone so far.
McCaw played 71 games for the Golden State Warriors during the regular season and started in 20 of those. In the playoffs, the rookie forward got the chance to showcase his talents with extra minutes due to Andre Iguodala’s knee injury.
Even though his playing time has diminished in the Finals, McCaw held up his end of the bargain, and then some, in what he believes has been a great postseason.
“I’ve just been progressing and playing basketball the right way,” he said. “Not trying to do too much, been playing the game the way I know how to. And my teammates have a lot of faith in me when I step out on the floor and a lot of confidence in me.
“That helps me out a lot when I know that Steph and Draymond and Klay and KD, those guys want me to be great and be special. They want me to be aggressive and have fun.”
His running mates on Golden State have done a great job of showing him the ropes, but there’s another person in McCaw’s life that has given him advice the whole way.
“My pops for sure,” he said. “He’s the reason I’m here. Just all the hard work and time I spent in the gym, it was him making me better. He’s always talked to me each and every day just about the NBA game and about how I’m growing as a basketball player and as a young man, so just having him in my corner is amazing for me.”
Felder’s situation hasn’t come as easily. Over the course of the year, his minutes were inconsistent as the Cavaliers attempted to find a backup point guard solution at the time. He was thrust quickly into a role that he may not have been ready for.
Once Deron Williams was brought aboard, Felder’s role dwindled and he was sent down to Cleveland’s D-League affiliate, the Canton Charge. In total, he was assigned and recalled 10 different times. Some stints were slightly longer than others and many were quick stays, but it had to be taxing on the rookie guard.
In the playoffs, Felder has been inactive as a reserve the entire time. Sitting and watching isn’t where he wants to be right now, but he also understands that almost everybody playing in the Finals has been in the same position he’s been in.
“It’s always about patience,” Felder said. “Just wait your turn and when you get that chance, just make sure you do what you’re supposed to do. That’s why I know I come in early with Phil [Handy]. Early to get that work in.”
Handy is one of Tyronn Lue’s most essential assistant coaches on the team. He has a close bond with Kyrie Irving and is known for calling out the Cavaliers after Game 2 last year for a poor effort. This season, and especially as of late, he’s taken Felder under his wing.
There’s a lot to work to be done, according to Felder. The main focus has been to improve his threes, pick-and-roll game, and dribbling to try and improve his creativity with the ball in his hands.
But for now, it’s about playing the waiting game, studying his teammates on the floor and simply enjoying the experience.
“Always stay after to get some extra work in, so when my time comes, I feel like I can just jump right into the role,” Felder said. “But I’ve been getting advice from just about everybody. They just say just take it all in, experience and live with it.
“This is something I could tell my kids to tell their kids.”
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.
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.”
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.
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/
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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.
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.”