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The ‘Shop: MVP Talk & Scoring Outbursts

Jabari Davis and Lang Greene continue their weekly barbershop conversation about the NBA at large.

Jabari Davis

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Welcome back to The ‘Shop, folks. Always great to catch up and talk some hoops, so let’s go ahead and jump into the mix…

Jabari: Alright, Lang, good to back at it. Let’s start with OKC and specifically with Westbrook the Destroyer. The dude is currently averaging a triple-double (31 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 10.9 APG) and the team has gotten back into the winning side of things of late. Part of why I worried about OKC this year was because it looked like they would need Westbrook to essentially play like a madman and essentially average a triple-double all year. I didn’t think that would be fair to expect, nor realistic at the time… But here we are about a quarter of the way in and he’s doing exactly THAT. Can it last?

Lang: Dude, it’s good to be back in the mix. Don’t know about you but I had to gain at least five pounds over the Thanksgiving break. My goodness, man. The waistline doesn’t have the bounce back it used to have, but there was no way I was turning down that food, bro.

I absolutely believe Russell Westbrook’s play can last. The guy is a man on a mission. Taking no prisoners, no holds barred. Shooting first and asking questions later. I can go on and on. Remember, Kobe Bryant has been telling anyone that would listen over the past three years about Westbrook having a lot of Mamba in him. Let me say this: Kobe is a truth teller. No question about it.

Now here’s the deal. Do Sam Presti and the crew try to bring in reinforcements at the trade deadline to help Westbrook down the stretch? This is just my opinion, but a guy like Enes Kanter is owed big money and is averaging less than 24 minutes per night behind Steven Adams in the rotation. Dude is a scorer on the low block, but his defensive lapses keep him on the bench. You wonder if Kanter is truly part of OKC’s long-term plans, especially at that price tag and playing those limited minutes. What do you think?

Jabari: Bean was dead-on with that one, and I can certainly appreciate that mentality and approach. Westbrook is simply phenomenal and I’ll admit that it makes me chuckle a bit that so many folks continue to look for ways to question and criticize what he’s doing. The whole “he’s selfishly gunning for triple-doubles” narrative is annoying and ridiculous. It seems like it’s actually rooted in, “I just don’t like the guy or his style, so let me shift my complaint…” I love how everyone went into the year knowing he would play like a madman, but now you have folks essentially complaining that he’s trying to do more than he should. We, and I’m speaking generally, love to build athletes up simply to tear them down a bit too much at times.

You nailed it with that assessment of Kanter. He can be really good on the offensive end and particularly on the backboards when he wants to, but doesn’t seem to provide the same type effort consistently on the defensive end. I actually don’t mind them staggering the two big men all that much, but do agree that he is probably the team’s most tradeable asset and someone opposing teams would value. Not sure if  they end up electing to move him, but (along with continuing to develop the young guys) I do think Presti has to find a way to continue solidifying that roster over the course of this season and into the summer. What Westbrook is doing is phenomenal, but I shudder to think of what that team will look like if he were to go down or miss any significant amount of time at any point.

Transitioning to another topic, and even though I realize we’ve discussed some of these guys over the weeks, let’s bring it together with our own version of a “WAAAAAY too early” discussion about the MVP race. My top guys right now are Westbrook, LeBron James, James Harden, Kevin Durant (Yup, look at his numbers) and Kawhi Leonard. Any chance Ant Davis can truly sneak into the mix and at least get into the discussion if his Pelicans keep rolling? Anyone that didn’t get mentioned that deserves some shine?

Lang: I can’t believe there are people out there really trying to question what Russell Westbrook is doing. I mean, really? Come on. You lose one of the top five players on this green earth over the summer for nothing in return and people expect Westbrook not to be out here playing possessed right now? Give it a break. You might not like his TYPE of greatness, but as a basketball observer, you should at least be mature enough to RESPECT it.

I think your MVP list is accurate, bro. You have to throw Westbrook on the list as a frontrunner. But I love the fact you threw LeBron on the list because people have this false notion that he is “coasting” until the playoffs. If averaging 24-9-9 is coasting, then sign me up all day every day and twice on Tuesday nights. I absolutely love what James Harden is doing in Houston too. I remember arguing at length around the water cooler that Harden is the BEST two guard in the league with folks insisting it was either Jimmy Butler or Klay Thompson. Now those guys are better two-way players, but Harden is my pick out of the litter if I was starting a franchise. That might not be a popular pick, but he passes all of my eye checks with flying colors.

Durant is an interesting pick. But the numbers support consideration. He’s been the most consistent Warrior to start the season and when Draymond Green missed time, the man pumped in a double-double with SIX – I said six! – blocked shots. When I see Durant I see a man, come playoff time, that is going to have some Russell Westbrook type of performances. He knows what’s at stake if he comes up empty handed this season. I think Kawhi is a stretch, compared to the others, but the Spurs do have the second-best record in the league and that should count for something.

I love the Brow. I love his potential. But the Pelicans have to be north of .500 for me to even consider him. Check back with me come All-Star break and I’ll reassess. Ha!

Now let me ask you. Who do you think will be the first trade domino to fall? Nerlens Noel could be the odd man out in Philly. Brandon Knight could be a valuable asset for Phoenix with Devin Booker as their guy for the future. We’ve already talked about Enes Kanter in Oklahoma City. Who else do you have hearing their names on the trade market?

Jabari: The Nerlens rumors intrigue me because I honestly wonder whether they can get what they would probably consider a fair deal given his injury history. We can romanticize about potential and promise all we’d like, but at some point, the likelihood of player’s availability has to be factored in.

What about Bradley Beal? I know the Wizards have at least made it sound like they intend to keep their main pieces in town, but at 6-13 you just wonder how long before they are forced to make a significant move. I also wonder how much longer Orlando plans to keep paying Bismack Biyombo $18 million a year to split time with Nikola Vucevic? Vucevic has been solid and is actually signed to a very favorable contract (about $12.5 million for each of the next two years), but you wonder if GM Rob Hennigan has any plans to at least explore what options might be available on the market.

While I’ve heard absolutely nothing in terms of trade rumors involving Lou Williams, I also wonder if we’ll start to see teams actively trying to inquire about the former Sixth Man of the Year as the season moves on. He’s on what looks like an insanely cap-friendly deal at just $7 million for next season and is actually in the middle of his best year to date. Williams is averaging a career-high 18.4 PPG off the bench for the Lakers and shooting 39.3 percent from deep. I know he’s actually been a great fit with this group under Luke Walton and the Lakers have enjoyed a bunch of unanticipated success during the early going, but it still wouldn’t shock me to see GMs bidding for his services as they try to bolster their rotations in the second half.

How long before we say they need to consider another move in Indiana? I was intrigued by that mix when the season started, but things haven’t quite worked out the way many anticipated. Why are they so poor defensively?

Lang: I am on record saying I liked what Pacers team president Larry Bird was cooking over the summer by bringing in Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young and Al Jefferson. He said he wanted the Pacers to improve offensively and move away from their plodding style. What better way to do that than by adding three proven 15-19 points-per-game guys into the mix next to Paul George and once-high-scoring guard Monta Ellis. But the problem Indiana has faced is that head coach Frank Vogel’s calling card was defense and he’s now in Orlando – who have been playing very strong defense as of late, by the way. Secondly, Father Time has taken over Big Al, who is only two seasons or so removed from an All-NBA selection. My goodness. It also appears Monta Ellis is no longer capable of putting up huge scoring nights.

Lastly… and I know this may get me some heat… but maybe, just maybe Paul George isn’t the GUY we thought he was a few years ago when the Pacers were a thorn in the Miami HEAT’s side. Make no mistake, he’s a very good player, but NBA history is absolutely littered with very good players that were unable to lead their respective teams to paradise as the top dog (such as Paul Pierce before the 2007 reinforcements). We can look at T-Mac and his woes as the leading cast member during his prime. Heck, you might be able to throw Carmelo Anthony into this mix. Two of those guys are a lock for the HALL one day and the other could possibly get in – eventually. So Paul George as an individual player is the goods, but as a franchise player you can strap a load to his back and his recent play hasn’t justified our collective expectations.  

Jabari: Point taken on guys like ‘Melo and PG, although I would still like to see what George might look like when paired with another player of his level while in his relative prime. I think we, as writers, can fall victim to social media narratives at times as well. The truth is, no one wins in the NBA without a strong and connected supporting cast. Even if we “say” guys like LeBron or Jordan did this (they didn’t) those would be extreme outliers.

Speaking of outliers, I know you saw what Klay Thompson did the other night. 60 points. SIXTY points in about 29 minutes of action. I think there was a crazy stat about dude literally having the ball in his hands for less than 90 actual seconds of action. Calling that level of production “phenomenal” somehow seems like an understatement, and before we (speaking generally) find a way to tear down the performance and question “how open” all his looks were, let’s just take a few moments to appreciate a great night on the basketball court. How does that shooting exhibition rank among some of your favorite scoring outbursts over the last 10-15 years?

Lang: Man, Klay was smoking the other night. I think it’s criminal they didn’t trot him out in the fourth quarter for a few minutes. Let the man make a run at 70 because how often will he ever reach that level of a zone again in his career? He’s gotten hot before, but I mean making a run a 70-75 points type of heat is totally different. I get it, the Warriors were trying to be good sportsmen but let the man cook a bit more.

It’s funny you mention the critics. The man had just scored 60 points, in 29 minutes, and less than 10 hours later there are a plethora of YouTube videos dissecting the performance. Come on, man. Just enjoy one of the greatest scoring displays in NBA history.

Some of my favorite scoring outbursts are Reggie Miller’s eight points in nine seconds rampage versus the Knicks back in the 1990s. Also, in my top three is T-Mac’s 13-point barrage in 33 seconds versus the Spurs. If you want to visually see the impact of the absolute carnage T-Mac caused with that outburst check out the following link and fast forward to the 2:08-second mark and witness the look on Devin Brown’s face.

Jabari: Devin Brown’s expression was absolutely classic and I’m sure it was exactly how everyone in that arena felt. From 2000-2008, T-Mac was a serious problem for opponents. That’s kind of why I hate the way we (speaking generally) consume sports these days. Let Twitter or other forms of social media tell it, McGrady wasn’t great over that stretch. Have we become so jaded and lazily dependent upon the “yeah, but how many rangzzz did he have?” mindset that we can’t acknowledge a seven-time All-Star and seven-time All-NBA selection as one of the greats from his generation? Anyhow, I’ll hop down off my soapbox for now.

The last thing I’ll say about scoring outbursts is that if the conversation is going to be had, then you know I’m obligated to bring up Kobe, once again. I mean, folks may not have loved his personality or even may have had legitimate reasons to dislike his approach at times, but there hasn’t been a more explosive scorer over the last 20 years than Bean. Klay’s 60-point outbreak reminded me specifically of the 62 points in 32 minutes Bean put up against the Mavericks just about 11 years ago (December 20, 2005). I know we focus on the 81 he gave Jalen Rose, a young Chris Bosh and the Raptors, but that 62-point night was always slightly more impressive to me given the opponent (eventually a 60-22 team ranked seventh in overall opponent’s points against) and the fact that no other teammate reached double figures that night. Not sure some of the younger folks were able to fully appreciate that game, but dude outscored the entire opposing team through three quarters.

Anyhow, let Google/YouTube be your friends if you want to appreciate that performance for the first time (for perspective) or simply to revisit a pretty incredible scoring run. We’ll wrap things up on that note for the week, but want to remind you to continue offering your feedback and suggestions for upcoming topics via the comments section below or Twitter (@JabariDavisNBA, @LangGreene).

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NBA Daily: Trail Blazers Come Up Short and Now Search For Answers

The Portland Trail Blazers were swept in the first round of the Playoffs and now face tough questions, writes James Blancarte.

James Blancarte

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The playoffs have been a wild ride so far. On Sunday, all three Eastern Conference playoff games were exciting matches that featured star players stepping up in the clutch. As a result, each series is tied up, two games each. The other game of the day featured the San Antonio Spurs, who stayed in control and never once allowed the Golden State Warriors to take the lead. The Spurs managed to get a win against the defending champs despite missing their best player and now their head coach indefinitely.

For the Portland Trail Blazers, there was no such Game 4 turnaround. In fact, with the Spurs win, the Trail Blazers have the lamentable distinction of being the only team to be swept in the first round of the playoffs. This is just one way to describe how disappointing and surprising this playoff series loss to the New Orleans Pelicans was for Portland. Many NBA observers and Pelicans fans were quick to point out that every ESPN NBA personality chose the Trail Blazers to win the series, as did select writers of the Basketball Insiders team.

The Trail Blazers’ players and front office also made it clear how surprised they were at the result. Forward Evan Turner shared his surprise.

“Obviously finishing so quickly wasn’t definitely the plan and to a certain extent it was shocking,” Turner said.

General Manager Neil Olshey chimed in as well.

“Nobody expected [the playoff sweep] to happen. It did. We had our chances in Game 1, we had our chances in Game 2. Clearly Game 3 was a setback,” Olshey stated when describing his surprise at how the series ended. “Stunned, I think disappointed.”

Credit should be given to the Pelicans and their ability to fully harness their talent and impose their will in the series. Turner was effusive in praising the talent and ability of the Pelicans.

“Unlocked Jrue is pretty dangerous and we all see how Rondo plays. He’s a homerun hitter but he is always solid. He can mess around. He’ll get two or three triple doubles. Anthony Davis is a problem,” Turner said.

When asked how he felt about the playoff exit, starting center Jusuf Nurkic stated that he is beyond disappointed.

“I mean, the way I finish the season, I feel shame. The way we have a season, like a team and group, and being in position to be third in the West, and finish like this, is not good,” Nurkic stated. “It’s not something you should be proud of, because all you do through the year, fight for playoff and to be in position to have a good postseason.”

Despite the early exit, many within the organization were quick to highlight that they continue to see the regular season in a positive light, including Head Coach Terry Stotts.

“I thought we had a very good regular season, I thought we had a very disappointing end of the season,” Stotts stated.

Damian Lillard shared a similar sentiment when reflecting on the season as a whole.

“I think I’ll always remember the way [the season] ended. But I won’t forget the kind of season we had. You can’t ignore the fact we won a division title in a division where there was some great teams,” Lillard stated. “We came out on top.”

Still, the success of the regular season makes the playoff result that much harder to grasp and deal with for some. Nurkic again didn’t hold back when comparing the success of the regular season with the team’s playoff failure.

“Very surprised,” Nurkic stated. “You definitely didn’t see the team who we are in the playoffs.”

Explaining why the Trail Blazers came up short against the Pelicans is no easy task. Clearly Portland’s attempt to feature its two premiere guards failed as the Pelicans were able to clamp down on Lillard and McCollum effectively in each game. Complicating matters further was the inability of the Trail Blazers to effectively utilize Nurkic on both ends of the court. However, there was at least some praise to be heaped on the backup bigs, Zach Collins and Ed Davis.

“I think Zach played really well for us,” Olshey stated. “He had an impact defensively.”

Also, Al-Farouq Aminu was able to do his part as an acceptable defensive option against Davis while spreading the floor with his outside shooting

Regardless, Turner shared his assessment that the team failed to have an adequate game plan for a scenario where their two best players are neutralized.

“One thing that may help, it’s no jabs or anything, but building the identity outside of our two strong scorers,” Turned stated. “[W]e sometimes go downhill when a team fully focuses on a lot of attention on our stars […] But I think we might need certain plays, certain structures that kind of prepare just in case that occurs.”

With their postseason concluded, the Trail Blazers are suddenly left trying to answer questions with no easy answers. Who, if anyone, is to blame for what happened? So far, many head coaches have been let go and unsurprisingly some speculation has turned toward Coach Stotts. Stotts, when asked, focused on the team and deflected any analysis of his performance.

“I’m not going to evaluate the job I did,” Stotts said.

Lillard, on the other hand, was effusive in his praise of his coach.

“Coach Stotts has done a great job from day one. We’ve been in the playoffs five years straight,” Lillard said.

For now, there does not appear to be strong rumblings about Stotts. With the offseason just beginning for the team there is still time to reflect and assess what went wrong. Additionally, the team has to resolve what to do regarding its own free agents. No name looms larger than Nurkic, who despite his poor showing, represents one of the team’s top talents and expressed his guarded optimism regarding a return.

“I want to be here, it’s no secret,” Nurkic stated when asked if he wants an extension in Portland. “Yes, definitely.”

Nurkic ended the thought by stating, a bit ominously, that he did his part and a deal may or may not get worked out.

“My agent and people here are going to figure out the rest, or not,” Nurkic said.

Complicating the desire to retain Nurkic is the team’s financial situation as the team is currently over the cap and under obligation to center Meyers Leonard, who has struggled to stay in the rotation and is earning roughly $21.8 million over the next two years.

“It’s our job to be measured and not to overreact. [Because] when you overreact is when you make mistakes,” Olshey stated.

Lillard was quick to emphatically shut down the notion of splitting up him and McCollum when asked if that would be a good idea.

“I mean, I don’t agree with it. I think it’s that simple,” Lillard declared.

When asked what the team plans to do going forward, Olshey expressed optimism but tried again to pay credit to the season’s effort overall.

“We’re going to do everything we can to upgrade the roster as we always do but we also aren’t going to lose sight of the success throughout the course of the season,” Olshey said.

“I don’t have all the answers for you today,” Olshey surmised. “A lot of times you don’t know where your help is coming from.”

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The Problem With ‘Championship Or Bust’

Should an NBA Title be the only measuring stick when we’re talking about a team’s success?

Spencer Davies

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In this day and age, there’s a constant need for instant gratification. It goes for everything, really, but especially for sports.

Before the 2017-18 NBA season kicked off, the general outlook on the league was that the regular season would be a waste of time. People dubbed the Golden State Warriors as clear-cut repeat champions. Other then that franchise, there were maybe one or two others that could put up a fight with such a juggernaut.

While that story has yet to play out, others are developing quickly.

The all-of-a-sudden dangerous New Orleans Pelicans are the only ball club to have advanced to the second round of the playoffs as the sixth seed in the Western Conference. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are deadlocked in a tied series with an Indiana Pacers team that everybody seemed to believe was lottery-bound before the year began.

After falling nine games under .500 in late January, the Utah Jazz have caught fire and are up two games to one against the league’s reigning league MVP and a re-constructed Oklahoma City Thunder roster. We’d be remiss to leave out the sensational play of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid as the Philadelphia 76ers continue to show how dominant they’ve been in a hard-hitting affair with a gritty Miami Heat bunch.

The start to this postseason trumps last season’s already. There is a competitive fire within the majority of these encounters. It’s all on the line to prove who will be the best of the best.

And having said that, there can only be one that takes home the Larry O’Brien trophy.

One. That’s it. In the last 18 years, there have been a total of eight different organizations that have earned the right to call themselves champions. All things considered, it’s not that many.

But there’s a giant misconception about parity in the NBA that needs to be thwarted.

This league is filled with talent, top to bottom. Just like in any sport, you have the basement dwellers still trying to right the ship. Whether it be coaching, injuries, or inexperience—they’re attempting to find their way. That’s why those players are sitting at home in late April.

Then there are those who are not merely spectators, but are involved in the remaining field of 15 teams (sorry, Portland Trail Blazers). Of course, in their minds, there is a common goal of winning a title, as it should be.

However, is it fair to quantify the success of every one of these franchises simply based on whether they accomplish that goal or not? Heck no.

Are we supposed to just forget about the progress made from end-to-end? What if — hear this out — both teams have talent and one just beat the other?

Building championship basketball takes patience. There has to be some semblance of playoff experience involved. Continuity is a must have. You might not want to hear it, but the postseason is where the seeds are planted, where the understanding of the stage really starts.

There can be a collection of young players who have been teammates for years, but have never taken part in the playoffs before. Sometimes there can be a team that’s full of veterans that have been there, but they may not have played together as a collective unit. Each one of them has a different background in a different setting.

It’s a whole different beast at this point. Some are so naive to see how elevated and intense the environment really is, so they assume a team that loses a few games isn’t championship material. Newsflash: Not one team in the history of the NBA has gone 16-0 in the playoffs.

And then, the ones who fall—whether it be in The Finals, conference finals, or in first two rounds—those organizations didn’t accomplish anything. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

So in this basketball world we live in where everything has to be a 20-point victory with zero losses and it’s “championship or bust” as the measuring stick, take a step back and appreciate the work it took to even get to the postseason.

Win or lose, many of these teams are building towards bigger things in the future. These experiences will make that clear in the years to come.

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NBA

NBA DAILY: Who’s the Next Donovan Mitchell?

Donovan Mitchell provided elite value at the back end of the lottery. Who might that player be this summer?

Joel Brigham

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The entire reason that so many non-playoff teams worked so diligently to blow their seasons was to get the best odds possible for the first overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft. Watching LeBron James (a former first overall draft pick) do what he’s done to the league for the last 15 years, the desire to land a top pick is understandable. Ben Simmons, the heir apparent and likely Rookie of the Year, also was a first overall draft pick a couple of seasons ago.

In fact, of the 38 former first overall picks dating back to 1980, 28 of them would evolve into All-Stars, and it seems like only a matter of time before Simmons is added to that list, too. A higher percentage of top picks have been named All-Stars than any other slot in the draft. Numbers don’t lie. There is no pick more valuable than the very first one.

But…

Donovan Mitchell is good, too. Like, really good. He’s so good that there’s just as strong an argument for him as this season’s Rookie of the Year as there is for Simmons. Mitchell, though, was not a first overall pick. He was picked 13th, at the back end of the lottery.

He isn’t alone in landing elite value for teams picking outside of the lottery’s top half. Devin Booker was picked 13th in 2015. Giannis Antetokounmpo was the 15th selection in 2013. In 2011, Klay Thompson was picked 11th, while Kawhi Leonard was chosen with the 15th pick that same year. Paul George went 10th overall in 2010.

In other words, there are plenty of really good prospects every summer to give late-lottery teams hope. They might not generate the same hype as the guys vying for that top overall selection, but they’re also clearly a lot better than the tiers of players that start coming off the board in the 20s and 30s. All-Stars lurk in the 10-to-15 range of the draft, especially in a loaded class like the one we’re looking at this summer.

That begs the question: who is this year’s Donovan Mitchell?

Here are three possibilities:

Collin Sexton

Back in November, a series of unfortunate circumstances in a game against Minnesota led to a mass ejection of Alabama players that resulted in just three players being allowed to play the final ten minutes. Sexton was one of those three players and led a Crimson Tide rally despite the lopsided Minnesota power play. ‘Bama outscored the Gophers 30-22 in those final 10 minutes despite being down two players, and Sexton finished the game with 40 points. That’s how good he is.

Of course, he could slip in this draft if only because there are so many flashier names ahead of him. It appears as though seven players (DeAndre Ayton, Luka Doncic, Jaren Jackson, Marin Bagley, Michael Porter, Mo Bamba and Trae Young) likely will be drafted before him, which puts him in a category with guys like Mikal Bridges, Wendell Carter, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Miles Bridges, and Kevin Knox. Sexton probably will fall somewhere in that range, which means he would fall somewhere between the eighth and 13th pick.

He is competitive, charismatic and incredibly driven, so there’s a really good chance he does well in interviews and workouts and shows how elite he is. On the other hand, if he falls to the Sixers or Hornets or Clippers, some non-tanking team could end up with one of the biggest stars of the draft.

Miles Bridges

Coming into his sophomore season, Bridges was considered one of the top NBA prospects in college basketball, and while that is still true to a certain extent, his stock dropped a bit this past season while several players—including his teammate Jaren Jackson, Jr.—saw their own stocks rise.

Despite a minor loss in momentum, Bridges is one of the most NBA-ready players projected to be selected in the lottery. He’s still young enough to have a high ceiling, but he’s older and more physically mature than a lot of the other players vying to be drafted in his neck of the pecking order. He does nearly everything well, from ball handling to rebounding to shooting, and he can play both ends of the floor. His athleticism is his calling card, and that added to everything else he does well makes him a lock for some measure of NBA success.

He has his flaws, but he’s probably an All-Rookie First Teamer that will be selected after ten players that aren’t. That makes him a potential steal on the back-end of the lottery.

Jontay Porter

This time last year, Porter was a 17-year-old kid deciding whether or not to reclassify and play at the University of Missouri with his older brother Michael Porter, Jr. and under his father Michael Porter, Sr., who is a member of the coaching staff there. Obviously big bro is a high lottery pick, but the younger sibling was the 11th rated prospect in his high school class (the one with Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett) before reclassifying.

He has declared for this summer’s draft but hasn’t yet hired an agent. If he stays in, he’ll be the youngest player in the draft, and mid-first round is where teams start gambling on the uber-young players with mountains of potential rather than older, more proven college players.

In Porter’s case, that could mean a mid-to-late first-round team ends up with a tremendous bargain, even if it takes him a few years to grow into himself. He’s 6-foot-11 but is incredibly smart and well-rounded on offense. He shoots threes (he hit 110 of them as a freshman at Mizzou), but he’s know for his vision and passing more than anything. That’s a modern-day stretch-four or stretch-five if ever there was one, and getting him a year before his time could be a way for a team to steal a deal in the middle of the first round.

With the playoffs in full swing, most observers are focused in on the battles for conference supremacy. For many of the NBA’s other teams, though, the draft preparation process has begun.

In short order, we’ll see which teams end up snagging the next Donovan Mitchell.

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