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Looking Toward The Draft: Shooting Guards

Basketball Insiders continues its series on the 2020 NBA Draft.

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This year’s NBA draft is going to be a draft like no other. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there will be no in-person draft workouts and there will be a virtual combine. Teams are really going to have to rely on their scouting staff and what they saw in college, etc.

The 2020 NBA Draft class has been penned by some as being a bit underwhelming with no real clear cut star players. That doesn’t mean there aren’t players with the potential to be solid NBA contributors and some even All-Star caliber.

We’ve started examining the 2020 draft class by position, and we began yesterday with the point guards. We moving on the shooting guards and it’s looking like a decent group with a couple of potential sleeper picks.

I’ll start by taking a look at the players who are widely considered to be sure-fire NBA prospects and then examine a few shooting guards who might not be getting much pre-draft hype but certainly have the talent and skill to develop into solid NBA rotation players.

Anthony Edwards, Georgia – 19 years old

Edwards is considered by many to be one of, if not the most NBA ready of his draft class. He’s a big guard with good mobility. He can handle the ball, he has great athleticism and he can attack off the dribble.

He didn’t have a great shooting year in his lone season at Georgia, he only shot 40.2 percent from the field and 29.4 percent from the three-point line. But his shooting is something that can be worked on and improved once he hits the league.

In the NBA, he probably won’t have the ball in his hands as much as he did in high school and college. An improved shooting game would certainly help in that regard. But he’ll get his opportunities with the ball in his hands and his ability to score was unparalleled this past NCAA season.

Tyrese Maxey, Kentucky – 19 years old

Maxey is a player who has seen his name rise and fall on draft boards. He’s been projected to go anywhere from the lottery to later first-round. Maxey is interesting in that he’s been labeled as both a point guard and a shooting guard.

He did average 4.3 assists during his one season at Kentucky, and he has looked comfortable with the ball in his hands. He isn’t a true point guard in that sense which is why he might be better off as the ball-handler for a team’s second unit if NBA teams want him to play point guard full-time.

But like a shooting guard, he’s a prolific scorer who can shoot from a distance even if his college percentages didn’t quite reflect that. He can get to the rim and he has a nice little floater. He’s a tough player and has the tools to be a solid defensive player at the next level.

Josh Green, Arizona – 19 years old

Green is another player who is projected to go in the late lottery to mid-first round. The main skill-set that he brings to the table is his defense. That was an area he excelled in during his one year at Arizona and good defense translates well to the NBA level.
He’s also a very good shooter. He shot well from the three-point in college and in today’s NBA, shooting is certainly a premium and a must-have skill for wing players. That’s something that should also translate to the next level.

Green’s overall projection in the league is of a solid 3&D type player off a team’s bench. He has some trouble finishing at the rim in traffic but certainly has the potential to be a perennial rotation guy in the NBA.

R.J. Hampton, New Zealand – 19 years old

Hampton is yet another player whose draft projections are all over the place. Most of this is probably due to the fact that in-person workouts are not permitted and teams are pretty much relying on a player’s college footage, or in Hampton’s case, his NZ footage.

Hampton excels in transition. He’s long and athletic and can get out on the break. He can handle the ball in transition off a defensive board and go coast to coast all the way to the rim. He has great speed and can beat his defender off the dribble on his way to the rim.

He showed an ability to make plays with the ball in his hand while recognizing the defensive coverage, and that’s something he’ll need in order to make an impact at the NBA level. His shooting will also need to improve as he likely won’t have easy lanes to the rim in the NBA.

Potential Sleepers

Cassius Stanley, Duke – 21 years old

Stanley is a player who a lot of mock drafts have going in the second round but could end up having a better career than a lot of players picked before him. He is one of the most explosive athletes in the draft, but his game his much more than that.

He’s comfortable with the ball in his hands and he has a strong slashing game. He can get to the rim and can certainly finish in traffic. He can also shoot the ball; he shot 36 percent from the three-point line during his lone season at Duke.

He’s unfairly gotten a rep as being only a highlight dunker and he’s someone who could’ve really benefitted from having a true combine and workouts. Nonetheless, he has a solid skill-set that should translate to the NBA and some teams would be wise to take a flier on him.

Desmond Bane, TCU – 22 years old

There’s one thing Bane has working against him that seems to hinder a lot of draft prospects, and that’s his age. He’s a four-year senior and those players tend not to go very high on draft night. That said, teams would be wise to do their homework on Bane.

He tested the draft waters a year ago, and participated in the Pro Basketball Combine, but opted to return to school. He finished his senior year as one of the best three-point shooters in the country. That’s a skill that will certainly translate for the NBA. He is a strong catch and shoot player and he is a passable defender; a 3&D type prospect.

He isn’t projected to go very high in the draft, so some team is definitely going to get a potential steal of a player. He’s the type of guy who is overlooked and passed on and ends up having one of those solid careers where he just lasts in the league for years because he’s good at what he does and plays his role.

Sam Merrill, Utah State – 24 years old

Another older player who spent four years in college, for some reason that seems to hurt players draft stock although they tend to be much more fundamentally polished and NBA ready. A lot of draft boards didn’t even have Merrill getting drafted, but he’s appeared to have worked his way into the bottom of the second round on some.

He’s an elite shooter, one of the best in the nation. He can shoot off the dribble, he can move without the ball and come off screens, he’s a great catch and shoot player too. He can handle the ball as well and he was effective in the pick and roll as a ball-handler.

Merrill is another type of player who gets passed over and ends up having a longer career than many players pick ahead of him. There’s a high chance he might not even get drafted, and then some team can scoop up a potential steal as an undrafted free agent.

Honorable Mentions:

Jahmi’us Ramsey – Texas Tech
Tyler Bey – Colorado
Nate Hinton – Houston
Isaiah Joe – Arkansas
Immanuel Quickley – Kentucky
Skylar Mays – LSU

Edwards is probably the only one of this group that could possibly turn out to be a franchise-changing talent – but again, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some NBA level contributors among this group. Even if it is projected as a weaker draft, teams still need to fill out their rosters. As mentioned before, this draft in particular is going to require teams to really do their homework and it’ll really separate the elite front offices from all the rest.

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Mavericks are expected to pick up Willie Cauley-Stein’s $4.1 million option

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Per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, the Dallas Mavericks are planning to pick up center Willie Cauley-Stein’s $4.1 million option for the 2021-22 NBA season. The deadline is tomorrow. Last season, in 53 games played, the seven-foot big man averaged 5.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. The sixth-year player also shot 63.2 percent from the field last season.

On July 8, 2019, Cauley-Stein signed a two-year, $4.46 million contract with the Golden State Warriors. Then, on January 25, 2020, Cauley-Stein was traded to the Mavericks for a 2020 second-round pick. If everything goes smoothly, the 27-year-old center is set to earn $4.1 million next season. The 2015 sixth overall pick’s contract consumes less than three percent of the team’s total salary cap.

This news comes right after Dallas received center Moses Brown from the Boston Celtics. Brown is a seven-foot-two, 2019 undrafted player out of UCLA. In 2021, Brown was named to the All-NBA G League First Team and All-Defensive Team. On March 28, 2021, the 21-year-old center signed a four-year, $6.8 million contract with the Thunder.

However, on June 18, 2021, the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Brown, Al Horford, and a 2023 second-round pick to the Celtics for Kemba Walker, a 2021 first-round pick, and a 2025 second-round pick. With Boston, Brown was set to earn $1,701,593 next season. Of course, the Mavs’ organization is finalizing a trade to send Josh Richardson to the Celtics as well. In other news, today is Mavs’ owner Mark Cuban’s 63rd birthday.

Referencing Spotrac’s 2021-22 luxury tax totals, the Mavs’ current luxury tax space is $52,326,531. The 2021 NBA salary cap maximum is $112,414,000. Their current cap space is $27,595,632. Cauley-Stein’s contract is recognized as a club option, not a player option or guaranteed money. Richardson’s deadline is also tomorrow, so because he is getting traded to Boston, the team will not collect his $11,615,328 player option.

Plus, Jalen Brunson’s deadline is also August 1st. His guaranteed value is $1,802,057. Leading into the 2021-22 season, Kristaps Porzingis has the highest cap figure on the team, which is an amount worth $31,650,600, consuming 22.73 percent of the team’s total salary cap. At the moment, Porzingis is a popular name in trade rumor articles. Bettors and NBA analysts are predicting a possible trade to the Brooklyn Nets, Sacramento Kings, or Philadelphia 76ers.

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Lakers Need More Than Big Three

The Lakers have their “big three” after trading for Russell Westbrook but is he the right fit in Los Angeles? The former MVP has had an incredible career but he may not be the point guard the Lakers desperately need.

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The Los Angeles Lakers have formed their three-headed monster as they pursue the franchise’s 18th championship next season. Just as the NBA Draft was getting started, the Lakers completed a deal with the Washington Wizards that landed them the 2016-17 league MVP, Russell Westbrook.

The deal sent Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and the 21st overall pick in this year’s draft to Washington, paving the way for Westbrook to join fellow superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. While the Lakers added a dynamic point guard, not everyone is sold on the idea that the Lakers are the team to beat in the loaded Western Conference.

Over the past several weeks, the Lakers were rumored to be seeking perimeter shooting. Some reports had Los Angeles linked to guys like Chris Paul, Buddy Hield and DeMar DeRozan. When the dust settled, it was Washington that made the deal as Westbrook informed the front office that he preferred the Lakers as a destination.

The move is a homecoming of sorts, as Westbrook grew up in the area and spent two seasons playing at UCLA, leading the Bruins to the 2008 Final Four. He had a solid 2020-21 season, averaging 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 11.7 assists per game for the Wizards, who earned the No. 8 seed in the playoffs.

Oddly enough, this is the third straight offseason in which the 9-time All-Star has been traded. After leaving Oklahoma City, Westbrook was not able to find postseason success in Houston or Washington. Will that now change in Los Angeles?

For all of his accomplishments, Westbrook’s legacy has been defined by his play during the regular season. This past season, the point guard passed Oscar Robertson for the most triple-doubles in the history of the game. Out of his 184 triple-doubles, only 12 have come in the playoffs. By comparison, Magic Johnson has the most playoff career triple-doubles with 30, and James is next with 28. Now all three will have played for the Lakers during their careers.

The thing about triple-doubles (and this is especially the case with Westbrook) is that they don’t always translate to wins. They clearly help the team overall but some would argue that a more balanced attack is tougher to stop. History has shown that having a “big three” is almost a requirement to be considered a legitimate championship contender, but this trio in Los Angeles doesn’t exactly fit together like many of those others.

As talented and valuable as Westbrook has been over the course of his career, he needs to have the ball to be effective. His poor perimeter shooting has been the big hiccup in his game, and that is something that this Lakers team desperately needs. The problem isn’t that any of these three won’t share the ball. In fact, they had already discussed checking their egos even before this trade went down.

Westbrook has never had a problem sharing the ball. He was able to co-exist with Durant in Oklahoma City, Harden in Houston and Beal in Washington. The difference in this scenario is that he will be occupying the same space as James and Davis. The concern is efficiency. Out of 34 players to average at least 20 points per game over the last four seasons, Westbrook ranked 33rd in true shooting percentage.

When James drives to the rim or when Davis is facing a double-team inside, how confident will they be in passing out to Westbrook for a three-pointer? Better yet, how patient will they be if the shot isn’t falling? We have already seen what happened with Danny Green and Caldwell-Pope.

Now that the Lakers have assembled their trio of stars, many fans are hopeful to witness an NBA Finals matchup where James and the Lakers meet Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets. As juicy as that series would be, the Western Conference is a gauntlet. There is no guarantee that the Lakers will make it there.

What helps their path is that the crosstown rival Clippers will likely be without Kawhi Leonard next season. The Denver Nuggets will be without Jamal Murray and the Golden State Warriors might not be the Warriors from four years ago. There is also uncertainty surrounding Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers and some potential roster changeup with the Utah Jazz.

Considering all of the top-tier point guard talent available in free agency this summer, the Lakers may have been better off trying to do a sign-and-trade. Such a scenario would have hard-capped them but after this deal, they are just $12.6 million below the hard cap with just five players on the roster. Putting together a deal for Hield is still possible, but the Lakers will have to get creative. Adding a third team to this trade, in particular, is one way to accomplish that. Again, it is possible but it will be complicated.

In a perfect world, the Lakers could have worked with Toronto on a sign-and-trade for Kyle Lowry. Even though Lowry is older than Westbrook, the current window for Los Angeles to win with this group is closing fast. Lowry would be cheaper and a much better fit overall. His durability, toughness, defense and high basketball IQ would pay dividends for the Lakers. Adding in the fact that he is a much better shooter, one has to wonder why the Lakers wouldn’t pursue this route instead.

Westbrook is still going to help this team. He is a tremendous asset for them in the regular season, especially when James is on the bench or unable to play. Having another floor general on the court to generate offense is something they have not had since James arrived. If Los Angeles can land some above-average shooting to the roster, Westbrook could flourish in this role.

With James sliding to the power forward position and Davis playing more at center, the key for Los Angeles will be to surround these guys with shooters. The Lakers ranked 21st in three-point percentage and 25th in makes last season. Expect the organization to be busy when free agency starts next week. Targets will include guys like Duncan Robinson, JJ Redick, Norman Powell, Evan Fournier, Doug McDermott, Bryn Forbes, Patrick Mills, Reggie Bullock, Kendrick Nunn and Alec Burks.

Obviously, the Lakers are counting on their individual talent and figuring out the rest later. It likely means the end for Dennis Schröder. Can Alex Caruso fit in and where does this leave Talen Horton-Tucker? The rest of the roster is in limbo, but the star players and the front office both feel confident that they will land the other pieces that they need to raise another banner next summer.

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Jazz offering Mike Conley $75 million over next three years

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According to veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein, the Utah Jazz are preparing to offer point guard Mike Conley a three-year, $75 million contract to remain with the team. Of course, the exact amount is a ballpark figure. Stein stated, “Utah has made retaining Mike Conley its top priority, league sources say, and is preparing a three-year offer said to be in the $75 million range.” The 14-year NBA veteran is a significant piece to the Jazz’s championship window, playing alongside superstar teammates, such as center Rudy Gobert and guard Donovan Mitchell. He helped the Jazz finish their regular season with the league’s best record of 52-20 (.722).

Utah went on to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies in five games in the first round of the playoffs. Though, the team lost four games to two in the conference semifinals against the Los Angeles Clippers. In the 2020-21 NBA season, Conley averaged 16.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, and six assists per game in 51 games started. Then, in the postseason, he averaged 15.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 7.7 assists per game. The 33-year-old also shot 44.4 percent from the field in the regular season. Last season, the 2007 fourth overall pick earned his first NBA All-Star selection.

On July 6, 2019, the Grizzlies traded Conley to the Jazz for Grayson Allen, Darius Bazley, Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver, and a 2020 first-round pick. Furthermore, the Jazz can still trade Bojan Bogdanovic and Joe Ingles this offseason, if they wanted to improve their current salary cap situation. Referencing Spotrac’s 2021-22 cap holds, Mike Conley’s cap figure is $39,344,900. Cap holds are for pending free agents. Conley earned $34,504,132 last season.

The team’s current luxury tax space is $11,173,027. In addition to the aforementioned cap figures, Mitchell and Gobert have a combined cap figure worth 51.34 percent of the team’s total salary cap. These two players’ contracts alone are consuming a huge chunk of the team’s cap. Plus, on November 23, 2020, Mitchell signed a contract extension with Utah. He is set to earn $28,103,550 next season. On December 20, 2020, Gobert signed a five-year, $205 million extension with the organization. He will earn $35,344,828 next season and $38,172,414 in the 2022-23 season.

However, if the team were to still trade Bogdanovic and possibly Ingles as well, this would clear up an additional 25.68 percent of the team’s salary cap. Bogdanovic’s future guaranteed cash amount total is $19,343,000. They are contributing role players who play together well with the team’s big three, but re-signing the most valuable players is the team’s main objective this offseason. Jazz general manager Justin Zanik might contemplate trading role players who are not worth their asking price. Competitive teams in both conferences have to trim the fat at some point.

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