Here is Part One of my
1.0 2016 Boston Celtics
1st Round Mock Draft.
SV=Standing Vert, MV=Max Vert + SR-Standing Reach = MVR Max Vert Reach.
I'm starting this Draft off with a rant. "He is going to be the best basketballer Australia has produced," Ben Simmons former coach in Australia Kevin Goorjian said. "There was a quote that came up that if you get the No. 1 pick and you donít take Simmons you should be fired. Iím totally behind that. He is the No. 1 pick. Itís clear." If you don't think he is the clear cut number one pick than you should be fired.
Contrarians do the same thing every year, sounding like fools, and thinking it makes them sound smarter than everyone else (and yes I know that makes me sound like arrogant boob as well). "He's got a hint of Magic. You know at times, you can see like a younger LeBron where you're not sure what position he is," the HC of 76ers said. "One moment you think he's a 4, maybe he's a 3. He looks comfortable handling the ball. When you say, 'What is your identifiable, NBA elite skill?' most people will go immediately to passing." When a draftnic compares Ben Simmons to Magic and LaBron, we are not comparing him to LaBron now-days.
We (and other rational draftnics) are not comparing him to the ten year veteran superstar LaBron (I wish I could put make his name flash). He is the best basketball player in the world (Steph Curry is the best shooter in the world. We are comparing him to the 18 year high school kid who entered the 2003 NBA Draft.
We have not seen a 6-9 guy with Simmons' court vision and passing abilities since Magic. "I feel like you said the one that most people come up with first, and it's true," the HC of 76ers Brett Brown said. "You know, he's got a hint of Magic. At times you can see like, a younger LeBron, where you're not sure what position he is. At one moment you think he's a four, maybe he's a three, he looks comfortable handling the ball. When you say what is your 'identifiable NBA elite skill' most people will immediately go to passing." Magic was a skinny kid who looked like he had twigs for arms when he hugged Kareem after they won their first Championship.
LaBron is now a fully developed man with a fully developed game. He was more muscular than any high school player I had ever seen, but he still wasn't close to a fully form adult. Simmons is also very muscular for a 6-10, 19-year old kid. For all those peckerwoods who are annoying me so badly, none of these 18 and 19 year olds are fully developed men. They are kids whose bodies are still far from fully formed. The same can be said for Bender, who is skinnier than Simmons.
Another bag full of ignorant statements that are driving me nuts, is that Simmons can't shot a Three. First off, not everyone in the NBA has to be a great 3-point shooter. And no one who succeeds in the NBA has the same Jumper as a 10-year Vet that they had as a rookie. "I'm just very aware of Ben's situation," Brown said. "I lived in Australia for a long time. I coached his father for five years. I'm aware of his junior coaches throughout Ben's entire life and when you look at his form, no differently to when we drafted Kawhi Leonard with the Spurs. One of the assessments we had to make was 'Was this shot transferable to the NBA? Was it a total rebuild or was it a little bit of a makeover? I think that his form isn't one that you have to blow up and start over. I think it can translate." The easiest thing for a young player to fix is his Jumper, through good coaching and repetition.
Magic shot 22.6% from Three as a 19-year old rookie coming out of Michigan State, and then promptly cried himself to sleep every night for three years in embarrassment. "You take that collection of comments and you add it into a 6'10" frame," Brown said. "The comparisons to those two players could be a little bit reckless. Could be a little bit ambitious. But there's no denying that he comes to the draft with a very unique skill package." LaBron shot 29% from Three as a rookie, and then tanked the rest of his career in shame.
Michael couldn't hit a Three to save him life as rookie. Like, oh, I don't know Ben Simmons (that was very cathartic, thank you). Another spoon full of ignorance that is killing me is that he can't shoot the Three so he hurts a teams 3-point percentage, or some such nuisance. Have you seen his game? No one in this Draft drives towards the hole, attracts over half the defense, and then kicks it to a teammate for an open Three better than Ben. Did you see the Oklahoma game? He had at least five assists kicking it out to teammates at the 3-point line, in the 1st Half (oh, I feel a Tape coming on).
What makes Simmons the clear and only Number One pick in this Draft is that he makes his teammates better, no matter how much they suck (and they sucked at LSU. They missed about ten layups in the Oklahoma game alone). "He sets teammates up for scoring opportunities," 76ers GM Colangelo said. "He's really good on the grab-and-go. He grabs rebounds and runs the break, runs the transition and distributes the basketball. He drives and kicks. He finds the basketball. We just have to put adequate shooters around him." That's better. He makes his teammates better defenders. Better shooters. Better in the fast break, and unequivocally better 3-point shooters.
Like LaBron, he might not be the point guard, but he will be the primary ball handier in most situations in the NBA. "I don't look at Ben Simmons as just a pure-four," 76ers GM Colangelo said. "I look at him as a ball-handling four. I look at him as a guy who is going to distribute the basketball and initiate the offense. I think there are a number of arguments that can be constructed with him." Like Michael and Kobie, he will be the superstar that the offense works through.
In today's NBA the stars who win are the guys who are the point forwards or guards who can control the ball in the final two minutes of a game. Like Pierce and Dirk, and in today's game like LaBron, Steph (yes I know he is a real PG), and Paul George. And don't forget the pairs who work together to dominate the 4th quarter: Westbrook and Durant, and Lowry and DeRozan. Simmons is the best point forward of all those guys, except maybe George. Simmons has the ability to average double figures in Assists at a very young age. If he can make clutch shots, he will become the best basketball player in the world.
Note: Simmons is the guy that everyone is looking to criticize. He picks up crap simply for doing what everyone else is doing. Last year, they top three to five players didn't participate in the Combine, but Simmons gets crap. My favorite is that Ingram agreed to go to the Combine and participate, but then refused to do anything. I think that is worse. If you show up, then show up. Not a peep of criticism for that at all, even though I found that to be stranger. I think he just got a free hotel room and that was it. Hield showed up, got measured, but refused to do the athletic measurements. I bet you didn't hear anything about that either. Strange how the press singles guys out for criticism, and other guys they refuse to even mention for doing the same thing, or worse.
Note Two: Can we please put the trade for Kevin Love in the wastebasket. He sucks. He is not what the Celtics need in any way, shape, or form. Let it rest. Just because he does nice interviews with Bill Simmons doesn't mean he can play. His body has broken down, so let it go. However, Nerlens Noel is a guy they have to think about give up Three for. Philly desperately wants to get Kris Dunn, and would take him at Three if they can work out a deal with the Celtics.
1. 76ers- Ben Simmons- Point Forward, 6-10, 240, LSU, FR,
19.2 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 4.8 APG, Shot 56.1% from the floor, 2 SPG,
The Team: The Philadelphia 76ers are taking Ben Simmons and laughing all the way to the bank, period. There's no intrigue. There's is no drama. There's no mystery. There's no decision to be made. That's why they are so desperately trying to Okafor or Noel. Simmons is the best player in this Draft who is the superstar in waiting. But like Magic, he will do it with passing, hitting his teammates in position to score, and making them better. But like LaBron, he can do it with scoring and driving to the hole, rebounding, and being the most physically dominate athlete on the floor. And like Leonard, he can also do it on defense, and might need to build his 3-point shot into a weapon, though I'm not sure that's really true. He does have a nasty jumper from 16-20.
Philly's head coach has known Ben Simmons literally his whole life. "Each of the teams in Australia were allowed to have two American imports," Brown said. "And one of the American imports we had was a player named David Simmons, from Harlem, New York, who is Ben Simmons' father. The cheerleader, you can't make this stuff up, the cheerleader that was the head cheerleader of that team ended up marrying David Simmons. Our import, who I coached for five years with Lindsay Gaze, and had Ben Simmons, their son." David Simmons played for the current Philly Head Coach Brett Brown.
Brown and Big-Daddy Simmons have been friends since they knew Ben's Mom as a cheerleader. "The Ben Simmons connection, with his family and myself is a good story," Brown said. "I was with David and Julie, his wife, in Orlando. They visited me when we played an NBA game two years ago. I saw Ben Simmons three years ago when I was coaching the Australian Olympic team. And you know, step by step. You have sporadic contact, but very serious contact many years ago. And incredibly coincidental that we find ourselves in this situation that we're in now. You know what's funny is the rules don't permit me to stay in contact with the family [the past year, once he became Draft eligible], the NBA rules." So he knows more about the kind of person Ben really is.
one weakness is that he is a 19-year old kid who can't shoot the
Three. And we all know that if you can't shoot the Three than you
can't play basketball. Can you imagine if Simons shot 17.3% from
Three as a rookie, his career would be over. "I don't look at Ben Simmons as just a pure-four," 76ers GM Colangelo said. "I look at him as a ball-handling four. I look at him as a guy who is going to distribute the basketball and initiate the offense. I think there are a number of arguments that can be constructed with
him. He sets teammates up for scoring opportunities. He's really good on the grab-and-go.
He grabs rebounds and runs the break, runs the transition and distributes the basketball. He drives and kicks. He finds the basketball. We just have to put adequate shooters around him."
Oh, I guess there are other actual aspects to basketball than
shooting. Who knew?
So how in the hell does Philly pass on the best player in the Draft, after they have the ultimate inside guy who knows Ben more than anyone in the NBA? He coached his Dad, and you know he was coaching him and giving him pointers on the court when they got together. Even with the HC being friends with his Dad and all the inside knowledge that garners, could someone explain to me how you pass on a guy with that kind of potential.
The Player: From Magic To LaBron: Ben Simmons.
Simmons is a freak. He is one of the hardest working players in the world. But just because he does it with a stone cold face, that somehow means he doesn't play hard. That is just such a dumb thing to say that it hurts my balls. It shows that you never watched him play a game. Every single guy you hear who says they are concerned about his effort never watched him play. He doesn't always look like he is going all out all the time. But then you look up and he has 20 point, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and a block.
What you want is a stone cold killer who keeps his emotions off his face. The Celtics need that more than anything. That's why I want Danny to miraculously turn the 3rd pick in the Draft into Paul George. Simmons instincts puts him in position on the floor better than anyone I've ever seen. He moves less than anyone I've ever seen, who still ends up in perfect position when a play needs to be made. And he is a smooth athlete running, who has an elite burst forward and to the ball.
He led his team in scoring and assists. That is impossible to do without working hard. But what makes him special is that he also led his team in rebounding (a hustle stat) and averaged about a block a game (a hustle stat), and two steals a game (another hustle stat). You cannot lead your team in scoring, passing, and rebounds, and not be the hardest working player on your team. Never mind steals as well. That is simply incredible. When have any of you haters ever heard of a player leading his team in those four stats. It's one thing to lead a team in rebounding and steals, or scoring and assists, but when was the last time you heard of a guy who lead a team in all four. It doesn't mean it hasn't happened, but I have never head of a guy leading his team in: PPG, APG, RPG, and SPG.
His problem is that he is so hard to quantify. He could shoot 17.3% from Three as a rookie, but his driving and kicking could make the Sixers a better 3-point shooting team (Noooooo! That would be horrible). We have never seen a guy do things like he did at LSU. He passes obsessively in the 1st half and often should have ten assists by halftime. Then he shoots and scores more in the 2nd half. He can look like he is gliding sometimes, but then you notice he getting every rebound, playing defense, blocking shots, setting up teammates all over the floor, and scoring. There is a difference between being a smooth athlete and not playing hard.
While Simons is not the 3-point shooter that Ingram is, he is a much more versatile scorer. You can say that Ingram is a better shooter, but you cannot say that he is a better scorer or more versatile offensive player: Simmons was the consensus National Freshman of the Year and was named the SEC Freshman of the Year in what has been a phenomenal freshman campaign Ö He is the first LSU freshman to win the conference Freshman of the Year award since 2006 when Tyrus Thomas was honored Ö Averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game, which ranks in the top five in the SEC in each category ... He may become the first SEC player to finish the season in the top five in all three categories ... At the end of the regular season, Simmons was ranked fourth in points (19.6), first in rebounds (11.9), third in field goal percentage ( 206-367, 56.1 percent), fifth in assists per game (5.0) and second in steals per game (2.0) in the SEC ... His 11.8 rebounds per game led all Division I freshmen Ö One of just two freshmen in the country to average double-figure rebounds Ö Led all major conference players with 23 double-doubles on the year and ranked fifth nationally ... Became the fourth freshman in the past 20 years with 40 points and 10 rebounds in a game after his performance against North Florida on Dec. 2, 2015, where he also became the first major college player to have a game of 40 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals in a game in the last 20 years ... The first LSU player since Shaquille OíNeal to score at least 43 points in a game Ö One of six freshmen in LSU history to score 30 points in a game and joins Chris Jackson (Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf) and fellow freshman Antonio Blakeney as the only players to do it multiple times as he scored 36 at Vanderbilt on Jan. 2, 2016, and had 43 versus UNF on Dec. 2, 2015 Ö Posted six of the SECís eight 20-10-5 games this season Ö Crossed the 600-point mark at Kentucky on March 5, 2016Ö He became the sixth first-year LSU player to score 500 points in a season after a late free throw against Alabama on Jan. 17, 2016 Ö Became the fourth-fastest to pass 500 points in his first year of playing with the Tigers and was the second freshman to do so behind Jackson Ö Simmons had 18 20-point games this season, which was third in the SEC Ö Had an active streak of 28 games in double figure scoring Ö Had a five game streak of 20 points from Feb. 17 to March 1 Ö Had a double-double and 10 or more rebounds in seven straight contests from Nov. 19-Dec. 16 ... Had a double-double in the last four games to close out the regular season before the conference tournament Ö Became the first SEC freshman to record 20 points and 15 rebounds since Julius Randle of Kentucky in the 2013-14 season after posting 23 points and 16 rebounds against South Alabama.
The Reason: Another misnomer is that Philly can't take another Big. They need a guard. They need a shooter. Well, when you have a player like Simmons who is 6-9 (and magically grown into 6-10 at Draft time), you can't just call him a big man and be done. He is a point forward, and a Wing who can block shots and rebound. Teaching a young guy coming into the NBA to shot better is protocol, not some magical enhancement that has never been done.
He is so hard to categorize, because he does so many things well "I love Ben Simmons, but youíre not getting him," Goodman told WEEI. "Youíre not getting the No. 1 pick away from Philly. Ben Simmons has superstar potential. I donít know if heís going to be a superstar, I donít know if heís going to be one of the top five or so players in the league, but heís just so unique in a sense that what he can do at 6-foot-9, 6-foot-10 athletically, seeing the floor [and scoring, rebounding, passing, and blocking shots]. Iíve seen this kid play for three or four years. He doesnít shoot the ball at all yet, which is interesting because most kids, if you say, ĎHey, you canít shoot, you canít shoot, you canít shoot,í they try to show you they can shoot, right? This kid never tried that this year. All he did, and he told me this, he said, ĎWell, itís a higher-percentage shot for me if Iím around the basket than if I take perimeter shots.í So we donít know if he can shoot or not. Iíve talked to several NBA guys, they say his shot is not broke, that they can fix it, or with repetition heíll get better. Iím not comparing him to LeBron (I am). Heís not going to be LeBron. But at 6-foot-10 heís got the court vision of LeBron. Heís not the defender of LeBron. Ben Simmons, if you can get to No. 1, I would package all three of these picks and a player to get to No. 1 to get Ben Simmons." Simmons is a much better passer than LaBron was coming into the NBA.
And as I said earlier, LaBron shot 29% from Three as a rookie, and Magic shot 22.6% as a 19-year old rookie. We have no idea how good a 3-point shooter he will be. But it is standard operating procedure that rookies improve their jumpers exponentially through repetition and good coaching in the NBA. I find it hard to believe that he won't be able to shot close to 40% by the time he is a five year veteran. Also, just for clarification, Michael Jordan was one of the worst 3-point shooters who ever entered the NBA. He shot 17.3% from Three as a rookie. I think Simmons might be able to match that.
He can be the primary ball handler that the offense runs through in the 4th quarter. "A ball handling four who actually would be in a position to initiate the offense," Colangelo said. "Very versatile. Plays multiple positions. He could actually play some three, play some four and even some small five in some situations the way the league is playing right now. But, again, the notion that heís a ball-handling four puts him in a unique position with our team, to be a distributor." He is one of the top ball distributors in this Draft.
2. LA- Dragan Bender- Croatia, PF/C 7-1-9, 215, 3-P% 36.9, FG% 46.6
.75 Assists, .61 SPG, 5.5 PPG, .89 BPG, 3 RPG, 14.5 Min,
The Team: I'm not saying Bender is a reach at Two. After doing their Tapes, I have to admit I have them tied for second (wimpy, I know). So do they want the Big with vast potential and PG-skills, or the Wing with vast potential and PG-skills "If you look at our depth chart, you can make an argument that we need a player in the frontcourt," Kupchak said. "We need a Big. Jordan is a free agent and weíd like to sign him. DíAngelo, weíre very high on, and we have Lou Williams. I think weíre more set in the backcourt than the frontcourt. Two days after the Lottery, thatís where we are. In six weeks, weíll see." They have much more depth at the wing positions.
is no doubt that they are going to help the frontcourt in this
Draft. But who do they take and where. If they stick here, and feel
they need a Big more than a Wing? "I think our backcourt is better than our
frontcourt," Kupchak said. "I think we do have to address the frontcourt."
That means, "me likely the Dragan very-very much".
If they can trade up for Simmons they would have to think about it. "One is always better than two," Kupchak said. "If youíre one, you can get anybody you want. If youíre two, you can get anybody you want, minus one. Iím not sure thereís as dramatic a cliff as people think between two and three. Any way you look at it, we feel weíll get an excellent player at two." I don't think there is any drop in talent between Bender and Ingram, and Bender is going to be a 7'2"-7'3" guy like Gasol, who also has PG-skills. That sounds like a nice way to start rebuilding your frontcourt.
mean, both these kids are still 18. But Bender has been living and maturing
in another country on his own for two years. He has had a more
mature basketball experience over the past two years than Ingram.
"Benderís performance for Croatia in the 2014 FIBA U-18 European Championships is
instructive," Luke Walton said. "He averaged 4.9 assists, third among all
players." When the GM says they need frontcourt help, and the
HC talks about a players game is like it is an instructional video
than there really is no question who they are taking.
You can say "experience" is Bender's biggest weakness, but it is also Ingram's biggest weakness as he only played one year of college basketball. "Experience, piggybacking off what you mentioned with his age, Bender has gotten limited playing time this year for Maccabi," Chad Ford said about Benders' biggest weakness. "He's averaging 12 minutes per game, but his role is quite limited, especially offensively. Bender's lack of significant development on the court over the past 18 months makes him a bit of a wild card. With Kristaps Porzingis, scouts got to see him play a big role in the best league in Europe before drafting him. Bender is more theory than practice right now. He also needs to get stronger. He's tough and plays really hard, but he'll get pushed around at first in the NBA." Like all 18 and 19 year old rookies.
This idea that any 7-foot tall rookie doesn't look like a freak made of toothpicks is stupid. All 18 and 19 year old 7-footers look emaciated. "That lack of strength shows up a couple of places in Bender's statistics" Kevin Pelton, a stats guy for ESPN said. "His foul rate is astronomical, nearly seven per 36 minutes. And though Bender has been pretty good on the offensive glass, his translated defensive rebound percentage would be poor for a small forward, let alone a 7-foot-1 big man. You're also right about Bender's small role. He's used on 16.9 percent of Maccabi's plays, which translates to a tiny usage rate in the NBA. Lastly, in part because Bender was spacing the floor, he rarely got to the free throw line." Apparently refs don't give rookies any breaks in the Promise Land either.
Stats are for guys who can't see it with their own eyes. But they do come up with some interesting tidbits sometimes. "I think thereís a case to be made that even No. 4 is too low for Bender," Pelton said. "Benderís consensus projection is for 3.5 WARP. Second in this yearís draft behind Ben Simmons. Nobody else is above 3.0, with Brandon Ingram at 2.9. Murray (2.6) and Dunn (2.3) are far below Bender." And yes, WARP is meaningless to me as well. Stats guys like to add up a bunch of stats add an acronym, and pretend they know what it means. So according to the stats that Pelton likes, when you cram them all together Bender is a click better than Ingram. Okay, so I agree with him. But more importantly, apparently so do Kupchak and Walton.
So he is a top two or three player in this Draft. But he doesn't really compare to another player. He was a point guard until he was 15, and still has the handle, eyes, and passing ability of a PG in a 7-2 center's body. He is better than Porzingas in every aspect except as a pure 3-point shooter. "Because Porzingis was a year further along in his development, it's tough to compare the two players at the point they were drafted," Pelton said, then talked in circles until he confused himself. "But if we compare Bender to Porzingis in 2014, when Porzingis was the same age, the comparison is more reasonable, and favorable to Bender. His translated NBA winning percentage [okay you have to read this nonsense: the per-minute component of my wins above replacement player metric, or WARP] is .444. During 2013-14, Porzingis had a translated .389 winning percentage in the Spanish ACB. [He improved to .461 in 2014-15]. As a result, Bender performs slightly better in my WARP projections ;was that warp or warped?]. Which factor in age and projected NBA performance. His 3.4 WARP projection is tied with Clint Capela for the best from a prospect in Europe since Ricky Rubio in 2009 (3.7), just ahead of Jusuf Nurkic (3.3), Porzingis (3.2) and Nikola Jokic (3.1). My SCHOENE projection system has an equally difficult time finding a comp for Bender. Comparing him to NCAA prospects, no player has a similarity score of better than 90 at the same age. Which means there are no easy statistical comps." Doesn't it really mean that Bender is better than all the rest, who scored under 90 while he scored over 90? So all those circles led back to "Ah. Beavis?" And if you had Rubio at 3.7 in your WARP score, and Porzingas at 3.2 than your WARP is clearly warped. Because Porzingas was a much better prospect than Rubio. I hate stats guys (but I say that lovingly).
The Player: Dragan Bender: Enter The Dragan.
Walton, and myself are not alone in our love of the Dragan's game.
"Heís a perfect big man in modern NBA offenses and
defenses," Chad Ford said. "Offensively, Bender can stretch the floor.
He has above-average court vision and can finish at the rim. If youíre a triple-threat 7-footer who can pass, shoot or drive,
there's a place for you in the NBA." I like the triple threat
Bender is already a better defender than Porzingas was last year. "Defensively, Bender is even better right now," Ford said. "A versatile 7-footer who can guard multiple positions both on the perimeter and in the paint. He has the physical tools, the basketball skills and the relentless motor to be a Swiss Army knife in the NBA." You don't need to go small ball with him on the floor, because he can play out at the 3-point line and drag the opposing center out of the paint.
Plus, he is the youngest player in the Draft. "As compared to power forwards in the draft, he rates as above average in assist, steal and block rates," Ford said. "In addition to that, itís important to mention Benderís age as a strength. He managed to hold his own in a competitive Israeli league despite starting the season at age 17. Heís the youngest player among your top 100 draft prospects." His experience in Israel, while not pretty, makes him more prepared for the NBA than most of the other freshman rookies.
He can also play power forward and small forward defensively. "Porzingis is a better athlete and shot-blocker and came with much more experience," Ford said. "Bender is arguably a more versatile defender, better shooter and better passer. Most of the international scouts Iíve spoken with think Porzingis is a better prospect, though Bender has his fans." I am really sick and tired of the Porzingas comparisons. They are very different players. The only real comparison is their age and the fact that both look like they will grow into 7-3 sharp shooting freaks.
Okay back to the stats guy. "Beyond the shooting, the versatility you mention stands out in Bender's translated statistics," Belton said. "As compared to power forwards in the draft, he rates as above average in assist, steal and block rates. In fact, his block percentage ranked fourth in the BSL [the Israeli League Bender plays in], and two of the players ahead of him are centers who previously played in the NBA." That sounds like a steal at Two.
Second Choice: The other guy.
3. Celtics- Brandon Ingram- Duke, 18 years old, 6-9, 190,
17.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2 APG and 1.4 blocks in 34.6 minutes a game.
The Team: For all you rebooters and rebuilders, there are two ways to do it. One, you get some veteran to speed it up. But it doesn't last long when you do it that way. Two, you get Draft picks. Which adds years to the process, but if done right you end up with three HOFs who spend their entire career on your team. The Celts went with Draft picks.
So to blow it all up again now, when they have three bright shiny Lottery pots o' gold in waiting just seems so stupid to me. "I just think overall we've all got to improve, and any time you have a year like this it becomes even more important that you get better," Stevens said. "Because, I said this going into last year, there wasn't a ton of difference going into the year really between two and 13. Certainly Toronto separated themselves from everybody else below that, but as we go into next year I think that that will probably be pretty similar. Some of the teams that didn't make the playoffs are a couple of breaks away from flipping the script on the rest of us. So you have to get better if you want to stay in the mix." They can grab a young star here, and bring him along slow.
Then they will have an opportunity to do it again next year when the Draft is much better. "A player that is going to take time to develop or a player that may not come over to the NBA for a year or two, if we really believe that playerís the best player, we have to take him," Ainge said. "We cannot let a player slip by us just because it doesnít fulfill our immediate satisfaction, or the objective for the fans to see something more exciting. We have to pick the best player, under any circumstance. There are just too many examples of really good players that the fans havenít been excited about on draft day." This is not a good Draft. But the next two will be much better. Ingram would just be the first piece in building a championship level team.
don't be surprised if they don't make a move for a big time veteran.
They have a nice young team who can win in the regular season and
lose in the Playoffs. They do that for three more years, and pick up
a player as talented as Ingram or Bender each year and the take over
the East when LaBron retires. That is the most honest truth about
The Player: Brandon Ingram: Still Growing Strong.
The Reason: Okay Celtics fans. The Celtics are not a contender. They are not close to being a contender. They are a nice regular season team with some nice young and fun players. But they don't have a single Playoff Killer, never mind three. I think Bradley was the only guy showing signs that he could that Playoff Killer you have to have to be a contender. But he is more a third stone cold Killer than the second stone cold Killer.
So you green face painters have to take a chill pill. "Right now, weíre trying to become a better team as fast as we can without selling out," Ainge said. "I guess thatís the best way to put it. We want to become a more significant team this upcoming year. And, at the same time, we want to build something thatís sustainable for a longer period of time." They are in the infancy of building a legit contender, not anywhere near the finish line.
Danny will have to pull off more than one impossible KG trade to make this team a contender next season. "We cannot let a player slip by us just because it doesnít fulfill our immediate satisfaction, or the objective for the fans to see something more exciting," Ainge said. "We have to pick the best player, under any circumstance." Remember last time they had Pierce already. Now they don't have one top three piece (except maybe Bradley if he can get a little more aggressive on offense).
The problem isn't that they don't have the lure that Paul provided like everyone says. The problem is that they now need three guys not two. They could get three guys in the next three Drafts. Or they could trade for one or two aging guys who can help them win a round or two. But does that really make them contenders? Sure, if they get George and Durant they could be legit contenders, but Kevin Durant is not walking through that door.
Sure, if they get get George and Butler then they could be a contender. But their three most interesting assets are the three Nets picks. That is going to take three to five years to figure out. "[Pick Three] certainly doesnít have the same cachet in trade conversations, in trying to get better quicker, so that sets that back a little bit," Danny said. "Or weíd have to give up more [in a trade]. I think that there are good players, if we end up using that draft pick. Weíre excited about the potential players." You do not dismiss their potential so casually as to trade them off for a veteran to be named later.
You have to be careful not over inflate them, but if you want to build a Champ team for 15-years, you have to get three young stars out of those picks. "We're really excited about the guys that we think will be available there," Stevens said. "And so that's been our focus. And again, I am a little bit in catch-up mode in regards to scouting and really looking at the college guys versus the rest of our front office. But that's what I'm doing for a chunk of my day right now is watching the six, seven, eight guys that we think are most likely to be available that we will try to decide from. We'll talk about obviously other options and those type of things as those type of things present themselves, but hey, there's a lot of good players. We're fortunate to be picking as high as we are." They are looking at the most talented prospect they have had a chance to take in a long time.
So again, the primary objective over the next few weeks is patience. "This foundation we have is very unique in the world we live in: pressure packed, public world in pro sports," Ainge said. "The fact we have such great unity with ownership I think is unique. I value that premium. Itís a great working environment, I have a great relationship here, stronger trust, year in and year out. As we work together I believe great things will happen in Celtics history." So he has the time to sort out the three Nets picks, and he will take it.
Second Choice: Trade for George
4. Phoenix- Jaylen Brown- Duke, Fr, 19-years old, 6-6.75, 222, Standing Reach 8' 6.5",
Wingspan 6-11.75, 2.9 APG, 14.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 48.2% FG, 29.4% 3-P, 65.4% FT,
He could go as
high as Four to Phoenix, as he is a better fit for what they need. But
Brown clearly needs the most work learning basketball skills of the
top seven players. "He can handle the ball," Cal HC Martin said.
"He can shoot the ball. He gets to the rim. He posts up. He plays
inside. He plays
outside. More than anything, with all that talent, his mental approach is at a high level."
He might have the most physically talented body in the Draft.
But as you get higher and higher up the levels, skills and smarts become more and more important. "Youíre not just talking about a guy that wants to play basketball. He wants to be successful in the realm of life," Martin said. "A lot of these guys get a bad rap for one and done. Jaylen and Ivan never talk like that. They want to be college student-athletes. Whatever presents itself at the end of the season, thatís what happens." He looks like an NBA small forward already.
But he needs to really work on his basketball skillset. "This guyís the best finisher in the class," Paul Biancardi said. "When he gets in the paint and at the rim, you can't stop him. He can go over you, he can go around you. A great second jump, a jump shot that needs work." He is a project who will be as good as his basketball smarts and instincts will allow him to be.
The Reason: Jalen Brown: Ambidextrous Dunker.
The Reason: He is a great physical talent. "Kid out of Cal, big strong wing, in the Stanley Johnson mold," Goodman said. "Stanley Johnson was a rookie in Detroit this year, not a great shooter. He fits because they need a big strong wing, right? But if you could have anything that they need right now it would be a younger Paul Pierce. Jaylen Brownís got that body, but he doesnít have the ability to score the ball. He doesnít have the high IQ yet in terms of decision-making with the ball and driving to the basket. He was kind of a mess last year at Cal at times, but I think heíll be in the mix." He also struggled to bring wins to Cal last year.
Second Choice: None
Second Choice: Buddy Hield SG/SF
5. Minnesota- Jamal Murray- Kentucky, PG/SG 6-4.25, 207,
3-P 40.1%, 2-P 50.2%, FT 78.3%, 20.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.14 3-PPG and 2.2 APG
The Team: Murray is a player with NBA range on his Jumper already. "I said it to everybody that I talked to before the game," Brown, the HC of the Danes said. "Tyler Ulis is the best point guard in the country. Skal Labissiere will go number one or two in the NBA Draft, and Jamal Murray is the best basketball player in the country. Nothing that happened tonight changed my mind." He will over dribble annoying sometimes, as a lot of 18 and 19 year olds do, but he can play the point as well as be a knockdown shooter coming off picks.
He is more a Ray Allen type shooter who needs picks and some help from his teammates to get open. "I became more efficient and a skilled shooter," Murray said. "I found ways to get open when scouting reports said donít let me catch the ball. I just had to work to get open and find different ways of doing that. Just playing winning basketball and learning how to play the two-guard." But he can also create for his teammates. He does a great job getting into the lane and dishing.
He was a great point guard in high school, but moved to shooting guard for Calipari. His decision making at the point is not great, as he tries to get too fancy sometimes. "He was on cruise control," Brown said. "He was hanging out and picking his spots. In my opinion, heís a combination of Mark Jackson and Andre Miller with a jump shot. He plays at a great pace, has great feel, and great size. He can post up and can score from all three levels. Heís really good." He still has work to do on defense.
is another Canadian who came down to America (I love that ironic statement) to play basketball. "It was difficult at first, just to play off the ball so much and not have the ball in your hands," Murray said.
"It's difficult to get in a rhythm when youíre not hitting shots, but I found ways to do that, and I played with a lot more energy than I normally do, and passion."
In November and December, he really struggled with not playing the
But his story is that he is a guy who just kept getting better. "The people that have watched us at the beginning of the year know how much his game has changed," Calipari said. "And what's happened is he went from degree-of-difficulty shots, avoid the contract, and just throw a ball at the rim, not getting to the foul line, not shooting enough catch-and-shoots. Assist to turnover ratio was under water. And we just kept demanding. This is what the best version of you looks like. He's a great kid. He wants to be coached. And I was on him hard. Not as hard as I was on Karl Towns, but I've been on him really hard. All of a sudden, you're seeing an efficient player who's volume scoring." Plus, he has that clutch gene that you cannot teach.
fit here, but I think he is the fourth best player in the Draft. "He has a great knack for scoring the ball,"
an NBA exec said. "He can play two positions. He has international competition. So he would definitely fit the Sixers."
They could go Sabonis here. But he is a little stiff and
mechanical, and no where near the clutch shooter Murray is.
When Canada played the USA team in the Champ game in the Pan Am games he dropped 22-point in the 4th quarter and OT to single handedly beat the US. "Jamal is one of the greatest kids," Calipari said. "The improvement he showed over the course of the season may be unmatched by anyone Iíve ever coached. He grew into a true winner and one of the most efficient scorers. What I love about Jamal is heís a great teammate who has a smile on his face every day. Iím going to really miss coaching him." By the end of his freshman year he was averaging 20 PPG as a 19-year old shooter.
took too many bad shots early, but took to coaching and was one of
the most efficient scorers in the NCAA by the end of the season.
"There's no doubt in my mind," assistant coach Kenny Payne said. "Jamal Murray will be an NBA All-Star. Many times
over. He had to process what was going on. Whenever the spurt hit, all he did was process what we were teaching.
slowing down mentally, re-identifying his game." The guys who
can learn the game the best are the ones who succeed on the next
All teams need scoring. "He's a great natural scorer," Payne said. "Naturally, he can put the ball in the hole. More than just jump shots. Floaters, runners, midrange, layups. Drawing fouls. He can do it all. He's so young and he's learning. He's just a baby. When he accepted the way coach Cal pushed him, accepted what we were trying to get him to do, the way we wanted him to slow down, things opened up for him." Not the best fit, but in three years he could be the best player on the team.
Second Choice: Buddy Hield SG/SF
6. New Orleans- Kris Dunn- Providence, PG, 6-4.5, 220, Standing Reach 8-4", WS 6-9.5,
6.2 APG, 16.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 45 FG%, 35.4 3-P%, 2.5 SPG,
The Team: This could be the perfect pick for the Pelicans. Dunn comes with some risk. He is 22-years old and has shoulder issues. "People are gonna want to see those [medical reports] to make a decision on him," Adrian Wojnarowski said. "And now his group is gonna maybe be able to control this process and get him to a place where a team is gonna trade up into No. 3 or 4 for him." Because of his obstinatence with his medical records, he is going to drop in the Draft.
can't take a guy this early without seeing his x-rays. "[They] can't stop them from drafting Dunn,"
Wojnarowski said. "But will those teams do it without his medical
records. Without a personal workout. Without an interview with him?" I
just don't see how any team can do that. But just ask LaVine, it
One thing about Dunn is that he plays hard. ''I'm a hard worker and nothing was ever given to me,'' Dunn said. He got better every year at providence. He makes his teammates better with his passing. "Heís always creating separation in pick-and-roll," Vanderbiltís Damian Jones said. "When you bring somebody two-on-two, he's always getting guys open. He plays the game really well." He is a beast in the open court on the fastbreak, and consistently gives easy shots to his teammates.
Dunn is a terrible shooter, who only hit 73 Threes in four years at Providence. Though he still garnered 16.4 PPG, 6.2 APG, 5.1 RPG and 2.5 steals Last year. "Weíre both fast," Dunn said about some comparing him to John Wall. "We both can attack at the rim. Thatís one of our greatest strengths. And we can get people involved. Thatís what I like to do. I like to get people good shots. And John Wall, he's not a bad defender. He definitely works hard on the defensive end, and that's one of my strengths." I don't see that comparison.
The Reason: The Pelican desperately need a point guard. Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson are both free agents after this season, and both look like they are gone. ''For any point guard who's going there, who wouldn't want to play with Anthony Davis,'' Dunn said. ''He's definitely a superstar, up there with LeBron and all those guys. To be able to play with a guy like that, it's only going to help me.'' So they need to look for replacements for those guys.
Some think Hield and Dunn are the two most NBA ready players in the Draft. ''We're obviously going to get a good player,'' Pelican's HC Gentry said. ''I think there are a lot of good players that potentially going to be strong players. It's going to help our team and then we will move forward from there.'' It is time for the Pelicans to start winning, especially if they want a chance of keeping Gordon and Anderson.
Second Choice: Jaylen Brown SF
7. Nuggets- Buddy Hield- Duke, Fr, 22-years old, 6-5, 212, Standing Reach 8-5,
WS 6-9.25, 2.2 APG, 20 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 40.8 3-P% on 3.14 3-PPG 45.4 FG%, 1 SPG,
The Team: After the top three their are four guys who have the talent to maybe reach an All-Star game or two, maybe. Then the dearth of talent in this Draft really takes over. Poeltl could slip into the top seven. He has a very low floor but also has the lowest ceiling in the top ten. Sabonis could make it a top eight, but he is a little slow, methodic, and robotic. Deyonta Davis sucks. Chriss has the upside, but he is like a stash and carry high school kid, who should be ready to contribute when his rookie contract is up. Labissiere has the Tyson Chandler body, but looks less develop than Chandler when he came out of high school (which is scary). Ellenson has a tragic lack of hops, but he moves around the court nicely. I like the French kid Timothe Luwawu and the kid from Spain Juan Hernangomez as stash guys.
He will bring the ball up sometimes and shot the jumper without looking at a teammate, which I hate. "Been impressed from day one, his passion for the game, his ability to focus from a work ethic standpoint on things he needs to do to get better," the OK HC Kruger said. "That's from his freshman, sophomore year. Every day he would ask me, 'Coach, how can I get better? What do I need to work on? A lot of kids will say that, but then theyíll go work on the things theyíre most comfortable doing. In Buddyís case, you say, 'Hey, Buddy, left hand needs to be improved, need to take it to the bucket stronger.' Those are things he would work on. He was very focused on what he has to do to complete himself as a player." He is one of those guys who worked so hard on his lefty game that he now drives more to the left than right, which I love.
He makes plays shooting and scoring. Guys who can do both are the special ones. "Buddy is going to make plays for us," his teammate Ryan Spangler said. "We are going to have open shots because of Buddy. We are going to get the ball in good places because of Buddy, so he will make plays for us. I think thatís the most important thing. Itís just great to see him succeed, because I see him work hard and heís Ďs earned everything thatís coming his way, so itís just fun to watch." Tough as nails and is explosive going to the hole. You cannot let him drive right.
He also can lead the fastbreak and dish to a teammate. "Buddy plays at a special level," his teammate Jordan Woodard said. "I couldnít be more pleased for him, primarily because of the way heís handled it. Heís passing around the praise, complimenting his teammates, coming with enthusiasm and passion every day. Itís great to see." But it is his 3-point shooting that will get him drafted in the top eight.
He should develop into a solid 3-point shooting Number Three. "I think the guys recognize Buddy is at the core of everything we do," Kruger said. "Buddyís going to get that target on his back. I think the other guys, number one, they recognize what Buddy has done as being very special and theyíre comfortable with that. They also recognize, too, when defenses make it tough on Buddy, they've got to be able to step up and take advantage of additional opportunities." In the end, he was the guy that made his teammates better at Oklahoma.
The Reason: They want to win now. They have their young Big Three, and need to start winning now. They just need to get more experience, but they also need shooting. Hield is as old or older as the core three, and he can shoot. The Timberwolves best shooter last season was their big center Towns. That has to change. Hield can step in and start shooting Threes day one. Plus, when you draft a player who F-bombs walking up to fulfill his dream, you have to think LaVine is gone the second his rookie contract is up.