Thursday, June 21, 2018

NBA Draft Day: What we Want to Happen/What we Think Will Happen

It has arrived. 2018 NBA Draft Day is here! Mock drafts aplenty and a buffet full of rumors for you to indulge all day, if you are sadistic enough to enjoy the whiplash effect some of the moves can induce.

THHB wanted to run down the lottery picks and put down what we think is going to happen and what we wish would happen.

We have read every possible rumor and mock draft, sifted through the smell test of all of them and run it through the supercomputer of past draft history to bring you this: THHB Mock(ery) Draft

It's my life
Don't you forget
Caught in the crowd
It never ends.....

1. Phoenix Suns, DeAndre Ayton

Was still somewhat in belief that they were going to take Doncic anyway and have a super backcourt of Doncic/Booker with Doncic's old Euro coach, but the last percentages of that passed away when they practically coronated Ayton after his workout.

Who we want them to pick: Luka Doncic
Who we think they will pick: DeAndre Ayton

2. Sacramento Kings, Luka Doncic

Look, it was fun. For a while the Kings realllllly had us believing they weren't going to take Doncic, relying instead on yet another big man. The 24 hours that had the insiders saying that Doncic was on the top of the Hawks board were fun times, indeed. Alas, all good things must slip through the Hawks hands.

Sure, Vlade isn't impressed with Doncic, but Vivek allegedly is, and Vivek is undefeated, from what I can tell, in these matchups.

Who we want them to pick: DeAndre Ayton
Who we think they will pick: Luka Doncic

3. Atlanta Hawks, Trae Young

I don't know if they will wrangle a trade down -- seems like that is on the board, but after Doncic is gone, the next dynamic offensive player is Young. Chauncey Billups said it best on ESPN, "He will move the scoreboard -- he may give up a couple of buckets -- but he will move the scoreboard."

Scoreboard, sucker.

Who we want them to pick: Mo Bamba
Who we think they will pick: Trae Young

4. Memphis Grizzlies, Marvin Bagley

What's up with people dissing the Grizz? Didn't they just wrap a seven year playoff streak? Don't the have a cool nickname for their very nice building? Isn't the food magnificent and Beale Street some fun and games? Is the owner that awful?

I know Porter has been rumored here, but my gut tells me they will take the most motivated player that can come in immediately and prove himself and that's Bagley at this point.

How does a team come off the agony of the Chandler Parsons injury and go back into the tub for Michael Porter? I don't see it.

Who we want them to pick: Marvin Bagley
Who we think they will pick: Marvin Bagley

5. Dallas Mavericks, Mo Bamba

He is a cult of personality and could be ready to do tons of damage defensively right out of the gate. Dallas has been groomed as a landing spot and while they could go Porter as well, the likable, box office ready Bamba is safer.

Who we want them to pick: Jaren Jackson, Jr.
Who we think they will pick: Mo Bamba

6. Orlando Magic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

With Young off the board, the Magic go for the next guard, who is SGA it seems. It boggles the mind that SGA can basically not work out for anybody publicly and find himself at the highest mock position of the season anyway. Teams are just projecting all the positives and not nit-picking the negatives in SGA's game.

This seems like a typical Magic play here, moreso that the Eric Bledsoe like Collin Sexton, so I am good with the latest rumors sticking about SGA.

Who we want them to pick: Trae Young
Who we think they will pick: Shai Gigeous-Alexander

7. Chicago Bulls, Michael Porter, Jr.

He missed a season with an injured back and then wore down while working out for 3-4 teams and his hip was bothering him. He makes grandiose statements about himself and says that some teams may want him to skip summer league and rest. Already this guy is high maintenance. He has also reminded people that the Kings sat Harry Giles all season last season.

For all of that, THHB has nicknamed him Captain Red Flags. Good luck, Chicago

Who we want them to take: Michael Porter, Jr.
Who we think they will take: Michael Porter, Jr.

8. Cleveland Cavaliers, Jaren Jackson, Jr.

All the rumors say that the Cavs want a point guard, but Young and SGA are off the board, so will the Cavs take the BPA in Jackson? We think they would over Collin Sexton. It is a match that has not been seen yet, so we like that, too. Jackson can be the modern NBA five and brings some rim protection to the Cavs. Mozel Tov!

Who we want them to take: Shae Gilgeous-Alexander
Who we think they will take: Jaren Jackson, Jr.

9. New York Knicks, Mikal Bridges

We could have seen any of the more box office ready players here (Young, Bamba, Porter), but they are all gone. So the Knicks can settle for the guy who ranks sixth on THHB Big Board in Bridges, who is so well-rounded, has great wingspan and can be versatile offensively while finishing above the rim.

Who we want them to take: Mikal Bridges
Who we think they will take: Mikal Bridges

10. Philadelphia 76ers, Kevin Knox

Soooooo close! I am sure the Sixers would have loved to snag Bridges, who would be a ready made local guy ready to contribute to the team who had one of the best records in the league. Instead, they settle for who is less ready, but can grow into the same traits in Knox, who didn't excel last season at Kentucky, but we believe it is not always easy to do that one an all-star one and done teams.

Who we want them to take: Kevin Knox
Who we think they will take: Kevin Knox

11. Charlotte Hornets, Collin Sexton

The Hornets breathe a sigh of relief as the last of the top tier PGs is still available here. The hard-nosed, never scared Sexton would be a good insurance policy on Kemba Walker and someone to groom for the future even if  Walker stays put.

THHB thinks that the Hornets, if they do believe Walker is long term, should not take yet another guard, but go bigger with Wendell Carter, the center from Duke, who has conjured comparisons to Al Horford.

Who we want them to take: Wendell Carter
Who we think they will take: Collin Sexton

12. Los Angeles Clippers, Robert Williams

Maybe we will find out that the Clippers did indeed promise SGA, which is why he didn't work out for anyone but, alas, all the PGs are gone now. So the Clippers will turn to the BPAs and that will start with Williams, who does replicate a lot of what Montrezl Harrell does, but fits the kind of center the Clippers have had with DeAndre Jordan, who may not be back with the Clippers

Who we want them to take: Robert Williams
Who we think they will take: Robert Williams

13. Los Angeles Clippers, Lonnie Walker

The explosive, yet inconsistent Walker will be hard for the Clippers to pass on here, as the will fill a big in Williams and come back with a flashy guard in Walker

Who we want them to take: Collin Sexton
Who we think they will take: Lonnie Walker

14. Denver Nuggets, Miles Bridges

Solid swingman and potential replacement for Will Barton, Bridges brings another solid all around game to a team that should not have really missed the playoffs last season.

Who we want them to take: Miles Bridges
Who we think they will take: Miles Bridges


15. Washington Wizards, Wendell Carter

Amazing that Carter could fall this far, but the fits for bigs are not great after the first few picks. Carter would give the Wizards a more versatile option at center than they currently have in Gortat/Mahinmi.

Who we want them to take: Lonnie Walker
Who we think they will take: Wendell Carter

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

NBA Draft: Revised Big Board and the latest news/thoughts

Here is my latest rankings -- You will see some changes, and a few more names. Changes were driven largely by influence around the impact of wings and, especially, spreading the floor offensively. Also, have watched a lot more film and ingested plenty of conversation and debate on these guys.

Here is where THHB is, as of now:

1. Luka Doncic

Doncic has won everything there is to win overseas, but one thing he hasn't won is all of NBA fans' hearts. (awwwwww). Word is all over the interwebs that, for a long time before the Kings had the second pick, that Vlade Divac was not impressed with Luka. Whether that is a long con or a whoops because they didn't think they would even be in position to take him, it lends a lot of credence to the rumors that the Kings are more impressed with Michael Porter and Marvin Bagley.

Doncic would be a tremendous pick for the Hawks, with a high floor. Sometimes, it just makes sense to take the guy who has won two MVPs before 20, is good at the game of basketball, and is a value, even at #3.

2. DeAndre Ayton

I have not been high on Ayton, at least not as the undisputed king of the 2018 draft. It is his meh defense that perplexes me. I hear the David Robinson comps for a ceiling, but dang, the Admiral was dominant at Navy on defense. Ayton has skills on offense, no doubt, and here he is at #2, but it is a solid nod to his talent, and no more.

3. Mo Bamba

He is going to be popular wherever he lands, as he is a cult of personality with his smile, deep dive on basketball theory and his obvious, let's go see him, freakish measurements. If he can contribute offensively, especially with the Drew Hanlen lower shooting pocket, more arc corner three, then he is going to be a solid starter year one in the L.

One interesting thing that came out today from Givony at ESPN/DX is that Mr. Personality Bamba cold shouldered Memphis, turning down a workout, declining to send medical information over and asking, nicely I am sure, to pass if he is there at #4. Wow. He worked out ENTHUSISATICALLY for the Hawks, saying afterwards that he loves the city and sees a good fit with the Good Guys. He worked out with Embiid and Joel spoke good words about Lloyd Pierce, which got Bamba's attention as well.

Still, a team getting stonewalled and it is NOT the Hawks? That's progress, ATL, progress.

4. Jaren Jackson, Jr.

Cooling somewhat is the man called 3J, as the information wheel landed on words like "soft" and "bad interview" after his time in the ATL workout chamber. Who knows what is right during this silly season. Our man, Brad Rowland from Peachtree Hoops is on record saying that Jackson does everything better than Bamba already and is 1.5 years younger. This is truth.

On the surface, he looks like more all-around out of the bigs, yet still looks raw and unfinished at times, commensurate with his 18 years of age. There is a ton of ceiling out of he and Bamba - and Jackson would be a super solid pick if the Hawks did indeed pass on Doncic if there.

5. Trae Young

I still hold firm to the belief that his defense will limit his role to a more defined 28 minutes or so that he can totally destroy offensively. I have been influenced by visions of a more open court than we have seen with Dennis the last two seasons and am willing to take a chance on a guy that can truly stretch that floor. Remember that Pierce came from PHI, where they practice with a 4-pt line for offensive stretchiness. Young is a player that can stick that range, not just stand there, and he has the necessary willingness to create for other with that newly opened space.

His defense will be his albatross for now, but I have Young firmly locked at the top of the non-Doncic, guards.

6. Mikal Bridges

Bridges has that all around game at the wing that seems to be populating throughout the league. It is threes and defense, also strong, strong finishes and defensive acumen. His wingspan is elite for his height also and combining all of that is what made be have Bridges here since the NCAA season ended.

7. Kevin Knox

Knox has risen. Much is made about his freshman season, but the skills are there. Throwing so many one and done guys together sometimes can work seamlessly, but often, there is tough transition with all the five stars trying to fit their Alpha game into a five man set.

The skills that Knox brings to the table; the length, the finishing, the offense - are the wing things that all the team are trying to stockpile. Tough to move him ahead of Bagley, but there is more versatility to his game than the Duke big man.

8. Marvin Bagley

Ok, here is the biggest numeric faller of the bunch. Why? Well, as much as I regard post scoring, it is not largely relevant in the league right now. Bagley's elite standing jump skills will always aid in him being a plus rebounder, but the lack of defense and the one-dimensional part of his inside game (he only uses that left hand) shows limitations.

Look, this draft is so flat, that there is little, in my mind separating 2-8, or you can argue down to 12, but given the Hawks situation, with John Collins already able in the role that Bagley would likely play, he drops.

9. Wendall Carter

Carter might be overrated here, but his game is solid and does have a Horford-ish vibe to him. You could put Carter as the last pick in the lottery and I could see it, but the overall package on both sides of the ball is worth having on a team that lacks a solid, all-around five.

10. Michael Porter

Porter may have had the worst run since entering the NCAA ranks. He suffered a back injury that prevented him from playing almost all of his Mizzou games and the games he did play in lacked that super-athleticism that placed him at the top.

He has worked out and already experienced some soreness, by his own words, in his hips. His game is predicated on that athleticism and volume scoring and can fit in very well somewhere like Sacramento, but man that injury risk is too rich for my blood.

11. Shei Gilgeous-Alexander

He has not worked out for anybody this offseason, at least publicly, leading some to assume he has a promise in the lottery, with the main guess being the LA Clippers, who have two picks together so they can continue to work out everyone else while not being so obvious nor wasting anybody's time.

SGA has that Livingston in '04 look, but not the playmaking that the Clippers draft pick had then. Alexander has great length and versatility in his offensive game, which is attracting a lot of attention with Cleveland, Charlotte and Toronto, reportedly.

12. Lonnie Walker

The first thing that you see with Walker is explosiveness. Like, oh wow, this guys is a home run, look at him. It is like watching Pedro Cerrano teeing off on Eddie Harris straight-balls. You are like, holy crap, how can he be available here?

And then you see the streakiness, the wildness and, like Cerrano whiffing on curveballs, you get it. I see. Also there is a lack of obvious facilitation in his game, being the Alpha scorer -- something that he will need to add to help his floor time be the most productive.

13. Robert Williams

This is me being an unabashed, long armed, shot blocking, above the rim, finishing strong biased basketball fan. I love the things that Williams can do in those areas, even while acknowledging that the fun likely ends there.

14. Collin Sexton

Sexton has the heart of a lion, to be cliché. He is fearless and it showed every time Alabama played. Sexton, like Walker, could stand to learn the art of the pass, and to improve the consistency of his shot. The comparisons to Eric Bledsoe are solid, I think.

Miles Bridges, Jacob Evans, Troy Brown, Jerome Robinson, Chandler Hutchinson are among those also receiving votes.

Don't agree? Do agree? Say something in the Comments Area or find me in the Twitter Pool @JasonWalkerNBA.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

NBA Draft: Trae Young, Mo Bamba, Luka Doncic and the THHB Top Players Ranking

We are eight days, as of this writing, from one of the more exciting NBA Drafts for Atlanta Hawks fans in a decade. We have looked at this draft over the last month, discussed rumors, talked into the can on many platforms about who the candidates for selection with the #3 pick are and who THHB likes as its main man there.

So, what's new around this pick since the last time we published thoughts on the matter?

1. Trae Young Mania
2. The Cascading Slide of Luka Doncic
3. Michael Porter's Back!
4. Mo Bamba's agent in the lead for Agent of the Year
5. Mock Drafts

Let's look at each of these individually:

1. Trae Young Mania

To some, the obvious interest in Young excites the senses. To others, it's horror. The truth, even to this collection of THHB staffers, is in the in between.

Yes, the official statement from our vault holds true to this second, that we believe that Young's total absence of defensive instincts means he will have to be relegated to a juicy 6th man type role that will help assuage those defensive agonies. A 25-30 minute, Jamal Crawford/Lou Williams role (with much more playmaking, we add) in order to accentuate his offensive impact while curtailing the pain of covering for him defensively seems like a solid place to project with his to-this-minute body of work.

It should be said that one of the all-time favorites of THHB is Crawford, whose offensive amazement captured our hearts as much as our heralded shot-blockers have. There is room for excitement with Young, who can shoot the basketball and has a playmaker's eye on the floor. It is easy to see why fans of the Hawks are swept up in enthusiasm over those skills.

Also in Young's corner are his opponents, who consistently said that he was one of, if not THE hardest to defend this past season. His shot range alone makes defense complicated, and the lanes he creates with that range opens things up well for his teammates. Match that with his ability to pass and all a good coach has to do is teach restraint and you can raise his A/TO ratio dramatically.

But the defense, his size, and whether you can really spend that kind of draft capital on that type of player are perfectly good reasons for concern. Ultimately, the Hawks need someone that will project to be a staple of the team for their first 9-10 seasons. It is reasonable to wonder if Young is that type of player.

He is one of only four players with 1 on zero workouts that the Hawks are entertaining publicly. So Young, along with Jaren Jackson, Jr, Mo Bamba and Marvin Bagley, are the frontrunners for this pick.

2. The Cascading Slide of Luka Doncic

We have documented the many possible explanations for the potential sliding of the uber-decorated and accomplished teenager from overseas. I believe that it still holds true today and that the Kings are still the likely home for Doncic.

Why all the smokescreening then? Are they afraid to tip the scales on the Suns and they will take him? That does not seem likely, given the fanfare and practical coronation the Suns gave DeAndre Ayton when he worked out for the Suns (Doncic will not work out for any team).

Placing another front court player in Sacramento, after spending draft capital on Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere does not make a whole lot of sense. Placing Doncic in a playmaking off-guard role with DeAaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic does, however, make plenty of sense. Doncic would also make those front court investments better and provide even more range outside for a team that played Vince Carter a lot more than I expected throughout the season.

However if Doncic does get past the Kings he could end up in Memphis or Dallas, as the Hawks seem like they have gotten the "Do Not Draft" note from the Doncic side. He does have the option of continuing to play overseas, which could make such a note a higher risk than Michael Porter's back.

Speaking of which....

3. Michael Porter's Back!

Porter, coming into the season, was the most likely to succeed candidate of the draft candidates. He had the explosive arsenal of scoring, flashing high above the rim, and conjured images of the scoring prowess of Carmelo Anthony and the high flying frame of Blake Griffin.

And then he missed an entire season with a massive back injury. The words "back injury" alone is scary, as is missing an entire season. But, over the last 30 days, Porter's name has started to inch back up the draft. Whereas he was a reasonable risk, given the upside, as a pick at seven with the Bulls or eight with Cleveland, now you hear him associated with Dallas at five and even Sacramento with the second pick.

This probably means that the medical reports on his back are real sound, sound enough to begin to leak publicly. Now the word that Porter's crew will make a report available for teams 1-10 in the draft makes that almost a certainty. He can limit the full reports to teams he might prefer, such as Chicago, but the sense that his back is healthy, for now, might entice any team up the line to make him a pick.

As for us, back injuries are almost a full pass -- you will not know if they are chronic until the next injury, if there is one. Porter's value comes chiefly through his extraordinary athleticism and if that is sapped in any percentage, it drastically lowers his value. He could be an amazing gamebreaker or he could end up a volume shooter that provides little else for that draft value. With all of that, the Hawks are probably wise in not making Porter a part of their 1 on zero workouts.

UPDATE (6/14): What a difference less than a day makes! Porter has reportedly cancelled, and then reported to be "rescheduling" his next group workout for teams, but is reported to have a problem with his hip. Oh boy. It could be crafty positioning on the part of Porter's team to make sure he gets where he wants, but man, the Hawks cannot take a chance on this guy if he is already dealing with more injuries after a series of 1 on zero workouts.

4. Mo Bamba's agent in the lead for Agent of the Year

If you have watched any NBA Draft prep at all, you can't miss the onslaught of Mo Bamba offseason workout, interviews and the like. The hype around Bamba is high, and he even got a workout with the top pick Suns, so kudos to his representation for making sure everybody saw and heard Mo Bamba over the last month.

And why not? Bamba is, by almost all accounts, an engaging speaker with advanced knowledge of NBA metrics and detail. Honestly, he looks like a reporter's dream, able to break down nuances of the game and candid. But that does not make him worthy of the third pick, only underlines why it has been wise to get him in front of the camera a lot.

His wingspan, at 7'10 if you have not heard (impossible), makes him a measurement freak. According to the Suns, his vertical jump was 12'5, which is silly. His standing reach is 9'8, which when married to his great ability to maintain verticality makes him very formidable to shoot over.

We love Bamba's defensive instincts and footwork and he will absolutely change the geometry of teams playing against him. Mike Schmitz of ESPN agrees with that, highlighting it in the video breakdown of Bamba's game. He can be a gamechanger on that end, and spark plenty of transition opportunities for Dennis, Taurean Prince and John Collins if Bamba were to become a Hawk.

The downsides, which are also called out in that ESPN breakdown, are also there. He is skinny, which bigger inside players will surely lay a shoulder into or use their posteriors to move Bamba out of position, both defensively and on the glass. He did not always show high motor, either, which will be a quick passage to the bench for any coach, but especially, one would assume, with a defensive minded coach like Lloyd Pierce. He is super raw offensively - very prone to turnover in traffic, especially if the ball comes down below the shoulders. He did not shoot long range efficiently, either, though his well publicized offseason shooting retooling with Drew Hanlen has produced excellent one-on-zero film, but that is far from game action corner threes Bamba would need to hit to find his ceiling in the league.

Bamba's status has risen due to all the work he has put in and the publicity surrounding him, but even given the massive ways to get excited about Mo Bamba, there are, like all those in this lottery, reasonable concerns as well.

5. Mock Drafts

The Mock Drafts seem to have settled on Jaren Jackson, Jr. as the Hawks selection at #3. The words "modern NBA center" are assigned to Jackson and he has his own impressive measurements to go along with his candidacy for the #3 pick. Making things more difficult about evaluating 3J is that playing for Tom Izzo will not necessarily give NBA teams the film needed to easily translate ceiling, often being restricted by style and minutes.

Jackson reminds a lot of Marvin Williams, pre injury. That may scare a lot of folks, but Jackson is bigger and is more centery, but the overall play of Jackson certainly makes that comparison sound. Jackson is more refined in shooting, though his style reminds too many THHB folks of Josh Childress, and is a more all around better player than Mo Bamba right now. Toss in that Jackson is a year and a half younger and you might believe that JJJ has a higher ceiling than the Texas Freshman.

The second most linked to the Hawks is Marvin Bagley, who has the most refined offensive game of any of the bigs in the lottery. Bagley is heavy lefthanded, which he will need to diversify to be successful in the NBA, but also has an elite second jump, which helps him win rebounding battles. His measurements are fairly average for his height, which is why he demurred at the Draft Combine last month, but that has not stopped him from being the most efficient players last season, offensively.

Defensively, the Duke Blue Devils were a disaster last season and Bagley certainly contributed to that reputation. Defense if definitely more than rebounding, so while Bagley was excellent on the glass, the rest of the defense was lacking. Was that more a team problem and Bagley can be a reasonable defender under Pierce's tutelage? If the Hawks select him, as some have said they are leaning towards, then we will have our answer.

THHB's Top Players Rankings

I am assuming that the first pick will be Ayton and the second Doncic, so here are my top guys in the lottery:

1. Mo Bamba
2. Jaren Jackson, Jr.
3. Marvin Bagley
4. Trae Young
5. Wendall Carter, Jr.
6. Mikal Bridges
7. Kevin Knox
8. Michael Porter, Jr.
9. Robert Williams
10. Troy Brown
11. Miles Bridges
12. Collin Sexton

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the Comments area or on the Twitter Factory @JasonWalkerNBA!