Pistons asking for a first round pick for Greg Monroe

The Detroit Pistons are nothing short of a complete disaster, and arguably no one feels that more than PF/C, Greg Monroe. After failing to come to terms on an extension with the Pistons, Monroe decided to go the unconventional route, and signed his qualifying offer this season for just 5.5 million dollars. At the time, many believed that Monroe did this as opposed to signing an offer-sheet else wise in fear of the Pistons matching a deal.According to the Sporting News, that’s absolutely true; Monroe desperately wants out of Detroit, and the Pistons are apparently interested in giving him his wish provided they get a first round pick in return.sources told Sporting News, he wants that, badly. But teams seeking Monroe will need to cough up a first-round pick, and that’s a sticking point.By signing the qualifying offer Greg Monroe does have the right to veto any trade, but the Sporting News article points out that he’d be unlikely to exercise that option based on his desire to get out …

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Magic Johnson wants Lakers to lose for high draft pick

Coming into the season, the Los Angeles Lakers weren’t expected to be good, even after the acquisitions of familiar names Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer. And to this point, they haven’t been. The Lakers are currently 5-16 and mere percentage points ahead of the Timberwolves for worst record in the Western Conference. At this pace,…Read More

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Duke Wing Justise Winslow Emerging as a Potential Top-5 NBA Draft Pick

Relative to last June’s draft, the projected 2015 field might not offer the same caliber of star power or depth. Outside the consensus top three—Duke center Jahlil Okafor, Kentucky center Karl-Anthony Towns and point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who could be finishing up his time in China soon—the “wow” factor drops off significantly.

This is a year when the “safe” label could actually help a lottery pick’s stock.

Duke freshman Justise Winslow has emerged as one of the safest yet potentially most rewarding prospects in the country. He entered the season with a reputation as a high-energy, do-it-all, two-way wing, and he’s lived up to the billing. 

Through eight games, his numbers won’t blow you away—12 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 45.6 percent shooting—but the impact he’s had has been immeasurable early on.

Winslow’s value also stems from his defense and motor. That was most recently evident in Duke’s 10-point win over Wisconsin on Dec. 3. You didn’t hear Winslow’s name much, but he was there, making plays that mostly never made the final box score.

Winslow has been making a name for himself at the defensive end for years now, from the Under-17 World Championships in 2012 to this past summer as a starter for the Under-18 FIBA Americas team that took gold in Colorado Springs. 

He plays an aggressive style of pressure defense. And he’s been a hound so far on the ball, consistently taking away or containing an opposing ball-handler’s dribble.

At 6’6″, 225 pounds, Winslow packs an overwhelming punch of athleticism, quickness and strength. He certainly looks the part of an NBA wing. 

He’s a diver, a chaser, a jump-into-the-stands type of hustler.

Winslow has minimal bust potential. An NBA general manager is getting a super athlete and versatile perimeter defender. 

He reminds me a bit of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist when he was at Kentucky and Victor Oladipo at Indiana—guys who climbed up draft boards and won over scouts with their defense, energy and explosiveness, along with offensive flashes that hint at room for growth down the road. 

Offensively, Winslow looks a bit raw, but in doses, he’s flashed encouraging ball skills as an attacker and outside shooter.

The most eye-opening development so far has been his jumper. He’s hit at least one three-pointer in every game now while shooting 38.5 percent from downtown. 

And Winslow’s mechanics look clean. Even if his percentage falls off over the course of the season, you get the impression that he can eventually evolve into a legitimate catch-and-shoot threat. 

At this stage, Winslow is still clearly at his best in the open floor, where he can really fly in transition and finish on the move.

Against a set half-court defense, though, he’s limited as a one-on-one scorer. Winslow is dangerous attacking open lanes—just not creating them off the bounce. That’s partly why he ended up with just six shot attempts against Wisconsin. And that’s why his scoring numbers will likely fluctuate as the season rolls along. 

But Winslow’s all-around versatility gives him a little extra cushion and margin for error. For Duke, he doesn’t necessarily need to score to contribute.

The idea is that the same will hold true at the NBA level—even if his offensive game never comes around, he’ll always have defense and intangibles to fall back on. 

“Whatever we need. Block out, block a shot, knock down a shot. Get in the post, feed the post. I just try to do it all,” Winslow told ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan. 

Still, at just 18 years old, I’m willing to bet the offensive flashes, even if sporadic, will ultimately look convincing enough to suggest there’s more to come with NBA coaching and time, whether it’s a slash from the wing:

Or a sweet spot-up jumper:

The promising vibes he’s given off have made it easy for evaluators to overlook his current flaws and (potentially) temporary weaknesses, which stem from his youth and lack of polish one can always add with practice.  

At this point, I’d say the entry door into the top-three tier has been sealed off to Okafor, Towns and Mudiay. But that No. 4 spot should be up for grabs on everybody’s draft board, and Winslow’s chances of grabbing it are as good as anyone’s. 

Look for the buzz around Winslow to build, along with his image as a low-risk, high-reward option. That image could hold a lot of weight in a draft without obvious answers to choose from. 

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Arizona near-unanimous pick by media to win Pac-12

Arizona near-unanimous pick by media members to win Pac-12 Conference again



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Arizona near-unanimous pick by media to win Pac-12 (Yahoo Sports)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Arizona is the near-unanimous pick by members of the media to the win Pac-12 this season.

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Sacramento Kings Make It Official, Pick up Option on Ben McLemore

As of yesterday (10/19) the Sacramento Kings General Manager, Pete D’Alessandro, announced that Ben McLemore’s option has been picked up for the 2015-16 NBA season. Ben McLemore, who averaged over 15 points a game at Kansas, was drafted in the 1st round by the Sacramento Kings. He is clearly a work in progress but Sacramento feels that he is someone worth investing in. On Wednesday, against the Brooklyn Nets, Ben McLemore had scored 22 points in 40 minutes. Also good to mention that he had a 53 shooting percentage for that game. It’s very early to say that he isn’t going to continue the consistency of averaging 20 points per game but it is also very early to count him out. For now, I’ll say that it is a smart move. The post Sacramento Kings Make It Official appeared first on Basketball Bicker.

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Karl Towns vs. Jahlil Okafor: Who’s Favorite for No. 1 Pick in 2015 Draft?

Two of the No. 1 overall candidates for the 2015 NBA draft happen to be big fellas this year. Duke’s Jahlil Okafor and Kentucky’s Karl Towns, each of whom fit the profile of your traditional one-and-done freshman, should quickly find themselves in the top-prospect debate once the season gets underway. 

And with Okafor and Towns, we’re not quite talking about a couple of raw, unpolished centers whose appeal is tied strictly to potential. These guys are skilled offensive players expected to make immediate impacts.

Only their skill sets and strengths differ greatly despite both players sharing the same position. 

NBA general managers and scouts must ultimately weigh the pros and cons of one-dimensional dominance, which is offered by Okafor, versus unique versatility, something Towns brings to the table. 

Chances are it’s Okafor who fills up the box scores with bigger numbers in 2014-15. As Duke’s clear-cut first offensive option, he should be looking at a much bigger usage rate than Towns, who’ll be playing in what could be the deepest, most competitive rotation—particularly in the frontcourt—college basketball has ever seen.

For what it’s worth, in Kentucky’s summer trip to the Bahamas where it faced off against a number of quality international opponents, Towns played just 19.7 minutes per game.

We’re more likely to see his upside flashed in doses, whereas Okafor will remain a featured scorer from opening night, much like Jabari Parker was for Duke in 2013-14. 

Physically, both big men have some exceptionally appealing tools that help fuel their short- and long-term outlooks. 

Between his 272-pound body, quick feet and soft hands, Okafor is going to get himself a whole lot of easy buckets this season. I’d like to think he’ll end up rolling out of bed with a double-double every game-day morning. 

But what ultimately separates Okafor is his ability to pose as a high-percentage option in the half court, where he can score one-on-one against a set defense. That’s his most glowing attribute—the one that defines him as a prospect and drives his NBA upside. 

He blends strength, length and mobility with footwork and touch—an awfully effective combination for working in the post.

From spins and drop steps, to jab steps and jump hooks, Okafor has moves to go to and others to counter with, whether his back is to the basket or he’s facing up from the elbow.

 Via Bleacher Report

His feel for the game is also top-shelf. A bright kid on and off the floor, Okafor has the ability to sense weakness and subsequently pounce. 

Okafor’s competitive edge and confidence were noteworthy during his conversation with CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish, when he talked about his mentality heading into the season: 

When I step on the court, it really doesn’t matter if I’m a freshman or a senior. It’s basketball, and I’ve been playing basketball my entire life. So I feel extremely confident about going out there and playing against anybody and feeling unstoppable and being just as dominant as I have been in my previous years of playing basketball. So somebody saying I can’t [be National Player of the Year] because I’m a freshman is kinda ludicrous to me.

Although he’s shown flashes of major improvement over the past year, Towns isn’t where Okafor is in terms of post offense.

At this point, Towns is still looking to improve his fluidity and delivery. He’s getting better—Towns can’t quite dominate in the paint the way Okafor can, but his jump hook has become a weapon, as have his feet. In the Bahamas, Towns was able to shake free for a couple of pretty buckets.

Still, Okafor’s presence is ultimately felt much more on the interior. 

And that’s primarily based off two factors, with the first being that he’s overwhelmingly strong. Thanks to over 20 extra pounds of mass, take a look at how easily Okafor moves Towns under the boards:

It’s not necessarily a knock on Towns, who happens to be a solid rebounder. It’s just that Okafor possesses such rare size and strength. 

The other reason why Towns hasn’t been as dominant inside is that his skill set takes him out to the perimeter. Unlike Okafor, Towns spends a portion of his possessions facing the hoop from 15-20-plus feet out.

For a near 7-footer, he operates with unusual comfort away from the basket. It can work for or against him, as it obviously expands his on-floor services, but it’s also led to Towns drifting or standing around outside.

His comfort level on the perimeter is somewhat related to a confident shooting stroke. While he only made one three-pointer in six games during Kentucky’s Bahamas trip, he attempted nine of them, appearing to have the green light from coach John Calipari.

And though it might be a while before he emerges as a “legit three-point shooter,” which is how Kyle Tucker of The Courier-Journal recently labeled him, his jumper plays to his attractive versatility. 

So do his ball-handling skills and passing instincts. Don’t be surprised to see Kentucky run some plays through Towns at the high post, where he can either facilitate and dish or put the ball on the floor and attack. 

If we’re talking textbook upside here, you could argue that Towns’ ceiling is actually a bit higher than Okafor’s, given the mismatch potential that’s tied to a center who can score inside and out, as well as rebound, pass and defend his position.

And though Towns doesn’t project as you’re prototypical rim protector (he finished the Bahamas trip with five blocks in six games), his size and length still hold defensive value, even if his awareness isn’t quite up to par.

Okafor projects similarly at the defensive end. He’s not the same natural shot-blocker that Joel Embiid or Nerlens Noel was the last two years, but his mobility and crazy wingspan still result in interior disruption. 

At this early stage in their development, the main thing separating both prospects is their identities. Okafor’s identity is built around his post play, physical presence and phenomenal basketball IQ. 

As of October 2014, we’re not quite sure what Towns’ identity is. And that’s fine, considering he hasn’t played a college game yet.

But that’s why we can’t consider him a favorite for the No. 1 pick. Prior to his first college game, there isn’t enough clarity with regard to Towns’ future role and bread-and-butter. 

With Okafor, NBA evaluators know exactly what they’re looking at—a guy who can take over games from 12-15 feet from the rim. And given his standout physical tools, sharp skills and valuable intangibles, he offers very little risk as a prospect. 

I thought ESPN recruiting analyst Adam Finkelstein said it best (subscription required) following this year’s showcase period featuring the McDonald’s All-American game, the Nike Hoop Summit and the Jordan Brand Classic:

“From an NBA perspective, he’s starting to look more and more like a ‘safe pick’ in that you pretty much know what you’re going to get, even if his ultimate upside may not be quite as high as top-ranked prospects in other classes.”

Of course, safe doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with a No. 1 pick. Jabari Parker, who went No. 2 last June, was regarded as the safer pick over Andrew Wiggins, who went first.

But there isn’t a Wiggins in this year’s field. In the 2015 draft, which is expected to be a whole lot weaker from top to bottom, safe might actually go a long way. 

Then again, if Towns comes out nailing threes, lighting up the post and dishing out dimes on a regular basis, NBA evaluators might be inclined to chase the upside he presents—especially if Okafor isn’t overly compelling or he struggles with inconsistency. 

But until we see Towns’ versatility really come to life—unless he convinces us his post game is go-to material, his jumper is for real and his passing skills have meaning—it’s just too tough to proclaim him the superior prospect when Okafor offers as much certainty as he does. 

That could all change in the near future—last year, it only took around two months for Embiid to seemingly overtake Wiggins and Parker as the consensus top prospect before injuries put a cloud over his outlook. 

And if anyone in Division I is going to make the same move up the boards as Embiid did last year, it’s Towns, who’s got the potential to cover more two-way ground than any prospect in the country. 

Don’t forget—both Towns and Okafor might also be competing with point guard Emmanuel Mudiay for draft position.

Mudiay, another highly touted prospect expected to declare, is spending the year in China, and despite the country’s poor reputation for developing players and the difficulty that comes with evaluating teenagers at the international level, his monster ceiling remains a threat to everyone in June’s projected field. 

Regardless, Okafor’s sure-thing image should hold strong heading into the season with Towns and Mudiay having more to prove. He’s not cemented in as the 2015 No. 1 overall pick, but Okafor will no doubt start the year atop our NBA prospect pyramid. 

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Kings pick up G Ben McLemore’s option (Yahoo Sports)

SACRAMENTO, CA - OCTOBER 18: Ben McLemore #23 of the Sacramento Kings handles the ball against Maccabi Haifa during a game at Sleep Train Arena on October 18, 2014 in Sacramento, California. (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Sacramento Kings have picked up the 2015-16 option on guard Ben McLemore’s contract.

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LeBron: Criticism for pick on teammate is ‘stupid’

LeBron James says the criticism he received for accidentally setting a pick on his new teammate, Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova, was “stupid.” The Cavaliers and Miami Heat played a preseason game in Rio de Janeiro last weekend, and the most memorable moment was when James stood in the way of Dellavedova, freeing up space for former teammate Norris Cole to operate. “For non-basketball people,” James said with a smirk, via ESPN.com, “our coverage is for me to show and for Delly (Dellavedova) to go under me and we just didn’t get the call right at the time. Delly was supposed to slide under me and we kind of ran into each other. “So, for non-basketball people, they like to critique everything that I do. It’s stupid.” Dellavedova said the play wasn’t “really anything.” “My family sent me the link of it,” Dellavedova told ESPN.com. “He just showed out (on the ball handler) and I just needed to go under. So, it wasn’t really anything. I mean, you know how the media can

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LeBron James sets a pick on his own teammate

What was he thinking?



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