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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LeBron James inadvertently sets pick on Cavs teammate (Video)

LeBron James accidentally set a pick on Cleveland Cavaliers teammate Matthew Dellavedova during Saturday’s preseason game in Rio de Janiero against his former team, the Miami Heat.It appeared that the Heat set up James and Dellavedova with their offensive movement and they got tangled up while trying to switch off on defense. Good thing that this is the preseason after all.Vine via @CJZero. H/T LBS.
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LeBron James Accidentally Sets Pick for Former Teammate Norris Cole

Apparently LeBron James still isn’t used to playing against players in Miami Heat uniforms.

During Saturday’s preseason game against the Miami Heat, the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar forgot which team he was on for a second, setting a screen for former teammate Norris Cole despite being on defense.

The Heat didn’t end up scoring on the possession, but it was pretty strange to see that kind of mental lapse from LeBron. Fortunately, it’s only the preseason, and he won’t have to play the Heat in the regular season until Christmas.

[Vine]

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Why Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker Will Be an NBA Draft Lottery Pick in 2015

Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker has been on NBA scouts’ radars since he arrived at Madison, but a mediocre sophomore campaign caused a drop in his draft stock.

Now projected as the No. 16 pick by ESPN’s Chad Ford and the No. 23 pick by NBADraft.net, Dekker has a chance to redeem himself with a breakout season in order to jump back into the lottery picks conversation.

Dekker came up a bit short of expectations in the 2013-14 season as a sophomore after being named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team the year before.

He started in all 38 games for a Badgers team that went to the Final Four in 2014, but he did not drastically improve the numbers he put up as a freshman.

His 12.4 points per game were barely three points higher than his first year, and his field-goal, three-point and free-throw percentages all decreased as well.

However, the season also saw Dekker show off his size and athleticism, as well as his ability to rebound.

Dekker’s 6.1 boards per game nearly doubled his average as a freshman (3.4 RPG). His 166 defensive rebounds were the most on the team, and his 65 offensive rebounds trailed only Frank Kaminsky’s 81.

Dekker decided to return to the Badgers for his junior year, and there is reason to believe these numbers will improve in 2014-15, thanks to a growth spurt over the summer. 

For the first two seasons in Wisconsin, Dekker had been listed at 6’7”, but that number increased by two inches when Dekker was measured again at the LeBron James Skills Academy this July.

The added height clearly helped Dekker’s game, especially with him playing at the small forward position. ESPN’s Jay Bilas called him the “best player at this year’s Nike Skills Academy.”

Bilas added: “From the first day, he was aggressive and versatile and showed a skill level that few could match. He played very effectively on the perimeter, moved without the ball and did a great job.”

Fellow ESPN analysts Jeff Goodman and Fran Fraschilla shared Bilas’ sentiment:

CBSSports.com’s Jeff Borzello even recounted the two times Dekker got the best of camp host himself.

Dekker beat LeBron twice for layups, cutting backdoor both times to get open and finish at the rim,” Borzello wrote.

Dekker is also a very intelligent basketball player. Over his first two years with the Badgers, he committed only 1.1 turnovers and 1.3 fouls per game. However, that is not to say he doesn’t have any room left to improve.

One of the most important areas he needs work on is getting his shooting touch back.

After shooting 47.6 percent from the field, 39.1 percent from beyond the arc and 69 percent from the line as a freshman, Dekker saw those numbers drop to 46.9 percent, 32.6 percent and 68.6 percent, respectively.

Dekker also needs to find better ways to create his own shots, especially in isolation situations, to assert himself in Bo Ryan’s offense in order to show off his improved skills.

As long as the Sam Dekker of the 2014 summer continues to show up for the Badgers this upcoming season, his draft stock will continue to rise.

 

Statistics courtesy of Sports-Reference.com/CBB unless otherwise noted.

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Duke Asks Fans to Pick Between 2 Home Jerseys for 2014-15 Season

The Duke Blue Devils are apparently looking for a little advice on their home jerseys for the upcoming college basketball campaign.

The team posted the picture above on Instagram of two potential home jerseys for the 2014-15 season, asking fans which they prefer.

The jerseys on the left are the ones usually used, but the right-hand jerseys were worn at home against Maryland last season.

[Instagram, h/t College Spun]

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Hornets first-round pick Vonleh out 6-8 weeks

Hornets lose first-round pick Noah Vonleh for 6-8 weeks with sports hernia

      
 

 

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