Livingston

Livingston slideshow

San Antonio Spurs' Patty Mills, right, blocks the shot of Golden State Warriors' Shaun Livingston (34) during the first half in Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series Saturday, April 14, 2018, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
San Antonio Spurs' Patty Mills, right, blocks the shot of Golden State Warriors' Shaun Livingston (34) during the first half in Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series Saturday, April 14, 2018, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
San Antonio Spurs' Patty Mills, right, blocks the shot of Golden State Warriors' Shaun Livingston (34) during the first half in Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series Saturday, April 14, 2018, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
MMD19. Oakland (United States), 14/04/2018.- San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray (R) shoots a two pointer against Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston (L) during the first half of the Western Conference first round Playoffs at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, USA, 14 April 2018. (Baloncesto, Estados Unidos) EFE/EPA/JOHN G. MABANGLO SHUTTERSTOCK OUT
MMD19. Oakland (United States), 14/04/2018.- San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray (R) shoots a two pointer against Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston (L) during the first half of the Western Conference first round Playoffs at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, USA, 14 April 2018. (Baloncesto, Estados Unidos) EFE/EPA/JOHN G. MABANGLO SHUTTERSTOCK OUT
MMD19. Oakland (United States), 14/04/2018.- San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray (R) shoots a two pointer against Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston (L) during the first half of the Western Conference first round Playoffs at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, USA, 14 April 2018. (Baloncesto, Estados Unidos) EFE/EPA/JOHN G. MABANGLO SHUTTERSTOCK OUT
FILE - In this Dec. 3, 2017, file photo, Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston (34) argues a call with referee Courtney Kirkland before he was called for a technical foul and was ejected, during an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, in Miami. This was a season that saw superstars get ejected, a referee held out of games for a week after getting too aggressive with a player and the NBA going door-to-door to remind teams to play nice. The referee-player relationship is as thorny as ever, and that's not a good thing going into the postseason. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 3, 2017, file photo, Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston (34) argues a call with referee Courtney Kirkland before he was called for a technical foul and was ejected, during an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, in Miami. This was a season that saw superstars get ejected, a referee held out of games for a week after getting too aggressive with a player and the NBA going door-to-door to remind teams to play nice. The referee-player relationship is as thorny as ever, and that's not a good thing going into the postseason. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 3, 2017, file photo, Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston (34) argues a call with referee Courtney Kirkland before he was called for a technical foul and was ejected, during an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, in Miami. This was a season that saw superstars get ejected, a referee held out of games for a week after getting too aggressive with a player and the NBA going door-to-door to remind teams to play nice. The referee-player relationship is as thorny as ever, and that's not a good thing going into the postseason. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper, File)
PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 8: Shaun Livingston #34 of the Golden State Warriors drives to the basket during the game against the Phoenix Suns on April 8, 2018 at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)
Thompson, Warriors beat Suns for 15th straight time
PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 8: Shaun Livingston #34 of the Golden State Warriors drives to the basket during the game against the Phoenix Suns on April 8, 2018 at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)
Indiana Pacers forward Trevor Booker (20) and Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston, top, go for a loose ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Thursday, April 5, 2018. The Pacers defeated the Warriors 126-106. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Indiana Pacers forward Trevor Booker (20) and Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston, top, go for a loose ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Thursday, April 5, 2018. The Pacers defeated the Warriors 126-106. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Indiana Pacers forward Trevor Booker (20) and Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston, top, go for a loose ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Thursday, April 5, 2018. The Pacers defeated the Warriors 126-106. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
<p>With March Madness underway, Front Offices are canvassing the country and setting their eyes on the draft as the NBA season draws to a close. Although the tournament is a small, unique sample size, it’s always a sort of proving ground for talent—and post-season play is often the first time a lot of high-level execs lay eyes on certain players. Although the concept of &#39;draft stock&#39; is mostly a function of who’s playing well and what rumors are swirling, every year there are players who leave a strong impression in the NCAA tourney and end up earning a better draft slot because of it. We know who the elite players are, but this is far from a finished picture.</p><p>Some key dates to remember from here, as the season wraps up and players begin to make their pro intentions known: underclassmen have until April 22 to declare for the draft, with the lottery set for May 15 and the combine from May 16–20. College players will then have until May 30 to withdraw. The draft itself is June 21—which is exactly 99 days from now. The actual first-round picture is more confusing than usual, as there’s still a ton of uncertainty in the standings. A pair of good Western Conference teams are going to miss the playoffs, and bad teams continue to reverse jockey toward favorable lottery odds. The end of the season promises to be chaotic and consequential, even when the basketball gets bad.</p><p>As always, the mock draft serves to project what the big picture looks fine within the confines of a given day’s scenario, whereas our Big Board serves as the Front Office’s own assessment of talent. Below, you’ll find all 30 picks allotted in current reverse standings order, with tiebreakers done at random.</p><h3>1. Grizzlies: Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona | Fr.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 7&#39;0&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 260 pounds | <strong>Age</strong>: 19 | <strong>Last:</strong> 1</p><p><b>Stats: </b>20.3 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 61.6% FG</p><p>Losers of 18 straight games and counting, the Grizzlies are barreling at full speed toward highly favorable draft odds. The franchise is at a bit of a crossroads, with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol still dangerous when healthy, and the latter presently unsettled. Ayton is a physical marvel and the best prospect in the draft, and he just made a statement with two jaw-dropping games to finish off the Pac-12 tournament. In theory, Memphis could play him next to Gasol next season and deploy a high-low centric attack. His defense needs work, but is far from a deal-breaker. Playing alongside elite passers for the first time should unlock even more of Ayton’s potential, and with his fast-developing offensive skills, the sky is the limit.</p><h3>2. Suns: Luka Doncic, G, Real Madrid</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;8&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 220 | <strong>Age</strong>: 19 | <strong>Last:</strong> 2</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>15.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.4 APG (24.7 MPG)</p><p>The Suns are in dire need of both a lead ball-handler and a center, and Doncic is a nice fit alongside Devin Booker on the perimeter and a more NBA-ready choice than any of the bigs available here. Doncic is currently dealing with a thigh injury in Spain, but his talent is no secret and he’d be able to take over a large chunk of the offense right away. His greatest strength is his on-court intelligence, and while he may not evolve into a dominant scorer, Doncic could be the glue necessary to bring together the Suns’ young pieces. Playing off of Booker, who will happily shoulder more of the shots, helps lessen the pressure and allows him to do what he does best: make reads and make teammates better.</p><h3>3. Hawks: Jaren Jackson Jr., C, Michigan State | Fr.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;11&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 240 | <strong>Age</strong>: 18 | <strong>Last: </strong>7</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>11.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.8 blocks</p><p>The Hawks aren’t tied down to much of anything on their roster beyond John Collins, and are in search of a foundational player. Jackson Jr.’s ability to space the floor and protect the rim makes for an ideal fit, and would give them a great interior duo. He’s really helped himself over the course of the season, flashing a greater offensive skill level than expected and making a tangible defensive impact, able to guard in space and provide weak-side help. His 5.7 blocks per-40 minutes are a wild statistic. Jackson needs to mature physically and mentally and is probably a few years away from being able to anchor a winning team, but Atlanta has time to let him grow. He’s probably not leapfrogging Ayton or Doncic, but the No. 3 spot is within reach.</p><h3>4. Magic: Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas | Fr.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 7&#39;0&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 225 | <strong>Age</strong>: 19 | <strong>Last: </strong>3</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>12.9 PPG, 10.4 RPB, 3.7 BPG</p><p>Expect the Magic to lean toward long-term upside and projection wherever they select. There’s no question that Bamba has insane defensive potential with his length and mobility. His 7’9” wingspan and 9’6” standing reach are true rarities, and given his overall aptitude, he’s a good bet to become a legitimate menace as he develops. Bamba’s offense is a riskier bet, but he may only need to be a DeAndre Jordan-type lob threat to be immensely valuable. He has shown potential shooting jumpers and is more skilled than he’s been able to show at Texas. The chief concerns from NBA teams center on Bamba’s motor and how badly he wants to compete. He’s been banged up with a toe injury, but the NCAA tournament gives him a nice platform to show he’s locked in.</p><h3>5. Kings: Marvin Bagley III, F/C, Duke | Fr.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;10&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 235 | <strong>Age</strong>: 19 | <strong>Last: </strong>4</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>21.1 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 60.5% FG</p><p>Although the Kings have a number of bigs on the roster, it shouldn’t preclude them from selecting the best player available. At this point in the draft, it’s Bagley. The current limitations of his game have been evident, but his athleticism, offensive potential and high-energy rebounding still give him a good amount of upside. His defensive struggles have led Duke to play a lot of zone, and his interior play can be predictable, but at some point there’s no sense looking past his insane production. Bagley’s best NBA position is probably going to be power forward, but he will need to keep improving as a jump shooter to maximize his talent. He’s still a very good prospect, and deserves some patience.</p><h3>6. Cavaliers*: Wendell Carter Jr., C, Duke | Fr.</h3><p><em>(Note: Cleveland owns Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick.)</em></p><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;10&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 260 | <strong>Age</strong>: 19 | <b>Last: </b>8</p><p><strong>Stats</strong>: 13.8 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.2 BPG</p><p>Whether or not LeBron leaves, Carter’s blend of offensive skill and rim protection gives the Cavs a desirable piece to build around. He has solidified himself as a Top 10 pick among scouts with an impressively consistent freshman year, despite a sometimes-awkward fit next to Marvin Bagley. His game has no major weakness beyond a lack of quick vertical lift, and he should be able to extend his shooting range to the perimeter, where his passing ability and feel will stand out even more. He’s a terrific rebounder and has a good sense of defensive positioning, as well. Carter is a safe bet to have a long, useful career, and there’s a sense that on a different college team, his talent would pop even more.</p><h3>7. Mavericks: Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri | Fr.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;10&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 215 | <strong>Age</strong>: 19 | <strong>Last:</strong> 5</p><p><strong>Stats</strong>: 15.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.4 APG (2016 U18 FIBA Americas)</p><p>After hitting on Dennis Smith last year, Dallas will be well-positioned to complement him here. Gambling on Porter’s health and scoring ability could be a meaningful risk/reward move. He returned to game action last week in a surprise return from early-season back surgery, and while he didn’t look especially mobile, it’s difficult to properly assess his long-term situation until teams get their hands on his medicals. His size, shooting ability and polished offensive game should keep him pretty safely among the draft’s early selections, but there have always been questions about his ability to make others better as well as his defensive fit. NBA teams will be watching him closely in the NCAA tournament.</p><h3>8. Bulls: Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova | Jr.</h3><p><strong>Height: </strong>6&#39;7&quot; | <strong>Weight: </strong>210 | <strong>Age: </strong>21 | Last: 10</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>18.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 43% 3FG</p><p>A defensive-minded wing like Bridges is a perfect fit with Chicago’s young pieces, and with his wealth of college experience, he should be able to help right away. He’s viewed as a safe pick, with his crude-but-improving ability to create his own shot the biggest knock on his game. His ability to space the floor and guard multiple positions makes him an easy theoretical fit in any lineup. If Villanova makes a deep tournament run, he can help himself further.</p><h3>9. Knicks: Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma | Fr.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;2&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 180 | <strong>Age</strong>: 19 | <strong>Last: </strong>6</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>27.4 PPG, 8.8 APG, 36.1% 3FG</p><p>The Knicks have been experimenting with Frank Ntilikina playing at the two, and Young could be a nice fit alongside him. Though his star has dimmed a bit with his late-season struggles, he’s still a fascinating talent and in the right situation could pace a team with his shooting and playmaking. In New York he can take on a shot-creation role while also spacing the floor, and play to his strengths with less strenuous usage. The pressure, however, would be immense.</p><h3>10. Hornets: Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky | Fr.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;9&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 215 | <strong>Age</strong>: 18 | <strong>Last: </strong>9</p><p><strong>Stats:</strong> 15.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 35.4% 3FG</p><p>Until Charlotte hires a new GM, it’s tough to really chart their draft course, but a malleable talent like Knox, who’s still learning the game, would be a useful building block for the long run. He had an up-and-down season, but his scoring touch, three-point shooting potential and physical tools give you a lot to work with. Knox may not be a star, but he’s far from a defined product and should be able to play both forward spots.</p><h3>11. Clippers*: Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama | Fr.</h3><p>(<em>Note: Los Angeles owns Detroit’s top-four protected first-round pick.)</em></p><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;2&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 190 | <strong>Age</strong>: 19 | <strong>Last</strong>: 13</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>19.0 PPG, 3.5 APG, 34.4% 3FG</p><p>A pair of big games in the SEC tournament has given Sexton’s reputation a late-season jolt, and while Trae Young’s season has dovetailed, his case to be the first guard drafted has gotten stronger. They’re very different players: Sexton is a gifted downhill scorer who is tough to stop at the college level when he’s locked in, and despite just 28 steals in 924 minutes this season, has the ability to become an useful defender when he wants to be. There is some concern about the selfish nature of his game and whether he makes teammates better. The Clippers have a glut of ball-handlers to make decisions on, but at this point in the draft, Sexton would be the best piece available.</p><h3>12. 76ers*: Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State | So.</h3><p><em>(Note: Philadelphia owns the Lakers’ first-round pick unless it falls between Nos. 2–5, in which case it conveys to Boston.)</em></p><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;7&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 225 | <strong>Age</strong>: 19 | <b>Last: </b>12</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>16.9 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 36.9% 3FG</p><p>Identifying prospects who can thrive playing off of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons is an interesting task, and while Bridges’ game is a bit of a weird fit in general, Philly would be a potentially ideal destination. His ability to sprint the floor and knock down set shots makes him a great fit alongside Simmons, and the Sixers have been unafraid to trot out tall, weird combinations. The big question is whether Bridges will embrace the likely glue-guy role an NBA team will ask of him. If he steps up his defensive effort, and remains a consistent shooter, he’s so athletic that it can work.</p><h3>13. Nuggets: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;6&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 180 | <strong>Age</strong>: 19 | <strong>Last</strong>: 18</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>13.9 PPG, 5.0 APG, 1.6 SPG</p><p>Denver could use a well-rounded playmaker to enable Jamal Murray to spend more time running off screens. Gilgeous-Alexander has become Kentucky’s best player and potentially its best prospect, emerging as a dark horse to be the best long-term point guard in this crop if he lands in a good situation. He was fantastic during the Wildcats’ SEC tournament run and is pushing the envelope for late-lottery consideration. He’s a crafty finisher and improving shooter, and his size, length and instincts are all appealing.</p><h3>14. Jazz: Lonnie Walker, SG, Miami | Fr.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;4&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 190 | <strong>Age</strong>: 19 | <strong>Last: </strong>11</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>11.5 PPG, 2.0 APG, 34.6% 3FG</p><p>The Jazz are building around Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles and could address a few different needs in this range. Walker could be a good fit next to Mitchell as he improves his jump shot and learns to play off the ball. They’d have a hyper-athletic young backcourt. Walker is a talented but inexperienced slasher who has substantial upside, but a long way to go. He can bully his way to the basket and elevate for difficult finishes, but doesn’t have a great feel for picking his spots or finding teammates. He needs to become more consistent and commit further to playing defense.</p><h3>15. Suns*: Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas | Fr.</h3><p><em>(Note: Phoenix owns Miami’s top-seven protected first-round pick.)</em></p><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;11&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 235 | <strong>Age</strong>: 19 | <strong>Last:</strong> 19</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>11.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.1 BPG</p><p>A powerful dunker off two feet with good timing as a shot-blocker, Gafford played himself into the first round picture this season and would be a nice fit here, as Phoenix has a need for a rim protector. Gafford runs the floor hard and finishes lobs well, and his lack of developed offensive skills are less of an issue given the passers they could put around him (with Doncic in the fold in this scenario). He’s a work in progress but comes with definite upside.</p><h3>16. Suns*: Troy Brown, G/F, Oregon | Fr.</h3><p><em>(Note: Phoenix owns Milwaukee’s first-round pick if it falls from 11–16.)</em></p><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;7&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 215 | <strong>Age</strong>: 18 | <strong>Last:</strong> 15</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>11.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.6 SPG</p><p>If the Bucks’ first-rounder ends up conveying, as it does in this scenario, Phoenix will likely draft three times in the first 20 selections. Brown has the talent and athletic ability to be a useful utility-style wing, able to handle the ball, find open teammates and also defend multiple positions. He disappointed as a three-point shooter this season, and will have to display improvement in workouts. His ability and feel for creating his own shot has wavered, and he can drift in and out of games, but Brown’s well-rounded game puts him firmly in the middle of the first round.</p><h3>17. 76ers: Chandler Hutchison, G/F, Boise State| Sr.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;7&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 200 | <strong>Age</strong>: 21 | <strong>Last: </strong>16</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>19.3 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 3.5 APG</p><p>Hutchison had a prolific season at Boise State and won’t have to handle that heavy an offensive load in the NBA. He’s got a good build, rebounds and passes well and could potentially even spend time as a small-ball four. The question is how well he’ll shoot from deep (35.2% this season). Hutchison isn’t a creative scorer, but he’s a good cutter without the ball and should offer a level of role versatility. He would make Philly’s lineups even more versatile and athletic.</p><h3>18. Spurs: Robert Williams, C, Texas A&#38;M | So.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;9&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 240 | <strong>Age</strong>: 20 | <strong>Last</strong>: 14</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>10.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 2.6 BPG</p><p>San Antonio could miss the playoffs and is stumbling toward the mid first-round, where they should be able to find some useful talent. Williams is a gifted athlete who plays above the rim with little effort, and when he’s playing hard, he’s a load for opponents on the glass and as a finisher. The issue is that he’s never done it consistently, which teams view as a risk factor. The team fit wasn’t ideal at Texas A&#38;M, but he didn’t do much for himself by returning to school and remains in the late lottery mix at this stage. In the right role, he could be a terrific contributor. The Spurs’ winning culture could bring the best out of him, and his upside here is more than worth it.</p><h3>19. Clippers: Dzanan Musa, SF, KK Cedevita</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;9&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 185 | <strong>Age</strong>: 18 | <b>Last: </b>17</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>12.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 48% FG (22.1 MPG)</p><p>Musa provides some shooting and slashing ability and is a legit perimeter threat at 6’9”. As one of the younger players available, he’s put together a good résumé overseas. He’s extremely skilled offensively and known as an intense competitor, and scouts say he is highly motivated to make the NBA. The Clippers need talent on the wing and need to get younger, and he checks both boxes.</p><h3>20. Wizards: Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA | Jr.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;1&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 185 | <strong>Age</strong>: 21 | <strong>Last</strong>: N/A</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>20.3 PPG, 5.8 APG, 43% 3FG</p><p>Finding useful backcourt depth behind John Wall and Bradley Beal has been a bit of a challenge for the Wizards, and they should end up in a good draft range to address that need. Holiday’s stock skyrocketed this season as he set himself apart from other veteran college point guards with his precise distance shooting, poise and ability to use high ball screens. His issues getting downhill off the dribble likely cap his upside, but he’s tough, defends and adds scoring punch. He had a bit of a meltdown at the end of a First Four loss to St. Bonaventure.</p><h3>21. Lakers*: Mitchell Robinson, C, Chalmette (LA) HS</h3><p><em>(Note: Los Angeles owns Cleveland’s top-three protected first-round pick.)</em></p><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;11&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 230 | <strong>Age</strong>: 19 | <strong>Last</strong>: 22</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>25.7 PPG, 12.6 RPG, 6.0 BPG (2016–17 HS stats)</p><p>The Lakers have cleared the deck to pursue top free agents this summer, and acquiring this pick from the Cavs at the deadline was somewhat of a coup. They can angle for a future contributor in this spot, and will be in need of frontcourt help given the likelihood of Brook Lopez’s departure. Once Robinson gets into team workouts we’ll have a much better read on his situation, but he’s highly athletic and physically jumps off the page with a 7’3” wingspan. There have been questions about his feel for the game in the past, and taking a season off didn’t help. His draft range is wide, but his tools are clearly first-round caliber based on projectability.</p><h3>22. Bulls*: Jontay Porter, F/C, Missouri | Fr.</h3><p><em>(Note: Chicago owns New Orleans’s top-five protected first-round pick.)</em></p><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;11&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 240 | <strong>Age</strong>: 18 | <strong>Last: </strong>26</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>10.1 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 37% 3FG</p><p>The Bulls are set to pick twice in the first round after acquiring this pick from the Pelicans in the Nikola Mirotic deal. While Porter doesn’t jump off the page as an athlete, he’s an outstanding, skilled player who’s exceeded all expectations after reclassifying to play at Missouri. He‘ll likely be the youngest player in this draft, and his ability to space the floor, pass the ball, rebound and block shots is extremely appealing. As he matures physically, he could be an ideal fit next to Lauri Markkanen.</p><h3>23. Hawks*: Anfernee Simons, G, IMG Academy | HS Sr.</h3><p><em>(Note: Atlanta owns Minnesota’s lottery-protected first-round pick.)</em></p><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;3&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 180 | <strong>Age</strong>: 18 | <strong>Last</strong>: 20</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>15.3 PPG, 41.4% 3FG (2017 UnderArmour Association)</p><p>Teams will have additional opportunities to evaluate Simons in April as he’s set to appear in the Hoop Summit and Jordan Brand Classic before presumably testing the draft waters. He’s got a lot of intriguing traits, with high-level explosiveness, great foot speed and developing three-point range. Simons may not be a true point guard, but should be able to handle some level of ball-handling duties in time.He’s full of potential as a scorer, but untested and a long-term project. The Hawks can afford to let it play out.</p><h3>24. Timberwolves*: Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton | Jr.</h3><p><em>(Note: Minnesota owns Oklahoma City’s lottery-protected first-round pick.)</em></p><p><strong>Height: </strong>6&#39;3&quot; | <strong>Weight:</strong> 210 | <strong>Age</strong>: 21 | <strong>Last: </strong>27</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>15.3 PPG, 41.9% 3FG, 1.7 SPG</p><p>Thomas has been solid for Creighton and emerged as one of the better on-ball defenders in college basketball, while also hitting threes at a strong clip. He’s athletic but not a creative scorer, which limits his overall upside. He can focus on his strengths in Minnesota, where he could be a useful glue guy and floor-spacer next to the Wolves’ wealth of high-end talent. He’s a good fit for Tom Thibodeau.</p><h3>25. Pacers: Jerome Robinson, G, Boston College | Jr.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;4&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 190 | <strong>Age</strong>: 21 | <strong>Last: </strong>N/A</p><p><strong>Stats</strong>: 20.4 PPG, 3.4 APG, 41.9% 3FG</p><p>There’s a sense around the league that Robinson has played his way into the late first round: he was the ACC’s top scoring guard, creates well off the dribble and can put the ball in the basket from all three levels. He plays with a unique change of speeds off the bounce, and solidified himself as a legitimate prospect with a breakout year. His intangibles and ability to play on and off the ball are appealing. The Pacers still need a lead ball-handler long term, and Robinson would look good taking turns with Victor Oladipo.</p><h3>26. Trail Blazers: Bruce Brown, G, Miami | So.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;5&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 190 | <strong>Age</strong>: 21 | <strong>Last: </strong>21</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>11.4 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 4.0 APG</p><p>It was a lost season for Brown, who continues to recover from foot surgery and likely won’t play in the NCAA tournament. He hasn’t made the requisite type of strides you’d like to see from a 21-year-old sophomore, regressing as a shooter (26.7% from deep) and profiling more as a combo guard than a point. Still, his gritty defense and athleticism are strong points. The Blazers could use a defensive-minded guard to add to their rotation, and Brown’s size and athleticism are still intriguing from an NBA perspective.</p><h3>27. Celtics: Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland | Fr.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;10&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 245 | <strong>Age</strong>: 19 | <strong>Last</strong>: N/A</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>10.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.2 BPG</p><p>Scouts at the Big Ten tournament were enamored with Fernando’s tools (he’s ready to compete physically and has a 7’4” wingspan), and while it’s unclear if he’s coming out this year, he’ll have a chance to go in the late first round. Unusually mobile and strong and with a higher skill level than he displayed this season, the Angola native will be in good position if he tests the waters (his per-40 averages are eye-popping). Physical two-way rim-runners are in demand, and with Aron Baynes set to be a free agent, the Celtics could find a replacement on the cheap here.</p><h3>28. Nets*: Rawle Alkins, G/F, Arizona | So.</h3><p><em>(Note: Brooklyn owns Toronto’s lottery-protected 2018 first-round pick.)</em></p><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;5&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 220 | <strong>Age</strong>: 20 | <strong>Last</strong>: 24</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>13.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 36.7% 3FG</p><p>A key part of Arizona’s Final Four hopes, Alkins has scoring upside thanks to his strong build and explosive leaping ability. He plays hard and a bit bigger than his size, and shoots the ball well from outside, though he can be streaky. An early-season foot injury led to a bit of a stunted start to the season, but Alkins drew late first-round interest in last year’s class and will have a chance to solidify his status in workouts. The Nets could use a tough wing player like him to complement their ball-dominant guards.</p><h3>29. Warriors: Shake Milton, G, SMU | Jr.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;6&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 205 | <strong>Age</strong>: 21 | <strong>Last</strong>: 23</p><p><strong>Stats:</strong> 18.0 PPG, 4.4 APG, 43.4% 3FG</p><p>The Warriors might be priced out of retaining Pat McCaw in restricted free agency, and this is a spot where they should be able to bolster their backourt. Milton’s size, shooting and playmaking ability make a lot of sense with their scheme, and he’d look much better in a situation where he’s not forced to carry an offense. He could be the eventual replacement for Shaun Livingston here. Milton missed the second half of the season with a hand injury, but should be on course to return for pre-draft workouts.</p><h3>30. Hawks*: Devonte’ Graham, PG, Kansas | Sr.</h3><p><em>(Note: Atlanta owns Houston’s top-three protected first-round pick.)</em></p><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;2&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 185 | <strong>Age</strong>: 23 | <strong>Last</strong>: N/A</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>?17.3 PPG, 7.5 APG, 41.2% 3FG</p><p>The Hawks will pick three times in the first round and can really replenish their talent with a good draft. Graham is viewed as a safe bet to be a useful ball-handler, though not a star. His production was consistent at Kansas, although he shot just 39.2% on two-point shots and struggles to finish at the rim sometimes. As Atlanta rebuilds (and with Dennis Schröder’s future unclear), adding a steadying presence to the backcourt makes sense.</p><p>.text { line-height: 40px!important; vertical-align: middle!important; } .logo { vertical-align: bottom!important; height: 50px; width: 50px; }</p>
2018 NBA Mock Draft 5.0: Who Will Leave a Strong Impression in the NCAA Tournament?

With March Madness underway, Front Offices are canvassing the country and setting their eyes on the draft as the NBA season draws to a close. Although the tournament is a small, unique sample size, it’s always a sort of proving ground for talent—and post-season play is often the first time a lot of high-level execs lay eyes on certain players. Although the concept of 'draft stock' is mostly a function of who’s playing well and what rumors are swirling, every year there are players who leave a strong impression in the NCAA tourney and end up earning a better draft slot because of it. We know who the elite players are, but this is far from a finished picture.

Some key dates to remember from here, as the season wraps up and players begin to make their pro intentions known: underclassmen have until April 22 to declare for the draft, with the lottery set for May 15 and the combine from May 16–20. College players will then have until May 30 to withdraw. The draft itself is June 21—which is exactly 99 days from now. The actual first-round picture is more confusing than usual, as there’s still a ton of uncertainty in the standings. A pair of good Western Conference teams are going to miss the playoffs, and bad teams continue to reverse jockey toward favorable lottery odds. The end of the season promises to be chaotic and consequential, even when the basketball gets bad.

As always, the mock draft serves to project what the big picture looks fine within the confines of a given day’s scenario, whereas our Big Board serves as the Front Office’s own assessment of talent. Below, you’ll find all 30 picks allotted in current reverse standings order, with tiebreakers done at random.

1. Grizzlies: Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona | Fr.

Height: 7'0" | Weight: 260 pounds | Age: 19 | Last: 1

Stats: 20.3 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 61.6% FG

Losers of 18 straight games and counting, the Grizzlies are barreling at full speed toward highly favorable draft odds. The franchise is at a bit of a crossroads, with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol still dangerous when healthy, and the latter presently unsettled. Ayton is a physical marvel and the best prospect in the draft, and he just made a statement with two jaw-dropping games to finish off the Pac-12 tournament. In theory, Memphis could play him next to Gasol next season and deploy a high-low centric attack. His defense needs work, but is far from a deal-breaker. Playing alongside elite passers for the first time should unlock even more of Ayton’s potential, and with his fast-developing offensive skills, the sky is the limit.

2. Suns: Luka Doncic, G, Real Madrid

Height: 6'8" | Weight: 220 | Age: 19 | Last: 2

Stats: 15.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.4 APG (24.7 MPG)

The Suns are in dire need of both a lead ball-handler and a center, and Doncic is a nice fit alongside Devin Booker on the perimeter and a more NBA-ready choice than any of the bigs available here. Doncic is currently dealing with a thigh injury in Spain, but his talent is no secret and he’d be able to take over a large chunk of the offense right away. His greatest strength is his on-court intelligence, and while he may not evolve into a dominant scorer, Doncic could be the glue necessary to bring together the Suns’ young pieces. Playing off of Booker, who will happily shoulder more of the shots, helps lessen the pressure and allows him to do what he does best: make reads and make teammates better.

3. Hawks: Jaren Jackson Jr., C, Michigan State | Fr.

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 240 | Age: 18 | Last: 7

Stats: 11.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.8 blocks

The Hawks aren’t tied down to much of anything on their roster beyond John Collins, and are in search of a foundational player. Jackson Jr.’s ability to space the floor and protect the rim makes for an ideal fit, and would give them a great interior duo. He’s really helped himself over the course of the season, flashing a greater offensive skill level than expected and making a tangible defensive impact, able to guard in space and provide weak-side help. His 5.7 blocks per-40 minutes are a wild statistic. Jackson needs to mature physically and mentally and is probably a few years away from being able to anchor a winning team, but Atlanta has time to let him grow. He’s probably not leapfrogging Ayton or Doncic, but the No. 3 spot is within reach.

4. Magic: Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas | Fr.

Height: 7'0" | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 3

Stats: 12.9 PPG, 10.4 RPB, 3.7 BPG

Expect the Magic to lean toward long-term upside and projection wherever they select. There’s no question that Bamba has insane defensive potential with his length and mobility. His 7’9” wingspan and 9’6” standing reach are true rarities, and given his overall aptitude, he’s a good bet to become a legitimate menace as he develops. Bamba’s offense is a riskier bet, but he may only need to be a DeAndre Jordan-type lob threat to be immensely valuable. He has shown potential shooting jumpers and is more skilled than he’s been able to show at Texas. The chief concerns from NBA teams center on Bamba’s motor and how badly he wants to compete. He’s been banged up with a toe injury, but the NCAA tournament gives him a nice platform to show he’s locked in.

5. Kings: Marvin Bagley III, F/C, Duke | Fr.

Height: 6'10" | Weight: 235 | Age: 19 | Last: 4

Stats: 21.1 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 60.5% FG

Although the Kings have a number of bigs on the roster, it shouldn’t preclude them from selecting the best player available. At this point in the draft, it’s Bagley. The current limitations of his game have been evident, but his athleticism, offensive potential and high-energy rebounding still give him a good amount of upside. His defensive struggles have led Duke to play a lot of zone, and his interior play can be predictable, but at some point there’s no sense looking past his insane production. Bagley’s best NBA position is probably going to be power forward, but he will need to keep improving as a jump shooter to maximize his talent. He’s still a very good prospect, and deserves some patience.

6. Cavaliers*: Wendell Carter Jr., C, Duke | Fr.

(Note: Cleveland owns Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick.)

Height: 6'10" | Weight: 260 | Age: 19 | Last: 8

Stats: 13.8 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.2 BPG

Whether or not LeBron leaves, Carter’s blend of offensive skill and rim protection gives the Cavs a desirable piece to build around. He has solidified himself as a Top 10 pick among scouts with an impressively consistent freshman year, despite a sometimes-awkward fit next to Marvin Bagley. His game has no major weakness beyond a lack of quick vertical lift, and he should be able to extend his shooting range to the perimeter, where his passing ability and feel will stand out even more. He’s a terrific rebounder and has a good sense of defensive positioning, as well. Carter is a safe bet to have a long, useful career, and there’s a sense that on a different college team, his talent would pop even more.

7. Mavericks: Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri | Fr.

Height: 6'10" | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Last: 5

Stats: 15.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.4 APG (2016 U18 FIBA Americas)

After hitting on Dennis Smith last year, Dallas will be well-positioned to complement him here. Gambling on Porter’s health and scoring ability could be a meaningful risk/reward move. He returned to game action last week in a surprise return from early-season back surgery, and while he didn’t look especially mobile, it’s difficult to properly assess his long-term situation until teams get their hands on his medicals. His size, shooting ability and polished offensive game should keep him pretty safely among the draft’s early selections, but there have always been questions about his ability to make others better as well as his defensive fit. NBA teams will be watching him closely in the NCAA tournament.

8. Bulls: Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova | Jr.

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: 10

Stats: 18.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 43% 3FG

A defensive-minded wing like Bridges is a perfect fit with Chicago’s young pieces, and with his wealth of college experience, he should be able to help right away. He’s viewed as a safe pick, with his crude-but-improving ability to create his own shot the biggest knock on his game. His ability to space the floor and guard multiple positions makes him an easy theoretical fit in any lineup. If Villanova makes a deep tournament run, he can help himself further.

9. Knicks: Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma | Fr.

Height: 6'2" | Weight: 180 | Age: 19 | Last: 6

Stats: 27.4 PPG, 8.8 APG, 36.1% 3FG

The Knicks have been experimenting with Frank Ntilikina playing at the two, and Young could be a nice fit alongside him. Though his star has dimmed a bit with his late-season struggles, he’s still a fascinating talent and in the right situation could pace a team with his shooting and playmaking. In New York he can take on a shot-creation role while also spacing the floor, and play to his strengths with less strenuous usage. The pressure, however, would be immense.

10. Hornets: Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky | Fr.

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 9

Stats: 15.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 35.4% 3FG

Until Charlotte hires a new GM, it’s tough to really chart their draft course, but a malleable talent like Knox, who’s still learning the game, would be a useful building block for the long run. He had an up-and-down season, but his scoring touch, three-point shooting potential and physical tools give you a lot to work with. Knox may not be a star, but he’s far from a defined product and should be able to play both forward spots.

11. Clippers*: Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama | Fr.

(Note: Los Angeles owns Detroit’s top-four protected first-round pick.)

Height: 6'2" | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 13

Stats: 19.0 PPG, 3.5 APG, 34.4% 3FG

A pair of big games in the SEC tournament has given Sexton’s reputation a late-season jolt, and while Trae Young’s season has dovetailed, his case to be the first guard drafted has gotten stronger. They’re very different players: Sexton is a gifted downhill scorer who is tough to stop at the college level when he’s locked in, and despite just 28 steals in 924 minutes this season, has the ability to become an useful defender when he wants to be. There is some concern about the selfish nature of his game and whether he makes teammates better. The Clippers have a glut of ball-handlers to make decisions on, but at this point in the draft, Sexton would be the best piece available.

12. 76ers*: Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State | So.

(Note: Philadelphia owns the Lakers’ first-round pick unless it falls between Nos. 2–5, in which case it conveys to Boston.)

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 12

Stats: 16.9 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 36.9% 3FG

Identifying prospects who can thrive playing off of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons is an interesting task, and while Bridges’ game is a bit of a weird fit in general, Philly would be a potentially ideal destination. His ability to sprint the floor and knock down set shots makes him a great fit alongside Simmons, and the Sixers have been unafraid to trot out tall, weird combinations. The big question is whether Bridges will embrace the likely glue-guy role an NBA team will ask of him. If he steps up his defensive effort, and remains a consistent shooter, he’s so athletic that it can work.

13. Nuggets: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

Height: 6'6" | Weight: 180 | Age: 19 | Last: 18

Stats: 13.9 PPG, 5.0 APG, 1.6 SPG

Denver could use a well-rounded playmaker to enable Jamal Murray to spend more time running off screens. Gilgeous-Alexander has become Kentucky’s best player and potentially its best prospect, emerging as a dark horse to be the best long-term point guard in this crop if he lands in a good situation. He was fantastic during the Wildcats’ SEC tournament run and is pushing the envelope for late-lottery consideration. He’s a crafty finisher and improving shooter, and his size, length and instincts are all appealing.

14. Jazz: Lonnie Walker, SG, Miami | Fr.

Height: 6'4" | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 11

Stats: 11.5 PPG, 2.0 APG, 34.6% 3FG

The Jazz are building around Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles and could address a few different needs in this range. Walker could be a good fit next to Mitchell as he improves his jump shot and learns to play off the ball. They’d have a hyper-athletic young backcourt. Walker is a talented but inexperienced slasher who has substantial upside, but a long way to go. He can bully his way to the basket and elevate for difficult finishes, but doesn’t have a great feel for picking his spots or finding teammates. He needs to become more consistent and commit further to playing defense.

15. Suns*: Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas | Fr.

(Note: Phoenix owns Miami’s top-seven protected first-round pick.)

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 235 | Age: 19 | Last: 19

Stats: 11.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.1 BPG

A powerful dunker off two feet with good timing as a shot-blocker, Gafford played himself into the first round picture this season and would be a nice fit here, as Phoenix has a need for a rim protector. Gafford runs the floor hard and finishes lobs well, and his lack of developed offensive skills are less of an issue given the passers they could put around him (with Doncic in the fold in this scenario). He’s a work in progress but comes with definite upside.

16. Suns*: Troy Brown, G/F, Oregon | Fr.

(Note: Phoenix owns Milwaukee’s first-round pick if it falls from 11–16.)

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 15

Stats: 11.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.6 SPG

If the Bucks’ first-rounder ends up conveying, as it does in this scenario, Phoenix will likely draft three times in the first 20 selections. Brown has the talent and athletic ability to be a useful utility-style wing, able to handle the ball, find open teammates and also defend multiple positions. He disappointed as a three-point shooter this season, and will have to display improvement in workouts. His ability and feel for creating his own shot has wavered, and he can drift in and out of games, but Brown’s well-rounded game puts him firmly in the middle of the first round.

17. 76ers: Chandler Hutchison, G/F, Boise State| Sr.

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 200 | Age: 21 | Last: 16

Stats: 19.3 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 3.5 APG

Hutchison had a prolific season at Boise State and won’t have to handle that heavy an offensive load in the NBA. He’s got a good build, rebounds and passes well and could potentially even spend time as a small-ball four. The question is how well he’ll shoot from deep (35.2% this season). Hutchison isn’t a creative scorer, but he’s a good cutter without the ball and should offer a level of role versatility. He would make Philly’s lineups even more versatile and athletic.

18. Spurs: Robert Williams, C, Texas A&M | So.

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 240 | Age: 20 | Last: 14

Stats: 10.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 2.6 BPG

San Antonio could miss the playoffs and is stumbling toward the mid first-round, where they should be able to find some useful talent. Williams is a gifted athlete who plays above the rim with little effort, and when he’s playing hard, he’s a load for opponents on the glass and as a finisher. The issue is that he’s never done it consistently, which teams view as a risk factor. The team fit wasn’t ideal at Texas A&M, but he didn’t do much for himself by returning to school and remains in the late lottery mix at this stage. In the right role, he could be a terrific contributor. The Spurs’ winning culture could bring the best out of him, and his upside here is more than worth it.

19. Clippers: Dzanan Musa, SF, KK Cedevita

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 185 | Age: 18 | Last: 17

Stats: 12.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 48% FG (22.1 MPG)

Musa provides some shooting and slashing ability and is a legit perimeter threat at 6’9”. As one of the younger players available, he’s put together a good résumé overseas. He’s extremely skilled offensively and known as an intense competitor, and scouts say he is highly motivated to make the NBA. The Clippers need talent on the wing and need to get younger, and he checks both boxes.

20. Wizards: Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA | Jr.

Height: 6'1" | Weight: 185 | Age: 21 | Last: N/A

Stats: 20.3 PPG, 5.8 APG, 43% 3FG

Finding useful backcourt depth behind John Wall and Bradley Beal has been a bit of a challenge for the Wizards, and they should end up in a good draft range to address that need. Holiday’s stock skyrocketed this season as he set himself apart from other veteran college point guards with his precise distance shooting, poise and ability to use high ball screens. His issues getting downhill off the dribble likely cap his upside, but he’s tough, defends and adds scoring punch. He had a bit of a meltdown at the end of a First Four loss to St. Bonaventure.

21. Lakers*: Mitchell Robinson, C, Chalmette (LA) HS

(Note: Los Angeles owns Cleveland’s top-three protected first-round pick.)

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 230 | Age: 19 | Last: 22

Stats: 25.7 PPG, 12.6 RPG, 6.0 BPG (2016–17 HS stats)

The Lakers have cleared the deck to pursue top free agents this summer, and acquiring this pick from the Cavs at the deadline was somewhat of a coup. They can angle for a future contributor in this spot, and will be in need of frontcourt help given the likelihood of Brook Lopez’s departure. Once Robinson gets into team workouts we’ll have a much better read on his situation, but he’s highly athletic and physically jumps off the page with a 7’3” wingspan. There have been questions about his feel for the game in the past, and taking a season off didn’t help. His draft range is wide, but his tools are clearly first-round caliber based on projectability.

22. Bulls*: Jontay Porter, F/C, Missouri | Fr.

(Note: Chicago owns New Orleans’s top-five protected first-round pick.)

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 240 | Age: 18 | Last: 26

Stats: 10.1 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 37% 3FG

The Bulls are set to pick twice in the first round after acquiring this pick from the Pelicans in the Nikola Mirotic deal. While Porter doesn’t jump off the page as an athlete, he’s an outstanding, skilled player who’s exceeded all expectations after reclassifying to play at Missouri. He‘ll likely be the youngest player in this draft, and his ability to space the floor, pass the ball, rebound and block shots is extremely appealing. As he matures physically, he could be an ideal fit next to Lauri Markkanen.

23. Hawks*: Anfernee Simons, G, IMG Academy | HS Sr.

(Note: Atlanta owns Minnesota’s lottery-protected first-round pick.)

Height: 6'3" | Weight: 180 | Age: 18 | Last: 20

Stats: 15.3 PPG, 41.4% 3FG (2017 UnderArmour Association)

Teams will have additional opportunities to evaluate Simons in April as he’s set to appear in the Hoop Summit and Jordan Brand Classic before presumably testing the draft waters. He’s got a lot of intriguing traits, with high-level explosiveness, great foot speed and developing three-point range. Simons may not be a true point guard, but should be able to handle some level of ball-handling duties in time.He’s full of potential as a scorer, but untested and a long-term project. The Hawks can afford to let it play out.

24. Timberwolves*: Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton | Jr.

(Note: Minnesota owns Oklahoma City’s lottery-protected first-round pick.)

Height: 6'3" | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: 27

Stats: 15.3 PPG, 41.9% 3FG, 1.7 SPG

Thomas has been solid for Creighton and emerged as one of the better on-ball defenders in college basketball, while also hitting threes at a strong clip. He’s athletic but not a creative scorer, which limits his overall upside. He can focus on his strengths in Minnesota, where he could be a useful glue guy and floor-spacer next to the Wolves’ wealth of high-end talent. He’s a good fit for Tom Thibodeau.

25. Pacers: Jerome Robinson, G, Boston College | Jr.

Height: 6'4" | Weight: 190 | Age: 21 | Last: N/A

Stats: 20.4 PPG, 3.4 APG, 41.9% 3FG

There’s a sense around the league that Robinson has played his way into the late first round: he was the ACC’s top scoring guard, creates well off the dribble and can put the ball in the basket from all three levels. He plays with a unique change of speeds off the bounce, and solidified himself as a legitimate prospect with a breakout year. His intangibles and ability to play on and off the ball are appealing. The Pacers still need a lead ball-handler long term, and Robinson would look good taking turns with Victor Oladipo.

26. Trail Blazers: Bruce Brown, G, Miami | So.

Height: 6'5" | Weight: 190 | Age: 21 | Last: 21

Stats: 11.4 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 4.0 APG

It was a lost season for Brown, who continues to recover from foot surgery and likely won’t play in the NCAA tournament. He hasn’t made the requisite type of strides you’d like to see from a 21-year-old sophomore, regressing as a shooter (26.7% from deep) and profiling more as a combo guard than a point. Still, his gritty defense and athleticism are strong points. The Blazers could use a defensive-minded guard to add to their rotation, and Brown’s size and athleticism are still intriguing from an NBA perspective.

27. Celtics: Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland | Fr.

Height: 6'10" | Weight: 245 | Age: 19 | Last: N/A

Stats: 10.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.2 BPG

Scouts at the Big Ten tournament were enamored with Fernando’s tools (he’s ready to compete physically and has a 7’4” wingspan), and while it’s unclear if he’s coming out this year, he’ll have a chance to go in the late first round. Unusually mobile and strong and with a higher skill level than he displayed this season, the Angola native will be in good position if he tests the waters (his per-40 averages are eye-popping). Physical two-way rim-runners are in demand, and with Aron Baynes set to be a free agent, the Celtics could find a replacement on the cheap here.

28. Nets*: Rawle Alkins, G/F, Arizona | So.

(Note: Brooklyn owns Toronto’s lottery-protected 2018 first-round pick.)

Height: 6'5" | Weight: 220 | Age: 20 | Last: 24

Stats: 13.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 36.7% 3FG

A key part of Arizona’s Final Four hopes, Alkins has scoring upside thanks to his strong build and explosive leaping ability. He plays hard and a bit bigger than his size, and shoots the ball well from outside, though he can be streaky. An early-season foot injury led to a bit of a stunted start to the season, but Alkins drew late first-round interest in last year’s class and will have a chance to solidify his status in workouts. The Nets could use a tough wing player like him to complement their ball-dominant guards.

29. Warriors: Shake Milton, G, SMU | Jr.

Height: 6'6" | Weight: 205 | Age: 21 | Last: 23

Stats: 18.0 PPG, 4.4 APG, 43.4% 3FG

The Warriors might be priced out of retaining Pat McCaw in restricted free agency, and this is a spot where they should be able to bolster their backourt. Milton’s size, shooting and playmaking ability make a lot of sense with their scheme, and he’d look much better in a situation where he’s not forced to carry an offense. He could be the eventual replacement for Shaun Livingston here. Milton missed the second half of the season with a hand injury, but should be on course to return for pre-draft workouts.

30. Hawks*: Devonte’ Graham, PG, Kansas | Sr.

(Note: Atlanta owns Houston’s top-three protected first-round pick.)

Height: 6'2" | Weight: 185 | Age: 23 | Last: N/A

Stats: ?17.3 PPG, 7.5 APG, 41.2% 3FG

The Hawks will pick three times in the first round and can really replenish their talent with a good draft. Graham is viewed as a safe bet to be a useful ball-handler, though not a star. His production was consistent at Kansas, although he shot just 39.2% on two-point shots and struggles to finish at the rim sometimes. As Atlanta rebuilds (and with Dennis Schröder’s future unclear), adding a steadying presence to the backcourt makes sense.

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<p>With March Madness underway, Front Offices are canvassing the country and setting their eyes on the draft as the NBA season draws to a close. Although the tournament is a small, unique sample size, it’s always a sort of proving ground for talent—and post-season play is often the first time a lot of high-level execs lay eyes on certain players. Although the concept of &#39;draft stock&#39; is mostly a function of who’s playing well and what rumors are swirling, every year there are players who leave a strong impression in the NCAA tourney and end up earning a better draft slot because of it. We know who the elite players are, but this is far from a finished picture.</p><p>Some key dates to remember from here, as the season wraps up and players begin to make their pro intentions known: underclassmen have until April 22 to declare for the draft, with the lottery set for May 15 and the combine from May 16–20. College players will then have until May 30 to withdraw. The draft itself is June 21—which is exactly 99 days from now. The actual first-round picture is more confusing than usual, as there’s still a ton of uncertainty in the standings. A pair of good Western Conference teams are going to miss the playoffs, and bad teams continue to reverse jockey toward favorable lottery odds. The end of the season promises to be chaotic and consequential, even when the basketball gets bad.</p><p>As always, the mock draft serves to project what the big picture looks fine within the confines of a given day’s scenario, whereas our Big Board serves as the Front Office’s own assessment of talent. Below, you’ll find all 30 picks allotted in current reverse standings order, with tiebreakers done at random.</p><h3>1. Grizzlies: Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona | Fr.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 7&#39;0&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 260 pounds | <strong>Age</strong>: 19 | <strong>Last:</strong> 1</p><p><b>Stats: </b>20.3 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 61.6% FG</p><p>Losers of 18 straight games and counting, the Grizzlies are barreling at full speed toward highly favorable draft odds. The franchise is at a bit of a crossroads, with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol still dangerous when healthy, and the latter presently unsettled. Ayton is a physical marvel and the best prospect in the draft, and he just made a statement with two jaw-dropping games to finish off the Pac-12 tournament. In theory, Memphis could play him next to Gasol next season and deploy a high-low centric attack. His defense needs work, but is far from a deal-breaker. Playing alongside elite passers for the first time should unlock even more of Ayton’s potential, and with his fast-developing offensive skills, the sky is the limit.</p><h3>2. Suns: Luka Doncic, G, Real Madrid</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;8&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 220 | <strong>Age</strong>: 19 | <strong>Last:</strong> 2</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>15.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.4 APG (24.7 MPG)</p><p>The Suns are in dire need of both a lead ball-handler and a center, and Doncic is a nice fit alongside Devin Booker on the perimeter and a more NBA-ready choice than any of the bigs available here. Doncic is currently dealing with a thigh injury in Spain, but his talent is no secret and he’d be able to take over a large chunk of the offense right away. His greatest strength is his on-court intelligence, and while he may not evolve into a dominant scorer, Doncic could be the glue necessary to bring together the Suns’ young pieces. Playing off of Booker, who will happily shoulder more of the shots, helps lessen the pressure and allows him to do what he does best: make reads and make teammates better.</p><h3>3. Hawks: Jaren Jackson Jr., C, Michigan State | Fr.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;11&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 240 | <strong>Age</strong>: 18 | <strong>Last: </strong>7</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>11.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.8 blocks</p><p>The Hawks aren’t tied down to much of anything on their roster beyond John Collins, and are in search of a foundational player. Jackson Jr.’s ability to space the floor and protect the rim makes for an ideal fit, and would give them a great interior duo. He’s really helped himself over the course of the season, flashing a greater offensive skill level than expected and making a tangible defensive impact, able to guard in space and provide weak-side help. His 5.7 blocks per-40 minutes are a wild statistic. Jackson needs to mature physically and mentally and is probably a few years away from being able to anchor a winning team, but Atlanta has time to let him grow. He’s probably not leapfrogging Ayton or Doncic, but the No. 3 spot is within reach.</p><h3>4. Magic: Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas | Fr.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 7&#39;0&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 225 | <strong>Age</strong>: 19 | <strong>Last: </strong>3</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>12.9 PPG, 10.4 RPB, 3.7 BPG</p><p>Expect the Magic to lean toward long-term upside and projection wherever they select. There’s no question that Bamba has insane defensive potential with his length and mobility. His 7’9” wingspan and 9’6” standing reach are true rarities, and given his overall aptitude, he’s a good bet to become a legitimate menace as he develops. Bamba’s offense is a riskier bet, but he may only need to be a DeAndre Jordan-type lob threat to be immensely valuable. He has shown potential shooting jumpers and is more skilled than he’s been able to show at Texas. The chief concerns from NBA teams center on Bamba’s motor and how badly he wants to compete. He’s been banged up with a toe injury, but the NCAA tournament gives him a nice platform to show he’s locked in.</p><h3>5. Kings: Marvin Bagley III, F/C, Duke | Fr.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;10&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 235 | <strong>Age</strong>: 19 | <strong>Last: </strong>4</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>21.1 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 60.5% FG</p><p>Although the Kings have a number of bigs on the roster, it shouldn’t preclude them from selecting the best player available. At this point in the draft, it’s Bagley. The current limitations of his game have been evident, but his athleticism, offensive potential and high-energy rebounding still give him a good amount of upside. His defensive struggles have led Duke to play a lot of zone, and his interior play can be predictable, but at some point there’s no sense looking past his insane production. Bagley’s best NBA position is probably going to be power forward, but he will need to keep improving as a jump shooter to maximize his talent. He’s still a very good prospect, and deserves some patience.</p><h3>6. Cavaliers*: Wendell Carter Jr., C, Duke | Fr.</h3><p><em>(Note: Cleveland owns Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick.)</em></p><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;10&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 260 | <strong>Age</strong>: 19 | <b>Last: </b>8</p><p><strong>Stats</strong>: 13.8 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.2 BPG</p><p>Whether or not LeBron leaves, Carter’s blend of offensive skill and rim protection gives the Cavs a desirable piece to build around. He has solidified himself as a Top 10 pick among scouts with an impressively consistent freshman year, despite a sometimes-awkward fit next to Marvin Bagley. His game has no major weakness beyond a lack of quick vertical lift, and he should be able to extend his shooting range to the perimeter, where his passing ability and feel will stand out even more. He’s a terrific rebounder and has a good sense of defensive positioning, as well. Carter is a safe bet to have a long, useful career, and there’s a sense that on a different college team, his talent would pop even more.</p><h3>7. Mavericks: Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri | Fr.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;10&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 215 | <strong>Age</strong>: 19 | <strong>Last:</strong> 5</p><p><strong>Stats</strong>: 15.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.4 APG (2016 U18 FIBA Americas)</p><p>After hitting on Dennis Smith last year, Dallas will be well-positioned to complement him here. Gambling on Porter’s health and scoring ability could be a meaningful risk/reward move. He returned to game action last week in a surprise return from early-season back surgery, and while he didn’t look especially mobile, it’s difficult to properly assess his long-term situation until teams get their hands on his medicals. His size, shooting ability and polished offensive game should keep him pretty safely among the draft’s early selections, but there have always been questions about his ability to make others better as well as his defensive fit. NBA teams will be watching him closely in the NCAA tournament.</p><h3>8. Bulls: Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova | Jr.</h3><p><strong>Height: </strong>6&#39;7&quot; | <strong>Weight: </strong>210 | <strong>Age: </strong>21 | Last: 10</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>18.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 43% 3FG</p><p>A defensive-minded wing like Bridges is a perfect fit with Chicago’s young pieces, and with his wealth of college experience, he should be able to help right away. He’s viewed as a safe pick, with his crude-but-improving ability to create his own shot the biggest knock on his game. His ability to space the floor and guard multiple positions makes him an easy theoretical fit in any lineup. If Villanova makes a deep tournament run, he can help himself further.</p><h3>9. Knicks: Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma | Fr.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;2&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 180 | <strong>Age</strong>: 19 | <strong>Last: </strong>6</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>27.4 PPG, 8.8 APG, 36.1% 3FG</p><p>The Knicks have been experimenting with Frank Ntilikina playing at the two, and Young could be a nice fit alongside him. Though his star has dimmed a bit with his late-season struggles, he’s still a fascinating talent and in the right situation could pace a team with his shooting and playmaking. In New York he can take on a shot-creation role while also spacing the floor, and play to his strengths with less strenuous usage. The pressure, however, would be immense.</p><h3>10. Hornets: Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky | Fr.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;9&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 215 | <strong>Age</strong>: 18 | <strong>Last: </strong>9</p><p><strong>Stats:</strong> 15.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 35.4% 3FG</p><p>Until Charlotte hires a new GM, it’s tough to really chart their draft course, but a malleable talent like Knox, who’s still learning the game, would be a useful building block for the long run. He had an up-and-down season, but his scoring touch, three-point shooting potential and physical tools give you a lot to work with. Knox may not be a star, but he’s far from a defined product and should be able to play both forward spots.</p><h3>11. Clippers*: Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama | Fr.</h3><p>(<em>Note: Los Angeles owns Detroit’s top-four protected first-round pick.)</em></p><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;2&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 190 | <strong>Age</strong>: 19 | <strong>Last</strong>: 13</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>19.0 PPG, 3.5 APG, 34.4% 3FG</p><p>A pair of big games in the SEC tournament has given Sexton’s reputation a late-season jolt, and while Trae Young’s season has dovetailed, his case to be the first guard drafted has gotten stronger. They’re very different players: Sexton is a gifted downhill scorer who is tough to stop at the college level when he’s locked in, and despite just 28 steals in 924 minutes this season, has the ability to become an useful defender when he wants to be. There is some concern about the selfish nature of his game and whether he makes teammates better. The Clippers have a glut of ball-handlers to make decisions on, but at this point in the draft, Sexton would be the best piece available.</p><h3>12. 76ers*: Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State | So.</h3><p><em>(Note: Philadelphia owns the Lakers’ first-round pick unless it falls between Nos. 2–5, in which case it conveys to Boston.)</em></p><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;7&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 225 | <strong>Age</strong>: 19 | <b>Last: </b>12</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>16.9 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 36.9% 3FG</p><p>Identifying prospects who can thrive playing off of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons is an interesting task, and while Bridges’ game is a bit of a weird fit in general, Philly would be a potentially ideal destination. His ability to sprint the floor and knock down set shots makes him a great fit alongside Simmons, and the Sixers have been unafraid to trot out tall, weird combinations. The big question is whether Bridges will embrace the likely glue-guy role an NBA team will ask of him. If he steps up his defensive effort, and remains a consistent shooter, he’s so athletic that it can work.</p><h3>13. Nuggets: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;6&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 180 | <strong>Age</strong>: 19 | <strong>Last</strong>: 18</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>13.9 PPG, 5.0 APG, 1.6 SPG</p><p>Denver could use a well-rounded playmaker to enable Jamal Murray to spend more time running off screens. Gilgeous-Alexander has become Kentucky’s best player and potentially its best prospect, emerging as a dark horse to be the best long-term point guard in this crop if he lands in a good situation. He was fantastic during the Wildcats’ SEC tournament run and is pushing the envelope for late-lottery consideration. He’s a crafty finisher and improving shooter, and his size, length and instincts are all appealing.</p><h3>14. Jazz: Lonnie Walker, SG, Miami | Fr.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;4&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 190 | <strong>Age</strong>: 19 | <strong>Last: </strong>11</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>11.5 PPG, 2.0 APG, 34.6% 3FG</p><p>The Jazz are building around Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles and could address a few different needs in this range. Walker could be a good fit next to Mitchell as he improves his jump shot and learns to play off the ball. They’d have a hyper-athletic young backcourt. Walker is a talented but inexperienced slasher who has substantial upside, but a long way to go. He can bully his way to the basket and elevate for difficult finishes, but doesn’t have a great feel for picking his spots or finding teammates. He needs to become more consistent and commit further to playing defense.</p><h3>15. Suns*: Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas | Fr.</h3><p><em>(Note: Phoenix owns Miami’s top-seven protected first-round pick.)</em></p><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;11&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 235 | <strong>Age</strong>: 19 | <strong>Last:</strong> 19</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>11.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.1 BPG</p><p>A powerful dunker off two feet with good timing as a shot-blocker, Gafford played himself into the first round picture this season and would be a nice fit here, as Phoenix has a need for a rim protector. Gafford runs the floor hard and finishes lobs well, and his lack of developed offensive skills are less of an issue given the passers they could put around him (with Doncic in the fold in this scenario). He’s a work in progress but comes with definite upside.</p><h3>16. Suns*: Troy Brown, G/F, Oregon | Fr.</h3><p><em>(Note: Phoenix owns Milwaukee’s first-round pick if it falls from 11–16.)</em></p><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;7&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 215 | <strong>Age</strong>: 18 | <strong>Last:</strong> 15</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>11.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.6 SPG</p><p>If the Bucks’ first-rounder ends up conveying, as it does in this scenario, Phoenix will likely draft three times in the first 20 selections. Brown has the talent and athletic ability to be a useful utility-style wing, able to handle the ball, find open teammates and also defend multiple positions. He disappointed as a three-point shooter this season, and will have to display improvement in workouts. His ability and feel for creating his own shot has wavered, and he can drift in and out of games, but Brown’s well-rounded game puts him firmly in the middle of the first round.</p><h3>17. 76ers: Chandler Hutchison, G/F, Boise State| Sr.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;7&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 200 | <strong>Age</strong>: 21 | <strong>Last: </strong>16</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>19.3 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 3.5 APG</p><p>Hutchison had a prolific season at Boise State and won’t have to handle that heavy an offensive load in the NBA. He’s got a good build, rebounds and passes well and could potentially even spend time as a small-ball four. The question is how well he’ll shoot from deep (35.2% this season). Hutchison isn’t a creative scorer, but he’s a good cutter without the ball and should offer a level of role versatility. He would make Philly’s lineups even more versatile and athletic.</p><h3>18. Spurs: Robert Williams, C, Texas A&#38;M | So.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;9&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 240 | <strong>Age</strong>: 20 | <strong>Last</strong>: 14</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>10.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 2.6 BPG</p><p>San Antonio could miss the playoffs and is stumbling toward the mid first-round, where they should be able to find some useful talent. Williams is a gifted athlete who plays above the rim with little effort, and when he’s playing hard, he’s a load for opponents on the glass and as a finisher. The issue is that he’s never done it consistently, which teams view as a risk factor. The team fit wasn’t ideal at Texas A&#38;M, but he didn’t do much for himself by returning to school and remains in the late lottery mix at this stage. In the right role, he could be a terrific contributor. The Spurs’ winning culture could bring the best out of him, and his upside here is more than worth it.</p><h3>19. Clippers: Dzanan Musa, SF, KK Cedevita</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;9&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 185 | <strong>Age</strong>: 18 | <b>Last: </b>17</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>12.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 48% FG (22.1 MPG)</p><p>Musa provides some shooting and slashing ability and is a legit perimeter threat at 6’9”. As one of the younger players available, he’s put together a good résumé overseas. He’s extremely skilled offensively and known as an intense competitor, and scouts say he is highly motivated to make the NBA. The Clippers need talent on the wing and need to get younger, and he checks both boxes.</p><h3>20. Wizards: Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA | Jr.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;1&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 185 | <strong>Age</strong>: 21 | <strong>Last</strong>: N/A</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>20.3 PPG, 5.8 APG, 43% 3FG</p><p>Finding useful backcourt depth behind John Wall and Bradley Beal has been a bit of a challenge for the Wizards, and they should end up in a good draft range to address that need. Holiday’s stock skyrocketed this season as he set himself apart from other veteran college point guards with his precise distance shooting, poise and ability to use high ball screens. His issues getting downhill off the dribble likely cap his upside, but he’s tough, defends and adds scoring punch. He had a bit of a meltdown at the end of a First Four loss to St. Bonaventure.</p><h3>21. Lakers*: Mitchell Robinson, C, Chalmette (LA) HS</h3><p><em>(Note: Los Angeles owns Cleveland’s top-three protected first-round pick.)</em></p><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;11&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 230 | <strong>Age</strong>: 19 | <strong>Last</strong>: 22</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>25.7 PPG, 12.6 RPG, 6.0 BPG (2016–17 HS stats)</p><p>The Lakers have cleared the deck to pursue top free agents this summer, and acquiring this pick from the Cavs at the deadline was somewhat of a coup. They can angle for a future contributor in this spot, and will be in need of frontcourt help given the likelihood of Brook Lopez’s departure. Once Robinson gets into team workouts we’ll have a much better read on his situation, but he’s highly athletic and physically jumps off the page with a 7’3” wingspan. There have been questions about his feel for the game in the past, and taking a season off didn’t help. His draft range is wide, but his tools are clearly first-round caliber based on projectability.</p><h3>22. Bulls*: Jontay Porter, F/C, Missouri | Fr.</h3><p><em>(Note: Chicago owns New Orleans’s top-five protected first-round pick.)</em></p><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;11&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 240 | <strong>Age</strong>: 18 | <strong>Last: </strong>26</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>10.1 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 37% 3FG</p><p>The Bulls are set to pick twice in the first round after acquiring this pick from the Pelicans in the Nikola Mirotic deal. While Porter doesn’t jump off the page as an athlete, he’s an outstanding, skilled player who’s exceeded all expectations after reclassifying to play at Missouri. He‘ll likely be the youngest player in this draft, and his ability to space the floor, pass the ball, rebound and block shots is extremely appealing. As he matures physically, he could be an ideal fit next to Lauri Markkanen.</p><h3>23. Hawks*: Anfernee Simons, G, IMG Academy | HS Sr.</h3><p><em>(Note: Atlanta owns Minnesota’s lottery-protected first-round pick.)</em></p><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;3&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 180 | <strong>Age</strong>: 18 | <strong>Last</strong>: 20</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>15.3 PPG, 41.4% 3FG (2017 UnderArmour Association)</p><p>Teams will have additional opportunities to evaluate Simons in April as he’s set to appear in the Hoop Summit and Jordan Brand Classic before presumably testing the draft waters. He’s got a lot of intriguing traits, with high-level explosiveness, great foot speed and developing three-point range. Simons may not be a true point guard, but should be able to handle some level of ball-handling duties in time.He’s full of potential as a scorer, but untested and a long-term project. The Hawks can afford to let it play out.</p><h3>24. Timberwolves*: Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton | Jr.</h3><p><em>(Note: Minnesota owns Oklahoma City’s lottery-protected first-round pick.)</em></p><p><strong>Height: </strong>6&#39;3&quot; | <strong>Weight:</strong> 210 | <strong>Age</strong>: 21 | <strong>Last: </strong>27</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>15.3 PPG, 41.9% 3FG, 1.7 SPG</p><p>Thomas has been solid for Creighton and emerged as one of the better on-ball defenders in college basketball, while also hitting threes at a strong clip. He’s athletic but not a creative scorer, which limits his overall upside. He can focus on his strengths in Minnesota, where he could be a useful glue guy and floor-spacer next to the Wolves’ wealth of high-end talent. He’s a good fit for Tom Thibodeau.</p><h3>25. Pacers: Jerome Robinson, G, Boston College | Jr.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;4&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 190 | <strong>Age</strong>: 21 | <strong>Last: </strong>N/A</p><p><strong>Stats</strong>: 20.4 PPG, 3.4 APG, 41.9% 3FG</p><p>There’s a sense around the league that Robinson has played his way into the late first round: he was the ACC’s top scoring guard, creates well off the dribble and can put the ball in the basket from all three levels. He plays with a unique change of speeds off the bounce, and solidified himself as a legitimate prospect with a breakout year. His intangibles and ability to play on and off the ball are appealing. The Pacers still need a lead ball-handler long term, and Robinson would look good taking turns with Victor Oladipo.</p><h3>26. Trail Blazers: Bruce Brown, G, Miami | So.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;5&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 190 | <strong>Age</strong>: 21 | <strong>Last: </strong>21</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>11.4 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 4.0 APG</p><p>It was a lost season for Brown, who continues to recover from foot surgery and likely won’t play in the NCAA tournament. He hasn’t made the requisite type of strides you’d like to see from a 21-year-old sophomore, regressing as a shooter (26.7% from deep) and profiling more as a combo guard than a point. Still, his gritty defense and athleticism are strong points. The Blazers could use a defensive-minded guard to add to their rotation, and Brown’s size and athleticism are still intriguing from an NBA perspective.</p><h3>27. Celtics: Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland | Fr.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;10&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 245 | <strong>Age</strong>: 19 | <strong>Last</strong>: N/A</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>10.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.2 BPG</p><p>Scouts at the Big Ten tournament were enamored with Fernando’s tools (he’s ready to compete physically and has a 7’4” wingspan), and while it’s unclear if he’s coming out this year, he’ll have a chance to go in the late first round. Unusually mobile and strong and with a higher skill level than he displayed this season, the Angola native will be in good position if he tests the waters (his per-40 averages are eye-popping). Physical two-way rim-runners are in demand, and with Aron Baynes set to be a free agent, the Celtics could find a replacement on the cheap here.</p><h3>28. Nets*: Rawle Alkins, G/F, Arizona | So.</h3><p><em>(Note: Brooklyn owns Toronto’s lottery-protected 2018 first-round pick.)</em></p><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;5&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 220 | <strong>Age</strong>: 20 | <strong>Last</strong>: 24</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>13.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 36.7% 3FG</p><p>A key part of Arizona’s Final Four hopes, Alkins has scoring upside thanks to his strong build and explosive leaping ability. He plays hard and a bit bigger than his size, and shoots the ball well from outside, though he can be streaky. An early-season foot injury led to a bit of a stunted start to the season, but Alkins drew late first-round interest in last year’s class and will have a chance to solidify his status in workouts. The Nets could use a tough wing player like him to complement their ball-dominant guards.</p><h3>29. Warriors: Shake Milton, G, SMU | Jr.</h3><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;6&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 205 | <strong>Age</strong>: 21 | <strong>Last</strong>: 23</p><p><strong>Stats:</strong> 18.0 PPG, 4.4 APG, 43.4% 3FG</p><p>The Warriors might be priced out of retaining Pat McCaw in restricted free agency, and this is a spot where they should be able to bolster their backourt. Milton’s size, shooting and playmaking ability make a lot of sense with their scheme, and he’d look much better in a situation where he’s not forced to carry an offense. He could be the eventual replacement for Shaun Livingston here. Milton missed the second half of the season with a hand injury, but should be on course to return for pre-draft workouts.</p><h3>30. Hawks*: Devonte’ Graham, PG, Kansas | Sr.</h3><p><em>(Note: Atlanta owns Houston’s top-three protected first-round pick.)</em></p><p><strong>Height</strong>: 6&#39;2&quot; | <strong>Weight</strong>: 185 | <strong>Age</strong>: 23 | <strong>Last</strong>: N/A</p><p><strong>Stats: </strong>?17.3 PPG, 7.5 APG, 41.2% 3FG</p><p>The Hawks will pick three times in the first round and can really replenish their talent with a good draft. Graham is viewed as a safe bet to be a useful ball-handler, though not a star. His production was consistent at Kansas, although he shot just 39.2% on two-point shots and struggles to finish at the rim sometimes. As Atlanta rebuilds (and with Dennis Schröder’s future unclear), adding a steadying presence to the backcourt makes sense.</p><p>.text { line-height: 40px!important; vertical-align: middle!important; } .logo { vertical-align: bottom!important; height: 50px; width: 50px; }</p>
2018 NBA Mock Draft 5.0: Who Will Leave a Strong Impression in the NCAA Tournament?

With March Madness underway, Front Offices are canvassing the country and setting their eyes on the draft as the NBA season draws to a close. Although the tournament is a small, unique sample size, it’s always a sort of proving ground for talent—and post-season play is often the first time a lot of high-level execs lay eyes on certain players. Although the concept of 'draft stock' is mostly a function of who’s playing well and what rumors are swirling, every year there are players who leave a strong impression in the NCAA tourney and end up earning a better draft slot because of it. We know who the elite players are, but this is far from a finished picture.

Some key dates to remember from here, as the season wraps up and players begin to make their pro intentions known: underclassmen have until April 22 to declare for the draft, with the lottery set for May 15 and the combine from May 16–20. College players will then have until May 30 to withdraw. The draft itself is June 21—which is exactly 99 days from now. The actual first-round picture is more confusing than usual, as there’s still a ton of uncertainty in the standings. A pair of good Western Conference teams are going to miss the playoffs, and bad teams continue to reverse jockey toward favorable lottery odds. The end of the season promises to be chaotic and consequential, even when the basketball gets bad.

As always, the mock draft serves to project what the big picture looks fine within the confines of a given day’s scenario, whereas our Big Board serves as the Front Office’s own assessment of talent. Below, you’ll find all 30 picks allotted in current reverse standings order, with tiebreakers done at random.

1. Grizzlies: Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona | Fr.

Height: 7'0" | Weight: 260 pounds | Age: 19 | Last: 1

Stats: 20.3 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 61.6% FG

Losers of 18 straight games and counting, the Grizzlies are barreling at full speed toward highly favorable draft odds. The franchise is at a bit of a crossroads, with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol still dangerous when healthy, and the latter presently unsettled. Ayton is a physical marvel and the best prospect in the draft, and he just made a statement with two jaw-dropping games to finish off the Pac-12 tournament. In theory, Memphis could play him next to Gasol next season and deploy a high-low centric attack. His defense needs work, but is far from a deal-breaker. Playing alongside elite passers for the first time should unlock even more of Ayton’s potential, and with his fast-developing offensive skills, the sky is the limit.

2. Suns: Luka Doncic, G, Real Madrid

Height: 6'8" | Weight: 220 | Age: 19 | Last: 2

Stats: 15.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.4 APG (24.7 MPG)

The Suns are in dire need of both a lead ball-handler and a center, and Doncic is a nice fit alongside Devin Booker on the perimeter and a more NBA-ready choice than any of the bigs available here. Doncic is currently dealing with a thigh injury in Spain, but his talent is no secret and he’d be able to take over a large chunk of the offense right away. His greatest strength is his on-court intelligence, and while he may not evolve into a dominant scorer, Doncic could be the glue necessary to bring together the Suns’ young pieces. Playing off of Booker, who will happily shoulder more of the shots, helps lessen the pressure and allows him to do what he does best: make reads and make teammates better.

3. Hawks: Jaren Jackson Jr., C, Michigan State | Fr.

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 240 | Age: 18 | Last: 7

Stats: 11.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.8 blocks

The Hawks aren’t tied down to much of anything on their roster beyond John Collins, and are in search of a foundational player. Jackson Jr.’s ability to space the floor and protect the rim makes for an ideal fit, and would give them a great interior duo. He’s really helped himself over the course of the season, flashing a greater offensive skill level than expected and making a tangible defensive impact, able to guard in space and provide weak-side help. His 5.7 blocks per-40 minutes are a wild statistic. Jackson needs to mature physically and mentally and is probably a few years away from being able to anchor a winning team, but Atlanta has time to let him grow. He’s probably not leapfrogging Ayton or Doncic, but the No. 3 spot is within reach.

4. Magic: Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas | Fr.

Height: 7'0" | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 3

Stats: 12.9 PPG, 10.4 RPB, 3.7 BPG

Expect the Magic to lean toward long-term upside and projection wherever they select. There’s no question that Bamba has insane defensive potential with his length and mobility. His 7’9” wingspan and 9’6” standing reach are true rarities, and given his overall aptitude, he’s a good bet to become a legitimate menace as he develops. Bamba’s offense is a riskier bet, but he may only need to be a DeAndre Jordan-type lob threat to be immensely valuable. He has shown potential shooting jumpers and is more skilled than he’s been able to show at Texas. The chief concerns from NBA teams center on Bamba’s motor and how badly he wants to compete. He’s been banged up with a toe injury, but the NCAA tournament gives him a nice platform to show he’s locked in.

5. Kings: Marvin Bagley III, F/C, Duke | Fr.

Height: 6'10" | Weight: 235 | Age: 19 | Last: 4

Stats: 21.1 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 60.5% FG

Although the Kings have a number of bigs on the roster, it shouldn’t preclude them from selecting the best player available. At this point in the draft, it’s Bagley. The current limitations of his game have been evident, but his athleticism, offensive potential and high-energy rebounding still give him a good amount of upside. His defensive struggles have led Duke to play a lot of zone, and his interior play can be predictable, but at some point there’s no sense looking past his insane production. Bagley’s best NBA position is probably going to be power forward, but he will need to keep improving as a jump shooter to maximize his talent. He’s still a very good prospect, and deserves some patience.

6. Cavaliers*: Wendell Carter Jr., C, Duke | Fr.

(Note: Cleveland owns Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick.)

Height: 6'10" | Weight: 260 | Age: 19 | Last: 8

Stats: 13.8 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.2 BPG

Whether or not LeBron leaves, Carter’s blend of offensive skill and rim protection gives the Cavs a desirable piece to build around. He has solidified himself as a Top 10 pick among scouts with an impressively consistent freshman year, despite a sometimes-awkward fit next to Marvin Bagley. His game has no major weakness beyond a lack of quick vertical lift, and he should be able to extend his shooting range to the perimeter, where his passing ability and feel will stand out even more. He’s a terrific rebounder and has a good sense of defensive positioning, as well. Carter is a safe bet to have a long, useful career, and there’s a sense that on a different college team, his talent would pop even more.

7. Mavericks: Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri | Fr.

Height: 6'10" | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Last: 5

Stats: 15.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.4 APG (2016 U18 FIBA Americas)

After hitting on Dennis Smith last year, Dallas will be well-positioned to complement him here. Gambling on Porter’s health and scoring ability could be a meaningful risk/reward move. He returned to game action last week in a surprise return from early-season back surgery, and while he didn’t look especially mobile, it’s difficult to properly assess his long-term situation until teams get their hands on his medicals. His size, shooting ability and polished offensive game should keep him pretty safely among the draft’s early selections, but there have always been questions about his ability to make others better as well as his defensive fit. NBA teams will be watching him closely in the NCAA tournament.

8. Bulls: Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova | Jr.

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: 10

Stats: 18.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 43% 3FG

A defensive-minded wing like Bridges is a perfect fit with Chicago’s young pieces, and with his wealth of college experience, he should be able to help right away. He’s viewed as a safe pick, with his crude-but-improving ability to create his own shot the biggest knock on his game. His ability to space the floor and guard multiple positions makes him an easy theoretical fit in any lineup. If Villanova makes a deep tournament run, he can help himself further.

9. Knicks: Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma | Fr.

Height: 6'2" | Weight: 180 | Age: 19 | Last: 6

Stats: 27.4 PPG, 8.8 APG, 36.1% 3FG

The Knicks have been experimenting with Frank Ntilikina playing at the two, and Young could be a nice fit alongside him. Though his star has dimmed a bit with his late-season struggles, he’s still a fascinating talent and in the right situation could pace a team with his shooting and playmaking. In New York he can take on a shot-creation role while also spacing the floor, and play to his strengths with less strenuous usage. The pressure, however, would be immense.

10. Hornets: Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky | Fr.

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 9

Stats: 15.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 35.4% 3FG

Until Charlotte hires a new GM, it’s tough to really chart their draft course, but a malleable talent like Knox, who’s still learning the game, would be a useful building block for the long run. He had an up-and-down season, but his scoring touch, three-point shooting potential and physical tools give you a lot to work with. Knox may not be a star, but he’s far from a defined product and should be able to play both forward spots.

11. Clippers*: Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama | Fr.

(Note: Los Angeles owns Detroit’s top-four protected first-round pick.)

Height: 6'2" | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 13

Stats: 19.0 PPG, 3.5 APG, 34.4% 3FG

A pair of big games in the SEC tournament has given Sexton’s reputation a late-season jolt, and while Trae Young’s season has dovetailed, his case to be the first guard drafted has gotten stronger. They’re very different players: Sexton is a gifted downhill scorer who is tough to stop at the college level when he’s locked in, and despite just 28 steals in 924 minutes this season, has the ability to become an useful defender when he wants to be. There is some concern about the selfish nature of his game and whether he makes teammates better. The Clippers have a glut of ball-handlers to make decisions on, but at this point in the draft, Sexton would be the best piece available.

12. 76ers*: Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State | So.

(Note: Philadelphia owns the Lakers’ first-round pick unless it falls between Nos. 2–5, in which case it conveys to Boston.)

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 12

Stats: 16.9 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 36.9% 3FG

Identifying prospects who can thrive playing off of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons is an interesting task, and while Bridges’ game is a bit of a weird fit in general, Philly would be a potentially ideal destination. His ability to sprint the floor and knock down set shots makes him a great fit alongside Simmons, and the Sixers have been unafraid to trot out tall, weird combinations. The big question is whether Bridges will embrace the likely glue-guy role an NBA team will ask of him. If he steps up his defensive effort, and remains a consistent shooter, he’s so athletic that it can work.

13. Nuggets: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

Height: 6'6" | Weight: 180 | Age: 19 | Last: 18

Stats: 13.9 PPG, 5.0 APG, 1.6 SPG

Denver could use a well-rounded playmaker to enable Jamal Murray to spend more time running off screens. Gilgeous-Alexander has become Kentucky’s best player and potentially its best prospect, emerging as a dark horse to be the best long-term point guard in this crop if he lands in a good situation. He was fantastic during the Wildcats’ SEC tournament run and is pushing the envelope for late-lottery consideration. He’s a crafty finisher and improving shooter, and his size, length and instincts are all appealing.

14. Jazz: Lonnie Walker, SG, Miami | Fr.

Height: 6'4" | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 11

Stats: 11.5 PPG, 2.0 APG, 34.6% 3FG

The Jazz are building around Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles and could address a few different needs in this range. Walker could be a good fit next to Mitchell as he improves his jump shot and learns to play off the ball. They’d have a hyper-athletic young backcourt. Walker is a talented but inexperienced slasher who has substantial upside, but a long way to go. He can bully his way to the basket and elevate for difficult finishes, but doesn’t have a great feel for picking his spots or finding teammates. He needs to become more consistent and commit further to playing defense.

15. Suns*: Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas | Fr.

(Note: Phoenix owns Miami’s top-seven protected first-round pick.)

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 235 | Age: 19 | Last: 19

Stats: 11.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.1 BPG

A powerful dunker off two feet with good timing as a shot-blocker, Gafford played himself into the first round picture this season and would be a nice fit here, as Phoenix has a need for a rim protector. Gafford runs the floor hard and finishes lobs well, and his lack of developed offensive skills are less of an issue given the passers they could put around him (with Doncic in the fold in this scenario). He’s a work in progress but comes with definite upside.

16. Suns*: Troy Brown, G/F, Oregon | Fr.

(Note: Phoenix owns Milwaukee’s first-round pick if it falls from 11–16.)

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 15

Stats: 11.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.6 SPG

If the Bucks’ first-rounder ends up conveying, as it does in this scenario, Phoenix will likely draft three times in the first 20 selections. Brown has the talent and athletic ability to be a useful utility-style wing, able to handle the ball, find open teammates and also defend multiple positions. He disappointed as a three-point shooter this season, and will have to display improvement in workouts. His ability and feel for creating his own shot has wavered, and he can drift in and out of games, but Brown’s well-rounded game puts him firmly in the middle of the first round.

17. 76ers: Chandler Hutchison, G/F, Boise State| Sr.

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 200 | Age: 21 | Last: 16

Stats: 19.3 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 3.5 APG

Hutchison had a prolific season at Boise State and won’t have to handle that heavy an offensive load in the NBA. He’s got a good build, rebounds and passes well and could potentially even spend time as a small-ball four. The question is how well he’ll shoot from deep (35.2% this season). Hutchison isn’t a creative scorer, but he’s a good cutter without the ball and should offer a level of role versatility. He would make Philly’s lineups even more versatile and athletic.

18. Spurs: Robert Williams, C, Texas A&M | So.

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 240 | Age: 20 | Last: 14

Stats: 10.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 2.6 BPG

San Antonio could miss the playoffs and is stumbling toward the mid first-round, where they should be able to find some useful talent. Williams is a gifted athlete who plays above the rim with little effort, and when he’s playing hard, he’s a load for opponents on the glass and as a finisher. The issue is that he’s never done it consistently, which teams view as a risk factor. The team fit wasn’t ideal at Texas A&M, but he didn’t do much for himself by returning to school and remains in the late lottery mix at this stage. In the right role, he could be a terrific contributor. The Spurs’ winning culture could bring the best out of him, and his upside here is more than worth it.

19. Clippers: Dzanan Musa, SF, KK Cedevita

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 185 | Age: 18 | Last: 17

Stats: 12.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 48% FG (22.1 MPG)

Musa provides some shooting and slashing ability and is a legit perimeter threat at 6’9”. As one of the younger players available, he’s put together a good résumé overseas. He’s extremely skilled offensively and known as an intense competitor, and scouts say he is highly motivated to make the NBA. The Clippers need talent on the wing and need to get younger, and he checks both boxes.

20. Wizards: Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA | Jr.

Height: 6'1" | Weight: 185 | Age: 21 | Last: N/A

Stats: 20.3 PPG, 5.8 APG, 43% 3FG

Finding useful backcourt depth behind John Wall and Bradley Beal has been a bit of a challenge for the Wizards, and they should end up in a good draft range to address that need. Holiday’s stock skyrocketed this season as he set himself apart from other veteran college point guards with his precise distance shooting, poise and ability to use high ball screens. His issues getting downhill off the dribble likely cap his upside, but he’s tough, defends and adds scoring punch. He had a bit of a meltdown at the end of a First Four loss to St. Bonaventure.

21. Lakers*: Mitchell Robinson, C, Chalmette (LA) HS

(Note: Los Angeles owns Cleveland’s top-three protected first-round pick.)

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 230 | Age: 19 | Last: 22

Stats: 25.7 PPG, 12.6 RPG, 6.0 BPG (2016–17 HS stats)

The Lakers have cleared the deck to pursue top free agents this summer, and acquiring this pick from the Cavs at the deadline was somewhat of a coup. They can angle for a future contributor in this spot, and will be in need of frontcourt help given the likelihood of Brook Lopez’s departure. Once Robinson gets into team workouts we’ll have a much better read on his situation, but he’s highly athletic and physically jumps off the page with a 7’3” wingspan. There have been questions about his feel for the game in the past, and taking a season off didn’t help. His draft range is wide, but his tools are clearly first-round caliber based on projectability.

22. Bulls*: Jontay Porter, F/C, Missouri | Fr.

(Note: Chicago owns New Orleans’s top-five protected first-round pick.)

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 240 | Age: 18 | Last: 26

Stats: 10.1 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 37% 3FG

The Bulls are set to pick twice in the first round after acquiring this pick from the Pelicans in the Nikola Mirotic deal. While Porter doesn’t jump off the page as an athlete, he’s an outstanding, skilled player who’s exceeded all expectations after reclassifying to play at Missouri. He‘ll likely be the youngest player in this draft, and his ability to space the floor, pass the ball, rebound and block shots is extremely appealing. As he matures physically, he could be an ideal fit next to Lauri Markkanen.

23. Hawks*: Anfernee Simons, G, IMG Academy | HS Sr.

(Note: Atlanta owns Minnesota’s lottery-protected first-round pick.)

Height: 6'3" | Weight: 180 | Age: 18 | Last: 20

Stats: 15.3 PPG, 41.4% 3FG (2017 UnderArmour Association)

Teams will have additional opportunities to evaluate Simons in April as he’s set to appear in the Hoop Summit and Jordan Brand Classic before presumably testing the draft waters. He’s got a lot of intriguing traits, with high-level explosiveness, great foot speed and developing three-point range. Simons may not be a true point guard, but should be able to handle some level of ball-handling duties in time.He’s full of potential as a scorer, but untested and a long-term project. The Hawks can afford to let it play out.

24. Timberwolves*: Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton | Jr.

(Note: Minnesota owns Oklahoma City’s lottery-protected first-round pick.)

Height: 6'3" | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: 27

Stats: 15.3 PPG, 41.9% 3FG, 1.7 SPG

Thomas has been solid for Creighton and emerged as one of the better on-ball defenders in college basketball, while also hitting threes at a strong clip. He’s athletic but not a creative scorer, which limits his overall upside. He can focus on his strengths in Minnesota, where he could be a useful glue guy and floor-spacer next to the Wolves’ wealth of high-end talent. He’s a good fit for Tom Thibodeau.

25. Pacers: Jerome Robinson, G, Boston College | Jr.

Height: 6'4" | Weight: 190 | Age: 21 | Last: N/A

Stats: 20.4 PPG, 3.4 APG, 41.9% 3FG

There’s a sense around the league that Robinson has played his way into the late first round: he was the ACC’s top scoring guard, creates well off the dribble and can put the ball in the basket from all three levels. He plays with a unique change of speeds off the bounce, and solidified himself as a legitimate prospect with a breakout year. His intangibles and ability to play on and off the ball are appealing. The Pacers still need a lead ball-handler long term, and Robinson would look good taking turns with Victor Oladipo.

26. Trail Blazers: Bruce Brown, G, Miami | So.

Height: 6'5" | Weight: 190 | Age: 21 | Last: 21

Stats: 11.4 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 4.0 APG

It was a lost season for Brown, who continues to recover from foot surgery and likely won’t play in the NCAA tournament. He hasn’t made the requisite type of strides you’d like to see from a 21-year-old sophomore, regressing as a shooter (26.7% from deep) and profiling more as a combo guard than a point. Still, his gritty defense and athleticism are strong points. The Blazers could use a defensive-minded guard to add to their rotation, and Brown’s size and athleticism are still intriguing from an NBA perspective.

27. Celtics: Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland | Fr.

Height: 6'10" | Weight: 245 | Age: 19 | Last: N/A

Stats: 10.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.2 BPG

Scouts at the Big Ten tournament were enamored with Fernando’s tools (he’s ready to compete physically and has a 7’4” wingspan), and while it’s unclear if he’s coming out this year, he’ll have a chance to go in the late first round. Unusually mobile and strong and with a higher skill level than he displayed this season, the Angola native will be in good position if he tests the waters (his per-40 averages are eye-popping). Physical two-way rim-runners are in demand, and with Aron Baynes set to be a free agent, the Celtics could find a replacement on the cheap here.

28. Nets*: Rawle Alkins, G/F, Arizona | So.

(Note: Brooklyn owns Toronto’s lottery-protected 2018 first-round pick.)

Height: 6'5" | Weight: 220 | Age: 20 | Last: 24

Stats: 13.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 36.7% 3FG

A key part of Arizona’s Final Four hopes, Alkins has scoring upside thanks to his strong build and explosive leaping ability. He plays hard and a bit bigger than his size, and shoots the ball well from outside, though he can be streaky. An early-season foot injury led to a bit of a stunted start to the season, but Alkins drew late first-round interest in last year’s class and will have a chance to solidify his status in workouts. The Nets could use a tough wing player like him to complement their ball-dominant guards.

29. Warriors: Shake Milton, G, SMU | Jr.

Height: 6'6" | Weight: 205 | Age: 21 | Last: 23

Stats: 18.0 PPG, 4.4 APG, 43.4% 3FG

The Warriors might be priced out of retaining Pat McCaw in restricted free agency, and this is a spot where they should be able to bolster their backourt. Milton’s size, shooting and playmaking ability make a lot of sense with their scheme, and he’d look much better in a situation where he’s not forced to carry an offense. He could be the eventual replacement for Shaun Livingston here. Milton missed the second half of the season with a hand injury, but should be on course to return for pre-draft workouts.

30. Hawks*: Devonte’ Graham, PG, Kansas | Sr.

(Note: Atlanta owns Houston’s top-three protected first-round pick.)

Height: 6'2" | Weight: 185 | Age: 23 | Last: N/A

Stats: ?17.3 PPG, 7.5 APG, 41.2% 3FG

The Hawks will pick three times in the first round and can really replenish their talent with a good draft. Graham is viewed as a safe bet to be a useful ball-handler, though not a star. His production was consistent at Kansas, although he shot just 39.2% on two-point shots and struggles to finish at the rim sometimes. As Atlanta rebuilds (and with Dennis Schröder’s future unclear), adding a steadying presence to the backcourt makes sense.

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Luwane Pipkins went off for 31 points for UMass but 21 points from George Mason&#39;s Otis Livingston II aided in the Patriots&#39; 80-75 win in the 2nd Round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
Luwane Pipkins Goes Off, But George Mason Tops UMass
Luwane Pipkins went off for 31 points for UMass but 21 points from George Mason's Otis Livingston II aided in the Patriots' 80-75 win in the 2nd Round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
Luwane Pipkins went off for 31 points for UMass but 21 points from George Mason's Otis Livingston II aided in the Patriots' 80-75 win in the 2nd Round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
Luwane Pipkins Goes Off, But George Mason Tops UMass
Luwane Pipkins went off for 31 points for UMass but 21 points from George Mason's Otis Livingston II aided in the Patriots' 80-75 win in the 2nd Round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
Luwane Pipkins went off for 31 points for UMass but 21 points from George Mason&#39;s Otis Livingston II aided in the Patriots&#39; 80-75 win in the 2nd Round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
Luwane Pipkins Goes Off, But George Mason Tops UMass
Luwane Pipkins went off for 31 points for UMass but 21 points from George Mason's Otis Livingston II aided in the Patriots' 80-75 win in the 2nd Round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
Luwane Pipkins went off for 31 points for UMass but 21 points from George Mason&#39;s Otis Livingston II aided in the Patriots&#39; 80-75 win in the 2nd Round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
Luwane Pipkins Goes Off, But George Mason Tops UMass
Luwane Pipkins went off for 31 points for UMass but 21 points from George Mason's Otis Livingston II aided in the Patriots' 80-75 win in the 2nd Round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
The disruption visited upon the UK by a Siberian weather system could have been avoided by the simple ploy of parading the Scottish Cup through the affected areas. That claim is based on the miraculous ­capacity of the tournament’s quarter-final ties to proceed on a weekend which saw the entire league fixture card in Scotland wiped out. That said, the sight of a manned snowplough prowling the car park ahead of Celtic’s meeting with Greenock Morton on Saturday testified to the determination of the holders to take another stride ­towards the unprecedented feat of a clean sweep of the Scottish honours in successive seasons. In the title race, the Hoops can only be stopped if Rangers overturn a six-point deficit in their remaining nine games, starting with next Sunday’s Old Firm derby at Ibrox, and overcome a goal difference of 11 ­between the sides. Sobriety compels the assumption that Celtic are essentially two contests away from their historic feat and that the first of those will be another encounter with Rangers at Hampden Park in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final on the weekend of April 15/16. Rangers’ 4-1 home victory over Falkirk yesterday, in which Jason Cummings scored a hat-trick, completed the equation begun by Celtic’s 3-0 win over their visitors from the Championship, ­although Morton held out for more than an hour before Moussa Dembele’s double and a late contribution from Odsonne Edouard ensured the holders’ advance. Jason Cummings scored all four goals for Rangers in the 4-1 win over Falkirk Credit: Getty Images The Ton’s most notable disruptive action occurred before kick-off, when captain Thomas O’Ware won the coin toss and chose to make their hosts play towards the Jock Stein Stand in the first half, a reversal of the usual custom. “I think big Tam was on the wind-up with that one and I don’t think it went down well,” said Morton’s seasoned midfielder, Gary Harkins. “We made it tough for them and played quite well, although we lost a couple of bad goals, but it’s obviously a really tough place to come and we got punished in the end. The fans were brilliant and I’m from Greenock so I know how hard it was for them to get up here. They were really good.” Home town boy he may be, but Harkins has been so nomadic a footballer that it would not be startling to see him travel by camel rather than team bus. After a spell as a Celtic youth, he played in the colours of Blackburn, Huddersfield, Bury, Blackpool, Grimsby Town, Partick Thistle, Dundee (three times), Kilmarnock, St Mirren, Oldham and Ayr United before fetching up on his native patch. Harkins’ experience was evident against Celtic, when he was the most effective midfielder on view in the first half. Inevitably, he tired against inexorable pressure as the contest wore on, but he and his team-mates remain energised by another domestic prospect. Morton hold the record for promotions and relegations from the top flight of Scottish football – 10 times up and down – the most recent of which was demotion as long ago as 1988. Morton&#39;s Gary Harkins (L) arrives at Celtic Park on Saturday Credit: PA “I was three,” said Harkins. “It would be great to do it but it’s a tough run-in. We’ve been on a good run, although we had a bad result the other night against Livingston, but you’ve seen that we can play well when we come to places like Celtic. “There are a lot of boys in the team who are good enough to do it, so they should be looking at themselves and thinking, ‘I need to push on, I want to go on and do that.’ I’m still ambitious, I want to play at the highest level I can and if I could do that with my hometown club I’d be delighted.” For Celtic, the Scottish Cup semi-final now takes its place in a queue of fixtures stretching towards the season’s climax, the collision with Rangers at Ibrox being next on the agenda. Edouard, who replaced Scott Sinclair for the start of the second half against Morton, was singled out for praise by Brendan Rodgers and the 20-year-old striker, on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, hopes that his performance has pushed him into the manager’s reckoning for a place in the Old Firm derby. “For me, this is the most important match of the year,” Edouard said. “It’s against our biggest rivals. On these days, victory for the fans is very important. You cannot think about defeat. We know it will be hard at Rangers’ home but we are used to high-pressure situations. Of course, I hope I have done enough to be included in the game. It would mean everything to me to be involved. To win the treble two years in a row would be truly special. People would talk about it for many years.”
Celtic near another record-breaking season unless Rangers can halt their run
The disruption visited upon the UK by a Siberian weather system could have been avoided by the simple ploy of parading the Scottish Cup through the affected areas. That claim is based on the miraculous ­capacity of the tournament’s quarter-final ties to proceed on a weekend which saw the entire league fixture card in Scotland wiped out. That said, the sight of a manned snowplough prowling the car park ahead of Celtic’s meeting with Greenock Morton on Saturday testified to the determination of the holders to take another stride ­towards the unprecedented feat of a clean sweep of the Scottish honours in successive seasons. In the title race, the Hoops can only be stopped if Rangers overturn a six-point deficit in their remaining nine games, starting with next Sunday’s Old Firm derby at Ibrox, and overcome a goal difference of 11 ­between the sides. Sobriety compels the assumption that Celtic are essentially two contests away from their historic feat and that the first of those will be another encounter with Rangers at Hampden Park in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final on the weekend of April 15/16. Rangers’ 4-1 home victory over Falkirk yesterday, in which Jason Cummings scored a hat-trick, completed the equation begun by Celtic’s 3-0 win over their visitors from the Championship, ­although Morton held out for more than an hour before Moussa Dembele’s double and a late contribution from Odsonne Edouard ensured the holders’ advance. Jason Cummings scored all four goals for Rangers in the 4-1 win over Falkirk Credit: Getty Images The Ton’s most notable disruptive action occurred before kick-off, when captain Thomas O’Ware won the coin toss and chose to make their hosts play towards the Jock Stein Stand in the first half, a reversal of the usual custom. “I think big Tam was on the wind-up with that one and I don’t think it went down well,” said Morton’s seasoned midfielder, Gary Harkins. “We made it tough for them and played quite well, although we lost a couple of bad goals, but it’s obviously a really tough place to come and we got punished in the end. The fans were brilliant and I’m from Greenock so I know how hard it was for them to get up here. They were really good.” Home town boy he may be, but Harkins has been so nomadic a footballer that it would not be startling to see him travel by camel rather than team bus. After a spell as a Celtic youth, he played in the colours of Blackburn, Huddersfield, Bury, Blackpool, Grimsby Town, Partick Thistle, Dundee (three times), Kilmarnock, St Mirren, Oldham and Ayr United before fetching up on his native patch. Harkins’ experience was evident against Celtic, when he was the most effective midfielder on view in the first half. Inevitably, he tired against inexorable pressure as the contest wore on, but he and his team-mates remain energised by another domestic prospect. Morton hold the record for promotions and relegations from the top flight of Scottish football – 10 times up and down – the most recent of which was demotion as long ago as 1988. Morton's Gary Harkins (L) arrives at Celtic Park on Saturday Credit: PA “I was three,” said Harkins. “It would be great to do it but it’s a tough run-in. We’ve been on a good run, although we had a bad result the other night against Livingston, but you’ve seen that we can play well when we come to places like Celtic. “There are a lot of boys in the team who are good enough to do it, so they should be looking at themselves and thinking, ‘I need to push on, I want to go on and do that.’ I’m still ambitious, I want to play at the highest level I can and if I could do that with my hometown club I’d be delighted.” For Celtic, the Scottish Cup semi-final now takes its place in a queue of fixtures stretching towards the season’s climax, the collision with Rangers at Ibrox being next on the agenda. Edouard, who replaced Scott Sinclair for the start of the second half against Morton, was singled out for praise by Brendan Rodgers and the 20-year-old striker, on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, hopes that his performance has pushed him into the manager’s reckoning for a place in the Old Firm derby. “For me, this is the most important match of the year,” Edouard said. “It’s against our biggest rivals. On these days, victory for the fans is very important. You cannot think about defeat. We know it will be hard at Rangers’ home but we are used to high-pressure situations. Of course, I hope I have done enough to be included in the game. It would mean everything to me to be involved. To win the treble two years in a row would be truly special. People would talk about it for many years.”
The disruption visited upon the UK by a Siberian weather system could have been avoided by the simple ploy of parading the Scottish Cup through the affected areas. That claim is based on the miraculous ­capacity of the tournament’s quarter-final ties to proceed on a weekend which saw the entire league fixture card in Scotland wiped out. That said, the sight of a manned snowplough prowling the car park ahead of Celtic’s meeting with Greenock Morton on Saturday testified to the determination of the holders to take another stride ­towards the unprecedented feat of a clean sweep of the Scottish honours in successive seasons. In the title race, the Hoops can only be stopped if Rangers overturn a six-point deficit in their remaining nine games, starting with next Sunday’s Old Firm derby at Ibrox, and overcome a goal difference of 11 ­between the sides. Sobriety compels the assumption that Celtic are essentially two contests away from their historic feat and that the first of those will be another encounter with Rangers at Hampden Park in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final on the weekend of April 15/16. Rangers’ 4-1 home victory over Falkirk yesterday, in which Jason Cummings scored a hat-trick, completed the equation begun by Celtic’s 3-0 win over their visitors from the Championship, ­although Morton held out for more than an hour before Moussa Dembele’s double and a late contribution from Odsonne Edouard ensured the holders’ advance. Jason Cummings scored all four goals for Rangers in the 4-1 win over Falkirk Credit: Getty Images The Ton’s most notable disruptive action occurred before kick-off, when captain Thomas O’Ware won the coin toss and chose to make their hosts play towards the Jock Stein Stand in the first half, a reversal of the usual custom. “I think big Tam was on the wind-up with that one and I don’t think it went down well,” said Morton’s seasoned midfielder, Gary Harkins. “We made it tough for them and played quite well, although we lost a couple of bad goals, but it’s obviously a really tough place to come and we got punished in the end. The fans were brilliant and I’m from Greenock so I know how hard it was for them to get up here. They were really good.” Home town boy he may be, but Harkins has been so nomadic a footballer that it would not be startling to see him travel by camel rather than team bus. After a spell as a Celtic youth, he played in the colours of Blackburn, Huddersfield, Bury, Blackpool, Grimsby Town, Partick Thistle, Dundee (three times), Kilmarnock, St Mirren, Oldham and Ayr United before fetching up on his native patch. Harkins’ experience was evident against Celtic, when he was the most effective midfielder on view in the first half. Inevitably, he tired against inexorable pressure as the contest wore on, but he and his team-mates remain energised by another domestic prospect. Morton hold the record for promotions and relegations from the top flight of Scottish football – 10 times up and down – the most recent of which was demotion as long ago as 1988. Morton&#39;s Gary Harkins (L) arrives at Celtic Park on Saturday Credit: PA “I was three,” said Harkins. “It would be great to do it but it’s a tough run-in. We’ve been on a good run, although we had a bad result the other night against Livingston, but you’ve seen that we can play well when we come to places like Celtic. “There are a lot of boys in the team who are good enough to do it, so they should be looking at themselves and thinking, ‘I need to push on, I want to go on and do that.’ I’m still ambitious, I want to play at the highest level I can and if I could do that with my hometown club I’d be delighted.” For Celtic, the Scottish Cup semi-final now takes its place in a queue of fixtures stretching towards the season’s climax, the collision with Rangers at Ibrox being next on the agenda. Edouard, who replaced Scott Sinclair for the start of the second half against Morton, was singled out for praise by Brendan Rodgers and the 20-year-old striker, on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, hopes that his performance has pushed him into the manager’s reckoning for a place in the Old Firm derby. “For me, this is the most important match of the year,” Edouard said. “It’s against our biggest rivals. On these days, victory for the fans is very important. You cannot think about defeat. We know it will be hard at Rangers’ home but we are used to high-pressure situations. Of course, I hope I have done enough to be included in the game. It would mean everything to me to be involved. To win the treble two years in a row would be truly special. People would talk about it for many years.”
Celtic near another record-breaking season unless Rangers can halt their run
The disruption visited upon the UK by a Siberian weather system could have been avoided by the simple ploy of parading the Scottish Cup through the affected areas. That claim is based on the miraculous ­capacity of the tournament’s quarter-final ties to proceed on a weekend which saw the entire league fixture card in Scotland wiped out. That said, the sight of a manned snowplough prowling the car park ahead of Celtic’s meeting with Greenock Morton on Saturday testified to the determination of the holders to take another stride ­towards the unprecedented feat of a clean sweep of the Scottish honours in successive seasons. In the title race, the Hoops can only be stopped if Rangers overturn a six-point deficit in their remaining nine games, starting with next Sunday’s Old Firm derby at Ibrox, and overcome a goal difference of 11 ­between the sides. Sobriety compels the assumption that Celtic are essentially two contests away from their historic feat and that the first of those will be another encounter with Rangers at Hampden Park in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final on the weekend of April 15/16. Rangers’ 4-1 home victory over Falkirk yesterday, in which Jason Cummings scored a hat-trick, completed the equation begun by Celtic’s 3-0 win over their visitors from the Championship, ­although Morton held out for more than an hour before Moussa Dembele’s double and a late contribution from Odsonne Edouard ensured the holders’ advance. Jason Cummings scored all four goals for Rangers in the 4-1 win over Falkirk Credit: Getty Images The Ton’s most notable disruptive action occurred before kick-off, when captain Thomas O’Ware won the coin toss and chose to make their hosts play towards the Jock Stein Stand in the first half, a reversal of the usual custom. “I think big Tam was on the wind-up with that one and I don’t think it went down well,” said Morton’s seasoned midfielder, Gary Harkins. “We made it tough for them and played quite well, although we lost a couple of bad goals, but it’s obviously a really tough place to come and we got punished in the end. The fans were brilliant and I’m from Greenock so I know how hard it was for them to get up here. They were really good.” Home town boy he may be, but Harkins has been so nomadic a footballer that it would not be startling to see him travel by camel rather than team bus. After a spell as a Celtic youth, he played in the colours of Blackburn, Huddersfield, Bury, Blackpool, Grimsby Town, Partick Thistle, Dundee (three times), Kilmarnock, St Mirren, Oldham and Ayr United before fetching up on his native patch. Harkins’ experience was evident against Celtic, when he was the most effective midfielder on view in the first half. Inevitably, he tired against inexorable pressure as the contest wore on, but he and his team-mates remain energised by another domestic prospect. Morton hold the record for promotions and relegations from the top flight of Scottish football – 10 times up and down – the most recent of which was demotion as long ago as 1988. Morton's Gary Harkins (L) arrives at Celtic Park on Saturday Credit: PA “I was three,” said Harkins. “It would be great to do it but it’s a tough run-in. We’ve been on a good run, although we had a bad result the other night against Livingston, but you’ve seen that we can play well when we come to places like Celtic. “There are a lot of boys in the team who are good enough to do it, so they should be looking at themselves and thinking, ‘I need to push on, I want to go on and do that.’ I’m still ambitious, I want to play at the highest level I can and if I could do that with my hometown club I’d be delighted.” For Celtic, the Scottish Cup semi-final now takes its place in a queue of fixtures stretching towards the season’s climax, the collision with Rangers at Ibrox being next on the agenda. Edouard, who replaced Scott Sinclair for the start of the second half against Morton, was singled out for praise by Brendan Rodgers and the 20-year-old striker, on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, hopes that his performance has pushed him into the manager’s reckoning for a place in the Old Firm derby. “For me, this is the most important match of the year,” Edouard said. “It’s against our biggest rivals. On these days, victory for the fans is very important. You cannot think about defeat. We know it will be hard at Rangers’ home but we are used to high-pressure situations. Of course, I hope I have done enough to be included in the game. It would mean everything to me to be involved. To win the treble two years in a row would be truly special. People would talk about it for many years.”
The disruption visited upon the UK by a Siberian weather system could have been avoided by the simple ploy of parading the Scottish Cup through the affected areas. That claim is based on the miraculous ­capacity of the tournament’s quarter-final ties to proceed on a weekend which saw the entire league fixture card in Scotland wiped out. That said, the sight of a manned snowplough prowling the car park ahead of Celtic’s meeting with Greenock Morton on Saturday testified to the determination of the holders to take another stride ­towards the unprecedented feat of a clean sweep of the Scottish honours in successive seasons. In the title race, the Hoops can only be stopped if Rangers overturn a six-point deficit in their remaining nine games, starting with next Sunday’s Old Firm derby at Ibrox, and overcome a goal difference of 11 ­between the sides. Sobriety compels the assumption that Celtic are essentially two contests away from their historic feat and that the first of those will be another encounter with Rangers at Hampden Park in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final on the weekend of April 15/16. Rangers’ 4-1 home victory over Falkirk yesterday, in which Jason Cummings scored a hat-trick, completed the equation begun by Celtic’s 3-0 win over their visitors from the Championship, ­although Morton held out for more than an hour before Moussa Dembele’s double and a late contribution from Odsonne Edouard ensured the holders’ advance. Jason Cummings scored all four goals for Rangers in the 4-1 win over Falkirk Credit: Getty Images The Ton’s most notable disruptive action occurred before kick-off, when captain Thomas O’Ware won the coin toss and chose to make their hosts play towards the Jock Stein Stand in the first half, a reversal of the usual custom. “I think big Tam was on the wind-up with that one and I don’t think it went down well,” said Morton’s seasoned midfielder, Gary Harkins. “We made it tough for them and played quite well, although we lost a couple of bad goals, but it’s obviously a really tough place to come and we got punished in the end. The fans were brilliant and I’m from Greenock so I know how hard it was for them to get up here. They were really good.” Home town boy he may be, but Harkins has been so nomadic a footballer that it would not be startling to see him travel by camel rather than team bus. After a spell as a Celtic youth, he played in the colours of Blackburn, Huddersfield, Bury, Blackpool, Grimsby Town, Partick Thistle, Dundee (three times), Kilmarnock, St Mirren, Oldham and Ayr United before fetching up on his native patch. Harkins’ experience was evident against Celtic, when he was the most effective midfielder on view in the first half. Inevitably, he tired against inexorable pressure as the contest wore on, but he and his team-mates remain energised by another domestic prospect. Morton hold the record for promotions and relegations from the top flight of Scottish football – 10 times up and down – the most recent of which was demotion as long ago as 1988. Morton&#39;s Gary Harkins (L) arrives at Celtic Park on Saturday Credit: PA “I was three,” said Harkins. “It would be great to do it but it’s a tough run-in. We’ve been on a good run, although we had a bad result the other night against Livingston, but you’ve seen that we can play well when we come to places like Celtic. “There are a lot of boys in the team who are good enough to do it, so they should be looking at themselves and thinking, ‘I need to push on, I want to go on and do that.’ I’m still ambitious, I want to play at the highest level I can and if I could do that with my hometown club I’d be delighted.” For Celtic, the Scottish Cup semi-final now takes its place in a queue of fixtures stretching towards the season’s climax, the collision with Rangers at Ibrox being next on the agenda. Edouard, who replaced Scott Sinclair for the start of the second half against Morton, was singled out for praise by Brendan Rodgers and the 20-year-old striker, on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, hopes that his performance has pushed him into the manager’s reckoning for a place in the Old Firm derby. “For me, this is the most important match of the year,” Edouard said. “It’s against our biggest rivals. On these days, victory for the fans is very important. You cannot think about defeat. We know it will be hard at Rangers’ home but we are used to high-pressure situations. Of course, I hope I have done enough to be included in the game. It would mean everything to me to be involved. To win the treble two years in a row would be truly special. People would talk about it for many years.”
Celtic near another record-breaking season unless Rangers can halt their run
The disruption visited upon the UK by a Siberian weather system could have been avoided by the simple ploy of parading the Scottish Cup through the affected areas. That claim is based on the miraculous ­capacity of the tournament’s quarter-final ties to proceed on a weekend which saw the entire league fixture card in Scotland wiped out. That said, the sight of a manned snowplough prowling the car park ahead of Celtic’s meeting with Greenock Morton on Saturday testified to the determination of the holders to take another stride ­towards the unprecedented feat of a clean sweep of the Scottish honours in successive seasons. In the title race, the Hoops can only be stopped if Rangers overturn a six-point deficit in their remaining nine games, starting with next Sunday’s Old Firm derby at Ibrox, and overcome a goal difference of 11 ­between the sides. Sobriety compels the assumption that Celtic are essentially two contests away from their historic feat and that the first of those will be another encounter with Rangers at Hampden Park in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final on the weekend of April 15/16. Rangers’ 4-1 home victory over Falkirk yesterday, in which Jason Cummings scored a hat-trick, completed the equation begun by Celtic’s 3-0 win over their visitors from the Championship, ­although Morton held out for more than an hour before Moussa Dembele’s double and a late contribution from Odsonne Edouard ensured the holders’ advance. Jason Cummings scored all four goals for Rangers in the 4-1 win over Falkirk Credit: Getty Images The Ton’s most notable disruptive action occurred before kick-off, when captain Thomas O’Ware won the coin toss and chose to make their hosts play towards the Jock Stein Stand in the first half, a reversal of the usual custom. “I think big Tam was on the wind-up with that one and I don’t think it went down well,” said Morton’s seasoned midfielder, Gary Harkins. “We made it tough for them and played quite well, although we lost a couple of bad goals, but it’s obviously a really tough place to come and we got punished in the end. The fans were brilliant and I’m from Greenock so I know how hard it was for them to get up here. They were really good.” Home town boy he may be, but Harkins has been so nomadic a footballer that it would not be startling to see him travel by camel rather than team bus. After a spell as a Celtic youth, he played in the colours of Blackburn, Huddersfield, Bury, Blackpool, Grimsby Town, Partick Thistle, Dundee (three times), Kilmarnock, St Mirren, Oldham and Ayr United before fetching up on his native patch. Harkins’ experience was evident against Celtic, when he was the most effective midfielder on view in the first half. Inevitably, he tired against inexorable pressure as the contest wore on, but he and his team-mates remain energised by another domestic prospect. Morton hold the record for promotions and relegations from the top flight of Scottish football – 10 times up and down – the most recent of which was demotion as long ago as 1988. Morton's Gary Harkins (L) arrives at Celtic Park on Saturday Credit: PA “I was three,” said Harkins. “It would be great to do it but it’s a tough run-in. We’ve been on a good run, although we had a bad result the other night against Livingston, but you’ve seen that we can play well when we come to places like Celtic. “There are a lot of boys in the team who are good enough to do it, so they should be looking at themselves and thinking, ‘I need to push on, I want to go on and do that.’ I’m still ambitious, I want to play at the highest level I can and if I could do that with my hometown club I’d be delighted.” For Celtic, the Scottish Cup semi-final now takes its place in a queue of fixtures stretching towards the season’s climax, the collision with Rangers at Ibrox being next on the agenda. Edouard, who replaced Scott Sinclair for the start of the second half against Morton, was singled out for praise by Brendan Rodgers and the 20-year-old striker, on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, hopes that his performance has pushed him into the manager’s reckoning for a place in the Old Firm derby. “For me, this is the most important match of the year,” Edouard said. “It’s against our biggest rivals. On these days, victory for the fans is very important. You cannot think about defeat. We know it will be hard at Rangers’ home but we are used to high-pressure situations. Of course, I hope I have done enough to be included in the game. It would mean everything to me to be involved. To win the treble two years in a row would be truly special. People would talk about it for many years.”
Concern about a fixture backlog in Scotland increased with the announcement that several weekend league games had been postponed because of the impact of severe weather. The Scottish Cup quarter-finals have not yet been disrupted but an announcement will be made today about the schedule. Of the midweek Scottish Premiership fixtures, only Tuesday’s games between Hearts and Kilmarnock – which finished 1-1 at Tynecastle – and Rangers’ 4-1 victory over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park survived the freeze. Wednesday evening’s matches – Celtic v Dundee, Hibs v Hamilton and Motherwell v Aberdeen – were all postponed as icy weather swept in from Siberia, with blizzards forcing transport to a near-standstill. Rangers are now six points behind leaders Celtic, having played one game more than the champions, ahead of the third Old Firm derby of the season at Ibrox, a week on Sunday. This weekend’s league matches which have been called off include one Premiership fixture, between St Johnstone and Hamilton. Somewhat surprisingly, the other top-flight league game between Ross County and Partick Thistle, in the division’s most northerly venue at Dingwall, was still scheduled to go ahead. Aberdeen&#39;s game against Motherwell is one of a number of games to be called off in the Scottish Premiership Credit: PA In the Championship, Dundee United v St Mirren tonight and tomorrow’s Dunfermline v Livingston match are off. League One fixtures, Airdrieonians v Stranraer and Albion Rovers v Queen’s Park, plus four League 2 matches – Berwick Rangers v Stirling Albion, Clyde v Elgin City, Edinburgh City v Cowdenbeath and Peterhead v Stenhousemuir – also fell victim to the adverse conditions. Scotland was the subject of a Met Office red warning on Wednesday night and yesterday morning, but although the alert was downgraded to amber, it is likely that more games will fall victim to the snowy conditions. An SPFL statement read: “All other SPFL matches remain on at this point but will be reviewed at the earliest opportunity tomorrow morning.” The Scottish Football Association, meanwhile, is also monitoring conditions ahead of a Scottish Cup weekend that sees Celtic at home to Greenock Morton in a lunchtime kick-off. Aberdeen are also due to be in action tomorrow at Pittodrie against Kilmarnock. On Sunday, Motherwell are to meet Hearts at Fir Park, with Rangers at home to Falkirk later in the afternoon. An SFA source said: “We have no inspections scheduled yet and, in fact, pitches are the least of the worries. The questions are – can staff and players get in and can fans travel safely? We are liaising with clubs, police and broadcasters and will update the situation in due course.” Matches are also falling victim to the freeze south of the border. Tomorrow’s Championship game between Sheffield United and Burton Albion was postponed yesterday, along with Bradford v Portsmouth, Gillingham v Rotherham and Oxford v Fleetwood in League One. The League Two match between Newport County and Accrington Stanley was also called off. Rugby Union is also suffering with five of the Pro14’s seven fixtures for this weekend being postponed yesterday. The two remaining Pro14 fixtures are unaffected by the cold snap due to being played in South Africa, with the Southern Kings hosting Dragons in Port Elizabeth and the Cheetahs taking on Connacht in Bloemfontein. A top-of-the-table clash between Scarlets and Leinster is among the Pro14 matches that must now be rescheduled, with widespread disruption at Dublin airport preventing Leinster from making the trip to west Wales. “The health and safety of supporters, match officials, players and staff from both clubs has been the foremost consideration,” read a Pro14 statement. “It is in the best interests of everyone involved to postpone the fixtures and the rescheduled date and kick-off time will be confirmed as soon as possible. “We hope that supporters understand the reasons behind this postponement and that any inconvenience caused is minor compared to the impact of making this decision closer to kick-off.” Meanwhile in the Aviva Premiership, the top-two fixture between Exeter Chiefs and Saracens at Sandy Park in Devon has been moved from tomorrow to Sunday. All remaining fixtures in the competition are expected to go ahead as scheduled.
Beast from the East wreaks havoc with Scottish football and rugby fixtures
Concern about a fixture backlog in Scotland increased with the announcement that several weekend league games had been postponed because of the impact of severe weather. The Scottish Cup quarter-finals have not yet been disrupted but an announcement will be made today about the schedule. Of the midweek Scottish Premiership fixtures, only Tuesday’s games between Hearts and Kilmarnock – which finished 1-1 at Tynecastle – and Rangers’ 4-1 victory over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park survived the freeze. Wednesday evening’s matches – Celtic v Dundee, Hibs v Hamilton and Motherwell v Aberdeen – were all postponed as icy weather swept in from Siberia, with blizzards forcing transport to a near-standstill. Rangers are now six points behind leaders Celtic, having played one game more than the champions, ahead of the third Old Firm derby of the season at Ibrox, a week on Sunday. This weekend’s league matches which have been called off include one Premiership fixture, between St Johnstone and Hamilton. Somewhat surprisingly, the other top-flight league game between Ross County and Partick Thistle, in the division’s most northerly venue at Dingwall, was still scheduled to go ahead. Aberdeen's game against Motherwell is one of a number of games to be called off in the Scottish Premiership Credit: PA In the Championship, Dundee United v St Mirren tonight and tomorrow’s Dunfermline v Livingston match are off. League One fixtures, Airdrieonians v Stranraer and Albion Rovers v Queen’s Park, plus four League 2 matches – Berwick Rangers v Stirling Albion, Clyde v Elgin City, Edinburgh City v Cowdenbeath and Peterhead v Stenhousemuir – also fell victim to the adverse conditions. Scotland was the subject of a Met Office red warning on Wednesday night and yesterday morning, but although the alert was downgraded to amber, it is likely that more games will fall victim to the snowy conditions. An SPFL statement read: “All other SPFL matches remain on at this point but will be reviewed at the earliest opportunity tomorrow morning.” The Scottish Football Association, meanwhile, is also monitoring conditions ahead of a Scottish Cup weekend that sees Celtic at home to Greenock Morton in a lunchtime kick-off. Aberdeen are also due to be in action tomorrow at Pittodrie against Kilmarnock. On Sunday, Motherwell are to meet Hearts at Fir Park, with Rangers at home to Falkirk later in the afternoon. An SFA source said: “We have no inspections scheduled yet and, in fact, pitches are the least of the worries. The questions are – can staff and players get in and can fans travel safely? We are liaising with clubs, police and broadcasters and will update the situation in due course.” Matches are also falling victim to the freeze south of the border. Tomorrow’s Championship game between Sheffield United and Burton Albion was postponed yesterday, along with Bradford v Portsmouth, Gillingham v Rotherham and Oxford v Fleetwood in League One. The League Two match between Newport County and Accrington Stanley was also called off. Rugby Union is also suffering with five of the Pro14’s seven fixtures for this weekend being postponed yesterday. The two remaining Pro14 fixtures are unaffected by the cold snap due to being played in South Africa, with the Southern Kings hosting Dragons in Port Elizabeth and the Cheetahs taking on Connacht in Bloemfontein. A top-of-the-table clash between Scarlets and Leinster is among the Pro14 matches that must now be rescheduled, with widespread disruption at Dublin airport preventing Leinster from making the trip to west Wales. “The health and safety of supporters, match officials, players and staff from both clubs has been the foremost consideration,” read a Pro14 statement. “It is in the best interests of everyone involved to postpone the fixtures and the rescheduled date and kick-off time will be confirmed as soon as possible. “We hope that supporters understand the reasons behind this postponement and that any inconvenience caused is minor compared to the impact of making this decision closer to kick-off.” Meanwhile in the Aviva Premiership, the top-two fixture between Exeter Chiefs and Saracens at Sandy Park in Devon has been moved from tomorrow to Sunday. All remaining fixtures in the competition are expected to go ahead as scheduled.
Concern about a fixture backlog in Scotland increased with the announcement that several weekend league games had been postponed because of the impact of severe weather. The Scottish Cup quarter-finals have not yet been disrupted but an announcement will be made today about the schedule. Of the midweek Scottish Premiership fixtures, only Tuesday’s games between Hearts and Kilmarnock – which finished 1-1 at Tynecastle – and Rangers’ 4-1 victory over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park survived the freeze. Wednesday evening’s matches – Celtic v Dundee, Hibs v Hamilton and Motherwell v Aberdeen – were all postponed as icy weather swept in from Siberia, with blizzards forcing transport to a near-standstill. Rangers are now six points behind leaders Celtic, having played one game more than the champions, ahead of the third Old Firm derby of the season at Ibrox, a week on Sunday. This weekend’s league matches which have been called off include one Premiership fixture, between St Johnstone and Hamilton. Somewhat surprisingly, the other top-flight league game between Ross County and Partick Thistle, in the division’s most northerly venue at Dingwall, was still scheduled to go ahead. Aberdeen&#39;s game against Motherwell is one of a number of games to be called off in the Scottish Premiership Credit: PA In the Championship, Dundee United v St Mirren tonight and tomorrow’s Dunfermline v Livingston match are off. League One fixtures, Airdrieonians v Stranraer and Albion Rovers v Queen’s Park, plus four League 2 matches – Berwick Rangers v Stirling Albion, Clyde v Elgin City, Edinburgh City v Cowdenbeath and Peterhead v Stenhousemuir – also fell victim to the adverse conditions. Scotland was the subject of a Met Office red warning on Wednesday night and yesterday morning, but although the alert was downgraded to amber, it is likely that more games will fall victim to the snowy conditions. An SPFL statement read: “All other SPFL matches remain on at this point but will be reviewed at the earliest opportunity tomorrow morning.” The Scottish Football Association, meanwhile, is also monitoring conditions ahead of a Scottish Cup weekend that sees Celtic at home to Greenock Morton in a lunchtime kick-off. Aberdeen are also due to be in action tomorrow at Pittodrie against Kilmarnock. On Sunday, Motherwell are to meet Hearts at Fir Park, with Rangers at home to Falkirk later in the afternoon. An SFA source said: “We have no inspections scheduled yet and, in fact, pitches are the least of the worries. The questions are – can staff and players get in and can fans travel safely? We are liaising with clubs, police and broadcasters and will update the situation in due course.” Matches are also falling victim to the freeze south of the border. Tomorrow’s Championship game between Sheffield United and Burton Albion was postponed yesterday, along with Bradford v Portsmouth, Gillingham v Rotherham and Oxford v Fleetwood in League One. The League Two match between Newport County and Accrington Stanley was also called off. Rugby Union is also suffering with five of the Pro14’s seven fixtures for this weekend being postponed yesterday. The two remaining Pro14 fixtures are unaffected by the cold snap due to being played in South Africa, with the Southern Kings hosting Dragons in Port Elizabeth and the Cheetahs taking on Connacht in Bloemfontein. A top-of-the-table clash between Scarlets and Leinster is among the Pro14 matches that must now be rescheduled, with widespread disruption at Dublin airport preventing Leinster from making the trip to west Wales. “The health and safety of supporters, match officials, players and staff from both clubs has been the foremost consideration,” read a Pro14 statement. “It is in the best interests of everyone involved to postpone the fixtures and the rescheduled date and kick-off time will be confirmed as soon as possible. “We hope that supporters understand the reasons behind this postponement and that any inconvenience caused is minor compared to the impact of making this decision closer to kick-off.” Meanwhile in the Aviva Premiership, the top-two fixture between Exeter Chiefs and Saracens at Sandy Park in Devon has been moved from tomorrow to Sunday. All remaining fixtures in the competition are expected to go ahead as scheduled.
Beast from the East wreaks havoc with Scottish football and rugby fixtures
Concern about a fixture backlog in Scotland increased with the announcement that several weekend league games had been postponed because of the impact of severe weather. The Scottish Cup quarter-finals have not yet been disrupted but an announcement will be made today about the schedule. Of the midweek Scottish Premiership fixtures, only Tuesday’s games between Hearts and Kilmarnock – which finished 1-1 at Tynecastle – and Rangers’ 4-1 victory over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park survived the freeze. Wednesday evening’s matches – Celtic v Dundee, Hibs v Hamilton and Motherwell v Aberdeen – were all postponed as icy weather swept in from Siberia, with blizzards forcing transport to a near-standstill. Rangers are now six points behind leaders Celtic, having played one game more than the champions, ahead of the third Old Firm derby of the season at Ibrox, a week on Sunday. This weekend’s league matches which have been called off include one Premiership fixture, between St Johnstone and Hamilton. Somewhat surprisingly, the other top-flight league game between Ross County and Partick Thistle, in the division’s most northerly venue at Dingwall, was still scheduled to go ahead. Aberdeen's game against Motherwell is one of a number of games to be called off in the Scottish Premiership Credit: PA In the Championship, Dundee United v St Mirren tonight and tomorrow’s Dunfermline v Livingston match are off. League One fixtures, Airdrieonians v Stranraer and Albion Rovers v Queen’s Park, plus four League 2 matches – Berwick Rangers v Stirling Albion, Clyde v Elgin City, Edinburgh City v Cowdenbeath and Peterhead v Stenhousemuir – also fell victim to the adverse conditions. Scotland was the subject of a Met Office red warning on Wednesday night and yesterday morning, but although the alert was downgraded to amber, it is likely that more games will fall victim to the snowy conditions. An SPFL statement read: “All other SPFL matches remain on at this point but will be reviewed at the earliest opportunity tomorrow morning.” The Scottish Football Association, meanwhile, is also monitoring conditions ahead of a Scottish Cup weekend that sees Celtic at home to Greenock Morton in a lunchtime kick-off. Aberdeen are also due to be in action tomorrow at Pittodrie against Kilmarnock. On Sunday, Motherwell are to meet Hearts at Fir Park, with Rangers at home to Falkirk later in the afternoon. An SFA source said: “We have no inspections scheduled yet and, in fact, pitches are the least of the worries. The questions are – can staff and players get in and can fans travel safely? We are liaising with clubs, police and broadcasters and will update the situation in due course.” Matches are also falling victim to the freeze south of the border. Tomorrow’s Championship game between Sheffield United and Burton Albion was postponed yesterday, along with Bradford v Portsmouth, Gillingham v Rotherham and Oxford v Fleetwood in League One. The League Two match between Newport County and Accrington Stanley was also called off. Rugby Union is also suffering with five of the Pro14’s seven fixtures for this weekend being postponed yesterday. The two remaining Pro14 fixtures are unaffected by the cold snap due to being played in South Africa, with the Southern Kings hosting Dragons in Port Elizabeth and the Cheetahs taking on Connacht in Bloemfontein. A top-of-the-table clash between Scarlets and Leinster is among the Pro14 matches that must now be rescheduled, with widespread disruption at Dublin airport preventing Leinster from making the trip to west Wales. “The health and safety of supporters, match officials, players and staff from both clubs has been the foremost consideration,” read a Pro14 statement. “It is in the best interests of everyone involved to postpone the fixtures and the rescheduled date and kick-off time will be confirmed as soon as possible. “We hope that supporters understand the reasons behind this postponement and that any inconvenience caused is minor compared to the impact of making this decision closer to kick-off.” Meanwhile in the Aviva Premiership, the top-two fixture between Exeter Chiefs and Saracens at Sandy Park in Devon has been moved from tomorrow to Sunday. All remaining fixtures in the competition are expected to go ahead as scheduled.
JGM14. Oakland (United States), 25/02/2018.- Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (L) tries to pass as Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston (R) defends during the second half of their NBA game at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, USA, 24 February 2018. (Baloncesto, Estados Unidos) EFE/EPA/JOHN G. MABANGLO SHUTTERSTOCK OUT
JGM14. Oakland (United States), 25/02/2018.- Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (L) tries to pass as Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston (R) defends during the second half of their NBA game at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, USA, 24 February 2018. (Baloncesto, Estados Unidos) EFE/EPA/JOHN G. MABANGLO SHUTTERSTOCK OUT
JGM14. Oakland (United States), 25/02/2018.- Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (L) tries to pass as Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston (R) defends during the second half of their NBA game at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, USA, 24 February 2018. (Baloncesto, Estados Unidos) EFE/EPA/JOHN G. MABANGLO SHUTTERSTOCK OUT
Bongpyeong-myeon (Korea, Republic Of), 13/02/2018.- Derek Livingston of Canada during the Men&#39;s Snowboard Halfpipe qualifications at the Bokwang Phoenix Park during the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games, South Korea, 13 February 2018. (Fénix, Corea del Sur) EFE/EPA/FAZRY ISMAIL
Bongpyeong-myeon (Korea, Republic Of), 13/02/2018.- Derek Livingston of Canada during the Men's Snowboard Halfpipe qualifications at the Bokwang Phoenix Park during the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games, South Korea, 13 February 2018. (Fénix, Corea del Sur) EFE/EPA/FAZRY ISMAIL
Bongpyeong-myeon (Korea, Republic Of), 13/02/2018.- Derek Livingston of Canada during the Men's Snowboard Halfpipe qualifications at the Bokwang Phoenix Park during the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games, South Korea, 13 February 2018. (Fénix, Corea del Sur) EFE/EPA/FAZRY ISMAIL
Bongpyeong-myeon (Korea, Republic Of), 13/02/2018.- Derek Livingston of Canada during the Men&#39;s Snowboard Halfpipe qualifications at the Bokwang Phoenix Park during the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games, South Korea, 13 February 2018. (Fénix, Corea del Sur) EFE/EPA/FAZRY ISMAIL
Bongpyeong-myeon (Korea, Republic Of), 13/02/2018.- Derek Livingston of Canada during the Men's Snowboard Halfpipe qualifications at the Bokwang Phoenix Park during the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games, South Korea, 13 February 2018. (Fénix, Corea del Sur) EFE/EPA/FAZRY ISMAIL
Bongpyeong-myeon (Korea, Republic Of), 13/02/2018.- Derek Livingston of Canada during the Men's Snowboard Halfpipe qualifications at the Bokwang Phoenix Park during the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games, South Korea, 13 February 2018. (Fénix, Corea del Sur) EFE/EPA/FAZRY ISMAIL
JGM14. Oakland (United States), 11/02/2018.- San Antonio Spurs guard Darrun Hilliard (C) in action against Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston (L) and Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (R) during the second half of their NBA game at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, USA, 10 February 2018. (Baloncesto, Estados Unidos) EFE/EPA/JOHN G. MABANGLO
JGM14. Oakland (United States), 11/02/2018.- San Antonio Spurs guard Darrun Hilliard (C) in action against Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston (L) and Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (R) during the second half of their NBA game at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, USA, 10 February 2018. (Baloncesto, Estados Unidos) EFE/EPA/JOHN G. MABANGLO
JGM14. Oakland (United States), 11/02/2018.- San Antonio Spurs guard Darrun Hilliard (C) in action against Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston (L) and Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (R) during the second half of their NBA game at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, USA, 10 February 2018. (Baloncesto, Estados Unidos) EFE/EPA/JOHN G. MABANGLO
Snowboarding - Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Halfpipe Training - Phoenix Snow Park - Pyeongchang, South Korea - February 9, 2018 - Derek Livingston of Canada trains. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics
Snowboarding - Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Halfpipe Training - Phoenix Snow Park - Pyeongchang, South Korea - February 9, 2018 - Derek Livingston of Canada trains. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Snowboarding - Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Halfpipe Training - Phoenix Snow Park - Pyeongchang, South Korea - February 9, 2018 - Derek Livingston of Canada trains. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics
Snowboarding - Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Halfpipe Training - Phoenix Snow Park - Pyeongchang, South Korea - February 9, 2018 - Derek Livingston of Canada trains. REUTERS/Mike Blake
<p>This will be the sixth straight Olympics Bode Miller has attended, only this time the six-time medalist will be in the commentary booth for NBC. </p><p>He officially retired in October and now <a href="https://aztechmountain.com/pages/teaming-up-with-bode-miller" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:works as the chief innovation officer" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">works as the chief innovation officer</a> for Aztech Mountain, a Colorado-based skiwear company. SI.com spoke with Miller about his new gig as an announcer, his thoughts on the upcoming Olympics, his Super Bowl pick and much more. </p><p>(<em>The following interview was lightly edited and condensed for clarity.</em>)</p><p><strong>Dan Gartland</strong>: <em>How helpful will your experience doing commentary for World Cup races be for you as you prepare to cover the Olympics with NBC?</em></p><p><strong>Bode Miller</strong>: It’s critical, actually. It’s not a terribly tough thing for me to figure out how to do but there’s still a certain cadence to it. There’s few things that it helps to be used to, like with the timing of things or when they talk in your ear while you’re trying to talk. Those are all things that take a little getting used to, so it definitely helps.</p><p><strong>DG</strong>: <em><a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/olympics/2017/12/13/bode-miller-says-sochi-olympic-venue-hurt-his-medal-chances-2014/948718001/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:You were critical of the venue in Sochi" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">You were critical of the venue in Sochi</a>. Do you think there will be anything about Korea and either the snow or the terrain there that will provide a challenge for the skiers at the Olympics?</em></p><p><strong>BM</strong>: That’s really the crux of the whole thing. Skiing is full of that. There’s always something that’s problematic for one skier or another, or all of them, or one particular brand of ski. The number of variables there are in that sport, it’s always that. There’s no easy way to talk about it beforehand but that definitely will be a factor. </p><p><strong>DG</strong>: <em>How do skiers try to get a scouting report of the venue?</em></p><p><strong>BM</strong>: A lot of that has to do with the specific weather patterns that come through, how the course track is—and that varies year to year. There’s a lot of variables. </p><p><strong>DG</strong>: <em>Obviously a lot of the focus this Olympics will be on Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin, two fantastic Americans. Are there any other potential breakout stars you’re looking forward to covering?</em></p><p><strong>BM</strong>: It’s a strange sport because the favorites don’t generally do that well. If Michael Phelps came out of an Olympics with no medals, that would be shocking, whereas in this sport seeing a favorite come out with no medals is not shocking at all. It happens every single Olympics. Aksel Svindal, who was massively favored going into the last Olympics—he was skiing great, had just won several races going in there, had just won Kitzbühel right before that—he came out with no medals.</p><p>So while you can’t speak highly enough of Mikaela and Lindsey, it’s just no guarantee. In swimming there’s no variables. You hop in the pool, you do your thing, you might miss a start by a little bit but if you’re good enough you’ll overcome that. In this, there are just so many variables that are outside the control of the athlete that it really is sometimes absolutely impossible for even the very best to make up enough to cover that spread. </p><p><strong>DG</strong>: <em>This will be the first Olympics since 1994 that you won’t be competing in. You’ve missed World Cup seasons in the past but do you anticipate covering the Olympics to feel any different than the World Cup?</em></p><p><strong>BM</strong>: I don’t know that it’ll be that different. The World Cup I would expect to be the bigger anomaly. If you think about it from my perspective, since I was born in 1977 there have been five Olympics that I didn’t compete in and five Olympics that I did compete in. The bigger difference is that I raced 438 World Cup races. To then commentate World Cups and not be a part of it, that was a much greater pool of races for me. The Olympics is still only five. But I also think the spectacle of the Olympics is so much more prevalent and much more culturally relevant for Americans. So to be able to experience that the way that the rest of country and friends and family have for the last five Olympics, I think that will be way more fun for me. </p><p><strong>DG</strong>: <em>I read that you’re selling one of your race suits from Sochi on eBay. What went into that decision?</em></p><p><strong>BM</strong>: Having four storage units full of old stuff that I’ll never use or touch again [laughs]. That’s actually probably not true. I probably have more like six storage units. Leading up to the Olympics I want to get the excitement up, I like to get people engaged. That’s really the majority of why I’m doing the commentary anyway. It’s not really cash intensive. It’s just that I want to help enhance the experience for everyone else if I can. </p><p><strong>DG</strong>: <em>You officially retired in October but you hadn’t raced since crashing in 2015 and severing a hamstring tendon. I know the basketball player Shaun Livingston has said he never watched the video of his gruesome knee injury. Have you gone back and watched the video of the crash that essentially ended your career?</em></p><p><strong>BM</strong>: Yeah, it wasn’t the injury that ended my career. (Editor’s note: <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/olympics/2016/12/29/bode-miller-olympics-return/95981412/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Miller also had a legal dispute with a ski manufacturer" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Miller also had a legal dispute with a ski manufacturer</a> that prevented him from racing on other skis for two years.) It’s not hard for me to watch crashes—I’ve watched so many of them. For a basketball player, they don’t get injured that often and when they do it’s not usually a visual injury. In ski racing, we crash all the time. We watch crashes because you have to figure out why you crashed. You really want to figure out what happened and not make that mistake again. </p><p>With the crash, I honestly could have continued racing that World Cup series even though I cut my hamstring. The cut was nasty but it’s the same as any other cut. If I was a hockey player and I was tougher I probably would have just sewed it up and gone right on skiing. But it was a small tendon that you can do without and in the end it’s gone anyway. Mine blew back out. It wasn’t really that serious of an injury. It looks gross and the crash was hard but it certainly wasn’t harder than a lot of other crashes I’ve had. </p><p><strong>DG</strong>: <em>You’re from New England (New Hampshire). Are you a football fan at all?</em></p><p><strong>BM</strong>:I am. This is the first year that I’m getting to go to the Super Bowl, so I’m excited. I watched the Super Bowls all the time from Europe but it’s a different experience over there and I’m glad I get to see a Super Bowl where Tom Brady will still be competing because he’s one of my favorite football players. </p><p><strong>DG</strong>: <em>Do you have a pick?</em></p><p><strong>BM</strong>: The Patriots. I think they’ll hold the Eagles pretty well. I think it’ll be 34–18, Patriots. </p>
Bode Miller Q&A: His Thoughts on the 2018 Olympics, His New Job as a Broadcaster and More

This will be the sixth straight Olympics Bode Miller has attended, only this time the six-time medalist will be in the commentary booth for NBC.

He officially retired in October and now works as the chief innovation officer for Aztech Mountain, a Colorado-based skiwear company. SI.com spoke with Miller about his new gig as an announcer, his thoughts on the upcoming Olympics, his Super Bowl pick and much more.

(The following interview was lightly edited and condensed for clarity.)

Dan Gartland: How helpful will your experience doing commentary for World Cup races be for you as you prepare to cover the Olympics with NBC?

Bode Miller: It’s critical, actually. It’s not a terribly tough thing for me to figure out how to do but there’s still a certain cadence to it. There’s few things that it helps to be used to, like with the timing of things or when they talk in your ear while you’re trying to talk. Those are all things that take a little getting used to, so it definitely helps.

DG: You were critical of the venue in Sochi. Do you think there will be anything about Korea and either the snow or the terrain there that will provide a challenge for the skiers at the Olympics?

BM: That’s really the crux of the whole thing. Skiing is full of that. There’s always something that’s problematic for one skier or another, or all of them, or one particular brand of ski. The number of variables there are in that sport, it’s always that. There’s no easy way to talk about it beforehand but that definitely will be a factor.

DG: How do skiers try to get a scouting report of the venue?

BM: A lot of that has to do with the specific weather patterns that come through, how the course track is—and that varies year to year. There’s a lot of variables.

DG: Obviously a lot of the focus this Olympics will be on Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin, two fantastic Americans. Are there any other potential breakout stars you’re looking forward to covering?

BM: It’s a strange sport because the favorites don’t generally do that well. If Michael Phelps came out of an Olympics with no medals, that would be shocking, whereas in this sport seeing a favorite come out with no medals is not shocking at all. It happens every single Olympics. Aksel Svindal, who was massively favored going into the last Olympics—he was skiing great, had just won several races going in there, had just won Kitzbühel right before that—he came out with no medals.

So while you can’t speak highly enough of Mikaela and Lindsey, it’s just no guarantee. In swimming there’s no variables. You hop in the pool, you do your thing, you might miss a start by a little bit but if you’re good enough you’ll overcome that. In this, there are just so many variables that are outside the control of the athlete that it really is sometimes absolutely impossible for even the very best to make up enough to cover that spread.

DG: This will be the first Olympics since 1994 that you won’t be competing in. You’ve missed World Cup seasons in the past but do you anticipate covering the Olympics to feel any different than the World Cup?

BM: I don’t know that it’ll be that different. The World Cup I would expect to be the bigger anomaly. If you think about it from my perspective, since I was born in 1977 there have been five Olympics that I didn’t compete in and five Olympics that I did compete in. The bigger difference is that I raced 438 World Cup races. To then commentate World Cups and not be a part of it, that was a much greater pool of races for me. The Olympics is still only five. But I also think the spectacle of the Olympics is so much more prevalent and much more culturally relevant for Americans. So to be able to experience that the way that the rest of country and friends and family have for the last five Olympics, I think that will be way more fun for me.

DG: I read that you’re selling one of your race suits from Sochi on eBay. What went into that decision?

BM: Having four storage units full of old stuff that I’ll never use or touch again [laughs]. That’s actually probably not true. I probably have more like six storage units. Leading up to the Olympics I want to get the excitement up, I like to get people engaged. That’s really the majority of why I’m doing the commentary anyway. It’s not really cash intensive. It’s just that I want to help enhance the experience for everyone else if I can.

DG: You officially retired in October but you hadn’t raced since crashing in 2015 and severing a hamstring tendon. I know the basketball player Shaun Livingston has said he never watched the video of his gruesome knee injury. Have you gone back and watched the video of the crash that essentially ended your career?

BM: Yeah, it wasn’t the injury that ended my career. (Editor’s note: Miller also had a legal dispute with a ski manufacturer that prevented him from racing on other skis for two years.) It’s not hard for me to watch crashes—I’ve watched so many of them. For a basketball player, they don’t get injured that often and when they do it’s not usually a visual injury. In ski racing, we crash all the time. We watch crashes because you have to figure out why you crashed. You really want to figure out what happened and not make that mistake again.

With the crash, I honestly could have continued racing that World Cup series even though I cut my hamstring. The cut was nasty but it’s the same as any other cut. If I was a hockey player and I was tougher I probably would have just sewed it up and gone right on skiing. But it was a small tendon that you can do without and in the end it’s gone anyway. Mine blew back out. It wasn’t really that serious of an injury. It looks gross and the crash was hard but it certainly wasn’t harder than a lot of other crashes I’ve had.

DG: You’re from New England (New Hampshire). Are you a football fan at all?

BM:I am. This is the first year that I’m getting to go to the Super Bowl, so I’m excited. I watched the Super Bowls all the time from Europe but it’s a different experience over there and I’m glad I get to see a Super Bowl where Tom Brady will still be competing because he’s one of my favorite football players.

DG: Do you have a pick?

BM: The Patriots. I think they’ll hold the Eagles pretty well. I think it’ll be 34–18, Patriots.

<p>Warriors GM Bob Myers is a worrier by nature, forever envisioning worst–case scenarios. This is a man who occasionally leaves Oracle Arena and paces through the darkness of the parking lot when games get too tense; who says his fantasy is to one day attend a game purely as a fan, drinking a beer like all those relaxed-looking humans he sees in the crowd. “I’m not worried about not caring enough” <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2016/06/08/golden-state-warriors-nba-finals-bob-myers-steve-kerr-stephen-curry" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Myers once told me" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Myers once told me</a>. ”I’m worried about caring <em>too much</em>.”</p><p>So on Thursday he sat at a table at the Warriors practice facility for his annual trade deadline media availability, doing his best to rustle up some anxiety. “People may not believe this, but we have pressure,” he said. He then upgraded that to “constant pressure,” describing the outside response to every Warriors loss along the lines of &quot;a catastrophe.”</p><p>It was a noble effort but still a tough sell. Perhaps no team in modern NBA history has had as little to worry about as these Warriors. They are young, healthy, in their prime, well-run, well-coached, deep, and seem to actually like each other, which counts for something these days. Steph Curry is in MVP form and was just named Western Conference Player of the Month. Four Warriors are on the All-Star team (again) and three have a credible shot at joining the exclusive 40-50-90 club. Kevin Durant is making a case for Defensive Player of the Year—that is, if Draymond Green doesn’t win it again. Their excellence has made covering them, in some respects, monotonous. <em>News flash: Historically talented team that plays well together wins again!</em></p><p>?</p><p>Thursday at least provided a new topic to discuss. Perhaps you heard <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2018/02/01/lebron-james-warriors-free-agency-meeting" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the report" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the report</a> that LeBron James would be open to a free–agent meeting with the Warriors this summer? For his part, Myers attempted a preemptive strike, beginning his session by reminding reporters that he isn’t allowed to talk about players on other teams (which led a reporter instead asking about “a hypothetical 6’8 power forward”). Steve Kerr opted for his preferred communication mode, sarcasm, suggesting he just write a check to Adam Silver when someone mentioned LeBron.</p><p>Kevin Durant had the most entertaining response, though. “Bullshit,” he said when asked about his first reaction to the report.</p><p>“I don’t even think that’s even close to being a true story,” he told The Crossover. “That’s the nature of the game right now. It’s moreso about free agency, the business side of basketball, than it is about the real game. Nothing’s far-fetched when it comes to stories and headlines and clicks. It should be about the game and it’s getting father and farther away from the real game.”</p><p>?</p><p>Fair enough, so let’s talk about it. Especially because it’s highly unlikely that LeBron ends up on the Warriors, who by all indications would prefer a younger superstar like, say, Anthony Davis if they decide to do something drastic. There&#39;s also the matter of the various logistical machinations a LeBron acquisition would require and the fact that it just seems wrong for the best player in history to join what is already arguably the best team in history.</p><p>So, the game. This year’s Warriors don’t have the gaudy record of two years ago, or the buzz of last season, but the sense of inevitability is palpable, especially now that the Cavs have seemingly imploded. Who else is there? The Celtics have matched up well against Golden State this year, and Brad Stevens is an excellent coach, but they are young, and still have holes. The Spurs are weathering uncharacteristic drama, and while it’s wise to never underestimate Pop, legitimate title contention seems far-fetched, especially considering Kawhi Leonard’s lingering, mysterious, injury. Houston provides the most credible threat but they are still in year one of trying to mesh two superstars, and any team that relies so much on one player—say, one who puts up <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2018/01/30/james-harden-60-points-triple-double-rockets-magic" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:a 60 point triple-double" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">a 60 point triple-double</a>—may perhaps be in danger of lacking the ideal balance come playoff time. </p><p>More broadly, it feels like most everything in the league these days occurs as a direct or indirect response to the Warriors. Perhaps the credit (blame?) goes equally to Sam Hinkie. Either way, we’ve entered the boom-or-bust era, when anything less than title contention means you should blow it up. Gone is the idea that being a perennial playoff contender has its own value, or might be a goal in itself. Everyone is trying to build a team not to compete with the second or third seed but to topple Golden State. There’s no middle anymore. (Zach Lowe <a href="http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/22258759/zach-lowe-blake-griffin-trade-future-la-clippers-detroit-pistons" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:wrote insightfully" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">wrote insightfully</a> about this last week). It’s why the Clippers traded Blake, and why the Pistons acquired him. Why Oklahoma City is a mishmash of All-Stars, why Paul is in Houston, why LeBron-to-the-Warriors is even considered remotely credible. We’ve entered the If You Can’t Beat Em’ Join Em Age. And everyone wants to join the Warriors.</p><p>Is this good for the league. Maybe? Probably not? Who knows. But this isn’t for Myers and the Warriors to concern themselves with. Instead, they are already preparing for the next superteam threat or further stratification of the league. To remain ahead you must think big. Which is why we hear talk about Davis. Just as, back in 2015, Warriors execs I spoke with were already targeting Durant and, at the time, Marc Gasol, even as the team was in the process of winning a title. </p><p>Regardless, even as superteams may rise and form, the Warriors retain an advantage others cannot match: continuity and chemistry. The core of this Golden State squad has been together for up to five years. Durant is on year two and doesn’t appear in a hurry to go anywhere. Role players like David West and ZaZa Pachulia know how good they have it—and you get the impression they’d play for just about any reasonable salary just to stay here. So on the team rolls.</p><p>Thursday&#39;s practice provided a glimpse of that bond. On this afternoon, JaVale McGee is over to the side diligently shooting threes, just in case that helps him earn a few more minutes in the modern NBA (and because, well, shooting threes is fun). Analytics guru Sammy Gelfand is sprinting after rebounds on another court, feeding Shaun Livingston. Overhead, Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” blares from the speakers so loud it’s hard to hear the media sessions, which, come to think of it, might be on purpose. Meanwhile, Steph Curry is directing Bruce Fraser to feed him on the baseline for turnaround, fadeaway, one-hand push shots, both right and left-handed, because apparently that’s what you practice when you’ve mastered all the other shots. And, over on the mats, Kerr is using a foam roller on his hip and cackling at something Myers just said.</p><p>The overall vibe is of a team that is comfortable with who they are. That’s not to say there isn’t drama. Though, often enough, it comes from outside the bubble. Like, say, <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2017/09/24/steve-kerr-warriors-donald-trump-white-house-stephen-curry" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Trump and the White House invite." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Trump and the White House invite.</a> Or, on this day, from the media. While a number of us are interviewing Durant, two cameramen get into a scuffle over space, trying to make sure they get the shot of Durant commenting on LeBron, because, presumably, it could be Big News. One thing leads to another and it escalates beyond the usual scrum shoving.</p><p>“I’ll knock you the f--- out,” one of the cameramen said to the other.</p><p>At which point all of us stopped and turned, including Durant. Fortunately, an intrepid reporter stepped in between the two men.</p><p>With order momentarily restored, Durant continued. “See, look, like, what are we doing?” he said. “You know what I’m saying. Like, what’s goin&#39; on here really? What’s going on? We talking about <em>basketball</em>. So that should be the most important thing.”</p><p>And, in a way, he’s right. But, as long as the Warriors are this good, the reality is it might not be. </p>
LeBron to the Warriors? Even Golden State Is Laughing

Warriors GM Bob Myers is a worrier by nature, forever envisioning worst–case scenarios. This is a man who occasionally leaves Oracle Arena and paces through the darkness of the parking lot when games get too tense; who says his fantasy is to one day attend a game purely as a fan, drinking a beer like all those relaxed-looking humans he sees in the crowd. “I’m not worried about not caring enough” Myers once told me. ”I’m worried about caring too much.”

So on Thursday he sat at a table at the Warriors practice facility for his annual trade deadline media availability, doing his best to rustle up some anxiety. “People may not believe this, but we have pressure,” he said. He then upgraded that to “constant pressure,” describing the outside response to every Warriors loss along the lines of "a catastrophe.”

It was a noble effort but still a tough sell. Perhaps no team in modern NBA history has had as little to worry about as these Warriors. They are young, healthy, in their prime, well-run, well-coached, deep, and seem to actually like each other, which counts for something these days. Steph Curry is in MVP form and was just named Western Conference Player of the Month. Four Warriors are on the All-Star team (again) and three have a credible shot at joining the exclusive 40-50-90 club. Kevin Durant is making a case for Defensive Player of the Year—that is, if Draymond Green doesn’t win it again. Their excellence has made covering them, in some respects, monotonous. News flash: Historically talented team that plays well together wins again!

?

Thursday at least provided a new topic to discuss. Perhaps you heard the report that LeBron James would be open to a free–agent meeting with the Warriors this summer? For his part, Myers attempted a preemptive strike, beginning his session by reminding reporters that he isn’t allowed to talk about players on other teams (which led a reporter instead asking about “a hypothetical 6’8 power forward”). Steve Kerr opted for his preferred communication mode, sarcasm, suggesting he just write a check to Adam Silver when someone mentioned LeBron.

Kevin Durant had the most entertaining response, though. “Bullshit,” he said when asked about his first reaction to the report.

“I don’t even think that’s even close to being a true story,” he told The Crossover. “That’s the nature of the game right now. It’s moreso about free agency, the business side of basketball, than it is about the real game. Nothing’s far-fetched when it comes to stories and headlines and clicks. It should be about the game and it’s getting father and farther away from the real game.”

?

Fair enough, so let’s talk about it. Especially because it’s highly unlikely that LeBron ends up on the Warriors, who by all indications would prefer a younger superstar like, say, Anthony Davis if they decide to do something drastic. There's also the matter of the various logistical machinations a LeBron acquisition would require and the fact that it just seems wrong for the best player in history to join what is already arguably the best team in history.

So, the game. This year’s Warriors don’t have the gaudy record of two years ago, or the buzz of last season, but the sense of inevitability is palpable, especially now that the Cavs have seemingly imploded. Who else is there? The Celtics have matched up well against Golden State this year, and Brad Stevens is an excellent coach, but they are young, and still have holes. The Spurs are weathering uncharacteristic drama, and while it’s wise to never underestimate Pop, legitimate title contention seems far-fetched, especially considering Kawhi Leonard’s lingering, mysterious, injury. Houston provides the most credible threat but they are still in year one of trying to mesh two superstars, and any team that relies so much on one player—say, one who puts up a 60 point triple-double—may perhaps be in danger of lacking the ideal balance come playoff time.

More broadly, it feels like most everything in the league these days occurs as a direct or indirect response to the Warriors. Perhaps the credit (blame?) goes equally to Sam Hinkie. Either way, we’ve entered the boom-or-bust era, when anything less than title contention means you should blow it up. Gone is the idea that being a perennial playoff contender has its own value, or might be a goal in itself. Everyone is trying to build a team not to compete with the second or third seed but to topple Golden State. There’s no middle anymore. (Zach Lowe wrote insightfully about this last week). It’s why the Clippers traded Blake, and why the Pistons acquired him. Why Oklahoma City is a mishmash of All-Stars, why Paul is in Houston, why LeBron-to-the-Warriors is even considered remotely credible. We’ve entered the If You Can’t Beat Em’ Join Em Age. And everyone wants to join the Warriors.

Is this good for the league. Maybe? Probably not? Who knows. But this isn’t for Myers and the Warriors to concern themselves with. Instead, they are already preparing for the next superteam threat or further stratification of the league. To remain ahead you must think big. Which is why we hear talk about Davis. Just as, back in 2015, Warriors execs I spoke with were already targeting Durant and, at the time, Marc Gasol, even as the team was in the process of winning a title.

Regardless, even as superteams may rise and form, the Warriors retain an advantage others cannot match: continuity and chemistry. The core of this Golden State squad has been together for up to five years. Durant is on year two and doesn’t appear in a hurry to go anywhere. Role players like David West and ZaZa Pachulia know how good they have it—and you get the impression they’d play for just about any reasonable salary just to stay here. So on the team rolls.

Thursday's practice provided a glimpse of that bond. On this afternoon, JaVale McGee is over to the side diligently shooting threes, just in case that helps him earn a few more minutes in the modern NBA (and because, well, shooting threes is fun). Analytics guru Sammy Gelfand is sprinting after rebounds on another court, feeding Shaun Livingston. Overhead, Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” blares from the speakers so loud it’s hard to hear the media sessions, which, come to think of it, might be on purpose. Meanwhile, Steph Curry is directing Bruce Fraser to feed him on the baseline for turnaround, fadeaway, one-hand push shots, both right and left-handed, because apparently that’s what you practice when you’ve mastered all the other shots. And, over on the mats, Kerr is using a foam roller on his hip and cackling at something Myers just said.

The overall vibe is of a team that is comfortable with who they are. That’s not to say there isn’t drama. Though, often enough, it comes from outside the bubble. Like, say, Trump and the White House invite. Or, on this day, from the media. While a number of us are interviewing Durant, two cameramen get into a scuffle over space, trying to make sure they get the shot of Durant commenting on LeBron, because, presumably, it could be Big News. One thing leads to another and it escalates beyond the usual scrum shoving.

“I’ll knock you the f--- out,” one of the cameramen said to the other.

At which point all of us stopped and turned, including Durant. Fortunately, an intrepid reporter stepped in between the two men.

With order momentarily restored, Durant continued. “See, look, like, what are we doing?” he said. “You know what I’m saying. Like, what’s goin' on here really? What’s going on? We talking about basketball. So that should be the most important thing.”

And, in a way, he’s right. But, as long as the Warriors are this good, the reality is it might not be.

<p>Warriors GM Bob Myers is a worrier by nature, forever envisioning worst–case scenarios. This is a man who occasionally leaves Oracle Arena and paces through the darkness of the parking lot when games get too tense; who says his fantasy is to one day attend a game purely as a fan, drinking a beer like all those relaxed-looking humans he sees in the crowd. “I’m not worried about not caring enough” <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2016/06/08/golden-state-warriors-nba-finals-bob-myers-steve-kerr-stephen-curry" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Myers once told me" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Myers once told me</a>. ”I’m worried about caring <em>too much</em>.”</p><p>So on Thursday he sat at a table at the Warriors practice facility for his annual trade deadline media availability, doing his best to rustle up some anxiety. “People may not believe this, but we have pressure,” he said. He then upgraded that to “constant pressure,” describing the outside response to every Warriors loss along the lines of &quot;a catastrophe.”</p><p>It was a noble effort but still a tough sell. Perhaps no team in modern NBA history has had as little to worry about as these Warriors. They are young, healthy, in their prime, well-run, well-coached, deep, and seem to actually like each other, which counts for something these days. Steph Curry is in MVP form and was just named Western Conference Player of the Month. Four Warriors are on the All-Star team (again) and three have a credible shot at joining the exclusive 40-50-90 club. Kevin Durant is making a case for Defensive Player of the Year—that is, if Draymond Green doesn’t win it again. Their excellence has made covering them, in some respects, monotonous. <em>News flash: Historically talented team that plays well together wins again!</em></p><p>?</p><p>Thursday at least provided a new topic to discuss. Perhaps you heard <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2018/02/01/lebron-james-warriors-free-agency-meeting" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the report" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the report</a> that LeBron James would be open to a free–agent meeting with the Warriors this summer? For his part, Myers attempted a preemptive strike, beginning his session by reminding reporters that he isn’t allowed to talk about players on other teams (which led a reporter instead asking about “a hypothetical 6’8 power forward”). Steve Kerr opted for his preferred communication mode, sarcasm, suggesting he just write a check to Adam Silver when someone mentioned LeBron.</p><p>Kevin Durant had the most entertaining response, though. “Bullshit,” he said when asked about his first reaction to the report.</p><p>“I don’t even think that’s even close to being a true story,” he told The Crossover. “That’s the nature of the game right now. It’s moreso about free agency, the business side of basketball, than it is about the real game. Nothing’s far-fetched when it comes to stories and headlines and clicks. It should be about the game and it’s getting father and farther away from the real game.”</p><p>?</p><p>Fair enough, so let’s talk about it. Especially because it’s highly unlikely that LeBron ends up on the Warriors, who by all indications would prefer a younger superstar like, say, Anthony Davis if they decide to do something drastic. There&#39;s also the matter of the various logistical machinations a LeBron acquisition would require and the fact that it just seems wrong for the best player in history to join what is already arguably the best team in history.</p><p>So, the game. This year’s Warriors don’t have the gaudy record of two years ago, or the buzz of last season, but the sense of inevitability is palpable, especially now that the Cavs have seemingly imploded. Who else is there? The Celtics have matched up well against Golden State this year, and Brad Stevens is an excellent coach, but they are young, and still have holes. The Spurs are weathering uncharacteristic drama, and while it’s wise to never underestimate Pop, legitimate title contention seems far-fetched, especially considering Kawhi Leonard’s lingering, mysterious, injury. Houston provides the most credible threat but they are still in year one of trying to mesh two superstars, and any team that relies so much on one player—say, one who puts up <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2018/01/30/james-harden-60-points-triple-double-rockets-magic" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:a 60 point triple-double" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">a 60 point triple-double</a>—may perhaps be in danger of lacking the ideal balance come playoff time. </p><p>More broadly, it feels like most everything in the league these days occurs as a direct or indirect response to the Warriors. Perhaps the credit (blame?) goes equally to Sam Hinkie. Either way, we’ve entered the boom-or-bust era, when anything less than title contention means you should blow it up. Gone is the idea that being a perennial playoff contender has its own value, or might be a goal in itself. Everyone is trying to build a team not to compete with the second or third seed but to topple Golden State. There’s no middle anymore. (Zach Lowe <a href="http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/22258759/zach-lowe-blake-griffin-trade-future-la-clippers-detroit-pistons" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:wrote insightfully" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">wrote insightfully</a> about this last week). It’s why the Clippers traded Blake, and why the Pistons acquired him. Why Oklahoma City is a mishmash of All-Stars, why Paul is in Houston, why LeBron-to-the-Warriors is even considered remotely credible. We’ve entered the If You Can’t Beat Em’ Join Em Age. And everyone wants to join the Warriors.</p><p>Is this good for the league. Maybe? Probably not? Who knows. But this isn’t for Myers and the Warriors to concern themselves with. Instead, they are already preparing for the next superteam threat or further stratification of the league. To remain ahead you must think big. Which is why we hear talk about Davis. Just as, back in 2015, Warriors execs I spoke with were already targeting Durant and, at the time, Marc Gasol, even as the team was in the process of winning a title. </p><p>Regardless, even as superteams may rise and form, the Warriors retain an advantage others cannot match: continuity and chemistry. The core of this Golden State squad has been together for up to five years. Durant is on year two and doesn’t appear in a hurry to go anywhere. Role players like David West and ZaZa Pachulia know how good they have it—and you get the impression they’d play for just about any reasonable salary just to stay here. So on the team rolls.</p><p>Thursday&#39;s practice provided a glimpse of that bond. On this afternoon, JaVale McGee is over to the side diligently shooting threes, just in case that helps him earn a few more minutes in the modern NBA (and because, well, shooting threes is fun). Analytics guru Sammy Gelfand is sprinting after rebounds on another court, feeding Shaun Livingston. Overhead, Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” blares from the speakers so loud it’s hard to hear the media sessions, which, come to think of it, might be on purpose. Meanwhile, Steph Curry is directing Bruce Fraser to feed him on the baseline for turnaround, fadeaway, one-hand push shots, both right and left-handed, because apparently that’s what you practice when you’ve mastered all the other shots. And, over on the mats, Kerr is using a foam roller on his hip and cackling at something Myers just said.</p><p>The overall vibe is of a team that is comfortable with who they are. That’s not to say there isn’t drama. Though, often enough, it comes from outside the bubble. Like, say, <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2017/09/24/steve-kerr-warriors-donald-trump-white-house-stephen-curry" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Trump and the White House invite." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Trump and the White House invite.</a> Or, on this day, from the media. While a number of us are interviewing Durant, two cameramen get into a scuffle over space, trying to make sure they get the shot of Durant commenting on LeBron, because, presumably, it could be Big News. One thing leads to another and it escalates beyond the usual scrum shoving.</p><p>“I’ll knock you the f--- out,” one of the cameramen said to the other.</p><p>At which point all of us stopped and turned, including Durant. Fortunately, an intrepid reporter stepped in between the two men.</p><p>With order momentarily restored, Durant continued. “See, look, like, what are we doing?” he said. “You know what I’m saying. Like, what’s goin&#39; on here really? What’s going on? We talking about <em>basketball</em>. So that should be the most important thing.”</p><p>And, in a way, he’s right. But, as long as the Warriors are this good, the reality is it might not be. </p>
LeBron to the Warriors? Even Golden State Is Laughing

Warriors GM Bob Myers is a worrier by nature, forever envisioning worst–case scenarios. This is a man who occasionally leaves Oracle Arena and paces through the darkness of the parking lot when games get too tense; who says his fantasy is to one day attend a game purely as a fan, drinking a beer like all those relaxed-looking humans he sees in the crowd. “I’m not worried about not caring enough” Myers once told me. ”I’m worried about caring too much.”

So on Thursday he sat at a table at the Warriors practice facility for his annual trade deadline media availability, doing his best to rustle up some anxiety. “People may not believe this, but we have pressure,” he said. He then upgraded that to “constant pressure,” describing the outside response to every Warriors loss along the lines of "a catastrophe.”

It was a noble effort but still a tough sell. Perhaps no team in modern NBA history has had as little to worry about as these Warriors. They are young, healthy, in their prime, well-run, well-coached, deep, and seem to actually like each other, which counts for something these days. Steph Curry is in MVP form and was just named Western Conference Player of the Month. Four Warriors are on the All-Star team (again) and three have a credible shot at joining the exclusive 40-50-90 club. Kevin Durant is making a case for Defensive Player of the Year—that is, if Draymond Green doesn’t win it again. Their excellence has made covering them, in some respects, monotonous. News flash: Historically talented team that plays well together wins again!

?

Thursday at least provided a new topic to discuss. Perhaps you heard the report that LeBron James would be open to a free–agent meeting with the Warriors this summer? For his part, Myers attempted a preemptive strike, beginning his session by reminding reporters that he isn’t allowed to talk about players on other teams (which led a reporter instead asking about “a hypothetical 6’8 power forward”). Steve Kerr opted for his preferred communication mode, sarcasm, suggesting he just write a check to Adam Silver when someone mentioned LeBron.

Kevin Durant had the most entertaining response, though. “Bullshit,” he said when asked about his first reaction to the report.

“I don’t even think that’s even close to being a true story,” he told The Crossover. “That’s the nature of the game right now. It’s moreso about free agency, the business side of basketball, than it is about the real game. Nothing’s far-fetched when it comes to stories and headlines and clicks. It should be about the game and it’s getting father and farther away from the real game.”

?

Fair enough, so let’s talk about it. Especially because it’s highly unlikely that LeBron ends up on the Warriors, who by all indications would prefer a younger superstar like, say, Anthony Davis if they decide to do something drastic. There's also the matter of the various logistical machinations a LeBron acquisition would require and the fact that it just seems wrong for the best player in history to join what is already arguably the best team in history.

So, the game. This year’s Warriors don’t have the gaudy record of two years ago, or the buzz of last season, but the sense of inevitability is palpable, especially now that the Cavs have seemingly imploded. Who else is there? The Celtics have matched up well against Golden State this year, and Brad Stevens is an excellent coach, but they are young, and still have holes. The Spurs are weathering uncharacteristic drama, and while it’s wise to never underestimate Pop, legitimate title contention seems far-fetched, especially considering Kawhi Leonard’s lingering, mysterious, injury. Houston provides the most credible threat but they are still in year one of trying to mesh two superstars, and any team that relies so much on one player—say, one who puts up a 60 point triple-double—may perhaps be in danger of lacking the ideal balance come playoff time.

More broadly, it feels like most everything in the league these days occurs as a direct or indirect response to the Warriors. Perhaps the credit (blame?) goes equally to Sam Hinkie. Either way, we’ve entered the boom-or-bust era, when anything less than title contention means you should blow it up. Gone is the idea that being a perennial playoff contender has its own value, or might be a goal in itself. Everyone is trying to build a team not to compete with the second or third seed but to topple Golden State. There’s no middle anymore. (Zach Lowe wrote insightfully about this last week). It’s why the Clippers traded Blake, and why the Pistons acquired him. Why Oklahoma City is a mishmash of All-Stars, why Paul is in Houston, why LeBron-to-the-Warriors is even considered remotely credible. We’ve entered the If You Can’t Beat Em’ Join Em Age. And everyone wants to join the Warriors.

Is this good for the league. Maybe? Probably not? Who knows. But this isn’t for Myers and the Warriors to concern themselves with. Instead, they are already preparing for the next superteam threat or further stratification of the league. To remain ahead you must think big. Which is why we hear talk about Davis. Just as, back in 2015, Warriors execs I spoke with were already targeting Durant and, at the time, Marc Gasol, even as the team was in the process of winning a title.

Regardless, even as superteams may rise and form, the Warriors retain an advantage others cannot match: continuity and chemistry. The core of this Golden State squad has been together for up to five years. Durant is on year two and doesn’t appear in a hurry to go anywhere. Role players like David West and ZaZa Pachulia know how good they have it—and you get the impression they’d play for just about any reasonable salary just to stay here. So on the team rolls.

Thursday's practice provided a glimpse of that bond. On this afternoon, JaVale McGee is over to the side diligently shooting threes, just in case that helps him earn a few more minutes in the modern NBA (and because, well, shooting threes is fun). Analytics guru Sammy Gelfand is sprinting after rebounds on another court, feeding Shaun Livingston. Overhead, Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” blares from the speakers so loud it’s hard to hear the media sessions, which, come to think of it, might be on purpose. Meanwhile, Steph Curry is directing Bruce Fraser to feed him on the baseline for turnaround, fadeaway, one-hand push shots, both right and left-handed, because apparently that’s what you practice when you’ve mastered all the other shots. And, over on the mats, Kerr is using a foam roller on his hip and cackling at something Myers just said.

The overall vibe is of a team that is comfortable with who they are. That’s not to say there isn’t drama. Though, often enough, it comes from outside the bubble. Like, say, Trump and the White House invite. Or, on this day, from the media. While a number of us are interviewing Durant, two cameramen get into a scuffle over space, trying to make sure they get the shot of Durant commenting on LeBron, because, presumably, it could be Big News. One thing leads to another and it escalates beyond the usual scrum shoving.

“I’ll knock you the f--- out,” one of the cameramen said to the other.

At which point all of us stopped and turned, including Durant. Fortunately, an intrepid reporter stepped in between the two men.

With order momentarily restored, Durant continued. “See, look, like, what are we doing?” he said. “You know what I’m saying. Like, what’s goin' on here really? What’s going on? We talking about basketball. So that should be the most important thing.”

And, in a way, he’s right. But, as long as the Warriors are this good, the reality is it might not be.

<p>Warriors GM Bob Myers is a worrier by nature, forever envisioning worst–case scenarios. This is a man who occasionally leaves Oracle Arena and paces through the darkness of the parking lot when games get too tense; who says his fantasy is to one day attend a game purely as a fan, drinking a beer like all those relaxed-looking humans he sees in the crowd. “I’m not worried about not caring enough” <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2016/06/08/golden-state-warriors-nba-finals-bob-myers-steve-kerr-stephen-curry" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Myers once told me" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Myers once told me</a>. ”I’m worried about caring <em>too much</em>.”</p><p>So on Thursday he sat at a table at the Warriors practice facility for his annual trade deadline media availability, doing his best to rustle up some anxiety. “People may not believe this, but we have pressure,” he said. He then upgraded that to “constant pressure,” describing the outside response to every Warriors loss along the lines of &quot;a catastrophe.”</p><p>It was a noble effort but still a tough sell. Perhaps no team in modern NBA history has had as little to worry about as these Warriors. They are young, healthy, in their prime, well-run, well-coached, deep, and seem to actually like each other, which counts for something these days. Steph Curry is in MVP form and was just named Western Conference Player of the Month. Four Warriors are on the All-Star team (again) and three have a credible shot at joining the exclusive 40-50-90 club. Kevin Durant is making a case for Defensive Player of the Year—that is, if Draymond Green doesn’t win it again. Their excellence has made covering them, in some respects, monotonous. <em>News flash: Historically talented team that plays well together wins again!</em></p><p>?</p><p>Thursday at least provided a new topic to discuss. Perhaps you heard <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2018/02/01/lebron-james-warriors-free-agency-meeting" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the report" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the report</a> that LeBron James would be open to a free–agent meeting with the Warriors this summer? For his part, Myers attempted a preemptive strike, beginning his session by reminding reporters that he isn’t allowed to talk about players on other teams (which led a reporter instead asking about “a hypothetical 6’8 power forward”). Steve Kerr opted for his preferred communication mode, sarcasm, suggesting he just write a check to Adam Silver when someone mentioned LeBron.</p><p>Kevin Durant had the most entertaining response, though. “Bullshit,” he said when asked about his first reaction to the report.</p><p>“I don’t even think that’s even close to being a true story,” he told The Crossover. “That’s the nature of the game right now. It’s moreso about free agency, the business side of basketball, than it is about the real game. Nothing’s far-fetched when it comes to stories and headlines and clicks. It should be about the game and it’s getting father and farther away from the real game.”</p><p>?</p><p>Fair enough, so let’s talk about it. Especially because it’s highly unlikely that LeBron ends up on the Warriors, who by all indications would prefer a younger superstar like, say, Anthony Davis if they decide to do something drastic. There&#39;s also the matter of the various logistical machinations a LeBron acquisition would require and the fact that it just seems wrong for the best player in history to join what is already arguably the best team in history.</p><p>So, the game. This year’s Warriors don’t have the gaudy record of two years ago, or the buzz of last season, but the sense of inevitability is palpable, especially now that the Cavs have seemingly imploded. Who else is there? The Celtics have matched up well against Golden State this year, and Brad Stevens is an excellent coach, but they are young, and still have holes. The Spurs are weathering uncharacteristic drama, and while it’s wise to never underestimate Pop, legitimate title contention seems far-fetched, especially considering Kawhi Leonard’s lingering, mysterious, injury. Houston provides the most credible threat but they are still in year one of trying to mesh two superstars, and any team that relies so much on one player—say, one who puts up <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2018/01/30/james-harden-60-points-triple-double-rockets-magic" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:a 60 point triple-double" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">a 60 point triple-double</a>—may perhaps be in danger of lacking the ideal balance come playoff time. </p><p>More broadly, it feels like most everything in the league these days occurs as a direct or indirect response to the Warriors. Perhaps the credit (blame?) goes equally to Sam Hinkie. Either way, we’ve entered the boom-or-bust era, when anything less than title contention means you should blow it up. Gone is the idea that being a perennial playoff contender has its own value, or might be a goal in itself. Everyone is trying to build a team not to compete with the second or third seed but to topple Golden State. There’s no middle anymore. (Zach Lowe <a href="http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/22258759/zach-lowe-blake-griffin-trade-future-la-clippers-detroit-pistons" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:wrote insightfully" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">wrote insightfully</a> about this last week). It’s why the Clippers traded Blake, and why the Pistons acquired him. Why Oklahoma City is a mishmash of All-Stars, why Paul is in Houston, why LeBron-to-the-Warriors is even considered remotely credible. We’ve entered the If You Can’t Beat Em’ Join Em Age. And everyone wants to join the Warriors.</p><p>Is this good for the league. Maybe? Probably not? Who knows. But this isn’t for Myers and the Warriors to concern themselves with. Instead, they are already preparing for the next superteam threat or further stratification of the league. To remain ahead you must think big. Which is why we hear talk about Davis. Just as, back in 2015, Warriors execs I spoke with were already targeting Durant and, at the time, Marc Gasol, even as the team was in the process of winning a title. </p><p>Regardless, even as superteams may rise and form, the Warriors retain an advantage others cannot match: continuity and chemistry. The core of this Golden State squad has been together for up to five years. Durant is on year two and doesn’t appear in a hurry to go anywhere. Role players like David West and ZaZa Pachulia know how good they have it—and you get the impression they’d play for just about any reasonable salary just to stay here. So on the team rolls.</p><p>Thursday&#39;s practice provided a glimpse of that bond. On this afternoon, JaVale McGee is over to the side diligently shooting threes, just in case that helps him earn a few more minutes in the modern NBA (and because, well, shooting threes is fun). Analytics guru Sammy Gelfand is sprinting after rebounds on another court, feeding Shaun Livingston. Overhead, Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” blares from the speakers so loud it’s hard to hear the media sessions, which, come to think of it, might be on purpose. Meanwhile, Steph Curry is directing Bruce Fraser to feed him on the baseline for turnaround, fadeaway, one-hand push shots, both right and left-handed, because apparently that’s what you practice when you’ve mastered all the other shots. And, over on the mats, Kerr is using a foam roller on his hip and cackling at something Myers just said.</p><p>The overall vibe is of a team that is comfortable with who they are. That’s not to say there isn’t drama. Though, often enough, it comes from outside the bubble. Like, say, <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2017/09/24/steve-kerr-warriors-donald-trump-white-house-stephen-curry" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Trump and the White House invite." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Trump and the White House invite.</a> Or, on this day, from the media. While a number of us are interviewing Durant, two cameramen get into a scuffle over space, trying to make sure they get the shot of Durant commenting on LeBron, because, presumably, it could be Big News. One thing leads to another and it escalates beyond the usual scrum shoving.</p><p>“I’ll knock you the f--- out,” one of the cameramen said to the other.</p><p>At which point all of us stopped and turned, including Durant. Fortunately, an intrepid reporter stepped in between the two men.</p><p>With order momentarily restored, Durant continued. “See, look, like, what are we doing?” he said. “You know what I’m saying. Like, what’s goin&#39; on here really? What’s going on? We talking about <em>basketball</em>. So that should be the most important thing.”</p><p>And, in a way, he’s right. But, as long as the Warriors are this good, the reality is it might not be. </p>
LeBron to the Warriors? Even Golden State Is Laughing

Warriors GM Bob Myers is a worrier by nature, forever envisioning worst–case scenarios. This is a man who occasionally leaves Oracle Arena and paces through the darkness of the parking lot when games get too tense; who says his fantasy is to one day attend a game purely as a fan, drinking a beer like all those relaxed-looking humans he sees in the crowd. “I’m not worried about not caring enough” Myers once told me. ”I’m worried about caring too much.”

So on Thursday he sat at a table at the Warriors practice facility for his annual trade deadline media availability, doing his best to rustle up some anxiety. “People may not believe this, but we have pressure,” he said. He then upgraded that to “constant pressure,” describing the outside response to every Warriors loss along the lines of "a catastrophe.”

It was a noble effort but still a tough sell. Perhaps no team in modern NBA history has had as little to worry about as these Warriors. They are young, healthy, in their prime, well-run, well-coached, deep, and seem to actually like each other, which counts for something these days. Steph Curry is in MVP form and was just named Western Conference Player of the Month. Four Warriors are on the All-Star team (again) and three have a credible shot at joining the exclusive 40-50-90 club. Kevin Durant is making a case for Defensive Player of the Year—that is, if Draymond Green doesn’t win it again. Their excellence has made covering them, in some respects, monotonous. News flash: Historically talented team that plays well together wins again!

?

Thursday at least provided a new topic to discuss. Perhaps you heard the report that LeBron James would be open to a free–agent meeting with the Warriors this summer? For his part, Myers attempted a preemptive strike, beginning his session by reminding reporters that he isn’t allowed to talk about players on other teams (which led a reporter instead asking about “a hypothetical 6’8 power forward”). Steve Kerr opted for his preferred communication mode, sarcasm, suggesting he just write a check to Adam Silver when someone mentioned LeBron.

Kevin Durant had the most entertaining response, though. “Bullshit,” he said when asked about his first reaction to the report.

“I don’t even think that’s even close to being a true story,” he told The Crossover. “That’s the nature of the game right now. It’s moreso about free agency, the business side of basketball, than it is about the real game. Nothing’s far-fetched when it comes to stories and headlines and clicks. It should be about the game and it’s getting father and farther away from the real game.”

?

Fair enough, so let’s talk about it. Especially because it’s highly unlikely that LeBron ends up on the Warriors, who by all indications would prefer a younger superstar like, say, Anthony Davis if they decide to do something drastic. There's also the matter of the various logistical machinations a LeBron acquisition would require and the fact that it just seems wrong for the best player in history to join what is already arguably the best team in history.

So, the game. This year’s Warriors don’t have the gaudy record of two years ago, or the buzz of last season, but the sense of inevitability is palpable, especially now that the Cavs have seemingly imploded. Who else is there? The Celtics have matched up well against Golden State this year, and Brad Stevens is an excellent coach, but they are young, and still have holes. The Spurs are weathering uncharacteristic drama, and while it’s wise to never underestimate Pop, legitimate title contention seems far-fetched, especially considering Kawhi Leonard’s lingering, mysterious, injury. Houston provides the most credible threat but they are still in year one of trying to mesh two superstars, and any team that relies so much on one player—say, one who puts up a 60 point triple-double—may perhaps be in danger of lacking the ideal balance come playoff time.

More broadly, it feels like most everything in the league these days occurs as a direct or indirect response to the Warriors. Perhaps the credit (blame?) goes equally to Sam Hinkie. Either way, we’ve entered the boom-or-bust era, when anything less than title contention means you should blow it up. Gone is the idea that being a perennial playoff contender has its own value, or might be a goal in itself. Everyone is trying to build a team not to compete with the second or third seed but to topple Golden State. There’s no middle anymore. (Zach Lowe wrote insightfully about this last week). It’s why the Clippers traded Blake, and why the Pistons acquired him. Why Oklahoma City is a mishmash of All-Stars, why Paul is in Houston, why LeBron-to-the-Warriors is even considered remotely credible. We’ve entered the If You Can’t Beat Em’ Join Em Age. And everyone wants to join the Warriors.

Is this good for the league. Maybe? Probably not? Who knows. But this isn’t for Myers and the Warriors to concern themselves with. Instead, they are already preparing for the next superteam threat or further stratification of the league. To remain ahead you must think big. Which is why we hear talk about Davis. Just as, back in 2015, Warriors execs I spoke with were already targeting Durant and, at the time, Marc Gasol, even as the team was in the process of winning a title.

Regardless, even as superteams may rise and form, the Warriors retain an advantage others cannot match: continuity and chemistry. The core of this Golden State squad has been together for up to five years. Durant is on year two and doesn’t appear in a hurry to go anywhere. Role players like David West and ZaZa Pachulia know how good they have it—and you get the impression they’d play for just about any reasonable salary just to stay here. So on the team rolls.

Thursday's practice provided a glimpse of that bond. On this afternoon, JaVale McGee is over to the side diligently shooting threes, just in case that helps him earn a few more minutes in the modern NBA (and because, well, shooting threes is fun). Analytics guru Sammy Gelfand is sprinting after rebounds on another court, feeding Shaun Livingston. Overhead, Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” blares from the speakers so loud it’s hard to hear the media sessions, which, come to think of it, might be on purpose. Meanwhile, Steph Curry is directing Bruce Fraser to feed him on the baseline for turnaround, fadeaway, one-hand push shots, both right and left-handed, because apparently that’s what you practice when you’ve mastered all the other shots. And, over on the mats, Kerr is using a foam roller on his hip and cackling at something Myers just said.

The overall vibe is of a team that is comfortable with who they are. That’s not to say there isn’t drama. Though, often enough, it comes from outside the bubble. Like, say, Trump and the White House invite. Or, on this day, from the media. While a number of us are interviewing Durant, two cameramen get into a scuffle over space, trying to make sure they get the shot of Durant commenting on LeBron, because, presumably, it could be Big News. One thing leads to another and it escalates beyond the usual scrum shoving.

“I’ll knock you the f--- out,” one of the cameramen said to the other.

At which point all of us stopped and turned, including Durant. Fortunately, an intrepid reporter stepped in between the two men.

With order momentarily restored, Durant continued. “See, look, like, what are we doing?” he said. “You know what I’m saying. Like, what’s goin' on here really? What’s going on? We talking about basketball. So that should be the most important thing.”

And, in a way, he’s right. But, as long as the Warriors are this good, the reality is it might not be.

Golden State Warriors&#39; Shaun Livingston, right, drives the ball against Boston Celtics&#39; Shane Larkin (8) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Golden State Warriors' Shaun Livingston, right, drives the ball against Boston Celtics' Shane Larkin (8) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Golden State Warriors' Shaun Livingston, right, drives the ball against Boston Celtics' Shane Larkin (8) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Cleveland Cavaliers&#39; Dwyane Wade (9) passes against Golden State Warriors&#39; Shaun Livingston (34) and David West (3) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 15, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Cleveland Cavaliers' Dwyane Wade (9) passes against Golden State Warriors' Shaun Livingston (34) and David West (3) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 15, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Cleveland Cavaliers' Dwyane Wade (9) passes against Golden State Warriors' Shaun Livingston (34) and David West (3) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 15, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
<p>Steph Curry will miss the Warriors&#39; game against the Grizzlies on Friday, per <a href="https://twitter.com/ChrisBHaynes/status/951884392917622784" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:ESPN&#39;s Chris Haynes" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">ESPN&#39;s Chris Haynes</a>, marking the second straight game the two-time MVP will miss after <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2018/01/10/steph-curry-injury-news-update-sprain-ankle-warriors-clippers" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:spraining his left ankle during shootaround" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">spraining his left ankle during shootaround</a> on Wednesday. He did practice with the team on Thursday, so it appears that this is more a precautionary measure than anything.</p><p>Curry should be back soon and could return for Saturday&#39;s game in Toronto or Sunday&#39;s marquee matchup at the Cavaliers. </p><p>It&#39;s the same left ankle that forced Curry to miss 11 games in December. He was fantastic in the five games he played earlier this month before re-injuring the left ankle, averaging 35.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists and draining 33 of 62 three-point attempts. </p><p>Sean Livingston started at point guard in Curry&#39;s place on Wednesday and scored 8 points with four assists in 25 minutes of action. The Warriors were blown out 125-106 by the Clippers and Lou Williams torched Golden State for 50 points.</p>
Steph Curry Injury News: Warriors Guard to Miss Second Straight Game With Ankle Sprain

Steph Curry will miss the Warriors' game against the Grizzlies on Friday, per ESPN's Chris Haynes, marking the second straight game the two-time MVP will miss after spraining his left ankle during shootaround on Wednesday. He did practice with the team on Thursday, so it appears that this is more a precautionary measure than anything.

Curry should be back soon and could return for Saturday's game in Toronto or Sunday's marquee matchup at the Cavaliers.

It's the same left ankle that forced Curry to miss 11 games in December. He was fantastic in the five games he played earlier this month before re-injuring the left ankle, averaging 35.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists and draining 33 of 62 three-point attempts.

Sean Livingston started at point guard in Curry's place on Wednesday and scored 8 points with four assists in 25 minutes of action. The Warriors were blown out 125-106 by the Clippers and Lou Williams torched Golden State for 50 points.

Otis Livingston II, with a game-high 25 points, nailed the game-winning three at the buzzer to give George Mason an 81-79 win over Saint Joseph's on Wednesday.
George Mason Beats Saint Joseph's at the Buzzer
Otis Livingston II, with a game-high 25 points, nailed the game-winning three at the buzzer to give George Mason an 81-79 win over Saint Joseph's on Wednesday.
Otis Livingston II, with a game-high 25 points, nailed the game-winning three at the buzzer to give George Mason an 81-79 win over Saint Joseph&#39;s on Wednesday.
George Mason Beats Saint Joseph's at the Buzzer
Otis Livingston II, with a game-high 25 points, nailed the game-winning three at the buzzer to give George Mason an 81-79 win over Saint Joseph's on Wednesday.
Otis Livingston II, with a game-high 25 points, nailed the game-winning three at the buzzer to give George Mason an 81-79 win over Saint Joseph&#39;s on Wednesday.
George Mason Beats Saint Joseph's at the Buzzer
Otis Livingston II, with a game-high 25 points, nailed the game-winning three at the buzzer to give George Mason an 81-79 win over Saint Joseph's on Wednesday.
Otis Livingston II, with a game-high 25 points, nailed the game-winning three at the buzzer to give George Mason an 81-79 win over Saint Joseph&#39;s on Wednesday.
George Mason Beats Saint Joseph's at the Buzzer
Otis Livingston II, with a game-high 25 points, nailed the game-winning three at the buzzer to give George Mason an 81-79 win over Saint Joseph's on Wednesday.
George Mason junior Otis Livingston II buried a ridiculous buzzer-beater to knock off Saint Joseph&apos;s.
VIDEO: Otis Livingston II buries contested 30-footer to lift George Mason over Saint Joseph’s
George Mason junior Otis Livingston II buried a ridiculous buzzer-beater to knock off Saint Joseph's.
George Mason junior Otis Livingston II buried a ridiculous buzzer-beater to knock off Saint Joseph&apos;s.
VIDEO: Otis Livingston II buries contested 30-footer to lift George Mason over Saint Joseph’s
George Mason junior Otis Livingston II buried a ridiculous buzzer-beater to knock off Saint Joseph's.
George Mason junior Otis Livingston II buried a ridiculous buzzer-beater to knock off Saint Joseph&apos;s.
VIDEO: Otis Livingston II buries contested 30-footer to lift George Mason over Saint Joseph’s
George Mason junior Otis Livingston II buried a ridiculous buzzer-beater to knock off Saint Joseph's.
<p>Throughout the&#160;season, Otis Livingston II has put George Mason on his shoulders on more than one occassion.&#160;On Wednesday night in Fairfax, he went one step further.&#160;</p>
George Mason's Otis Livingston II: Great name, greater buzzer beater

Throughout the season, Otis Livingston II has put George Mason on his shoulders on more than one occassion. On Wednesday night in Fairfax, he went one step further. 

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) of Germany reaches for the ball against Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston (34) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Dallas, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) of Germany reaches for the ball against Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston (34) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Dallas, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) of Germany reaches for the ball against Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston (34) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Dallas, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 27: Shaun Livingston #34 of the Golden State Warriors handles the ball against the Utah Jazz on December 27, 2017 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Warriors bury Jazz with big third quarter, win 126-101
OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 27: Shaun Livingston #34 of the Golden State Warriors handles the ball against the Utah Jazz on December 27, 2017 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
<p>Twice LeBron James turned to the referees with legitimate grievances on Christmas, and twice he came up empty.</p><p>It’s a bad sign when the most dramatic moments of the season’s most highly-anticipated game to date find the NBA’s two best players—James and Kevin Durant—bogged down in lengthy replay reviews and officiating controversies. There was no signature moment to the latest chapter between these two franchises, no chase down block or pull-up three to loop endlessly on highlight reels. Instead, there was James losing his balance and then losing possession—with help from Durant on both—as the Cavaliers lost their chance to spring a holiday upset.</p><p>With a little over a minute to go, James drove left on Durant, drawing contact across his body before losing the ball out of bounds without a whistle. With less than 30 seconds remaining, he drove right on Durant, who bumped his body and then appeared to come across his left shoulder to dislodge the ball without provoking a call. That pair of empty possessions helped Golden State close on a 7-0 run to seal a 99-92 win over Cleveland at Oracle Arena on Christmas.</p><p> “He got me a little bit [on the first one]. I lost that one,” <a href="https://soundcloud.com/warriors/lebron-james-postgame-locker-room-122517" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:James said" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">James said</a>. “He fouled me twice [on the second one]. But whatever. What are you going to do about it?”</p><p>Durant, for his part, suggested that armchair referees stick to social media. “Felt clean,” <a href="https://twitter.com/anthonyVslater/status/945430766808309760" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:he told reporters afterwards" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">he told reporters afterwards</a>. “If they didn’t call it, it’s not a foul. … Keep that [complaining] on Twitter.”</p><p>For the Cavaliers, there is far more to mull than the no-calls, as they look ahead to a potential fourth straight Finals showdown with the Warriors.</p><p>After all, Golden State, who was without Stephen Curry due to an ankle injury, prevailed despite starting Jordan Bell, a rookie center, and Patrick McCaw, a second-year wing who barely played in the 2017 Finals. The Warriors never truly found their rhythm, hitting just 10 threes in a contest that was choppy from the start. Yet they found easy pickings in the open court (33 fast-break points) and played much more soundly in the game’s closing minutes.</p><p>Before James turned to the referees with pleading eyes, he stared and pointed at his teammates during a series of fourth-quarter defensive breakdowns. Shaun Livingston leaked out for a dunk after Dwyane Wade missed an ill-advised three. Durant blocked a shot and took off in transition, racing end-to-end for an uncontested dunk when no one stopped the ball. James lost track of Draymond Green in the half-court, setting up an easy lob to the hoop. A wide-open Klay Thompson cashed in a second-chance three when the Cavaliers forgot about him.</p><p>Seeing so many unforgivable mistakes in quick succession was a reminder that Cleveland’s defense currently ranks among the NBA’s five worst. And seeing so many different links in the chain break begged an obvious question: What happens once the scheme-busting Curry reenters the fray?</p><p>“They kicked our butts in transition,” James admitted. “That was basically the tell-tale sign of the game.”</p><p>In fairness to the Cavaliers, they really could have used Isaiah Thomas, their own injured point guard. James labored through an off night, scoring 20 points on 7-18 shooting and committing seven turnovers. Thomas’s shot-creating and offensive creativity would have come in handy during an extended second-quarter lull and again during the game’s closing minutes. Kevin Love was sensational in five-out lineups, scoring 31 points and grabbing 18 rebounds, but Cleveland suffered through empty offensive minutes from half of its rotation, including starting guards J.R. Smith and Jose Calderon. A B+ from James and an A+ from Love simply wasn’t enough.</p><p>If the Cavaliers entered the holiday hoping that one of their many new faces would prove to be helpful come June, they left with more questions than answers. The 36-year-old Calderon will be targeted constantly if he sees minutes in a hypothetical Finals match-up. Although Wade had multiple savvy steals and energy plays, his lack of shooting closes the court for James and his flashes of inattentive defense will be put under the microscope. In a very bad sign, the perpetually inconsistent Jeff Green was nearly invisible. And despite playing well, Jae Crowder looked wholly overmatched against Durant, who tallied 25 points on 19 shots even though Curry wasn’t around to generate a constant stream of open looks.</p><p>While this loss was hardly a crisis for the Cavaliers, their off-season movement hasn’t really closed the gap. They still don’t have a great defensive match-up for Durant. They still have trouble getting productive minutes out of Tristan Thompson and Kyle Korver against Golden State. They are still stuck riding the hit-or-miss wave with Smith. They still have major depth concerns in a series format. And they are still left hoping that James and an electric offense can paper over that laundry list of issues.</p><p>Even a tremendous night from Love, one of the league’s most unheralded stars this season, came with an obvious caveat: Curry’s absence. Without their lead ball-handler, the Warriors have turned to the likes of Durant, Green and Andre Iguodala for more initiation. While those players present their own challenges for defenders, Curry is a much trickier cover for a big man like Love to defend in space. With both teams at full health, it’s safe to say that Love’s life will be made more difficult, not less.</p><p><a href="https://www.si.com/nba/2016/12/25/warriors-cavaliers-christmas-fourth-quarter-kevin-durant-kyrie-irving" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Rewind 365 days" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Rewind 365 days</a>, and it was Durant on the wrong side of a disputed no-call, bodied by Richard Jefferson late during a road loss to Cleveland. That Christmas defeat, which came as Durant was still integrating into Golden State’s framework, hardly foreshadowed Finals doom. By June, Durant was playing the best basketball of his life on his way to his first title and first Finals MVP.</p><p>James, with a transitioning roster that is at talent and chemistry disadvantages, will have a tougher time mimicking that Christmas-to-June turnaround should these two teams meet again in June. He needs Thomas back and fully healthy, he needs peak Love, and he needs significantly better focus and more productive minutes from a supporting cast that might need to be bolstered by midseason moves. </p><p>Without more help and improved discipline around him, James surely knows that a better whistle won’t be able to save him. </p>
LeBron James, Cavs Have More Problems Against Warriors Than Late No-Calls

Twice LeBron James turned to the referees with legitimate grievances on Christmas, and twice he came up empty.

It’s a bad sign when the most dramatic moments of the season’s most highly-anticipated game to date find the NBA’s two best players—James and Kevin Durant—bogged down in lengthy replay reviews and officiating controversies. There was no signature moment to the latest chapter between these two franchises, no chase down block or pull-up three to loop endlessly on highlight reels. Instead, there was James losing his balance and then losing possession—with help from Durant on both—as the Cavaliers lost their chance to spring a holiday upset.

With a little over a minute to go, James drove left on Durant, drawing contact across his body before losing the ball out of bounds without a whistle. With less than 30 seconds remaining, he drove right on Durant, who bumped his body and then appeared to come across his left shoulder to dislodge the ball without provoking a call. That pair of empty possessions helped Golden State close on a 7-0 run to seal a 99-92 win over Cleveland at Oracle Arena on Christmas.

“He got me a little bit [on the first one]. I lost that one,” James said. “He fouled me twice [on the second one]. But whatever. What are you going to do about it?”

Durant, for his part, suggested that armchair referees stick to social media. “Felt clean,” he told reporters afterwards. “If they didn’t call it, it’s not a foul. … Keep that [complaining] on Twitter.”

For the Cavaliers, there is far more to mull than the no-calls, as they look ahead to a potential fourth straight Finals showdown with the Warriors.

After all, Golden State, who was without Stephen Curry due to an ankle injury, prevailed despite starting Jordan Bell, a rookie center, and Patrick McCaw, a second-year wing who barely played in the 2017 Finals. The Warriors never truly found their rhythm, hitting just 10 threes in a contest that was choppy from the start. Yet they found easy pickings in the open court (33 fast-break points) and played much more soundly in the game’s closing minutes.

Before James turned to the referees with pleading eyes, he stared and pointed at his teammates during a series of fourth-quarter defensive breakdowns. Shaun Livingston leaked out for a dunk after Dwyane Wade missed an ill-advised three. Durant blocked a shot and took off in transition, racing end-to-end for an uncontested dunk when no one stopped the ball. James lost track of Draymond Green in the half-court, setting up an easy lob to the hoop. A wide-open Klay Thompson cashed in a second-chance three when the Cavaliers forgot about him.

Seeing so many unforgivable mistakes in quick succession was a reminder that Cleveland’s defense currently ranks among the NBA’s five worst. And seeing so many different links in the chain break begged an obvious question: What happens once the scheme-busting Curry reenters the fray?

“They kicked our butts in transition,” James admitted. “That was basically the tell-tale sign of the game.”

In fairness to the Cavaliers, they really could have used Isaiah Thomas, their own injured point guard. James labored through an off night, scoring 20 points on 7-18 shooting and committing seven turnovers. Thomas’s shot-creating and offensive creativity would have come in handy during an extended second-quarter lull and again during the game’s closing minutes. Kevin Love was sensational in five-out lineups, scoring 31 points and grabbing 18 rebounds, but Cleveland suffered through empty offensive minutes from half of its rotation, including starting guards J.R. Smith and Jose Calderon. A B+ from James and an A+ from Love simply wasn’t enough.

If the Cavaliers entered the holiday hoping that one of their many new faces would prove to be helpful come June, they left with more questions than answers. The 36-year-old Calderon will be targeted constantly if he sees minutes in a hypothetical Finals match-up. Although Wade had multiple savvy steals and energy plays, his lack of shooting closes the court for James and his flashes of inattentive defense will be put under the microscope. In a very bad sign, the perpetually inconsistent Jeff Green was nearly invisible. And despite playing well, Jae Crowder looked wholly overmatched against Durant, who tallied 25 points on 19 shots even though Curry wasn’t around to generate a constant stream of open looks.

While this loss was hardly a crisis for the Cavaliers, their off-season movement hasn’t really closed the gap. They still don’t have a great defensive match-up for Durant. They still have trouble getting productive minutes out of Tristan Thompson and Kyle Korver against Golden State. They are still stuck riding the hit-or-miss wave with Smith. They still have major depth concerns in a series format. And they are still left hoping that James and an electric offense can paper over that laundry list of issues.

Even a tremendous night from Love, one of the league’s most unheralded stars this season, came with an obvious caveat: Curry’s absence. Without their lead ball-handler, the Warriors have turned to the likes of Durant, Green and Andre Iguodala for more initiation. While those players present their own challenges for defenders, Curry is a much trickier cover for a big man like Love to defend in space. With both teams at full health, it’s safe to say that Love’s life will be made more difficult, not less.

Rewind 365 days, and it was Durant on the wrong side of a disputed no-call, bodied by Richard Jefferson late during a road loss to Cleveland. That Christmas defeat, which came as Durant was still integrating into Golden State’s framework, hardly foreshadowed Finals doom. By June, Durant was playing the best basketball of his life on his way to his first title and first Finals MVP.

James, with a transitioning roster that is at talent and chemistry disadvantages, will have a tougher time mimicking that Christmas-to-June turnaround should these two teams meet again in June. He needs Thomas back and fully healthy, he needs peak Love, and he needs significantly better focus and more productive minutes from a supporting cast that might need to be bolstered by midseason moves.

Without more help and improved discipline around him, James surely knows that a better whistle won’t be able to save him.

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