Wait, these guys are shooting 3s now?!

#NBATwitter is at its finest during the first and last week of the season. This year, there is a different kind of troll on Twitter. This troll is the one who will says things like…

“I will NOT overreact to the first week of the season because I am NOT a #casualfan.”

“Here we go, now everyone will start making their Kembaisatopfive point guard case.”

“ALREADY tired of the #LeBronforMVP narrative and it’s been one game.”

Well guess what, I AM going to be that guy.

Although the 2018-19 season has been alive for two days, there are some things we can observe and report on. I’m talking about 3-point shooting bigs, baby. Who are the guys who spent all summer working on their trey ball and are ready to show it off? You know, the guys who make us say, “Hold up, when the hell did this happen?!” The Jonas guys. The Aron Baynes guys. The *gulp* DeMar DeRozan guys. Allow me to enlighten you.

1. Jarrett Allen, 2-3 from 3 versus Detroit

If you weren’t already scared of the Brooklyn Nets towering center, well, now you should be. Allen went 2-3 from deep during his season opener. But, this is no fluke. Allen spent his summer working on his 3-point shot. Don’t believe me? Check out Allen draining a corner three during the 2018 Summer League.

If JA can take around 3 3-pointers per game for the entire year, and hit between 31-33 percent of his shots, then we are all done for. To be clear, do not expect Allen to hit north of 34 percent from deep. It takes years for some big men to learn how to consistently drain three-balls. But if anything, Allen is already trending in the right direction.

2. Andre Drummond, 1-3 from 3 versus Brooklyn

Allen was not the only center in his game who tried to show off their new 3-point prowess. Andre Drummond, who had reportedly been working on his jumper, attempted 3 shots from behind the arc, and canned one of them.

And guess what…it didn’t totally suck… Watch the clip from his opening game versus the Nets. Drummond jumps too far forward, but his upper body forms looks okay. The bench goes nuts too! This could totally take my beloved UConn alumni’s game to the next level, and have people talking about him as a top 15-20 player. Remember, Drummond became one of the League’s more potent passing bigs last year, and has his eyes set on improving another area of his offensive game. Do not doubt him.

3. Julius Randle, 2-4 from 3 versus Houston

We see you, J. Randle.

Before the season started, I had a gut feeling that LeBron and the Lakers may miss Randle. Still, letting Randle walk is an easy price to pay for landing The King. Randle only took 45 treys last season, and emphasized being the most efficient player he could be. It worked. He shot 55 percent from the floor last year, and had a 60 percent true shooting percentage.

Will this gamble work out? Randle turned his career narrative around last year, and became a covetable asset. He did so by taking shots near the paint; something he excels in. Will this new offensive mindset alter Randle’s game for better or worse? Take a look at his 3-point shots from his first game of the year and decide for yourself.

During his first made 3-pointer, Randle doesn’t look pretty. His left foot flares forward, the ball dips too low, and I don’t know what the hell his right (non-shooting) hand is doing. But, the ball goes in.

On to 3-pointer number two. In this clip, Randle again dips the ball too low. Do not be too alarmed by his body positioning, however. Most lefty shooters point their body this way during jump shots. If you don’t believe me, then watch some IT clips.

The verdict? It isn’t pretty, but Randle made half of his four 3-point attempts. Regardless of his form, Randle has an undeniable touch. Expect him to shoot around 32-34 percent from deep this year but on less than 4 attempts per game. Yet, if he slumps at any point, do not be alarmed if Randle abandons his 3-point shot altogether.

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3 “Don’t Give Up On Me” players to watch next year

NBA Sleepers

We all have that player.

I was convinced that Jared Sullinger was going to be a superstar. The dude was a man among boys in college and I thought it would translate to the NBA. Plus, he had soft touch you rarely see in big men. Welp, I was wrong. Dead Wrong. As of now, Sully is playing in China AKA basketball’s version of The island of misfit toys.

Who else could be headed that way? Time will tell. As of now, I am here to tell you all about some players you should not give up on yet. We begin with a former lottery pick who plays for the Miami Heat.

 

Justise Winslow

It seems as even though his own team wants to move on from him…

Fortunately, Winslow survived the draft day trade rumors and is still playing ball in Miami. This is certainly good for the former Duke product, as playing alongside someone like Coach Spo can only help Winslow achieve his potential.

Why am I still so high on Winslow? Although he has failed to display them consistently, the lefty has all of the traits you want in a starting wing. Take his shooting ability, for example.

On paper, Winslow’s shooting stats don’t pop out at you. Take a deeper look, however. Justice took 54 percent of his triples from the corner last season, and nailed 40 percent of them. He has the potential to stretch defenses, which is covetable in today’s game.

Winlow can do more than simply bang corner threes, though. Miami can and has run some of its offense through Winslow. His passing vision is underrated, but I like Winslow more for his ability to score via the pick and roll. I lined up this YouTube video so all you have to do it click play, then watch Winslow consecutively weave his way into nice scoring opportunities off of screens.

Defensively, Winslow has some hidden tools as well. Sure, we know about his strong frame, quick feet, and solid wingspan. Yet, his timing as a shotblocker may prove worthy as coaches turn to super-small ball lineups. Again, I did the work so you don’t have to. Click play and watch until the end to see how Winslow can serve as a Jerami Grant/Draymond Green rim protector.

With his spacing, pick and roll potential, and defensive versatility, Miami should continue to be patient with Winslow. Other teams would be wise to poach him as well.

 

Willie Cauley-Stein

Before last season, people were ready to give up on WCS. The former Wildcat has loads of potential, but reports suggested that he may be obtainable. Check out what the plugged in Marc Stein had to say about Cauley-Stein during the 2016-17 season.

“Keep an eye on Kings big man Willie Cauley-Stein. Word is Sacramento is open to moving the second-year big man, who wants more of a role than he has under new Kings coach Dave Joerger’

Interesting, indeed. Of course, WCS stuck around and had a good year as a starter last season. Still, Sacramento is stacked with big men. They already have Harry Giles, Skal Labissiere, Deyonta Davis, and drafted Marvin Bagley III. If Giles and Skal take steps forward this year, Sacramento may choose to let WCS walk in free agency and opt to retain future cap space.

Yet, Cauley-Stein is certainly worth an investment. WCS is as nimble as they come for big men. He is a near 7-footer with a 7’3″ wingspan and runs like a wide receiver. Probably because he used to be one. The athletic tools are there for him to switch on screens and also defend the paint.

We catch a glimpse of this nimbleness in Cauley-Stein’s per-36 numbers. Now, there is a reason guys do not play 36 minutes, but this statistic can still be a useful projection tool. So, what do his numbers look like?

Per 36 Minutes Table
Season Age Tm G STL BLK PTS
2015-16 22 SAC 66 1.2 1.7 11.8
2016-17 23 SAC 75 1.3 1.1 15.5
2017-18 24 SAC 73 1.4 1.2 16.4
Career 214 1.3 1.3 14.8
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/4/2018.

Glance at his steal and block numbers, also known as STOCK. Averaging over one steal per game and one block per game indicates that WCS has active enough hands and feet to switch onto guards. There is another number which stands out to me, however.

Cauley-Stein may be more than a gravity puller on pick and rolls. The guy may actually be a facilitator as well. When I saw his assists numbers from last year, I was encouraged to go back and watch some more film. After all, big men who get 2.4 or more assists per game deserve more film study.

To clarify, I do not expect Cauley-Stein to operate from the pick and roll the same way Al Horford and Blake Griffin do. Yet, WCS can make the right pass. He often finds himself with a tons of space, because opposing teams want him taking jumpers. What happens when WCS finds himself in these situations. Good stuff.

Consider this clip of him playing against the Warriors and their tough defense. WCS is actually be pressed really hard by Andre Iguodala. What does he do? Cauley-Stein actual does a little crossover, then fires a bullet pass to a cutting Bogdanovic for a floater. I know. I had to watch it a couple times too.

Fast forward to the 1:03 mark of that same clip. David West is giving WCS a lot of space, and for good reason. The Kings decide to run some off-ball stuff for Bogdanovic again. This time WCS makes a smart bounce pass to BB as he cuts in for a layup.

The Kings know that WCS only draws attention as a screener. Everyone dares him to shoot, so Sacramento has drawn up some off-ball stuff for other players to do when WCS has the ball near the free throw line. If they were smart, Sacramento would look to do more of this and even get Marvin Bagley involved in some big-to-big passing as well. Don’t give up on the guy just yet, I expect him to turn his career trajectory around during the 2018-19 season.

 

Shabazz Napier

I know. Here goes my UConn bias again. Despite having earned another contract, Napier hasn’t lived up to the hype of a former first-round pick. Yet, I would argue that Napier has 6th man written all over him. Think Dellavedova during the Cavs title run.

Why am I still high on Napier? Excellent question. Yes, I know he has bounced around to four teams in what will be five years. But, Napier has a skill set that matches what today’s head coaches are looking for. Plus, he experienced a minor breakout year in Portland. As the stats tell, last season was his best yet.

Per Game Table
Season Age Tm Pos G MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT% TRB AST PTS
2014-15 23 MIA PG 51 19.8 1.7 4.5 .382 0.8 2.3 .364 .786 2.2 2.5 5.1
2015-16 24 ORL PG 55 10.9 1.2 3.7 .338 0.6 1.9 .327 .733 1.0 1.8 3.7
2016-17 25 POR PG 53 9.7 1.4 3.5 .399 0.6 1.7 .370 .776 1.2 1.3 4.1
2017-18 26 POR PG 74 20.7 3.0 7.2 .420 1.1 2.9 .376 .841 2.3 2.0 8.7
Career 233 15.7 1.9 4.9 .395 0.8 2.3 .363 .802 1.7 1.9 5.7
2 seasons POR 127 16.1 2.3 5.6 .415 0.9 2.4 .374 .824 1.8 1.7 6.8
1 season ORL 55 10.9 1.2 3.7 .338 0.6 1.9 .327 .733 1.0 1.8 3.7
1 season MIA 51 19.8 1.7 4.5 .382 0.8 2.3 .364 .786 2.2 2.5 5.1
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/4/2018.

Even more impressive are his numbers as a starter. When filling in for Dame Lillard, Napier put up a stat line of 16, 4 and 4 while banging 38 percent of his triples. Not bad.

So why wasn’t Napier more successful in Portland? I will answer my own question with another question. If C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard were your two best players, would you try and squeeze in more minutes for Shabazz Napier? Me neither.

It may be hard for Napier to find minutes in Brooklyn as well, but I like his chances. The Nets have done a wonderful job with player development as well as targeting under-the-radar guys with untapped potential. If the Nets acquired Napier, they did so for a reason. He will play behind Russell and Dinwiddie, but Napier will wiggle his way into some playing time eventually.

What will he bring to this squad? Napier can facilitate, but is more of a scoring guard. He takes 41 percent of all his shots from three, and drains a good amount of them. Napier’s assist percentage is not too high for a distributor, but this is because he is often asked to lead the second units in scoring. Yet, he is a natural scorer who relies on his shiftiness and sneaky athleticism to get buckets.

Oh, and the shiftiness is real. Watch this eurostep and pass which leads to a three-ball.

In fact, I recommend watching the whole clip.

If Napier can find minutes next season, he can display his talent. Not only is he one of the most clutch players out there, he is also one of the hardest workers. Don’t bet against this man.

 

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The Brooklyn Nets have the NBA’s deepest backcourt

Nets

Although the NBA is a top-heavy league dominated by teams with top-heavy lineups, the importance of depth on a roster should not be minimized.

The Brooklyn Nets are nowhere near the short list of legitimate championship contenders (Warriors, Rockets, Celtics, etc.), nor are they a star-studded group (Warriors, Thunder, Sixers, etc.). What the Nets do have going for them is depth — perhaps the defining characteristic of this young and rebuilding squad that is establishing a foundation on which to hopefully contend in the near future.

The Nets are especially deep in the backcourt. Five of Brooklyn’s guards averaged double figures in scoring last season; six if you count Jeremy Lin, who scored 18 points in the opener before a knee injury forced him to miss the next 81 games.

Starting point guard D’Angelo Russell and starting shooting guard Allen Crabbe averaged 15.5 and 13.2 points per game, respectively. Spencer Dinwiddie (12.6 ppg), Caris LeVert (12.1 ppg) and Joe Harris (10.8 ppg) also cracked the double-digit barrier.

This upcoming season, the Nets could suit up as many as seven guards capable of being double-figure scorers. Or at least noteworthy contributors to head coach Kenny Atkinson’s squad. While Lin has since been traded, the other aforementioned five return, and two new additions could play significant roles.

Russell and Crabbe are penciled in to return to the starting lineup.

Russell is Brooklyn’s top overall player and marquee name. He led the team in scoring last season, although injuries limited him to just 48 games. Staying healthy has been an issue for him in his nascent pro career, but he’s still just 22 years old and going into his fourth season. Russell is embracing his role as team leader and go-to player in crunch time.

Crabbe led the Nets in 3-pointers made with 201, connecting on 37.8 percent of his attempts. While he is in danger of being known as a poor man’s Joe Johnson — in that he will always be judged by his surprisingly large contract that came with expectations he may never fulfill — he is a solid producer. (“Poor man’s” is an ironic word choice, I know.)

Crabbe has two years left on the four-year, $75 million deal he inked in 2016, and while he set career-high marks in scoring, rebounding and assists last seasons, he’s far from All-Star caliber.

Dinwiddie is the 2nd-string point guard, but he may actually be the 2nd-best player on the Nets behind Russell. He led the team with 6.6 assists per game last season, and in 28 minutes per game he averaged just 1.6 turnovers. By comparison, Russell turned the ball over 3.1 times in 25 minutes per game.

LeVert is a versatile performer who can play both backcourt positions as well as small forward. Ever since I first watched LeVert play at the University of Michigan, he reminded me of a young Tracy McGrady. He’s not going to give you 25 or 30 points per game like prime T-Mac, but LeVert is long (6-foot-7), athletic, smooth, creative, and he’s a smart playmaker.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say Dinwiddie and LeVert are the best 2nd-unit backcourt in the NBA.

Consider some of the contenders: Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart for the Celtics; Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili for the Spurs; Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson for the Lakers; Milos Teodosic and Lou Williams for the Clippers; Tony Parker and Jeremy Lamb for the Hornets; and Delon Wright and C.J. Miles for the Raptors come to mind. Dinwiddie and LeVert are at least as good, if not better than those tandems.

Brooklyn’s 3rd-unit backcourt consists of two players who could potentially start for a few teams.

Shabazz Napier, who signed with the Nets as a free agent this summer, will be the No. 3 point guard on the depth chart after serving as a solid No. 2 PG behind Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard.

Napier made 10 starts last season, in which he averaged 15.0 points and 4.4 assists per game. In one of those outings, Napier went head-to-head with then-reigning league MVP Russell Westbrook and scored 21 points in a Blazers victory, while Westbrook scored 22.

Joe Harris is the 3rd-best shooting guard on Brooklyn’s roster. He can also play small forward. Last season, Harris led the Nets in 3-point accuracy, hitting 41.9 percent of his tries from long range in 25 minutes per game. He ranked second on the team in 3-point makes while finishing fourth in attempts. Harris was a free agent this summer and re-signed with Brooklyn on a two-year, $16 million deal.

The seventh guard on the Nets’ roster who could conceivably be a double-figure scorer in 2018-19 is rookie Dzanan Musa.

At 6-foot-9, he projects as a natural small forward, but he could also play the 2-guard, point guard, or even a stretch-4. Musa is a pure scorer whose shooting range seems limitless. It’s hard to predict how much he’ll play right away, because there are so many more experienced players on the Nets’ roster. But Brooklyn used a first-round pick on Musa, and his talent and potential could make it hard to resist giving the 19-year-old long looks on the court sooner than later.

One of the best things an NBA coach can have is options, and Atkinson certainly has a lot of options with the Nets’ backcourt.

Brooklyn may not have the league’s most talented or most successful backcourt, but it may be the league’s deepest. If nothing else, the Nets’ group of guards is the team’s strongest unit and its best hope for the franchise showing real signs of progress next season.

 

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Which Brooklyn Nets newcomer will make the biggest impact?

Dzanan Musa

The Brooklyn Nets are going to look a lot different next season than they did last season. But you probably won’t notice the difference until the starters take a seat and the bench gets involved.

General manager Sean Marks has executed a role-player overhaul this summer, adding six new players to the roster and subtracting a handful more to hopefully bring something resembling stability to a team that suited up 22 men last season.

It is unlikely, however, that any of the Nets’ newcomers will be in the starting five on 2018-19’s opening night.

Brooklyn’s offseason haul include 2018 draft picks Dzanan Musa and Rodion Kurucs; free agents Shabazz Napier and Ed Davis; and trade acquisitions Kenneth Faried and Jared Dudley, whom the Nets landed via trades with the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns, respectively.

The Nets also traded for future Hall of Fame center Dwight Howard, but promptly bought him out. (He then signed with the Washington Wizards.) Darrell Arthur, who came to Brooklyn in the Faried trade, didn’t even get fitted for a Nets uniform before the team sent him to Phoenix in the Dudley deal.

Brooklyn also acquired the draft rights to 21-year-old French guard Isaia Cordinier in the Jeremy Lin trade, but Cordinier is recovering from double knee surgery and is viewed as a draft-and-stash prospect. He may never make an NBA appearance – at least not this upcoming season.

None of the Nets’ newcomers are expected to supplant returners D’Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Jarrett Allen — the team’s projected starting five.

But they can make a difference and help Brooklyn take the small steps necessary toward returning to the playoffs … or at least crack the 30-win barrier for the first time since 2015.

Which Nets newcomer will make the biggest impact?

Looking at the roster and the resumes, Faried would look like the one with the greatest potential to contribute right away.

The 28-year-old big man fell out of the rotation in Denver, but he’s not too far removed from the days when he was good enough to be on the U.S. national team at the 2014 FIBA World Cup. That same year, the Nuggets inked “The Manimal” to a four-year, $50 million contract extension and appeared ready to make him the face of the franchise.

Faried was good for about 13 points and nine rebounds per game at the time. With his high-energy, high-flying, power-dunking style, he was a fan favorite and was starting to pop up in some of the NBA’s national marketing campaigns.

But Faried never made that leap to the next level of stardom. Then after the Nuggets hired Mike Malone as their head coach in 2015, Faried’s role decreased gradually, as his skill set just didn’t fit with Malone’s system. Last season, Faried saw action in only 32 games, and played just 14 minutes per night when he did make it off the bench.

In Brooklyn, Faried is penciled in as a backup to starting center Jarrett Allen, who is only 20 years old and still has a lot of developing to do. He’ll have to compete with Davis for time, but Faried is a natural power forward, so there can be minutes for him at that position as well. There should be an opportunities for Faried to become a productive player in the league again.

Napier is also a strong candidate to be the Nets’ biggest impact newcomer.

He had some standout moments last season as the backup to All-Star point guard Damian Lillard with the Portland Trail Blazers, averaging 8.7 points and 2.0 assists in 20 minutes per game. In the 10 games Napier started, he averaged 15.0 points and 4.2 assists in 33 minutes per game.

But on the Nets’ depth chart, Napier is slotted at No. 3 behind D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie at point guard. Russell and Dinwiddie also happen to be arguably Brooklyn’s two best players; Russell led the team in scoring last season (15.5 ppg) while Dinwiddie led the team in assists (6.6 apg).

Unless one of them gets injured, or Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson plans to run a lot of small-ball and guard-heavy lineups, Napier may not get as much playing time as you’d expect for a player who left a playoff team to join a lottery team.

Among the Nets’ new additions, I think the one who will make the biggest impact next season is rookie Dzanan Musa.

Listed at 6-foot-9 and 195 pounds, Musa is a 19-year-old from Bosnia & Herzegovina who will most likely play shooting guard and/or small forward, but also played some point guard with his Croatian League team and could even be a power forward in a small lineup.

Musa averaged 12.3 points per game last season for the Croatian club Cedevita, hitting 47 percent of his field goals and 31 percent of his three-pointers. He won the EuroCup’s Rising Star Trophy, as well as the ABA League’s Top Prospect honor and was named to the All-ABA League team.

The Nets landed Musa with the 29th pick in the first round, but his talent and potential had him projected by a lot of draft experts to go earlier.

Musa will have some veterans ahead of him on the depth chart going into training camp — including Crabbe, Carroll, Caris LeVert and Joe Harris — but his versatility and ability to play more than two positions could buy him court time wherever the Nets may be lacking depth at a given time.

Musa’s game reminds me a lot of Bogdan Bogdanovic, who averaged 11.8 points as a rookie for the Sacramento Kings last season. Bogdanovic may have been the best pure shooter in the 2017-18 rookie class. Musa has a similar ability to shoot with range and create his own offense, plus he’s three inches taller than Bogdanovic.

Of course there are weaknesses and areas in Musa’s game where he’ll struggle, and that will cost him playing time. He’ll almost certainly be pressed to add some muscle to his slender frame, which could impact how much Atkinson uses him until he gets stronger; especially as his strength (or lack thereof) will play a factor into how he’s able to defend on the NBA level.

In Europe, Musa played with the confidence of Stephen Curry on a hot streak and appeared to have a green light to do pretty much whatever he wanted. How will he respond when he doesn’t get as much freedom and room to take risks on an NBA court?

Musa has a lot of upside and the look of a player who can be very good in a few years. But I think he will be better than a lot of people expect this year.

More than a long-term project, Musa could be a short-term solution and Brooklyn’s most valuable newcomer.

 

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Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons

This is it. We can do this, ladies and gentlemen. Free agency is winding down, the NBA draft has been done for what seems like ages, and summer league is wrapping up as well.

Now more than ever, we need thought provoking NBA content. Well, say no more fam.

 

1. Atlanta Hawks – Trae Young

When I first glanced at this roster, I threw up a little in my mouth. But then I took a deep breath, dry heaved some more and decided to look again. Things aren’t as bleak as they seem.

Trae Young, John Collins, Taurean Prince, Kevin Huerter. The Hawks have the start of something promising or at the very least, intriguing. Is anyone on this roster truly untouchable? Probably not. Still, with management trading back and still drafting Trae Young, all signs point to him as being the least likely to be traded.

 

2. Boston Celtics – Jayson Tatum

The rookie standout is the obvious answer here. Do the Celtics want to trade any of their core? Nope. Still, I cannot imagine Danny Ainge trading Tatum for any realistic option out there right now. (Anthony Davis cannot come to the Cs via a DPE rule.)

Tatum’s duel with LeBron in the game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final is something we could see in a 30 for 30 one day. The kid is that special.

 

3. Brooklyn Nets – Jarrett Allen

Just when I thought I was done throwing up…

All jokes aside, the Nets are finally headed in the right direction. They own their future picks and have acquired then developed some good prospects. Spencer Dinwiddie revived his career in Brooklyn, and other reclamation projects await.

Jarrett Allen has looked like a good gamble so far. There is a reason he only played 20 minutes per game last year but, his per-36 minutes suggest a bright future lies ahead.

Per 36 Minutes Table
Season Age Tm G FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% TRB AST STL BLK PTS
2017-18 19 BRK 72 5.8 9.9 .589 0.1 0.4 .333 2.8 3.7 .776 9.7 1.2 0.7 2.2 14.7
Career 72 5.8 9.9 .589 0.1 0.4 .333 2.8 3.7 .776 9.7 1.2 0.7 2.2 14.7
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/16/2018.

4. Charlotte Hornets – Miles Bridges

So this is the question: What makes Miles Bridges more untradable than Malik Monk?

Monk had a disappointing rookie season. Sure, he showed flashes during the last month or so of the season. Yet, Monk proved to be more of a project than what scouts originally thought.

Bridges may not project as the safer long term prospect however, he has a two-way ceiling higher than Monk’s. Offensively, Bridges looks to be equally as dynamic as Monk, despite these two having different skill sets. It is on the defensive side of the ball where Bridges separates himself, as he has the potential to defend four positions on the court.

 

5. Chicago Bulls – Wendell Carter Jr.

I struggled with this selection as well. Lauri Markkanen set rookie records for three-pointers last year. Plus, Coach Hoiberg ran a bunch of the offense through him, something that displayed Markkanen’s playmaking ability. So why did I side with Carter Jr here?

Lauri Markkanen may learn NBA defensive spacing but, he simply lacks to physical tools to be an effective two-way player. With the game getting quicker, I can imagine future playoff scenarios where Markkanen gets played off of the court. Who does Markkanen guard when a team like the Sixers trots out Embiid, Simmons, Redick, Fultz and Covington. Carter Jr won’t ever get played off of the court. His three-point stroke and playmaking look to be just as good as Markkanen’s as well.

 

6. Cleveland Cavaliers – Collin Sexton

Has anyone made an “I wanna Sexton you up” meme yet? No? Great.

Cleveland has players that are the opposite of untouchable. They should be looking to gain value for Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and others. Yet, Sexton remains untouchable. The former Alabama guard is a locker room blessing. Sexton can reset the culture in Cleveland while becoming their point guard of the future. Cedi Osman was in contention here as well.

 

7. Detroit Pistons – Andre Drummond

If I were the GM of the Detroit Pistons, Andre Drummond would not be untouchable. That does mean I would be looking to unload him however, I prefer my centers to be able to switch pick and rolls, as well as space the court. Yet, Drummond is probably the most unlikely player Detroit is willing to part with.

Blake Griffin was a Stan Van Gundy guy, not someone new management particularly wanted. I am not suggesting his trade value is high enough to warrant a move but, crazier things have happened. This summer, Drummond has posted videos on his Instagram account draining threes. Perhaps he will bring this skill to the Pistons this year, and truly earn this hypothetical untouchable title.

 

8. Indiana Pacers – Victor Oladipo

I won’t get into too much detail about this because Josh Eberly of HOOPmag already did it for me:

9. Miami Heat – Josh Richardson

Why not first time All-Star and former All-NBAer Goran Dragic? Dragic can opt out of his contract after next season and will be a 33-year-old point guard. If anything, Miami should be tryingto ship Dragic off to a fringe contender looking for that next piece.

Bam Adebayo came to mind here but, paint protecting rim runners are becoming easier and easier to find nowadays. 24-year-old defensive wings who drain 37% of their threes and hit 45% from the field are not easy to find, however. Throw in Richardson’s cheap contract and Miami has a piece they should hold onto.

 

10. Milwaukee Bucks – Giannia Antetokounmpo

Ask Tim Hardaway Jr to explain this one.

11. New York Knicks – Kristaps Porzingis

Want to know how many NBA players shot 39% from deep last year while also blocking 2.4 shots per game? One. Don’t overthink this one, people. Kevin Knox will be an awesome player and is on a cheap deal. Frankie Smokes is already an elite perimeter defender with promising offensive development. Still, KP is the way to go here.

 

12. Orlando Magic – Mo Bamba

Rookies seem to be dominating this list, and I do not know if I am comfortable with that.

Aaron Gordon took a step forward with his three-point shooting ability last season yet, he still has so much more to develop if he wants to truly take advantage of his elite athleticism. With both Bamba and Jonathan Isaac looking great in summer league, I would move off of Gordon for a top-20 pick.

Jonathan Isaac has shown promise lately however, he does not have the ceiling that Bamba has. Bamba is the most boom or bust player of this bunch, but Orlando needs a star and Bamba is worth making untouchable.

 

13. Philadelphia 76ers – Ben Simmons

Let the debate begin!

I love Embiid’s game and potential. In my opinion, he has a higher ceiling than Simmons. Embiid could be an MVP and  DPOY winner. Yet, I like my untouchable players to be on the court. Out of 328 possible regular season games, Embiid has played 94 of them. Folks, he has only played in 28 percent of his games. Unfortunately, 7’1″, 260 lbs centers tend to progress towards injuries, not away from them.

Ben Simmons has an MVP ceiling as well. At one point during his career he will be the best passer in the game. Defensively, he can be elite too. Simmons has all the tools to be transcendent and a gambling man will bet that Simmons will find a way to fix that jumper. Factor in his health, and Simmons is my pick here, although I would not trade either.

 

14. Toronto Raptors – No one

Why should anyone on this roster be untouchable? Toronto is at a crossroads. With LeBron out of the East, they need to take a risk and go all in.

I have been a fan of the “DeMar for Kawhi” fake trades. Kawhi is simply a better player than DeMar DeRozan and would raise Toronto’s chances of winning. If the team can package Lowry and other assets for an upgrade, do it. Could they need to sell off OG and other young prospects for an experienced difference maker? Go for it.

If not now, when? Toronto has a very small window to win. If there is a move out there that makes them better for even one season, they must do it.

 

15. Washington Wizards – Bradley Beal

Surprised you, right?

Bradley Beal had a better year than John Wall last year, straight up.

Per Game Table
Rk Player Season Age GS FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% eFG% FT% TRB AST STL BLK PTS
1 Bradley Beal 2017-18 24 82 8.3 18.1 .460 2.4 6.5 .375 .527 .793 4.4 4.5 1.2 0.4 22.6
2 John Wall 2017-18 27 41 6.8 16.3 .420 1.5 4.1 .371 .466 .726 3.7 9.6 1.4 1.1 19.4
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/16/2018.

 

I will take Beal’s numbers here over Wall’s any day of the week. Plus, Washington should be looking to move off of Wall’s contract. John Wall will be paid $37 million dollars in 2019-2020. Compare that to Beal who will be making $10 million less! Remember when I was throwing up earlier…

…John Wall will be making $43 million when he is 31-years-old! That type of money cripples franchises from making other important acquisitions. The point guard position is the saturated one in the game today, making Wall expendable in the long term. Bradley Beal is the guy to hang onto.