Posts Tagged ‘Bucks’

New Coaches: Heat Is On Already

 

HANG TIME, Texas – It’s not very often that 13 different teams decide to change coaches during one offseason. It’s a sign of these impatient times in which we live, especially when six of those teams finished last season with winning records.

It used to be “what have you done for me lately?” Now it’s “what have you done in the last 10 minutes?”

Of course, not every new coaching situation is the same. No one expects a pair of newcomers like Brad Stevens in Boston and Brett Brown in Philly to perform water-into-wine miracles with stripped-down rosters.

Doc Rivers goes coast-to-coast to show a 56-win Clippers team how to take the next step while Mike Brown returns to Cleveland with a roster full of young talent ready to bloom.

However, not everybody gets to settle in comfortably. Here are the five new coaches who’ll find that seat warm from Day One:

Dave Joerger, Grizzlies – Sure, he’s paid his dues and learned his craft in the minor leagues and as an up-and-coming assistant coach in the NBA. All he’s got to do now is take over a club that is coming off the best season in franchise history, including a run to the Western Conference finals. While that means the Grizzlies have a contending core in Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley and a supporting cast to repeat their feat, it also means that every decision, every move that Joerger makes from the first day of training camp through the end of the playoffs will be judged against his predecessor Lionel Hollins, who evidently could do everything except make his stat-driven bosses appreciate him. In a Western Conference that just keeps getting stronger, it will be tough enough survive, let alone thrive with a ghost on his shoulder.

Larry Drew, Bucks — After spending three seasons in Atlanta, where he always had a winning record but could never get the Hawks past the second round of the playoffs, Drew moves to a Bucks franchise that overachieves if it climbs into the No. 8 seed to play the role of punching bag for the big boys in the Eastern Conference. Milwaukee has turned over its backcourt from an inconsistent pair of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis to a spotty trio of Brandon Knight, O.J. Mayo and Gary Neal. Rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo has size, athleticism and a bundle of talent. But he’s only 18 years old and the question is whether Drew will be given the opportunity to stick around long enough to watch him grow. The Bucks are one of two teams with plenty of space under the salary cap, but have no real intention of spending it except to get to the mandated league minimum. This is a Bucks franchise that doesn’t have a sense of direction and that hardly bodes well for a coach. It’s not even a lateral move for Drew and could make getting the next job that much harder.

Brian Shaw, Nuggets – After waiting so long to finally get his opportunity to become a head coach, Shaw steps into a situation that is almost the opposite of Joerger. The Nuggets let 2013 Coach of the Year George Karl walk along with Masai Ujiri, the general manager who built the team, and then blew a gaping hole in the side of the 57-win, No. 3 seed in the West roster by letting Andre Iguodala get away, too. Shaw still has Ty Lawson as the fire-starter in the backcourt, but one of these seasons 37-year-old Andre Miller has got to run out of gas. As if the rookie coach didn’t have enough to juggle with the mercurial JaVale McGee, now he’s got Nate Robinson coming off his playoff heroics in Chicago with that ego taller than the Rockies. It’s never a good time to be stepping into a new job when management seems to be pulling back.

Steve Clifford, Bobcats – He’s another one of the longtime assistant coaches that has paid his dues and was ready to slide down the bench into the boss’s spot. But Charlotte? That’s more like the ejector seat in James Bond’s old Aston Martin. The Bobcats have had six coaches in the seven years that the iconic Michael Jordan has been head of basketball operations and then majority owner. From bad drafting (Adam Morrison) to bad trades (Ben Gordon, Corey Maggette), through constant changes of philosophy and direction, the Bobcats simply go through coaches faster than sneakers. Now it’s general manager Rich Cho calling the shots, but that didn’t stop the firing of Mike Dunlap after just one season. Clifford gets veteran big man Al Jefferson to anchor the middle of the lineup, but he’d better have his seat belt fastened tight and watch out for those fingers on the ejector button.

Mike Malone, Kings — Not that anyone expects Malone to be under immediate pressure in terms of wins and losses. What the Kings need now that they have a future in Sacramento is to re-establish a foundation on the court. Of course, the multi-million-dollar question is whether that base will include the talented and petulant DeMarcus Cousins. Everybody knows that he’s physically got what it takes to be a dominant force in the league. But the jury is still out when you’ve played three years in the league and you’re still getting suspended for “unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team.” Paul Westphal and Keith Smart couldn’t get through to Cousins to make him somebody the Kings can rely on and were spat out. Now as the big man heads toward a summer where he could become a restricted free agent, the franchise needs to know if sinking big bucks in his future is an investment or a waste of time. That’s the intense heat on Malone and the clock will be ticking immediately.

Bucks’ Coach Drew Breaks Down 2013 Draft Pick Antetokounmpo

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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – New Bucks’ coach Larry Drew was most of one continent, an entire ocean and a large portion of another continent away from Milwaukee’s Summer League team. That’s an unusual itinerary for most coaches with a team in Las Vegas in mid-July, and certainly a coach about five weeks on the job and wanting to familiarize himself with the roster.

But this was about Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Antetokounmpo is the No. 15 pick in the draft, the small forward with ball-handling skills but practically no experience against anything better than the equivalent of Division II in the United States colleges. He’s an intriguing prospect who recently arrived in Milwaukee with little connection to anyone outside Europe. He was a high-risk, high-reward choice by Milwaukee. And when he couldn’t join the Bucks for Summer League because of a commitment with one of the Greek junior teams, the Bucks went to him.

Drew watched Antetokounmpo play for Greece in the European under-20s championships is Estonia and, just as important, got the kind of bonding time that was not available before the draft. The updated read was valuable and realistic: Antetokounmpo may not be ready to contribute as a rookie with the Bucks trying to remain in the playoff pack – an opinion echoed by many around the league that he has real potential but needs a lot of time – but there is an emotional toughness that should carry him through the transition.

Here’s the full Drew perspective after returning from Estonia and with Antetokounmpo now in Milwaukee, where he sat down with Hang Time:

Question: What did you learn that you did not already know?

Answer: I didn’t know much about Giannis, I didn’t know much about his game. I watched a lot of tape on him, just trying to get a feel for who he was as a basketball player. Sometimes watching on film, you don’t get the true essence. It’s not like being there. When I heard that he was going to be playing in the 20-and-under tournament, I had to make a decision on whether to miss our summer league or to go over and watch Giannis, get a chance to watch him in person. I really thought that would be more valuable, at least for me, to go and see him face to face, live and in person, to get a real feel for who he was as a ball player. In going over there, I really didn’t know what to expect. From all the things that I saw on film, he seemed to be a really unselfish player, a really good passer. Watching him on tape, I thought his shot was a little funky. But watching him in person, he’s got a nice shot. It’s just a little bit of a slow release.

Q: Personality is obviously going to play a big role in this. He’s going to be facing challenges on and off the court he never has before. What did you learn about his attitude?

A: He’s going to face some hard moments. That’s part of the growth process.

Q: But more than a player coming from a U.S. college after a freshman or a sophomore year. Is it a bigger issue with him because he never faced anything close to this level of competition.

A: I agree with you on that. But I think this kid is pretty driven. He wants it. He hasn’t faced this level of competition, not where he’s from. That’s why it’s going to be important, especially with our team, our organization, that we nurture him along the way and that he understands that there’s going to be some peaks, there’s going to be some valleys. Players are going to come at him. No doubt about it. But he is the type of kid who embraces a challenge. He doesn’t shy away from a challenge. Physically, he’s got to get bigger, he’s got to get stronger. But it’ going to our job, our responsibility, to nurture him along and help him through those difficult times.

Q: What is realistic for this season? You guys are trying to make the playoffs. Is he someone you can count on right away or are we looking at more of a project?

A: That remains to be seen. A lot depends on how fast he develops. A lot depends on is he equipped, is he built for the NBA when the season opens? We’re going to bring him along slowly. We’re going to see just where he ends up. We’re not going to try to force him or push him into anything. I want this to be a real graceful process for him, a graceful process for us. We have to allow him to develop. If he develops at a good pace, maybe he is somebody that will get some playing time. But right now it’s really hard to say. We’re in the infancy stage of this thing. He’s here now working out, lifting weights. We’re trying to put a little more weight on him. We’ll just have to wait to see how this whole thing unfolds.”

Q: So it’s tough to say at this point whether you can get a dependable 18 or 20 minutes a game from him as a rookie?

A: I couldn’t honestly say that will be the case as far as him getting 15 to 20 minutes. That’s a hard question to answer right now.

Q: With his unique skill set, how do you as a coach envision using him?

A: He’s a terrific ball-handler for his size. He handles the basketball very well. When I first watched him play, the first thing I said is he’s a point forward because he has size (6-9) and he handles the ball in the open court. If he continues to improve there, I could see him being somewhat of a point forward. Somebody that can initiate an offense, somebody that can be in the middle of a fastbreak. He certainly looks comfortable doing that. He hasn’t done it on our level yet, though. That’s something that we’re going to have to nurture along. He certainly has the tools. He certainly has the skills. One thing I did notice about him, when he is in the open court with the basketball, he’s not just a gifted passer, but he’s a willing passer. He doesn’t try to over-dribble. He gives it up in a timely fashion. His skill is very unique and what he does for his size. I see him as a guy you can possibly put at the top of the floor, somewhere he’s allowed to handle the basketball, because he certainly, for his size, does a good job with that.”

Q: Could you ever see him as a full-time point guard once he gets the experience, once he gets stronger, or is that unrealistic?

A: Right now I would say that’s unrealistic. I would probably go as far as just calling him a point forward. With his size, with his ability to handle, he does a good job in his decision-making and delivering the basketball. I would classify him closer to being a point forward.

Q: Does Giannis compare to anybody or remind you of anyone?

A: Not really. I think when you watch him play and when you look at his size, his body frame, particularly when he’s in the open court, I see a little bit of (Kevin) Durant, sort of. Just because he’s thin, has long arms, 6-9, and the way he gracefully moves into the open court. I’m not saying he has Durant’s game. But just the way he moves in the open court, I see some similarities.”

Q: You played with a tall point guard with the Lakers. Do you reach out to Magic Johnson and say, “Can you have a conversation with Giannis?”

A: Not at this point. Earvin and I, we still maintain contact. Not necessarily for the individual. Maybe for our team as a whole, but not for the individual.”

Q: How do you mean?

A: Just have him come in and talk to the players, our entire team.

Q: Have you done that yet?

A: No I have not.

Q: You would like to?

A: Possibly.

Q: What do you see Magic brining in a conversation?

A: A winning attitude. He’s experienced winning at the highest level. I know players do look up to him in the highest regard. To have a guy like that speak to your team, I think that speaks volumes.

Neal, Bucks Agree To Two-Year Deal





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – It took a little while, but Gary Neal has finally found a comfortable landing spot. The former San Antonio Spurs’ sharpshooter agreed to a two-year deal with the Milwaukee Bucks worth a reported $3.25 million per season, according to the Journal Sentinel.

With their point guard situation still in flux, they extended a qualifying offer to Brandon Jennings making him a restricted free agent this summer, Neal gives bucks coach Larry Drew another seasoned offensive weapon to work with at shooting guard. The Bucks added O.J. Mayo earlier this summer. They also presented restricted free agent point guard Jeff Teague with a four-year, $32 million offer sheet that the Hawks matched.

Neal’s most recent and perhaps best career highlights came last month in The Finals, during the epic seven-game series between the Spurs and Miami Heat. He scored a playoff career-high 24 points in a Game 3 blowout of the Heat, nailing six 3-pointers in that contest as he and Danny Green combined for 51 of the Spurs’ 113 points.

Neal, 28, averaged 9.7 points and shot 40 percent from beyond the 3-point line in three seasons with the Spurs.

The Bucks, who lost J.J. Redick (to the Los Angeles Clippers) and Mike Dunleavy (to the Chicago Bulls) in free agency, were in need of a someone who could provide an offensive spark off of the bench. Neal is the sort of fearless, big-game performer Bucks general manager John Hammond was looking for.

There is still business for the Bucks to tend to, of course. They have to figure out what to do, if anything, with Jennings. As it stands, he’s set to return to his starting point guard spot for the 2013-14 season. He would then become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2014.


Hawks Match Bucks’ Offer To Teague



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Jeff Teague won’t be leaving Atlanta for Milwaukee after all.

The Hawks matched the Bucks’ four-year, $32 million offer sheet before the midnight deadline, keeping their starting point guard, who was a restricted free agent.

The Hawks had no choice but to match the offer sheet Teague signed Wednesday, a move first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Even with Teague expressing his desire to play elsewhere to Hawks general manager Danny Ferry, the Hawks had to match the offer.

They didn’t have an experienced backup that could take over for Teague if he was allowed to go to Milwaukee. Veteran combo guard Lou Williams is coming back from a season-ending knee injury. First-round Draft pick Dennis Schroder is a prospect and not ready for a starting role as a rookie. And free agent guard Devin Harris, who started games in the backcourt with Teague last season, had already agreed to a three-year deal with the Dallas Mavericks (before both sides backed out of that deal when it was discovered that Harris would need surgery on his toe and be out of action potentially through training camp).

First-year Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer will have enough of a transition to deal with after coming over from the San Antonio Spurs, trying to make that move without an experienced point guard would only have made that process more difficult.

In Teague, Budenholzer has an experienced but still relatively young (25) point guard to run his system. Teague averaged 14.6 points and a career-high 7.2 assists during the 2012-13 season, guiding the Hawks to their sixth straight playoff appearance under former Hawks — and now Bucks — coach Larry Drew.

Drew and the Bucks have a restricted point guard of their own to deal with in Brandon Jennings. There were rumblings that the Hawks and Bucks were engaged in discussions about a restricted free agent point guard swap of sorts, but those talks clearly never reached the serious enough stage for the two teams to work anything out.

While the Bucks continue to ponder what they’ll do with Jennings, the Hawks’ decision on Teague has been made. He’ll continue in his capacity as the starting point guard for the team that selected him with the 19th pick in the 2009 Draft.

Report: Teague Signs Bucks’ Offer Sheet





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – First it was Larry Drew, then Zaza Pachulia and perhaps now Jeff Teague, who will leave Atlanta for Milwaukee.

Drew, the former Hawks head coach, no doubt played a significant role in the Bucks adding Pachulia in free agency and certainly instigated the Bucks’ presenting Teague, a restricted free agent, with a reported four-year, $32 million offer sheet that has been signed already, a deal first reported by Yahoo! Sports.

The Hawks have three days to either match the offer or Teague will rejoin his former coach and teammate in a Bucks uniform. The Bucks have a restricted free agent point guard of their own in Brandon Jennings. The two teams had discussed possible sign-and-trade deals involving the two players, and veteran free agent guard Monta Ellis, but those talks never produced a substantive deal.

A two-year starter, Teague averaged 14.8 points and a career-high 7.2 assists this season for a Hawks team that made a sixth consecutive trip to the playoffs. While he doesn’t carry the household recognition that Jennings does, due mostly to the way Jennings entered the league (after a year of post-high school work in Italy), he’s every bit the athlete and arguably a more polished player at this stage of their respective careers.

Teague, 25, is also two years older and certainly sturdier at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, nearly 30 pounds heavier than Jennings. The fact that the Bucks and Hawks explored trade opportunities says something about the value both franchises placed on their incumbents. You can debate which one of them is the better player right now, as plenty of fans and pundits have already, but Teague is the only one with a signed offer sheet today. And the fact that it’s from the team Jennings has started for the past four seasons speaks volumes not only about that debate but also about what sort of market there is for restricted free agent point guards this summer.

While neither one of them is considered to be among the elite at one of the most crucial positions in the league, the Bucks’$8 million a year offer to Teague indicates they believe he’s more than capable of replacing Jennings and providing an upgrade at the position. His familiarity with Drew’s system also gives the Bucks an inside advantage that wouldn’t be there otherwise.

Open For Business On Free-Agent Sunday



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – There are still potentially two big fish available in a shrinking free-agent summer pond. And while Sunday saw no concrete offers for either Andrew Bynum or Monta Ellis, the general sentiment is that things could change dramatically at either time for one, if not, both of them.

The Atlanta Hawks and Denver Nuggets are reportedly interested in acquiring Ellis, who can slide into a specific role in either location. The Hawks need to restock their ranks with impact players and Ellis, a legitimate 20-point scorer, could add immediate punch at shooting guard. Denver has a hole to fill where Andre Iguodala worked last season and Ellis could also be a fit there.

The market for Bynum’s services seems to have taken a familiar turn in this wild free-agent summer, and that’s to Texas, where the Dallas Mavericks are looking for a frontcourt anchor to pair with Dirk Nowitzki. They had their sights on Dwight Howard, of course, but since that didn’t work out they’ve had to work down their list. Now Bynum appears to be in their sights, though they are cautious about his knees, as any team would be at this point.

That said, some folks believe a surprise team could win the Bynum sweepstakes.

This one could get really interesting before it’s all over.

Making things even more intriguing is what will happen with incumbent Rockets center Omer Asik, who reportedly wants no part of playing behind Howard and has asked to be traded. The Rockets have no intention of trading him, according to ESPN.com, making for an extremely intriguing next few days for any team desperate for a center.

Free agency is only a week old but there are already tons of wrinkles. As for the other business that went down Sunday, here are some of the highlights:

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Free Agent Tracker

The Non-Dwight Action Of The Night



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Dwight Howard made the biggest splash of the day, night and probably the entire free agent summer of 2013 by choosing the Houston Rockets. And you are free to weigh in on his (in)decision and where it ranks in recent memory among summer spectacles.

But he wasn’t the only free agent to firm up his future Friday.

Plenty of his contemporaries were busy solidifying their respective futures with teams around the league. Keep in mind none of these deals become official until July 10, when the league’s moratorium on signing new contracts and finalizing proposed trades is lifted.

Some of the other notable activity from the first and likely wildest Friday night of free agency:

Dunleavy, Bulls Agree On Two-Year Deal



HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – While the rest of the basketball world waits for its next Dwight Howard update, the Chicago Bulls are busy handling their own business.

They secured a verbal commitment from veteran swingman Mike Dunleavy on a two-year, $6 million deal, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein:

Sources told ESPN.com that Dunleavy quickly narrowed his long list of suitors to five teams Monday and chose to take the Bulls’ two-year offer worth $6 million.

The deal can’t be signed until after July 10, when the league’s annual moratorium on signings and trades is lifted, but teams and players are allowed to enter into verbal agreements during the freeze.

Sources said Dunleavy also gave strong consideration to the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves after spending the past two seasons in Milwaukee.

Dunleavy gives the Bulls one of the coveted floor stretchers on the free-agent market and helps shore up a bench rotation that will look much different from the crew that finished the season with many of its members in the starting lineup for a team that was ravaged by injuries all season.

While it’s not the sort of championship move that cranks up the fan base, Dunleavy serves a very specific need for Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. He needs a shooter with Dunleavy’s size to be ready when Derrick Rose returns after missing the entire 2012-13 season recovering from anterior cruciate ligament surgery.

Who Should Stay And Who Should Go

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HANG TIME, Texas
— The start of free agency always has plenty of decisions. The most basic are which players should look for greener pastures and who should be smart enough to realize what they’ve already got.

Here’s a quick look at a handful of players that need to find a new address and five more who should stay at home:

FIVE WHO SHOULD GO


Dwight Howard
, C, Lakers

Let’s face it. There hasn’t been an NBA marriage this shaky that didn’t involve a Kardashian. Howard went to a team where Kobe Bryant was already firmly entrenched as the alpha dog and then found himself on a leash that included geezers Steve Nash and Metta World Peace. Toss in a coach like Mike D’Antoni who has never favored playing a low post game and it was a recipe for disaster. Another several years of playing in the harsh glare of the Lakers spotlight might be too much for Howard to bear. The overly sensitive must flee to someplace that will give him a big hug before he turns into a pillar of salt.

Josh Smith, F, Hawks

If you were building a 21st century basketball player in a lab — speed, strength, leaping ability, size — chances are you would come up with someone resembling J-Smoove. After nine NBA seasons, he’s got career numbers that rank him among the greats. After nine years in his hometown of Atlanta, he’s about worn out his welcome with all of those wild, late, long shots. In the right situation, with the right coach, he might take a team to the next level or send it over the edge. A man has got to know when it’s time to change the scenery.

Tony Allen, G, Grizzlies

He’s the guy who introduced the grind into the Grindhouse and one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. He can cut to the basket and score, but that’s about all he can do offensively and that hole in his game was badly exposed by the Spurs in the Western Conference finals. The new analytics-driven Grizzlies have Tayshaun Prince to fill the defensive role and they’re not likely to fork over the kind of money Allen wants for a one-dimensional figure. It’s time to take those defensive claws to another contender or wannabe and show the Grizzlies what they’ll be missing.

Tyreke Evans, G, Kings

Was it just three years ago when Evans was a 20-5-5 guy and winning Rookie of the Year honors with the Kings? His fall from grace was like an anvil being tossed off the edge of a cliff. Now that new management was able to reel in shooter Ben McLemore in the draft, it would seem that there’s little room left for Evans. Will the Kings even think about matching four-year, $44 million offer from the Pelicans? This is a separation that’s been that’s been coming for a while.

Monta Ellis, G, Bucks

It just wasn’t a good idea to put together two small guards that need the ball in their hands together in Milwaukee. It’s definitely isn’t a good idea to re-sign both of them as free agents. Brandon Jennings is hardly the model of efficiency, but Ellis makes him look like a Swiss knife in comparison. He needs to find a new home where he can be a designated scorer and not asked to do anything else, because he won’t.

FIVE WHO SHOULD STAY


David West, F, Pacers

He may yearn for one more big pay in another location, but at the end of the day West and the Pacers know that they’re made for each other. He’s a very efficient scorer, a hard-nosed defender and played a big role in Indiana taking the Heat to a seventh game in the Eastern Conference finals. He also has great leadership skills and has always managed to fly below the radar while delivering in a big way almost every time out.

Andre Iguodala, F, Nuggets

He exercised his right to opt out early from his contract and maybe it was only about maximizing his earnings. Or maybe he needed time to digest what the change from George Karl to Brian Shaw as coach could do to the Nuggets’ style of play and how he fits into the attack. At the end of the day, the Nuggets still have plenty of players who can get up and down the floor in transition and it Shaw wants to place even more emphasis on defense, he’s most capable of delivering and thriving.

Chris Andersen, F, Heat

This is a perfect fit in so many ways. The Heat gave Andersen a place where he could continue this career and make a significant contribution. Andersen gives the Heat the kind of rugged, tough guy, free spirit personality that is a nice balance inside a locker room filled with three mega-stars. When you’ve got LeBron, Wade, Bosh and all of the hullaballoo that constantly swirls around them, almost no one even notices the Birdman. Almost. It’s a long grind from October to June and it helps to have an iconoclast like Andersen on the court and in their midst to keep the Heat fresh.

Nikola Pekovic, C, Timberwolves

New Wolves president of basketball operation Flip Saunders is likely to let free agent Andrei Kirilenko walk out the door in order to find someone cheaper and with better shooting range. But the big man Pekovic is a must-keep asset not just for his size, strength, rebounding and scoring efficiently, but also to show Kevin Love that the team is serious about building a team that — barring injury — can jump into the rugged Western Conference playoff race and thrive. Pekovic’s numbers in points, rebounds and blocks have gone up in each of his first three seasons and at 27 he can grow more into a dominant inside force.

Tiago Splitter, F, Spurs

The difference in Splitter from his first to second playoff seasons was a quantum leap. Of course, it also helped that he had a full training camp and was healthy. He’s a quietly efficient scorer who can be trusted to hold down the middle while the Spurs continue to monitor and limit the minutes played by Tim Duncan. He is a perfect complementary part for now and his role can increase in another couple of years. There are lots of teams that would like to have the 28-year-old, but he’s at home with the franchise that patiently waited for him to arrive and there is no reason to think the Spurs would want him to walk out the door.

These Draft Moves Made The Most Impact

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BROOKLYN, N.Y. – These five Draft decisions that will have the greatest impact:

1. Jrue Holiday and a 2013 second-round pick to the Pelicans, Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first-rounder to the 76ers

It’s No. 1 by a wide margin, too, swaying the fortunes not only of two teams, but two conferences. Philadelphia is out of the playoff business for a while after finishing all of four games out in 2012-13 despite Andrew Bynum on the sidelines and coach Doug Collins heading for the exit. Instead of an All-Star at point guard and the chance to use the No. 11 pick Thursday night for a big to either replace the unrestricted free-agent Bynum or help at power forward — perhaps by drafting Steven Adams, Kelly Olynyk or Lucas Nogueira — the Sixers have Noel as a rookie, who does not expect to play until around Christmas because of a knee injury. The Sixers also have point guard Michael Carter-Williams, who was selected with the 11th pick.

The first-rounder next year, in a draft that projects as much more stacked than the 2013 class without a star presence, is a nice get for the 76ers, though. It is protected, depending on the report, either through three or through five.

The Pelicans, meanwhile, take a significant step forward with the addition of the point guard they had been lacking. Austin Rivers, the 2012 lottery pick, is better suited as a combo guard anyway and now is part of the Holiday-Eric Gordon pairing that will headline one of the best backcourts in the league if Gordon stays healthy. Anthony Davis remains a potential star of the future at power forward.

2. Wizards select Otto Porter at No. 3

It was the predictable call since 15 seconds after the lottery, and it was the right call. It was the call, more specifically, that vaults Washington into playoff mode.

The Wizards were already one of the best teams in the East the second half of last season, once John Wall got healthy and even with an early end to the rookie season of Bradley Beal because of injury. Now, with the position of need addressed Thursday, they have Wall at point guard, Beal at shooting guard, Porter at small forward and Nene and Emeka Okafor at power forward and center. That works.

Porter isn’t the difference maker, but he is the ideal fit in the same way he would have been a reasonable choice for Cleveland at No. 1: he is capable of stepping into the NBA now, he helps the spot the Wizards needed and he’s an ideal complementary player who will make valuable contributions to Wall and Beal’s continued rise. Porter will defend, pass, rebound and shoot with range. The things that get a team to the playoffs.

3. Bucks select Giannis Antetokounmpo at No. 15

It’s not that Milwaukee went small forward four days before three guards — Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick (unrestricted) and Brandon Jennings (restricted) — hit free agency. Other teams steered away from Dennis Schroeder, Shane Larkin, Tony Snell and others. And it’s not that Milwaukee saw into the future with a unique opportunity for a 6-foot-9 potential point forward with a good feel for the game despite little experience in Greece and even less against anything close to the equivalent of Division I competition in U.S. colleges.

It’s that the Bucks don’t have what Antetokounmpo needs more than anything: time. He has to get stronger, adjust to the physical nature and speed of the game here and develop a jumper. One scout who saw him, asked how long before Antetokounmpo makes an impact in the NBA, said, “Three, four years. Maybe five.” Others think it’s a lot shorter than that, but that still means two years.

If he contributes in 2013-14, the vast majority of front offices will be surprised. Meanwhile, the Bucks need to stay in the playoff picture, not build something for the future. They are about now and he isn’t.

4. Trail Blazers select C.J. McCollum at 10, Allen Crabbe at 31 and Jeff Withey at 39

This is a consolation prize? Portland missed on the dream Draft-night outcome of trading for a veteran center, yet it still addressed a major needs. With three picks capable of contributing — yes, even the second-rounders — the Blazers made a significant step toward toward erasing their depth issues last season.

McCollum, who has spent the pre-Draft process comparing himself to Damian Lillard as a mid-major product trying to prove he can be a point guard and not just a scorer, now works behind Lillard. And maybe with him — both can play off the ball. Crabbe is a shooting specialist who was getting looks from teams in the teens. Withey is a value find at 39, an experienced shot-blocking center who should be able to play right away and very realistically could have a career as a backup despite being a second-rounder.

5. Mavericks trade down twice

It’s not about what they got. It’s about what they didn’t get. A larger payroll.

Shane Larkin, whom Dallas got in a swap with Atlanta, is as the possible point guard of the future. Possible because there is no such thing as roster certainty heading into this critical free-agent summer.

By starting with the 13th pick and trading with the Celtics to No. 16 and then trading with the Hawks to end up at 18 and taking Larkin, the Mavericks saved $1.09 million in rookie-scale salary. That creates more cap space. Dwight Howard likes cap space.