Posts Tagged ‘Marcus Smart’

Morning Shootaround — Feb. 10


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Feb. 9

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Pistons’ Gores has more decisions ahead | Clippers soar in Paul’s return | World Peace has advice for Smart | No change in Kobe’s plans; another setback for Nash

No. 1: Pistons owner Gores has more work to do fix Motor City mess Tom Gores took the first step in attempting to fix the mess that is the Detroit Pistons by firing his head coach, Maurice Cheeks. That’s only the beginning of the heavy lifting he’ll have to do to fix what ails the once-proud Pistons, according to Terry Foster of the Detroit News., who reiterates what our Steve Aschburner said in the immediate aftermath of Cheeks being fired. And the list is long and starts with Pistons president Joe Dumars and includes several players who should all be in the crosshairs for a franchise that expected so much more from this season:

Gores owns this shipwreck and he probably doesn’t know what to do with it. Let me give him some advice:

He’s already issued his playoff-or-else edict for the season and can’t back down now. However, he can’t ignore long-term goals — that should be his most pressing concern.

Rodney Stuckey, Greg Monroe and Charlie Villanueva have been dangled as trade bait. The Pistons could go one of two ways. They could trade these pieces and try to get a small forward that could help them win now. Or they could trade these guys to free up cap space and retain their draft pick by slumping to one of the eight worst records in the league.

Option No. 2 means the Pistons would miss the playoffs for a fifth straight season. I am OK with that as long as they have one of the league’s eight-worst records so they can keep their pick in this talent-heavy draft.

The Pistons are a half-game behind Charlotte for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The last time the Pistons made the playoffs as an eight seed was 2009. They were swept by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

How did that experience work out? The Pistons are 132-226 since.

The Pistons likely would play the Pacers as an eight seed or the two-time defending champion Heat as a seventh seed. Both teams would sweep the Pistons. So what is the point?

The Pistons are a young team and playoff experience is an important learning experience. However, the Pistons might get drummed out before they can get their notebooks out.

“I still have a lot of hope for this season and I expect our players to step up,” Gores said.

Speaking of players, black marks on Cheeks’ record undoubtedly were the run-ins he had with Josh Smith and Will Bynum — which continue a trend of Pistons players having too much say. Does anyone remember the John Kuester mutiny?

Gores has to provide direction to this franchise. He has to establish a vision. If he doesn’t the Pistons will continue to play in front of a lot of empty seats.


VIDEO: Detroit became the first team to fire its coach this season

***

No. 2: Lob City was alive and well in Chris Paul’s return to the Clippers – Life without Chris Paul for the Los Angeles Clippers was certainly manageable. In fact, Blake Griffin ripped it up in Paul’s absence. But it’s good to have their All-Star point guard and floor leader back, as the world saw Sunday in the Clippers’ rout of the Philadelphia 76ers. It was a welcome back party, of sorts, that signals a second-half charge for the Clippers that should include a rise up the Western Conference food chain. Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times recounts the return of Paul in the biggest (literally) win in franchise history:

It was Showtime at Staples Center on Sunday night, starring the return of Chris Paul, the comeback of Blake Griffin from an injury scare and the rest of the Clippers playing their roles.

Playing in his first game since he separated his right shoulder Jan. 3 at Dallas, Paul had seven points and eight assists in the Clippers’ show-stopping and franchise-record-setting 123-78 victory over the overmatched Philadelphia 76ers.

With Griffin overcoming a bruised left shin suffered in the first quarter to score 26 points, grab 11 rebounds and hand out six assists, the Clippers set a franchise record for biggest margin of victory.

The Clippers held the 76ers to an opponent franchise-low 27% (27 for 100) shooting. The Clippers set a franchise record for biggest lead at the half when they opened a 69-30 lead after two quarters.

They built a lead as big as 56 points, their largest of the season. So after missing the last 18 games recovering from his injury, this is what Paul came back to.

“It felt great to play,” said Paul, who played 22 minutes 44 seconds. “It’s one of those things you never know what it’s going to be like until you actually get out there and compete and play. It just felt good.”

Griffin went down late in the first quarter after Tony Wroten slipped while driving and stumbled into Griffin.

After he limped to the locker room with head athletic trainer Jasen Powell, Griffin checked back into the game with 7:31 left in the second quarter.

In case anyone was wondering if Griffin was fine and that he and Paul were on the same page, they got their answer twice in the second quarter.

Paul had a breakaway layup, but threw the ball off the backboard, allowing Griffin to catch it and throw down a windmill dunk.

Then later in the second quarter, Griffin dribbled up court, made a behind-the-back pass with his left hand to Paul, who threw a lob that Griffin dunked, bringing the crowd to its feet again.

So, Griffin was asked after the game, how hard was it play with Paul again?

“It was tough, but we managed,” Griffin deadpanned, laughing along with the media.


VIDEO: Who didn’t get dunked on Sunday? The Top 10 plays includes plenty from the Clippers

***

No. 3: World Peace has words of wisdom for Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart – If there is any one man on the planet who knows what Oklahoma State Marcus Smart is feeling in the aftermath of the fan-shoving incident he was in the middle of Saturday night, it’s veteran New York Knicks forward Metta World Peace. He, as Ron Artest then, was at the epicenter of the infamous Malice at the Palace of Auburn Hills. World Peace insists there are plenty of lessons to be learned from what Smart is going through now and will during and after his three-game suspension:

World Peace said Smart — who is projected to be a high NBA draft pick — might benefit from learning how to deal with obnoxious fans at age 19, before he becomes a pro and millions of dollars are on the line.

“Just in general, I heard the kid is pretty good and a potential pro,” World Peace said Sunday before his game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. “So those types of challenges on the court when you’re playing and fans are rooting against you — that was a great lesson learned, so that hopefully when he does become a pro, he’ll be able to kind of withstand the fans that are rooting against him on the road.”

World Peace also said Smart needs to learn to control his energy.

“I think that emotion and that fire could be directed towards winning on the court instead of directed other ways,” he said.

World Peace said given the chance, he would advise Smart to be aware of the big picture when making decisions.

At 19 years old, when I came out of St. John’s, I was fresh out the ‘hood. I was fresh out of Queensbridge,” he said. “So my mentality was still struggle, defensive and things like that. I wasn’t really conscious. I’m 34 years old now. So he’s a young kid. I wish I would have listened when I was a kid to my elders or people who had my best interests at heart, and then I wish I would have been more conscious at that age also. Those are two things that, if you were to reach out to a kid like Marcus — a talented kid, future leader in the community — you would tell him those things.”

World Peace said more guidelines should be in place for college fans because college players don’t get paid. He said fans should have more leeway at NBA games.

“As far as the pros, people pay to come and see us, and I appreciate it because I’m able to take care of my family,” he said. “So I don’t really judge fans about what they say, good or bad.”

***

No. 4: No change for Kobe’s return and another injury scare for Nash – For all of us who think we know what’s best for Kobe Bryant, save the advice. Bryant isn’t making any changes to his comeback plans for the Los Angeles Lakers this season. He told ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin as much over the weekend:

Despite continuing to be sidelined with a left knee injury and seeing his team continue to fall further out of the playoff picture, Kobe Bryant remains steadfast in his intention to return to the court this season.

“My plan hasn’t changed,” Bryant said Sunday at an event to promote his newest signature sneaker, the Nike Kobe 9 Elite Masterpiece. “I’m just going about it every single day just trying to get better. That’s my job. My job is to get my butt back out there on the court when I’m healthy enough to play and that hasn’t changed.”

Bryant, out since Dec. 17 with a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee and averaging 13.8 points, 6.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 42.5 percent shooting this season, has missed the Lakers’ last 26 games. He missed the Lakers’ first 19 games this season because of a torn Achilles in his left leg.

The 18-year veteran is scheduled to be re-evaluated after the All-Star Game next week, but wouldn’t venture a guess as to when he could actually return to game action.

“That I don’t know,” Bryant said. “It’s completely out of my control. I really got to sit here and just wait until this thing heals up and then go out there and do what I do.”

He reiterated his confidence that he would not miss the rest of the 2013-14 season, however.

When asked what his best-case scenario would be upon a return this season, Bryant replied: “Play like me. That’s it.”

The news on Steve Nash isn’t quite as positive. He didn’t finish Sunday’s game against the Bulls, exiting with a nerve irritation in his left leg. He’s scheduled to be evaluated today. But things don’t look good for the NBA’s elder statesman:

Nash received contact to his left leg from Chicago’s Kirk Hinrich as he turned the ball over with 9:18 remaining in the third quarter. The contact was near the same spot where he suffered a fracture in the leg last season. He stayed in the game until there was 5:00 remaining in the quarter and went straight to the locker room.

“I just took a knee to the spot where I broke my leg,” Nash said. “Ever since I did that I’ve had a lot of nerve issues there and it just really flared up on me. I don’t think it’s going to be a long-term thing at all. Hopefully it’s something that can just settle down this week, hopefully by Tuesday.”

The Lakers host the Utah Jazz on Tuesday.

“[Once] that nerve flared up and I started to compensate, I wasn’t going to be very effective … and I also was going to risk going back on all that work I did to get back on the court,” Nash said.

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said Nash’s back started to tighten up from the nerve issues, causing the veteran point guard to limp on the court.

Nash, who turned 40 on Friday, had played in three of the Lakers’ last four games after missing nearly three months of game action because of nerve root irritation in his back and hamstrings.

“It wasn’t like I broke it again,” Nash said. “I just kind of irritated the nerve and I’m hopeful that all the stuff that I’ve been doing will be able to overcome that little bit of irritation. It’s kind of transient and hopefully I’ll wake up tomorrow and feel better.”


VIDEO: See how easy Kevin Durant makes it look in the Nightly Notable

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: You’ll have to forgive the Magic for acting like they won a championship when they knocked off the Pacers but every win, especially against an elite team, matters when they come as sparingly as they do in Orlando … Acting Cavs GM David Griffin says they are buying at the trade deadline in Cleveland … Thunder star Russell Westbrook is gearing up for his return after the All-Star breakRick Carlisle couldn’t resist the inevitable Dirk Nowitzki-Larry Bird comparisons over the weekend in Boston …

ICYMI of the Night: The Clippers went to town in their rout of the Sixers and no one had more fun in the blowout than the Clippers’ All-Star power forward Blake Griffin, who shows off a bit with one of his many dunks …


VIDEO: Blake Griffin goes off the glass, courtesy of Chris Paul

It’s Time For New Year’s Resolutions

VIDEO: The Starters review the year so far

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Ring out the old. Ring in the new. As the calendar turns, it’s time for resolutions throughout the NBA:

Atlanta Hawks — Look Back to the Future: This was supposed to be the start of a brand new era for one of the NBA’s most moribund franchises, and things were actually looking good until Al Horford tore a pectoral muscle. With their undersized big man done for the season, the Hawks will only stay afloat because they’re in the horrid Eastern Conference. But they’re going in the right direction under GM Danny Ferry and coach Mike Budenholzer, and will get the lottery pick of the sinking Nets, so there’s reason for hope out of a draft class teeming with talent.

Boston Celtics — Move Fast on Rondo: According to the old saying, you’re either part of the solution or part of the problem. When Rajon Rondo is finally able to get back onto the court and prove that he’s close to his old self, rookie coach Brad Stevens and GM Danny Ainge have to find out right away if he’s mentally ready to anchor the rebuilding project. If not, the Celtics could reap a windfall in new pieces ahead of the trade deadline.

Brooklyn Nets — Fuhgetaboutit: OK, it was a nice little pipe dream to think that a couple of old codgers like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce could shuffle up and down the court in slippers and robes to tangle with the Heat and Pacers. Fortunately, team owner Mikhail Prokorov can afford their salaries with the kind of change he finds in his sofa cushions. Pay them off, send them away and get back to building around Brook Lopez and Deron Williams with players who aren’t signing up for Medicare.

Charlotte Bobcats — Keep Him: For the first time in who can remember how long, Michael Jordan won’t have to spend next summer looking for a coach. The merry-go-round can stop. Steve Clifford has given Charlotte a sense of purpose, respectability and a solid identity on the defensive end. Now they’ve got to work on boosting production out of that woeful offense. One thing at a time.

Chicago Bulls — Play Derrick and the Dominoes: Even Layla couldn’t have knocked the Bulls off their feet like the second straight significant injury to their All-Star, MVP guard Derrick Rose. It might be time to reshuffle the bones on a club that hasn’t even won a conference title and already has significant money locked up in Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson before re-signing Luol Deng to a big contract.

Cleveland Cavaliers — Stop Winning the Draft Lottery: Of course, that would require the Cavs to actually make the playoffs and not qualify for the lottery. This is a team that was supposed to be on the rise with enough young talent to make LeBron James think about returning, but instead has Kyrie Irving trying to do everything, Dion Waiters angry and Andrew Bynum maybe ready to give up the game. Time for an adult to take control here, coach Mike Brown.

Dallas Mavericks — Embrace Reality: It’s a bit ironic that a guy like Mark Cuban that has made a name for himself in the world of reality TV shows rarely faces up to it with the Mavs. He’s fun. He’s entertaining. He’ll say anything, such as there’s no telling whether Houston getting Dwight Howard or Dallas getting Monta Ellis was a better free agent signing last summer. Now go get yourself some defense, Mark, before Dirk Nowitzki winds up running on his tongue trying to outscore everybody.

Denver Nuggets — Respect Yourself: There shouldn’t be a decent team that breaks camp without a solid sense of its identity. A year ago with George Karl pulling the strings from the sidelines and Andre Iguodala setting the pace on the court, the Nuggets had that. Now they are often just a bunch that is stuck in the middle of the pack on offense (18th) and defense (16th) and too often can’t defend its home court.

Detroit Pistons — Say It Ain’t So, Joe: A few years ago, it was signing Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva as big-money free agents. This time GM Joe Dumars figured it would be a good idea to upgrade the Pistons by tossing the combustible Josh Smith onto the fire to light up the frontcourt. So, Smith is already calling out coach Mo Cheeks and the Pistons are backsliding from the .500 mark. Things are getting ugly early again in the Motor City. And, oh yeah, nobody is coming to watch the Pistons, who are last in the league in attendance.

Golden State Warriors — Do the American Hustle: Like the hit movie, was last year’s magical little run through the playoffs by Mark Jackson’s team just one glorious con job? Yes, they’ve played a tough schedule, but something is missing. Lack of last year’s bench? A failure to take care of the ball? You get the sense that the Warriors were just trying to pick up this season right where they left off without putting in all of the gritty groundwork.

Houston Rockets — Rebound, Then Run: Everybody loves watching the Rockets run like methamphetamine-fueled hamsters on a wheel. But for a team that has Dwight Howard in the middle, they are horrible at giving up second-chance points to opponents and it has often proved costly. It’s nice to run, but better not to turn your back and head down the court while the other guy is dropping another put-back into the net.

Indiana Pacers — Don’t Stop Believing: The Pacers came into the season convinced that they could live up to the old axiom of playing them one game at a time and that grind-it-out method would eventually deliver the best record in the league and home-court all the way through The Finals. With Paul George tossing his hat into the MVP ring and Roy Hibbert making opponents ears ring with his physical style, it’s working quite well for coach Frank Vogel’s team.

L.A. Clippers — Say Goodbye to Hollywood: The sooner the Clippers can get rid of all the extraneous things in their game — yes, you, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan — and get down to the serious business of playing some real defense around the basket, the sooner we’ll take them seriously as real contenders in the Western Conference. At this point, despite all the good work by Chris Paul, the Clips are still one of those acts that gets eliminated early on “American Idol.”

L.A. Lakers — Lock Up Kobe: Yes, we know he’s the Black Mamba. We know that he’d be the guy standing out in the rain with a fork and still believe he’d quench his thirst. But the Lakers aren’t going anywhere this season and it doesn’t help their cause for next year if Kobe Bryant returns and pushes himself to the limit again in a debilitating run that winds up far short of the playoffs. It’s time to think about the limited — and high-paying — future he has left. Oh yeah, and trade Pau Gasol.

(more…)

USA Camp Gives OSU’s Smart Separation From 2013 Draft Class

USA Basketball Men's National Team Training Camp

Marcus Smart, a 6-foot-4 guard from Oklahoma State, was the youngest player to participate in Team USA’s mini-camp. (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Their boot camp complete, the participants in the USA Basketball men’s national team mini-camp dispersed Friday, heading into what’s left of the offseason. Some have vacation plans, others have contractual obligations that will land them in exotic ports that only look like vacation destinations. Most will be back in the gym in a matter of weeks, if not days.

None will head to the NBA’s rookie orientation program.

Marcus Smart will head back to campus.

Maybe it’s not an indictment – yet another, one might say, considering the “weak” criticism leveled for the past few months – of the NBA’s 2013 Draft Class that none of the players selected participated in the week of USA Basketball workouts and scrimmages in Las Vegas. (Eight members of the 2012 Class were there, by the way.)

But it certainly was a credit to Smart, who earned his invitation with his play in FIBA’s U19 World Championships in Prague earlier this month. Smart was the youngest player at the camp this week and, with Creighton senior forward Doug McDermott, one of only two collegians. The 6-foot-4 Smart will be back at Oklahoma State this season, after his surprise decision to skip the Draft in favor of his sophomore year in college.

Looking down from an NBA vantage point, it looks to be a risky, poorly calculated choice. Beyond the 12 months he’ll wait before cashing in and the millions of dollars he might jeopardize with a serious injury, Smart’s stock might dip in a deeper 2014 talent pool compared to this year, when he might have gone in the top three.

But that half-empty approach isn’t Smart’s, who sees only good things coming from a return to Stillwater, strong runs through the Big 12 and the NCAA tournament and another season of development, particularly with hot prospect Andrew Wiggins providing constant motivation so close at Kansas. His freshman numbers — 15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 40.4 field-goal percentage (29.0 from 3-point range) — surely can improve.

Then there’s the separation from the 2013 draft pack Smart got this week, playing on a court – with more than summer pick-up game intensity – against the likes of Kyrie Irving, Jrue Holiday, Damian Lillard and other young NBA bright lights. Neither Smart nor McDermott competed in the Blue-White Showcase Thursday night that was carried on NBA TV. But our NBA.com’s Siskel & Ebert of USA hoops, John Schuhmann and Sekou Smith, gave the Oklahoma State guard thumbs-up from his practice play.

So did Travis Ford, Smart’s OSU coach who attended the camp. The Cowboys coach isn’t exactly impartial but based on what he told Anthony Slater of the Daily Oklahoman, Ford did like what he saw as Smart went against the aforementioned, as well as John Wall, Ty Lawson, Mike Conley and Kemba Walker.

“Oh, he was terrific. I think he was a little nervous at first, not knowing exactly what to expect and being one of only two college players and wanting to earn their respect. But he got out there and, man. They did a little practicing, a little bit of going through offenses and defenses early, but once they started playing, he was terrific. Just competing like he does with us every day and his strengths were the same. He was getting steals, physically imposing himself, competing, rebounding, defending, started out making a three. He more than fit in. I know I’m a little bias (laughs), but I thought he was one of the better players out there.”

By the way, there was a time here at HTB when underclass players were treated like George Carlin‘s Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television. Redaction ruled, lest someone think the pros were warbling siren songs to the young guys. But Smart already has made it clear he’s submitting his name for the 2014 draft (“Nothing will change my mind on that. [Oklahoma State] understands. They didn’t figure I was coming back this year.”)

The Class of 2013 will have a year’s head start by the time Smart arrives. But given his skills, his thoughtful return for another year on campus and his USA Basketball opportunities this month, he won’t be a year behind.

USA Basketball: Roster Breakdown





LAS VEGAS – USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo needs more than four days and a 48-minute scrimmage to evaluate the players who are vying for the remaining spots on the Men’s National Team that will compete in next summer’s World Cup of Basketball in Spain.

But you have to start somewhere. And with anywhere from four to six members of the team that won gold at the London Olympics expected to reprise their roles (Kevin Durant and Kevin Love are already in), per Colangelo’s estimate, that leaves plenty of room for the players who participated in USA Basketball’s mini-camp at UNLV to make their respective cases for consideration.

With Colangelo, U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski and the entire staff going over every detail and monitoring the players on and off the court, it was an intensive boot camp-style experience for many of the NBA and collegiate stars who were going through the process for the very first time.

This is only the beginning, of course. And that’s why we (NBA.com’s John Schuhmann is my partner in this CSI-style evaluation of the prospects who were in attendance this week) aren’t ready to close the door on any of these guys. Sure, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis and Paul George appeared to separate themselves from the pack with their performances earlier in the week and in Thursday night’s Blue-White Showcase at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

They weren’t the only ones, however, to walk away from the process feeling good about the work they put in.

“I thought I had a really good week, I thought I played well overall. And I learned a lot from the coaches,” said Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, who was indeed another standout. “I learned some things watching these other point guards, too, as there were so many top guys here. It was great, just the whole experience and what it’s all about. A lot of people don’t get this opportunity, so I just tried to soak it all up. I feel like I left a great impression. They talked a lot about character and the type of people that it takes to be a part of something like this. And I think they all saw that I’m the type of person that can adapt to be a part of Team USA. And I can definitely do what I have to do on the floor to be a part of this team.”

Maybe.

No one knows what will happen between now and next summer.

It’s like Colangelo said, this was just another week in the life of this group. The evaluation process will continue throughout the course of the 2013-14 season and beyond.

In the meantime, we need to gauge where all of these guys stand after the first phase of this process. We broke it down based on the rosters for the Blue-White Showcase and also included the four players who did not participate in the Showcase (for various reasons):

WHITE TEAM

Ryan Anderson
Anderson didn’t shoot particularly well in early-week scrimmages, but drained all three of his 3-pointers in Thursday’s Showcase. As a stretch four, he’s a unique player among this group. He could probably hold his own underneath against most international opponents, but he got pushed around a bit by the stronger bigs in camp.

Mike Conley
Conley has an advantage, because the U.S. always wants to pressure the ball and he’s the best defender among the point guards in camp. He and Ty Lawson proved to be a cohesive combo in the Showcase, but he still may be a victim of the numbers game with so much talent — including guys that weren’t here this week — at his position.

Andre Drummond
Drummond is a physical specimen, a force on the offensive glass, and a matchup nightmare for almost any international opponent. But he’s still young and raw, and coaches need to trust that their players will make the right decisions on the floor. Obviously, his development over the first half of the NBA season will be a big part of how much consideration he gets in January.

Kenneth Faried
Every team needs energy and rebounding and Faried brings both in spades. If there’s enough scoring talent elsewhere on the roster, he could grab one of the last couple of spots. But he’s still a 6-foot-8 power forward who can’t shoot. The power forward position is typically played by stars like Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, and a center needs to have size (Tyson Chandler) or a jump shot (Kevin Love). Still, his attitude and relentlessness could force the U.S. staff to think outside the box.

Paul George
Though he didn’t play great on Thursday, George is the best overall player (defense counts!) in this group and should be a lock to make next year’s World Cup roster. Forget what he brings offensively. As a lockdown defender, he’s the great complement to Durant at the other forward position, similar to Andre Iguodala in 2010. In fact, if Iguodala isn’t on next year’s roster, it’s probably because the staff believes they have a more complete player in George.

Jrue Holiday
Holiday is one of three All-Stars in camp, one of the better defenders among the point guard crop, and has the size to slide to the two. He didn’t really distinguish himself early in the week, but had a strong game on Thursday, playing alongside Irving.

Kyrie Irving
Irving was the star among the eight point guards in camp and among all 24 guys who saw the floor on Thursday. Obviously, he’s a clear favorite to make next year’s World Cup roster. It will be tougher to slice through international zones, but his offensive brilliance will still outweigh his defensive issues. And a season under Mike Brown should make a big difference when it comes to the D.

DeAndre Jordan
Jordan threw down some vicious dunks in camp, but is otherwise limited offensively. And like a couple of other players on this list, his defense needs to improve. He can block shots, but trusting him to defend a dozen Rubio/Gasol pick-and-rolls may be tough to do.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
MKG is athletic, will get after it defensively and make plays for his teammates. He was all over the place (in a good way) on Thursday, registering eight points, seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks in just 19 minutes. But his jump shot is brutal and opposing defenses will leave him alone on the perimeter, so it might be tough to include him on next year’s roster, especially if Russell Westbrook is there to provide similar energy and a better jumper.

Ty Lawson
Lawson’s quickness is an obvious asset, he has plenty of experience playing in an up-tempo system, and he dished out a game-high nine assists on Thursday. But again, there are so many point guards on this list, and most of them are better shooters.

Chandler Parsons
A versatile wing who can run, jump and shoot (though he was 0-for-3 from beyond the arc on Thursday). With his size (6-foot-9) and the lack of depth at the forward positions, he has a legit shot at one of the last spots on next year’s roster.

Tyler Zeller
Zeller has size and skills, but he’s another big who needs to get better defensively. He might actually be competing with younger brother Cody for a roster spot down the line.



BLUE TEAM

Harrison Barnes
An ideal fit as a combo forward, Barnes made plays at the rim and defended from the perimeter to the post throughout the mini-camp. He capped off his week with 18 points and the game’s best highlight on Thursday. That said, he could get squeezed in the numbers game at both positions when selections are made next summer for Spain.

DeMarcus Cousins
Cousins showed considerable improvement in his attitude and effort from his bumpy showing last summer and still had moments where everyone in attendance cringed. He has undeniable talent but is a questionable fit on a team where he will be asked to defend, rebound and block shots first instead of doing what he does best as a low-post scorer. He was a non-factor Thursday night.

Anthony Davis
Davis has Olympic experience that no one else in camp could boast of and it showed. He consistently stood out among the big men in camp, has clearly gotten stronger, and drained a few jumpers on his way to 22 points on Thursday. The minutes he played in London last summer give him an added advantage. An excellent shot blocker, Davis still has work to do as a position defender, but he’s ticketed for Spain barring some unforeseen issue.

DeMar DeRozan
An exceptional athlete and improved shooter, DeRozan didn’t shine in any particular area in a crowded field this week during scrimmages and struggled in limited minutes on Thursday. He will have a hard time creating space for himself with so many other shooting guards and small forwards in the mix who shoot it much better than he can.

Derrick Favors
Summer school tutor Karl Malone has added a noticeable edge to Favors’ game. He’s always been light on his feet and an eager defender, but he’s added a physicality to his game that was on display in scrimmages. He challenged forays to the rim with full force. He runs the floor extremely well and could blend well with whatever group is selected for Spain. One issue: He racked up four fouls in just eight minutes of action in Thursday’s Showcase.

Gordon Hayward
One of the true breakout performers during the mini-camp, if there was a 12-man group being selected this summer Hayward would no doubt be on the list. Listed at 210 pounds on the official roster, he seems much bigger and played like it in scrimmages. His best work might have been on the defensive end. His versatility could be the key to his chances of fighting for a roster spot next summer.

Damian Lillard
If Irving ranked No. 1 on the deep list of point guards in attendance, Lillard was 1-A. He’s bulked up a bit since claiming Rookie of the Year honors and his ease running the show and playing off the ball, a crucial aspect for every point guard in mini-camp, was evident. He’s still improving as a defender as well and showed off all facets of his game in the Showcase. He’s ready if needed.

Greg Monroe
An accomplished young big man whose best skills don’t necessarily shine through in a mini-camp setting, Monroe’s slow feet cost him defensively against a group of quicker and more athletic big men. But he was extremely effective in Thursday’s game, outplaying most of his frontcourt counterparts in the live setting.

Klay Thompson
Thompson ranked among the top five most impressive players during mini-camp, thanks to his ridiculous shooting stroke. That international 3-point line got a workout from Thompson Tuesday. But he shoots it well from all over the floor and is much sturdier and handles the ball better than some of the other “shooters” who were in attendance. There is always room for a specialist of his ilk on any U.S. roster headed for international play.

Dion Waiters
After a spotty showing with the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Summer League team, Waiters was much more impressive early this week. He shot it well from the perimeter in scrimmages and showed off his handle while swinging between both guards spots. He even showed some impressive effort defensively. But he shot just 2-for-10 on Thursday and needs to show more consistency over the next 10 months to stay on the radar.

Kemba Walker
Another solid young player who got a bit lost in the deep pool of point guards in attendance. Walker’s a crafty but undersized point guard whose defensive liabilities will keep him from rising up the pecking order at his position.

John Wall
Wall could be the richest man in this group by Aug. 1, if that reported five-year, $80 million deal the Wizards are working on for him is agreed upon by then. Even with his shot still very much a work in progress, Wall’s athleticism and ability to play off the ball and defend at a high level should keep him in the mix. A strong 2013-14 season with the Wizards works wonders for his candidacy for next summer.



FOUR MORE …

Bradley Beal
Rehabbing a right fibula injury, Beal didn’t participate in scrimmages during camp or in Thursday’s Showcase. His jumper looked great on the side court though, and if he has a breakout season for the Wizards, he’s got an outside shot (pun intended) at making next year’s roster.

Larry Sanders
Sanders was the best rim protector in camp and a defense-first big would obviously complement Love well, so he’s got a chance at a trip to Spain next summer. But he turned his ankle during a scrimmage on Tuesday, knocking him out for the rest of camp.

Doug McDermott
The leading scorer from this summer’s World University Games squad, McDermott looked comfortable and shot the ball well in scrimmages on Monday and Tuesday. He’s older than six of the NBA players in camp, but just didn’t match up physically. He didn’t participate in Thursday’s showcase, but will return to Creighton for his junior year with some valuable NBA-level experience.

Marcus Smart
All indications are that Smart would have been selected in the Lottery if he stayed in this year’s Draft, and he showed why in the first two days of camp. He was the youngest player here, but has an NBA body and held his own against the vets. He didn’t participate in Thursday’s Showcase, but could certainly be on a national team roster in five or seven years.



Trey Burke Takes His Shot At No. 1

.

This is his last best chance to go No. 1 in the Draft, tonight as the lottery unfolds and Trey Burke plans to be watching on the big screen in the living room of his Columbus, Ohio, home and, as he put it, “hoping one of those teams gets the top pick.”

One of those teams with a pressing need for a point guard.

In what has been a Nerlens Noel-Ben McLemore world for much of the second half of the season in the race for No. 1, Burke is the other possibility, however distant, to crash the party. His decisions have been made with the coveted spot on June 27 in mind, too, and tonight the Michigan product needs the ping-pong balls to bounce just right. He’s a long shot anyway, but this is the shot.

Burke has circled Orlando, which has the greatest chance of landing No. 1, though mathematical probability has traditionally meant very little in the lottery. Detroit, too. And even Phoenix, which may come as news to the organization that a summer ago signed Goran Dragic and used a lottery pick on Kendall Marshall. (Or maybe he knows something that all bets are off with a new GM, Ryan McDonough, hitting town.)

“With the way we played this year, not only myself but how far my team went, I definitely think I have a winning mindset and a winning mentality,” Burke said. “I think I could be the No. 1 pick. If I don’t think that then I won’t be. So I definitely think so.”

He knows his stock went up when Marcus Smart returned to Oklahoma State rather than enter the Draft as the top point-guard prospect, creating a well-timed opening for Burke coming off a sophomore season as national player of the year. Burke weighed the Smart factor as he decided whether to leave Michigan. He factored in the realization that he not only would be the best player at his position in the Class of 2013, he could be the only one good enough for the top 10.

“Definitely,” said Burke, also aware of the concerns at measuring 5-foot-11 ¾ without shoes and 6-foot-1 ¼ with. “I looked at the whole draft and looked at everyone that was coming out. I realized that this isn’t one of the best drafts as far as point guards. I knew that that would help me out as well. Then again, I knew that I still have to continue to work and prove myself to these teams and coaches.”

Michael Carter-Williams of Syracuse, Dennis Schroeder from Germany and C.J. McCollum of Lehigh are also likely or possible lottery choices among point guards, though McCollum has been more of a combo guard. That could be it for the position in the first round.

Noel Injury Will Impact The Draft

The worst fears Tuesday night became reality Wednesday afternoon, when the University of Kentucky announced that freshman power forward-center Nerlens Noel tore a ligament in his left knee in the loss at Florida and is done for the season.

The NBA impact is that the contender for the No. 1 pick is also probably out of the 2013 draft. Noel could still choose to come out and would go in the lottery, maybe even the top half of the lottery given the underwhelming group of prospects, but the bad news could prompt him to stay in school, prove to executives and scouts in 2013-14 he is healthy, and turn pro in a year.

Either way, the top of the ’13 draft board just became more of a game of darts while wearing blindfolds, which is saying something considering the level of uncertainty that existed before as teams privately acknowledged this was a good year to get as far away from the top pick as possible.

Two wings, Ben McLemore of Kansas and Shabazz Muhammad of UCLA, become the odds-on favorite — for the moment — for No. 1. UNLV power forward Anthony Bennett is also getting mentioned by front offices. If a team has a pressing need at point guard, Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State prominently enters the conversation.

The biggest implications of the Noel fallout? Indiana’s Cody Zeller goes from facing a lot of criticism from talent evaluators – no real improvement in his game, a safe pick for a solid career but no clear path to stardom – to arguably the best big-man prospect available. That could mean a move of several spots forward come June 27, even with the concerns and questions whether he is able to play center in the pros or will be a power forward.

Noel hurt the knee when he landed awkwardly going for a block in the second half of the game at Florida. He was on the ground in obvious pain for several minutes before being carried to the locker room and going to a Gainsville, Fla., for X-rays that showed no bone damage. He returned to Kentucky with the rest of the team and underwent a different procedure Wednesday that detected the torn anterior cruciate ligament.

He will undergo surgery in two to three weeks, the school said. Recovery time is estimated at six to eight months.