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Breaking Down The Rookie Seasons Of The 2013 Lottery Class

In a society where patience has gone out the window and only instant gratification matters, the poor play of the 2013 rookie class has many ready to write them off entirely. But while there isn’t an Anthony Davis in the bunch, this year’s draft had plenty of good young players who, for a variety of reasons, were not ready to make an immediate impact in the NBA. With so many freshman and sophomores taken in the lottery, the draft is a long-term project anyway.

If you look at this year’s lottery as a whole, one thing stands out. If a team is good enough to contend for a playoff spot, it’s hard for a rookie to get minutes. If a team is bad enough to where they can afford to give rookie a bunch of minutes, he will be putting up inefficient numbers on a bad team. From a statistical perspective, it’s hard for a rookie to be impressive in either situation. Chalk it up as a learning experience for all these guys.

1) Anthony Bennett: Pretty much nothing has gone right for Bennett since he was the surprise No. 1 pick last June. The GM who drafted him has already been fired, while shoulder surgery in the offseason caused him to show up to training camp out of shape. It was hard for him to find minutes on a Cleveland team that thought it was contending for the playoffs, and when he got on the floor, he didn’t do much besides hoist up a lot of shots and play abysmal defense.

The first thing he needs to do is get in better shape, since there aren’t many 6’8 260 forwards in the NBA. He has the talent - in college, he showed a rare combination of explosiveness, ball-handling and shooting ability for a 6’8 guy. The biggest challenge for him is learning how to impact the game without having the ball in his hands. The Cavs guards aren’t moving the ball too much - if you are going to score, you had better rebound, run the floor and move off the ball.

2) Victor Oladipo: Oladipo had a solid rookie season for a Magic team that had nothing but time to develop him. Going forward, the question is whether they commit to developing him as a PG or move him off the ball. While he has the length and athleticism to swing between both guard positions, he averaged only 4.1 assists on 3.2 turnovers as a rookie, an indication of a player not comfortable creating offense for others. Who they draft with their two lottery picks in 2014 will say a lot.

3) Otto Porter: Like Bennett, Porter hit the trifecta for a rough rookie season. He was drafted to a team with playoff aspirations, he had multiple veterans ahead of him on the depth chart and he got injured in training camp. He essentially took a redshirt season as a rookie, which isn’t the worst thing for a 20-year old who needs to put some weight on his frame. Porter has plenty of skill, the question is whether there will be minutes and touches for him in Washington next season.

4) Cody Zeller: The unexpected emergence of Josh McRoberts consigned Zeller to a small role as a rookie, playing 17 minutes a game behind McRoberts and Al Jefferson upfront. Like most rookie big men, Zeller needs to put on weight in the off-season in order to survive in the NBA paint. His 73 percent mark from the free-throw line is a good sign - he needs to be an outside-in 7’0 who plays in the high post and uses the threat of the perimeter jumper to open up the drive.

5) Alex Len: Like a lot of the guys in this year’s draft, Len was the victim of his NBA team exceeding expectations as a rookie. Instead of playing for draft position, the Suns ended up in playoff contention until the last week of the season, leaving little time to develop a raw 20-year-old lottery pick. Len is big (7’1 255), athletic and reasonably skilled and he’s five years younger than Miles Plumlee, which tells you how patient you need to be with young centers.

6) Nerlens Noel: After tearing his ACL toward the end of his freshman season at Kentucky, Noel was never going to have a big rookie season in the NBA. The Philadelphia 76ers took him as a long-term project and kept him off the floor the entire season. Noel showed plenty of promise at Kentucky, but he was also incredibly skinny as well as very raw on the offense. Larry Sanders didn’t start turning the corner in the NBA until he was 24 and Noel is still only 20.

7) Ben McLemore: McLemore wasn’t in Kansas anymore as a rookie, as he went from a featured role in Bill Self’s offense to scraping for shots next to Isaiah Thomas, Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins. He’s got the stroke and athleticism to be an excellent SG in the NBA, but he has a long way to go in terms of shot selection and not too many guys to learn from in Sacramento. Going forward, he needs to focus on defense and moving the ball and the shots will come (hopefully).

8) Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: Caldwell-Pope got plenty of opportunities in the dumpster fire that was the Pistons season, but he didn’t do all that much with them. With Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith clogging up the paint, Caldwell-Pope had to serve as one of their main floor spacers and he shot only 30 percent from three-point territory. Like the rest of the Pistons, he would benefit from unwinding the logjam upfront and playing with more shooters around him.

9) Trey Burke: Burke broke his finger in the preseason and by the time he returned to the lineup, the Jazz season was essentially over. No rookie in this year’s class walked into more responsibility than Burke, who played 32 minutes a night in Utah and had the ball in his hands most of the time. He made the players around him better - averaging 5.6 assists on 1.9 turnovers as a rookie - he just needs more help on the offensive end from whoever Utah drafts this season.

10) CJ McCollum: Another lottery pick whose rookie season was short-circuited before it got a chance to get going. Damian Lillard and Mo Williams do everything McCollum does but better and the Trail Blazers were contending for a homecourt advantage in the playoffs for most of the season. Williams is likely gone in the off-season, but with Lillard entrenched in Portland, the question is whether McCollum is going to play next to him or be his backup.  

11) Michael Carter-Williams: One of the real surprises of this year’s rookie class, Carter-Williams had the 76ers flirting with respectability in the first few months of the season. Once they dumped Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner, leaving Thaddeus Young as the only proven NBA player in the rotation, things got real bad real quickly. No rookie was going to fix that mess and a 6’6 PG with his athleticism and floor vision has a bright future ahead of him.

12) Steven Adams: The Thunder drafted the 20-year-old Adams as a project, so the respectable numbers he gave them as a backup center were a pleasant surprise. He’s a genuinely massive human being with excellent athleticism who isn’t asked to do much on the offensive end. Of course, it also helps to be replacing Kendrick Perkins. Oklahoma City is a notoriously patient franchise - they are probably grooming Adams to be the starter when Perkins contract is up in 2015.

13) Kelly Olynyk: After a dominant showing in Summer League, Olynyk was hit with a taste of reality in the NBA. While he put up good offensive numbers and he rebounded the ball well coming off the bench, he was never really in contention for ROY. The question is how he fits with Jared Sullinger upfront - does Boston need two offensive-minded big men who can’t move their feet on defense? There may not be minutes for them both long-term.

14) Shabazz Muhammad - Like fellow rookie Gorgui Dieng, Muhammad spent most of his first season with the Timberwolves from the bench watching the playoff push. In the limited minutes he did get, Muhammad showed one thing did translate from his UCLA days - this is a guy who knows how to get his FGA’s. Per-36 minutes, he took 17 FGA’s and made them at a 46 percent clip. Muhammad may never be a great defender, but he’ll be getting buckets off the bench for a long time.

2014 First Round Picks (Which Teams Own The Picks?)

While RealGM has an excellent database of the draft picks that have been traded between teams, I wanted to put together a summary more focused on the upcoming draft. For the sake of clarity, this version will only deal with the first round.

Atlanta Hawks- Have the right to swap their own pick with Brooklyn’s. At this point, it appears Atlanta will just keep their own and move on.

Boston Celtics- Have their own first and the less favorable of Atlanta and Brooklyn, likely Brooklyn right now. They have a future first from the Sixers as well, but it only goes this year if Philadelphia makes the playoffs. We all know that will not happen.

Brooklyn Nets- No matter what, they lose their pick without getting one in return.

Charlotte Bobcats- Their own first goes to Chicago as long as the Bobcats stay remotely on track (top-10 protected) but they pick up Portland’s unless the Blazers effectively lose out. The lingering question is Detroit- if the pick is 1-8, the Pistons keep it but if it’s 9th or worse it goes to Charlotte. My gut feeling is that once Detroit knows they will not make the playoffs we will see a push to the bottom reminiscent of the 2012 Warriors.

Chicago Bulls- Have their own pick and Charlotte’s unless the Bobcats collapse. The Sacramento pick they acquired in the Luol Deng trade is top-12 protected so it will not come this year.

Cleveland Cavaliers- Have their own pick free and clear and no other first rounders.

Dallas Mavericks- One of the more interesting situations in the league. By having top-20 protection on their pick (it goes to Oklahoma City if it falls 21-30 this year), the Mavs could lose their pick if they make the playoffs. Right now, the bottom seeds in the West look to be about even with the 3-4 spots in the East, so it could go either way.

Denver Nuggets- They keep the better of their pick and New York’s, sending the worse one to Orlando.

Detroit Pistons- Keep their pick if it is eighth or better, otherwise it goes to Charlotte. I fully expect them to understand the incentives and lose enough to retain it.

Golden State Warriors- Their first goes to Utah no matter what.

Houston Rockets- Have their own pick free and clear and no other first rounders.

Indiana Pacers- Their pick is going to Phoenix as a part of the Luis Scola trade from last summer.

Los Angeles Clippers- Have their own pick free and clear and no other first rounders.

Los Angeles Lakers- Have their own pick free and clear and no other first rounders.

Memphis Grizzlies- Have their own pick free and clear and no other first rounders.

Miami Heat- Have their own pick free and clear and no other first rounders.

Milwaukee Bucks- Have their own pick free and clear and no other first rounders.

Minnesota Timberwolves- The pick is top-13 protected, meaning they have to make the postseason or have the best record of any non-playoff team to send it to Phoenix. At this point, it looks like the pick will be No. 13 and thus the Wolves will keep it.

New Orleans Pelicans- Their pick goes to Philadelphia unless it lands in the top-five. It will be hard for the Pelicans to jump enough of the teams “ahead” of them, but they still have a shot of jumping them in the lottery itself.

New York Knicks- They lose their pick no matter what, though the destination could change.

Oklahoma City Thunder- They have their own pick and get Dallas’ first if it ends up between 21 and 30, certainly a possibility.

Orlando Magic- Retain their own pick and get the less favorable of Denver and New York’s selections. This could end up swinging on whether the Knicks can make the playoffs- if they do, the pick falls a few spots to No. 15.

Philadelphia 76ers- They keep their own pick as long as they miss the playoffs (just a formality at this point) and pick up one from New Orleans as long as it falls outside the top five.

Phoenix Suns- They have their own pick and Indiana’s on lock and appear likely to pick up Washington’s since the Wizards should make the playoffs. Minnesota’s pick has top-13 protection, so I expect the Suns to only end up with three this year.

Portland Trail Blazers- Their pick is going to Charlotte unless the Blazers have a truly epic collapse.

Sacramento Kings- Their pick has top-12 protection, so the Kings look like they will keep it even if they rattle off some late-season wins.

San Antonio Spurs- Have their own pick free and clear and no other first rounders.

Toronto Raptors- Have their own pick free and clear and no other first rounders.

Utah Jazz- They have both their own pick and Golden State’s.

Washington Wizards- They will send their pick to Phoenix barring a major letdown.

Grading The Deal: Pacers Make NBA's Boldest Deadline Move In Trading For Evan Turner

The Indiana Pacers made a huge, late splash at the deadline on Thursday afternoon when they sent the team’s longest-tenured player, Danny Granger, to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen.

Indiana will also second a future second round draft pick to Philadelphia as part of the deal.

Granger, who has averaged 8.3 points and 3.6 rebounds on 35.9 percent shooting in 22.5 minutes this season, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. He played in just five games last season because of knee issues and had his 2013-14 season delayed because of calf woes.

The second round pick the 76ers will receive could be the longest-lasting asset for either team in this deal. Lavoy Allen, who has contributed 5.2 points and 5.4 rebounds in 18.8 minutes, will be a restricted free agent this offseason.

Turner will also be a restricted free agent this July. He is averaging 17.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game in 34.9 minutes and his addition makes the offseason even more intriguing for the Pacers, who already have a vital unrestricted free agent in Lance Stephenson.

It’s amazing how little the 76ers were able to get in return for Turner, even with the lack of a long-term deal. Sam Hinkie had reportedly been holding out for a first round pick, but he settled for a future second rounder and a veteran player that carries an expensive, expiring contract.

A future second round pick from Indiana is likely to be very low, perhaps in the bottom five overall for at least the next few seasons. Turner may have been unlikely to re-sign with Philadelphia, but they could end up having moved him for the 59th or 60th pick.

Grade for 76ers: D+

It’s difficult to hammer Hinkie for the return because gathering future picks has been his modus operandi as he continues to build for the long-term. It is surprising, however, that Philadelphia wasn’t able to get more than a low second-rounder, who seemed to carry much more value just a few weeks ago.

Grade for Tanking 76ers: A

If you are among those you value/appreciate tanking, this deal is a great one for the 76ers. They traded their leading scorer for almost nothing in return. Personally, I find it hard to put faith in Ping-Pong balls.

Grade for Turner: B+

Turner goes from a 15-40 team to a 41-13 club with title aspirations. It seems like a dream scenario for Turner, and it very well may be, but his free agent value may decrease as his minutes with undoubtedly diminish.

With that said, Turner could show a lot to teams potentially interested in pursuing him if he makes the most of his minutes off the bench without using up too many possessions. He will have more riding on the next three-plus months than trying to help Indiana win a title.

Allen has played some serviceable minutes for the 76ers over the last three seasons, but his future wasn’t in Philadelphia either. He could carve out a nice role in Frank Vogel’s rotation while learning from veterans David West and Luis Scola.

The biggest loser in this trade is Granger, who now has a finite number of games left in his season.

Granger, who averaged at least 18.7 points for the Pacers for five-straight seasons at one point, had been reduced to a role player in the last two seasons. Since the start of the 2012-13 campaign, the forward has played in just 34 games.

Grade for Granger: F

He wasn’t going to return to Indiana next year, but after eight-plus seasons with the organization that drafted him, Granger will miss out on another deep playoff run. He was a vital piece when Indiana threatened the Miami Heat in 2012, but that almost seems like a generation ago.

As if you needed to be reminded, basketball is absolutely a business. Granger carried the team on his back in some of their darkest days and his rewards over the past 18 months have been injuries, a reduced role and now a trade to a bottom-feeder.

It remains to be seen if the 76ers will attempt to agree upon a buyout with Granger, allowing him to sign with a playoff team for the stretch run.

Granger watched Paul George grow and overtake him as Indiana’s biggest star, in part while sidelined, and for all intents and purposes he handled it like a true professional. They share an agent, Aaron Mintz, and Granger helped lobby for the Pacers to draft George with the 10th overall pick back in 2010 knowing full well that he played the same position.

He leaves the Pacers behind only Reggie Miller in made three-point field goals (964) and having provided entertainment for fans when there wasn’t much to cheer about at Conseco Fieldhouse.

Granger never had the impact the Pacers hoped for when he returned in late December. He scored 10 or more points 12 times, while shooting 33 percent from three. Granger had a True Shooting Percentage of .491 and .428 Effective Field Goal Percentage. Those figures are at .561 and .500, respectively, for his career.

Grade for Pacers: A-

If the Andrew Bynum signing hadn’t already made it obvious, Larry Bird and Kevin Pritchard are clearly swinging for the fences. Championship windows open and close extremely fast in the NBA and the Pacers are looking to maintain their hold on the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference as they set their sights on getting past the Heat and into the NBA Finals.

The Pacers will essentially plug Turner into Granger’s 20-plus minutes off the bench, which will have a differing effect. Nearly half of Granger’s shot were from deep and a loss of explosiveness has cut down on his slashing ability. Turner may not always take the best shot or take care of the basketball, but he can create.

Granger wasn’t giving Vogel much, so it’s hard to believe that Turner won’t at least provide the same level of production. You might say that Turner’s floor was Granger’s ceiling over the next few months.

Turner had a 24.2 usage rate with Philadelphia, which inflated some of his positive (and negative) statistics. Many people compare his offensive playing style to that of Stephenson, which is an interesting comparison given what could happen this summer.

Prior to this trade, Stephenson’s future with the team was the only question mark surrounding the core. With Turner in the fold, this July becomes much more interesting.

Turner was the second overall pick in the same draft that Indiana took George and Stephenson, who was selected 38 picks after his newest teammate. Since they will both be free agents, Bird can keep Turner to the side as insurance in the event Stephenson leaves.

Stephenson has professed his love for Indiana whenever asked about his future and you could argue the presence of Turner can be used as a bargaining chip in talks. It’s not hard to imagine Bird sitting down with Stephenson and his agent, Alberto Ebanks, and saying: “We’d love to keep you, but if you are looking for too much we’ll just wave goodbye and negotiate with Evan.”

As my colleague Danny Leroux astutely pointed out during my appearance on the upcoming trade-deadline edition of the RealGM podcast, adding Turner also gives Indiana the ability to swing a sign-and-trade for an asset this summer. The options this summer have been multiplied.

There is more risk involved here than there was with the Bynum signing, but the ceiling is even higher. When Bird was fully engaged and wanted something during his playing days, he did whatever he had to in pursuit of it.

He’s doing the same thing as an executive.

Nearly Wroten Off

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2013-14 NBA Season Preview

While the Western Conference has six teams (Clippers, Thunder, Rockets, Grizzlies, Warriors) in its first tier, the Eastern Conference is a tier of one (Heat) with the Bulls, Pacers and Nets vying for the second tier.

The Misses Of The 2010 NBA Draft

There are seven first-round picks from 2010 not currently on an NBA roster (Aldrich, Henry, Babbitt, Brackins, Elliott Williams, Damion James, Dominique Jones, Lazar Hayward). At this point in free agency, all would be happy to play for the minimum.

The NBA's Mediocrity Treadmill Since 84-85

The treadmill is somehow both more and less common than some might think. While teams tend to fall within the 30-49 win range, as would be expected in such a competitive league, the dreaded never-ending stream of late lottery picks is uncommon.

Grading The Deal: 76ers Start Over With Trade Of Holiday For Noel, 2014 Pick

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2013 NBA Mock Draft (Final Edition)

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2013 NBA Mock Draft (Wednesday/Quality Of Opp. Edition)

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Choosing Destinations For The 2013 Free Agency Class

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2013 NBA Mock Draft (Draft Week Edition)

Entering draft week in a draft universally labeled as weak preceding the best draft of the decade, few people are talking themselves into falling in love with any specific player as fervently as usual.

2013 NBA Draft Board

Victor Oladipo, Steven Adams, Rudy Gobert, Otto Porter and Alex Len join Nerlens Noel at the top of our draft board.

The Eliminated (Eastern Conference Teams)

A winning record to reach the playoffs wasn't necessary this season in the Eastern Conference, which demonstrates how far the Raptors, Cavaliers, Magic, 76ers, Wizards, Pistons and Bobcats are from becoming contenders without addressing significant issues this offseason.

Nikola Vucevic Excelling, Insists 76ers Understood Potential

As Andrew Bynum is lost for the season with surgery on both knees, Nikola Vucevic continues piling up double-doubles, tied for fifth-most in the league. Maybe the 76ers indeed understood Vucevic’s capabilities, and yet leaving has released some tension, allowing him to play and learn through his mistakes, develop and focus on his game.

On Jrue Holiday's First All-Star Game

Jrue Holiday is a five-tool 6’4 200 PG with elite athleticism; he can be as good as he wants to be and the fact that he has been "playing up" his entire life is finally beginning to pay real dividends.

Big Men Injuries

We may have reached the natural end-point in terms of how big someone can be and stay healthy over the course of an 82-game NBA season. Bynum and Howard will be unrestricted free agents this summer, while Oden will be looking to make a comeback. In choosing a team, their first priority has to be choosing a franchise with a world-class medical staff.

2013 Amnesty Primer

As we move forward with “Amnesty 2.0,” we will see the fascinating possibilities that the provision brings even as the number of teams and players left dwindles with time.

Atlantic Division Preview

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