The NBA Playoffs are crazy, the NBA Draft is getting crazy. We look at today's work-out in more detail, and hear what people from around the world have to say. Also, a look at other NBA Draft news and watch as I invent some unnecessary conflict that isn't going to be a problem until AFTER the 2016-2017 season.
Yeah. Um. Okay. In the Eastern Conference Finals we have a 2-2 tie. In the Western Conference Finals we have a 1-3 series in favor of the underdogs. While they are still unlikely to both make the NBA Finals, I am now rooting for that media-unfriendly / market-share shriveling match-up between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Toronto Raptors.
The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers only lost 34 games during the regular season combined, and those two teams only one game in the first round, and one game in the second round . . . but in the Conference Finals things have not looked so hot for them. So what does their losing rate look like?
Of course, this is only normal. In the regular season you play a lot of games against bad teams. In the first two rounds you are still playing a playoff team -- but not a terribly great one. In the Conference Finals, presumably when the wheat has separated from the chaff, things are more difficult.
This year they definitely have been. The Dubs are a great example -- having lost only 9 of 82 in the regular season, and now having lost 5 of 14 in the playoffs. People always swing hardest for the champs. It takes true tested mettle to win multiple championships in a row. That's something not even the highly regarded San Antonio Spurs have ever done.
If the Cavs and Warriors do make their presumed dates in the NBA Finals, overcoming tougher competition in the Conference Finals will only push the narratives of how great these teams are even further. Of course, I contend, that "The Bears are who we thought they were!" (NSFW coaches rant including swears.)
And that's why we took the damn field.
That's why this season was so frustrating. Utah could have gone 4-2 against these two teams, the November games should have been won if the team was healthier -- and the last game that was lost in overtime was just a bad finish. The Utah Jazz should have been the 5th or 6th seed. Instead here we are working out another 100 players looking at what to do with our four draft picks.
Speaking of the NBA Draft, we're now 29 days away. The Utah Jazz are working out another 6 guys today, four point guards and two bigs. This puts their grand total up to 36, or about a one third of the way there. There's a lot of work to do still, if we just this year against the other previous Dennis Lindsey years:
We all hope this is the last year the Jazz are picking in the lotto (from their own pick, I'm fine with getting lotto picks from other teams still). They've had quite a mixed bag, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks, (Trey Burke), Dante Exum, and Trey Lyles. (N.B. Draft night traded players in-coming to the Jazz will be in parentheses.) Outside of that, it's been less predictable.
Jeremy Evans is someone we all love. Kevin Murphy seems to be someone only I love. Erick Green is a hero because he was used to pick up (Rudy Gobert). And right now most of us really care for (Raul Neto). Rodney Hood is a starter and one of the best draft steals in recent history at #23. Olivier Hanlan and Dani Diez? Less so.
The "40 below" picks trouble me. The Jazz have three of them this year, and last year managed to use two of them to produce . . . a guy who wasn't ready for NBA Summer League. More troubling was the ability of the Utah Jazz to transmute a #35 pick (the Jarnell Stokes pick -- and they could have selected someone else, like Johnny O'Bryant III, or Jerami Grant, or Nikola Jokic, or Jordan Clarkson, or whomever) into a #52 pick (this year).
For as much as we love our scouting department, the "making moves" department has won some and lost some. Gobert and Hood were wins. Neto as well, to an extent. But the late draft moves over the last two years have mostly all been the opposite.
With three very low picks I hope the Jazz moves department redeems themselves in some way. I think they have the assets to do so.
What am I hoping for this year's draft, outside of the "40 Below" group? With the lottery pick I am leaning towards a wing player. I think the most easily attainable upgrade is there. Furthermore, last season was rife with injury -- exposing just how poor the wing depth was. There are a number of interesting prospects that could be around for the picking: Denzel Valentine, Timothe Luwawu, Furkan Korkmaz, Malik Beasley, Taurean Prince, and even a number of point guards who can play some two guard -- like Wade Baldwin IV and Dejounte Murray. These are the players I think the team should take a good, long look at.
However, the Jazz are going to draft best player available, and maybe target a few guys -- and if they slide, Utah may be able to snatch them up. Gobert went lower than the Jazz expected. So did Hood. There are always guys who do. And Utah has shown a desire to grab those guys.
One of them could be someone they are working out today -- Thon Maker.
The @utahjazz will check out our own @ThonMaker14 tomorrow: https://t.co/8WENuXi3jP— Boti Nagy (@boti_nagy) May 25, 2016
Australia's own Boti Nagy, of The Advertiser, had this to write:
THON Maker will trial with Utah tomorrow and if the NBA franchise likes him, could join Joe Ingles and Dante Exum as the third Aussie on their roster.
Maker, 19 and 211cm, was born in what now is South Sudan but grew up in Perth where his family settled after also spending time in Uganda.
The Aussie phenomenon's parents are descendants of the Dinka people who already have produced amazing basketball players such as Manute Bol, Luol Deng and Ater Majok.
Playing high school ball in Canada, Maker suited alongside fellow Aussie tyro Ben Simmons in last year's Nike Hoops Summit in Oregon, where he delivered 10 rebounds, two points and one block as their World Team beat Team USA, 103—101.
Declaring for the NBA draft last month, he has prompted widespread interest, rejecting US college opportunities at Arizona State, Florida State, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Notre Dame, St. John's and UNLV.
Simmons, who spent one season at Louisiana State University, regularly has been projected as a top-two pick at the NBA draft on June 23 in New York. Philadelphia 76ers have the first pick and the LA Lakers with the second.
Sixers coach Brett Brown has history with Simmons, having been part of the Melbourne Tigers' NBL coaching staff which brought Ben's father David to Australia as an import.
Utah will work out six players tomorrow, Maker and guard Demetrius Jackson (Notre Dame) the headliners.
The Jazz will bring in Mike Tobey, a 211cm centre from Virginia to go up against Maker and test his bona fides.
Maker impressed at the NBA Draft Combine, where he was measured at exactly 210.82cm (bare feet) and jumped 81.3cm.
There's lots to unpack here. The first is that Thon looks to be only the second player to skirt the NCAAs entirely since the "minimum one, and then done" rule put in to curb high school athletes making the jump to the NBA. (The other, I believe is Brandon Jennings.) Because of the special relationships that NCAA programs have with agents, and because of the special relationships that agents have with NBA teams -- we see a concerted effort to ostracize anyone who doesn't play by their in-group rules. Maker could see some of that where his mystery combined with his "he didn't play by our arbitrary rules" mark could see him slip.
I have held that he's going to make some General Manager look brilliant this up-coming NBA Draft. Right now he's a bubble 1st round pick. If he is selected late in the first round I would be surprised teams didn't make a move to trade for his rights. From #23 downwards we have the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Clippers, Philadelphia 76ers again, Toronto Raptors, Phoenix Suns, San Antonio Spurs, and Golden State Warriors. Some of these teams are in "win now mode". Some of them have a ton of draft picks already and may want to shed a guaranteed 1st round contract. Others may have cap-space and are not in win-now mode, but already have THREE prospect bigmen on their team already (looking at you, Sixers).
Years ago, in the ancient times of 2013 the Utah Jazz made three draft night moves. The first was to move into the Top 10 of the draft and trade for the draft rights to Trey Burke. The last was the trade back into the late second round and nap Raul Neto. The middle move on that night was to trade assets (second round pick and cash) to get back into the late 1st round -- and when they did they say goodbye to Erick Green and hello to Rudy Gobert. (As mentioned on this site and the internet at large, about a billion times by now.) (Including the beat right before this one.)
Is Thon worth trading back into the late 1st round for? I don't know. I do know that Ben Simmons is likely to not make it to around pick #27 this year, so if you wanted to add another Australian player, Thon could be your guy. He did not go through the Australian Institute of Sport like Dante (and others) did.
I honestly need to learn more about his game before I can go crazy about him. I do not yet think he is worth a lotto pick. Especially not when you factor in how many unknowns there are to his game, and compare that against all the knowns we have of the players who are projected to go in the lottery. Is he worth trading back into the 1st for? I am sure today's work out for the Jazz will go towards figuring that one out.
More draft news? Sure. Wisconsin bigman Nigel Hayes is taking his name out of the NBA Draft hat.
Nigel Hayes will withdraw his name from NBA draft & return to the University of Wisconsin for his senior season. pic.twitter.com/JZ6Lo90yVd— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 24, 2016
Hayes had worked out for the Utah Jazz, and apparently many other teams as well. Hayes is a 6'8 bigman, which is a problem -- but he was still someone showing up on draft big boards. Just none of them had him in the Top 60. Bereft of what may seem like secret pact to be drafted (which explains why he worked out for the Jazz, who had three sub-40 picks) he's going back to the "books" for another season. For someone in that Tweener body type it's going to be necessary for him to expand his game a bit more. He finished last season averaging 15.7 ppg and 5.8 rpg. He also stole the ball and passed it a bit, but what did hurt him more than his size was his range.
He took the concerted effort to expand his range and frequency of outside shots from his Sophomore year to his Junior year. Going 40/101 last season (2.5 threes a game, making .396) was good, and encouraging. Going 39/133 this season (3.8 threes a game, making only .293) is less so. Silver lining? He's ready to keep maintaining floor space. He's just not completely reliable at it right now.
Across the board it was a poorer shooting year for him, maybe as a Senior he can put it all together. It would be cool to see someone bring the smashing name Nigel back to the NBA, we haven't seen that since Jeff Malone (that was his middle name). On the other hand, it must be something that you decided against the NBA Draft after working out for the Jazz -- a team that has consistently added some really iffy players to their 15 man roster over the last few years: J.J. O'Brien, Erick Green, Tibor Pleiss, Elijah Millsap, Chris Johnson, Toure' Murry, Jerrelle Benimon, Grant Jerrett, Patrick Christopher, Elliot Williams, Jack Cooley, Bryce Cotton, Malcolm Thomas, Mike Harris, Diante Garrett, and the immortal John Lucas III. If THAT GM thinks you're not good enough, you really must not be ready for the NBA just yet.
I am worried about what the Jazz cap and team situation will look like in the next few years. It's actually given me some sleeping problems. (You know, outside of the normal level of night terrors and thrashing.) As an optimist, no really, I hope that Dante Exum is going to be good enough to actually demand getting paid some serious money. Not serious like Gordon Hayward demanding 25% of the cap space for the next two contracts serious. But sill something above 10%. If that's the case there's no point in "wasting" money on BOTH of his back-ups.
#ICYMI I broke down the @utahjazz & their cap space to year 2020-21 + what assets they have. https://t.co/aHloLRSYPU pic.twitter.com/Ie7JWH56jf— Amar (@AllThatAmar) May 24, 2016
(S'more details there)
So I posted this question on Twitter, and I'd love to know what you think. Who should the Jazz decide to keep in two seasons: Shelvin Mack or Raul Neto?
Interested to see which guy @utahjazz fans would rather have in 2017-2018 season. Neto @ $1.0M lot cheaper than Mack— Amar (@AllThatAmar) May 24, 2016
Reasons for Mack:
- Currently a better point guard (due to age and experience)
- Made some good plays down the stretch last season
- Had a number of good all-around games as well
- Head Coach Quin Snyder loves him
- Best player, Gordon Hayward, went to college with him and they won a lot of games together
- Cool name
- Has been 1st string, 2nd string, and 3rd string in his career, is professional about it
Reasons for Neto:
- Could be a better player in time
- Better defender already, and floor spacer
- Faster as well
- Two years younger
- Has Non-Guaranteed contract in 2017-2018 for $1.015 million, which is going to be so much less than what Shelvin will get as an Unrestricted Free Agent that off-season
- Appears to be 100% Rudy Gobert's boy
- Cool name
- Fearless, goes up against the best players having been a starter to start his rookie year, was a starter in Europe, was a rotation player on Brazilian national team and played in World Cup (2010, 2014) / Olympics (2012) / Under-whatever age tournaments (2010)
- Drank the milkshake of Derrick Rose (MVP)
Honestly, this isn't a problem, but we do know that if left unattended, things that are not problems . . . can quickly become problems. (And then you're in trouble)