2018 NBA Mock Draft 1.0

The top two picks have cemented themselves. DeAndre Ayton and Luka Doncic will go 1-2 in either order. After that is absolute chaos. After the Whistle’s first mock draft attempts to order the most loaded draft class in years.

The mock draft!

1. Phoenix—Luka Doncic, Real Madrid
2. Memphis—DeAndre Ayton, Arizona
3. Orlando—Marvin Bagley III, Duke
4. Atlanta—Jaren Jackson Jr., Michigan State
5. Dallas—Trae Young, Oklahoma
6. Sacramento—Mohamed Bamba, Texas
7. Cleveland (via BRK)—Michael Porter, Missouri
8. Chicago—Mikal Bridges, Villanova
9. New York—Miles Bridges, Michigan State
10. Charlotte—Wendell Carter, Duke
11. Philadelphia (via LAL)—Collin Sexton, Alabama
12. LA Clippers (via DET)—Robert Williams, Texas A&M
13. LA Clippers—Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kentucky
14. Denver—Kevin Knox, Kentucky
15. Phoenix (via MIL)—Zhaire Smith, Texas Tech
16. Phoenix (via MIA)—Daniel Gafford, Arkansas
17. Washington—Dzanan Musa, KK Cedevita
18. Utah—Jontay Porter, Missouri
19. Indiana—Troy Brown, Oregon
20. Atlanta (via MIN)—Shake Milton, SMU
21. Philadelphia—Anfernee Simons, IMG Academy
22. Chicago (via NOP)—Mitchell Robinson
23. San Antonio—Lonnie Walker IV, Miami
24. Minnesota (via OKC)—Chandler Hutchinson, Boise State

25. LA Lakers (via CLE)—Jacob Evans, Cincinnati
26. Portland—Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State
27. Boston—Khyri Thomas, Creighton
28. Brooklyn (via TOR)—Gary Trent Jr., Duke
29. Golden State—Jalen Brunson, Villanova
30. Atlanta (via HOU)—Landry Shamet, Wichita State

 

Doncic #1

Although DeAndre Ayton remains a strong candidate for the first pick, Luka Doncic has been tearing up professional competition in Europe for Real Madrid. The rest of the draft class can’t  match the Slovenian’s ball-handling and explosive shooting.

Zhaire Smith’s Rise

Behind the highlight reel dunks, the Texas Tech shooting guard has been a consistent scorer for one of college basketball’s best teams. Zhaire Smith also averages a steal and a block per game, providing versatility on top of his 11.3 points per game.

Draft Day Steal from Wichita

Landry Shamet isn’t the most heralded of prospects, but the 6’4″ point guard boasts incredible 3-point shooting (44% 3PT) and distributes 5.2 assists per game on a 20.7% usage rate.

 

 

 

 

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Raptors, Cavs, and the East’s Crucial Battle

Tonight the Toronto Raptors welcome the Cleveland Cavaliers to Canada for a pivotal Eastern Conference clash. A quick snapshot of the East’s standings shows Toronto’s 2.5 game lead over Cleveland in the standings, while the Raptors have only one more loss than the Boston Celtics. A Raptors win launches their top-seed bid, while a Cavs win pulls Cleveland back to 1.5 games behind. . .with the Raptors playing the Warriors in two days.

The Raptors are 14-2 at home on the year, better than the Warriors and Rockets. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry will once again lead the charge, although Lowry’s status is in question with a bruised tailbone. OG Anunoby and CJ Miles will combine for the unenviable task of slowing down LeBron James, while Jonas Valanciunas’ mideason surge will need to continue. Starting power forward Serge Ibaka is out due to suspension.

Projected starting lineup: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Jonas Valanciunas

The Cavaliers are on a skid, posting a 4-6 mark over their last ten games. LeBron James’ superhuman efforts will need to be helped on by someone else, and Isaiah Thomas’ shoot-first mentality is not what is needed for Cleveland’s point guard. Kevin Love’s rebounding will be the key, due to the aforementioned Ibaka suspension.

Projected starting lineup: Isaiah Thomas, JR Smith, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson.

Although they’re banged up, the Raptors should continue their incredible run with a victory, as Cleveland will face an increasing threat from the surging fourth-placed Heat.

Pick: Raptors 112, Cavaliers 105

Analyzing the NBA Standings at the Start of 2018

2017 is over and done with, and basketball has served up some surprises. After the Whistle takes a look at where teams stand heading into the new year.

Eastern Conference

1. Celtics—32-10

2. Raptors—27-10

3. Cavaliers—25-13

4. Wizards—23-16

5. Heat—21-17

 6. Bucks 20-17

7. Pistons 20-17

8. 76ers 19-19

Just outside: Pacers (19-19) and Knicks (18-21)

Talking points

Celtics on Top

Boston has played the NBA’s most packed schedule since October, and is off to a terrific start. Al Horford might be the most improved player in basketball, and Kyrie Irving’s 24.4 points per game paces the East’s top unit.

Raptor Resurgence

Toronto could be the best team in the East. Level in the loss column with Boston, the Raptors are still paced by DeMar DeRozan (25 PPG), but the bench has transformed into a fearsome unit led by Delon Wright (8.9 PPG, 1.2 SPG).

All-Star Oladipo

The Pacers combo guard has lit up for 24.9 points per game, fueled by a terrific 42.3% clip from the arc. Oladipo is carrying the Pacers within striking distance of a playoff spot.

The East’s current All-Stars. . .

G Victor Oladipo, Pacers

G DeMar DeRozan, Raptors

F LeBron James, Cavaliers

F Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

C Al Horford, Celtics

 

Western Conference

1. Warriors—31-8

2. Rockets—27-10

3. Spurs—27-13

4. Timberwolves—24-16

5. Thunder—22-17

6. Nuggets—21-17

7. Trail Blazers—20-18

8. Pelicans—19-18

Just outside: Clippers (17-20) and Jazz (16-23)

Talking points

The Rockets Fall

Houston was on pace for the top seed heading into Christmas weekend, but lost the perch due to losing six of their last ten. To make matters worse, James Harden is out for at least two weeks with a hamstring injury.

The Muddled Five-seed Race

The Thunder have surged up into the five spot, but the Nuggets and Trail Blazers lurk within 1.5 games, and the Pelicans can beat anyone with their Davis-Cousins tandem. Just something to keep an eye on. . .

The (Even More) Muddled 8-seed Race

The Clippers have surged into the picture to contend with the inconsistent Pelicans, and the Jazz have the pieces to string together a long winning streak. Who wants to get blown out by the Warriors?

The West’s current All-Stars. . .

G Russell Westbrook, Thunder

G James Harden, Rockets

F Jimmy Butler, Timberwolves

F Kevin Durant, Warriors

C DeMarcus Cousins, Pelicans

Takeaways from NBA Opening Night

A buzzer-beater wiped off, a rookie putting up 25, a forward coming off the bench to drain six threes. . . basketball is back.

Cavaliers 102-99 Celtics

LeBron James did exactly what he needed to propel Cleveland to victory. It was a game marred by Gordon Hayward’s horrific leg injury, and someone needed to fill the hole. Jaylen Brown put up 25 points to give Boston a fighting chance, and Jayson Tatum’s double-double kept it close. The Cavs escape with a narrow victory over a terrific opponent.

 

Rockets 122-121 Warriors

While the late start probably shifted viewers to the early game, the West’s two best teams produced a thriller. Nick Young came off the bench to drain six three-pointers for Golden State, and James Harden did—well, James Harden things. A last-second Kevin Durant shot appeared to beat the buzzer and give the Warriors a dramatic victory. . . but it was wiped off. The champs are 0-1.

 

What are your opinions of last night’s games? Let me know in the comments. Leave a like if you enjoyed, and come back tomorrow for more!

Visiting a Timberwolves Scrimmage

Last night I had the pleasure of visiting a Minnesota Timberwolves scrimmage where I had the opportunity to see most of the roster play. Today I examine the highlights of a fun night.

1. Guard play

Jeff Teague and Tyus Jones had a fun unofficial three-point competition during warmups, and both played very well. Rookie Melo Trimble showed flashes of his time at Maryland, and Aaron Brooks wants a roster spot—bad.

2. Veteran leadership

Former Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford will ply his trade in Minnesota this year, providing leadership to one of the youngest teams in the NBA. Along with Teague and Jimmy Butler, the veterans form a talented group in the Timberwolves organization.

3. The Big Three

Butler, Towns, and Wiggins. Those are some talented players we have, aren’t they?

4. Huh?

 

IMG_1277
That’s not how you rebound, Tyus.

Generally you don’t stand under the basket when you’re going to jump for the ball. . .

It’s blockbuster trade time in the NBA! Wait, what?

The NBA hasn’t seen anything that could be deemed a “blockbuster” trade since the Timberwolves nabbed Jimmy Butler on draft day. That changed last night when both of last year’s Eastern Conference finalists traded two star point guards—to each other.

Two weeks ago, it was reported that Kyrie Irving was unsettled in Cleveland and wanted a trade. Many skeptics criticized the rumors, I among them. We were wrong.

The Boston Celtics have had an explosive offseason. Gordon Hayward signed. Jayson Tatum fell into their lap on draft day. Jae Crowder signed a new contract. They still had a certain 5’9″ point guard named Isaiah Thomas that can’t defend. Crowder was reportedly becoming unsettled, and with the drafting of Tatum they didn’t need him.

The trade

The Celtics send Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and a 2018 first round pick to the Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving.

Why?

The Celtics gave up a lot for Irving. But this makes sense, in a way. Thomas is three years older, can’t defend to save his life, and ended the season with a torn hip labrum. Isaiah Thomas is a terrific player, no doubt. But is a 28 year old with injury concerns worth a max contract next year in free agency? The Celtics didn’t think so.

 

That will do it for this article. Be sure to leave your thoughts, questions, and all manner of feedback in the comments. Please leave a like if you enjoyed!