NBA Prospect – Mikal Bridges

With the NBA Draft being headlined by one and done freshmen, Mikal Bridges comes into the draft ready to contribute from day one. Bridges has been a contributor all three years at Villanova while winning two national titles. The Villanova Junior has 116 collegiate games under his belt and that experience should be beneficial for any team he plays for.

Bridges has the potential to be the prototypical 3 & D player that every team covets in the modern NBA. Standing 6’7″ with a wingspan of 7’0″, Bridges has the length to guard shooting guards, small forwards and many power forwards. His long arms allow him to get into the passing lanes and contest jumpers. He should be able to contribute defensively from year one, which is very rare for a rookie. Offensively, the 6’7″ wingman can shoot the basketball from deep. This past season at Villanova he hit 43.6% of his threes on 6 attempts per game. This past season Bridges shot 51.4% from the field and 85.1% from the line, which shows how consistent of a shooter he is. He really looks to take good shots in the flow of the offense. He knows himself as a player and doesn’t try to be someone he isn’t. He is a limited yet smart ball handler, with a 2.4-1.0 assist to turnover ratio. Bridges went from 10 PPG to almost 18 PPG from his sophomore year to his junior year.

Bridges stands 6’7″, but weights in at only 210 pounds. He will need to add muscle mass to compete better both offensively and defensively. Added strength would allow Bridges to attack the basket more and not rely on someone else to get him his shots. Right now he is a straight line dribbler who goes predominantly right. He could use a summer of ball handling drills to really focus on creating his own shot. Bridges is already 22 and there is some worry that he has fully maximized his potential while at Villanova.

Bridges is a lock to be a lottery pick. I could see him going as high as eight to the Cleveland Cavaliers if LeBron James stays and the team wants to compete now. Bridges would be ready to help a contender who has a deadly ball handler. The Sixers at pick 10 seem like a great match as well. The 76ers need another deadly wing shooter who can defend. Simmons would get the ball to Bridges in open space to knock down his shot. At pick 11 the Charlotte Hornets could use a vertical wing with range to give Kemba Walker and Dwight Howard space to work. The Los Angeles Clippers with the 12th and 13th picks are just looking to add talent. Bridges is the perfect floor spacer and defender to create some versatility for Doc Rivers.

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NBA Prospect – Mohamed Bamba

When Bamba steps on the court, the first thing you notice is his size. He is 7’1″ with arms that seem to stretch across the paint. At the NBA Combine, Bamba measured in with an insane 7’10” wingspan and 9’6″ standing reach. Both of the previously mentioned measurements are combine records, passing the athletic freak known as Rudy Gobert. During Bamba’s freshman campaign at Texas, he was a defensive terror. Averaging 3.7 BPG to go along with 10.5 RPG, Bamba was named to the BIG 12 Defensive First Team. His rim protection and rebounding are traits any NBA team can use. Offensively, Bamba will be a good pick and roll big from day one. He has the ability and coordination to finish lobs or catch the the ball and finish layups around the rim. Against Kansas last year, Bamba put it all together and scored 22 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and blocked 8 shots. The potential for Bamba is off the charts if he puts the work in.

At this point in his career, the long armed center still relies on ball handlers to get him good looks. Bamba has a solid looking shot which has potential based on his 68% FT shooting at Texas, but NBA defenses will let him take jumpers. Bamba’s post moves are rudimentary and will need refined. His left hand is limited to just finishing layups. The former New York high school standout only weights 225 pounds right now and needs to gain 20-25 pounds to be able to bang in the NBA. His skinny frame is a concern because bigger interior players will be able to move him on post ups and when he’s blocking out.

Bamba is a lock to be a top ten pick. The earliest I could see him going is 4 to the Grizzlies; if they plan on moving Marc Gasol and rebuilding. Bamba has the potential to be a defensive anchor, like the before mentioned Gobert or Clint Capela. The Mavericks have the fifth pick and could use a center since Nerlens Noel will most likely not be resigned. Dennis Smith Jr. would have a great pick and roll guy to work with. Bamba would also be a great rim protector to play besides Dirk Nowitzki as he finishes out his career. The Orlando Magic could look for a delivery big size since it’s doubtful that Bismack Biyombo and Nicola Vucevic are the long term solutions in the middle. If the Magic resign Aaron Gordon, they could pair him with Bamba for a high flying energetic front court. I really can’t see Bamba ending up falling lower than the 6th spot, but places like Chicago and New York could really use a defensive minded center. Whichever team chooses Bamba will need a staff that realizes he is a project that will take 2-3 years to develop. If he works hard and is put in the right situation, the league will be staying away from the paint he patrols.

2018 NBA Mock Draft 1.0

1. Phoenix Suns- DeAndre Ayton- Arizona- C

The Suns came into the lottery with the best chance to land the number one pick and that’s exactly what they did. Ayton has the potential to be a franchise changing big man who’s an explosive athlete. He can not only finish around the rim, but can knock down the outside shot as well. He has chiseled his frame to add some weight and keep his quick feet. Defensively, Ayton is a bit of a question mark. At Arizona he only averaged 1.2 BPG, but at times he was asked to guard power forwards which pulled him away from the away from the basketball. Ayton will only play the five in the nba and has the athletic potential to be a good interior defender.

2. Sacramento Kings- Luka Doncic- PG/SG- Real Madrid

Doncic has been playing professionally since the age of 13 and it shows. Despite being just 19, Doncic is one of the leaders for Real Madrid and the orchestrator of the offensive. He shows knowledge in manipulating and reading a defense. Doncic has Ben Simmons like passing ability. The Slovenia teenager has good range on his shot that can allow him to play off the ball. He is a sneaky athlete who doesn’t finish above the rim often, but finds creative ways to finish. Defensively there are some question marks of which position he will guard. Point guards with speed will cause issues for him. Doncic is the second best player in this draft and would be a great fit in Sacramento.

3. Atlanta Hawks- Marvin Bagley- PF- Duke

The Atlanta Hawks are in a complete rebuild and in a position to take the best available. Bagley has a diverse offensive game finishing at the rim or stepping outside to knock down a jumper. He has some serious hops and uses them to grab rebounds. Bagley is a bit of a tweeter defensively. He will have to bulk out a little to be a consistent rim protector. Bagley should have the ability to contribute from day one and get the Hawks on the right path.

4. Memphis Grizzlies- Micheal Porter Jr.- SG/SF- Missouri

The Griz are in an interesting position. They need to decide if they’re going to rebuild or attempt at contending. As long as Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are both healthy, Memphis thinks they have a chance. Porter Jr. is a versatile athletic wing who can both shoot and pass. Porter has the length to defend shooting guards and small forwards. If Porter develops, he could be the wing the Grizzlies wanted when they signed Chandler Parsons to a massive deal. A lot of the concerns with Porter are around his back issues and if he can be the same athlete as before.

5. Dallas Mavericks- Jaren Jackson- PF/C- Michigan St.

Dallas is in a rebuilding phase and have a few different positions they could be looking to fill. Jackson is a versatile big man who has developed range out to the three point line. The big man will be great in pick and roll situations with his ability to finish around the rim. He also has the potential to be a pick and pop threat. Jackson is a good athlete with long arms who can defend the rim.

6. Orlando Magic- Mohamed Bamba- C- Texas

Orlando is another team with a few positions that need upgraded. Bamba enters the NBA with incredibly long arms and shot blocking ability. He has potential to be a Clint Capela or Rudy Gobert type defender at the rim. At Texas, he averaged 3.7 BPG. Offensively, Bamba is a work in progress. However, he has good form on his free throws and even knocked down 28% of his threes at Texas.

7. Chicago Bulls- Wendell Carter Jr.- PF/C- Duke

The Bulls have a variety of needs and add Carter to their big man rotation. Carter is a solid athlete in the half court. He has a good standing vertical, capable hands and a solid 15 footer. Carter also has good shot blocking instincts to deter opponents from attacking the basket. The biggest weakness of the Duke product is his ability to get up and down the court. Carter was often the last guy up and down the court in college.

8. Cleveland Cavaliers- Trae Young- PG- Oklahoma

The Cavaliers get this pick from the Kyrie Irving trade. The team will be desperate to find a player who will help keep LeBron James in Cleveland. Young is a talented passer and has deep range on his jumper. Defenses have to play him honest and they create more space for James to wreak havoc. Young will have to get stronger to defend at the NBA level. He often gets beat off the dribble, but that could be due to the amount of the offense he had to create at Oklahoma.

9. New York Knicks- Collin Sexton- PG- Alabama

Sexton is an athletic specimen who can push the tempo. The Alabama guard consistently puts pressure on the defense and finds himself at the free throw line. Sexton has nice form on his jumper despite it being streaky. Defensively, Sexton has all of the tools to be a lockdown defender if he applies himself. He is a willing passer too once he gets into the paint off the dribble.

10. Philadelphia 76ers- Mikal Bridges- SF- Villanova

Bridges has potential to be the prototypical 3 & D wing in the NBA. At 6-7 215 pounds, he should be able to guard both wing positions once he adds a little bit of strength. The Villanova junior has a smooth stroke from three. Bridges still isn’t a creator for others on offense, but know his limitations and doesn’t force the issue.

11. Charlotte Bobcats- Miles Bridges- SF/PF- Michigan St.

Bridges is a combo forward in the Josh Smith mold. Bridges is an elite level athlete who hasn’t put it all together yet on offense. The Tom Izzo coached forward has shown steady improvement on his hump, but it’s not ready for NBA defensives to respect it. Bridges is a great rebounder and true hustle player.

12. Los Angeles Clippers- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander- PG- Kentucky

Alexander came on strong in SEC and NCAA Tournaments showing his athleticism, shooting and passing ability. Alexander was an offensive threat shooting 40% from three and over 80% from the free throw line for the season. Alexander is a willing passer who looks to get other involved, but can get tunnel vision when he forces the issue. The biggest knack on Alexander is his slight frame. In order to fight through picks, he will need to get stronger.

13. Los Angeles Clippers- Kevin Knox- SF/PF- Kentucky

Knox is a combo forward who possesses the athleticism to be a versatile defender in the NBA. He is a great athlete who can punish opponents on the boards. Knox has a long way to go to be an offensive threat in the NBA. He has streaky shooting and isn’t a capable passer yet. For the first couple of years, Know will need to work hard and focus on his offensive game to become a solid starter.

14. Denver Nuggets- Robert Williams- PF/C- Texas A&M

Williams is a NBA ready athlete who will be able to rebound from day one on the offensive and defensive glass. Williams is also a good shot blocker utilizing great anticipation. Offensively, Williams relies on others to help him get buckets. Williams has had some disciplinary issues at Texas A&M including a suspension.

15. Washington Wizards- Gary Trent Jr.- SG- Duke

16. Phoenix Suns- Landry Shamet- PG- Wichita St.

17. Milwaukee Bucks- Lonnie Walker- SG- Miami

18. San Antonio Spurs- Dzanan Musa- SF- Bosnia

19. Atlanta Hawks- Mitchell Robinson- C- USA

20. Minnesota Timberwolves- Zhaire Smith- SG- Texas Tech

21. Utah Jazz- Kyhri Thomas- SG- Creighton

22. Chicago Bulls- Anfernee Sims- PG- USA

23. Indiana Pacers- Troy Brown- PG/SG- Oregon

24. Portland Trail Blazers- Omari Spellman- PF/C- Villanova

25. Los Angeles Lakers- Jontay Porter- PF/C- Missouri

26. Philadelphia 76ers- Donte DiVenceso- SG- Villanova

27. Boston Celtics- Chandler Hutchinson- SG/SF- Boise State

28. Golden State Warriors- Jerome Robinson-SG- Boston College

29. Brooklyn Nets- Aaron Holiday- PG- UCLA

30. Atlanta Hawks- Jevon Carter- PG- West Virginia

Stan Van Gundy’s Quest for Mediocrity

The Detroit Pistons decided to shake things up in a big way and trade for superstar power forward Blake Griffin. The question is why? Does this trade make the Pistons a contender? Don’t let the 2-0 start against the Memphis Grizzlies and Miami Heat, without Hassan Whiteside, fool you. The answer is still no.

In the Griffin trade, the Pistons had to part with current players Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, and Boban Marjanović. The Clippers will also receive a first and second round pick from the Pistons. With those players moved in the deal, the Pistons are dedicated to building around a core of Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson. These three create a watered down version of what the Clippers had with Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan, which couldn’t even crack the Western Conference Finals. What does Van Gundy expect from this group? I hope nothing more than a first round exit this season. Luke Kennard, Reggie Bullock, Stanley Johnson and Langston Galloway won’t strike fear in any playoff team. Bullock and Kennard are both solid shooters, but neither is a complete NBA player. Stanley Johnson has all the tools to be an elite NBA player, but hasn’t found a way to contribute offensively. Galloway is a journeyman who doesn’t excel in any one aspect of basketball.

This move would make more sense if Griffin didn’t have a career filled with injury issues. He hasn’t played over 66 games in a season since the 2013-2014 season. Since 2014 Griffin has suffered the below injuries.

Concussion

Sprained Left MCL

Broken Toe

Right Knee Surgery

Sore Right Knee

Sore Left Quadriceps

Broken Hand

Torn Left Quad

Staph Infection

Back Spasms

When you invest 171 million dollars in a player, is that the injury history you want? The obvious answer is no. Yet, Stan Van Gundy still thinks getting a superstar to Detroit will fix everything. The Celtics, Cavaliers and Raptors are still clearly ahead of the Pistons in the Eastern Conference echelon. The Pistons are currently 9th and do have a good chance to sneak into the playoffs if they can stay healthy. The 76ers are young and one small Joel Embiid injury from watching the postseason. The Pacers and Heat have played above their talent levels so far this season and are starting to regress to the below average teams we thought they would be.

If the Pistons sneak in the playoffs and lose in the first round, does that make this season a success? No, because the future of the team is set for the next two seasons with the before mentioned core of Jackson, Drummond and Griffin. The Pistons have a poor history of drafting quality players in the lottery. Stanley Johnson was drafted ahead of Devin Booker and Luke Kennard was taken over Donovan Mitchell. How will the Pistons add to this core for this season and the future without a first round draft pick and limited cap space? The team will need to be frugal and hope to land a quality wing like Tyreke Evans or Courtney Lee to help secure wing depth for the remainder of the season. The Pistons are stuck in mediocrity for the foreseeable future and Stan Van Gundy is to blame.

Cloudy Skies Ahead in OKC?

The Thunder have been clicking on all cylinders lately, including a second half comeback over the 76ers, but can can the Thunder withstand the loss of Andre Roberson? This question may seem laughable when you look at his 5 PPG and 31% FT shooting. Roberson’s contributions are not something seen in a box score. On a nightly basis, he is asked to defend the oppositions premier offensive player. One night he can be assigned to handle James Harden and the next night he is checking Damian Lillard . That versatility allows Paul George and Russell Westbrook the oppurtunity to conserve energy, which allows them to go full bore on offense.

The Thunder have a few different options to choose from to fill the void left by Roberson, but none of them are the type of defender Roberson is. Terrance Ferguson will be starting in the backcourt for now. Ferguson is an amazing athlete that oozes potential, but is he ready to help the Thunder now? His 29% 3PT shooting is an improvement over Roberson, but still below average. Will he be able to create space for Westbrook and George to get to the basket? The sample size this far says no, but Ferguson has all of the tools one needs to succeed in the NBA. Looking at OKC’s bench, he has the best chance to develop into a defensive presence.

Alex Abrines has seen 94% of his playing time at the 2 this season for the Thunder. He has the ability to provide spacing on the court with his 38.2%  on 3’s. This space is vital when playing with slashers like George and Westbrook. The lineup of Westbrook, Abrines, George, Anthony and Adamas has played one hundred three minutes together without a noticeable drop in offensive production compared to its traditional starting five (Roberson instead of Abrines). Can Abrines develop into a better defender? Physically he will never be an amazing athlete, but Abrines is a smart player who should continue to grow as a team defender.

Billy Donovan also has the option of going small and playing Raymond Felton at the 1 and moving Westbrook to the 2. This option has been used in the latter stages of games because of Felton’s ability to hit the open 3 and ball handling ability. But it is unlikely to be used for long periods of time due to Felton’s lack of size and speed as he continues to age.

Can the Thunder make a deal for the missing piece? OKC has two trade exceptions totalling around 4 million from the trade with the Indiana Pacers last summer. Perhaps these pieces and a draft pick could land them a piece for a team that is dismantling? The Clippers will have many offers for Lou Williams and it doesnt appear the Thunder will have enough to pry him away from the Clippers.  Another option could be trading for George Hill, but that seems unlikely to happen due to his contract size. I could also see them making a deal for Jeremy Lamb. His salary is more reaosnable to match the assets the Thunder have.  If the Thunder stand pat and exit in the first round it could cost them Paul George. Even though his comments make it sound like he plans to stay in OKC, all it takes is one dismal playoff series and those feelings can change lightning fast.