Best team fits for players in NBA Draft

Yardbarker NBA draft analyst Brett Koremenos offers the best player-team fits in the June 20 draft. (Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland and the Lakers, anyone?)

Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland and Los Angeles Lakers

During the 2018-19 season, the Lakers ranked 29th in three-point field goal percentage. Garland may be one of the best shooters in the draft. Should major contributors Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kouzma and, of course, LeBron James be on the L.A. roster opening night, Garland will be in a perfect spot. There will be no pressure for him to start right away, a nice transition for a player who missed most of his only season at Vanderbilt because of a knee injury. If he were to land with the Lakers, Garland would play with a ball-dominant playmaker — either James or Ball — allowing Garland to do what he does best: shoot.

Texas’ Jaxson Hayes and Washington Wizards

When the aging Marcin Gortat was traded last year, Wizards franchise point guard John Wall lost arguably the best pick-and-roll partner he has had in D.C. Enter Hayes. Nothing would help a rookie center find his NBA footing like one of the league’s best passers. As for Wall, he’d find new life having a young, lob-catching big man to help him torture defenses.

Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura and Miami Heat

Ever since the Big Three left town, Miami has become the basketball version of the Island of Misfit Toys. From Josh Richardson to Justise Winslow to James Johnson, the Heat has taken players without a clearly defined position and found a way to make them work. For a hard-working but unrefined forward such as the 6-foot-8 Hachimura, Miami would be a godsend. Somehow Miami’s culture would likely find a way to ensure Hachimura becomes a valuable NBA contributor.

Kentucky’s Keldon Johnson and Detroit Pistons

Detroit’s recent mediocrity mostly can be linked to sub-par wing play. Johnson’s game isn’t super-sexy, but he’s an energetic defender with a jump shot that should require respect from NBA three-point territory. 

Tennessee’s Grant Williams and Utah Jazz

With Donovan Mitchell emerging as the offensive star and Rudy Golbert anchoring the defense, the Jazz isn’t desperate for star power. Instead, the team needs role players capable of executing their savvy brand of basketball and hitting open shots. That sounds exactly like what the rugged but instinctive Williams should bring. Although the shooting isn’t quite a sure thing (yet), the Tennessee forward would carve out a rotation spot quickly in Utah.

Arizona State’s Lu Dort and Portland Trail Blazers

Perhaps the biggest flaw in Dort’s game is the decisions he makes with the ball in his hands. When you play for the Portland Trail Blazers, CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard handle those situations. With the Blazers, Dort could emerge as the perfect defensive yin to Lillard and McCollum’s offensive yang. The strong and athletic guard could handle tough backcourt assignments, allowing Portland’s bucket-getting duo to focus solely on tormenting defenses.

Washington’s Matisse Thybulle and San Antonio Spurs

Over the past two decades, the Spurs have developed a reputation. San Antonio will take a raw wing player and, almost under the cover of night, develop him into a crucial cog in their playoff machine. Thybulle has made a name for himself as an athletic, disruptive 6-foot-5 defender oozing potential but lacking refinement. He spent time at Washington playing in a 2-3 zone and doesn’t have much in the way of offensive skills. If any team could unlock Thybulle’s potential and turn him into a two-way force, it’s the Spurs.

Georgia’s Nic Claxton and Brooklyn Nets

After making an appearance in this year’s playoffs, the Nets finally got a chance to show off their innovative offense. It was orchestrated by young players who benefited from the great developmental process in Brooklyn. If you squint hard enough, Claxton has the makings of a rangy, perimeter-savvy center with a respectable outside shot. But like unfinished sculpture, Claxton needs a team to chip away the rough edges. For a Nets offense that likes to have all its players capable of handling themselves behind the three-point line, Claxton would be a perfect addition

Full List

By: Brett Koremenos

Gregg Popovich Goes After Trump

Written by Colin Ward-Henniger at CBS Sports.com

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has been an outspoken critic of Donald Trump since before he was elected president. Popovich recently spoke out following Trump’s revoking of the Warriors’ White House invitation and his comments about NFL players who kneel during the anthem, but Pop’s latest outrage may be the harshest yet.

Popovich, who served five years of active duty in the U.S. Air Force, was incensed by Trump’s recent comments following the death of four U.S. soldiers killed in an ambush in Niger.

“President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls, a lot of them didn’t make calls,” Trump said. “I like to call when it’s appropriate, when I think I’m able to do it.”

Popovich called The Nation’s Dave Zirin to give his feelings on the matter:

I’ve been amazed and disappointed by so much of what this President had said, and his approach to running this country, which seems to be one of just a never ending divisiveness. But his comments today about those who have lost loved ones in times of war and his lies that previous presidents Obama and Bush never contacted their families, is so beyond the pale, I almost don’t have the words.

This man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others. This has of course been a common practice of his, but to do it in this manner – and to lie about how previous Presidents responded to the deaths of soldiers – is as low as it gets. We have a pathological liar in the White House: unfit intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically to hold this office and the whole world knows it, especially those around him every day. The people who work with this President should be ashamed because they know it better than anyone just how unfit he is, and yet they choose to do nothing about it. This is their shame most of all.

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LaMarcus Aldridge Signs $72 Million Extension With Spurs

Written by Shams Charania at YahooSports.com

San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge has reached agreement on a three-year, $72.3 million contract extension, league sources told The Vertical.

Aldridge opted into his $22.3 million player option with the Spurs for next season and signed for an additional two years and $50 million, league sources said. Aldridge’s third year includes a partial guarantee, league sources said.

Aldridge, 32, and the Spurs have been engaged in extension talks over the past several weeks and worked toward finalizing a deal on Monday. Aldridge joined the Spurs in the summer of 2015, signing a four-year, $84.1 million free-agent deal, and was an All-Star in his first season with the team. He averaged 17.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in 72 games a season ago, partnering with Kawhi Leonard to lead the Spurs to the Western Conference finals.

Aldridge, a five-time All-Star, was drafted No. 2 overall in 2006 out of the University of Texas and spent his first nine seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers. He has averaged 19.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and one block per game in his 11-year career.

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Manu Resigns With Spurs For Two Years

Written by Chris Barnewell at CBS Sports.com

Manu Ginobili gave everybody a trip down memory lane last season when his performance in the playoffs helped the Spurs win a playoff game. It was reminiscent to the old days of Ginobili when he would come off the bench and wow fans with his ability to get inside the lane and cause chaos.

There were questions about whether that was Ginobili’s final game with the Spurs, but it appears that he will be sticking aroung in San Antonio for at least one more season. The Spurs announced Thursday that Ginobili signed a two-year deal with the team. According to Shams Charania of The Vertical, the deal is worth $5 million.

The native of Argentina was drafted by the Spurs with the 57th overall pick in the second round of the 1999 NBA Draft. Coming to San Antonio in 2002, he is the Spurs all-time NBA leader in three-pointers made (1,431), while ranking second in steals (1,349), third in games (992), fourth in free throws made (3,270), as well as fifth in total points (13,467) and assists (3,838). He has twice been named to the All-NBA Third Team (2008, 2011). The 2008 NBA Sixth Man of the Year and two-time All-Star (2008, 2011), He and Parker currently have 652 wins together, fourth-most of any teammates in NBA history. Trailing only Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, Ginobili owns the third-best winning percentage in NBA history of any player that has played at least 500 games (.729, 723-269).

Spurs and basketball fans everywhere should be thrilled that they’ll get to see at least one more year of Ginobili in the NBAl. However, this could very likely be his final season. At 40 years old there isn’t much NBA time left on those legs. Last season, he averaged a career-low in points and minutes per game. His contract may last two years, but it’s very likely he will retire or be waived after the first.

Ginobili likely won’t have the same retirement party Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan got in their final seasons, but NBA fans everywhere should take a moment this season to appreciate Ginobili for what he’s done in his career. Few players have been as exciting and creative as he was in his prime. That’s something that should be acknowledged by every basketball fan.

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Spurs Offering LaMarcus Aldridge For A Top-10 Pick

Written by Ramona Shelburne and Michael C. Wright at ESPN.com

The San Antonio Spurs, in pursuit of a top-10 pick in Thursday’s NBA draft, have spoken to at least three teams about a possible trade involving power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, sources confirmed to ESPN.

Aldridge’s contract contains a player option after the 2017-18 season, and he declined to address the situation when asked specifically by ESPN about it during the playoffs.

For the Spurs, working to consummate a trade now is more advantageous than potentially losing Aldridge after next season with no compensation in return.

“He can opt out in a year,” Spurs general manager R.C. Buford told ESPN last month. “There’s a point in time that we’ll have to address what’s next. At that time, we’ll deal with it. As you build a team, you make decisions along the way.”

As of Thursday morning, the Spurs have the No. 29 pick in the first round and a second-round selection (No. 59 overall).

Arizona Sports 98.7 first reported that the Spurs were talking to teams about an Aldridge trade.

Aldridge was signed to an $84 million contract in 2015 as the club’s most significant acquisition in free agency. He received widespread criticism for his play in the 2017 postseason, as he averaged a career-low 16.5 points per game in the playoffs along with career lows in player efficiency rating (15.2) and blocks (1.0).

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich voiced displeasure with Aldridge’s performance after Game 2 of the Western Conference finals, when the power forward failed to score in the first half and finished with eight points in 27 minutes.

With point guard Tony Parker suffering a season-ending quadriceps injury during the Western Conference semifinals, followed by the team losing Kawhi Leonard to a sprained ankle in Game 1 of the conference finals against Golden State, San Antonio expected Aldridge to fill the void. Instead, once Leonard suffered the injury with the Spurs leading the Warriors by 23 points in Game 1, Aldridge struggled.

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Chris Paul Has Interest In Signing With Spurs

Written by Joe Rodgers at Sporting News.com

THE RUMOR: The Spurs could be a legitimate option for Chris Paul as an unrestricted free agent this offseason and the “rumblings” about the point guard being interested are real.

REPORTED BY: ESPN’s Zach Lowe

THE DETAILS: Paul, 32, is a nine-time All-Star and four-time All-NBA first-team selection but is also a 12-year veteran with a shrinking “prime” window. All that’s missing is an NBA title. He couldn’t get a ring in six seasons with the Clippers but sees potential through Gregg Popovich in San Antonio. Paul is expected to decline his $24.2 million player option for next season in order to test free agency.

THIS PAST SEASON: Paul averaged 18.1 points, 9.2 assists, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.9 steals in 61 games. He missed time due to a torn ligament in his left thumb and was left off the All-Star roster for the first time since 2006-07.

OUR TAKE: The destination for Paul all comes down to what he cherishes more: A legitimate shot at an NBA championship or a max deal worth about $205 million with the Clippers. With Tony Parker facing a career-changing ruptured quadriceps at age 35 and Manu Ginobili likely playing his final game, the Spurs will be in need of a floor general alongside Kawhi Leonard.

Of course, a championship or a Western Conference title isn’t guaranteed with the Warriors still likely at full strength next season. The Spurs’ possible new “Big Three” of Paul, Leonard, and LaMarcus Aldridge would be better than the Clippers’ options but it would have to come with a big pay cut for Paul. San Antonio doesn’t have the salary cap flexibility unless it trades Pau Gasol and lets Patty Mills and Jonathon Simmons walk. The Spurs may be better off re-signing that duo and bringing in a stopgap point guard for Parker than adding another max contract to their payroll.

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Will Manu Retire This Offseason?

Written by Michael C. Wright at ESPN.com

As the minutes ticked away in the Spurs’ 129-115 elimination loss to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals on Monday, the remaining fans packed in the AT&T Center stood and waved Spurs towels while chanting, “Manu, Manu, Manu.”

Manu Ginobili walked off the court with 2 minutes, 25 seconds left to a standing ovation. Then he sat on the bench next to one of his closest friends, Patty Mills.

“I was like, ‘I don’t know why these guys are giving you a standing ovation for,'” Mills said. “And he said, ‘Yeah, I’m coming back for another three years,’ or whatever it was.”

Certainly, Ginobili’s joke would be the wish for most Spurs fans, who might have just witnessed the veteran guard play his final game in San Antonio. Having come off the bench for the majority of his 15 NBA seasons, Ginobili was informed Sunday by coach Gregg Popovich that he would start Game 4 against the Warriors. Ginobili responded by leading the short-handed Spurs with 15 points on 6 of 12 shooting to go with seven assists, while showing the world there might still be some good basketball in his 39-year-old body.

The start marked Ginobili’s first in the postseason since 2013.

“We started him tonight out of respect,” Popovich said. “That was the whole reason for starting him. Before the game, you think it may or may not be his last game that he ever plays in, and I did not want to miss the opportunity to honor him in front of our home fans for his selflessness over the years. This is a Hall of Fame player who allowed me to bring him off the bench for — I can’t even remember now — the last decade or something, because it would make us a better team overall.

“He deserved to have that night of respect so that he really feels that we appreciate everything he’s done over the years.”

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Warriors Sweep Their Way Into The NBA Finals

Written by Chris Haynes at ESPN.com

The Golden State Warriors have advanced to the NBA Finals for the third consecutive year after sweeping the San Antonio Spurs by way of a 129-115 victory in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals on Monday.

The Warriors are now a perfect 12-0 in the playoffs, and they are the first team in NBA history to accomplish such a feat. They’re also the first team in NBA history to sweep three best-of-seven series in the same postseason.

“It’s a big task. It’s a huge accomplishment, and I tip my hat off to all of our players, our coaching staff was phenomenal,” Warriors acting coach Mike Brown said.

Stephen Curry produced a game-high 36 points on 14-of-24 shooting. He also had five boards, six assists and five 3-pointers.

He dribbled circles around whoever was guarding him. There was minimum defensive resistance, whether he was penetrating to the basket or getting open for 3s out of pick-and-pop sets.

After drilling his fourth 3-pointer of the game, Curry passed Kobe Bryant (292) for fifth place on the NBA’s all-time playoff 3-pointers list. Curry now has 295 career postseason 3s.

Curry said that starting “12-0 is great, but it doesn’t mean anything going into the next series.” He harped on how impressed he was with his team’s overall closeout mentality.

“It’s a great run, and we had an opportunity to get it done tonight,” Curry said. “But more importantly, it was obviously just a closeout kind of mentality coming into tonight, trying to take care of business, play a good 48-minute game.”

Kevin Durant dominated this game while in cruise control. Nothing was rushed on his part. He picked his spots and attacked when needed, which resulted in 29 points on 10-of-13 from the field to go with 12 rebounds.

“You look down at the box score, and KD had a heck of a game scoring,” Brown said. “He was very efficient with his scoring.”

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Warriors Take Three Game Lead on Spurs, Look to Sweep Tonight

Written by Tim Bontemps at Washington Post.com

Before Game 3 of the Western Conference finals Saturday night, San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich was asked how he expected his team to play without star Kawhi Leonard after a disappointing performance in Game 2.

“I hired some soothsayers, I channeled Rasputin, and all sorts of things,” Popovich joked, “so I think we’re ready to go.”

Popovich would’ve been better off finding someone who could conjure up prime versions of Tim Duncan, David Robinson and George Gervin to have at his disposal instead.

Popovich’s team acquitted itself well for most of three quarters Saturday night, but it may take that kind of star power to beat these Golden State Warriors Warriors with Leonard remaining out due to a sprained left ankle. Instead, the Warriors pulled away to claim a 120-108 victory and a commanding 3-0 lead in this best-of-seven series. The contest served up another reminder – with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in attendance – of just how underwhelming these NBA playoffs have been.

“We knew we were going to be able to bounce back, at least emotionally, today and play a better game,” Manu Ginobili said.

“The fact is, it’s just too tough.”

As expected, the Spurs played much better in this one than they did in Game 2, when they trailed by as many as 41 points and never led as the Warriors hammered them from the first minute to the last in embarrassing fashion. Even a vintage performance from Ginobili, the aging icon who had 21 points in 18 minutes off the bench, wasn’t enough to offset the loss of Leonard, perhaps the best two-way player in the league.

No one enjoyed Leonard’s absence more than Kevin Durant, who cruised to 33 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in 38 minutes, making 11 of his 19 field goal attempts and looking capable of getting any shot he wanted. It was Durant who scored eight points during a 12-0 Golden State run late in the second quarter with the game tied at 49 to help the Warriors go into halftime with a 64-55 lead.

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How Mike Brown and Gregg Popovich Continually Cross Paths

Written by Brian Windhorst at ESPN.com

In the wake of Kawhi Leonard’s unfortunate injury in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, old friends Gregg Popovich and Mike Brown came to defend their sides with different game plans.

No, Zaza Pachulia did not purposely move his leg in under Leonard, Brown said calmly. Then he pointed out several moments from Game 1 when San Antonio Spurs players had moved under Golden State Warriors defenders that did not result in injury — but could have. Brown’s case had time stamps for good measure. It was neither inflammatory nor aggressive, as is his nature.

Popovich, on the other hand, came with heat, accusing Pachulia of an “unnatural” closeout, branding him a dirty player because of a history of elbow throwing, and then compared the results of his reckless abandon to manslaughter. He did so with what appeared to be a boiling rage.

Then Popovich cracked a joke, defusing the mood and making everyone wonder whether he was angry enough to declare war over this act or if he was merely executing some sort of radical commentary about hot-take artists. It was probably the former, but he likes to keep people off balance.

In that moment, you had the yin and yang between Brown and Popovich — close friends, mentor and pupil, and combatants once again in what could end up being a lopsided playoff series.

“Pop and Mike are very different guys,” said Hank Egan, the sage old coach who happens to be the mentor of each man. Egan was Popovich’s coach at the Air Force Academy and later gave him his first coaching job in the 1970s. In the 1990s, Egan was Brown’s coach at the University of San Diego.

“If they were painters,” Egan said, “Pop would be sort of like Jackson Pollock and Mike would be like Norman Rockwell. One guy likes to stay within the lines, and the other guy, well, let’s say he can be a little more spontaneous.”

Their arguments in the wake of the Game 1 event backed that up. Popovich was aggressive and sublime in the same moment, Brown going for analytical and arguing it was just a bad break in the beautiful game.

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