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2021 NBA Draft winners and losers: Magic accelerate rebuild with Suggs, Wagner – Sportsnet.ca

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The 2021 NBA Draft has come and gone with a number of surprising selections and fun moments over the course of the evening.

We won’t actually know how teams performed in this draft until years down the line, but in the immediate aftermath there appears to be some clear winners and losers from Thursday night.

Winners

Orlando Magic

At the trade deadline this past season, the Magic went on a fire sale, trading away franchise cornerstones Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon.

It was a deliberate move to try to tank for the No. 1 overall pick, something that didn’t pay off as they only ended up with No. 5 at the draft lottery.

Coming into this draft, Orlando was likely thinking it would have to find a way to make Jonathan Isaac co-exist with Scottie Barnes. But then the Toronto Raptors ended up taking Barnes at No. 4, and with Jalen Suggs on the board suddenly the Magic had a no-brainer decision on their hands, taking Suggs with No. 5 to help accelerate their rebuild.

Suggs is a natural-born leader and could be just what Orlando has been needing to help turn their sorrowfully mediocre culture around.

Throw in Franz Wagner, whom the Magic got with the No. 8 overall selection from the Chicago Bulls as part of the Vucevic deal at the deadline, and Orlando had itself a hell of an evening.

And a large reason for that was because of the Raptors’ decision to take Barnes.

Houston Rockets

Another team in the early phases of a rebuild, the Rockets got themselves a major boost by taking Jalen Green at No. 2 and then adding defensive stud Usman Garuba and ultra-athletic guard Josh Christopher later in the draft with the 23rd and 24th overall pick, respectively.

These look to be three building-block pieces for a Houston team that’s basically starting from scratch now after the drama James Harden and his exit put them through last season.

Green, in particular, appears to be a young man with a legitimate star quality to him. From the way his game projects at the NBA level, to the swagger he carried himself with on draft day he looks like he could be a real foundational piece for Houston moving forward.

Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets may have gotten the steal of the draft in dynamic UConn guard James Bouknight falling to them at No. 11.

Originally projected to go within at least the first eight picks, Bouknight kept falling and falling until he fell right into the Hornets’ lap, where his potential as a legitimate three-level scoring threat could pair very well with LaMelo Ball, even if there might be some positional and role overlap down the line between Bouknight and Devonte’ Graham.

Additionally, the Hornets got Mason Plumlee, a very serviceable centre, and the No. 37 pick – who ended up being JT Thor from Auburn — from the Pistons for just the No. 57 pick as Detroit was desperate to dump Plumlee’s salary.

And to top it off, Charlotte made a move with the New York Knicks to trade up for athletic big man Kai Jones at No. 19, a prospect who offers tremendous upside down line, particularly as a lob threat from Ball.

This was some good work from the Hornets.

Canadian basketball

On draft night, five Canadians made the league, three of whom were outright drafted.

The list includes Josh Primo, Chris Duarte (if you’re willing to count him that is), Dalano Banton, Eugene Omoruyi and AJ Lawson.

Primo was probably the biggest surprise pick of the entire evening as the Toronto native went No. 12 overall to the San Antonio Spurs, way higher than where he was originally projected to go.

Immediately following up Primo was Duarte, who went to the Indiana Pacers at No. 13. Duarte was born in Montreal, but was raised in the Dominican Republic so he identifies as Dominican more than anything. However, the Canadian roots still remain.

Omoruyi and Lawson have reportedly signed as undrafted free agents with the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat, respectively as well.

But the biggest win for Canadian basketball Thursday night came from Banton, who made history as the first Canadian to ever get drafted by the Raptors.

A tremendous moment.

Losers

Traditional positions in basketball

We are in the era of “position-less” basketball and for proof of this you need look no further than what the Raptors did Thursday night.

At No. 4 they had an opportunity to take Suggs, a more traditional point guard who could’ve seamlessly stepped in as Kyle Lowry’s heir apparent, but they instead went with Barnes and his Swiss Army Knife-like skillset.

Then, at No. 46, the Raptors took Banton, another long, versatile player who figures to be able to play multiple positions.

It’s clear that the Raptors like these long, athletic, multi-positional players because they now have four of them on their roster in Barnes, Banton, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam.

Whether or not they fit a traditional position on the floor seems irrelevant to the Raptors, as being as flexible — both offensively and defensively — is the name of the game these days.

The Raptors aren’t the only team that thinks like this, either, they’re just the most apparent in pushing the idea of playing without actual positions.

Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers are acquiring Russell Westbrook from the Washington Wizards.

It’s costing them a fair bit as they’re giving up Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and the No. 22 pick in Thursday’s draft (who ended up being Kentucky big man Isaiah Jackson – whom the Wizards then flipped to the Indiana for Aaron Holiday), but the Lakers managed to land their man.

With Westbrook in the fold the Lakers have a star trio of him, LeBron James and Anthony Davis that combine for 34 all-star selections and 30 All-NBA team selections.

That’s some impressive stuff.

It also does nothing to help shore up the Lakers’ needs.

What Los Angeles needs is a guy who can help space the floor and give more room for James and Davis to operate around the basket.

Westbrook is a brilliant talent who is the legitimate king of the triple-double, but he doesn’t do that for the Lakers and will, most likely, do the exact opposite of that for them as he wants to dive into the paint just as much as his new superstar teammates do.

What’s funny is before this Westbrook deal came about there were reports about the Lakers looking to deal for Sacramento Kings sharpshooter Buddy Hield involving a similar package to the one they’re sending to the Wizards.

Hield isn’t anywhere close to the star that Westbrook is, but his acquisition would’ve helped the Lakers more than this Westbrook one would have.

“Expert” pre-draft analysis

All of those mock drafts and big boards published in advance of the draft appeared to be for naught as this was a draft where it felt like teams were going off the board from all over.

From the Raptors taking Barnes at No. 4, the Oklahoma City Thunder taking Josh Giddey at No. 6, Bouknight falling to No. 11 and Primo getting scooped up at No. 12, if you compare the actual draft results to the mocks from most of the foremost draft experts you’ll see a very different picture.

It just goes to show, what media members value – even incredibly connected and informed media members – will differ to what actual team executive do.

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Training camp questions: Edmonton Oilers – TSN

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With summer officially coming to an end and training camps set to open across the National Hockey League this week, TSN gets ready for the preseason by looking at the three biggest questions facing each of the seven Canadian franchises.

On tap for today are the Edmonton Oilers, who finished with their highest points percentage in over 30 years (.643) but were swept away by the Winnipeg Jets in the opening round of the playoffs.

1. Is the defence better or worse than last year?

The Edmonton Oilers made massive changes to their defensive corps over the summer.

Gone are Adam Larsson, Caleb Jones, Ethan Bear and Oscar Klefbom, with Duncan Keith and Cody Ceci as the primary replacements. We know the Oilers won’t have much of an issue scoring goals, but did they do enough over the summer to prevent giving them up?

Like most off-season overhauls, that answer will likely depend on a few different things.

For starters, what does Keith have left in the tank? Keith is a three-time Stanley Cup winner, a three-time All-Star and a two-time Norris Trophy winner. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2015 and has 625 points in 1,192 career NHL regular-season games.

But Keith is 38 now and as TSN’s Travis Yost points out, no Chicago Blackhawks skater conceded more goals or expected goals against – goaltender neutral – over the past two seasons. Chicago allowed the seventh-most goals last season and Keith was second-worst on the team at minus-13.
The 27-year-old Ceci was signed to a four-year, $13 million contract by the Oilers in free agency but will join his fourth team in the last four seasons. As things stand right now, it’s likely he’ll play with Keith on the second pairing.

Edmonton locked in their top pairing with contract extensions for Darnell Nurse and Tyson Barrie. Nurse had a career-best 16 goals last season and Barrie recorded 48 points in 56 games.

Considering the firepower the Oilers have up front, this team shouldn’t have any trouble scoring, especially with their defenceman contributing at that level.

Another intriguing option for head coach Dave Tippett is 21-year-old Evan Bouchard. The No. 10 selection from the 2018 draft, Bouchard only has 21 NHL games under his belt and might be asked to take on a much bigger role than in years past.

2. How will major free agent signee Zach Hyman fit in?

As the clock ticked toward free agency last season, Hyman told reporters he would like to remain with the Toronto Maple Leafs if it made sense. But given the Leafs’ cap situation and Hyman’s desire for a long-term deal, what made sense to one side didn’t to the other.

In swooped the Oilers, who signed Hyman to a seven-year, $38.5 million deal in one of the most debated signings of the off-season.

Hyman’s offensive numbers – 15 goals and 18 assists last season – aren’t necessarily eye-popping considering the kind of dollar value and term he got, but the Toronto native brings a lot more to the table than just points. A skilled two-way player with or without the puck, Hyman is a combined plus-70 the past four seasons. Sure, playing alongside Toronto’s other elite forwards helps that, but it’s not like there’s going to be much of a drop-off with the Oilers.

Hyman is expected to slide in beside Connor McDavid – the same Connor McDavid who had 72 assists in 56 games in 2020-21 – on the top line and should have an instant impact for the Oilers on both ends of the ice in the short term.

Time will tell if that holds up as the years go by. History hasn’t been kind to seven-year deals for 29-year-old forwards like Hyman, especially ones with a documented history of knee injuries. But finding a player like Hyman on the open market isn’t easy and is never cheap.

3. Is Jesse Puljujarvi poised to take the next step?

Two years ago, Puljujarvi appeared to have moved on from the Edmonton Oilers.

He was drafted fourth overall in 2016 but bounced between the Oilers and American Hockey League affiliate Bakersfield Condors during his first three seasons. Things didn’t exactly go smoothly, and he signed with Karpat of the SM-liiga in Finland in July of 2019 and elected to re-sign last summer with an opt-out in time for the 2020-21 NHL season.

Since he left as a restricted free agent, the Oilers retained Puljujarvi’s NHL rights. General manager Ken Holland and Tippett promised the youngster a clean slate if he ever decided to return to the NHL.

That might have been exactly what he needed.

Puljujarvi recorded career highs in both goals (15) and assists (10) and was a plus-6, far outpacing his four goal and five assist tally with a minus-14 goal differential in 2018-19, his last NHL campaign before departing for Finland.

Puljujarvi spent much of last season playing on McDavid’s right side and the duo outscored opponents 42 to 33 at even strength. His goal total from 2020-21 isn’t especially impressive alongside McDavid but when you consider that he saw limited power-play time and 13 of his 15 markers came at even strength, it makes more sense. If Hyman slides in on the left side as expected, there could be plenty more opportunity for the 23-year-old to put up some numbers heading into restricted free agency.

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Jim Hughson retiring after 42-year broadcasting career – Sportsnet.ca

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Sportsnet’s Jim Hughson is stepping away from the mic.

The Hall of Fame play-by-play commentator announced his retirement from sports broadcasting on Tuesday, ending a 42-year career.

“It’s been a fantastic run and I’d like to thank Sportsnet, Hockey Night in Canada and all my friends and colleagues over the years for the tremendous support and countless memories,” said Hughson. “This is a decision I made in consultation with my family and I’m very much at peace with it. My only goal in this industry was to work at the highest level and on the last day of the season. I’ve had that opportunity a number of times and will always be grateful for it.”

Hughson called his first game on radio in 1979. He has been the voice of the Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs and national broadcasts on Hockey Night in Canada.

Hughson has called a dozen Stanley Cup Finals along with the men’s hockey tournament at both the 2006 and 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

“Jim is one of the best this business has ever seen,” said Rob Corte, VP of Sportsnet and NHL Production. “Whether on TV, radio or in video games, for many he has been their soundtrack of hockey. He’s set the gold standard for broadcasting in this country and has accomplished pretty much everything any broadcaster would set out to do in their career. On top of that, he’s a tremendous teammate and an even better person.”

Hughson also was part of the Toronto Blue Jays’ broadcast crew during their World Series runs in 1992 and 1993.

In 2019, the Hockey Hall of Fame awarded Hughson the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award to honour his outstanding contributions as a hockey broadcaster. He is also a four-time Canadian Screen Awards winner for Best Sports Play-by-Play Announcer.

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Jonathan Drouin's absence from Canadiens late last season, in playoffs due to anxiety – CBC.ca

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Montreal Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin has opened up on the reasons why he took a break from hockey last spring during his club’s push for the playoffs.

In interviews aired Monday night on RDS and TVA Sports, Drouin revealed that he was suffering from anxiety and insomnia last season, problems that have afflicted him for years.

The 26-year-old said his problems reached a peak as the team was warming up for its April 23 game in Calgary against the Flames. Drouin was caught on camera looking pale and suddenly leaving the ice to return to the dressing room.

“That week was difficult for me,” Drouin told RDS. “I had fallen ill to the point where I was no longer controlling my body. That was really the moment when I realized that I needed to take a break from hockey, to take a step back.”

He has not played for the Canadiens since, even though the team went all the way to the Stanley Cup final before falling in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“I had made the decision to take care of myself. I was happy with my decision. I respected my decision,” Drouin said. “For me, it was just being able to watch them, to give my support to my teammates and coaches. I was so happy with every game we won. The passion never left me.”

Expected on ice to open camp

The athlete from Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Que., says he has since restored his mental health, and last week he skated with his teammates at the Canadiens’ practice facility.

“I went to find help, I went to find people to be around me,” Drouin recounted to RDS. “Now I understand how it happens, I understand the little moments when I feel anxiety. I am now better equipped than I was before.”

He addressed rumours that he had entered rehab, saying they were false.

“I have never had a drug or alcohol problem,” he said.

He is expected to be on the ice for the Habs’ training camp, which officially kicks off Wednesday, and he commented on his hopes for the upcoming season.

“I am really happy to be back. I just want to have fun and get better every day,” Drouin told RDS. “I know it’s a cliche, but just having fun playing hockey is going to be the best thing for me.”

In 229 regular-season games with the Canadiens, Drouin has 40 goals and 137 points.

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