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The Raptors should start their small-ball lineup no matter the opponent – Raptors Republic

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It seemed counterintuitive for the Toronto Raptors to start OG Anunoby at center against Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers, but that’s exactly what Nick Nurse did. He did that, of course, after saying pre-game that “I don’t think you can [play small] tonight. I mean, we’ll probably get forced into it at some point, but we’ll see.”

And then Toronto’s small lineup got annihilated, as the team lost the first four minutes 11-4 until Aron Baynes entered the game. The Raptors lost Norman Powell’s minutes by a game-low 26 points in a seven-point win. All the starters other than DeAndre’ Bembry finished with negative plus-minuses.

Yet Nurse made a good decision. The Sixers game, despite its seeming evidence against small ball, offered one more win for the Raptors when they started small. It comprised one more data point in an increasing pile that when Toronto starts small, the team’s rotations, identity, and winning chances crystallize.

First and foremost, starting OG Anunoby and Norman Powell together rather than Baynes allows the Raptors to play their five best players to start the game. Which is helpful. On the season, Toronto’s would-be starting lineup of Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Anunoby, Siakam, and Baynes have been outscored by 8 points in 114 points (net rating of -4.2). Losing your starter minutes puts a cap on a team’s winning chances. But with Norman Powell in Baynes’ place, Toronto has outscored opponents by 8 points in 38 minutes (net rating of 10.7). That’s the net rating gap between a team contending for a championship and one contending for a lottery pick.

Toronto switches better with a small starting group, and Siakam and Anunoby are solid at protecting the rim as help. That of course didn’t matter against Embiid, as he is so powerful and speedy that he could turn and finish before help even arrived. But in general, the small group has a higher defensive ceiling. That’s mostly because of their collective ability to read the requirements on the floor and respond far more quickly than with Baynes on the court. Help is what determines Toronto’s defensive identity, and Toronto helps much better with the small group.

The offense is cleaner, too. There’s more space, more driving lanes, more open shots. Nobody is getting in anybody else’s way.

I think we all just understand where to be on the court when someone’s driving and where to look for shots,” said Bembry of the success of the small unit. “We’re all spaced out. We all can stay behind the 3. That just opens up the floor a lot more for us.”

Siakam has more space on his drives, and there’s no one off of whom defenders can help. Watch Baynes’ primary defender when he started alongside Siakam; his defender would act as a second primary on Siakam, and there were no angles through which Siakam could squeeze. That becomes clear when you look at Siakam’s at-rim attempts with or without Baynes playing. With Baynes on the court, Siakam attempts only 29.9 percent of his shots at the rim. Without, it balloons to 41.7 percent. That’s the difference between appearing tentative and settling, with no driving lanes are available, and attacking relentlessly.

Put another way, Siakam and Baynes together have been outscored by 3.9 points per 100 possessions, while Siakam without Baynes has trounced opponents by 7.6 points per 100 possessions. Bringing Baynes off the bench makes sense if purely for the purpose of maximizing Siakam.

There are other ways that starting small benefits the Raptors. Namely, to the advantage of one Norman Powell. Outside of a downer against the Sixers, the man has been on a heater since his cold streak to start the season, and there are reasons to believe this is who he is. At first glance, it seems Powell has been dominant because he’s been starting, but The Starter Norm Narrative is perhaps overplayed. After all, he did average 16.0 points per game on elite efficiency while coming off the bench in half of his games last year. Powell’s actual increase in production correlates with his increase in opportunity, which Nurse has readily offered as explanation when asked. And the starters, all of whom are good-to-great shooters, with two elite-passing point guards, and a low-usage wing, give Powell the perfect blend of opportunity for a high usage without sacrificing threats across the floor. When Powell has played with all-bench groups, he hasn’t had the ability to lift them offensively. When he has played with shoot-first stars, he doesn’t get enough shots to impact the game. But the small ball group gives him the best chance to thrive.

Of course, the Raptors need to do what benefits their best players the most. So it makes sense to start small purely for the boost for players like Siakam and Powell. But in fact, starting small benefits the very players it seems to undermine in Baynes and Chris Boucher. Against the Sixers — when Embiid crushed the small Raptors beneath his mighty feet — Boucher (+32) and Baynes (+11) dominated their minutes off the bench and, to reduce the game to one factor, won the game for Toronto.

That success off the bench has been a trend.

Baynes is at his best as a bench big. His lack of neither elite mobility nor awareness disallows him from fitting in Toronto’s manic hellfire defense that they run with Anunoby, Siakam, VanVleet, and Lowry. Boucher, too, for all his spectacular ability, has made some slow reads that limits the defensive ceiling of that group. And those four are such fantastic team and individual defenders that using someone alongside of them who limits their utility makes no sense. The Raptors should be stonewalling opponents when those four are on the court. Baynes doesn’t allow that to happen. Thus far, Powell has been a solid defender when starting in the small group.

But Baynes and Boucher are more than capable of playing solid defense against opposing bench groups. Few teams are able to field elite weapons at every position on the court in their bench or transitional units, and Baynes cannot be exploited so easily. In fact, Baynes and Boucher together have annihilated opponents by 44.2 points per 100 possessions, albeit in few minutes. (That number was an already outrageous 28.0 before their curb-stomping of the Sixers.) They have, in fact, been the single best two-player lineup in the NBA. Such numbers won’t sustain, of course, but they do speak to Toronto’s ability to maximize Baynes off the bench.

Boucher has long been successful this season off the bench. Nurse likes to bring him off the bench because of his energy levels; when he enters the game, it provides Toronto a lift, which is mighty effect. It’s similar to having a relief pitcher who can toss a 100-mph fastball. And Boucher is effective as a center, but it still makes some sense to play him alongside another big, particularly for defensive purposes.

It definitely helps a little bit to have somebody stronger to take the big guy, and I can kind of clean up a little bit, rebound, help out off my man,” explained Boucher. “It definitely helps me out.”

Boucher can be exploited on the defensive glass when he leaps to contest shots, so it is important to have a glass-eater alongside him. When Boucher has played center, Toronto has allowed a huge offensive rebounding rate of 29.3, to opponents, which undermines all the work they accomplished with good defense. When Boucher and Baynes have played together, opponents have only grabbed 19.6 percent of available offensive rebounds. That’s the difference, in a game of 100 possessions, of 10 fewer for opponents due to the improved rebounding.

I think the biggest thing is they have both played better individually,” said Nurse of the effectiveness of Boucher and Baynes together. “And that helps. For whatever reason. Maybe it’s a second-string center, or Chris playing at the four has helped him a little bit, which I think is really good for us, because again, it’s just unfair to make him play against someone he’s giving up 100 pounds to sometimes. It is.

Getting him used to that and making them play together a little bit, it’s been probably a bonus we weren’t expecting. I also think it’s gonna pay some long-term dividends too because again, Chris has proven to be worthy of being on the court, and if we can find him another position to be out there, that gives him a chance to give him that chance to play out there. I think maybe he’s a better shot-blocker out there from the 4 than he is from the 5, and that’s one of his elite skills.”

Playing Baynes off the bench was meant to maximize the starters, yet they were pasted against Philadelphia. But the side effect, the “bonus we weren’t expecting” of the play of Boucher and Baynes together, won Toronto the game. Thus starting small has crystallized the team’s rotation options. It’s rare to find a rotation choice that benefits practically every player on the team. Yet in benching Baynes, there is seemingly no downside, at least when it comes to performance.

It is concerning that Anunoby and Siakam will have to bang with opposing bigs for such extensive minutes this season. Anunoby, built like a tree with drip, can probably survive unscathed. The more lithe Siakam could be at risk of injury. Thus starting big could protect Toronto’s stars. But what would you be saving them for? We know what the Raptors look like starting big: a sub-.500 team. It’s possible they would miss the playoffs if they don’t maximize the minutes of their stars. We don’t yet know how successful the small lineup can be. But it’s been dominant in just a few games.

There would be nothing for the Raptors to save their stars for if they lost every first quarter. More important, then, that the Raptors make the best of what they have. That is best accomplished by starting their small ball group.

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Raptors counting on Barnes to follow Siakam, Anunoby development track – Sportsnet.ca

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Before anything else, Scottie Barnes felt he had to apologize.

Running a little late for a 10 a.m. ET media session with members of the Toronto Raptors beat on Friday, Barnes lamented the traffic he wasn’t expecting to face after he got some early-morning work in.

As Barnes described it, he was so excited after the Raptors took No. 4 overall Thursday night that he couldn’t really get much rest that night and just wanted to immediately start getting to work.

“So last night, I had my little private dinner, but couldn’t really sleep that much,” said Barnes. “It was just a huge burst of emotions and I really just wanted to get in the gym this morning. Went there about 8:30 in the morning. My trainer was already here, so we just went there to go workout for about an hour, hour twenty, just getting right to work so I can just be prepared.”

This anecdote Barnes shared, brief it may be, is a pretty good glimpse at the kind of young man he is and why the Raptors seemed so confident they made the right decision, despite just about every mock draft pegging Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs going at No. 4 to the Raptors.

Barnes is a natural fit for the Raptors because, as he’s started to prove, he’s a relentless worker.

But you don’t take a guy within the top five of a draft just because he works hard. There also has to be a short- and long-term rationale behind drafting a kid at No. 4 and in the case of Barnes he looks to fit the mould of player the Raptors like almost to a tee.

A solidly built, versatile forward who can guard multiple positions and play position-less basketball on offence, he’s a lot like Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, and that was the appeal the Raptors appeared to be looking for.

“He’s got a desire [on defence] and some tools there, as well. He’s got a bit of a knack for anticipation. That’s why he gets into lanes. Not only his length — he has outstanding length, and that helps him — but he has the feel to do that,” said Raptors coach Nick Nurse after Toronto selected Barnes Thursday night. “He reminds me of two guys we already have, OG and Pascal. If he can adapt the work ethic that those two guys adopted to become as good as those two guys have become, he’ll do similar things I think.”

Specifically, Nurse sees Barnes being able to profile as a strong, do-everything switchable defender the way Anunoby is and Siakam has flashed in the past of being able to do.

This is where the fit between Barnes and the Raptors is strongest. Nurse has a team that believes strongly in defence and that defence-first attitude the Raptors have works well with Barnes’ own mentality.

“I would say I fit in perfect. Just with what their whole game plan is based off, they start off with a defensive mindset, a defensive mentality, I feel like I belong in that program,” said Barnes in a Zoom scrum shortly after he was drafted Thursday.

And in a later availability Thursday night, Barnes doubled down on his defensive chops: “I don’t back down from nobody. It’s about how tough you are, whatever you’re willing to do. I’m willing to do those things. I’m tough when I’m on the floor. I’m not gonna get bullied. I sit on defence. I guard full court. I guard the ones, the twos, the threes. I take pride in that stuff. I’m gonna say I’m one of those guys that can guard one through five for sure.”

This defensive ability is what excites Nurse and the Raptors the most about Barnes, even to the point that, when Nurse was asked about some of Barnes’ offensive skills, he still found a way to effusively praise Barnes’ defensive skills.

“I just don’t ever not want to talk about his defence, because he’s got some desire and he’s got some length and he’s got some anticipation and toughness to play that and I think that may be where he really excels before it’s all said and done,” said Nurse.

But on the topic of his offensive ability, though the Raptors seem excited about his fit on that end of the floor, the legitimate question marks about his shot don’t make him completely ideal.

If he’s going to be compared to the likes of Siakam and Anunoby then he’s going to have improve his three-point stroke over the 11-of-40 mark he showed in 24 games at Florida State.

Nurse said Barnes’ shot “isn’t broken” and Barnes seems ultra-confident in his offensive game, saying it’s “being slept on,” but all evidence right now points to a player who will need a lot of time to get his jumper NBA-ready and that might not perfectly align with the timeline of the apparent core of the Raptors with Siakam and Fred VanVleet both already 27 years old.

There is some excitement to be had with Barnes’ potential as a playmaker, however.

At Florida State he played a lot of point guard and on Friday he mentioned though he doesn’t really have a main position if he had to pick one it would be the one.

This likely stems from tape of one of his greatest influences his father had him study growing up.

“I wouldn’t say I model my game after anyone, I would say some influence would definitely be Magic [Johnson],” said Barnes. “My dad, he always wanted me to watch Magic. Look at like clips that he always done, just be able, and then just growing up, even with me going to Florida State, they just had that vision of me just being like Magic Johnson with my joy and my pride, being able to win, learn how to affect the game, with my playmaking abilities, doing different things on the floor. I will say he’s a huge influence on my game.”

Nurse sees similar Johnson-like flashes in Barnes’ game, particularly with his ability to get a defensive rebound and start a fastbreak on his own, with the ability to quickly read a defence and make a good decision with the ball.

“We’re gonna have to see, but I think that’s really what he does,” Nurse said. “Like Pascal, he comes down, he puts pressure on the defence. If you don’t plug the lane and you don’t rim protect, he’s gonna get it to the front of the rim and score on you.

“And then if you do plug and rim protect, he’s going to find the kickout or he’ll see if there’s guys out ahead, rim runners out ahead, or corner runners out ahead, I think that’s kind of what he does, that’s what he likes to do. I think that’s kind of what he wants to be, is kind of that kind of playmaking type guy.”

Having extra facilitators on the floor is never a bad thing, but you have to wonder how valuable Barnes’ playmaking might be if he can’t at least threaten to pull-up and pop it to keep defences honest.

The makings of a perfect fit for the Raptors is there with Barnes, but right now it looks like he only has half of the equation.

Defensively, it seems like a match made in heaven and the prospect of VanVleet, Barnes, Anunoby and Siakam all on the floor at the same time just terrorizing opposing offences is drool-worthy stuff, but banking on a team whose primary roster construction is predicated on defence in a league where offence seems to leaping further and further ahead seems like a dangerous proposition, and to that end taking a player whose jumper is shaky at best right now doesn’t make for an ideal fit.

Fair or not, Barnes will be among the most scrutinized Raptors draft picks ever and that’s mainly because while a lot of the situation with the Raptors is great for him, it’s not a perfect marriage between the two sides.

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2021 NBA Draft grades: Team-by-team analysis for each draft pick – NBA CA

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The 2021 NBA Draft came and went, and what a hectic night it was.

While the first three picks went as planned, the chaos commenced at pick No. 4, when the Toronto Raptors selected Florida State forward Scottie Barnes over Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs.

From there forward, the draft was full of surprises that worked in favour of some teams more than others.

Here, you can find a team-by-team breakdown of every selection made, with a draft grade and some instant analysis on each pick.

Click your favourite team on the table below to jump straight to there section.

Which NBA team had the most successful NBA Draft night?

Draft Picks: No. 20 – Jalen Johnson, F, Duke; No. 48 – Sharife Cooper, G, Auburn

Grade: B

Analysis: The Hawks selected Johnson with their first-round pick – a scoring forward out of Duke. Johnson is active on the glass and likes to push the ball in transition with plus-ball handling and passing skills as a forward. He’s a threat in pick-and-rolls because of his ability to score for himself or find an open man if the defence collapses – something that should fare well with elite guard Trae Young. But his draft stock was among the most volatile in this class, as he doesn’t pose much threat on the perimeter and he’s an OK defender.

Cooper was a steal at No. 48, giving the Hawks a serviceable backup point guard. He’s one of the best passers in the draft and his feel for the game makes him a great floor general.

Draft Picks: No. 45 – Juhann Begarin, G, Paris Basketball (France)

Grade: C-

Analysis: The Celtics went with a draft-and-stash player in Begarin, an athletic guard with a 7-foot wingspan and knack for putting pressure on the rim a quick first step and great hops.

Draft Picks: No. 27 – Cameron Thomas, G, LSU; No. 29 – Day’Ron Sharpe, C, North Carolina; No. 44 – Kessler Edwards, F, Pepperdine; No. 49 – Marcus Zegarowski, G, Creighton; No. 59 – RaiQuan Gray, F, Florida State

Grade: C-

Analysis: For a team that is looking to contend for championships, it was surprising to see the Nets make five different draft selections. They landed Thomas, who is the second-best pure scorer in this draft class after No. 2 pick Jalen Green, but scoring is far from Brooklyn’s biggest issue. While Thomas gives the Nets’ second unit a shot creator and bucket-getter, it may have been wise to target a versatile defender.

The Nets added some frontcourt depth in Sharpe out of UNC, but he is the definition of an old school big man who clogs the paint and plays with his back to the basket. He’s a great rebounder and shot blocker, but will he fit on a floor alongside any of Brooklyn’s high-octane star trio?

The aforementioned defensive versatility comes in with second-rounders Edwards and Gray, and Zegarowski is a prolific shooter.

Draft Picks: No. 11 – James Bouknight, G, UConn; No. 19 – Kai Jones, C, Texas; No. 37 – JT Thor, F, Auburn; No. 56 – Scottie Lewis, G, Florida

Grade: A+

Analysis: The Hornets had one of the best drafts in the league, with only Golden State challenging that notion. They were the beneficiaries of explosive scoring guard Bouknight sliding out of the top 10 – a player that was anticipated to go just outside of the top five on most final mock drafts. Then, they reportedly traded a future first-round pick to the New York Knicks for the No. 19 pick, in which they landed an athletic and mobile big man in Jones, filling a much-needed void in the middle. Jones to Charlotte was my favourite fit on my mock draft, even if I expected it to come with their first lottery pick.

The idea of LaMelo Ball pushing the pace in transition with Bouknight on the wing and Jones running the lane is scary to think about, adding to weapons like Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, Miles Bridges and PJ Washington.

And before the night even began, they reportedly sent a second-round pick to the Detroit Pistons for veteran center Mason Plumlee and the No. 37 pick. With that selection, they grabbed a lengthy defender in Auburn’s Thor.

It was a productive evening for Charlotte.

Draft Picks: No. 38 – Ayo Dosunmu, G, Illinois

Grade: B

Analysis: I am personally a huge fan of Dosunmu’s. He is a pure winner and a floor general that leads by example. He’s a strong playmaker, embraces contact on drives to the rim and plays tough on-ball defence. He was one of the best guards in college basketball last season and he could give Chicago a steadying and experienced presence in its backcourt.

Draft Picks: No. 3 – Evan Mobley, C, USC

Grade: A

Analysis: The Cavaliers got their guy. Standing pat at pick No. 3, Cleveland adds the best big man in the draft in Mobley. His versatility to be able to play inside or out, and power forward or center, makes the fit work, even if the team elects to match any offers on restricted free agent center Jarrett Allen. Together, Mobley and Allen make one of, if not the , best young frontcourt tandem in the NBA.

A side note: the Cavaliers also reportedly made a pre-draft trade, sending forward Taurean Prince and a 2022 second-round pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves for veteran guard Ricky Rubio. It was a subtle but productive draft night for Cleveland.

Draft Picks: None

Grade: N/A

Analysis: The Mavericks had no picks in this year’s draft.

Draft Picks: No. 26 – Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland, G, VCU

Grade: A-

Analysis: The Nuggets went into the draft with one pick and they needed to use that selection to fill a void in their backcourt. They did exactly that with Hyland, who burst onto the scene following a strong showing at the NBA Combine. He’s a fluid scorer and shot creator who already has step-backs and floaters in his arsenal. He’ll give Denver much-needed guard depth while also providing a necessary scoring punch from the position while Jamal Murray recovers from a torn ACL.

Draft Picks: No. 1 – Cade Cunningham, G, Oklahoma St.; No. 42 – Isaiah Livers, F, Michigan;, No. 52 – Luka Garza, C, Iowa; No. 57 – Balsa Koprivica, C, Florida State

Grade: A

Analysis: As what was expected since the time the Pistons won the Draft Lottery, Cunningham lands in Detroit. The 6-foot-8 jumbo guard has the most polished skill set of any player in this class, ready to make an impact and lead a franchise from Day 1. He can play point guard and initiate offence for budding players like Jerami Grant, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart, or play off the ball alongside last year’s lottery pick, Killian Hayes.

The Pistons also had three second-round picks. Livers is a two-way forward with good size and his defensive presence will be welcomed in Detroit. Garza was the most dominant player in college basketball last season, earning every Player of the Year honour. Well worth a flier, he has a relentless work ethic and has even developed some touch on his 3-point shot, but is limited with his speed and lateral movement. Koprivica adds a 7-footer to the roster.

Draft Picks: No. 7 – Jonathan Kuminga, F, G League Ignite; No. 14 – Moses Moody, G, Arkansas

Grade: A+

Analysis: The Warriors cannot be anything short of ecstatic about how things turned out on draft night. Kuminga was once seen as a lock of a top five pick as a 6-foot-8 forward with an NBA-ready body and true two-way star potential. His draft stock dipped following an up-and-down G League season, but it’s undeniable that Kuminga still has one of the highest ceilings in this draft class and he will surely benefit learning under Golden State’s star trio.

I also originally had Moody pegged to the Warriors at No. 7, adding another knockdown shooter and elite perimeter defender to perfectly complement their current roster. He shockingly fell to them at No. 14, giving Golden State one of the steals of the draft.

The Warriors added two players that brighten their future beyond this title window, but both prospects can contribute certain things to their win-now timeline.

Draft Picks: No. 2 – Jalen Green, G, G League Ignite; No. 16 – Alperen Sengün, C, Besiktas (Turkey); No. 23 – Usman Garuba, F, Real Madrid (Spain); No. 24 – Josh Christopher, G, Arizona State

Grade: B+

Analysis: The Rockets needed a player they can build their offence around following the departure of the elite scoring James Harden last season, and they got that in Green. If the 19-year-old reaches his full potential, I truly believe he could lead the NBA in scoring some day. He’ll immediately become the focal point of Houston’s offence.

The Rockets then reportedly traded two future first-round picks to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the No. 16 pick, selecting Turkish League MVP Sengün to solidify their frontcourt of the future alongside Christian Wood. That’s an expensive price for a No. 16 pick, but I do believe Sengün has a bright future in the NBA and his physicality will complement Wood nicely.

Houston also took the other projected first-round International prospect off the board in Garuba, a high-energy, defensive-minded forward who fits a need on that end of the floor. Selecting at Christopher at No. 24 seemed pre-mature, but he does have combo guard potential.

Draft Picks: No. 13 – Chris Duarte, F, Oregon; No. 22 – Isaiah Jackson, C, Kentucky

Grade: A-

Analysis: The Pacers didn’t have a draft night that will make headlines, but they quietly added two pieces that will perfectly fit their currently constructed roster. Duarte is as NBA-ready as they come in this class as a 3-and-D wing that will knock down shots and defend at a high level right away. With 3-point shooter Doug McDermott set to hit unrestricted free agency, Duarte gives the Pacers a safety blanket in that role.

Jackson is a raw, rim-running, lob-catching center who has the potential to some day be a solid rim protector. Learning under Myles Turner will be great for his player development. I like what Indiana did with these two picks.

Draft Picks: No. 21 – Keon Johnson, G, Tennessee, No. 33 – Jason Preston, G, Ohio, No. 51 – Brandon Boston Jr., G, Kentucky

Grade: B

Analysis: At the reported cost of the No. 25 pick and a future second-round pick, the Clippers moved up four slots in a trade with the Knicks to acquire pick No. 21. After leaping forward, LA selected the most athletic player in this draft class in Johnson, who set an NBA Combine record with a 47-inch vertical. Johnson was once receiving top 10 consideration, but his raw offensive skill set needs a lot of fine tuning. However, he can make an immediate contribution to the Clippers with his defensive prowess and ability to score at the rim as a cutter.

They also reportedly traded a future second-round pick and cash to the Magic to acquire Preston, a 6-foot-4 playmaking guard to add some more backcourt depth. Lastly, they reportedly made a deal with the Pelicans for pick No. 51, where they selected Boston, a scoring guard and former five-star high school prospect who had an up-and-down lone season at Kentucky.

Draft Picks: None

Grade: B+

Analysis: Prior to the start of the draft, the Lakers reportedly traded the No. 22 pick, Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to the Wizards for nine-time All-Star Russell Westbrook and two future second-round picks. Although the Lakers are in desperate need for shooting around LeBron James and Anthony Davis, it’s hard to criticise the addition of a player of Westbrook’s calibre, regardless of how he fits.

Draft Picks: No. 10 – Ziaire Williams, F, Stanford; No. 30 – Santi Aldama, F, Loyola

Grade: C

Analysis: The Grizzlies traded the No. 17 pick and Jonas Valanciunas to the Pelicans for the No. 10 pick, Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe earlier this week. There was a report linking them to Australian guard Giddey, but when he went off the board much earlier than planned at No. 6, it may have shaken up Memphis’ plans.

It took a roll of the dice on Stanford freshman Williams, who was one of my favourite high-risk, high-reward prospects in this class, but No. 10 is early . He was a five-star, top-10 recruit coming out of high school, so the potential is there, but he’s still a raw scorer and needs to bulk up to make an impact defensively.

The Grizzlies also reportedly traded their No. 40 overall pick and two future second-rounds to take Spaniard forward Aldama, who is a long-term project. However, he was First Team All-Patriot League at Loyola last season and won MVP at the U18 2019 FIBA World Cup for Spain.

Draft Picks: None

Grade: N/A

Analysis: The Heat had no picks in this year’s draft.

Draft Picks: No. 54 – Sandro Mamukelashvilli, F, Seton Hall; No. 60 – Georgios Kalaitzakis, F, Panathinaikos (Greece)

Grade: C

Analysis: After reportedly trading pick No. 31 to the Wizards, the Bucks only had two later second-round picks in this draft. The reigning NBA champions didn’t have much to desire on a night like this, but added a pair of forwards in Mamukelashvili and Kalaitzakis.

Mamukelashvili was co-Big East Player of the Year last season, averaging 12 points and six boards per game. Kalaitzakis is a draft-and-stash prospect from Greece, who led the FIBA Europe U20 Championships in scoring in 2019.

Draft Picks: None

Grade: N/A

Analysis: The Timberwolves had no picks in this year’s draft.

Draft Picks: No. 17 – Trey Murphy III, F, Virginia; No. 35 – Herb Jones, F, Alabama

Grade: A

Analysis: The Pelicans did everything they could with the picks they had. Desperately in need of some defenders and some shooting, New Orleans got a bit of both with its two picks. Murphy is one of the top 3-and-D prospects in this class and his draft stock skyrocketted following the NBA Combine. He’s a knockdown shooter, which will space the floor for Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, but he’s also a smart cutter, which bodes well for when the defence focuses too much on those two stars. His long arms, IQ and great anticipation make him a sound defender.

And speaking of defence, Jones brings exactly that to the Pelicans. The 6-foot-8 forward took home SEC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honours last season, giving New Orleans a high-quality defender that can match up against practically any position. His versatility, intensity and effort on that end of the floor will be key for the Pelicans’ biggest weakness.

New Orleans went 2-for-2 here.

Draft Picks: No. 25 – Quentin Grimes, G, Houston; No. 34 – Rokas Jokubaitis, G, FC Barcelona (Spain); No. 36 – Miles McBride, G, West Virginia; No. 58 – Jericho Sims, C, Texas

Grade: B-

Analysis: It wasn’t the most eventful type of busy for the Knicks, but they did make a handful of moves. They reportedly traded their No. 19 pick to the Hornets for a future first-round pick and also reportedly traded their No. 21 pick to the Clippers for pick No. 25 and a future second-rounder. Grimes fits a need for a scoring guard, as the Houston gunner was one of the most prolific 3-point shooters in the country last season.

They also reportedly traded their No. 32 overall pick to the Thunder for picks No. 34 and 36, where New York made two solid selections. Jokubaitis has a ton of potential as a draft-and-stash guard developing overseas for FC Barcelona. McBride has polished playmaking skills and plays hard-nosed defence. I had him as a late first-rounder on my mock draft.

Draft Picks: No. 6 – Josh Giddey, G, Adelaide 36ers (Australia); No. 18 – Tre Mann, G, Florida; No. 32 – Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, F, Villanova; No. 55 – Aaron Wiggins, G, Maryland

Grade: A

Analysis: The Thunder shocked the NBA world when they selected Giddey with the No. 6 pick. The Australian playmaker gives Oklahoma City a lead ball handler that will pair nicely in a big backcourt with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Giddey’s advanced offensive IQ and court vision gives the Thunder a player that can orchastrate the offence, making sure everyone is getting touches. They also selected a fantastic shot creator in Mann, who uses his shiftiness, burst and quick handle to create separation and get to his spots on the floor. His offensive output will help OKC immediately.

In the second round, the Thunder landed a polished and NBA-ready Villanova product in Robinson-Earl, a switchy forward who can defend, knock down shots and makes winning plays. They also got Wiggins, an explosive and athletic wing out of Maryland who aggressively attacks the rim on offence while playing in-your-face on-ball defence on the other end.

The reason Oklahoma City resulted with an A: aside from their selections, they also added two more first-round picks in the reported deal that sent pick No. 16 to the Rockets. This was the first of what will be seven consecutive drafts where the Thunder will have multiple picks in both rounds, tallying 32 picks over a seven-year span.

Draft Picks: No. 5 – Jalen Suggs, G, Gonzaga, No. 8 – Franz Wagner, F, Michigan

Grade: B+

Analysis: The Magic can’t be mad about Suggs falling to them at No. 5, giving the franchise a born winner and leader to build around for the future. Suggs brings a winning culture with him everywhere he goes and a player of that calibre will immediately elevate a locker room, holding the team to a high standard. His fast-paced play should make for a fun offence alongside Cole Anthony, Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac. Add to it that the Magic landed Wagner, a jack-of-all-trades forward with the No. 8 pick and the team has a number of lengthy, switchy, versatile players, adding to a depth chart with RJ Hampton, Chuma Okeke, Wendell Carter Jr. and Mo Bamba.

Orlando has something special brewing for the future.

Draft Picks: No. 28 – Jaden Springer, G, Tennessee; No. 50 – Filip Petrusev, F, Gonzaga; No. 53 – Charles Bassey, C, Western Kentucky

Grade: B+

Analysis: The 76ers needed a guard and a big in this draft and they got both of those things. Springer adds another strong perimeter defender off the bench, making a suffocating tandem between he and Matisse Thybulle. If his offensive game develops, Philly will have itself a sixth man-calibre player in Springer.

Petrusev may end up being a draft-and-stash pick, as the Gonzaga forward is already playing overseas in Serbia. Bassey gives the 76ers some depth behind All-Star center Joel Embiid, and he was once a five-star, top-20 high school recruit. He was a two-time C-USA Defensive Player of the Year at Western Kentucky, while also taking home Player of the Year honours this past season as a double-double machine.

Draft Picks: None

Grade: B+

Analysis: The Suns reportedly traded the No. 29 pick and Jevon Carter to the Nets for Landry Shamet prior to the draft. Adding Shamet gives Phoenix an established role player who can fill a reserve guard role if Cameron Payne leaves in free agency.

Draft Picks: No. 43 – Greg Brown, F, Texas

Grade: B

Analysis: The Trail Blazers reportedly acquired the No. 43 pick from the Pelicans, but it has not been announced what they sent out for it. Regardless, they get a freakishly athletic forward in Brown, who will bring energy, defence and a leaping lob threat to Portland’s depth chart.

Draft Picks: No. 9 – Davion Mitchell, G, Baylor; No. 39 – Neemias Queta, C, Utah State

Grade: C-

Analysis: The grade doesn’t go against Mitchell as a prospect, but against the Kings for neglecting to fill a need with their top 10 pick. With De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton as a clear backcourt of the future, selecting Mitchell seems like a curious choice. He’s a winner, he might be the best on-ball defender in this class and his intensity is contagious – something Sacramento’s culture could certainly use. But it felt like there were forwards or bigs available that would have made more sense.

They did snag a monster center in Queta in the second round, though. Queta is 7-feet tall, 248 pounds with a 7-foot-4 wingspan and averaged 3.3 blocks per game at Utah State last season.

Draft Picks: No. 12 – Joshua Primo, G, Alabama; No. 41 – Joe Wieskamp, F, Iowa

Grade: B-

Analysis: The Spurs went way out of their way to select Canadian 18-year-old Primo, a 6-foot-5 guard with a knockdown perimeter jumper and solid shot creation skills. Primo is the youngest player in this draft class and his high upside has to explain why San Antonio used its lottery pick on him as opposed to trading back. That being said, the Spurs appear to be entering a rebuilding stage and their renowned player development system could be perfect to mould a prospect like Primo and help him reach his full potential.

In the second round, Wieskamp was the perfect selection for the Spurs, adding some much-needed 3-point shooting.

Draft Picks: No. 4 – Scottie Barnes, F, Florida State; No. 46 – Dalano Banton, G, Nebraska; No. 47 – David Johnson, G, Louisville

Grade: B+

Analysis: The Raptors were responsible for the first big shock of the draft, taking Barnes over Suggs with the No. 4 pick. While I personally loved what seemed to be an inevitable match between Suggs and Toronto, I still think Barnes will thrive in the Raptors’ organisation. At 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, Barnes has the body of a forward but plays like a point guard. He is Draymond Green-esque in that sense and he brings the intensity on the defensive end, too. He can be a lead playmaker on offence and head coach Nick Nurse will have a field day with his defensive versatility. Barnes is a vocal leader and his attitude and work ethic makes him a strong culture fit.

With Pascal Siakam set to miss the start of the season following offseason shoulder surgery, Barnes can fill his role seamlessly in the starting lineup from Day 1.

In the second round, the Raptors took a couple development projects in Canadian Dalano Banton (Toronto, ON), an intriguing prospect as a 6-foot-9 playmaking point guard and Johnson, a sharpshooting scoring guard.

Draft Picks: No. 40 – Jared Butler, G, Baylor

Grade: A

Analysis: The Jazz reportedly traded the No. 30 overall pick to the Grizzlies for the No. 40 overall pick and two future second rounders. They landed Butler, who, if not for entering the NBA’s “Fitness-to-Play” panel due to a medical condition prior to the Combine, may have flirted with being a lottery pick. Butler was rewarded as the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament during Baylor’s run to a National Championship last season, playing a lead guard role, initiating offence while still scoring the rock.

The fact that Utah was able to add two future second-round picks while selecting the player they likely would have taken at No. 30 anyway tells you all you need to know about their draft grade.

Draft Picks: No. 15 – Corey Kispert, F, Gonzaga; No. 31 – Isaiah Todd, F, G League Ignite

Grade: B+

Analysis: The Wizards traded Russell Westbrook to the Lakers for Kuzma, Harrell and Caldwell-Pope to kick off draft night, likely altering their draft plans in the process. But shooting should have been at the top of Washington’s priority list regardless of the Westbrook trade, and they added the best marksmen in this class in Kispert. The Gonzaga senior will be ready to come in and knock down shots right away, spacing the floor for Bradley Beal to operate.

I also like the flier they took on Ignite forward Todd, who flashed some raw offensive skills in his one G League season while continuing to show the impact he can make on the glass and defensively.

The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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U.S. swimmer Ryan Murphy suggests race 'probably not clean' after Russian beats him in 200m backstroke – National Post

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The celebratory mood at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre changed after Murphy relinquished the 200 backstroke crown, as Rylov, who also won the 100, touched first in an Olympic record

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TOKYO – Ryan Murphy lost the second of his Rio backstroke titles to Russian Evgeny Rylov at the 2020 Olympics on Friday and the U.S. swimmer then suggested doping had played a part in his demise as events took an acrimonious turn at the Tokyo pool.

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Another morning of memorable racing saw Tatjana Schoenmaker win the women’s 200m breaststroke in a world record 2:18.95 to deliver South Africa’s first gold medal of the Games, while China won their first men’s swimming gold in Tokyo, Wang Shun coming home first in the 200m medley.

There was no easing up from Australia’s gold medal greedy swimmers, with Emma McKeon winning the women’s 100m freestyle for her country’s sixth Olympic title in the pool.

But the celebratory mood at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre changed after Murphy relinquished the 200 backstroke crown, as Rylov, who also won the 100, touched first in an Olympic record.

“It is a huge mental drain on me to go throughout the year, that I am swimming in a race that’s probably not clean and that is what it is,” Murphy told a reporter in the post-race ‘mixed zone’ after finishing second to the Russian with Britain’s Luke Greenbank taking bronze.

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But at a later news conference the American, who took bronze in the 100m, backed away from any suggestion that his rivals in the race had cheated.

“I need to be clear, I’ve never made… , my intention is not to make any allegations here. Like, congratulations to Luke and Evgeny. They did an incredible job, they’re both very talented swimmers,” he said.

“At the end of the day … I do believe it (doping) is still big in swimming and it is what it is.”

Instead of reliving his thrilling victory at his post-race news conference Evgeny Rylov found himself defending his doping record.
Instead of reliving his thrilling victory at his post-race news conference Evgeny Rylov found himself defending his doping record. Photo by Carl Recine /Reuters

“I always do the doping tests … I would not be able to forgive myself if I had taken something. I don’t know how to react to this. I haven’t been accused of anything,” he said.

The Russian Olympic Committee fired back at Murphy’s comments with a statement of their own.

“Yes, we are here at the Olympic Games. Absolutely by right. Whether someone likes it or not,” the statement said, via The Associated Press.

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“You need to be able to lose. Not everyone has that gift.”

CAST A CLOUD
The exchanges cast a cloud over what had been another excellent session, which began with Africa’s second gold medal of the Games.

Schoenmaker, who had claimed silver in the 100m breaststroke on Tuesday, powered home to finish 0.97 seconds ahead of American Lilly King, with Annie Lazor of the United States in third.

The 24-year-old’s victory came after Tunisian Ahmed Hafnaoui’s success in the men’s 400m freestyle on Sunday.

King led until the 150m turn when Schoenmaker went in front and then delivered a powerful final length to smash the world record and grab gold.

“It still hasn’t sunk in,” Schoenmaker said. “I don’t wish my Olympic dream over, but I am excited to go and celebrate even just being at the Olympics.”

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Australia’s McKeon led at the turn in the 100m free and held off Hong Kong’s Siobhan Haughey down the final straight to win by 0.31 seconds, with team mate Cate Campbell taking bronze.

“I can’t believe it,” McKeon said. “I can just feel my emotions bubbling up now. I feel like this week has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster — just getting up for your races and trying to relax again.”

The 29-year-old Campbell has three gold medals from relays to her name but had been looking for a first individual title to go with her bronze in the 50m freestyle from Beijing.

Although she had to settle for another bronze, Campbell said her tears were of joy.

“Honestly, it means the world to me. It’s been a really long journey to get here. I’m incredibly proud of that performance. These aren’t sad tears at all,” she said.

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Wang overtook American Michael Andrew in the final freestyle leg to win the 200m medley with a time of 1:55 with Britain’s Duncan Scott taking silver and Switzerland’s Jeremy Desplanches the bronze.

Andrew had led at the final turn but faded to finish fifth, while Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh, in his fifth Olympics at the age of 35, had been second at the halfway stage but ended seventh.

Wang said he had taken a more focused approach in Tokyo.

“I was just a kid at the London Olympics and it was easier, more of a fun feeling. When I was in Rio I wanted to compete with my team mates and also get a medal,” he added.

“This time I just wanted to focus on myself.”

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