Minnesota Timberwolves offseason

Jarrett Culver

The Minnesota Timberwolves rolled into the off-season with a spring in their step. After Gersson Rosas was hired as the new President of basketball operations in May, fans had reason to be optimistic about a long term vision for the franchise. Rosas activity in the draft and free agency have meant the Timberwolves are no longer watching from the sidelines.

Coaching Structure

Not only has Rosas made moves as far as the team goes, he has improved the coaching staff by bringing in specialists from other franchises. Pablo Prigioni was brought in from the Brooklyn Nets after a year where he was instrumental in the development of Caris LeVert and D’Angelo Russell. David Vanterpool was also brought in from the Trailblazers where he was a popular and highly regarded member of their coaching staff.

Vanterpool was a favourite of Damian Lillard’s and is due much credit for Lillard and CJ McCollum’s development. Gianluca Pascucci was also poached from the Nets where he was the Director of global scouting. Pascucci will join the Timberwolves as Assistant General Manager.

Making Moves

Not only should we praise the caliber of these hires, but the age and diversity should also be noted. They are young coaches and front office staff with varied backgrounds from proven organisations. Rosas has shown his hand early on,saying in his introductory press conference he would be aggressive in improving the roster. Prior to draft night it seemed like a defensive minded power forward would be taken with the 11th pick. Rosas surprised everyone at the time by not making a conservative pick of a second or third year PF with limited upside. He swung for the fences and traded Dario Saric to the Phoenix Suns to trade up to #6 and take Jarrett Culver. Though Saric is a nice piece and potentially a starter on a good team, Rosas knew he would command too much on the open market when he hit restricted free agency.

Wing player Culver showed a lot of promise at Texas Tech, running the offense while playing excellent defense on the other end. As detailed below, he has legitimate two way potential in the league.

In the second round, Jaylen Nowell was selected out of Washington with the 43rd pick. Nowell was the Pac-12 player of the year and shot an impressive 44% from three point range last season. Like Culver he has great size and can score.

Free Agency

When free agency rolled around, Rosas and co were aggressive in trying to land D’Angelo Russell. If not for the Golden State Warriors swooping in, Russell may have come across in a sign and trade with the Brooklyn Nets. Though this move didn’t come off, fans shouldn’t be disappointed. Rosas stayed true to his word to be proactive in the market.

With no cap space to speak of, he proceeded to trawl the open market for value players with upside. Jordan Bell was the first cab off the rank. Though Bell had a disappointing year for the Warriors he is worth a punt on a 1.6 million minimum contract. Not only is he a good passer at his position, he is a great offensive re-bounder. When engaged, he can play strong defense on the perimeter and at the rim. Noah Vonleh was also an excellent acquisition at the minimum. The 9th pick in the draft in 2014, Vonleh has reinvented himself in the last year. Showcasing an improved shooting stroke and defense, Vonleh was one of only two Knick players with a positive on / off rating.

Bargain Deals

Jake Layman was another strong pickup for the Wolves. Layman is a 6’9 wing who spent three years with the Trailblazers. Like Vonleh, Layman broke out this year. While casual NBA fans may not have taken notice of his excellent year, Layman played the most minutes of his career and was one of the best finishers at the rim at his position. If he continues to improve his jump-shot, he could be a starter in this league. The last move made in the off-season was acquiring Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham from the Warriors. While the details of this trade haven’t been confirmed, its looking like the Warriors had to pay to get off these two contracts. Napier is a good backup point guard on a cheap contract. While Graham is a cheap wing who can play bench minutes.

Rosas also had to make a tough decision when choosing not to match the Memphis Grizzlies offer for Tyus Jones. Unfortunately for fan favorite Tyus, the 27 million offer made by Memphis was an overpay for his services. Tyus was great in his role and stepped up in the last year with an injury plagued roster. Not paying Tyus means they are only a Gorgui Dieng expiring deal away from having max cap space next year.

Though the Timberwolves aren’t in championship contention or signing max free agents, its great to see they have a clear direction in the front office. Rosas and co are working towards strengthening the team long term, while trying to make the roster younger. They will be strong defensively this coming season, while Karl-Anthony Towns may well take another step forward. If Rosas moves so far are an indication of whats to come, this team may look significantly stronger within 12 months.

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Sports Business Classroom 2019

This July I was lucky enough to be selected for the Sports Business Classroom at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. When I heard about this program a year ago on the Dunc’d on Podcast, I decided I would do whatever it took to get there. The second I got the magic email from program head and salary cap / CBA master Larry Coon, I signed up on the spot. 

This was a watershed moment for me. Once submitted my application, I knew this was the time to give away my full time sales job and sink my teeth into basketball as a full-time career. 

I had some reservations about how I would fit in when I went to Vegas. I was from New Zealand, I was going to be a lot older than the other students, did I have enough knowledge? 

In the months leading up to the program I was both nervous and excited. I laid out my favorite Jordan’s the week before, I wanted to stand out and represent New Zealand well! 

Las Vegas

The day I flew out was a Saturday, it was also the last day of my sales job. Not only had I just quit my job but I was about to fly for around 18 hours to attend the Sports Business Classroom! After a wild week of NBA Free Agency I couldn’t even say goodbye to my wife without my phone exploding with another blockbuster trade. After three long but non eventful flights, I was at last in Las Vegas.

I realized pretty quickly that most of the NBA’s elite were in Vegas for this week. Within a few hours I had shared a lift with Terry Rozier and spotted Dwight Howard and Marvin Bagley Jr in the hotel lobby. Coming from a non basketball country that dines out on Andrew Bogut playing once a year in Auckland, this was a big deal for me.

I helped my room-mate Andrew check-in on Sunday, Andrew is a great guy and we straight away started talking basketball. After spotting similar basketball nerds in the hotel lobby, I knew I had come to the right program. Wandering down to the hotel sports book to join the other students, we were the loudest people in the Palms Casino. To my surprise they had taken over the bar without buying a single drink and there were various animated discussions going on between fans of different teams. By the time our group had swelled to 20, the bar manager had to ask us to leave. She didn’t want to hear one more minute of discussion on Ben Simmons jump shot!

NBA Nerds!

This theme continued all week, the 87 students got on so well. We spent most of our spare time debating trades, free agency and general NBA themes. The students on the program were excellent people, not only were they obviously fanatical about the game but they were there to learn and grow.

As far as the content went, we were spoilt for choice. Kenny ‘ The Jet ‘ Smith walked in on the first night and everyone lost it. The theme of high calibre guest speakers continued throughout the week.

Sports Business Majors

The heart and soul of the program though was Mr Larry Coon. Not only is Larry one of the foremost salary cap and CBA experts in the league, he is a genuinely great guy who has built a world class program. He was ably assisted by Dave DuFour, Eric Pincus, Beau Estes, Jeff Fellenzer and a team of interns. The program ran smoothly throughout the week as people settled into their chosen majors. Between Scouting and Analytics, CBA Salary Cap, and Social Media there was something for everyone. You still dipped your toe in the other subjects as ‘ minors. ‘

Dave DuFour led the Analytics and Scouting. He brought in ex Atlanta Hawks GM Wes Wilcox to talk the Scouting and Draft Process. Dave is a great guy and often answered dozens of questions from students if there was a break in the program.

Wes was one of the highlights of the program for me. With 15 years experience on both the Cavaliers and the Hawks, Wes was a student favorite throughout the week. Not only was his content on point as far as technical and organisational points went, Wes was open and honest with the students. He encouraged us to build our own draft or player evaluations while pushing the students to form their own opinions while watching game tape.

Larry Legend

Another head scratching question for Eric Pincus!

Larry and Eric Pincus led the CBA / Salary Cap major. They sat in the directors chairs at the front of the class and proceeded to wow the students with their in depth knowledge and dry humor when it came to the CBA. After some good background on the CBA, the next day the class ripped into a mock trade deadline after splitting into groups of five or six. By the end of the week Larry had reached legend status, students started chanting his name when he entered the arena or classroom!

It would be an understatement to say this trade deadline was wild. Each team had an assigned NBA expert that ranged from Howard Beck to Nate Duncan. People were trying to dump salary, pull off five team trades or just get one over their fellow classmates!

David Aldridge was another speaker earlier in the week. David is a basketball hall of fame inductee, and is a legend in media circles. His advice to the class was gold, while his stories were both funny and touching. David was just one of an array of great speakers and contributors.

After a full on week of learning and networking, I was sad to be heading home. The content was detailed and concise, while the program was slick and organised. While making life long friends and connections, this program provided me with a lot of new skills and direction for my career.

If you are pursuing a career in the NBA or Basketball in general, this program is a must. Nowhere else can you get so many of the world’s best basketball minds in one place, while learning from like minded peers and tutors. This week was a life changing one for me and I look forward to seeing everyone again next year when I head back to Summer league!

Steven Adams – Potential Trade

Bill Simmons created waves in New Zealand recently by posing a trade for Steven Adams on two of his podcasts. A fervent Boston Celtics supporter, Simmons tweeted that the Celtics had enough cap space to take Adams on in a trade. This was massive news in New Zealand where Adams is the prodigal son as far as basketball is concerned. As upset as New Zealanders were, the Oklahoma City Thunder need to make the best decision for the future of the franchise.

Adams is about to enter the third year of his four year 100 million dollar contract. When this deal was signed in 2016 the NBA’s salary cap had spiked to unexpected levels, leaving teams with tonnes of cash. The Thunder at the time had just controversially lost Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors. They had also traded away Serge Ibaka, who had also been a cornerstone of the team. With money to burn they spent it on Adams. their best young player, coming off a massive playoffs.

NBA centers

Adams has been worth every cent of his deal so far. He has provided similar value as far as win shares went when compared to other top centers in the league. Win Shares is used to show how a player has contributed to a teams season when it comes to wins. Adams played the most minutes of any center this year. As far as centers go, this season Adams ranked second in steals, second in offensive rebounds, tenth in total rebounds and seventh in win shares.

Though Adams flagged in the Playoffs performance wise, the Thunder were 9.9 points better when he was on the floor in the regular season. Diving a little deeper, the things that don’t show up on the stat sheet are where Adams excels. He is always top 10 in the league for loose balls recovered, boxing out on rebounds and for setting screens. He is also usually one of only a few centers regularly contesting three pointers out on the perimeter.

Bloated Payroll

Unfortunately the Thunder are in a position where their glue guy Adams may need to be shipped out of town. Russell Westbrook is the third highest paid player in the league, and Paul George rounds out the top ten. As they have built the rest of the team, their payroll has ballooned out to a league high 146 million. In a lot of cases this high payroll wouldn’t be a problem. With the Thunder having exited in the first round the past three years, management aren’t keen to have such a massive tax bill for a team that isn’t contending for a championship. Being over the salary cap, they can only reduce salary by trading to a team that is under the cap. They may even need to attach positive assets to sweeten the deal for the team they trade with.

Sub-par replacement options

Hypothetically if the Thunder were to trade Adams, they would reduce their payroll and luxury tax bill. But as they would still be over the cap, they would only have limited money to spend on Adams replacement. The mid level exception is given to teams who are over the cap, this is around 5.7 million. If the Thunder trade Adams they would have to use this 5.7 million to sign another center. Again, as they may need to attach other assets to dump Adams contract the only other way they could improve the team is by using that 5.7 million. It may take Terrance Ferguson or Hamidou Diallo as sweeteners to move Adams. With both Adams and Diallo moved they could only replace them using their exception or by signing players on minimum contracts.

The Thunder may think that getting off Adams salary would help them by saving on tax payments. But Adams is the glue that holds the team together, his value cant be quantified by purely looking at counting stats. They would surely be a worse team without him, especially on defense. Also there isn’t a player on the open market that could replicate what Adams does. The Thunder are better off to run it back this year and hope that a healthy squad is enough to get them out of the first round.

Jarrett Culver – Timberwolves Rookie

Last week on Draft night, the Minnesota Timberwolves traded Dario Saric and the 11th pick to move up to the 6th pick. In doing so they selected Jarrett Culver, a second year player out of Texas Tech.

By trading Saric and going all in on Culver, the Timberwolves organisation were committing to filling their roster with long athletic wings. With Andrew Wiggins, Robert Covington and Josh Okogie on the roster, new POBO Gersson Rosas wanted to make a splash by adding another young wing.

Culver is a 6’5 multi position player with a 6’9 wing span. He has an athletic body and although he is only 194 pounds he can fill out his frame well with NBA strength and conditioning. He has a well rounded game for the NBA and is a highly rated two way prospect.

Offense

Shot creation for himself and others is a big part of Culver’s game. He can get his shot off from anywhere inside the arc, even in late clock situations. Comfortable shooting off the catch or the dribble, he likes going to his left and hitting mid range jumpers. He needs to take less shots early in the clock though and not settle for deep contested jumpers. Moving well off the ball, he makes hard cuts with purpose. If he cant get the ball himself he tries to screen or set pin downs for teammates.

Though his 3 point efficiency dropped off this year from 38% to 30% he has a nice stroke with a high release. He has a wide range of moves at the rim, and tries to absorb contact when finishing. Culver got to the line on average 5.5 times a game. Like his three point shooting, he needs to work on his free throw shooting. He only shot 70% from the line. His dribble has improved and he has a nice crossover, but if he is going to play the two guard he will need to work on more dribble combos to get past elite defenders. With his long fluid strides if he works on his dribble this will open up the rest of his game. .

Passing

His passing game is improving and he projects as a strong secondary playmaker in the NBA. Averaging 3.7 assists per game in his second season at Texas Tech, Culver showed good court vision and patience to find bigs with dump off passes, or shooters on the weak-side with drive and kick plays. As he is a strong rebounder he can initiate offense by pushing in transition also. He needs to temper some of his aggression when play-making though, as he sometimes dribbles into trouble and loses the ball. As he was the primary play-maker on Texas Tech he took on all the scoring and play-making duties. In the NBA he wont be required to do either of these things. He can focus on making the right plays when the ball comes his way.

Defense

He has the ability to guard multiple positions in the NBA, and if he can get stronger he has All-Defense upside. Culver plays hard on both ends, and makes smart decisions on defense. His help instincts are good, and he isn’t caught gambling too often. Moving well laterally, he jumps passing lanes to get steals at a high rate. Though he wont be the biggest guy on the wing in the NBA, he is quick and has a great body for defense. He should be able to make an impact on this end with his strong instincts. Culver is an excellent defensive rebounder and can rise above bigger guys with his long arms.

Summary

Culver may end up starting from day one in Minnesota. If this is the case, he will need to learn quickly on a team that is in win now mode. Luckily he will be playing next to defensive dynamo Covington. If he can use smart shot selection and play sound defense he can start his career well for the Timberwolves. His ceiling will be a player like Covington or Jeremy Lamb. As Culver has come in younger than these guys he will want to make an impact right away. If he is willing to work hard on his game then he can have a long career in the league.

NBA Draft – Minnesota Timberwolves

Yesterdays NBA Draft wound up one of the wildest weeks in recent NBA memory. The Toronto Raptors were crowned NBA champions, Klay Thompson blew his ACL and then Anthony Davis was traded to the Lakers. After this wild six days, the Draft didn’t disappoint yesterday.

NBA Draft

With a tonne of moves being made prior to and on Draft day, the Timberwolves decided to get in on the action and make their own big trade. Trading Dario Saric with number 11 they moved up to number 6 and selected Jarrett Culver out of Texas Tech. This came as a shock to many, as Saric’s fit next to Karl-Anthony Towns seemed to be a strong one. This is all in the past now though. Jarrett Culver and Jaylen Nowell who was selected with the 43rd pick are now part of the Wolves young core.

Though this leave Keita Bates-Diop as the only true power forward on the roster, this shouldn’t be a concern for Wolves fans. Gorgui Dieng played some of the best basketball of his career next to Karl-Anthony Towns in the front court. While Robert Covington has played almost a third of his career minutes at the four.

Jarrett Culver

Culver is an intriguing prospect for the Wolves. A second year player out of Texas Tech, he was recently named the big twelve player of the year. Culver stands almost 6’6 and has a 6’10 wing span. Though he doesnt have a massive frame, he has an athletic body that will benefit from NBA conditioning.

From his first year to his second year at Texas Tech, Culver improved across the board statistically.

Though his three point shot regressed from 38% to 30%, his improvement across the board in all other categories bodes well for the Timberwolves. Culver’s potential as a two way player and secondary playmaker should have Timberwolves fans excited. A strong passer at his position, Culver can shoot and finish strongly at the rim. He is a great rebounder and a multi positional defender. Though his shot still needs some work, he projects as an excellent three and D prospect if he can continue to improve.

Jarrett Culver

Jaylen Nowell

Combo guard Jaylen Nowell was selected with the 43rd pick as a second year player out of Washington. Nowell was the Pac-12 player of the year for the Huskies and stands 6’4 with a 6’5 wing span. He has a solid body for his age and weighs in at 202 pounds. Nowell is an explosive scoring point guard, who also has two way potential. An excellent defender in college, Nowell shot an impressive 44% from three this year also. Like his new teammate Culver, Nowell has improved his game from year one to year two. He increased his impact statistically across the board while improving his shooting percentages also.

Jaylen Nowell

In Nowell and Culver the Wolves have two strong pieces for the future. By adding scoring and defense, new POBO Gersson Rosas is shoring up a defense that has performed terribly for years. Wolves fan can be happy with the NBA Draft this year.

Ja Morant – Draft Profile

Photo credit, Maddie Meyer – Getty Images

Ja Morant is a nineteen year old Point Guard and second year player out of Murray State. Morant is mocked on almost all Draft boards at number two, being selected by the Memphis Grizzlies. He has drawn comparisons to Russell Westbrook and Steve Francis with his speed and athletic play.

Morant has exploded in the last 24 months after only being lightly recruited when he left High School. In his first year at Murray State, Morant averaged 12 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. In his second year Morant had one of the great point guard years of recent times, averaging 24 points 5 rebounds and 10 assists.

At 6’3 and 190 pounds Morant will be one of the lighter point guards in the NBA. His 6’7 wing span means he has a high ceiling defensively though. NBA conditioning will be important for Morant, he will need to get stronger to match up defensively against bigger players. He may be the most athletic player in this Draft. He is a great leaper and athletically will only get better with NBA coaching and strength training.

Scouting

The first thing you notice when watching video of Morant is his handle. He has the best handle in this Draft class, when he makes the NBA he may be one of the best ball handlers in the league. His repertoire of dribbles moves are elite. With a quick first step and the ability to change speed and direction with his crossover, he is a nightmare to guard in the open court.

Passing

In the open court he pushes with purpose and uses his speed to make opportunities for others or himself. As a passer Morant has strong court vision, he can pass of either hand and has good accuracy on these passes. He can also pass out of double teams, whether hes getting trapped in a pick and roll or attracting extra attention on drives to the rim. While he could become an elite floor general in the NBA, Morant needs to balance the amount of great reads with the bad reads he makes. He sometimes make wild turnovers in the half court, being it an alley-oop pass or throwing over a cutter’s head. With potential NBA teammates having better anticipation and reactions, Morant will have more room for error. But NBA coaches wont put up with wild turnovers in the half court.

Offense

Offensively Morant has a well balanced game. He is an excellent finisher at the rim and uses superior body control to finish around opponents. His elite quickness and change of pace means he can get to the rim at will. This aggression was rewarded with 8.2 trips to the foul line per game this season. His slight body meant he sometimes went for more complex finishes around the rim rather than finishing through contact. If he packs on some extra muscle he has the tools to get multiple and-ones in game situations. He can finish with his right hand but prefers the left, he will need to work on his right to be elite at the next level.

As a shooter he has all the skills to be a great shot creator, he makes a lot of space for himself with speed and dribble moves. Though Morant is a confident shooter, his shooting form may be of concern for potential teams. He releases from his head and with the elbow sticking out. These mechanics mean he struggles to get his shot off when shooting off the dribble. Shooting 36.3% from three this season may be an outlier, but if he were to improve his mechanics he could be an above average shooter in the league.

Defense

Morant is an excellent man defender, with his long arms he can steal or tip the ball away from his opponent. He also blocks some shots with his leaping ability. He can move his feet well in either direction and has good instincts when defending one on one.

On the other hand, his off ball defense needs some work. Defending one on one he has good instincts, but he can get stuck ball watching when playing off the ball. He sometimes forgets to box out, and he often gets caught out of position. His elite quickness meant a lot of his gambles paid off, but at the next level he cant rely just on athleticism. Morant got a lot of rebounds by using his superior leaping ability rather than great technique. As he carried such a massive offensive load he can be forgiven for some of these mistakes. Though NBA coaching may iron a lot of these habits out, if he wants to be the engine of an NBA offense he will need to be a passable team defender.

Summary

Morant is the consensus number two pick in what is considered a weak Draft. Though he had an excellent year at Murray State he didnt come up against many elite teams at NCAA level. He will need to be tested at the highest level to see how much of his game translates well. With elite athleticism and speed he has the potential to be a perennial All-Star. If he works on his shooting and defense he could have a long career as a starter on a playoff team.

If the Grizzlies pick Ja Morant at number two they are getting a key cog to rebuild around. He will be an excellent fit next to Jaren Jackson Jr, these two could provide the core to put the Grizzlies back in playoff contention.

Sekou Doumbouya – Draft Profile

Sekou Doumbouya is a fascinating prospect for the NBA Draft in two weeks time. Doumbouya is a six foot ten wing who at 18 has already matured physically. Currently playing for Limoges CSP in France, Doumbouya could be picked as high as number ten when the Draft rolls around.

Doumbouya is one of the youngest prospects in this Draft, only turning 18 in December. Signing his first professional contract in 2016, he played his first Pro game at only 15 years of age. What he lacks in age he makes up for in Star potential. Doumbouya has all the makings of a new age prototypical NBA wing, surprisingly he isn’t higher on the major Draft boards. Mocked between 12 and 20 on a lot of boards, he has a higher ceiling than a lot of the other Power Forwards around this range. Though he has only averaged 19 minutes a game this year, his efficiency stands strongly among other more well known prospects.

Numbers

In 29 games this year in the French league he has averaged the following.

7.7 Points 3.2 Rebounds 0.7 Assists 0.7 Steals 0.5 Blocks

Below are the shooting splits for all the Forwards that are mocked in most peoples top 20s. Doumbouya grades out in the middle for two point %, while also shooting 33% from three at only 18 years old. Though he doesn’t get to the line often, he has one of the strongest free throw percentages at 77%. Among forwards that attempt two threes a game, Doumbouya also has the second highest effective field goal % at 65%. Ranked from red to green, Doumbouya shows strong overall efficiency in his limited minutes in the French league.

On Court Play

The first thing that you notice when watching video is his aggressiveness in the open court. Being able to turn defense into offense in transition, he has long fluid strides and can even initiate the offense from time to time. His first step is very quick, he wont always have opportunities like this in the NBA but he can quickly burn past opposition defenders while taking the ball coast to coast. He can struggle slightly in half court sets, but his decision making is good and he recognizes mismatches early. Attacking closeouts is a strength and if he isn’t shooting then he always take it all the way to the rim. He can absorb contact well and although he sometimes has tunnel vision on plays, his aggressiveness means he can finish second or third chance opportunities. His dribble seems to have improved over the season and has flashed some basic moves which he uses either on the perimeter or in transition.

He also has a few post-up moves and can create space for a jumper or a drop step if he gets good position. Though he isn’t a great passer he can pass out of the post and recognizes double teams and occasionally kicks to shooters on the weak-side. As he will have plenty of transition opportunities he will need to work on his passing vision. A natural right hander, he can use both hands finishing around the rim. This will be important for the next level where teams take away options on the favoured strong hand. Doumbouya utilizes underhand finishes, be it off the glass or finger rolls. He has a spin move which he likes to use, though his footwork isn’t developed fully he has noticeably been working hard to perfect his offense. He cuts hard off the ball and looks to take nice angles to the rim from teammates passes. This off the ball play is encouraging, effort wise he likes to stay involved.

His shot is more impressive than the 33% from three suggests. In the below clip from Draft Analyst Mike Schmitz, Doumbouya has a nice arc from the corner with smooth mechanics and a great release.

Again, he is only 18 years old. More heralded prospects in this years Draft don’t have a jump shot with the mechanics of his, nor the results. He has flashed some off the dribble shots from the perimeter, using a between the legs or side to side dribble to create room.

Defense

Doumbouya has real two way potential. He battles hard down low and doesn’t allow good position for his opponent. He can make good rotations but his awareness isn’t elite when closing out to shooters. He can recover quickly though and covers ground well, like on offense he doesn’t give up on the play. His help defense around the rim is stronger and he recognizes threats down low better than out wide. His quick feet mean he can switch onto guards, though his stance has been criticized he can stay with guards and fights well through screens. With more training he could potentially guard all five positions. His physicality around the block is impressive, he doesn’t allow easy buckets. He will need to temper this slightly at the next level to not give away and-ones and silly fouls. Already a great offensive rebounder, he has massive defensive rebounding potential. He skies above the rim at both ends, but needs to work on the fundamentals on the defensive end.

NBA Comparison

A strong NBA comparison for Doumbouya would be Most Improved player candidate Pascal Siakam. Siakam came into the league at 22 and was lighter than Doumbouya. Though Siakam has a noticeably larger wing span raising his defensive ceiling, they had similar switch-ability coming into the Draft. Siakams jump shot wasn’t as developed at this age, but they had similar games offensively. Siakam had more defensive fundamentals but had two years of NCAA coaching at New Mexico State. With similar bodies and skill at their size, Siakam is a solid comparison for the Frenchman. Drafted 27th by the Raptors, Siakam spent time in the G-League before exploding in his third year to now be a fringe All-Star and one game away from being the second best player on a championship team.

Sekou Doumbouya could well be the steal of this Draft. As this was being written he has been mocked between nine and thirteen as more analysts recognize his upside. This kid has a big future in the league, here’s hoping he gets drafted by a team that develops him to his full potential.

2019 Free Agency and Draft Team needs – Detroit Pistons

Photo Credit – Gregory Shamus

The Detroit Pistons enter the 2019 summer none the wiser on their future. They had an improved showing in the regular season where they made the Playoffs for the first time in three years. Though Dwane Casey utilized a rejuvenated Blake Griffin to win 41 games, their meek showing in the Playoffs after Blake was injured showed the holes in the roster. They are over the cap and unless they can dump some salary to get under it, then they will only have the mid-level exception to spend. The Pistons will also have the number fifteen pick in this years Draft.

Of the 16 teams that made the post-season, the Pistons sent teams to the line more than any other and had the worst shooting efficiency in the regular season. They also protected the rim very poorly, allowing the 27% worst percentage in the league. With no real options at Small Forward on the roster after trading away Stanley Johnson they should be looking at the Draft to restock their wing depth. Assuming there are no wild moves to get under the cap, the mid-level and bi-annual exceptions will be all they have to spend this summer. That means this summer they will only have around 12.5 million to spend.

Rim Protection

Backup rim protection should be a priority, so a defensive minded big who can move between center and power forward would be a good start. Power forwards and centers aren’t hard to come by on the open market.

DeWayne Dedmon would be an excellent addition for the Pistons. At seven foot one he is good shot blocker and has a long wingspan. He is also great at disrupting the ball in the pick and roll or on entry passes. Dedmon is an excellent rebounder and also one of the best stretch bigs in the league. Shooting 38% from three in the past season he knocked down 82 three pointers. A late bloomer in the league, the 29 year old Dedmon has played his last two years on the Hawks. As he is a stretch big his asking price will probably be around 7 – 10 million in this market.

JaVale McGee would also be an excellent option for the Pistons as a backup center. Coming off the best year of his career with the Lakers, McGee was one of the best rim protectors in the league. Averaging two blocks a game he is also one of the most efficient centers in the league when it comes to finishing around the rim. He finished in the top 11% of centers in the last season for EFG% and at the rim finishing. Like Dedmon he is also an excellent rebounder. McGee is a prime lob threat and could be an excellent roll man in tandem with Blake Griffin. McGee may command slightly more than last season on the open market, but a deal around $5 million wouldn’t be an over pay.

Forward Options

The Pistons should look to move up in the Draft and take Sekou Doumbouya. If they can dump Reggie Jackson’s expiring contract and bring back some longer term bad salary, they could move up to around the 9th or 10th pick in the Draft. Doumboya is a 6’9 forward playing in France with untapped physical potential. At 18 Doumbouya is one of the youngest draftees, he has an almost seven foot wing span and is a strong 230 pounds. Though he is very raw, he moves fluidly for a big man and has excellent footwork. He struggles from time to time effort wise, but when locked in he could potentially guard all five positions. His jumper isn’t consistent but he has nice form so with time could be a lethal stretch four. Doumbouya has shades of Pascal Siakam, be it the spin move or running the floor in transition. Though he is only 18 he already weighs as much as Siakam and is only one inch shorter than him. If the Pistons could move up in the Draft, taking Doumbouya would be a massive step in the right direction.

2019 Free Agency Team needs – Chicago Bulls

Photo credit Jeff Haynes

With the NBA season concluding in a few weeks, its the perfect time to focus on Team needs for the upcoming 2019 Free Agency. 10 teams have at least one max salary slot, while 13 other teams are over the cap and will only have use of the Mid-Level Exception.

The Chicago Bulls enter 2019s Free Agency in a relatively stable position. They have all their players on rookie contracts bar Zach LaVine, Otto Porter and Cristiano Felicio. This means their cap situation is healthy, with only 81 million on the books for the coming season.

Though its good that they only have long-term money tied up in Zach LaVine, they are still uncertain about their who their future cornerstones are. LaVine is their best player and a piece for the future coming off his best season in the league. Lauri Markannen is the other piece they are building around, he has definite All-Star potential. Outside of these two players they have a need for scoring at the Point Guard position. Management have said they aren’t giving up on Kris Dunn, but have made it clear they need to upgrade at the Point. They also need defense and three point shooting up and down the roster. Otto Porter has two years left on his max deal after coming in at the deadline via a trade for Jabari Parker. Though Porter is overpaid at around 25 million a year he is a strong three and D player in the league. His salary may have some value as an expiring deal next year, but the Bulls should hold off trading him unless they can find an excellent deal. Their strategy should be to build through the Draft then take some low cost flyers on players they can develop.

Point Guard

There aren’t many high upside Point Guards in this year’s Free Agent market. D’Angelo Russell, Terry Rozier and Delon Wright are the best young guards available, but Russell and Rozier will likely command large pay days in other markets. With Ja Morant and Darius Garland likely off the board when the Bulls draft at number seven, they can either try and draft Coby White with the seventh pick or throw an offer sheet at one of the aforementioned free agent point guards. A two way player like Coby White would be the best fit next to Zach LaVine.

Coby White is mocked at number seven currently on a lot of Draft Boards. Though he isn’t an elite passer he has a good feel for the game and makes solid reads in both transition and half court sets. His two way ability is what makes him a strong prospect for the Bulls. Standing around 6’5 his frame isnt huge, so he may struggle to cover large shooting guards. But he moves well from side to side and is only 19 so can still add bulk to his frame. White has a great first step and is very quick across the floor. He is a competent three point shooter at 35%, his mechanics are solid and he has a step back he can use also. His off the dribble game requires some work but he has the physical tools to master it.

If all else fails as far as getting a top level guard through the Draft or Free Agency they should look at signing a stopgap option on a two year deal. A player like Darren Collison or Cory Joseph would fit the bill nicely. Its important the Bulls only roll their cap space over and don’t get caught overpaying in Free Agency.

Three and D options

To preserve cap space for future years the Bulls are smart to look at young guys who can come in and play for their next contract on low value deals.

Glenn Robinson III would be a good low cost option who could have potential upside if he can stay fit. Robinson has improved his teams defense by an average of 2.5 points per 100 possessions each of the last three years. He rebounds his position well, defends without fouling and is a career 41% shooter from corner three spot also. A deal worth around 3 million with an non-guaranteed second year or a team option would suit the Bulls nicely.

If Dorian Finney-Smith isn’t brought back by the Dallas Mavericks he would be an excellent fit on the Bulls. Finney-Smith is a 6’8 wing who has improved his shooting each year he has been in the league. He is an excellent offensive rebounder for his size and has showed on defense that he can defend multiple positions. Though he only shot 31% from three in the last year, he has played under 200 games in the league and is a hard worker off the court.

Jake Layman could be another intriguing prospect to bring to the Windy City. Only used sparingly by the Portland Trail Blazers in his first two years with them. Layman played 71 games this year, impressing plenty of people with his defense and finishing around the rim. At 6’9 he is a big small forward who can guard smaller players on the perimeter too. An excellent offensive rebounder, he finished at the rim at 74% last season. This ranks Layman in the top 10% at his position. An improving three point shooter, he shot 36% on above the break threes this year too. Though the Blazers have his Bird rights, its not a guarantee they bring him back. Layman is only 25 and on the improve, so a two year deal worth four or five million or so a year could be enough to lure him away.

Warriors – Raptors Game One points

The Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors squared up in Game one of the NBA finals in Toronto yesterday. Led by Pascal Siakam’s 32 points, the Raptors comfortably put the Warriors away 118 – 109. Kevin Durant was cleared not fit to play, while DeMarcus Cousins was cleared for his first game since injuring his thigh in the first round of the Playoffs.

Draymond Green couldn’t guard Pascal Siakam

This Game was Siakam’s coming out party in this Playoffs. Though he had massive games in all three previous playoff rounds, his 32 points was a Playoff career high. The Warriors geared their defense towards shutting down Kawhi Leonard. By putting Draymond Green on Siakam, Coach Steve Kerr thought Green could help off of Siakam and shut Kawhi down. Siakam saw this as an opportunity to take it right to Green though. Siakam’s size advantage coupled with his ball handling and crafty post moves meant he was able to score on Green a massive seven times out of ten. Though Green is a great man defender he struggled to body up Siakam, and as he had picked up early fouls this made the job on Siakam even harder.

Marc Gasol’s game is a perfect for the Raptors

When Marc Gasol was traded to the Toronto Raptors at the trade deadline, Masai Ujiri knew he was getting an elite defender who could stretch the floor with shooting and passing ability. Gasol has surpassed expectations this postseason with his defensive savvy and timely scoring. On the Memphis Grizzlies he had almost double the usage he has now for Toronto. Not bothered by having less touches, he has been excellent at setting screens and passing out of the low post. He was a +8 in yesterdays game, his best rating since game five of the 76ers series.

In yesterdays game he defended all the way out to the perimeter when needed. He also hit two three pointers and had a game best 107 defensive rating when he was on the floor. The Warriors smaller lineups may struggle to defend him down low as they don’t have the massive rim presence that previous Raptors opponents had.

Fred VanVleet has improved as the Playoffs have gone on

After shooting a measly 12% in the series against the 76ers on only two points a game, Fred VanVleet bounced back to the tune of 47% shooting against the Bucks. Yesterday he was five of eight from the field and was a team high +11. His quickness and use of off ball screens mean he is a threat from anywhere on the court. While his catch and shoot game is also strong, his shooting came on in the last series when he was able to shoot three pointers from Kawhi Leonard drives. Not known as an elite defender, yesterday when guarding Stephen Curry he limited him to only one of six shooting. This is an added bonus for the Raptors if VanVleet can continue to limit Curry.