Timberwolves Odds: Jeff Teague Added, Rubio Traded

The Minnesota Timberwolves are making big moves this summer in hopes of being a playoff contender.

Just one week after trading for Jimmy Butler, GM/coach Tom Thibodeau has traded point guard Ricky Rubio to the Utah Jazz. And today, he signed free-agent PG Jeff Teague (3 yrs/$57m).

How do these moves help the T-Wolves chances of making the 2018 postseason?

Let’s discuss this matter below by covering what Minnesota gains in Teague and loses in Rubio. We’ll also discuss how the Timberwolves 2018 odds will be affected.

Teague Upgrades Minnesota’s Outside Shooting

Minnesota wasn’t a terrible three-point shooting team, hitting 34.9% and ranking 20th in the league. But then again, they weren’t good enough to keep defenses from guarding the paint and cutting off driving lines.

jeff-teague-timberwolvesKeeping driving lanes open is imperative now with slashers like Andrew Wiggins and Butler. Furthermore, Thibodeau wants to keep defenders from double-teaming franchise center Karl-Anthony Towns.

Rubio was never going to be the point guard to do this. He’s a career 31.5% three-point shooter, and this dipped to 30.6% last season.

This is where Teague becomes valuable. Although not Steph Curry, Teague hit a respectable 35.7% from beyond the arc last season. This is at least good enough to keep defenses honest.

The ceiling is also higher on Teague’s three-point shot. When playing with a better Atlanta lineup in 2015, he hit 40.0% from beyond the arc. He’s a good spot-up shooter – especially when playing with other offensive threats – which is exactly the situation Teague enters in Minnesota.

Another good thing about the 8-year veteran is that the Wolves don’t lose anything from a driving perspective. Much like Rubio, Teague is good at penetrating into the lane and creating shots for himself and teammates.

Teague is More Durable

jeff-teague-minnesota-timberwolvesAnother major plus to Teague is durability. In his eight seasons, he’s never played fewer than 66 games. And he’s played 79+ games in four of these years.

Contrast this to Rubio, who’s only played 75+ games three times in his 6-year career. Going further, he’s missed 25 or more games in 3 seasons.

While Rubio has stayed on the court the past two years, durability remains a concern after he appeared in just 22 games in 2015.

Wolves will Miss Rubio’s Playmaking

One area where Minnesota is hurting after trading Rubio to the Jazz is playmaking. This isn’t to say that Teague isn’t a playmaker, given that he averaged 7.8 assists last season.

ricky-rubio-timberwolvesBut Rubio is one of the best passers and distributors in the league. The Spaniard averaged 9.1 APG last year, and he’s averaged 8.5 assists for his career.

With a loaded offensive unit that includes Butler, Towns, and Wiggins – all of who averaged over 20 PPG last season – having an optimal passer distributing the ball would be great.

Why did Minnesota Give Up Rubio for a First-Round Pick?

Over the past few seasons, the T-Wolves have been a developing team. But this went out the window when they gave up Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and the seventh-overall pick (Lauri Markkanen) for Butler.

So why give send Rubio to Utah for a first-round pick (via Oklahoma City)? A pick that’s likely to be a late first-rounder after OKC signed Paul George?

ricky-rubio-jazzThe reason has to do with salary. Rubio is due $14.1 million this year and $14.8 million in 2018-19.

Given today’s inflated contacts, Rubio is well-priced here. But Minnesota couldn’t see giving up this much money to a guard who’ll come off the bench to spell Teague.

Furthermore, they needed to keep cap space clear. They added Butler’s $19.8-million-per-year deal to their books, and just signed Teague to a $19m-per-year contract.

This wouldn’t put them over with Rubio aboard. But again, it doesn’t make sense to pay a backup point guard $14.1m.

Another factor is that Utah’s offer may have been the most attractive. Here’s an ESPN report about the New York Knicks’ hesitation:

“The Knicks had interest in trading for Ricky Rubio but were not willing to part with a first-round pick to obtain the guard, per sources. Minnesota, according to reports, traded Rubio to Utah for a protected first-round pick. GM Steve Mills appears to be following Phil Jackson’s rule of valuing first-round picks, which seems wise for a team that appears to be in the midst of a rebuild.”

Timberwolves 2018 Odds after Teague Addition

butler-wiggins-townsAdding Jeff Teague and losing Ricky Rubio doesn’t make the Timberwolves massively better. But he is an upgrade from an all-around perspective.

This is especially the case when considering what Minnesota now has, and the immense importance of three-point shooting in today’s league.

Thibodeau is trying to build a contender right now, and he’s made the right moves. We certainly don’t see Minnesota winning it all in the 2017-18 season. But we do see them earning a playoff seed in the tough Western Conference.

Our guess is that they finish in the 6-8 range, challenge their first round opponent, get Towns & Wiggins more seasoning, then battle for a top-4 seed the following year.

Thunder Odds: What does Paul George Trade do for OKC?

paul-george-westbrookThe Oklahoma City Thunder pulled off the free-agency shocker of the summer, trading for Paul George. The former Indiana Pacers star had been linked to Boston, Cleveland, and the LA Lakers in recent weeks.

OKC, however, wasn’t even in this conversation.

The most-exciting thing about this deal is that it pairs triple-double machine Russell Westbrook with one of the game’s best all-around forwards.

But does this make the Thunder a far-better team? Will it raise their championship odds?

Let’s find out by discussing what exactly George does for OKC, and if the Thunder will be hurt by giving up Victor Oladipo and Domantas Saboins.

George Replaces Durant as the Thunder’s Second Superstar

When the Thunder lost Kevin Durant last year, it obviously took away any chance they had at a championship.

Westbrook became the second-ever player to average a triple double and carried OKC to victory. The team finished with a respectable 47-35 record; but they were clearly overmatched in the first round of the playoffs, losing in 5 games to the Houston Rockets.

In comes George, who may not totally replace what Durant is capable of, but he’ll be close. He averaged 23.7 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 3.3 APG, and 1.6 SPG last season. George also shot 46.1% from the field, including 39.3% from the three-point line.

The Brodie #OKC

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George’s 3-Point Shooting Helps Immensely

Last year, OKC was tied for the league’s worst three-point-shooting team. They and the Orlando Magic both shot a dismal 32.7% from beyond the arc.

The Thunder tried to remedy this by trading for Chicago’s Doug McDermott. The third-year player hit a respectable 36.2% from three after the trade, but this was well off his career mark of 39.4%.

George now does two things in this department for the Thunder:

1) He shoots very well from three-point territory at 39.3%.
2) His presence helps create more open looks for McDermott, which were in short supply.

Westbrook doesn’t Have to Shoulder a Heavy Burden

westbrook-vs-rocketsWestbrook had a season for the ages, averaging 31.6 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 10.4 APG, and 1.6 SPG. People criticize his shooting, but Westboork’s 42.5% mark (34.3% from three) was partly because of all the attention on him.

The good news is that he no longer has to carry this squad. PG will draw plenty of attention and, again, create more open looks for his teammates.

This Becomes a Stronger Defensive Team

We’re not saying that Oladipo wasn’t a good defender. But bringing George in allows OKC to slide Andre Robertson – a lock-down defender if ever there was one – to shooting guard.

These moves create the following starting 5:

  • Westbrook at PG
  • Robertson at SG
  • George at SF
  • Taj Gibson at PF
  • Steven Adams at C

This is a long, athletic, scrappy lineup that’ll make scoring highly difficult for the opposition. Sure, there’s no incredible rim protector here. But Gibson and Adams are both stout position defenders, while Westbrook, Robertson, and George are good at forcing turnovers and bad shots.

What Exactly does OKC Lose?

victor-oladipo-thunderOladipo is obviously the big loss for the Thunder because he averaged 15.9 PPG and 4.3 RPG last year. The 4-year veteran also shot a respectable 36.1% from three-point territory. Another good thing about Oladipo is that he’s a solid defender.

But the problem here is twofold:

1) He’s not a star like Paul George.
2) He’s making $21 million per year.

Combining these two factors, OKC almost wins by getting an above-average starter who’s making $21 million off their roster.

As for Domantas Sabonis, the 11th-overall pick in the 2016 Draft had an okay season, averaging 5.9 PPG and 3.6 RPG. But the rookie struggled to find his stroke, hitting just 39.9% from the field and 32.1% from three-point range. Sabonis may develop into a good player, but it’ll take 2-3 seasons.

Thunder Pursuing Rudy Gay

rudy-gay-tradeOn a side note, ESPN reports that the Thunder are currently interested in signing free agent forward Rudy Gay.

The 11-year veteran would likely come off the bench, due to George playing the same position.

But he’d be a great offensive addition after averaging 18.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG, and 2.8 APG for the Sacramento Kings last year. Gay shot 37.2% from the three-point line, which would also help OKC upgrade in this spot too.

Thunder Championship Odds for 2018

Oklahoma City opened the summer at 80:1 odds of winning the NBA title. Now, they shift to 40:1 odds at the major Vegas sportsbooks after signing George.

thunder-george-westbrookIf they can also pick up Gay through free agency, OKC would become a stronger playoff seed in the tough Western Conference.

The Golden State Warriors are expected to be the first seed again, while the Houston Rockets (via Chris Paul trade) will fight with the San Antonio Spurs for the second seed. With Paul leaving the Clippers, and Gordon Hayward’s fate with the Utah Jazz up in the air, this leaves the fourth spot open for OKC to slide into.

Assuming the Thunder have a strong season, then it gives them a better chance of re-signing George and Westbrook – both of who will be free agents in 2018.

Rockets Trade for Chris Paul Boosts Title Odds

chris-paul-rockets-tradeThe Los Angeles Clippers have traded star point guard Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets. According to

The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Paul opted into the final year of his $24.2 million contract, which allowed LA to make the trade.

In exchange, Houston will send guards Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams; forward Sam Dekker; and a 2018 first-round pick (protected No. 1-3) to the Clippers. There are also smaller pieces to the deal, including non-guaranteed contracts that haven’t been disclosed yet.

Paul could’ve opted out of the final year of his deal and become an unrestricted free agent.

This would’ve allowed him to sign a new contract starting at $34 million per season. The 12-year veteran can still make plenty of money with Houston because he’s eligible for a 5-year, $205-million max extension with his new team.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s continue discussing why this deal happened, how it makes Houston better, and why it doesn’t work in their favor.

Paul Wanted to Play with Harden

james-harden-chris-paulPaul played in LA for 6 seasons and had some pretty good seasons there. But his former team has been marred by an inability to get out of the conference semi-finals. Going further, it’s unclear if the Paul/Blake Griffin/DeAndre Jordan trio was ever going to advance out of the brutal West.

This fueled Paul’s desire to play with a superstar like Harden. “The Beard” is coming off the best season of his career – averages of 29.1 PPG, 11.2 APG, 8.2 RPG – and finished a close second place behind Russell Westbrook in the 2017 MVP voting.

Paul and Harden were in talks before he opted in, discussing how they could thrive together. And now we’ll see how this scenario plays out.

As for the Clippers, they lost their long-time floor general. But the fact that they got contributors and a (late) first-round pick is at least better than the nothing they would’ve received if Paul left in free agency.

How does Paul Fit into the Rockets’ Game Plan

chris-paul-sign-spursAfter two years of the failed Harden/Dwight Howard duo, the Rockets elected not to sign the latter and reshape their team.

New head coach Mike D’Antoni brought his uptempo style and it worked wonders for the team.

Houston improved their record from 41-41 to 55-27, while setting records for three-point shooting. They were the feel-good story of the NBA…until the playoffs happened.

The Rockets battled San Antonio in a tough semi-finals series, before laying down in Game 6 at home. Without Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs still blew out Houston 114-75, with Harden scoring 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting.

But in comes Paul, who adds another offensive weapon who can also distribute the ball. The 9-time All-Star is coming off a season where he averaged 18.1 PPG, 9.2 APG, 5.0 RPG, and 2.0 SPG.

Going beyond the numbers, Paul gives this team a serious playmaker who takes pressure off Harden. The Rockets have good shooters like Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson. But none of these players can create like Paul.

Going further, Harden can play off the ball more, take longer rests, and have another player to handle the ball when defensive attention is completely focused on him.

Why Paul doesn’t Fit with Houston

chris-paul-houston-rocketsWhile the Paul for Williams/Beverley/Dekker deal upgrades the team, it’s still not a perfect match.

The biggest problem is that Paul and Harden both need the ball to excel. Neither is a Klay Thompson-type, who can still star as a spot-up shooter.

Harden and Paul won’t defer to one another, which will give them both a share of the ball. However, it might also take them time to learn how to play each other.

Another problem is the loss of Beverly. Although he doesn’t have half of Paul’s playmaking abilities, Beverly is a strong on-the-ball defender who’ll be sorely missed. This isn’t to say that Paul isn’t also good at defense (2.0 SPG). But Beverly is a defensive stopper who isn’t afraid to dirty up the game when necessary.

The Williams loss also hurts because he provides instant offense (14.9 PPG) and gets to the free throw line numerous times. Losing Dekker and the (late first-round pick) are much smaller pieces to give up.

Rockets Championship Odds with Paul

Even with the downsides we covered above, Paul is going to make this team better. But how much better? Good enough to get past the Warriors and Spurs?

Houston now has a chance of doing both. We won’t anoint the Rockets as favorites in the West. In fact, we still think they’re third best right now.

But with Paul, Houston is a much-closer third that could possibly beat San Antonio or Golden State if everything goes right. That said, it’ll definitely be fun to watch the Rockets’ improvement with Paul and Harden both running the show.

Cavs could Land Wade, Carmelo after Buyouts

carmelo-wade-cavsThe Cleveland Cavaliers struck out on trading for Jimmy Butler. And so far, their trade attempts for the Indiana Pacers Paul George have yet to yield anything. But they could still end up improving on their mission to beat the Golden State Warriors by adding Carmelo Anthony and Dwayne Wade.

ESPN’s Marc Stein floated the idea this week, and we’re sure that the Cavaliers front office has their eyes on this situation too.

Wade recently opted into his $23.8 million option with the Chicago Bulls. Just days later, Chicago decided to trade star guard Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for rebuilding pieces.

It’s obvious that Chicago isn’t trying to be competitive right now. This begs the question of whether or not they’ll truly consider keeping a 35-year-old shooting guard who doesn’t fit into their rebuilding plans. Furthermore, Wade will be taking minutes from new arrival Zach LaVine and second-year shooting guard Denzel Valentine.

As for Anthony, he clashed with New York Knicks president Phil Jackson. The Zen Master and New York decided to part ways this week, but this doesn’t change the fact that Anthony – who has a no-trade clause – isn’t leading the team to victory right now. This makes us wonder if Melo would accept a buyout if offered.

How the Cavs would Benefit from these Buyuts

carmelo-knicks-buyoutCleveland is in a tough position as far as trying to improve to beat the Golden State Warriors:

  • They’re capped out.
  • Cleveland has no draft assets for the foreseeable future.
  • They can’t seem to find a trade suitor for Kevin Love.

This is where Anthony and Wade come into play.

Anthony is signed through 2019 and set to make $26.3 million this year, and $27.9 million in the 2018-19 campaign. Because of his contract and age (33), few teams are willing to give up anything for Anthony. On the other end of the spectrum, Melo doesn’t want to waive his no-trade clause unless he’s sent to a serious contender.

But if he and New York could agree to a buyout, Anthony can still get paid around $20 million over the next two seasons and chase a ring in Cleveland.

Likewise with Wade, who’d probably receive $15-$20 million in a buyout. And with both players already getting their money, they’d be more likely to accept a veteran’s minimum contract to compete for a title.

The Cavs would benefit immensely from adding two skilled veterans to their roster and upgrading their overall talent. Cleveland’s bench played terribly against Golden State, and it’s obvious that they need more firepower when LeBron James and Kyrie Irving go the bench.

Anthony is still a good isolation player, averaging 22.4 PPG on 43.3% shooting. He’d probably shoot better if he wasn’t a focal point like he is in New York. Wade also has something left in the tank, as he averaged 18.3 PPG on 43.3% shooting.

Seeing as how Cleveland isn’t getting much closer to a Paul George deal, and they have limited other options, Wade and Anthony represent their best shot to catch Golden State.

LeBron’s Friendship with Melo and Wade will Help

If the aforementioned scenario does play out, then it won’t be like Wade and Anthony are just randomly signing with Cleveland to go after a ring. Instead, these two are good friends with LeBron and go vacationing with him.

Often described as the Banana Boat crew (along w/ Chris Paul), this is a close-knit group that would enjoy playing with each other and going after a championship.

If the buyouts happen, look for both to heavily consider the Cavaliers.

lebron-banana-boat

Why this Scenario won’t Help Beat Golden State

After Cleveland was thoroughly handled by Golden State in the NBA Finals, it’s clear that they’re not currently constructed to beat the Warriors. But are Anthony and Wade the answers?

Yes, offensively both players will help Cleveland. As mentioned earlier, the Cavs need more overall depth because their bench lacked firepower during the Finals.

carmelo-vs-warriorsBut both Wade and Anthony have holes in their games.

Anthony is a subpar defender who could be exposed on the pick and rolls that Golden State runs. Plus, he’s another player who scores best in iso sets – much like Irving and (sometimes) James.

Wade has never developed a great three-point shot (28.7% career), which doesn’t fit the current Cavaliers team that set three-point records. Moreover, Wade struggled against the Boston Celtics’ tough defense in the playoffs last year.

Chances of Wade and Anthony Joining Cleveland

Anthony’s odds of taking a buyout may have gone done with Jackson now fired. After all, Jackson was the biggest source of contention for Melo. But this isn’t to say that owner James Dolan won’t still look for a buyout just so the franchise can start new with Kristaps Porzingis as their centerpiece.

Wade is much closer to a buyout scenario after the Jimmy Butler trade. It might not happen until a few months into the season, when Chicago is faltering. But we strongly believe that he’ll be bought out at some point. If either scenario happens, it’ll definitely strengthen Cleveland’s chances of reclaiming the throne.

Manny Pacquiao vs Jeff Horn Odds – Pacquiao Favored Big

manny-pacquiao-jeff-horn-oddsThis is definitely going to be a summer for big fights.

Floyd Mayweather and Connor McGregor agreed to an August 26 bout, while Manny Pacquiao and Australia’s Jeff Horn will fight on July 1.

The WBO Welterweight champ Pacquiao is favored big on the betting lines. But Horn is looking for an upset during the “Battle of Brisbane” in his home country. That said, let’s look at the odds and discuss if Horn has a chance to beat his favored opponent.

Pacquiao vs Horn Odds & Fight Details

When: July 1, 2017 at 10:00pm EST
Where: Suncorp Stadium Brisbane, Australia
GTBets.eu Line: Jeff Horn +425 vs Manny Pacquaiao -667

Pacquiao Has a Big Experience Edge

manny-pacquiao-2017-oddsThis isn’t Jeff Horn’s first rodeo because he’s 29 years old and has compiled a 16-0-1 record. He definitely has some punching power – as evidenced by 11 KOs – and he’s the WBO Inter-Continental title holder.

However, he steps into a totally different world when facing Pacquiao. The 38-year-old Philippino fighter boasts a 59-6-2 record, and this is his third time holding the WBO Welterweight belt.

After dropping a 12-round unanimous decision to Floyd Mayweather on May 2, 2015, he’s won two straight fights against Timothy Bradley and Jesse Vargas. Pac Man hasn’t delivered a knockout in six straight fights, but he’s almost assured to win if the fight goes the distance.

Horn Looking to Channel Márquez KO

Pacquiao’s greatest career rival is Juan Manuel Márquez. The pair fought four times, with Pacquiao taking the series 2-1-1. But the last fight on Dec 8, 2012 saw Márquez deliver a knockout win.

jeff-horn-vs-pacquiaoHorn has been reviewing tapes of the Mexican’s victory over Pacquaio and wants to bring some of the same tactics to the July 1 fight.

“He does leave himself open a little bit, as he was seen to do with Marquez in the fight where he got knocked out,” Horn told On the Ropes Boxing.

“I will be trying to get him with that same shot if I possibly can. I’m working on all of the strategies and trying to see what’s going to work best on the night, but you don’t know until you step in there.”

For what it’s worth, Australian boxing legend Jeff Fenech believes that Horn is ready to pull off a shocker.

“He’s bigger, stronger, younger, he can punch, and he wants it more than Manny Pacquiao,” Fenech wrote on Boxing Scene.

He also believes that Pacquiao’s success will make him less hungry.

“Anyone who thinks Manny’s hungry, of course — $8 million or $10 million is going to be great to go and help his people back at home,” Fenech explained.

“But you lose your hunger when you have success for so long and this kid’s very, very hungry. That’s going to be the difference. He’s going to make a lot of people eat humble pie.”

Pacquaio Has “Never Been as Motivated”

From the way Pacquiao talks, he’s quite the opposite of what Fenech described. In fact, he’s really fired up for the Battle of Brisbane.

“In all my years of boxing, I have never been as motivated and fired up as this fight,” he told the Courier Mail. “My team is very happy with my preparation. I am looking forward to this and I will be going home as world champion.’’

The 11-time world champion isn’t taking anything for granted and is training as hard as ever. The Courier Mail reports that he knocked his Mexican sparring partner, Adrian Young, down twice during their last session. He didn’t go any easier when sparring with Australian lightweight George Kambosos.

Puncher’s Chance

Based on the odds, it seems very likely that Pacquiao will grab his 60th win and retain his WBO Welterweight title. But Horn has the power to pull off an upset. Moreover, he also has a 4-inch height advantage and is 9 years younger than the champ.

Does all of this make Horn worth a long-shot bet?

You stand to win $425 on him for every $100 wagered, which is always an exciting prospect. But on the other hand, maybe Horn isn’t quite seasoned enough to take down a fighter of Pacquiao’s stature.

We shall see on July 1.

2018 NBA Futures – Which Teams Won in 2017 Draft?

markelle-fultz-phillyThe 2017 NBA Draft brought promise to 29 teams that have been chasing Golden State for the past three years. And this summer’s draft was particularly deep, with a number of potential stars going in the first round.

But which teams upgraded their roster the most in the 2017 Draft? Let’s look at a few teams that benefited greatly.

1. Philadelphia 76ers – Take Washington PG Markelle Fultz No. 1 Overall

Other Picks: Anzejs Pasecniks (C, Latvia) at No. 25; Jonah Bolden (PF, Australia) at No. 36; Sterling Brown (SG, SMU) at No. 46; and Mathais Lessort (C, France) at No. 50

Analysis: This wasn’t a hard pick because Fultz has been listed No. 1 on draft boards for the past year. His Washington Huskies team didn’t experience much success (9-22 record), but Fultz showcased all the skills he needed to in Seattle. The 6’4″ point guard averaged 23.2 points, 5.9 assists, and 5.7 rebounds in his lone collegiate season.

Fultz’s only weakness is that he shot 64.9% from the free-throw line. But this can be overlooked when considering that he has the height and wingspan to defend both guard positions, along with the playmaking skills to be a true point guard.

Philly gave up this year’s No. 3 pick and LA’s top protected pick next year (or Sacramento’s 2019 pick) to get Fultz. But the price is worth it for the perfect compliment to 6’10” Ben Simmons, who’s best suited to be a playermaker in half-court sets. Both players will find Joel Embiid and Dario Saric for open looks on a consistent basis.

For good measure, Philly also added 7-footer Anzejs Pasecniks, whom they can stash overseas for a year or two until he’s ready.

2. Phoenix Suns – Take Kansas SF Josh Jackson at No. 4 Overall

Other Picks: Davon Reed (G, Miami) at No. 32; Alec Peters (PF, Valparaiso) at No. 54

josh-jackson-kansasAnalysis: The Suns haven’t had a winning record in three years, and they haven’t made the playoffs in seven years. This team needed a strong draft, and they sealed it by getting Josh Jackson at No. 4.

The 6’8″ small forward gives Phoenix the wing they need to go along with the lineup of Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss, and Dragan Bender.

They also have T.J. Warren at wing, but he’s not a great defender. Jackson solves this problem because he brings immediate aggression to the position. In fact, he’s too aggressive sometimes, and must tone this down to prevent foul calls.

Jackson’s other weakness is that his jumper isn’t perfect. But the Suns are willing to take a chance on this improving based on the entire package – especially when some draft boards had him as high as No. 1.

The Suns also added shooting guard Davon Reed, a 6’6″ prospect with a 7-foot wingspan. They took a shot at No. 54 with Alec Peters, an injured stretch forward who can provide value here.

3. LA Lakers – Take UCLA PG Lonzo Ball at No. 2 Overall

Other Picks: Kyle Kuzma (PF, Utah); Josh Hart (G, Villanova) at No. 30; Thomas Bryant (G, Indiana) at No. 42; P.J. Dozier (G, South Carolina) signed as undrafted FA

lonzo-ball-uclaAnalysis: The Lakers are too young to be good right away. But they made the right move here, taking UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 selection.

Ball became a big name months before the draft, thanks to the antics of his father, LaVar Ball. But Lonzo has the skills to back his dad’s mouth up, averaging 14.6 PPG, 7.3 APG, and 6.0 RPG. His 274 assists during the 2016-17 campaign set a UCLA record.

The two knocks against Lonzo include his unusual jump shot and marginal lateral quickness. The latter could prove a problem, but Ball made over 41% of his three-pointers at UCLA. In any case, the Lakers couldn’t pass up his combination of height (6’6″) and excellent court vision. The latter has Ball being compared to Brooklyn Nets legend Jason Kidd.

LA made a trade to add more picks so they could draft Utah power forward Kyle Kuzma and Villanova guard Josh Hart in the first round. Kuzma averaged 16.4 PPG and 9.3 RPG, despite playing through an ankle injury. Hart was a key part of Villanova’s 2016 national championship run.

4. Dallas Mavericks – Take NC State PG Dennis Smith at No. 9 Overall

Other Picks: None

dennis-smith-mavericksAnalysis: Dallas has been toiling in mediocrity for the past few years. And the ping pong balls haven’t given them any great luck. But the Mavs may have gotten a gem at No. 9 with NC State point guard Dennis Smith.

At 6’2″, he’s not Lonzo Ball, but he’s got great explosion and is an excellent finisher. The one-and-done freshman turned these attributes into 18.2 PPG on 50.2% shooting.

The downsides to Smith include that he doesn’t have great size or wingspan (6’3″), nor does he shoot particularly well outside (35.9%). But the 19-year-old still has the quick hands to create lots of steals (1.9) on defense. Long story short, Dallas needed an injection of athleticism into their lineup, which Smith provides in spades.

5. Detroit Pistons – Take Duke G Luke Kennard at No. 12 Overall

Other Picks: None

luke-kennard-pistonsAnalysis: Luke Kennard is far from the most-tantalizing pick in the 2017 Draft. He’s a 6’5″ shooting guard with 6’5″ wingspan and middling athleticism.

But the Detroit Pistons didn’t draft the Duke product to be a defensive stopper or outstanding finisher – they drafted him to shoot.

The Pistons only made 33% of their three-pointers last season, which ranked 28th in the league. This makes it awfully hard to create room inside for center Andre Drummond, and driving lanes for athletic wings like Stanley Johnson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Kennard helps in this aspect because he made 43.8% of his three-pointers at Durham. This is even more impressive when you consider that he took 5.4 treys per game, often with a hand in his face. Even when accounting for the NBA three-point line’s greater distance, these numbers will translate well to the pro game. Furthermore, it should make Detroit a more dangerous team overall.

And Kennard shouldn’t have trouble learning NBA playbooks if he can memorize every word to the Disney movie Frozen.