NBA PM: Jones, Robinson Declare for Draft
Kansas forward Thomas Robinson and Baylor forward Perry Jones III each declared for the NBA Draft on Monday, according to reports by the Associated Press, which means that this class could rank among the best in recent memory.
Some of the underclassmen who have already declared are UNC forward Harrison Barnes, St. John’s forward Moe Harkless, Illinois center Meyers Leonard, Syracuse center Fab Melo, Mississippi St. big man Arnett Moultrie, Duke combo guard Austin Rivers, Ohio State power forward Jared Sullinger, Georgetown small forward Hollis Thompson, Syracuse shooting guard Dion Waiters and Washington’s Tony Wroten. The addition of Robinson and Jones take an already strong group to another level. And this group doesn’t yet include the Kentucky trio of Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Terrence Jones or UConn’s Andre Drummond—all four of whom will be coveted this June.
In fact, outside of North Carolina center Tyler Zeller (who the NBA’s director of college scouting Ryan Blake spoke to HOOPSWORLD about on Friday), Vanderbilt forward Jeff Taylor and Kansas senior TyShawn Taylor, the first round will likely be made up of 27 or so underclassmen.
Jones, who averaged 13.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game this season, has the potential to play either forward spot at 6-11. He’s not a great outside shooter, but his athleticism and ball-handling skills allow him to play nearly anywhere on the floor. He has to improve his free throw shooting (69.2% this year) and his shot blocking (someone his size should block at least one shot per game), but Jones’ overall athleticism should be enough for him to be among the first 10 picks this June.
Robinson, meanwhile, has a chance to be a top-3 pick because his versatile game. The 6-9 power forward with a 7-1 wingspan can shoot inside and outside (he averaged 17.7 points on 51.2% shooting as a junior) while doing a tremendous job on the boards (11.8 RPG). He’s more polished than some players, like Drummond for instance, but that isn’t intended to imply he lacks upside. In three seasons with the Jayhawks, Robinson went from scoring 2.5 PPG to 7.6 PPG as a sophomore and during his junior year he attempted 13 field goals and 6.1 free throws per game. In other words, Robinson’s role grew significantly as his game evolved.
Underclassmen can still pull out of the draft before Wednesday, and players like Davis and Drummond can wait to almost the end of the month before declaring. Whatever the Kentucky trio and Drummond decide, this is already shaping up to be a memorable draft.
Celtics’ shakeup reignites sleeping giant
The Boston Celtics’ Easter Sunday win over the Philadelphia 76ers is just the latest example of what a rotational adjustment can do for a basketball team.
Doc Rivers’ squad ranks just 29th in the NBA in bench scoring (23.6 PPG) but they’ve held opponents’ second units to a league-low 26.3 PPG. Seeing as the Celtics’ starting five has scored 67.9 PPG (eighth in the NBA) and the team has a negative scoring differential in the second quarter—when backups usually get most of their minutes—Rivers made a bold choice and sent future hall-of-famer Ray Allen to the bench while promoting second-year combo guard and defensive ace Avery Bradley. (HOOPSWORLD’s Joel Brigham had a nice piece recently on how Bradley is making a name for himself on defense this year).
The results have been encouraging. Bradley started for the injured Allen in the April 1 blowout of the Miami HEAT and returned to the starting five for Thursday’s loss to the Chicago Bulls (Allen had 14 points off the bench) before cementing himself as a starter with +18 performance in a win over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.
Sunday, Bradley finished with a +27 plus-minus rating as Allen chipped in 10 points in 28 minutes off the bench.
“Ray going to the bench is giving us more depth coming off the bench,” Rajon Rondo told WEEI after Sunday’s win. “We got Ray out there, we got Sasha (Pavlovic) and we got Keyon (Dooling)—three great scorers—we’re not slacking when we come off the bench now. Avery Bradley is having a defensive presence. He’s the best cutter in the game and he’s finishing as well. It’s been a great switch-up for us and I think everyone is finding their role and accepting it.
“These guys put a good butt whooping on us the last couple of games and we wanted to return to the favor and that’s what we did tonight,” Rondo added, referring to the 76ers, who the Celtics recently hopped over for the Atlantic Division lead.
Bradley’s offense isn’t considered his strength, but he has averaged 12.6 points over his last five games thanks to an 18-point effort on 6-of-12 shooting against the 76ers.
“He’s a young, competent player, playing extremely hard and I think his hard work is paying off and that’s what he’s displaying out there every night the last eight, nine games,” Rondo said. “I’m very excited for Avery and I wish him the best.”
Bradley’s aforementioned cutting skills are the product of his lightening-quick reflexes. He’s only 6-2, but his long wingspan helps him defend taller opponents and he’s fast enough to stay with almost anyone in the league. Almost.
When Celtics’ radio commentator Cedric Maxwell asked who the fastest player was on the team, Rondo didn’t let him finish the question.
“Me,” Rondo snapped. “Aint no question. He might be faster on the ball, but I’m faster from end to end. It doesn’t matter who you say.”
Regardless of who’s faster, the Celtics have won 10 of their last 13 games and Rondo sees the new lineup coming together to once again make Boston a serious postseason threat.
“We’re getting into a good rhythm,” Rondo said. “Guys aren’t healthy, but guys are buying into their role. We’re sharing the basketball. I think we had 32 assists tonight on 38, 39 field goals, so we’re playing together and basically what it comes down to is we’re getting stops defensively. We’re making defensive stops and that’s translating into the offensive end of the floor and giving us easy baskets.
“We’re not there yet, but we’re very close,” he continued. “We’re a very confident group. We’re a group that believes that we can get it done. We’re a group with a couple of guys that has been there before so we got a little bit of old guys and young guys, great chemistry. We expect to win and nothing less.”
The Celtics continue to evolve beyond the Big 3 era, but they’re clearly still a dangerous team come May.
James, Dragic Named POWs
Miami HEAT forward LeBron James and Houston Rockets point guard Goran Dragic were named the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week respectively.
Miami was 3-1 last week thanks to James averaging 30.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.3 steals per game.
Dragic, meanwhile, pushed the Rockets to a 4-0 week by averaging 20.7 points, 8.3 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game/ he even scored 21 points and had four steals in a 99-93 win over the Bulls on April 2.
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