REPORT: Lakers Would Pass on Lonzo Ball

By John Camera

According to Bleacher Report writer Jordan Schultz, if the NBA Draft was held today, the Los Angeles Lakers would pass on the player many expect them to select, UCLA Point Guard Lonzo Ball. Schultz notes that the Lakers are very concerned with Lonzo’s father, LaVar, and the impact he would have. LaVar has manifested fame through the success of his son and with Lonzo landing in a prime time destination like LA, just down the street from where he played college, LaVar could have an even bigger voice. Along with this, the Lakers’ front office is concerned with Ball’s on-court game, skeptical of whether he can transition to being a true star at the next level.

While his father LaVar is an unknown, who knows how he’ll act when his son is in the place he’s wanted him to be since the beginning of this process, the Lakers concerns with Lonzo’s game are serious and well-warranted.

Ball does has a safety net to fall back on. At the very worst he projects to be a Ricky Rubio type of player who can act as a distributor and play-maker but does little to create for himself. Rubio as a worst case scenario isn’t very bad and the best case prospects for Ball should excite anyone. He could be the second coming of Jason Kidd or Penny Hardaway if he adjusts well to the NBA game. However, there are still deterrents that could prevent him from getting there.

The two biggest negatives to Lonzo’s game are his lack of elite athleticism and his funky, unorthodox shooting motion. Lonzo does not have blazing speed or quickness like some of his contemporaries in this draft class and it could be a factor that may limit him throughout his career; this isn’t a very fixable issue. What is fixable is his lack of great dribble moves that can separate him from defenders, something he will have to work on if he is to create consistent separation at the NBA level.

The other problem Ball will need to clean up to achieve NBA stardom is his shooting motion, which includes a low release point and may limit his dribble jumper at the next level. Ball will need to adjust the shot to get it to work against bigger, stronger, longer defenders or rebuild his mechanics from the ground up. While he should receive credit for being a solid three point and off-ball scorer at UCLA, he will need to do more, such as building a mid-range game, to become an NBA star.

While these are real issues that may hold Lonzo Ball back, it should be noted that he is still the best option for the Lakers if Markelle Fultz is off the board. However, a player to watch for Los Angeles is Kentucky’s lightening-fast De’Aaron Fox. Fox could transform into a John Wall-type player as he fills out and learns to shoot better and turn the ball over less. As is, Fox is a speed demon with good mechanics, basketball IQ, and defending ability. If the Lakers are going to pick between Fox and Ball they have two choices; go with the potential homerun in Fox or take the safe pick and select Ball.


Which Point Guard should the Knicks Take?

By Jack Drapkin

So You’re Telling ME…The Knicks Need a Point Guard?

It looks like Derrick Rose is on his way out of the Big Apple and it is time for Knicks to get a running mate for the Unicorn, Kristaps Porzingis. (I know Carmelo is still there, but really c’mon how, how much longer will he be around for after this.)

For purposes of this article let’s assume the lottery plays out true to form and the Knicks select 7th in the draft come June. That means the likely top-two picks, Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball, will be off the board and the Knicks will possibly, be left with a choice of Dennis Smith Jr., Frank Ntilikina, and De’Aaron Fox.

Look if you were to ask me who’s the most exciting to watch its Smith hands down. With his array of dribble moves, at the rim athleticism and passing ability, he’ll have no problem finding offensive success at the next level.

Ntilikina probably has the best toolset, although he needs the most work. With a giant 6’9″ wingspan, professional European experience, and a solid 3pt shot, you could make a great argument for Frank as the Knicks Point Guard of the future. Not to mention the European connection to Porzingis, not that matters anymore, Pozingod is a true New Yorker now.

That brings us to Fox. I’ll be the first to admit I was not a fan of Fox at the beginning of the year. Sure he was a blur on the court, but he lacked offensive punch and his defense was inconsistent at best. Fast forward to the end of the year and he was not only a speed demon but an offensive dynamo who aggressively took the fight to Lonzo Ball and UCLA to the tune of 39 points.

So what changed?

Well, for one the aggressive play particularly when looking to create his own shot, yes everyone saw it in the UCLA game, but Fox was the key cog for Kentucky during SEC play, not Malik Monk. Fox’s quickness and ability to score in transition will be huge for a Knicks team that again ranked in the bottom-10 in transition points per game.

I also think that Fox’s length plus quickness give him the highest defensive upside of any Point Guard of this group. Yes, Ntilikina is bigger, but Fox is faster and has already shown glimpses of being a defensive pest.

Now the obvious concern with Fox is his jumper. Having connected on less than 30% of his three pointers and with the move to the NBA, three point line don’t expect this to change anytime soon. However, he did show a feel for a pull-up jumper so the spacing that is provided in the NBA game combined with his speed could help become an effective mid-range shooter early on.

The bottom line is the Knicks need to win, winning starts with defense. Yes, he can’t shoot threes, yet, but Porzingis will help cover that up. Fox gives the Garden the best shot at hanging a banner or heck, making the playoffs anytime soon.

Give me a follow on Twitter if this was even quasi-interesting @NBADraftWhiz.

Here are Eight NBA Prospects to Watch at the Final Four!

By Jack Drapkin

We made it. It’s a bittersweet time of year for many college basketball fans as the Final Four is here but so is the end of the college basketball season. For us at Talking Ball, this is going to mark the beginning of a ramp up in NBA Draft content. We’re going to begin with a pair of prospects from each remaining Final Four team.

North Carolina vs Oregon

I spent the time before the Tournament began on the underrated Theo Pinson. Now I’m going to talk about the two star players for UNC;  Joel Berry and Justin Jackson.
Berry has been battling an ankle injury throughout the tournament and may be limited in the Final Four. If so, that would be a major issue for North Carolina against a strong Oregon squad. He’s been the engine for this team all season long and the starter of its offense. Even if his defense is so-so, his ability to create his own shot and create for others (3.6 apg) is a must for Carolina.

Justin Jackson is the best pro prospect on Carolina for my money due to a combination of size (6’8”, 210lbs) and shooting ability (38% from deep this season). Recently named to the AP All-American First-Team, Jackson has delivered on much of his promise his junior season. However, it was his defensive intensity on Malik Monk that has me very excited about his pro potential.

Speaking of DEFENSE, WOW Jordan Bell has been putting on a show throughout the tournament huh?! Bell led Oregon to the Final Four with a monster eight block performance. He is a classic rim-to-rim center who makes his mark as a finisher on offense and as a guy who can not only protect the rim but also switch onto smaller players on defense.

Dillon Brooks put himself on the national map with his performance and postgame interaction against Duke in last year’s Sweet 16 but cemented himself as an NBA prospect this season. As a tweener forward, he can thank guys like Draymond Green for paving a path for NBA success. Brooks who had a slow start to the season coming off an injury improved his 3pt shot from 34% to 41% his junior season. Brooks is unquestionably the leader of this Oregon team and for them to move on expect a big performance out of him.

Gonzaga vs. South Carolina

Two surprises in the Final Four, one from a seeding perspective in South Carolina and another in the expectation realm with Gonzaga. The Gamecocks have two clear cut NBA prospects in Sindarius Thornwell and PJ Dozier, with a third Rakym Felder, who may turn out to be the best prospect on this team in a few years. However, the focus here is on Thornwell and Dozier.

Thornwell has been the star of the team all season en route to being named SEC Player of the Year. Able to score his points all over the court, he is a gritty player who makes plays on both ends of the court.

Dozier came into South Carolina a high-profile recruit who struggled a bit with the defensive expectations of Frank Martin his freshman campaign. Well, his numbers are up across the board and as a 6’6” ball-handler he could become a real problem at the net level if he figures out his three point shot (30%).

The Zags play a solid nine-man rotation and there are a handful of prospects one could discuss here but I am going to focus on Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins here.

Williams-Goss a transfer from Washington, indicating the power of the Gonzaga program, has emerged as the primary playmaker for this team with averages of 17 ppg and 4.5 assists. With good height for the point guard position at 6’3” and a 6’6” wingspan he has the intriguing combination of size and playmaking that NBA teams covet.

Zach Collins, a rare McDonald’s All-American at Gonzaga, has been rising draft boards throughout the entire season. Coming off the bench behind the massive Przemek Karnowski, Collins has stymied the opposition with 10 points and six boards a game in only 17 minutes of court time. Buoyed by a strong basketball IQ and knack for putting the ball on the floor at 7′ tall, he is an intriguing NBA prospect to keep an eye at this year’s Final Four.

Knicks 10 Game Report

By John Scott

The way you break down the NBA is by analysing trends every 10 games. It means there are 8 segments to see where teams are heading. The Knicks having just completed the first segment begs the question, Phil, what were you thinking? Hate to say told you so, but this team is not making the playoffs and if they do it is for one round and then it is over.

Phil please start assembling draft picks. The Knicks are 4-6. But 3 of the 4 wins were against under 500 teams. Tonight’s “impressive” win at home against the 2-6 Mavs without their best player is a desperation win. Had they lost they would have been 3-7 and New York fans would have been calling to fire Hornacek. I am sure there are those that will say it is just a matter of time until they learn to play together. But honestly does Melo start to play unselfishly? The only player Melo will pass to is Rose. But this is not the Rose that could once take on the LeBron led Miami by himself. He and Melo have moments of excitement on offense but it is in their contracts that they do not have to play D.

Let’s move on to Noah. This is as good as it gets cause he can only give us half a game when he is healthy. Poor Knick fans. 70 plus million for a part time player. Jennings and Lee are part of the New York Whinners that claim the game is rigged against the Knicks. Hmmm the last person that claimed that actually won. Not this group. Not going to happen. Please Melo demand a trade to Brooklyn and put up 30 a night and not make the playoffs for the Nets. The really sad part about the first segment of the season is I get to say I told you so.

Knicks Floundering out the Gate

By John Scott

Last night was an embarrassment for Knicks. Spoiled millionaires blaming their shortcomings on the refs. It wasn’t a two point game it was a 30 point blowout. And for the fans that are getting on the “it was the refs fault” bandwagon, I promise that strategy has never worked.

That said, despite an incredible amount of one on one play, you have to give it to the Knicks for at least making a strong effort. Still, another loss.

If this is the “super team” what was Phil thinking?  A final look at the Knick bench says it all. Complete and total disbelief.

Knicks 3-6, Cleveland yawns.  Boston and Toronto say “Knicks  who?” Even if they win the next game and are 4-6 over the first ten games, hard to say this team makes the playoffs.

Knicks Go Out With A Whimper

By John Scott

Ok…big game…this is it…a nice road win would be great. Remember this is going to be the time of our  lives. Phil promised. What happened?  All I can say is good thing this was not in front of the home fans. Complete embarrassment. I want my money back. No I want my time back that I wasted watching this fiasco. These guys owe me. Melo you should be ashamed of yourself. Okay foul was called. But you run after the ref to get your second T?  So not wanting to be outdone, Jennings gets tossed. And probably three or four other Ts.  Come on, even if the refs made bad calls, yelling at them always works…yeah right. If this was the preview (of the playoffs)…if the Knicks should finish seventh and the Celtics second…oh boy…..we lost by 28. What a bunch of whiners. My seventh grade gym team had more class. If we have to start by teaching behaviour for millionaires we have a problem. Phil Phil…what were you thinking. We are closing in on my 10 game assessment. Come on I know tomorrow night’s game is going to be hard – road versus Toronto.   I am lowering the bar…let’s just show some class win or lose.

Cleveland not worrying. 3-5 Knicks not in playoffs

Knicks Roll Over Depleted Nets

By John Scott

Okay…if there is such a thing as a guaranteed win, try Knicks, at home, versus Brook minus Lin. The Knicks did manage a double digit win. It gave the Knicks a chance to play the bench and they got 38 points. And while Melo gave us an outstanding 2 assists, did we find a point guard as Jennings provided 11 assists as a bench player? Now 3-4. Next up Celtics. Good chance to see if we are playing the Cavaliers.