With the NBA season now over, attention has turned to the draft, which will inject the league with its next influx of stars – at least that’s the hope.
Prospects in the NBA draft, as compared to the drafts in the other three major American sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NHL), may have a greater chance of being impact players right away, but that doesn’t mean teams are any less susceptible to ending up with busts.
Teams weigh a number of factors before drafting players, including skillset, physical tools, intangibles and even age. Fit with the current roster can also come into play, but with how the game has trended towards position-less basketball in recent years, teams are likely to take the best player on their board and figure the rest out later.
This year’s class is led by an uber-talented big man group, with DeAndre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr, Marvin Bagley and Mohamed Bamba all appearing to be on the radar for the top five picks in the draft, which takes place on June 21.
Arizona’s Ayton is considered by many to be the top prospect overall and a generational centre who can change the trajectory of a franchise. In his lone college season, the 19-year-old averaged 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds and shot 61.2 per cent from the field, proving he has the offensive chops to be a force at the next level, especially if his 3-point stroke continues to develop. The real question with Ayton is whether he can grow on the defensive end, where his awareness and rim protection left a lot to be desired at Arizona.
There’s very little concern when it comes to the defence of Jackson and Bamba, who combined their enormous length with great instincts to be elite rim protectors in college. While Jackson has the quickness to also hang on the perimeter and shot 39.6 per cent from 3 last year, Bamba still has to show he can develop into more than just a shot-blocker and rim-roller.
Bagley entered college with great prestige – and a year earlier than scheduled – but his season didn’t quite impress like other top prospects. He plays like a wing in a big man’s body, outside of his shooting touch which is lagging, but his defence was hit-and-miss.
All four big men expected to go near the top of the draft could end up being the best player, but they’ll also have to compete with Luka Doncic for that distinction.
A transcendent international prospect, Doncic is set to take his talents to the NBA after succeeding in the EuroLeague with Real Madrid since the age of 16.
His 6-foot-8 frame, combined with his guard-like skills, makes him intriguing in today’s game, while his versatility, polish and experience make him a candidate for the top overall pick.
Small-ball may be in vogue in the NBA, but size remains coveted, as this draft is set to prove.
Over the past few days we’ve been following basketball player Gaafar ElSouri on his road to recovery following a devastating injury. Last year he suffered a career-threatening torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) leaving him on the treatment table. The injury was so serious it required painstaking reconstructive surgery on his knee. It was a devastating blow for ElSouri, whose basketball career has seen him play all around the world, in Europe, Southeast Asia and Canada.
Determined to get back to playing again he set about rebuilding his fitness, and his career, using a set of specially designed exercises. He begun filming his workouts and basketball drills and posting them online. In a series of videos, coinciding with the NBA Finals, Sport360 has been tracking his progress as he looks to get back into competition.
Today’s workout in the series is a number of combo exercises that can be used as pre-game warm ups and drills to enhance your ball control. The agility ladder drills help players execute game moves using the proper footwork. These exercises also warm up the central nervous system (CNS) for compound movements that involve sudden changes of direction. The shooting drills can be used as a pre-game warm up and to enhance your shooting ability from different areas on the court. The key is to perfect every dribble and shot with game speed.
Speaking to Sport360, ElSouri said, “The injury was unexpected because I actually carried on playing for a while with a bad knee. I knew something was off but I didn’t think it was that serious,” he said. “Its motivated me and allowed me to focus more and go back to the basics skills and learning more workouts. Its been harder mentally than physically, the fact that basketball was taken away from me for a period of time was tough. I realised how much I love the game and enjoy completing. Getting an injury has helped me fall in love with playing basketball again; I’ve enjoyed the process of becoming a better player.”
LeBron James is going to have his pick of any team in the league to join this summer.
But while every team should at least make an inquiry, there are only a handful of desirable options for James, and even fewer that make plenty of sense.
The Cleveland Cavaliers
With that said, here’s a bite-size look at the pros and cons of the four teams leading the LeBron sweepstakes, and the likelihood of them landing the best player in the world.
The incumbents are the safe option, providing little upside but a floor James is certain of. Why hop over to the more gruelling West when you can continue to rule the East and return to the Finals every year? However, with Boston and Philadelphia on the rise, that may not be the reality anymore, especially with the Cavaliers having few avenues to improve themselves. Still, home is where the heart is and James may not see a better option worth leaving for.
If James wants to start his own handpicked super team, the Lakers would be the choice. They can create enough cap space for LeBron and another max contract star, like Paul George. They also have promising young players in Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma who can supplement James and continue to grow. And no other city offers LeBron the same opportunity to expand his business ventures outside of basketball as he moves into the twilight of his career.
The contender with the best set-up at the moment to take down Golden State, the Rockets can pitch LeBron on him being the missing piece. They have star power and shooting, but how will the offence function when there are three ball-dominant players on the floor. It may be a problem worth figuring out, but to bring James aboard, general manager Daryl Morey will have to do some cap gymnastics to open up the necessary space for LeBron’s contract.
On the surface, the 76ers make a lot of sense as a LeBron destination. They’re already very good, have elite talent that is only going to get better and they play in the weaker Eastern Conference. The basketball fit, however, would be awkward between James, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, the latter of whom is especially mitigated off the ball because of his lack of a jumper. Does LeBron really want to wait around for younger guys to develop?
Watch Gaafar ElSouri on the basketball comeback trail