Skip to main content
Larry Brown Sports Tagline. Brown Bag it, Baby.
#pounditSunday, October 2, 2022

Stories by Aaron Mansfield:

10 young NBA players ready for a breakout season

Zach LaVine

The 2017-18 NBA season featured breakout performances from a number of talented young players: Victor Oladipo, Devin Booker, Fred VanVleet, and Jamal Murray, among others. Though at this point most attention is (understandably) focused on the key stars and title contenders for this coming season, we’re wondering which young players could go up a level in 2018-19.

Some of the following players just haven’t found the right fit. Others have stayed with one team, gradually improved, and seem poised to really emerge this season. Here are 10 breakout candidates we’ll be keeping an eye on.

10. Doug McDermott, Indiana Pacers

McDermott has bounced around since the Denver Nuggets selected the Creighton star No. 11 in the 2014 draft. He’s now on his fifth NBA team. McDermott’s shooting has never been an issue, but it became a major asset last season; after joining Dallas, he hit nearly 50 percent (!) of his outside attempts. His defense has gradually improved throughout his career, and he’s no longer a liability on that end. Indiana strikes me as the perfect fit for McBuckets. He should shine playing off of Victor Oladipo in Nate McMillan’s shooter-friendly system, much like Bojan Bogdanovic broke out last season.

(more…)

10 NBA teams that have improved the most this offseason

Magic Johnson

Fans and analysts knew this NBA offseason could be crazy, with a number of big-name players potentially changing uniforms — and the league hasn’t disappointed. So far, we’ve seen the unsurprising (LeBron signed with the Lakers), moderately surprising (Paul George is sticking with OKC), and downright stunning (DeMarcus Cousins is headed to the Bay Area).

But the above moves are just scratching the surface of all that’s happened. Other teams improved through the draft and through signing players who aren’t household names but should still make a big impact.

Which squads have made the biggest leap over their 2017-18 iterations? Here’s our take on the 10 teams that have improved the most so far this summer.

10. San Antonio Spurs

The biggest move of San Antonio’s offseason, of course, has not yet happened: the trade of Kawhi Leonard, which seems all but certain to occur. And even though they’ve lost Tony Parker and Kyle Anderson, the Spurs have still had a good summer to date. Marco Belinelli won a title with the Spurs in 2014, and they’re happy to have him back. He was a key piece on the Philadelphia team that at times looked unbeatable late in the season, and he’s one of the league’s best shooters. Snagging him at $6 million a year is a real value. R.C. Buford lucked out landing Lonnie Walker, a cold-blooded creator from Miami, at No. 18 in the draft – one of my favorite picks. He’s shown shades of Dwyane Wade.

(more…)

10 big-name NBA players who could change teams this summer

LeBron James

The NBA is on fire right now, and it’s been undefeated since a for-the-ages 2017 offseason. In addition to a flurry of open-market transactions, a number of stars changed teams via trade, fundamentally shifting the league’s power dynamics.

Indiana shipped Paul George to Oklahoma City. The Clippers sent Chris Paul to Houston. Chicago traded disgruntled Jimmy Butler to Minnesota.

Which stars could be on the move this offseason? Here is our perspective on 10 who could change uniforms.

10. Markelle Fultz

The 2017 No. 1 overall pick had an up-and-down rookie season. After struggling with a shoulder injury and re-learning how to shoot (for a good breakdown of that strange situation, read this piece from PhillyVoice), he played in 14 games and showed glimpses of brilliance. He averaged 7.1 points, 3.8 assists, and 3.1 rebounds in 18.1 minutes per game. The 20-year-old flashed the uncanny speed, change of pace, and athleticism that wowed draft scouts. His stock is low at the moment, but his upside is huge. He could be a central figure in Philly’s efforts to acquire Kawhi Leonard.

(more…)

Best and worst picks of the 2018 NBA Draft

Michael Porter Jr

The mock drafts are now irrelevant. No more talk of wingspan, upside, medicals, or trade rumors. After months of speculation, the 2018 NBA Draft is in the books.

Thursday’s first two picks went as expected: Phoenix selected DeAndre Ayton and Sacramento picked Marvin Bagley III. Then things got wacky: Atlanta picked Slovenian sensation Luka Doncic, but shipped him to Dallas for Trae Young and a 2019 first-round pick.

The surprises didn’t stop there. Michael Porter Jr. and Lonnie Walker IV plummeted. Others, like Jerome Robinson and Troy Brown, shot up the charts.

Until Summer League commences July 6, fans will scrutinize their teams’ picks. Here is our take on the five best and five worst picks of the 2018 draft.

BEST PICKS

(more…)

15 best sleepers in the NBA Draft

Grayson Allen

Take a look back at the 2017 NBA Draft and you’ll find a number of slept-on prospects who blossomed in their rookie seasons. Donovan Mitchell fell to No. 13, John Collins to No. 19, and Kyle Kuzma to No. 27.

Teams got lucky in the second round, too. Boston snagged Semi Ojeleye. Golden State traded for the rights to the No. 37 pick, Jordan Bell. Memphis acquired Dillon Brooks.

What a difference a year makes. While the players enumerated above shattered expectations, others who looked like can’t-miss studs last summer now seem destined for a quick exit from the league.

A franchise can make or break its future with a successful draft, and many of the best gems – like Draymond Green and Kawhi Leonard – tend to slip past the lottery. Below are 15 under-the-radar sleepers to whom teams should pay attention.

15. Chimezie Metu, PF, USC

Metu, 6-foot-11 and 225 pounds, is a stellar athlete. He averaged 1.7 blocks per game in his junior season. His offensive repertoire has expanded, but he’s still a project — he has work to do in that arena. Metu is comfortable handling the rock. Additionally, his free-throw shooting improved greatly over his three collegiate seasons, from 53 percent as a freshman to 73 percent as a junior. Metu has all the physical tools to transform into an imposing defensive force.

(more…)

10 NBA Draft prospects who will make an immediate impact

Luka Doncic

With Warriors-versus-Cavs 4.0 in the books, NBA fans are already obsessing over the offseason. Where will LeBron sign? Which other superstars could be on the move? Which contenders will morph into bottom-feeders, and vice versa?

In this wildly unpredictable league, it seems like anything could happen.

Before the July 1 commencement of free agency, however, teams are focused on the draft. Last year’s draft provided immediate-impact players for playoff teams like the Jazz (Donovan Mitchell), Celtics (Jayson Tatum), and Warriors (Jordan Bell). Other rookies, like Lonzo Ball and Lauri Markkanen, didn’t play for contenders, but they were starters from day one and had a significant influence on their team’s fortunes.

With this year’s draft fast approaching – it’s slated for Thursday, June 21 – we have identified 10 prospects who are positioned to immediately jump into the rotation and make an impact for their new teams.

10. Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova

Brunson will never be a captivating highlight-reel guy. He plays below the rim, and there isn’t much flash in his game. But the guy possesses all the intangibles. He was the unquestioned leader on Jay Wright’s national title squad. Brunson, the Naismith Player of the Year and son of former NBA player Rick Brunson, is only 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, but he has a strong frame; no one is going to push him around. The junior from Illinois also possesses incredible basketball IQ and maturity. Don’t expect him to experience a rough transition to the pro level. He knows what he can and cannot do, and that self-awareness should position him for success.

(more…)

12 matchups to watch in the NBA conference finals

James harden

After an unforgettable offseason and regular season, the highly anticipated NBA playoffs have lived up to expectations. Could this league get any hotter?

The Cavs looked like they were dead, then LeBron James shifted into god mode. Now their title hopes look as strong as they have all season. The injury-riddled Celtics have far surpassed expectations, defeating two teams that appeared to have more talent, including three of the league’s brightest young stars (Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid).

In the West, meanwhile, the two best teams have cruised. We now get to see the matchup fans have anticipated all season: Warriors versus Rockets.

With the conference finals getting underway this weekend (Cavs-Celtics Sunday afternoon, Warriors-Rockets Monday night), here are 12 matchups that could very well dictate which teams end up as the final two standing.

(more…)

15 players who will shape the NBA playoffs

James harden

This NBA season has been one for the books. Think of all the narratives: the drama-filled Cavs, the injury-riddled Celtics, the red-hot Rockets and Raptors, the crazy trade deadline, the inconsistent Warriors — the list goes on.

With the playoffs approaching (they start this Saturday), we still don’t know which teams will match up. Will Houston square off with Utah, New Orleans, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Minnesota, or Denver? Considering the unpredictability of this season, your guess is as good as mine.

Though we don’t yet know which teams will see each other, we do have an idea of which players will play a salient role in shaping the NBA playoffs. Here’s a look at 15 of those players.

15. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

The Greek Freak has looked a year away from total domination this season. Though many fans expected the Bucks would make the leap to become an Eastern Conference contender this year, the squad has disappointed. They underperformed with Jason Kidd, who was fired midway through the season, and they’ve underperformed with Joe Prunty. Giannis will need to be at his best — he’ll need to be ready now — for Milwaukee to steal a series. He missed Saturday’s game against New York with ankle soreness, the sixth game he’s missed this year.

14. Chris Paul, Houston Rockets

Mike D’Antoni and Daryl Morey both seemed supremely confident the Chris Paul/James Harden experiment would be a hit. This season has made them look like prophets. The Rockets, behind their voluminous three-point shooting, have been easily the best team in the league, cruising to a 64-16 record. Their postseason success will ultimately boil down to the success of their two stars. Paul has never made it to the NBA Finals — could this be the year he finally breaks through? He has his best supporting cast to date.

(more…)

10 future lottery picks to watch in the NCAA Tournament

Michael Porter Jr

After weeks of speculation about which teams would squeak in and who would be left out, after Joe Lunardi frantically updated his Bracketology predictions dozens of times, the NCAA Tournament is finally here.

Aside from the shocking upsets, the dramatic buzzer-beaters, and the emergence of unlikely heroes, one of the best parts of the tournament each year is getting the opportunity to watch future lottery picks — many of whom will be one-and-done — compete with each other at the collegiate level. The 2017 tournament included Kansas’ Josh Jackson, UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, Duke’s Jayson Tatum, Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen, and Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox, among others.

The top 11 picks in the NBA’s 2017 draft were freshmen or international players, and nine of them played in the tournament. One (Gonzaga’s Zach Collins) made it all the way to the Final Four.

So, which future NBA players should you keep an eye on as the tourney gets underway? Which prospects could blossom into household names this March? Here are 10 future lottery picks to watch.

10. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, G, Kentucky

(more…)

10 NBA rookies who have surpassed expectations

Kyle kuzma

With the NBA Draft eight months in the rearview mirror, some teams are likely already wishing for a do-over.

Consider the Philadelphia 76ers, who selected Washington’s Markelle Fultz No. 1 – to unanimous applause from analysts. Though Fultz’s shoulder injury, which has kept him off the court since Oct. 23, was certainly not his fault, his shot looks broken, and that pick now looks questionable. The Sixers would certainly much rather have Donovan Mitchell or Jayson Tatum.

Meanwhile, other teams are thrilled with the results they’ve seen from their 2017 draft class. Consider the Los Angeles Lakers, who, while they’ve gotten mixed results from No. 2 pick Lonzo Ball, snagged Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart with late first-round picks. If we had a redraft, all three would likely be lottery picks.

Other teams still don’t know how to evaluate their 2017 draft. Did the Suns make a good or bad pick in taking Josh Jackson at No. 4? Did the Kings make a good or bad pick in taking De’Aaron Fox at No. 5? At this point, no one really knows.

We do know, however, that a handful of rookies have far outperformed expectations. Here are 10 who have stood out – and made a bunch of teams regret passing on them.

(more…)