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#pounditSunday, April 11, 2021

Stories by Aaron Mansfield:

10 notable NBA players who could retire in the next year

It’s always sad watching once-great athletes enter the twilight of their careers. For sports fans, it feels like we’re losing a piece of ourselves. Father Time doesn’t discriminate, and though some athletes push the envelope into their 40s, we all sadly have a shelf life.

In the past two years, fans have seen notable figures like Tim Duncan, Amar’e Stoudemire, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce retire. Here are 10 well-known players who may follow in their footsteps in the next year.

10. Vince Carter

I sat down with V.C. on draft day to discuss his future, and at the time it was uncertain. He was waiting for LeBron to announce his decision so the rest of the league could react and adjust their free-agency plans accordingly. Once LJ finally did so, the Hawks scooped Carter, signing him to a one-year deal. Atlanta wanted “Carter around its young locker room,” per Woj. The 41-year-old will receive $2.4 million for the season — keep getting them checks! Carter is no longer the Vinsanity we all knew and loved, but he’s had a heck of a career, and he’s still a valuable piece. Last season, with Sacramento, he played in 58 games, averaging 17.7 minutes, 5.4 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game while shooting 34.5 percent from beyond the arc. The former No. 5 overall pick (1998, Golden State Warriors) has now played for eight teams.

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Top 10 NBA Rookie of the Year candidates

Luka Doncic

Ben Simmons entered the 2017-18 season as Vegas’ favorite to win that year’s Rookie of the Year award – and he made the sportsbooks look wise. Simmons looked ready to dominate at the ripe age of 21, averaging 15.8 points, 8.2 assists, and 8.1 rebounds per game and helping the Sixers mount a late charge for East supremacy.

Many predicted the Aussie would claim that award, but few expected he’d be jockeying for the honor with Donovan Mitchell, who inexplicably fell to No. 13 in the 2017 draft. Jayson Tatum (the No. 3 pick) came in third, and though a fourth finalist wasn’t announced, we imagine Kyle Kuzma (No. 27) would’ve checked in next on the list.

So, which young star will shine the brightest this year? Here are 10 incoming rookies we think have the best shot of taking home the hardware in June 2019.

10. Harry Giles, Sacramento Kings

It seems everyone has forgotten about Giles, a top-three recruit in the Class of 2016 (the others at the top: Lonzo Ball and Josh Jackson). Everyone, that is, except for the Kings, who have sung his praises this offseason. After sitting out his rookie season, Giles made his debut at Summer League and performed well, consistently posting double-doubles and showing impressive ability to protect the rim. Vince Carter, who spent last season with Giles, recently told me he was surprised the Kings would go after another big (Marvin Bagley III) because Giles is going to be a problem. Expect a Harry Giles comeback story this season.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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