Bigs used to be centers or power forwards with the difference all but indistinguishable, as with Tim Duncan and David Robinson. Now they’re divided into “rim protectors” and “stretch fours”–and you better be one or the other. Jahlil Okafor, the No. 3 pick in 2015 who has rare low-post skills, is a dinosaur, warming the bench in Brooklyn after being lost in Philadelphia. This is an ultra-deep draft but with college players being fitted for new NBA designations, there’s little consensus about who’ll go where, another new development at this stage of their season.
Playing in front of a near-capacity crowd and 17 NBA scouts, the Hurricanes made 13 of their first 14 shots and staved off a late rally by 24th-ranked Florida State to win 80-74. It was Miami’s first home game in more than a month, and the Canes, who improved to 13-2, looked happy to be back in the friendly Watsco Center. Sophomore guard Bruce Brown, who three days ago tweeted, “I need to step up. I will not let my team down again!”, stepped up big time. Brown looked inspired from the start, scored seven consecutive points at the end of the first half, made six critical free throws down the stretch and finished with a season-high 23 points.
The Kings fired scouting director and former assistant general manager Mike Bratz, who was previously an assistant coach in Sacramento under Rick Adelman and Eddie Jordan. “We agreed to part ways and appreciate all of his contributions to the Kings,” the team said in a statement. “We wish him nothing but the best.”
Sean Cunningham: In his many roles over the years, Mike Bratz, once a former Kings assistant coach, served as assistant general manager and most recently as Kings Dir. of Scouting and Sr. advisor to GM Vlade Divac.
Before the draft, in front of all the NBA’s GMs and top scouts, Kuzma helped himself at the league combine when he made four of five three-pointers in a game. But some scouts considered that an aberration. Not Magic Johnson, the Lakers’ new president, or Rob Pelinka, their first-time GM, as they went into their first draft and needed to hit in big since taking over the basketball operations three months earlier. In a rebuilding campaign, they took Ball at No. 2 overall, believing that even with his funky shot and problems defending quicker point guards, he’d be the floor leader they needed, a player other players wanted to play with, and the kind of rare talent who could make his teammates better.
With Kuzma, they were taking more of a risk on a pick they had acquired when they sent off Ball’s predecessor, D’Angelo Russell, to the Brooklyn Nets. His starting salary is only $1.4 million for this season, compared to Ball’s $6.3 million. “Less was more for the Lakers,” the GM noted. “With what they saw at the combine, that helped them make up their mind. Usually, evaluations made solely at the combine backfire, but this time paid off.”