Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors)
(Yes, I know the picture the video starts on is KD, for some reason)
Draymond has had a really strong close to the regular season after having a sub-par regular season by his lofty standards. For the entire season, Draymond averaged 7.5 pts, 7 rebs, 7 assists, a combined 2.5 blks/stls, and 2.5 TO per game. His biggest struggle has been with his shooting - Draymond is a career 32% shooter from 3 (not great, but good enough), but this season he has averaged only 28% from 3. Since the All-Star break, however, Draymond has shot much better, and in his last 10 games he has averaged 35% from 3. More than that Draymond has started moving a ton better on the defensive end, and his activity and impact on games has really spiked in the last month of the season. The man is gearing up for another deep playoff run. A couple of games ago, against the Warriors’ up-coming first-round opponent the LA Clippers, Draymond had a stat line of 10 pts, 10 rebs, 9 assists, 3 blks, 5 steals, and only 2 TO’s... the man is ready to win a third championship in a row. I had maintained for much of the year that the Warriors would not win the championship this year, and I think the field should be favored still, but this group has finally rounded into form after yet another exhausting season filled with distraction (almost exclusively caused by Durant).
Gary Harris (Denver Nuggets)
Unfortunately, Gary Harris has had a frustrating regular season. After starting the year with really strong play and some game-winning performances, Gary dealt with a lot of injuries and is only just getting back to full health. Still struggling with his rhythm, especially on his shot, Harris averaged 13 pts, 2.8 rebs, 2 asts, 1 stl, and 1 TO per game, while only shooting 42% from the field (34% from 3), and 80% from the line. The Nuggets secured the 2-seed in the West, and will be really interesting to watch. They had a great regular season through the All-Star break, and then had a bit of a swoon down the stretch. They will have home-court for the first two rounds against the Spurs, and whoever emerges out of Portland and OKC. If you haven’t watched the Nuggets this season... change that. They play an awesome brand of up-tempo passing basketball, they defend well, and they have a dynamic set of young talent in Harris, Jokic (one of the most fun and quirky players in the NBA as a playmaking center), and Murray (a great scorer). They have a good bench, and should beat the Spurs in Round-1, then again...
Bryn Forbes (San Antonio Spurs)
Bryn Forbes, the 3rd year pro, started 81 of 82 games at shooting guard for the Spurs. Let that sink in, again. A guy who couldn’t get a high-major offer out of high school, who transferred to MSU, who couldn’t get a sniff in the draft, who worked his way onto the last roster spot on the Spurs team, started a whole season for the San Antonio Spurs. For the year, Bryn averaged 12 pts, 3 rebs, 2 asts, and 1 TO per game on 45% from the field (nearly 43% from 3) and 88.5% from the line. He has played really well for a Spurs team that dealt with major injuries all season to their young guard rotation. Through it all, Bryn has chipped in smart, committed play, better defense than an MSU fan could ever imagine him producing, and hitting tough shots. Bryn won a number of games this year for the Spurs, and has really made himself into a legit NBA player who will stick in the league for years to come. He has one of the most beautiful shots in the league and is completely fearless. Bryn and Gary will be lined-up against each other to start every game in the first round - how cool is that! While the Spurs are rightly the lower seed, they have a legit chance vs the Nuggets: they have been really hot down the stretch, going from a brutal stretch to end February, where they had a bunch of losses and were sitting at an uncomfortable 33-29 to closing the season with a 48-34 record. They are one of the hottest teams in the league, and having Derrick White (back in the starting point guard role) has really helped solidify their rotation: Bryn and White start and Mills and Bellineli come off the bench, it is a great 4-guard rotation with a ton of shooting and a plucky attitude. It should be a great series.
Miles Bridges (Charlotte Hornets)
Sadly, Borrego the Hornets coach, who I generally like, kinda tanked the season. He inexplicably left Batum in the starting line-up for way too long, and didn’t give Bridges and some of the other young Hornets guys enough burn when the season was on the line. The Hornets missed out on the playoffs on the final day of the regular season after closing strong from a nearly hopeless position a few weeks ago (the above highlights are from that last game, which the Hornets had to win). If Bridges had been inserted into the starting lineup a couple of months ago (when I predicted Borrego would make the change, because Batum was taking like 3 shots a game while playing 35 mins - both inexcusable), then they might have had a shot. Alas. As it was, this season was a big success for Bridges. He won’t be on any all-rookie team I don’t think, but after being up-and-down in his play, and hot-and-cold in his shooting, Miles, predictably, settled into the NBA season and played awesome ball on both ends down the stretch. For the season, Miles averaged 21 mins, 7.5 pts, 4 rebs, 1 ast, and a combined 1.3 stl/blk per game, on 46% shooting from the field (32.5% from 3 - 36% from 3 in his last 10 games) and 75% from the line. From March 17, when Miles got only 10 minutes in a loss to the Heat (dropping the Hornets to 31-38), Miles started every game, averaged over 30 mins a game, hit double figures in 8 games, shot nearly 37% from 3 (18-49), averaged around 6 rebounds, 2 asts, and a combined 2 blks/stls a game. Miles showed himself to be a serious NBA player, defending opposing teams’ best wings or forwards, and bringing his activity and hustle to every game. Damn you Borrego... The Hornets will likely lose Kemba Walker this season, and will likely be really poor next year, but Miles will have a ton of opportunity and start every game. The shackles are off and Bridges is on the loose.
Jaren Jackson jr (Memphis Grizzlies)
Despite ending the year on a frustrating down note. JJJ got a “deep thigh bruise” that “caused” him to miss the last 26 games of the year; I think he really did get an injury, but that the team decided to hold him out as a precaution and to ensure that he didn’t get a more serious injury - as he had already played 53 games on a lot of minutes for a still very young kid with a developing body this was a solid call. Despite a shortened rookie season, JJJ will have a great shot to be an all-rookie player. He averaged 13.8 pts, 4.7 rebs, 1 ast, a combined 2+ blk/stls, and 1.7 TO per game. When healthy he started 56/58 games, played 26 mins a night, and shot an INSANE 50% from the field (~36% from 3) and 76.7% from the ft line. He is one of 6 rookies in NBA history to hit those numbers. The sky is the limit for this kid, as we all know, and he will enter next season as one of the presumptive leaders on a team in the midst of a can-we-rebuild-without-tanking rebuild season. The Grizzlies traded Marc Gasol for Valanciunas (good call), still have Conley (for now), but have a lot of interesting young guys on the team who played pretty well down the stretch. Regardless of what happens this summer/in free-agency, JJJ and Valanciunas will start all year next year and will form a dynamic front-court. JJJ still needs to improve on his rebounding, but that will come with time, experience, and physical development. For now, Valanciunas will snag all the boards, and pound it in the paint, while JJJ will be a terror all over the court.
Deyonta Davis, in an awesome note, played the end of the regular season with the Hawks, looking like a real NBA player (moving well and playing consistent basketball for the first time in his NBA career), he signed a multi-year deal (1 year guaranteed, the second not-guaranteed), and will therefore start the summer (summer league, maybe, training camp definitely) on the Hawks roster and have a shot to play his way onto the team, and into a “pay-me” try-out season for the entire NBA. This coming summer and season will likely be DD’s last best shot to indicate to NBA teams that he should be given a contract over other young kids. He did a great job in the G-League this year and played his way back onto an NBA roster, now he has to step his game up and his commitment and consistency another level. We are all pulling for him!
Denzel Valentine was injured all year, but will return to a much improved Bulls squad, and will likely come off the bench again. If Valentine can find a comfort zone for the Bulls, then that team could be a sneaky dark-horse playoff contender with Lavine, Porter, Markannen, and Wendell Carter jr (who has blossomed since leaving Duke), if the front office can make some intelligent moves this summer (a serious question), then this Bulls squad could push for the 8th seed next year.
Kalin Lucas appeared in a game for the Pistons this year and was a 3rd team all-G-League player; he will have another chance to get onto a roster this summer.
That’s all for now, and please fill me in on guys I missed out on including any detail on guys in Europe! Here is a link to the RealGM page on all MSU guys playing professionally.