Celtics sign former No. 2 overall pick Parker

10:20 PM ET

Tim BontempsESPN

The Boston Celtics have signed former No. 2 overall pick Jabari Parker, the team announced Friday.

At just 26 years old, Parker has played only a combined 41 games over the past two seasons — including only three this season for the Sacramento Kings before getting waived last month. He has also played for four teams — the Kings, Atlanta Hawks, Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls — over the past three seasons.

The Duke University product has averaged 14.8 points and shot almost 50% from the field for his career, but he has struggled to live up to his potential after suffering a pair of ACL tears in his right knee early in his career, including one just a couple of months into his rookie season in 2014.

Whenever Parker is able to officially clear the NBA’s health and safety protocols and join the team, he is likely to

Sources: MRI clean, but Mitchell to miss games

9:55 AM ET

An MRI on the right ankle sprain of Donovan Mitchell revealed no structural damage, but the Utah Jazz guard is expected to miss several games before he is cleared to return, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Mitchell suffered the injury during the third quarter of Friday’s 119-111 win over the Pacers when he jumped to try to deflect a long outlet pass and came down awkwardly with his foot underneath Indiana guard Edmond Sumner. Mitchell immediately grabbed his lower leg in pain and needed help getting to the locker room, with teammate Royce O’Neale and a trainer supporting him.

Sources told Wojnarowski on Friday that Mitchell has a low ankle sprain and that X-rays were negative.

“Obviously we hope that it’s nothing serious,” coach Quin Snyder said after Friday’s game, “but they’re in the process of doing everything they can do to assess that.”

Mitchell has been on an offensive tear in

Our NBA experts predict how the crowded East standings will shake out

Apr 13, 2021

NBA Insiders

The Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks have all separated themselves from the pack in the Eastern Conference. The rest of the standings? Well, that picture is much less clear.

With six teams — the Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat, Charlotte Hornets, Boston Celtics, New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers — separated by just three games, it’s anyone’s guess as to how the bottom half of the East will shake out with a little more than a month remaining in the regular season.

For teams like the Heat and Celtics, who met in last season’s conference finals and entered 2020-21 with championship aspirations, avoiding the play-in round is a top priority.

Which team should be considered the favorite to break from the logjam to capture the No. 4 seed and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs? Which potential play-in matchup would create the most drama? Should

Harden 'progressing well,' but return still TBD

8:14 PM ET

NEW YORK — Ten days after James Harden was diagnosed with a right hamstring strain, Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks said that the All-Star guard is “progressing well.”

Marks added that Harden will need “at least one or two” practice days when he plays 4-on-4 and 5-on-5 before returning to the court.

“Hopefully if things go smoothly, he’ll be out and joining the guys in a game,” Marks said. “He’s met his markers up to this point, and we’ll just continue to progress him along, and hopefully it’s not too much longer.”

Marks added that he wasn’t sure exactly which date Harden would return. Nets coach Steve Nash said that while the team had the day off on Thursday, Harden went into the practice facility to workout.

“I know speaking to James and speaking to people who were on the court with him that he is improving,” Nash said. “So, he’s

D-Wade leaps into ownership with stake in Jazz

12:19 PM ET

Three-time NBA champion Dwyane Wade has purchased an ownership stake in the Utah Jazz, joining majority owner and team governor Ryan Smith with plans to take an active role in the franchise and region.

Wade, an eight-time All-NBA player with the Miami Heat, is the latest of several Hall of Fame-level players with NBA ownership stakes, including Grant Hill (Atlanta Hawks), Shaquille O’Neal (Sacramento Kings) and Charlotte Hornets majority owner Michael Jordan. Magic Johnson previously had a 4% stake in the Los Angeles Lakers.

“This goes way beyond the dream I had to just play basketball in the NBA,” Wade told ESPN. “I’ve seen Shaq do it in Sacramento. I’ve seen Grant Hill do it in Atlanta. I’ve seen Jordan do it in Charlotte. If this partnership is going to be anything like my relationship is with Ryan, there are going to be a lot of things that I’ll want

Free agency stock watch: DeMar DeRozan, Duncan Robinson, Reggie Jackson and more

The deeper that we get into the regular season, the more indications we get about what the free agency market will look like this offseason.

Of course, executives around the league always have tough decisions to make about who they plan to re-sign as well as who they plan to pursue or let walk during free agency. But as the season progresses, it becomes a bit easier to evaluate who would be a good fit for their franchise and who might not be.

As part of our ongoing series at HoopsHype, we are looking at whose free agency stock has gone up – and down – over the last several games.

Note: All statistics are accurate as of games before April 16, 2021.

Stock up: DeMar DeRozan (San Antonio)

San Antonio Spurs forward DeMar DeRozan (10) drives around Toronto Raptors guard Malachi Flynn (8) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Tampa, Fla.

(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

You wouldn’t realize it at first glance considering the San Antonio Spurs have won just two of their last nine games. But while he is already 31 years old, San Antonio Spurs forward DeMar DeRozan has had a bit of a career reinvention in 2020-21.

DeRozan doesn’t fit the bill as a non-big in the modern NBA, connecting on just two three-pointers in the seventeen games he has played since the All-Star break. However, he has found ways to be ridiculously productive, notching multiple 30-point performances in his last ten games. He wound up with 36 points on April 1 against the Atlanta Hawks and 33 points during a victory over the Dallas Mavericks on April 11.

While he is averaging 24.0 points in his games since March 31, the most impressive aspect of his play has been his playmaking. He is averaging 7.2 assists per game and he has the fifth-most assists among all players in the Western Conference during this span.

On the season, per Cleaning the Glass, his assist percentage (31.7 percentage) ranks as the best overall among players at his position. Overall, he has been effective and efficient as an offensive creator both for himself and for his teammates when running ball screens for the Spurs.

The 31-year-old is playing a different brand of basketball than we have seen from him before and his 7.2 assists per game is a new career-high for the four-time All-Star. While he hasn’t earned such a selection since 2018, Denver Nuggets coach Mike Malone recently said that he cast a vote for DeRozan to receive the nod as a reserve this season.

DeRozan is reportedly taking a “wide open” approach to free agency, but after earning a stellar reputation around the league during his career, there is reason to believe he could get a nice payday when he soon hits the open market. Some reports indicate he could be looking towards the Eastern Conference with the Chicago Bulls as a potential suitor.

For the latest news and rumors on DeMar DeRozan, click here.

Stock down: Duncan Robinson (Miami)

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 29: Duncan Robinson #55 of the Miami Heat reacts after hitting a basket against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on March 29, 2021 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

After winning the Eastern Conference title last season, there were high hopes for the Miami Heat coming into the season. One player who was pegged for a potential breakout campaign was sharpshooting wing Duncan Robinson.

While he is still an elite floor spacer, the results have been fairly middling for Robinson, who turns 27 years old next week. Robinson is averaging 13.0 points per game, which is actually fewer than he did in 2019-20. Even though his 40.9 percent mark from beyond the arc is higher than the league average, it is still quite a bit lower than his mark last year (44.6 percent) as well.

Make no mistake about it, Robinson still has an elite skill in his marksmanship. But he is one-dimensional and as Sun-Sentinel columnist Ira Winderman recently noted, the Heat have in the past been “willing to allow” shooting specialists such leave during free agency. Robinson, who is also undoubtedly a liability on defense, may not fit into the long-term plans for Miami if they also plan to prioritize Tyler Herro.

Of course, we have to consider that the front office reportedly did not include Robinson in trade talks for Kyle Lowry. Similarly, executive Pat Riley has maintained that it would be foolish to get rid of either him or Herro, Miami may be willing to match any offer that Robinson receives during restricted free agency.

Those offers just may not be as strong as they would have been if he showed significant year-over-year improvements instead of the mild setbacks he has had thus far.

For the latest news and rumors on Duncan Robinson, click here.

Stock up: Reggie Jackson (L.A. Clippers)

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 09: Reggie Jackson #1 of the Los Angeles Clippers reacts after making a three point basket against the Houston Rockets during the fourth quarter at Staples Center on April 09, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

(Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

The Clippers have won eight games in a row and guard Reggie Jackson is playing some of the best basketball that he has played in years.

Since April 4, the Clippers have outscored opponents by 86 points when Jackson has been on the floor, which is the second-best overall plus-minus among all players in that span. He is shooting 50.0 percent from the three-point range in these appearances, connecting on 2.1 per game. Jackson was able to hit six three-pointers on April 9 against the Houston Rockets.

Most impressive was the game-winning jumper that he hit against his former team, the Detroit Pistons, on April 14. He ended the game with 29 points

But he has been a fairly explosive scorer in general, now breaking the 20-point barrier in three of his most recent six appearances for his squad.

Jackson signed a minimum deal with the Clippers during the offseason but as someone who has become a fairly regular starter for a championship contender, it is easy to imagine a world in which he commands a much larger paycheck for his next deal.

For the latest news and rumors on Reggie Jackson, click here.

Stock down: Nemanja Bjelica (Miami)

Apr 3, 2021; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat forward Nemanja Bjelica (70) attempts a layup during the fourth quarter of a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at American Airlines Arena.

Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports

The results have not been particularly pretty since Nemanja Bjelica landed with the Miami Heat. He has been held scoreless in five of the eight games that he has played with his new organization.

While there were many who were optimistic about what Bjelica could contribute to the Heat, the 6-foot-10 big man is shooting just 18.8 percent on three-pointers in the recent stretch. He made just one of his most recent eleven attempts from beyond the arc.

Bjelica, who projected as someone who could play key minutes for Miami after they traded Kelly Olynyk to the Houston Rockets, appeared on the floor for less than six minutes when the Heat lost to the Phoenix Suns on April 13.

Even though Bjelica is coming off a deal in which he was signed for $20.5 million over three years, he is likely going to be in a rough spot when his contract is up this offseason.

For the latest news and rumors on Nemanja Bjelica, click here.

Stock up: TJ McConnell (Indiana)

Apr 16, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Indiana Pacers guard T.J. McConnell (9) dribbles up the court during the second half against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena.

Russell Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Last month, we wrote about the tenacious and hard-nosed defense that has allowed Indiana Pacers guard TJ McConnell to steal bad passes more often than any other basketball player on record.

While his defensive playmaking has been excellent, recording four steals against the Houston Rockets on April 14, it is worth noting that McConnell has stepped up as an excellent playmaker as well. Pacers head coach, Nate Bjorkgren, has credited McConnell with setting the high-pace tempo for his offense whenever he is on the floor. With his help, Indiana has won five of their last seven games.

McConnell recorded 15 assists against the Minnesota Timberwolves on April 7, becoming the first player on record with multiple 15-point and 15-assist games off the bench in a single season. He followed that up with another 9 assists against the Orlando Magic on April 9.

In fact, when looking at the league leaders for assist ratio, which measures the percentage of offensive possessions that result in an assist, McConnell ranks fourth-best (min: 25 minutes per game) among all players since April 1.

McConnell has also had some efficient scoring performances of late as well. He shot 9-for-12 on April 7, 5-for-6 on April 11 and then a perfect 5-for-5 on April 14.

Players who know their role and who can maximize their opportunity whenever they are on the floor will have opportunities and offers flooding from teams around the league. There are plenty of contenders who could use the services of a backup floor general like McConnell. Don’t be surprised if he earns more than the $3.5 million average annual value he is currently collecting.

For the latest news and rumors on TJ McConnell, click here.

Stock down: Semi Ojeleye (Boston)

Mar 17, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Boston Celtics forward Semi Ojeleye (37) drives to the basket against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second quarter at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

After earning a few appearances in the starting lineup during February and March, Boston Celtics forward Semi Ojeleye has seen a fairly significant decrease in playing time recently.

Boston head coach Brad Stevens has been using a smaller rotation as the Celtics have been on a bit of a winning steak. Ojeleye has found himself as the odd-man-out, playing single-digit minutes in each of his last four games.

He has been held scoreless in three consecutive games and has failed to reach double-digit points in any of the 23 games that he has played dating back to Feb. 12.

Ojeleye did not project as a key contributor for Boston, especially considering the front office was a bit finicky about whether or not they would guarantee his deal and pick up his team option for 2020-21. With that in mind, it seems unlikely that he is part of their long-term plans.

For the latest news and rumors on Semi Ojeleye, click here.


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What three all-time greats are saying about Steph

Apr 12, 2021

Even Stephen Curry couldn’t believe he was on the verge of surpassing a record held by the great Wilt Chamberlain.

“That’s surreal to be honest,” Curry said after a loss to the Atlanta Hawks last week, after which he sat 129 points behind the Warriors’ all-time lead.

“[Chamberlain has] got a lot of buckets. Obviously he’s a legend and remains [one] across the whole league, but obviously wearing a Warriors uniform and having been here my whole career, it’s pretty crazy. So I got a couple more points to score — hopefully some more wins in the process — but it is just a wild thought in general.

“To know where it started out and all that’s happened over the course of my career … that is a pretty significant milestone.”

At 33, Curry is in the midst of the type of special relationship with one team and one region that

Ranking the likeliest players to win end-of-year awards this season

As we approach the stretch run of the 2020-21 NBA campaign, we thought up a fun exercise: Why not look at current betting odds, use our own opinions and common sense, and vote on the likeliest players to win end-of-year awards this season?

So that’s precisely what we did.

From Rudy Gobert vs. Ben Simmons for Defensive Player of the Year to LaMelo Ball up against No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards for Rookie of the Year and even, of course, the frontrunners for Most Valuable Player, below, you can check out who we think are the likeliest guys to take home a major accolade for the 2020-21 season.

Jordan Clarkson (Sixth Man of the Year)

Betting odds indicate that the likeliest player-award pairing for the 2020-21 season is Jordan Clarkson as Sixth Man of the Year, as OddsShark has the Utah Jazz guard as a -1000 favorite to win the prestigious accolade right now.

We agree with that assessment, as Clarkson has been spectacular coming off the bench for the best team in the league this year, putting up 17.2 points and 3.0 three-pointers per game while leading the league in free throw percentage at a 95.5 percent rate.

Moreso than with any other award, Sixth Man of The Year has a very distinct type, almost always going to guys who score a lot off the bench for contenders.

Clarkson fits that mold to a tee, so that’s why we rank him as the likeliest award winner for this campaign.

For the latest Jordan Clarkson rumors, click here.

Nikola Jokic (Most Valuable Player)

At one point earlier in the campaign, the Most Valuable Player race was almost too close to call, with multiple guys making strong cases to be considered this year’s top player.

However, injuries to some of the other leading candidates have taken a good bit of the drama out of the race, leaving Nikola Jokic as the current clear favorite.

Jokic has been truly ridiculous in 2020-21, putting up 26.0 points, 10.9 rebounds and 8.8 assists per contest on outrageous 56.4/41.8/85.3 percent shooting splits.

The big superstar also leads the league in multiple catch-all advanced metrics, including Value Over Replacement Player, Box Plus/Minus and Win Shares, a ridiculous accomplishment this deep into a league year.

Other players could make it close over the stretch run of the season, but for now, Jokic is the MVP favorite.

For the latest Nikola Jokic rumors, click here.

Rudy Gobert (Defensive Player of the Year)

Next up in our rankings is Gobert for 2020-21’s Defensive Player of the Year, which, if it does come to fruition, would make it the big man’s third time taking home the award.

That would make Gobert just the fourth player ever to win Defensive Player of the Year at least three times, joining an illustrious list along with Dwight Howard, Ben Wallace and Dikembe Mutombo – the latter two of whom actually won the accolade four times each.

Gobert has yet again put together a very strong case for Defensive Player of the Year this season, blocking 2.8 shots nightly (the second-highest mark in the league), while ranking first in Defensive Win Shares (4.0) on the year, fourth in Defensive Box Plus/Minus (2.5) and fourth in block rate (7.3 percent).

Further aiding Gobert’s case is the fact that he anchors a Jazz defense that has been elite yet again, giving up just 107.6 points per 100 possessions, the fourth-stingiest mark in the NBA this year.

Gobert does face some solid competition for the award this campaign, but as of now, we consider him the favorite for Defensive Player of the Year and one of the likeliest players to win a major accolade for 2020-21.

For the latest Rudy Gobert rumors, click here.

Ben Simmons (Defensive Player of the Year)

Gobert has a strong rival in the Defensive Player of the Year race this season in Simmons, as the versatile Philadelphia 76ers guard has a very strong case in his own right to take home the award.

The latest betting odds on this battle, per OddsShark, are extremely close, with Gobert a -200 favorite and Simmons right behind him at +200, indicating the race is close to a pick ’em right now, meaning it’s almost a 50/50 shot for either guy to win it.

Aiding Simmons’ case is the fact that he’s a much more versatile and multi-positional defender than Gobert, as the Australian guard can legitimately cover every opposing position on the court at a high level, something the Jazz center simply cannot match.

Opposing teams occasionally find offensive success against Utah by forcing Gobert to defend perimeter-oriented big men who pull him away from the rim and open up the lane for their ball-handlers and slashers. It’s much harder for teams to scheme around Simmons’ defensive prowess, however, as even setting picks on him is difficult due to his size and strength and even if they do force him to switch, Simmons is a monster at picking pockets and jumping passing lanes.

Additionally, Simmons’ Sixers actually have a higher defensive rating than the Jazz this year, with Philadelphia giving up 106.6 points per 100 possessions in 2020-21 (the second-best mark in the NBA) to Utah’s 107.6 mark.

We also have to factor Joel Embiid in here, though, as Embiid is an All-Defensive Team-caliber player who helps Philadelphia on the point-preventing end of the floor much more than any of Gobert’s teammates do for him.

Even so, Simmons averages 1.6 steals per game this season (the No. 9 mark in the league) while ranking third in Defensive Win Shares (2.8), ninth in Defensive Box Plus/Minus (1.8) and 12th in steal rate (2.3 percent). Simmons is also one of just two guards in the Top 15 in Defensive Win Shares this year, proving just how unique his impact on that end of the floor is.

Gobert may be the slight favorite for Defensive Player of the Year right now, but Simmons is right there with him. This is another race that should come down to the wire.

For the latest Ben Simmons rumors, click here.

Jerami Grant (Most Improved Player)

Missed time recently may hurt his case a bit, but there’s no doubt Jerami Grant has one of the strongest cases for Most Improved Player this year, as the leap he’s made in his first campaign as a Detroit Piston has been nothing short of spectacular.

Grant’s averages have gone up from 12.0 points to 22.6 points this season, his rebounds from 3.5 to 4.8 and his assists from 1.2 to 2.9.

What’s more, the athletic wing is shooting an elite 85.8 percent from the foul stripe on over six free throws nightly after never having made more than 75.0 percent of his free throws in a season before.

That’s not easy for a player to do in Year 7.

Just based on pure production, Grant has one of the most foolproof cases for Most Improved Player in 2020-21 to this point. Whether or not he wins it will depend on how much time he misses down the stretch, as there are other great candidates for the same accolade, too.

For the latest Jerami Grant rumors, click here.

LaMelo Ball (Rookie of the Year)

The race for Rookie of the Year in 2020-21 is going to be razor-tight, but that’s mostly because the presumptive favorite a month ago, LaMelo Ball, has been out since late March and might not be able to return this season at all.

Prior to going down, Ball was enjoying a historic inaugural campaign for the Charlotte Hornets, putting up 15.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.1 assists nightly while shooting 37.5 percent from beyond the arc and ripping away 1.6 steals per contest.

In addition, though missing such a large chunk of his first season will hurt his chances of being Rookie of the Year, as does the fact that Edwards has come on much stronger lately, the advanced analytics still favor Ball as the best rookie the season by a wide margin.

Even with the missed time, Ball ranks 53rd in Value Over Replacement Player for 2020-21 at a  1.4 mark. Edwards? 518th at -0.8. Ball also sits 38th in Box Plus/Minus (2.7) while Edwards ranks 178th (-3.9). Even Win Shares, which is a cumulative stat and not a per-game one, still has Ball way ahead, with the Hornets guard ranking 97th in the metric and Edwards at 518th.

If we take efficiency into account, this race might not actually be all that close.

However, there are other factors at play, like Ball’s injury, and Edwards legitimately has been much better over the past month, so Rookie of the Year will likely come down to the wire as far as picking a winner.

For the latest LaMelo Ball rumors, click here.

Anthony Edwards (Rookie of the Year)

The advanced stats may not care for his first-year contributions, but the eye test and raw averages paint a different picture, as Edwards has been quite impressive over the second half of the season.

Since Feb. 27, a 23-game stretch in which Edwards has not sat even once, the former No. 1 pick is putting up 23.7 points per game to go with 5.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.7 steals. His percentages over that span – 42.6 percent from the field, 31.6 percent from three and 77.3 percent from the foul line – are still hideous, but that production is still noteworthy.

Also helping Edwards’ case are the almost nightly viral videos he produces – here’s an example of a recent one…

…showing the flashes of greatness the Georgia product possesses.

Despite ugly shooting numbers and advanced metrics, there’s no doubting Edwards’ massive upside, and as he cleans up his game, he should be to be a serious player over the coming years.

Will he do enough over the last month of the season to take Rookie of the Year from Ball, though?

That remains to be seen.

For the latest Anthony Edwards rumors, click here.

Joel Embiid (Most Valuable Player)

A darkhorse player who could still make the MVP race interesting this year is the recently returned Embiid, who ranks third in 2020-21 in scoring (29.8 points nightly), 10th in rebounding (11.0 boards per game), fourth in Box Plus/Minus and second in Win Shares per 48 Minutes, behind just Jokic, the MVP favorite at the moment. Embiid also just posted a three-game stretch where he averaged 34.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game, all three wins for Philadelphia. It’s probably too late for him to jump Jokic in the MVP race this year, but Embiid absolutely will be one of the top contenders for the award.

For the latest Joel Embiid rumors, click here.

Giannis Antetokounmpo (Most Valuable Player)

One of the players who could make the MVP race interesting down the stretch, as long as he returns from knee soreness soon, is the two-time reigning winner of the award, Giannis Antetokounmpo, who we recently ranked No. 2 in our weekly MVP ranking series.

On the year, Antetokounmpo is putting up preposterous numbers, averaging 28.8 points, 11.4 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.3 blocks per contest while shooting 56.5 percent from the floor, the second-highest rate of his career. He also ranks second this season in Box Plus/Minus, third in Value Over Replacement Player and fourth in Win Shares.

Jokic probably has some breathing room as the MVP frontrunner at this point in the league year, but guys like Antetokounmpo shouldn’t be forgotten about in the race, either.

For the latest Giannis Antetokounmpo rumors, click here.

Tyrese Haliburton (Rookie of the Year)

It may be a two-horse race at the top for Rookie of the Year this season, but Tyrese Haliburton is also hanging around near the front of the pack thanks to his impressive first-year campaign for the Sacramento Kings.

On the year, Haliburton is averaging 12.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.3 steals per game and knocking down 40.8 percent of his outside looks, numbers that weren’t easy to put up considering he’s sharing the backcourt with a borderline All-Star in De’Aaron Fox.

In a different team setting, could Haliburton have made this season’s Rookie of the Year race even more interesting by being able to have a larger usage rate?

It’s possible, but either way, the Kings are probably just thrilled with who they got with the 12th pick in the 2020 draft, awards aside.

For the latest Tyrese Haliburton rumors, click here.

Christian Wood (Most Improved Player)

Were it not for the fact he missed over five weeks in the middle of the season due to injury, Christian Wood would probably rank far higher on this list, if not ahead of Grant.

Even with the missed time, however, Wood makes a strong case for Most Improved Player in 2020-21, as he’s taken a big leap in his first season with the Houston Rockets, upping his scoring (13.1 to 21.2 points per game), rebounding (6.3 to 9.6 rebounds) and shot-blocking (0.9 to 1.3 swats nightly) this campaign without seeing his efficiency fall off too much despite a higher usage rate as a Rocket.

The ankle injuries greatly hurt his chances at winning a major award this year, but Wood still has a lot to be proud of this season with his production, and Houston is probably thrilled with how their big offseason signing has panned out so far.

For the latest Christian Wood rumors, click here.

Julius Randle (Most Improved Player)

Julius Randle has seen one of the biggest jumps this season in terms of going from being a bit of an empty-stat player to one who is legitimately an All-Star, making huge nightly impacts towards winning. It may not be enough for him to win Most Improved Player, as other guys have seen bigger statistical jumps than Randle, but he still absolutely deserves serious consideration for the accolade.

For the latest Julius Randle rumors, click here.

Jaylen Brown (Most Improved Player)

Just when it seems Jaylen Brown may have hit a plateau as a player, he manages to get even better, making him a candidate for Most Improved Player this season. Brown is averaging a career-high in points this year at 24.3 per game, as well as in three-point percentage at 39.7.

For the latest Jaylen Brown rumors, click here.

Myles Turner (Defensive Player of the Year)

Team success is what prevents Myles Turner from being a more serious Defensive Player of the Year candidate, as not only are the Indiana Pacers a disappointing 26-28 this season, but their defense ranks a mediocre 13th in points allowed per 100 possessions (111.5). Still, Turner has been an extremely impressive defender this year, leading the league in nightly blocks (3.5) and block rate (9.2 percent) and sitting seventh in Defensive Box Plus/Minus on the campaign.

For the latest Myles Turner rumors, click here.

Damian Lillard (Most Valuable Player)

Damian Lillard has been slumping a bit of late, but that doesn’t change the fact that he has posted a straight Herculean effort this year in keeping the Portland Trail Blazers relevant in the playoff race despite a plethora of injuries to their roster. Lillard ranks fifth this season in Win Shares and eighth in Value Over Replacement Player.

For the latest Damian Lillard rumors, click here.


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2021 aggregate NBA mock draft 4.0: Checking in after March Madness

Which future NBA players played the best during March Madness? Which prospects made the most significant improvements to their draft stock?

In order to get a better sense of where all of the prospects stand right now, we compiled mock drafts from ESPNNBADraft.netCBS SportsBleacher ReportSports IllustratedYahooThe Athletic, SB Nation and USA TODAY Sports Media Group’s For The Win to see where the prospects rank at the moment.

Since our previous update last month, these are the players who have improved their stock and are trending up on mock drafts: Davion Mitchell (Baylor), Josh Giddey (Adelaide), Chris Duarte (Oregon), Miles McBride (West Virginia), Aaron Henry (Michigan State), Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona), Kessler Edwards (Pepperdine), Trey Murphy (Virginia) and Neemias Queta (Utah State).

Some of the names that did not make the list last time but now appear among the Top 60 include Isaiah Todd (G League Ignite), Johnny Juzang (UCLA), Max Abmas (Oral Roberts), RaiQuan Gray (Florida State), Santi Aldama (Loyola Maryland and Austin Reaves (Oklahoma).

Below are the full rankings based on the latest mock drafts from top analysts and experts.

HoopsHype’s Alberto de Roa contributed research to this report

Cade Cunningham

(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

Wing, 6-7, Oklahoma St (Freshman) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 1

Oklahoma State is the most recent team to defeat Baylor, who ended up winning the national title. Cade Cunningham had 25 points with 8 rebounds and 5 assists during the game, which helped propel them to a spot in the Big 12 Conference Championship. Then, unlike what previous top picks Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz were able to accomplish, Cunningham also led his college team to the NCAA tournament.

Evan Mobley

Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Big, 7-0, USC (Freshman) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 2

USC’s Evan Mobley was instrumental in taking his squad to the Sweet 16, using his incredible length and athleticism to secure huge wins over Kansas and Oregon. The freshman, who won Pac-12 MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, showed elite defensive potential during his time on the floor and he also showed that is a better playmaker than many previously expected.

Jalen Suggs

Feb 4, 2021; Stockton, California, USA; Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs (1) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Pacific in Stockton, Calif., Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. Gonzaga won 76-58.

Rich Pedroncelli/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Guard, 6-4, Gonzaga (Freshman) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 3

While the Gonzaga Bulldogs didn’t win their title game against Baylor, freshman phenom Jalen Suggs had the key moment of March Madness, hitting an insane buzzer-beater in the Final Four to secure a victory over UCLA.

Jalen Green

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Guard, 6-5, G League Ignite 

PREVIOUS RANK: 5

Jalen Green, who won MVP at FIBA’s U17 World Cup in 2018, showed that he was a pro-ready prospect by averaging 17.9 points per game while playing in the G League bubble for the inaugural Ignite squad. Green is able to score on even the toughest defenders at the next level.

Jonathan Kuminga

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Wing, 6-8, G League Ignite

PREVIOUS RANK: 4

Even though Green made more headlines on the Ignite squad, there are scouts and executives around the league who are just as intrigued about Jonathan Kuminga. Standing at 6-foot-8, he has an ideal frame for the NBA, boasting a 6-foot-11 wingspan with remarkable athleticism to boot.

Keon Johnson

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Wing, 6-6, Tennessee (Freshman) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 13

While his total output on the season may not suggest a bona fide season, as he averaged just 11.3 points while shooting just 27.1 percent on his three-pointers, Keon Johnson had flashes of star potential while at Tennessee. He recorded 20 points and 9 rebounds in the conference championship against Alabama and with improved shooting touch, he is an exciting developmental prospect.

Scottie Barnes

Mar 6, 2021; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Florida State Seminoles guard Scottie Barnes (4) dribbles in the first half against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at the Purcell Pavilion.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Wing, 6-8, Florida St (Freshman) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 7

He was a bit underwhelming during March Madness but there are a ton of reasons to believe in Scottie Barnes. He has elite court vision for someone his size and he is a tenacious, versatile defender who is not going to back down. Even if he does not enter the NBA as an elite scorer, there are few people at his position who can make plays for others as well as Barnes.

Kai Jones

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Big, 6-11, Texas (Sophomore) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 12

Even though he made just four appearances in the starting lineup for Texas as a sophomore, anyone who has watched him play knows why you should buy stock in Kai Jones sooner rather than later. He has absurd athleticism and he plays the game with extensive fluidity, easily reason enough to earn a spot in the lottery as a developmental piece.

Moses Moody

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Wing, 6-5, Arkansas (Freshman) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 9

During his one-and-done campaign at Arkansas, Moses Moody earned first-team All-SEC consideration. He led his team in scoring with 16.8 points per game and showed encouraging signs as a long-term 3-and-D wing who easily projects as a long-term player in an NBA rotation.

Davion Mitchell

Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

Guard, 6-2, Baylor (Junior) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 34

Since winning the NCAA title, Baylor’s Davion Mitchell has spiked up big boards and mock drafts. While a bit undersized and already 22 years old, it is hard to find much else to dislike about this two-way prospect. The guard was able to produce 14.1 points and 5.5 assists per game on offense while he also recorded an excellent 1.9 steals per game on defense.

James Bouknight

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Wing, 6-5, UConn (Sophomore) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 11

Franz Wagner

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Wing, 6-8, Michigan (Sophomore) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 19

Corey Kispert

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Wing, 6-7, Gonzaga (Senior) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 10

Jalen Johnson

(Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer via AP)

Big, 6-9, Duke (Freshman) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 8

Josh Giddey

(Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

Guard, 6-8, Adelaide 36ers 

PREVIOUS RANK: 33

Ziaire Williams

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Wing, 6-8, Stanford (Freshman) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 6

Jaden Springer

© Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Guard, 6-4, Tennessee (Freshman) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 20

Usman Garuba

6479472 04.03.2021 Real's Usman Garuba Alari vies scores a ball during the Euroleague basketball match between Zenit Saint Petersburg Region and Real Madrid in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Alexander Galperin / Sputnik via AP

Big, 6-8, Real Madrid (Spain) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 14

Cameron Thomas

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Guard, 6-4, LSU (Freshman) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 16

Isaiah Jackson

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Big, 6-10, Kentucky (Freshman) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 28

Sharife Cooper

(AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

Guard, 5-11, Auburn (Freshman) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 23

Tre Mann

(AP Photo/Michael Woods)

Guard, 6-4, Florida (Sophomore) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 29

Ayo Dosunmu

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Guard, 6-4, Illinois (Junior) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 26

Chris Duarte

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Wing, 6-6, Oregon (Senior)

PREVIOUS RANK: 50

Jared Butler

(Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

Guard, 6-3, Baylor (Junior) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 22

Josh Christopher

Jan 30, 2021; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils guard Josh Christopher (13) against the Stanford Cardinal at Desert Financial Arena (Tempe).

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Wing, 6-5, Arizona St. (Freshman) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 17

Greg Brown

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Big, 6-9, Texas (Freshman)  

PREVIOUS RANK: 15

BJ Boston

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Wing, 6-6, Kentucky (Freshman) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 21

Alperen Sengun

fiba.basketball

Big, 6-10, Besiktas (Turkey)

PREVIOUS RANK: 31

Miles McBride

(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Guard, 6-2, West Virginia (Sophomore) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 58

Marcus Bagley

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Wing, 6-7, Arizona St. (Freshman) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 24

Day’Ron Sharpe

(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Big, 6-11, North Carolina (Freshman) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 30

Charles Bassey

Dec 19, 2020; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Western Kentucky Hilltoppers center Charles Bassey (23) dunks the ball against Alabama Crimson Tide during the second half at Coleman Coliseum.

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Big, 6-11, Western Kentucky (Junior) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 32

Roko Prkacin

fiba.basketball

Wing, 6-9, KK Cibona (Croatia) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 35

Aaron Henry

© Nick King/Lansing State Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Wing, 6-6, Michigan St. (Junior) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 70

Terrence Shannon

Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Wing, 6-6, Texas Tech (Sophomore) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 27

Nah’shon Hyland

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Guard, 6-3, VCU (Sophomore) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 43

Filip Petrusev

Feb 29, 2020; Spokane, Washington, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Filip Petrusev (3) attempts a free throw against the St. Mary's Gaels in the first half at McCarthey Athletic Center. The Bulldogs won 86-76.

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Big, 6-foot-11, Mega Basket (Serbia)

PREVIOUS RANK: 46

Joel Ayayi

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Guard, 6-5, Gonzaga (Junior) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 48

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Big 6-foot-9, Villanova (Sophomore)

PREVIOUS RANK: 36

David Duke

Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Guard, 6-5, Providence (Junior) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 37

Isaiah Todd

Big, 6-10, G League (Select Contract) 

PREVIOUS RANK: Not Ranked

Rokas Jokubaitis

(Dmitry Lebedev/Kommersant/Sipa USA via AP Images)

Guard, 6-foot-4, Zalgiris Kaunas (Lithuania)

PREVIOUS RANK: 38

Herbert Jones

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Wing, 6-7, Alabama (Senior) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 53

Johnny Juzang

Mar 30, 2021; Indianapolis, IN, USA; UCLA Bruins guard Johnny Juzang (3) celebrates after advancing to the Final Four following their win in the Elite Eight of the 2021 NCAA Tournament against the Michigan Wolverines at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Wing, 6-6, UCLA (Sophomore)

PREVIOUS RANK: Not Ranked

Max Abmas

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 21: Max Abmas #3 of the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles celebrates with teammates after defeating the Florida Gators in the second round game of the 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Indiana Farmers Coliseum on March 21, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Oral Roberts defeated Florida 81-78.

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Guard, 6-1, Oral Roberts (Sophomore)

PREVIOUS RANK: Not Ranked

David Johnson

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Guard, 6-5, Louisville (Sophomore)

PREVIOUS RANK: 18

Daishen Nix

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Guard, 6-5, G League Ignite (Select Contract) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 25

Luka Garza

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Big, 6-11, Iowa (Senior) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 44

RaiQuan Gray

Mar 20, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Florida State Seminoles forward RaiQuan Gray (1) dribbles the ball against the UNCG Spartans during the second half in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Big, 6-8, Florida St. (Junior)

PREVIOUS RANK: Not Ranked

Juhann Begarin

(NBA Academy/Basketball Without Borders)

Guard, 6-foot-5, Paris (France)

PREVIOUS RANK: 60

Bennedict Mathurin

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Wing, 6-6, Arizona (Freshman) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 73

Ariel Hukporti

Alba Berlin's German center Johannes Thiemann (R) and MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg's German power forward Ariel Hukporti vie during the German basketball Bundesliga final second-leg match between MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg and Alba Berlin in Munich, southern Germany on June 28, 2020. (Photo by Christof STACHE / various sources / AFP)

(Photo by CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP via Getty Images)

Big, 6-11, Nevezis (Lithuania) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 40

Kessler Edwards

(AP Photo/Young Kwak)

Wing, 6-8, Pepperdine (Junior) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 72

Trey Murphy

Jan 16, 2021; Clemson, South Carolina, USA; Virginia Cavaliers guard Trey Murphy III (25) hangs on the rim after dunking against Clemson Tigers forward Aamir Simms (right) during the second half at Littlejohn Coliseum.

Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Wing, 6-9, Virginia (Junior) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 80

Neemias Queta

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Big, 6-11, Utah St. (Junior) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 94

Matthew Hurt

Dec 16, 2020; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Matthew Hurt (21) shoots over Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Nate Laszewski (14) in the first half at the Purcell Pavilion.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Wing, 6-foot-8, Duke (Sophomore)

PREVIOUS RANK: 52

Santi Aldama

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Wing, 6-11, Loyola MD (Sophomore) 

PREVIOUS RANK: Not Ranked

Terrence Clarke

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - DECEMBER 01: Terrence Clarke #5 of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrates in the game against the Kansas Jayhawks in the State Farm Champions Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on December 01, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Guard, 6-foot-7, Kentucky (Freshman)

PREVIOUS RANK: 39

Austin Reaves

Oklahoma's Austin Reaves (12) dribbles during the first half of a first-round game against Missouri in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium, Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Indianapolis.

(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Guard, 6-5, Oklahoma (Senior)

PREVIOUS RANK: Not Ranked

Isaiah Livers

Wing, 6-7, Michigan (Senior) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 56

Trendon Watford

Big, 6-9, LSU (Sophomore) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 76

Jericho Sims

Big, 6-9, Texas (Senior) 

PREVIOUS RANK: Not Ranked

Quentin Grimes

Guard, 6-5, Houston (Junior) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 57

Allen Flanigan

Wing, 6-6, Auburn (Sophomore) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 49

Justin Champagnie

Wing, 6-6, Pittsburgh (Sophomore)

PREVIOUS RANK: 59

Keyontae Johnson

Wing, 6-foot-5, Florida (Junior)

PREVIOUS RANK: 45

RJ Nembhard

Wing, 6-5, TCU (Junior) 

PREVIOUS RANK: 51

MJ Walker

Wing, 6-foot-5, Florida State (Senior)

PREVIOUS RANK: 63

DJ Stewart

Wing, 6-6, Mississippi St. (Sophomore) 

PREVIOUS RANK: Not Ranked

JT Thor

Big, 6-10, Auburn (Freshman) 

PREVIOUS RANK: Not Ranked

Yves Pons

Wing, 6-foot-6, Tennessee (Senior)

PREVIOUS RANK: 61

John Petty

Wing, 6-foot-5, Alabama (Senior)

PREVIOUS RANK: 78

Joe Wieskamp

Wing, 6-foot-6, Iowa (Junior)

PREVIOUS RANK: 84

Ochai Agbaji

Wing, 6-foot-5, Kansas (Junior)

PREVIOUS RANK: 47

Scottie Lewis

Wing, 6-foot-5, Florida (Sophomore)

PREVIOUS RANK: 74

Moses Wright

Big, 6-9, Georgia Tech (Senior) 

PREVIOUS RANK: Not Ranked

Sandro Mamukelashvili

Big, 6-foot-11, Seton Hall (Senior)

PREVIOUS RANK: 55

Marcus Garrett

Guard, 6-foot-5, Kansas (Senior)

PREVIOUS RANK: 89

Jose Alvarado

Guard, 6-foot-1, Georgia Tech (Senior)

PREVIOUS RANK: Not Ranked

Gabriele Procida

Wing, 6-foot-7, Cantu (Italy)

PREVIOUS RANK: Not Ranked

Kofi Cockburn

Big, 7-foot, Illinois (Sophomore)

PREVIOUS RANK: 75

Ron Harper Jr.

Wing, 6-foot-6, Rutgers (Junior)

PREVIOUS RANK: 83

Vrenz Bleijenbergh

Wing, 6-foot-9, Antwerp (Belgium)

PREVIOUS RANK: 85

Abramo Canka

Wing, 6-foot-7, Nevezis (Lithuania)

PREVIOUS RANK: 66

Matthew Mayer

Wing, 6-9, Baylor (Junior) 

PREVIOUS RANK: Not Ranked

Buddy Boeheim

Wing, 6-6, Syracuse (Junior)

PREVIOUS RANK: Not Ranked

Derrick Alston Jr.

Wing, 6-foot-9, Boise State (Senior)

PREVIOUS RANK: 62

McKinley Wright

Guard, 6-0, Colorado (Senior) 

PREVIOUS RANK: Not Ranked

Olivier Sarr

Big, 7-foot, Kentucky (Senior)

PREVIOUS RANK: 96

Matt Mitchell

Wing, 6-6, San Diego St. (Senior) 

PREVIOUS RANK: Not Ranked

Julian Champagnie

Wing, 6-8, St. John’s (Sophomore) 

PREVIOUS RANK: Not Ranked

DJ Steward

Guard, 6-foot-3, Duke (Freshman)

PREVIOUS RANK: 42

Mario Nakic

Wing, 6-foot-8, Oostende (Belgium)

PREVIOUS RANK: 98


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