Tue Jun 18 2:41pm ET
By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
Players: Anthony Davis
CLEVELAND (AP) The Cavaliers barely survived a stormy season and then watched the NBA's postseason from afar.
They'll be big players again Thursday night.
With the 5th and 26th picks in the draft, the Cavaliers can add quality talent to a young team now under the direction of new coach John Beilein. He, along with the players selected, will transition to the pro game.
While Cleveland's fans were deeply disappointed the Cavs couldn't conjure more magic and win the lottery for the fifth time since 2003 and have a chance at Zion Williamson, Ja Morant or RJ Barrett - the consensus Big Three in the 2019 class - Beilein was satisfied.
He didn't dwell on falling short. After all, he's missed out on big recruits many times in his career.
''We're in great shape,'' said the 66-year-old, exuding the same confidence that attracted him to the Cavaliers. ''At 5 or 26, we're going to get two really good players. I've gone down the list and I've played against many of those guys or I watched them play on TV or I saw them in AAU.''
He's seen a few in person recently as Cleveland has conducted personal workouts and gotten to know prospective picks.
Assuming Williamson, Morant and Barrett are off the board - and barring a major trade, that scenario seems a slam dunk - the Cavs will be positioned to select Texas Tech's Jarrett Culver, Virginia forward De'Andre Hunter or Duke's Cam Reddish, who spent last season playing in the shadow of his Blue Devil teammates Williamson and Barrett.
The 6-foot-7 Culver is one of the best two-way players in this year's draft. The Big 12's Player of the Year as a sophomore, he averaged 18.5 points along with 6.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists. But he was equally effective on the defensive end, and that's where the Red Raiders made their mark in marching to the national title game.
Culver was on Cleveland general manager Koby Altman's radar all last season, and Beilein got an up-close look at him in the NCAA Tournament. The 20-year-old scored 22 and Texas Tech's defense punished Michigan 63-44 in the Sweet 16, holding the high-powered Wolverines to a season-low in points.
Culver's game has continued to mature and the Cavaliers would love to pair him with Beilein, who has built his reputation and resume over four decades developing young players.
It's possible that the New Orleans Pelicans, who acquired the No. 4 pick from the Lakers in the blockbuster trade for Anthony Davis, grab Culver. If so, the Cavs can't go wrong with Hunter, who matched up against Culver in the NCAA championship and is viewed as a solid prospect.
Hunter was at his best during Virginia's title-game victory, when he shook off missing his first seven shots to finish with a career-high 27 points. Hunter has range - he made 44 percent of his 3-pointers last season - and can put the ball on the floor and attack.
And then there's Reddish, perhaps the most enigmatic of this year's top players.
The 6-foot-8 forward committed to Duke before Williamson and Barrett, then became a third wheel on Mike Krzyzewski's uber-talented squad. Reddish averaged 13.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 36 games, but too often deferred to his more celebrated teammates, raising questions about his attitude and passion.
''My personality is kind of reserved, so people might take that as lazy or too laid back,'' Reddish said at the NBA Combine in Chicago. ''But that's just not who I am. I'm naturally kind of a reserved, calm guy.''
Mock drafts have had Reddish going anywhere from No. 4 to 13, but he won't be around when the Cavaliers pick a second time. The No. 26 selection is important for a team trying to cleanse after a 19-63 season that included a coaching change after six games, numerous injuries and the surprise hiring of Beilein, who will be a rookie coach next season.
Beilein knows the Cavs have a long road ahead of them, and he's looking forward to the day when the No. 5 pick isn't Cleveland's.
''Hopefully, the only time we're there again is because we've traded and got the pick from someone else,'' he said. ''But we're going to take advantage of it now.''
Indiana Pacers guard/forward Justin Holiday was on a roll in Wednesday's matchup with the Rockets, finishing a 108-104 win with 18 points on 6-for-10 shooting. He had a superb 4-for-8 record from downtown while adding six rebounds, two steals, one assist, and one block to his line. This was clearly Holidays' best performance since the restart and also one of his most productive games all season. He's been getting plenty of minutes in Orlando, but he had failed to make at least 30 percent of his shots in all of the previous games, so it's been a huge struggle for him.
Indiana Pacers shooting guard Victor Oladipo was awful on Wednesday against the Rockets, shooting 7-for-26 from the field, but he still ended up logging a game-high 37 minutes. It's the most he's played all season which is great news regarding his health, but he clearly needs to perform better if the Pacers are going to go anywhere in the playoffs. Oladipo finished with 16 points on Wednesday, going 2-for-12 from deep. He also had six rebounds, five assists, one steal, and one block. The Pacers take on the Heat next against whom Oladipo had a 14-point performance in 28 minutes earlier in the week.
Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner became the latest big to shine against Houston, finishing Wednesday's 108-104 win with 18 points and 12 rebounds. He also had two assists, one block and one steal in 28 minutes of action. It actually wasn't a particularly good offensive night for Turner, with him going 5-for-14 from the field, but the 24-year-old was busy at the charity stripe and did a great job with 8-for-10 shooting. Turner will get a much tougher challenge next against Bam Adebayo and the Heat. The two teams already met at the start of the week and Turner was limited to nine points and seven boards.
Houston Rockets forward Robert Covington had 11 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks in Wednesday's loss to the Pacers, attempting all of his shots from three-point range and finishing with 3-for-8 shooting from the field. He spent 36 minutes on the floor which was by far the most by a Rocket. Covington's offensive performances have been inconsistent in Orlando, but he's a key guy for the Rockets defensively and could be the difference between winning and losing in the playoffs. Before the postseason starts, Covington gets a revenge game against the Sixers on Friday. He spent a productive four years in Philly before getting traded in November 2018.
Houston Rockets power forward Jeff Green missed all four of his attempts from downtown but still had a solid bench outing in a loss to Indiana, scoring 14 points on 5-for-12 shooting and adding three rebounds, one steal and one block to his line. Green has been a very useful pickup for Houston, and he's carved out a solid role for himself, even playing 30-plus minutes in back-to-back games. The veteran forward is hitting form just at the right time, with the playoffs starting next week.
Houston Rockets guard James Harden had a wonderful 45-point performance on Wednesday against the Pacers, shooting 13-for-21 from the field with a 7-for-14 record from downtown. He also tied his career high with 17 rebounds and dished out nine assists with six turnovers and three steals. The league's top scorer has been in great form in the seeding games, and he should be very motivated to finally register efficient post-season performances. The Rockets take on the Beard's former team OKC in the first round. Harden shot below 33 percent from the field in three regular-season games against them this season, so it looks like a difficult matchup for him.
Memphis Grizzlies power forward/center Brandon Clarke provided an excellent boost off the bench, but his club still fell short to the polished Celtics. Clarke scored 15 points on 7-for-14 shooting and added six rebounds and a block in his 29 minutes. Clarke has stepped with the injured Jaren Jackson Jr. (knee) out and is posting 14.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 1.0 assists while shooting a sizzling 63.3% from the floor over his last three games. Keep him on your radar for Thursday as he has been quite reliable over this stretch.
Memphis Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas did all he could on Tuesday to try to help his club keep their postseason hopes alive, but it was not enough in the loss Boston. Valanciunas netted 14 points to go along with 10 rebounds and two steals in 25 minutes but the big man was a minus-22 while on the floor. Gorgui Dieng also provided a solid spark off the bench with 10 points, five boards, and three steals and was actually a plus-seven in his 23 minutes. The Grizzlies have one last try to attempt to secure that their season resumes on Thursday and the Grizz will need their best out of JV in that one.
Memphis Grizzlies rookie guard Ja Morant brought his prime game on Tuesday as he exploded for a monster line, yet it was not enough in the loss to the Boston Celtics. Morant tallied 26 points on 7-for-13 shooting from the floor while connecting on 11 of 15 from the line. Morant also found his teammates by handing out 13 assists with four rebounds and two blocks with a steal for one of the lines of the night. We can assume Morant will have another high-usage outing on Thursday in hopes to keep his club's season alive against the Bucks, who we can assume will be resting many starters.
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum continued his elite form on Tuesday in the win over the Grizzlies. Tatum shot an incredible 10 of 13 from the floor en route to 29 points in 29 minutes of action. The young stud did not stop there as he added six boards, two assists, and a steal while committing five turnovers. Tatum looks to be back to where he was before the break and he will be a force come the postseason. The Celtics go again on Thursday and we can assume Tatum will be limited it he does indeed suit up in that one.
Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart looked great in 29 minutes off the bench as he scored 11 points and added nine assists in the win over the Grizzlies. Smart connected on 3-for-7 shooting from the floor and added three rebounds with a steal in this one. The Celtics are healthy entering the playoffs and Smart has been distributing the ball at an elite level over his last four games (7.3 assists a game in that span), which adds a whole new dimension to the Celtics already efficient offense. The Celtics close out the regular season on Thursday and stay tuned to see if Smart suits up in that one, or if he gets the night off.
Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker needed just 10 shots (making seven of them) to record 19 points in the win over the Memphis Grizzlies. Walker also nailed two triples to go along with four boards and three steals in the fine-tuning game for the Celtics. Walker and the Celtics take on the Wizards on Thursday to close out the regular season. If Walker does suit up in that one, we can assume he will play limited minutes to rest up for the postseason, so there will probably be better options out there.
Sacramento Kings power forward Nemanja Bjelica played a heavy 33 minutes and made the most of his time by filling up the box score in the six-point win over the Pelicans on Tuesday. Bjelica scored 13 points while adding five rebounds with two assists and two steals with a block. We know when the Serbian gets the minutes he will produce and this could be a similar case on Thursday in the meaningless season-ending game against the Lakers. Thursday is going to be a wild one in the DFS world but put Bjelica on your watchlist as we could see similar production from the big man.
Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes took on the extra workload with De'Aaron Fox sitting out this one. Barnes connected on 9-for-19 shooting en route to 25 points and added eight boards with two assists and two blocks without committing a single turnover in 37 minutes in the win over the Pelicans. We can assume Barnes will take on a similar role on Thursday in his club's season finale against the Lakers - add him to your watchlist, especially if the Kings decide to rest some players once again.
Sacramento Kings power forward/center Harry Giles recorded his first double-double since February 22nd in the win over the Pelicans on Tuesday. Giles was not so efficient from the floor as he connected on just 6-for-17 shooting, but he still managed to record 12 points while gathering 11 boards with three assists to go along with two blocks in 25 minutes of action. The Kings' last game is on Thursday against the Lakers and we can assume he will get some solid minutes in that game, making him worth a look as a cheap punt play.
New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball was the only regular starter in the lineup on Tuesday for the Pels and he started hot with 10 early points but cooled off to finish the game with 16 points across 29 minutes. Ball added four assists with three rebounds and two blocks with four turnovers against the Kings. The Pels go again on Thursday to close out their season and we can assume many regular bodies will not return for that one and if Ball does play, he will most likely be limited with nothing on the line. Frank Jackson and Josh Hart could be intriguing backcourt play for that one.
New Orleans guard Josh Hart struggled to get his shot to fall, yet salvaged his night with some solid supporting numbers on Tuesday. Hart managed to make just one of his eight shot attempts to record just three points. He was able to grab 10 rebounds while adding an assist with two steals and if his shots were falling, it would have been a nice line for the versatile wing. The Pels play one last time on Thursday and we can assume many starters will be sitting that one out making Hart a solid low-end play with his abilities to fill up the box score even his shot isn't falling.
New Orleans center Jahlil Okafor came off the bench to fill up the box score in the six-point loss to the Kings on Tuesday. Okafor tallied 21 points on 9-for-11 shooting while chipping in four boards, one assist, and two blocks as he caught fire in just 25 minutes of action. We haven't seen Okafor come to life in some time and we can assume on Thursday that he will get similar minutes in the meaningless game against the Magic. If you are looking for cheap punt play, Okafor could be your man for Thursday.
Philadelphia 76ers power forward/center Mike Scott took advantage of some extra run with many 76ers players' sitting this one out on Tuesday. Scott scored 17 points with three makes from three while adding four rebounds with a steal in just 22 minutes of action. Raul Neto also came to life off the bench with 22 points and four assists in 25 minutes of action. The 76ers should have Al Horford (knee) and Tobias Harris (ankle) back on Wednesday, meaning Scott and Neto will be pushed back to lesser minutes.
Philadelphia 76ers guard Alec Burks was able to pace his club with 23 points on Tuesday, but it was not enough in the 130-117 loss at the hands of the Suns. Burks connected on a solid nine of 17 shooting and added four assists with two rebounds and a steal in 28 minutes. Burks has come to life in the absence of Ben Simmons (knee) with averages of 21.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and just 0.7 turnovers a night over his last three outings. If his price tag is still friendly on Wednesday when his club takes on the Raptors, he could be worth playing to ride out his hot streak.