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LeBron James hits milestone but Cavs' woes continue

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LeBron James hits milestone but Cavs' woes continue

SAN ANTONIO -- LeBron James became the youngest player ever with 30,000 career points, then got upstaged by the youngest player on the court.

Spurs point guard Dejounte Murray -- a friend and mentee of James -- had 19 points, 10 rebounds and seven steals to lift San Antonio over the slumping Cleveland Cavaliers 114-102 on Tuesday night.

"He's fearless, he's not impressed," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of the 21-year-old. "He really sets the pace for us. He's a fine defender. He's learning how to play the game and doing a fine job."

Murray, making his second start since replacing a healthy Tony Parker, needed that fortitude while battling James in the fourth quarter. He soared for a tip follow, then rose to disrupt James' driving layup, which led to a 3-pointer by Danny Green that gave the Spurs a 105-94 lead with 4:20 remaining (see full recap).

Warriors use big 2nd half to beat Knicks
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Stephen Curry scored 17 of his 32 points in the third quarter to go with seven assists and six rebounds, and the Golden State Warriors used a big second half to beat the New York Knicks 123-112 on Tuesday night.

Kevin Durant added 14 points, a career-high 14 assists and two blocks before his ejection with 2:50 left for a second technical. Zaza Pachulia added 13 points in Golden State's seventh straight victory in the series.

Curry made 8 of 15 from deep while sporting sneakers featuring the faces of his daughters Riley and Ryan and the message "I can do all things."

The Warriors bounced back from Saturday's eight-point defeat at Houston to improve to 10-0 following a loss this season (see full recap).

Westbrook's late basket lifts Thunder past Nets
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook had one goal on the Thunder's final possession: make it to the rim.

The Brooklyn Nets left him just enough space, and the reigning MVP put Oklahoma City over the top once again.

Westbrook made a go-ahead layup with 3.3 seconds left to help the Thunder rally from a 15-point second-half deficit and beat the Nets 109-108 on Tuesday night.

"They sat in the paint all game long," Westbrook said. "I was just trying a way to get to the basket,” (see full recap).

Temple scores 34 to push Kings past Magic
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Garrett Temple took over in the fourth quarter and led the struggling Sacramento Kings to a big win.

Temple scored 19 of his career-high 34 points in the final quarter to lift the Kings to a 105-99 win over the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night.

Willie Cauley-Stein had 21 points and nine rebounds and Buddy Hield added 13 points for the Kings, who stopped an eight-game losing streak. Temple accounted for all of Sacramento's points during a 17-6 run that put the Kings ahead 103-97 with 23.5 seconds to go.

"Garrett was in a rhythm," teammate Vince Carter said. "He was out there with veteran guys who just know how to make the right play. It was us being cognizant of `Hey, the hot guy's open, get it to him immediately.' And it worked out that way,” (see full recap).

NBA draft profile: Villanova G Jalen Brunson

NBA draft profile: Villanova G Jalen Brunson

Jalen Brunson

Position: Guard

Height: 6-2

Weight: 198

School: Villanova

As Mikal Bridges cements his status as a consensus lottery pick and Donte DiVincenzo’s name becomes hot enough to reportedly receive an invite to the green room of the draft, their Villanova teammate who was the consensus national player of the year has seen his stock remain static.

Jalen Brunson was the leading scorer on Villanova’s national title team last season, pouring in 18.9 points per game while dishing out 4.6 assists. Bunson, a three-year starter and two-time national champ, was also highly-efficient, shooting 52.1 percent from the floor, 40.8 percent from deep and 80.2 percent from the free throw line. And as a result of his remarkable junior season, the Villanova point guard took home a ton of hardware in sweeping the major national player of the year awards.

But, Brunson isn’t considered a surefire first-round pick.

Two of the main reasons for this? His position and age. The point guard position has the greatest depth in the NBA so lead guards don’t tend be high draft picks unless they have All-Star upside. If Bridges was five inches shorter, he wouldn’t have the same kind of value. Teams are starving for rotation three-and-D wings and not so much for high-floor/low-ceiling point guards. 

With Brunson set to turn 22 years old in August, he doesn’t possess the tantalizing upside of the top point guards in this draft like Trae Young, Collin Sexton and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Even so, there's still a place for Brunson in the NBA.

Strengths
As a three-level scorer, Brunson can fill it up in a variety of ways. He has a smooth jumper that extends beyond the three-point line. In the mid-range area, he makes up for his lack of quickness with crafty moves to create separation for pull-ups. On drives, Brunson can initiate contact to draw fouls, contort his body to avoid contests and has good touch around the rim. And believe it or not, the 6-2 guard utilizes his craftiness to be an effective post player as well. 

When Brunson has the ball in his hands, he carries a calming force with him. He plays at his own pace and just always seems in control, rarely committing egregious turnovers or taking bad shots. He's also a willing, talented passer who will make the unselfish extra pass and can also fit the ball into a tight window to a cutter/roller.

Weaknesses
Brunson’s weaknesses have less to do with his skills and more with his physical traits and tools. He’s not an explosive athlete with crazy bounce and doesn’t possess game-changing speed or quickness. So will he be able to create enough space against more athletic wing defenders to penetrate to the rim or get off his pull-up jumper? 

Defensively, Brunson works hard and isn't way undersized as a point guard. But he doesn't have the size to switch across multiple positions and the one position he will defend is deep with high-level talent. He can survive against backups, but how will he fare against quality starters and stars?

NBA comparison
Lefties tend to get compared to other lefties, but I'm passing on the Derek Fisher comp and going with fellow Big 5 alum Jameer Nelson. The St. Joe’s product is shorter and had a little more quickness during his prime, but was a solid starter capable of scoring at all three levels despite some physical limitations. Brunson projects more as a backup but has the ceiling of a player like Nelson.

How’d he fit with the Sixers
Let’s look at the Sixers’ current guards beyond Ben Simmons. Markelle Fultz is an unknown. T.J. McConnell is set to be an unrestricted free agent next summer. And the only others under contract are Jerryd Bayless, Timothe Luwawu-Caborrot and Furkan Korkmaz.

This team needs guard depth, specifically ball handlers and shot creators/makers. While it may not come at an elite level, Brunson could fill both of those needs. And because of his shooting ability, he could also play off the ball as a spot-up shooter and secondary creator alongside Simmons and Fultz.

Draft projection 
A fringe first-rounder, Brunson's range will start right around the Sixers’ second pick at No. 26. If they pass on him there, they shouldn’t count on him still being on the board at their next pick at 38.

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Report: Sixers still eyeing trade up, but reluctant to include Robert Covington or Dario Saric

Report: Sixers still eyeing trade up, but reluctant to include Robert Covington or Dario Saric

We’re counting down the hours now until the 2018 NBA draft, which means all of the chatter surrounding teams is heading into overdrive.

That includes the Sixers, who are reportedly still attempting to move up the draft board.

Per a report Tuesday by Sports Illustrated’s Jake Fischer, the Sixers are continuing to make calls about moving into the top five. However, “they have offered packages of picks, but have thus far rebuked including oft-mentioned Robert Covington and Dario Saric,” according to the report.

There has still been no mention of exactly which prospect the Sixers are interested in trading up for since former Cavaliers GM David Griffin made the claim during a radio interview last week (see story).

With six total selections in Thursday’s draft, including Nos. 10 and 26 in the first round, it makes sense that the Sixers would offer draft picks first in any potential trade.

However you feel about the streaky Covington, the team was high enough on the All-NBA defender last season to lock him into a long-term deal while Saric has proven to be a rock-solid contributor that keeps improving every day.

We’ll see if the Sixers ease off those demands as we get even closer to the draft.

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