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This blog focuses on the National Basketball Association. Everything from outlook on rumors, transactions, and projections to recaps from a student of the game's P.O.V.

After coming under the radar as an eighth grader, it seems like the hype revolving around Thon Maker has died down, considerably. Once known in only basketball circles, as a the most versatile seven-footer we have ever seen, at just 14 years-old, Thon then became a YouTube sensation obliterating the one million view mark on multiple of his highlight videos. The name Thon Maker no longer was known to only hoops junkies.

Strangely enough, when Maker declared for the 2016 NBA Draft, upon his high school graduation, the responses were not what one would expect. Instead of praise for the second coming of some sort of Kevin Garnett-Kevin Durant hybrid, fans only saw his declaration as a mistake. Even mock drafts have him going in the second round.

In 2005, after the year's draft, the league's collective bargaining agreement changed rules for draft eligibility. To keep things simple, all players must be at least nineteen years of age within the draft year, or one year removed from high school. We have seen players the likes of Brandon Jennings and Emmanuel Mudiay option to become international professionals rather than the traditional college route. But since the 2005 NBA Draft, Thon Maker will be the first player to make the jump from prep to pro.

For years, it was very common to see high school players get drafted. 30 of the 43 NBA players drafted from high school, since 1962 were selected in the first round. These players were highly coveted for their young age, talent, and high-ceilings! What has changed?

Both Kevin Garnett (left) and Kobe Bryant (right) were first round draft picks, out of high school.

Dwight Howard (left) and LeBron James (right) were, as well.

According to Mike Schmitz of Draft Express, Maker has three major weaknesses being his "feel for the game, offensive polish, and strength". I do agree that Thon Maker is a bit raw in some aspects of the game, but he is ONLY NINETEEN and has too much potential to be overlooked as a prospect. The kid is 7'1" 220 lbs and has the ability to play positions 3-5. His game features good ball-handling, athleticism, great foot speed, and a smooth jump shot. Not to mention he has a 7'3" wingspan and a 9'3" standing reach.

Many players that are drafted are projects, or seen as a couple years away from impacting the NBA game. This could be the case for Maker, but he is a project worth betting on. Year after year, we see front offices take their chances on European players with high upside, and a lot of them, we never see or hear much of in their careers. Yet, in this year's draft, teams in the top five of the lottery are looking to gamble on Dragan Bender, who no one has seen enough of to determine if he'll be a bust or not. Bender has a similar style to Maker, but did not play much for Maccabi Tel Aviv. What is it that makes Thon different?

If this screams, "high-lottery" I am confused.

Even the fourth pick in the 2015 draft, Kristaps Porzingis, was seen as a project-player, a couple years away from being the prospect New York thought he could be. Porzingis proved otherwise, becoming a star-rookie, ranking fourth in league jersey sales and second in Rookie of the Year voting. That's just a little proof of how worth the risk some high-reward prospects can be.

New York Knicks star, PorzinGOD.

With the new revolution of the NBA underway, Thon Maker makes the ideal stretch big. He can handle the rock, step out beyond the three-point arc and has the length and quickness to guard multiple positions. Position-less players, while not always popular, are now becoming a league commodity. Players of this kind are invaluable to their franchises and are not common to come across.

Thon Maker can be an NBA star, and should not be subject to anything lower than late-lottery. But, if teams don't buy into the hype, they will regret it later when Thon makes believers of them all.

© 2016 SportsBlog.com. All rights reserved. Interactive One Millennial
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Kevin Durant looking to score against San Antonio's David West.

I know it's not too common, these days, but the old saying, "money ain't everything," means something to Kevin Durant. Recently, Kevin spoke on Western Conference opponent, David West, and his decision on taking a hefty pay cut to play for a contender rather than choosing more money. “I respect it,” Durant said. “Money isn’t everything in this life. I know we tend to think about taking care of your family, being financially stable. But from the outside looking in, it looks like he said, ‘Well, I’ve been blessed to make X amount and I’ll be chasing something that’s the grand prize in this league.’ So I respect him for it. A lot of guys wouldn’t have done it.”

Beginning July 1st, Durant is expected to explore his options, when the NBA Free Agency Period opens. Los Angeles, Golden State, Boston, Washington, as well as other teams have been rumored to be on his radar, but don't be surprised if Durant opts to stay in his second-home of Oklahoma City, instead.

Since bursting into NBA superstardom, Durant has been refreshing for many fans. For one, we've never seen a 7-footer (yes, I'm aware that he is listed as 6'9", but let's be real) with the ball-handling and shooting skills of an elite guard. But also, for one to be considered one of the game's best players, he is as humble as your last guy on the bench.

Kevin Durant is 'genuine', 'real', and as someone that has met Durant on numerous occasions, at local gyms in our hometown of Prince George's County, Maryland, even if you don't know him, personally, his personality is always warm and makes you feel comfortable and relatable. My fellow DMV residents could attest to that. And a feeling like that from a superstar is as rare as his talent.

In 2007, Kevin Durant was drafted to the Seattle Supersonics, and after his rookie season, the franchise relocated to Oklahoma City, rebranding itself as the 'Thunder'. The city of Oklahoma City is a mirrored image of Durant, himself, ironically. Residents are mostly blue-collar, hardworking, and humble. But, the 'Thunder' reflects his partner-in-crime, Russell Westbrook.

Since 2008, Kevin and Russell have formed a brotherhood. We've seen them grow from just two hungry young guys, to superstars in the game, all side-by-side. From the 2012 Finals run to injuries and missed playoffs to their late-game battles over the last shot, we have witnessed it all.

Like brothers, Kevin and Russell are known to defend each other, at all times.

When Durant won the 2014 NBA MVP Award, he gave a legendary speech. It soon flooded the internet and social media with "You the real MVP," memes. But for a small chunk of his lengthy, heartfelt speech, he spoke on Russell Westbrook.

"I know you guys think I forgot Russ, but I can speak all night about Russell. An emotional guy who will run through a wall for me. I don't take it for granted. There's days where I want to just talk with you and tell you to snap out of it sometimes, but I know there's days where you want to do the same thing with me. I love you, man. I love you. A lot of people put unfair criticism on you as a player, and I'm the first to have your back, through it all. Just stay the person you are, everybody loves you here. I love you. I thank you so much, man. You made me better. Your work ethic, I always wanted to compete with you. I always wanted to pull up to the parking lot of the arena or practice facility, I always wanted to outwork you. You set the bar, you set the tone. Thank you so much, man. You got a big piece of this, you're an MVP-caliber player. It's a blessing to play with you, man. I thank all you guys. I know we have a bigger goal in mind, and we have a tough game tomorrow. But this means the world to me that you guys are here celebrating with me. Thank you, thank you, I can't express it enough."

In his speech, Kevin also expressed his love for the Oklahoma City fans. "We want to win a championship for you guys," Durant said. I believe that he truly does want to win a ring with the franchise, and wouldn't part ways with the organization if he did. The time is now. The Oklahoma City Thunder lead the San Antonio Spurs, 3-2, in the second round of the Western Conference Semi-Finals. The Spurs were the second-best team, record-wise, in the regular season and were favored by many to challenge the Golden State Warriors for the Western Conference title. But, in this series, the Durant-Westbrook duo has out-powered its opponent, and the Thunder look like the better team.

Oklahoma City could close out the series, tonight, at home, leaving only two foes left to defeat before capturing the franchise's first championship, since moving to Oklahoma.

It isn't everyday that a player can play with someone that he considers "a brother", and if that isn't enough to keep Kevin Durant, winning a championship definitely is. For Kevin, "Money isn't everything in this life," and quite frankly, the Thunder don't need the largest offer sheet to keep him.

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NBA

Ain't the Answer, Sway!

Today's NBA-talk is crazy. Whether it's fans or the media, trade and free agency rumors rule conversation. Everyone loves a good story, but as most of us have learned, it's almost always just gossip. False gossip.

It seems like since the summer of 2007, where the Boston Celtics bolstered their roster, trading for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, and ultimately winning the 2008 NBA Championship, the win-now mentality has been instilled in the brains of millions. We saw a repeat of that in 2010, when LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined the Miami Heat. The Heat did make four-straight Finals appearances, winning two of them, although the fans were promised, "Not one. Not two. Not three. Not four. Not five. Not six. Not seven." That declaration obviously proved to hold no weight. And, anyone that was holding them to that was foolish. It was not realistic.

Fans have become delusional, drooling at the thought of their imaginary Big 3 or Big (enter any number here). And the media capitalizes off of it. 

We have heard rumors, all season about a few superstars. But, with his free agency coming up, this offseason, Kevin Durant's name has consistently been in the mouthes of many.

Starting in October, remember when ESPN's Stephen A. Smith had reported that Kevin Durant was interested in going to Los Angeles, this upcoming free agency? This report caused a bit of a beef between Stephen A. and KD. Let me refresh your mind.

Then we had Carmelo Anthony to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Kevin Love to the Boston Celtics, and Blake Griffin to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Kevin Durant. Now, the latest is once again Kevin Durant, but this time, signing with the Golden State Warriors, this summer. 

Signings like these not only make NBA 2K unfair, but it changes the culture of competitiveness in sports change, forever.

Would this even be fun to play against?

For many young athletes and fans, growing up, this whole can't beat 'em, then join 'em attitude would translate to the way they approach sports. Many kids won't believe that they can accomplish a feat without joining forces with other top-tier talent, when in all reality, that doesn't always work. We have seen constant reminders that immediate gratification does not get the job done. Good coaching, buying into the system, cohesiveness, development, continuity, and leadership are the keys for a successful team.

Premier examples of utilizing this process are the San Antonio Spurs and even the Golden State Warriors. Great coaches, great role players, consistency, veteran leadership, led by young superstars. For the past decade, the Spurs have been powerful Western Conference contenders. And for the past three years, the Warriors have looked like they can do the same. Beginning since the end of the Mark Jackson-coaching era in Oakland, and continuing to grow since changing over to Steve Kerr's system, the Dubs have gotten better and better. They established the foundation for what could be a long run.

Another common theme for the squads are their three star players. None of the stars exhibit egos too big for their own heads, unlike many league stars. In my opinion, if it wasn't for the continuity of their core and maximization of potential, only a couple of these 'stars' would be All-Star players. 

San Antonio was led by Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli for most of their run. It now seems to be the beginning of the Kawhi Leonard-Lamarcus Aldridge era for them. Tim Duncan is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, once he retires, but Parker and Ginobli are not. All three have been All-Stars, multiple times, but Tim Duncan is the only true superstar (even if he acts like he isn't).

Golden State is led by Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson. They are leading their team to one of the most historic runs the NBA has ever seen, as they are on pace to beat the 72-win season record held by the 1996 Chicago Bulls. Stephen Curry is going to retire as one of the greatest of all time, if he can continue to scorch his opponents. Green seemed to have blossomed overnight into a star, but the Warriors's style could be the reason. Now, Thompson has the talent to be an All-Star, no matter what team. I am a firm believer that if you can shoot, you can play anywhere, and he damn sure can shoot the ball!

All players on these great teams know their role, and they believe in each other. Most teams could learn from these guys. So, blockbuster trades and free agency signings can give a franchise and their fans instant success, but in the long run....it ain't the answer, Sway!

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