Monthly Archives: May 2014

2014 NBA Mock Lottery

This is my third season making a knee-jerk reaction NBA Mock Lottery, and somehow it’s my second time puzzled about which player the Cleveland Cavaliers will take first overall.

Unlike last year where the Cavaliers picked Anthony Bennett (and I had them picking Nerlens Noel then Alex Len) the Cavaliers have three great players to choose from: Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, and Jabari Parker. That trio leads what should be the best top of the draft since 2009–maybe even since the vaunted 2003 draft.

This year’s draft is very intriguing with the (perhaps over-)hyped top of the class and normally-successful Celtics and Lakers drafting in the early lottery. You can expect a full mock draft and perhaps my own Big Board closer to draft night.

1

Joel Embiid

C 7-foot 250 lbs Kansas 20 Years Old

The Cavs had two #1 picks and two #4 picks from the past three years and still missed the playoffs. They also signed a coach to a five-year deal who they fired three years earlier and canned him again after year one. With this big of a dumpster fire, I fully expect them to draft Joel Embiid, who will immediately succumb to career-long debilitating knee injuries. And then Johnny Manziel will tear his ACL. Because God hates Cleveland.

2

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Andrew Wiggins

SG 6-foot-8 200 lbs Kansas 19 Years Old

The Bucks really only have two keepers: small forward Giannis Antetokounpo and owner’s daughter Mallory Edens. (Shameless plug: Last summer I said the Hawks would “win the NBA Draft” last year by drafting Mason Plumlee and The Greek Freak.) I have Wiggins, Parker, and Embiid graded out as mostly equal, and since Wiggins has a less redundant skill set to The Greek Freak than Parker does, I have Milwaukee taking the Toronto native.

3

Jabari Parker

SF 6-foot-8 241 lbs Duke 19 Years Old

This one’s pretty easy for Philly. In a vacuum, Dante Exum is a similar talent to Parker, but with Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams at point guard and Nerlens Noel a cornerstone big man, Parker is exactly the perimeter player this team needs. Honestly, I would probably take Jabari Parker with the number one pick. He’s a complete player and ready to make an immediate impact on both sides of the ball. I just don’t see a way he fails.

4

Dante Exum

PG 6-foot-6 196 lbs Australia 18 Years Old

The Magic likely would have taken Marcus Smart over Victor Oladipo with the second overall pick last year, and Exum is a better Smart. The only thing that might talk the Magic out of Exum here is the thought that they could grab a quality point guard with the 12th overall pick (Tyler Ennis or Zach LaVine) and grab a quality big man (Julius Randle) with their first pick.

5

Julius Randle

PF 6-foot-9 234 lbs Kentucky 19 Years Old

The Jazz just get screwed here because they could really use another wing (say, Mormon Jabari Parker) but the top tier of wing players have no chance of falling this far. Since they’re unable to fit a need, I think the Jazz should and will go with the best available player, which in this case is Julius Randle. Utah does already have Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter down low, but Kanter is up for an extension soon, and Randle would be a fantastic replacement. They could also be a candidate to trade out of this pick.

6

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Aaron Gordon

PF 6-foot-9 220 lbs Arizona 18 Years Old

Gordon is a strange prospect to me because he’s unbelievably athletic but lacks a ton of basketball skills. Most of his points in Arizona came from putbacks and close shots. He’s a bit short for power forward and cannot shoot, but his motor and athleticism are so tantalizing. If he puts everything together, he could be Blake Griffin, but if he doesn’t put things together, he could be a really bad player. The Celtics really just need to draft based on upside and need anything other than a point guard.

7

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Noah Vonleh

PF 6-foot-10 247 lbs Indiana 18 Years Old

Noah Vonleh is the latest player rising up draft boards with an outstanding combine, just like fellow Hoosier Cody Zeller last season. Similar to the Celtics, the Lakers are a bit of a mess just looking for upside, so Vonleh makes sense here. He also makes sense here because I’m not a particularly big fan of this freshman (terrible name) and I’m not a particularly big fan of the Lakers.

8

Marcus Smart

PG 6-foot-3 227 lbs Oklahoma State 20 Years Old

You have to think the Kings are the absolute floor for Smart, who could go as high as 5. Sacramento needs help at the 1 and 4, making Smart a great fit. Isaiah Thomas has been a good player, but Smart is more likely to be a long-term starter at point guard. Hey, DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, Ben McLemore, and Marcus Smart isn’t the worst core. Probably makes the playoffs in the East.

9

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Gary Harris

SG 6-foot-5 205 lbs Michigan State 19 Years Old

It’s nice to see that logo next to Gary Harris’ name, isn’t it? The Hornets need another star, but that isn’t going to be around at this pick. Otherwise, they need shooting, a backup point guard, another big, and shooting. “You said shooting twice.” I like shooting. Harris could very well be a starter soon for Charlotte with great range and perimeter defense.

10

Dario Saric

PF 6-foot-10 223 lbs Croatia 20 Years Old

After taking Parker, the Sixers could go with another forward or a shooting guard. Personally, I would love to see Parker and Rodney Hood reunited in Philly, but most teams don’t have Hood as high on their board as I do. Saric would give the Sixers great size (6’7″ at point guard, 6’8″ at small forward, 6’10” at power forward, and 6’11” at center) and another ball handler to go with Carter-Williams and Parker. James Young could also make sense here if Philadelphia would prefer shooting over an unconventional big man.

11

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James Young

SF 6-foot-8 213 lbs Kentucky 18 Years Old

Picking this late in the lottery doesn’t really solve the Nuggets’ issue of having a lot of above-average players, but Young would give them something every team could use: a great shooter. Young’s .349 three-point shooting percentage at Kentucky didn’t blow anyone away, but his sweet shooting stroke portends better results in the future, just like Bradley Beal in the 2012 draft.

12

Doug McDermott

SF 6-foot-8 218 lbs Creighton 22 Years Old

Orlando heads into the draft needing a point guard and forward depth, and with Exum on board, Dougy McBuckets makes sense here. The Magic’s two current cornerstones (Oladipo and Nik Vucevic) are great defensively with limited offense, so taking an all-offense, no-defense player like McDermott could work in their favor.

13

Tyler Ennis

PG 6-foot-3 182 lbs Syracuse 19 Years Old

Yes, the Wolves already have a point guard, and yes, David Kahn is off to greener pastures, but Ennis is more talented than the 13th player taken in the draft. He really belongs in the 8-12 range, but he’s certainly not going to be taken by a team that has Marcus Smart, Kemba Walker, Michael Carter-Williams, Ty Lawson, or Dante Exum. Ennis’ speed and mid-range shooting could work well alongside Ricky Rubio, and he could be the player Johnny Flynn never was.

14

Rodney Hood

SF 6-foot-9 208 lbs Duke 21 Years Old

It looks bad now, but going into the season, I thought no team had less talent than the Suns. Their success this season is a testament to Jeff Hornacek’s coaching skills and my apparent lack of talent evaluating skills. Anyway, I love Eric Bledsoe and like Goran Dragic, but I’m still not convinced the Morris twins and Miles Plumlee are long-term starters. The Suns will probably go for the best player with the edge going to sweet-shooting forwards, making Hood a great pick here.

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The Case for Jordan Matthews

I don’t often over-enthusiastically endorse players I cover for upcoming drafts because I’ve seen them long enough to see their warts.

Take, for instance Vanderbilt pitcher Tyler Beede, who I’ve greatly enjoyed covering for the past two years. When he’s on, I don’t think I’ve seen a more dominant collegiate pitcher, but I’ve also seen his command wobble, which is why I understand ESPN’s Keith Law having him fall from the 4th overall prospect to the 14th prospect.

If

I’m going to make sure Jordan Matthews is on my fantasy team next year, even if it’s with the first overall pick

This is not the case with Jordan Matthews. There just aren’t any notable warts.

In my two years covering Matthews, I’ve seen a receiver quite literally put the team on his back, making several catches in do-or-die situations I didn’t think were possible.

Matthews became the SEC all-time leaders in receptions and receiving yardage despite playing without top-level quarterbacks. Jordan Rodgers, Larry Smith, and Austyn Carta-Samuels were at best good, not great; only Carta-Samuels finished in the top half of SEC quarterbacks in QB Rating, and he played just ten games in 2013. Patton Robinette was very limited when he played, mostly keeping Matthews to passes under five yards.

Furthermore, Matthews hardly had much protection in the form of another receiver. Chris Boyd and Jonathan Krause each had one 700-yard receiving years, but the defense knew Vanderbilt was trying to get the ball to Matthews nearly every time they dropped back to pass and still couldn’t do a thing to stop him.

Obviously teams don’t draft players off past performance, but it’s hard to imagine such a great college player—the most productive receiver in the toughest conference—falling in the draft. Especially one with prototypical size, prototypical speed, and enormous hands.

The knock on Matthews has been that he’s just a possession receiver and lacks the athleticism and explosiveness of other receivers. Maybe that comes about as a heuristic because Matthews is the only senior among top draft prospects, but that doesn’t make sense, since he’s actually younger than Marqise Lee and Kelvin Benjamin.

But look at the numbers from the combine. Matthews is every bit the athlete as the other six top draft prospects and is even a marginally better athlete than consensus top receiver Sammy Watkins.

Name Height Weight Hand 40 Yard Bench Vert Leap Shuttle 3Cone Age
Odell Beckham 71 198 10 4.43 7 38.5 3.94 6.69 21.5
Kelvin Benjamin 77 240 10 1/4 4.61 13 32.5 4.39 7.33 23.3
Brandin Cooks 70 189 9 5/8 4.33 16 36 3.81 6.76 20.6
Mike Evans 77 231 9 5/8 4.53 12 37 4.26 7.08 20.7
Marqise Lee 73 192 9 1/2 4.52 38 4.01 22.5
Jordan Matthews 75 212 10 3/8 4.46 21 35.5 4.18 6.95 21.8
Sammy Watkins 73 211 9 5/8 4.43 16 34 4.34 6.95 20.9

Aside from a handful of games, I haven’t gotten to see much the other six receivers, but I can tell you what I know about Matthews: there’s no way he’s going to be a disappointment in the pros. Worst-case scenario he’s a taller Anquan Boldin–a strong possession receiver–but he’s got the potential for much more.

That’s why it surprises me why teams are so down on Matthews. ESPN’s Mel Kiper has mocked Matthews as high as 22 to the Eagles, but he has him going to the 49ers at number 30 in his latest mock draft. SI’s Peter King has Matthews going 28th to the Panthers, and FoxSports’ Joel Klatt has him going 32nd to the Seahawks, but ESPN’s Todd McShay, NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, and all of the CBSSports.com writers don’t have Matthews as a first-round pick at all.

The NFL Draft is nothing more than a glorified crapshoot (and I’ll admit I eat it up every single year), but it blows my mind that Matthews isn’t getting more attention considering his history, physical characteristics, and durability, not to mention his incredible personality and leadership. He’s even got such a strong work ethic that he studied up on film of cornerbacks at the Senior Bowl, even if he didn’t put on an outstanding showing there.

I could go on and on about what makes Matthews special, but there’s one thing that sticks out most to me, something his coaches have reiterated in his time at Vanderbilt: when the ball is in the air, he knows it’s his. Part of that is his massive size and giant hands (nearly an inch wider than Mike Evans’!!!) but a large part of it is also his incredible will and determination, part of what brought him from a 2-star recruit to being an All-American.

There’s a very good chance that Jordan Matthews falls to the second round in this draft, but I think that these teams will be making a big mistake. And I think history will be on his side.

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