NBA

NBA Draft Big Board: Jarnell Stokes the Lottery Pick

The 2014 NBA Draft is the most interesting drafts in years for a variety of years.

It’s not just that there are at least four franchise-altering player atop the draft – there have only been about five of those going back to the 2009 draft – but there’s a load of really good players behind them.

It’s not just Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, and Dante Exum, but there are going to be perpetual All-Stars in Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon, Marcus Smart, and Noah Vonleh an very good starters in Gary Harris, Nik Stauskas, and Jarnell Stokes.

Stokes was a man among boys in college. Being a man among men in the NBA isn't so bad.

Stokes was a man among boys in college. Being a man among men in the NBA isn’t so bad.

Jarnell Stokes?

Most people aren’t using the Memphis native’s name in the lottery, but when you take a closer look, he’s actually one of the finest prospects in this class.

Stokes gets ripped for a lot of things unnecessarily. He’s a college junior. He’s too short. He doesn’t have great range.

But while those attributes are true, there are many reasons to like him.

The age concern is the most perplexing because it isn’t actually a concern. Although Stokes was a junior by class in Tennnessee, he actually graduated high school a semester early to attend UT as a 17-year old. He’s only 20 years old, two months older than Joel Embiid and Marcus Smart.

Age is a concern for draft prospects because analysts have found that age is one of the largest predictors for success in the NBA. The younger a player is, the more time he has to develop, and older college players often have inflated stats because they’re playing against less mature competition.

The height concern is another misnomer to me, even though Stokes measured out at 6’8.5” in the draft combine, which is below average for an NBA big man. He makes up for that lack of size with long arms (7’1.25” wingspan) and a good vertical (36”, 7th among power forwards).

Most importantly, Stokes is incredibly strong at a sturdy 263 pounds and nearly set a combine record with 22 bench press reps.

The shooting concern also bothers me because it doesn’t make sense. Stokes has never been a particularly good jump shooter, he’s a low-post scorer, not a stretch four. That’s like complaining that a point guard doesn’t have a post game.

If you see Stokes for what he is – a rebounding machine and low post threat – you’ll really like him. If you’re looking for a perfect, well-rounded player, there’s only a handful of those in the league.

Rebounding is one of the most easily transferable skills from college to the NBA, and that’s what Stokes thrived doing. He was third in the nation in offensive rebounding (4.2 per game, although he only trailed non-NBA prospects from Boise State and Morehead State).

He nearly led the league in double-doubles but was barely edged out by fellow First-Team All-SEC big man Julius Randle, a player whom he compares to closely. Randle is a half-inch taller with a 1.5” higher vertical reach, while Stokes has 1.25” longer wingspan and 2.5” wider hand.

It’s not just measurable, though, they’re both excellent low-post scorers and rebounders who put up nearly identical numbers:

  FG% 3P% FT% ORPG DRPG RPG APG BPG PPG
Stokes .531 .696 4.2 6.4 10.6 2.0 0.9 15.1
Randle .501 .167 .706 3.5 6.9 10.4 1.4 0.8 15.0

The other player I see Stokes comparable to is Kenneth Faried. If nothing else, Faried was a rebounding machine in college, leading the nation with 14.5 boards per game in 2011. Of course, the Ohio Valley Conference is easier to rebound in than the SEC, but Faried had one transferable skill to the NBA and now is easily seen as one of the five best picks in the 2011 draft.

I’m not saying Stokes will be one of the five-best players in this loaded draft – 2011 had an admittedly poor draft – but he will be a very valuable player in the pros.

Also if I’m recommending a Tennessee player, that’s got to be as high of praise as it gets.

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Because I’ve been pressed for time this week because of covering the College World Series from Omaha. You should check out my three game stories and other cool features including a surprise visit from Sonny Gray, ESPN telling Vandy fans to top whistling so loudly, and Brian Miller proposing to his girlfriend.

Instead of doing a fully fleshed out mock draft that will inevitably go haywire when the Cleveland does something stupid with the pick like draft Dante Exum (after he turned them down for a workout) or trade it for two ham sandwiches and a future second round pick, I’ll just give you my Big Board with a few comments on each player.

If you really want my mock draft here it is: Joel Embiid’s fall to the Hornets, P.J. Hairston will go at pick #24, and Stokes will go way, way too low. Happy?

1. Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
He’s going to be very good at just about everything other than defense, and there’s no way he flops.

2. Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
It’s almost always good to bet on athletic freaks with basketball skills, even if his jump shot isn’t there yet.

3. Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
I had Embiid behind the other two before the foot injury, but I don’t think it will dramatically change his long-term potential.

4. Dante Exum, PG, Australia
Doesn’t it scare anyone that we know literally 2 things about this kid? His dad played with MJ and GMs have seen him live about once.

5. Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Dominant in college, and now he’s getting edged out by workout wonders. Randle will be clearly better 5 years from now.

6. Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Whether or not he’s a true point guard, he’s going to be a very good pro because he’s tough and can score.

7. Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
He does everything well except for shoot, but as long as he isn’t a primary scorer on his team, he will succeed.

8. Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
I just don’t get the hype on him. Seems like a Ekpe Udoh bust part 2. But he is really athletic, so I’ll keep him this high.

9. Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
I prefer Harris over Stauskas by an inch because he’s a much better defender.

10. Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
If you can get your jump shot off from anywhere and handle the ball, you can find a niche in this league.

11. Jarnell Stokes, PF, Tennessee
You didn’t really just skip to the bottom did you? Go read the intro.

12. Dario Saric, PF, Croatia
Even if he can’t come to the US for 2 more years, he’s a creative passer. If he can ever shoot consistently, watch out.

13. James Young, SF, Kentucky
Freakish wingspan and great shooting stroke. He’d be much higher if he played defense.

14. Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
I can see why people like him, but I think people are trying to project Damian Lillard’s success onto him too boldly.

15. Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
Great size and a great stroke. If he continues to shoot like he did last year at Duke, he’ll be a steal.

16. Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
Not a fan when he can’t defend small forwards or power forwards. Offensive versatility can only go so far.

17. Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
Pure point guards are hard to come by now, and he could be the steal of the draft if he finds a consistent shot.

18. Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
An older prospect, but he can defend the paint some and really shoot the mid-range shot.

19. P.J. Hairston, SG, North Carolina
Character issues don’t matter to me much when a player shoots the way Hairston does.

20. T.J. Warren, SF, NC State
Warren has a knack for scoring even without a great jump shot. Low ceiling but high probability.

21. Zach LaVine, PG, UCLA
I get that he is an athletic freak, but I don’t really see discernible NBA skills, which is an issue.

22. Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
Worst case scenario: Bismack Biyombo!

23. Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA
A very intriguing point forward who never lived up to his top-5 high school recruit expectations.

24. Jusuf Kurkic, C, Bosnia
Your standard Euro big man. You know.

25. Shabazz Napier, PG, UConn
I just don’t see much projection left in Shabazz, but he’d be a solid rotation player.

26. Mitch McGary, C, Michigan
If he didn’t injure his back last year, he’d probably be a mid-first rounder. I like to bet on injured talent.

27. Jordan Adams, G, UCLA
He can score. That’s a pretty good skill to have if you want to make the NBA.

28. K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
Versatile defender who could really strengthen someone’s second unit.

29. Jordan Clarkson, SG, Missouri
Texas high school legend who should be able to score off someone’s bench.

30. Vasilije Micic, PG, Serbia
Great name. Great size. Great vision. Great shooter. Not so great defender.

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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

Charlotte-Hornets_new_logo

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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Champions Classic Running Diary

The best night of college basketball we’re going to see all season is on a Tuesday in November. For NBA Draft nuts like me, the Champions Classic this year is just about basketball porn.

Kentucky. Michigan State. Duke. Kansas.

It just doesn’t get any better than this. We have 15 of the top 35 draft prospects, according to ESPN’s Chad Ford, and four of the top-5 ranked teams.

I’m so excited about tonight that I’m going to keep a running diary of the games, which you can track throughout the night, with Jackson Martin of the Dirty South Sports Report:

Ben, 6:35 PM CT: I’m a little bit surprised Aaron Harrison is getting the start over Alex Poythress. Hey, if you’re upset about your lack of playing time, Alex, I know a school from your home state of Tennessee that would love to have you!

Ben, 6:46: Our first all-freshman lineup for Kentucky as Cauley-Stein is pulled for Dakari Johnson! It also just hit me that every single player on this court is younger (and way more talented) than me.

Jackson, 6:54: Michigan State looks like me playing NBA 2k14 where on defense I just keep hitting the X button. Sure, you get a ton of steals in a short period of time, but this is going to backfire eventually.

Jackson, 7:02: I don’t really buy into the thinking that you need experience to win the national championship, but early season games with an all-freshman team can get ugly. We’re seeing that on both ends with Kentucky right now.

Ben, 7:04: I’m just amazed how big Kentucky is. With the Harrison twins starting, every player is between 6-foot-6 and 7-foot. Forget offense, when this team matures by the end of the year, it’s going to be a defensive monster.

Ben, 7:07: I feel like every time I look up from my laptop, Michigan State’s on a fast break. Julius Randle’s been making some weird passes around the perimeter, so I wonder if Kentucky should just slow down the ball and let him bang in the paint.

Jackson, 7:14: Kentucky is forcing the dribble-drive offense right now and Michigan State is just bodying them up. The Wildcats look like the Harlem Globetrotters with all the rotating handoffs they’ve had at quarter-court.

Ben, 7:18: Kentucky’s already down nine points with six minutes left in the half, but they’re also in the bonus. They need to cut down their high volume of long shots and take advantage of their size and MSU’s foul situation. Their height (and talent) is going to help them rack up a lot of fouls this year.

Jackson, 7:22: Here’s why Julius Randle is my No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft: When I watch him play, he can either take the ball up the court or post up a PF on the block and not look out of place. He’s one of those rare guys who has the abilities to play 4 or 5 positions on the court.

Ben, 7:24: Sure he’s a senior, but Adreian Payne has a spot at the next level as a late first-round pick if he can consistently knock down a three. He’s got great hops, good defensive instincts, surprisingly good shooting, and most importantly, a great name.

Ben, 7:29: I’m starting to really like Gary Harris. I’m thinking he’s either a worse Bradley Beal or a better Willie Green. Probably somewhere in between.

Jackson, 7:30: Kentucky’s dribble-drive offense is creating wide-open outside shots. Young has started knocking them down, and if the Wildcats can hit those threes with any consistency this is going to be a game again real quick.

Ben, 7:37: The big difference I’m seeing so far between this Kentucky team and the championship team two years ago is defense. There’s no Anthony Davis or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist right now (although some of the young guys could develop into similar players), but for now UK needs to get back on defense quicker. MSU is just running over them.

Ben, 7:52: Side note: I love Kanye, I love Yeezus, and I’m so happy Black Skinhead is taking over commercials and basketball arena soundtracks.

Ben, 7:55: I’m not nearly as high on Randle as Jackson is (and by that I mean I wouldn’t take him 1-1 right now), but MAN is he fun to watch. 6 straight points to open the second half capped off by a coast-to-coast drive. He’s got some serious power moves you rarely see from young guys.

Jackson, 8:13: This is what I mean. There’s going to be some time this second half where Kentucky dominates play for stretches of time. And watching those stretches shows you the true potential of this young team. They probably won’t win this game, but by the end of the year Kentucky will likely be the best team in the country.

Jackson, 8:14: Coast-to-coast for Michigan State with no dribbles. Man, that’s beautiful basketball.

Ben, 8:16: Places Kentucky needs to improve: free throw shooting (6-16), turnovers (16), assists (4 in 18 field goals), and making freshman mistakes.

Jackson, 8:19: Ben, did you just copy and paste that list from the last four years? These are the things Kentucky struggles with for half a season every year. I’ve got a feeling this is going to turn out okay for the Wildcats.

Ben, 8:21: You’re not going to beat Michigan State with iso or post-up plays. Kentucky needs a lot more ball movement and more rotations, which may not happen until the offense is more cohesive later in the year.

There aren't many true post scorers left, but Randle is one of them. And he's damn good.

There aren’t many true post scorers left, but Randle is one of them. And he’s damn good.

Jackson, 8:23: Julius Randle is a man playing college basketball. The turnovers are a problem, but it’s his first real game. Everything else he’s doing makes you see why he’s so highly touted. He will make some NBA fanbase really, really happy.

Jackson, 8:29: It’s now a three-point game with another strong finish from Randle. I will be amazed and terrified for everyone else if Kentucky can pull this game out.

Ben, 8:30: Kentucky is going to win this game. Look out.

Ben, 8:33: If Randle weren’t on this AAU Kentucky team, he’d put up numbers like another guy who wore #30, Michael Beasley. Don’t laugh, Beasley put up a 26.2-12.4-1.2-1.3-1.6 line on .543/.479/.774 shooting at K-State. R.I.P. good Michael Beasley.

Jackson, 8:47: I hate player comparisons as much as you do, Ben, but does Randle remind you of any NBA players? I’m trying to place it, but can’t quite come up with who.

Ben, 8:49: Well he just hit four straight clutch free throws towards the end of the game, so clearly not Dwight Howard!!! But in all seriousness, maybe he’s a much higher ceiling, thicker version of Chris Bosh, who, by the way, is actually a really good player. Maybe I’m thinking that because this is “The Best Draft Class Since ’03” and Bosh was the first big man off the board, but still.

Jackson, 8:57: Randle just scored over a triple-team. I have a new man crush. He is ridiculous.

Ben, 8:57: I’m going to wait until after Wiggins and Jabari go head-to-head before I decide on a man crush. And I love Dante Exum too. Dear Lord, I already love this draft class. Please tank, Horncats!

Ben, 9:02: Yes, Michigan State won and was the better team tonight. But man is Kentucky going to be scary (and so fun to watch) by the end of the year.

Ben, 9:05: The biggest problem I’m going to have all year with Kentucky is remembering which Harrison twin is which. Thank God for their different haircuts and uniform numbers.

Ben, 9:12: Wait the United Center is playing The Way I Are by Timbaland. I’m a fan.

Ben, 9:18: Congrats to Vanderbilt, earning their first win of the season in a 86-80 takedown of former Kentucky Wildcat Ryan Harrow’s Georgia State Panthers. Imagine if UK still had Harrow, too…

Ben, 9:25: I don’t like Tyler Thornton starting over Andre Dawkins and Rasheed Sulaiman for Duke. I’d like at least one ball-handler off the bench.

Ben, 9:33: Early prediction: Jabari Parker has a better college season than Andrew Wiggins. He’s a lot more polished, but when I saw Wiggins in high school, it was easy to see how talented he was. Wiggins will probably have a better pro career, but you can see the rough edges.

Ben, 9:38: “That’s (Wiggins’) first collegiate basket, and I can assure you it won’t be his last.” Thank you, Dickie V. Bring me back Jay Bilas.

Ben, 9:40: I was really wondering how you pronounce Joel Embiid’s name, and it turns out it’s what I expected: em-BEED. There are about fourteen other pronunciations you couldn’ve told me and I would’ve believe any of them.

Ben, 9:43: Ever since Wiggins reclassified into the Class of 2013, Jabari Parker has been thrown a lot of shade. But dude can play. Just in the last five minutes, he hit a pair of threes (one was an and-one), blocked a shot, and stole a pass.

Ben, 9:48: Good to see Wiggins come inside to grab an offensive rebound and put it back in. At Huntington, he would often drift along the perimeter waiting for the ball, since his team had really good guards and big men. He has even more talented teammates at KU, so he’ll really want to show his assertiveness here.

Ben, 9:54: Quinn Cook was Duke’s most improved player last year, and Amile Jefferson may be that guy this year. He’s beefed up a bit–enough that he’s playing a de facto center for Duke–and looks a lot more comfortable in the lane. He was pushed around a lot last year.

Ben, 10:04: Wiggins has been quiet (and on the bench) for most of the game. Still, Randle and Parker look just as good as advertised–if not better. As Meat Loaf will tell you, two out of three ain’t bad.

Ben, 10:13: 19 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 assist, and 1 block later for Jabari Parker in the first half, it seems like a good time to bring up this video.

Andrew Wiggins may be the better long-term prospect, but Jabari Parker is a better player right now.

Andrew Wiggins may be the better long-term prospect, but Jabari Parker is a better player right now.

Ben, 10:31: Look, I might be a naïve Duke fan, but Jabari Parker seems like a hard guy to dislike. He’s not crazy, he smiles all the time, and he’s Mormon. Who hates Mormons!

Ben, 10:37: I’ve seen Wiggins play in about two and a half games, and I’m not sure if I’ve seen him hit a single three-pointer. I can’t even recall him hitting a jumper, although I’m sure he has. That’s an issue if he’s going to be a shooting guard, but until he figures out his shot, he just needs to drive more, which he can do very well.

Ben, 10:56: Jabari Parker has had a lot of success jumping interior passes, leading to his three steals. This time, Wayne Selden caught him and snuck past Parker to Embiid for an easy deuce. Selden has been one of the most impressive Jayhawks, especially with his excellent passing.

Ben, 10:58: My television’s ESPN feed is having broadcast issues, and every play is shown at 90% speed before the screen glitches every five seconds. Wiggins went up for a fast break dunk and hovered for what seemed like forever, and I’m not quite sure if it was the faulty signal or his freakish athleticism.

Ben, 11:06: For some bizarre reason, Coach K played 6-foot-2 Tyler Thornton on 6-foot-8 Andrew Wiggins for two possessions. Wiggins posted him up the both times, scoring first and drawing a foul the second time. Thornton is a very good defender, but there’s only so much you can do against an athletic freak a half foot taller than you.

Ben, 11:11: Embiid just missed a free throw by hitting the backboard first. Yeah, that’s what only been playing basketball for three years looks like.

Ben, 11:17: Parker’s floater in the lane was about the twelth time tonight I’ve just yelled something not fit for print OH GOD HE JUST HIT A THREE.

Ben, 11:27: Rick Bonnell, a fantastic Bobcats beat writer for the Charlotte Observer I worked with this summer, just made a great point on Twitter I’ve always said. People are clamoring for players to stay in college basketball 2 years. Sure, that’s fine, but only if Randle, Wiggins, and Parker can go pro out of high school. These guys don’t belong in college, and the NBA has no reason to keep them in college for two years (or any time at all).

Ben, 11:32: Rodney Hood turns it over, Wiggins gets a fastbreak dunk, and Parker fouls out with Kansas up 6 and just over a minute left. That’ll just about do it for the game, but there’s no doubt both teams are great and both stars are just unbelievable.

Ben, 11:37: This is why I love college basketball. I love watching elite future NBA players, and I love a lot of scoring. Ain’t nobody got time for that 37-36 Georgetown-Tennessee nonsense.

Ben, 11:44: What a night of really good performances. We’ll look back on this night in about five years and be amazed by how many great players were on one court over five hours.

Categories: College Basketball, NBA, Running Diary | Leave a comment

Draft Links and Big Board

This is one of my favorite times of the year, NBA Draft season, and I’ve been pretty busy writing. Below I’ve shared links to all the stuff I’ve written on this site and Bobcats Baseline. Below that I have my top 30 players for the draft, which you should definitely trust over pro scouts and paid draft analysts. Enjoy!

June 25:

Atlanta Will Win The NBA Draft Despite Picking A Plumlee – Stuff on Giannis Antetokounmpo and my Mock Draft

Nerlens Noel: High and Low – A back-and-forth about whether Nerlens Noel is the best of worst possible Bobcats draft pick

June 24:

Gerald Henderson – The Free Agent – A look at what Charlotte should do at SG through the draft and free agency

June 13:

The Demarcus Debate – A back-and-forth about whether the Bobcats should trade for DeMarcus Cousins

May 31:

Anthony Bennett: The Next LJ or Sean May? – I try to convince fellow Baseliner ASChin that Anthony Bennett is great for Charlotte

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Draft Big Board:

a

Otto Porter may not have one elite skill, but he can do everything pretty well.

1. Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky

2. Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV

3. Otto Porter Jr., SF, Georgetown

4. Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas

5. Alex Len, C, Maryland

6. Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana

7. Trey Burke, PG, Michigan

8. Cody Zeller, PF, Indiana

9. Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse

10. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia

11. Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF, Greece

12. Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA

13. C.J. McCollum, SG, Lehigh

14. Lucas Nogueira, C, Brazil

15. Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh

16. Tony Mitchell, PF, North Texas

17. Shane Larkin, PG, Miami

18. Mason Plumlee, PF, Duke

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No defense, T-Rex arms, and bad athleticism from a small conference? Pass.

19. Allen Crabbe, SG, California

20. Ricky Ledo, SG, Providence

21. Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany

22. Sergey Karasev, SG, Russia

23. Reggie Bullock, SF, UNC

24. Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State

25. Glen Rice Jr., SG, NBADL

26. Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville

27. Tony Snell, SF, New Mexico

28. Kelly Olynyk, PF, Gonzaga

29. Tim Haradaway Jr., SG, Michigan

30. Grant Jerrett, PF, Arizona

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Atlanta Will Win The NBA Draft Despite Picking A Plumlee

Yeah, you read that correctly.

The Atlanta Hawks are going to win the NBA draft despite drafting a Plumlee.

Atlanta is one of six teams with two first-rounders this year (Cleveland has 1 and 19, Phoenix is 5 and 30, Minnesota has 9 and 26, Oklahoma City has 12 and 29, and Utah has 14 and 21). Having first-round flexibility allows teams to be creative. Specifically, it allows teams to take risks.

One of the big risks teams with multiple picks are likely to take is to go international. Look at the 2011 draft when Cleveland, Utah, Washington, Charlotte, and Houston all went international with one of their two picks. Five of the eight international first-rounders were taken by teams with an extra number one pick.

Although they have the same average draft position as the Suns, T-Wolves, and Jazz, the Hawks are in a unique position because they have back-to-back picks.

Boston didn’t exactly take advantage of that same scenario last year when they took Jared Sullinger (a.k.a. Basketball Jesus) and The Most Fabulous of Melos, however Minnesota went international in 2009 with Ricky Rubio then Stephen Curry Jonny Flynn.

This year’s crop of international players isn’t quite as good as 2011, but it features some interesting characters. We have Brazilian Nerlens Noel (athletic shot blocker with crazy hair), German Rajon Rondo (quick point guard who can’t shoot), Russian Kyle Korver (white wing who can only shoot), and French Alexis Ajinca (Alexis Ajinca).

Remember the name Giannis Antetokounmpo. Or just remember there's a Greek kid with a crazy name.

Remember the name Giannis Antetokounmpo. Or just remember there’s a Greek kid with a crazy name.

And then we have the Greek Freak.

The man whose name is harder to spell than Mike Krzyzewski.

Giannis Antetokounmpo.

We don’t know a lot about the kid, but here’s what we do know: he’s athletic, he’s young, and he somehow ended up with an ‘n’ in his last name (I’m no translator, but where is the ‘n’ in γιαννης αντετοκουμπο?).

His highlights are enough to make scouts and fans alike salivate, although it’s slightly concerning that the grainy video looks like he’s playing in a middle school gym against church leaguers.

But he’s just an athletic freak–hence the nickname.

He’s 6’9″ 215 with a 7’3″ wingspan and massive hands. The kid’s only 18, who knows if he’s even done growing. He runs like a deer up the court with a nice handle–you’d be surprised how many players don’t have this simple skill–and he’s an explosive jumper. A great passer, Antetokounmpo often plays the point forward and has demonstrated three-point range.

So what’s the issue, why isn’t he the top pick in a noted weak draft? Well, he’s still a risk.

Antetokounmpo was playing glorified high school ball overseas and is very raw. He won’t go straight to the NBA, and scouts haven’t been watching him as long as domestic players. Hell, Darko Milicic blew away scouts and tricked Detroit into taking him over Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.

But Antetokounmpo’s name won’t be butchered by David Stern until after the lottery, and he likely won’t go until a team with multiple picks comes up. And this is where Atlanta comes in.

With two picks, the risk of wasting a draft is lessened. A team could go with two big gambles (Antetokounmpo and Lucas Nogueira), but they’ll more likely go with a safe pick and then a risk. I have the Hawks taking Duke big man Mason Plumlee directly after the Greek Freak.

Mason Plumlee won’t get fans excited. He won’t start many games–especially if they bring in Dwight Howard. But he’s a serviceable big man who can be a rich man’s Nick Collison. Teams aren’t looking for a starter outside the lottery of a normal draft, so Nick Collison isn’t a bad addition in a weak draft.

While drafting Plumlee won’t move the needle much, drafting a safe player (Plumlee will still be in the league five years from now) makes rolling the dice on Antetokounmpo a whole lot easier.

As I’ve said before, Antetokounmpo has the raw tools to become a star. But teams have to take a leap of faith on this guy, a leap of faith that his physical dominance on grainy footage in Greece can translate into dominance in 1080p HD in primetime on the biggest stage.

And I believe in him. He’s shown he can do a little bit of everything, and at the very least he’ll be a jack-of-all-trades point forward who defends well. Isn’t that Otto Porter? But if he maximizes his potential with strong coaching? He could become a better Paul George.

What’s not to love about this guy? DraftExpress lists his weaknesses as strength and explosiveness, perimeter shooting, defensive consistency, and lack of experience. All of those are correctable with experience, hard work, and coaching. It’s not like he’s physically held back by height or age like Shabazz Muhammad.

The Hawks will land a star in Giannis Antetokounmpo. He may not make a mark in the league for a few years, but mark my words he will. And it’s all because they drafted a Plumlee.

I came out with my mock lottery the night of the actual lottery, and here is my fully fleshed out mock draft. I can guarantee you this is better than picking names randomly out of a hat.

1

Alex Len

C 7-foot-1 225 lbs Maryland 19 Years Old

Nerlens Noel is the top talent in the draft, but owner Dan Gilbert gave management a playoff mandate. Noel will miss a significant part of the season, and according to sources, the Cavs are willing to take a lesser talent in Len to win now. The Cavs have been confident in their scouting reports recently, though, drafting Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters ahead of where most people valuated them the past two years, so don’t be surprised if Len is the pick here.

2

Nerlens Noel

C 7-foot 206 lbs Kentucky 19 Years Old

Orlando will reportedly swipe up Noel if he falls to number two. I can’t blame them, I’d take him first overall. Victor Oladipo is also apparently their second choice, although I’d take him fifth at the earliest. I do wonder how Noel and Nik Vucevic will work together, though.

3

Otto Porter Jr.

SF 6-foot-9 198 lbs Georgetown 19 Years Old

Porter fits what the Wizards need (defense and versatility) in a position they need (small forward), and he even has a local connection (Georgetown and the Wizards gyms are 4 miles apart). This pick ultimately comes down to Porter or Anthony Bennett–sources close to the team said they won’t consider Noel. I personally prefer Bennett, but Porter is a better fit, since they already have Nene and plenty of offense from John Wall and Bradley Beal.

4

Anthony Bennett

PF 6-foot-8 240 lbs UNLV 19 Years Old

I think Anthony Bennett will become the second best player in the draft. I don’t see his size as an issue because of his length (7-foot-1 wingspan) and his explosiveness. Also, Anthony Bennett is Larry Johnson. As documented before, they’re the same size, they both went to UNLV, they put up almost the same numbers, and, oh yeah, they have the same birthday. I’m pretty sure Grandmama was reborn at age 24 in Toronto. That would explain the lack of polarizing personality and general friendliness.

5

Victor Oladipo

SG 6-foot-4 213 lbs Indiana 20 Years Old

I’m not high on Oladipo like other people are; I’m not sure he scores more than 12 ppg. But hey, I’m not actually a scout, and they value hustle and grit more than I value scoring. But at the very least, Oladipo will be Tony Allen, and that’s not a bad floor. In case you didn’t notice already, this draft is weak.

6

Trey Burke

PG 6-foot-1 217 lbs Michigan 20 Years Old

New Orleans would probably like Len here to match with Anthony Davis, but in this scenario, he’s not here. They have keepers at power forward and shooting guard (hey, remember Eric Gordon?) and that’s it. Ben McLemore is the best talent on the board, but he doesn’t make sense if Gordon is still on roster, so Burke becomes the pick. Sorry, Austin Rivers.

7

Michael Carter-Williams

PG 6-foot-6 184 lbs Syracuse 21 Years Old

Again, McLemore is the best talent left, but he makes even less sense with the Kings because they already have black hole shooters in Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, Jimmer Freddette, John Salmons, Isaiah Thomas, …

8

Ben McLemore

SG 6-foot-5 189 lbs Kansas 20 Years Old

How does this happen every year? Detroit has spent the past four years in the lottery, and each year a top talent inexplicably falls to them. McLemore is a great fit, since they’re looking for another guard. Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight, Andre Drummond, and potentially McLemore? This isn’t fair.

9

C.J. McCollum

SG 6-foot-3 197 lbs Lehigh 21 Years Old

The Wolves are fiending for shooting, and that’s pretty much all McCollum can do. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has a better all-around game, but this combo guard gives Minnesota what it needs.

10

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

SG 6-foot-6 204 lbs Georgia 20 Years Old

Meyers Leonard hasn’t worked out yet–although it’s too early to make a call on him–so the Blazers will be looking for a two guard or a big man to go with LaMarcus Aldridge. Cody Zeller is too similar to Aldridge, and Steven Adams is too similar to Leonard, so I think KCP is the pick here. Yes, I realize that’s a lazy nickname for him.

11

Cody Zeller

PF 7-foot 230 lbs Indiana 20 Years Old

I accidentally called him Tyler Zeller in my mock lottery. Yep.

12

Steven Adams

C 7-foot 255 lbs Pittsburgh 19 Years Old

OKC doesn’t need a lot of things, but they could probably use some more size. Adams is a long-term project, but he already has NBA size. Really, he just needs more time around the sport (that has to be a good sign, right?), since he’s only been playing for five years. The Thunder can afford to take this risk as a potential great defensive big man to go with Serge Ibaka.

13

Dennis Schroeder

PG 6-foot-2 165 lbs Germany 19 Years Old

We know one thing: the 13th overall pick will not play in Dallas next year. Either this pick will be traded or the Mavs will stash a player in Europe. With Dario Saric out of the draft, Sergey Karasev is getting a lot of late helium, but we’re overlooking the most obvious fit. It’s the German kid! Dallas needs a point guard, since Darren Collison isn’t the answer, and Schroeder could learn easily under the wing of Dirk “Sportmeister” Nowitzki.

14

Shane Larkin

PG 6-foot 171 lbs Miami 20 Years Old

This is the nightmare scenario for Utah. They’re in dire need of a young point guard, and Burke, Carter-Williams, McCollum, and Schroeder are all off the board. They’re big fans of Shane Larkin, but they’d probably rather take him at 21. In this case, however, they can’t risk Milwaukee or some other team swiping him up, so he’s the pick here.

15

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Sergey Karasev

SG 6-foot-7 197 lbs Russia 19 Years Old

I don’t know what to think of the Bucks front court because Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, and J.J. Redick are all free agents. When’s the last time a team had their entire backcourt of good players hit free agency at once? Anyway, they’re not all coming back and they’ll need shooting. Enter, Karasev.

16

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Shabazz Muhammad

SF 6-foot-6 222 lbs UCLA 20 Years Old

I don’t know how Shabazz’s star has fallen this far. He may not be able to do as much as we thought when he was coming into UCLA, but he can do one thing: score. There’s a place in this league for players who can scor

e, and the Celtics just need talented players as they enter a rebuilding stage.

17

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Giannis Antetokounmpo

SF 6-foot-9 215 lbs Greece 18 Years Old

You ready my intro, right?

18

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Mason Plumlee

PF 6-foot-10 238 lbs Duke 23 Years Old

You read the entry before this, right?

19

Jamaal Franklin

SG 6-foot-5 191 lbs San Diego State 21 Years Old

Cleveland is going with a center with their first pick, so they’ll get a perimeter player with this pick. There aren’t any point guards worth taking here, and I don’t see them taking Tony Mitchell (although I absolutely love him), so I have them taking a shooting guard who can’t shoot.

20

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Allen Crabbe

SG 6-foot-6 197 lbs California 21 Years Old

The one thing the Bulls really need, besides healthy players, is shooting. They may add a free agent or two to address that, but Allen Crabbe would be a perfect fit for them. They don’t need him to be a star, they just need him to knock down threes, which is about the extent of his skill set.

21

Lucas Nogueira

C 6-foot-11 218 lbs Brazil 20 Years Old

Once they’ve added a point guard, Utah will probably want to add size, since Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are free agents. Jeff Withey would make a bigger instant impact, and Mitchell has a higher upside, but Nogueira gives them defense that Enes Kanter and Derrick Favor can’t supply. Also, Nogueira is pretty much the same as Nerlens Noel–down to the crazy hair. Great shot blocking ability, extremely athletic, raw offense. Bebe’s just Brazilian and will be picked 20 picks later.

22

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Tony Mitchell

SF 6-foot-8 222 lbs North Texas 21 Years Old

High upside, star power, meet Brooklyn.

23

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Kelly Olynyk

PF 7-foot 234 lbs Gonzaga 22 Years Old

White guy to Indiana!

24

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Ricky Ledo

SG 6-foot-6 197 lbs Providence 20 Years Old

Ledo is a lottery talent who didn’t play last year because of academic reasons. He could be Brandon Jennings or he could be point guard Jeremy Tyler. I’m guessing New York is willing to take the risk on this scoring guard.

25

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Reggie Bullock

SF 6-foot-7 200 lbs North Carolina 22 Years Old

We know this pick isn’t going to Boston because any trade between the two teams will be vetoed by the Almighty David Stern. While they could use some size, Gorgui Dieng is too like DeAndre Jordan, and Rudy Gobert is too raw. I have them taking the best three-and-D player on the board.

26

Gorgui Dieng

C 6-foot-11 230 lbs Louisville 23 Years Old

With Nikola Pekovic a pending free agent, the Wolves will need to add a big after they add a shooter. Dieng is a steal this late–even though I don’t like his long-term potential since he’s already 23 and has no offense of which to speak.

27

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Tim Hardaway Jr.

SG 6-foot-6 199 lbs Michigan 21 Years Old

Even after Andre Iguodala (probably) leaves, the Nuggets don’t really have a need beyond a superstar. They have too many “pretty good” players. Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee, Kosta Koufos, Andre Miller, Evan Fourier… don’t be surprised if they try to trade this pick.

28

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Rudy Gobert

C 7-foot-2 238 lbs France 20 Years Old

Gobert strikes as a guy we’ll make fun of if Minnesota drafts him and and laud if San Antonio drafts him.

29

Alex Abrines

SG 6-foot-5 195 lbs Spain 20 Years Old

Like I said earlier, the Thunder don’t really much. So I have them taking the top remaining international player to stash for a few years.

30

Glen Rice Jr.

SG 6-foot-6 211 lbs NBADL 22 Years Old

If the Suns go big with their first pick, they’re going small with their next pick. And why not go with a third Junior, right? Apparently Isaiah Canaan is getting a long look here, too.

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2013 NBA Mock Lottery

For the second year in a row, I’m putting out a mock lottery before I release a mock draft closer to the actual draft night. It’s been said a lot, but this draft is not very strong. There isn’t too much separating the top four players to me–and that’s not in a good way–and the back end of the lottery is far from spectacular.

But I still think it’s important to predict the order in which nineteen year old men will be selected, only to change that order in a few weeks. Yeah.

You should also check out my writeup dispelling some common misconceptions about the NBA Draft Lottery.

1

Nerlens Noel

C 7-foot 206 lbs Kentucky 19 Years Old

The Cavaliers luck out again, winning their third lottery in eleven years. They have cornerstone starters at point guard, shooting guard, and power forward, so that leaves them essentially looking at Nerlens Noel and Otto Porter Jr. for the first overall pick. Porter will help more right now, but he doesn’t have nearly the ceiling of Noel, who could be a better version of Anderson Varejao.

2

Ben McLemore

SG 6-foot-5 189 lbs Kansas 20 Years Old

Had the Magic landed the number one pick, there’s no chance Noel could have lived up to the other three number one picks Orlando has had: Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber, and Dwight Howard. The Magic is a bit of a mess and really just needs talent, so Ben McLemore makes the most sense since he’s the next best player on the board.

3

Otto Porter Jr.

SF 6-foot-9 198 lbs Georgetown 19 Years Old

Porter is probably my third favorite player in the draft after Noel and Bennett, and he’s a perfect fit for Washington. They already have franchise building blocks in John Wall and Bradley Beal, so they just need a forward who make an impact even without the ball. Bennett also makes some sense here, too.

4

Anthony Bennett

PF 6-foot-8 240 lbs UNLV 20 Years Old

The Horncats need help at about any position other than point guard and small forward. The Bobcats biggest issue last year–besides a lack of talent–was a lack of a quality big man. Anthony Bennett is only 6-foot-8, but he has a 7-foot-1 wingspan, and he dominated on the glass last year. Like fellow Charlotte draft pick and former Running Rebel Larry Johnson, Bennett overcomes his lack of height with a strong perimeter game.

5

Victor Oladipo

SG 6-foot-4 213 lbs Indiana 21 Years Old

No team is in a bigger mess than the Suns. They have no young player you can point to and say that they will be a starter in the future. Kendall Marshall, the Morris twins, and Wesley Johnson may all become nice role players, but nobody will win a NBA championship with Michael Beasley starting. With Marshall and Goran Dragic on roster, Trey Burke doesn’t make a ton of sense here, but Victor Oladipo is the hard-working type of player the Suns need to build around.

6

Trey Burke

PG 6-foot-1 217 lbs Michigan 20 Years Old

New Orleans would be lucky if Trey Burke fell this far. They desperately need an upgrade at point guard since Austin Rivers looks like he may go the way of Jonny Flynn, and Burke could supply some extra star power to the team. Burke, Eric Gordon, and Anthony Davis would be a very nice core.

7

Tyler Zeller

PF 7-foot 230 lbs Indiana 20 Years Old

Zeller started the year as the favorite to be the number one pick, and at one point nearly fell out of the lottery. But after putting up ridiculous numbers at the NBA Draft Combine, I think his stock will rocket back up in the coming weeks. He’s definitely better than Alex Len. But the Kings need a forward who can make an impact without needy the ball–since the draftee wouldn’t get the ball playing with Tyreke Evans, Jimmer Freddette, Marcus Cousins, John Salmons, Isaiah Thomas, and DeMarcus Cousins.

8

Shabazz Muhammad

SF 6-foot-6 222 lbs UCLA 20 Years Old

I’m still a big Shabazz Muhammad fan despite a so-so freshman year, a poor combine, and the revelation that he is a year older. The Pistons need a wing player to compliment Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe, and Andre Drummond, and Muhammad would fit  the bill. This could be the fourth consecutive lottery that a potential All-Star falls to the Motor City.

9

C.J. McCollum

SG 6-foot-3 197 lbs Lehigh 21 Years Old

I’m not a huge fan of McCollum since he’s undersized and didn’t face much competition at Lehigh, but the similar thing (schedule-wise) was said of Damian Lillard last year. The Wolves are lacking on the wing, and they’ve been searching for a shooting guard since Randy Foye left (that’s a low bar). The Timberwolves like the guy, so maybe they’re onto something. I don’t know.

10

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

SG 6-foot-6 204 lbs Georgia 20 Years Old

I’m not really sure what took so long for teams to like this guy. He put up big scoring numbers at UGA (partially because he was the only redeemable player on the roster) and even rebounds well. And he has legitimate shooting guard size. The Blazers will likely look at Caldwell-Pope or go big with Alex Len–who probably shouldn’t still be on the board at ten.

11

Alex Len

C 7-foot-1 225 lbs Maryland 19 Years Old

The Sixers need size, and they’ve got plenty of options in this scenario. Alex Len has had his ups and his downs, but he has a chance to be one of the best players in the draft. He’s the tallest non-Rudy Gorbert player in the draft, and he has a nice offensive skill set that wasn’t shown off at college because he didn’t get the ball enough at Maryland. Between the options available at this point and his health, I don’t see the Sixers bringing back Andrew Bynum.

12

Steven Adams

C 7-foot 255 lbs Pittsburgh 19 Years Old

With the departure of Andrew Bogut, the Bucks are seriously hurting for size. Terrence is another weird character–he’s the size of a small forward, but he’s not quick enough to guard the position. He’s got a world of talent, but often will disappear for halves at a time. I see him as a stretch four in the pros–like he played at Kentucky–but he could go much lower than this in the draft.

13

Dario Saric

SF 6-foot-10 223 lbs Croatia 19 Years Old

This pick likely comes down to Dario Saric and Michael Carter-Williams for the Mavs. Both are home run picks and fill different needs. Darren Collison is good, not great at the point guard, and the Mavericks have no long-term players at small forward. Dallas apparently thinks Saric can be a star, and he has that upside, and he could prove to be a worth heir apparent for Dirk Nowitzki.

14

Michael Carter-Williams

PG 6-foot-6 184 lbs Syracuse 21 Years Old

Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors look like franchise building blocks, and the Jazz really like Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks, so that leaves them with a nice big hole at point guard. Enter, Michael Carter-Williams. He’s got incredible size and great athleticism; his only problem is that he has a broken jump shot. If he’s off the board here, Shane Larkin could make a lot of sense, even as a massive reach.

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A Brief Lottery Briefing

You won’t find me in any college math classes after my adventure with multivarible calculus, but I fancy myself a mathematical person. And being a big fan of the NBA Draft, you can bet I’m a fan of the NBA Draft Lottery.

Sure, I wasn’t happy when my Bobcats lost the #1 pick to the Hornets–boy this is going to be confusing looking back in a few years–after they had nearly three fewer wins than the second worst team in the league. But the Lottery disincentives tanking and adds excitement to the league, so it is a good thing.

There are a few things that bother me about the lottery. It’s not necessarily about how the process is done, but rather how people look at the lottery.

Specifically, the magical word “due.”

I’m not sure if people forgot what they learned in high school math (very possible) or if they believe in karma over logic, but this isn’t how odds work.

The lottery is a simple (?) process.

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Obviously the Magic will win the lottery because they lost Dwight. Or it’s going to be the Pelicans or future Hornets because they’re changing nicknames. Or the Kings because they won’t be relocated.

There are 14 ping pong balls each numbered one through fourteen. Four ping pong balls are randomly drawn (the order does not matter), which gives us 24,024 combinations. Simplify that by a factor of 24 and you get 1,001 combinations, then drop the last combination and you have an even 1,000 combinations. Each team is assigned a certain number of combinations, determined by their record, and you have each team’s odds at landing a lottery pick.

Four ping pong balls are continuously drawn until three unique teams are selected. The rest of the picks are organized by record.

It’s all luck. There’s no “due.” And there’s no conspiracy. You can make up a conspiracy theory for any team.

This idea of a team being “due” continues even today–an article ran about it in the Dallas Morning News–despite it making no sense.

Yes, the Bobcats, Suns, and Pistons have never won the lottery, but that doesn’t mean they’re more likely to win it now. The fourth pick has never won the lottery, but that doesn’t mean Phoenix has a better or worse shot. The Magic have won it three times, but that doesn’t mean anything either.

Each draft is completely separate. It’s just odds each time.

Imagine using Chad Ford’s Mock Lottery Machine nineteen times, never coming up with the Phoenix Suns first. What is the chance you get the Suns with the first pick on your twentieth try? Is it 80% since they haven’t come up yet so they have to soon? Is it 2% since they haven’t been chosen yet, so they probably still won’t?

Nope, it’s still 11.2%, like always.

Since the lottery was weighted in 1994 so that the team with the worst record has a 25% chance of landing the top pick, the team with the best odds has only won twice. Two out of nineteen is not very good–10.5% is less half the odds of 25%. Yeah, I can do math.

So is the NBA rigging it so that the team with the worst record doesn’t get the number one pick? We can check if that 10.5% actually statistically significant–suggesting the lottery is rigged–or if it is just due to random variation by using a binomial distribution. Who’s excited for some math?!

And in fact, the binomial distribution gives us a p-value of .07, which is bigger than .05 and therefore too large for us to reject the null hypothesis. In layman’s terms, there is not enough evidence for us to say that the lottery is rigged.

Well maybe they’re not just preventing the worst team from winning the lottery, they’re just selecting the first winner because of a narrative. We can check this by running a chi-square test on the lottery winners.

Again, the chi-square test gives us a p-value of .089, which is still to large for us to reject the null hypothesis. We don’t have enough evidence for us to say the first overall pick is rigged.

But maybe it’s not the first pick that’s rigged, but rather all three winners of the lottery. We can check that again by running a chi-square test.

No surprise here, the p-value is very high: .355. Using that data, it’s almost comical to suggest that the lottery is rigged.

I know the last thing anyone wants before they excitedly watch grown men drawn ping pong balls is a math lesson, but this should help dispel any misguided thoughts about tonight’s lottery.

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A Preconceived Idea of What It All Meant

Something very big happened in the sports world–something larger than wins and losses.

We like to think of ourselves as living in a progressive society with acceptance for all people, yet we’re reminded how backwards things still are when Mississippi finally ratified the Thirteenth Amendment less than ten weeks ago.

But this morning, Jason Collins did something no active athlete had ever done before. To quote his Sports Illustrated first-person story:

“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”

Collins became the first active athlete in the four major American sports to come out, something for which he should be commended. It takes a lot of courage, especially in our culture that is still insensitive to many minorities. Especially in a league like the NBA, where there is a sadly prevalent use of hurtful slurs, even by star players who are supposed to be roles models. Especially when artists like Lil Wayne will drop that same word without a second’s thought in his verse in Look At Me Now.

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Side note: how did nobody ask Collins why he wore the number 98? The great Hamed Haddadi is the only other player in NBA history to don that unique number.

But who Jason Collins is doesn’t change the player he is. Even if he never plays another minute in the Association–he’s a free agent this summer coming off his sixth team in twelve years–today’s news doesn’t change the fact that he’s a very strong interior defender, a near-champion in the NCAA and NBA, and a beloved teammate. My opinion of him as a player–like all teams’, players’, and fans’ should–remains the same as it was less than twenty-four hours ago.

Jason Collins’ true legacy will be the day when an athlete coming out will not be news. Because it won’t matter. Hopefully Collins’ big decision will even inspire other players to open up about themselves. Jason Collins should return to the NBA because he is still a serviceable rebounder, defender, and mentor–or at least better than 40-year old Juwan Howard–not because it would make a good story.

But there’s a solid chance that Jason Collins won’t be back in the league next season. Not because he’s black. And not because he’s gay. Because that doesn’t matter in player evaluation. And if anyone thinks it should, Collins was, by all accounts, a fantastic teammate, and he’s the same person today that he has been for the past twelve years. The man never caused any problems in the lockerroom before, so if an issue arises, that becomes the teammate’s problem.

Jason Collins may never play another minute in the NBA–but that’s because he’s a 34-year old center with no post game. When running an team, that’s all that matters. Strip away the fear, underneath Collins is the same as any other 7-footer. And that’s the way things should be.

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What Do I Stand For?

There’s a saying that you should never meet your heroes because they might let you down. I’m not sure if I totally subscribe to that theory because I’ve gotten the chance to meet some of my favorite writers (Keith Law and Jonah Keri) and favorite athletes (Tyler Beede and DeAngelo Williams), and they’ve only raised my perception of them. Moreover, the saying should go: you should be cautious when you meet your heroes because they might let you down.

In the last thirty days, though, we’ve seen three major idols crumble and fall because of poor choices, lying, and lying about poor choices. In mid-January, Lance Armstrong finally admitted that he doped—but he claimed he didn’t cheat after 2005. He was emotional and remorseful, but he was also a lying cheater. We wanted to believe that Lance was clean—despite the fact that quite literally every other cyclist was dirty—because we wanted an American hero.

A man who overcame cancer and dominated a sport by winning seven straight Tour de Frances. Overwhelming evidence be damned, this man had to be telling the truth because, after all, he threatened to sue people who “slandered” his name. His reactions to accusations of doping were so visceral that he had to be telling the truth. But no, he turned out to be just like the rest of the cyclists. A cyclist who overcame cancer.

A few days later, another idol went crashing to the ground, this one in possibly the most bizarre way possible. Manti Te’o found his way into the hearts of Americans across the nation because of the heartbreaking story of his girlfriend—Lennay Kekua—who was in a terrible car accident, got leukemia, then died six hours after Te’o’s grandma died. Fueled by the terrible losses, Te’o went on to lead Notre Dame with 12 tackles en route to a 20-3 victory over Michigan State, nine more wins and an undefeated regular season, and nearly a Heisman trophy. Except there was one problem: Lennay Kekua never existed. She was a hoax.

The most inspirational story of the college football season was soiled because the Notre Dame linebacker fell in love with a girl over twitter and pretended to have met her and introduced her to his family. That is, unless he was in on the hoax the entire time, which would make him the most histrionic, attention-seeking, twisted player in recent memory. In one moment, Te’o went from sympathetic, inspiration figure to the laughingstock of the sports world, an unenviable mess.

I am the bullet in the chamber

Pistorius appeared in a Nike ad featuring the catch phrase “I am the bullet in the chamber.” The multi-billion dollar industry took all of twelve seconds to take one down.

Then comes the most recent letdown, the sad story of South African Olympian Oscar Pistorius. The man is the first double leg amputee to compete in the Olympics, earning him the nickname “Blade Runner.” His inspirational story touched millions of people—from South Africans to disabled people to sports fans in general—until he (accidentally) shot and killed his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. The jury remains out on whether or not he killed her on purpose—he claims he thought she was a burglar—but he is forever unclean in the eyes of many people. How can you look up to someone who killed someone they loved, even if they overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to reach the pinnacle of modern athletics?

In the end, it just seems that we cannot trust athletes and look up to them now. Maybe the saddest story of them all is the recent antics of LeBron James. The All-Star forward is trying to get into the good graces of sports fans’ hearts after leaving frigid Cleveland for beautiful Miami in order to better his chances to win a championship by playing the best basketball of his entire life. The shameless James is even working harder than ever to get teammates involved, rebounding at the highest rate of his career, and scored 30 points on 60% shooting or better in six straight games in a sad attempt to raise his image.

In the end, it’s really athletes like LeBron who will do anything for attention that make fans sick and leave us wondering if we should and can look up to any athlete.

Categories: College Football, NBA, Other | 1 Comment

Are GMs Team Players?

All across sports, we hear how players need to worry more about the team than themselves. After all, there is no ‘I’ in team.

We saw this concept in Oklahoma City for the last few years, where James Harden played a 6th man role with reduced minutes and reduced shots to help take his team to the finals. Harden deserved more than 10 shots over 30 minutes per game–and he’s getting 17 shots over 39 minutes in Houston now–but he made a sacrifice for the betterment of the team.

Since baseball is much more of an individual sport than basketball is, it’s harder to see these self sacrifices in America’s pastime. But you can take Michael Young for example. He’s been moved from second base to shortstop to third base to a utility infielder role to Philadelphia all to make the Rangers better. Sure, he’s complained along the way, but he eventually made the changes.

For the most part, major league players are all what we’d consider “team players.” And having a few wildcards in the clubhouse like Carlos Zambrano doesn’t actually hurt anyone–maybe besides a few Gatorade coolers. Really, would Pablo Sandoval actually have played worse in the World Series had Melky Cabrera been playing instead of Gregor Blanco?

When it comes to managers, it’s safe to assume that they all want what’s best for their team. Not everyone may agree with Ron Washington playing aging Michael Young in the field while sensationally slick-gloved Jurickson Profar rides the bench, but Washington isn’t trying to undermine his team. Even when he calls for sacrifice bunts–moves which have been proven to be almost always subversive–he’s still making the moves because he thinks they will benefit his team.

But then there are general managers. The head honchos when it come to player transactions. One would think general managers would be the people most concerned with making their team better. But really, that just isn’t the case.

In the last week, we’ve seen two top prospects dealt: Kansas City dealing Wil Myers plus for James Shields and Arizona dealing Trevor Bauer for prospect Didi Gregorious and change. The Bauer trade was the unfortunate product of selling low and swapping talent for a positional need, but the Myers trade is more concerning. Lets take a closer look.

The Royals had one of the most intriguing teams in the league with highly touted prospects and homegrown players at nearly every position. Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas were all top-three draft picks, and the next big star was supposed to Myers, a sweet-swinging right fielder who mashed 37 homers across AA and AAA, while hitting .314 with a .387 OBP. The only thing blocking Myers from starring in the majors was Jeff Francoeur. Frenchy has amassed a grand total of 1.8 WAR over the last five seasons, including -1.2 WAR in 2012, yet he was oddly given both two years and $13.5 million in the middle of last season.

The main thing holding the Royals back from being legitimate playoff contenders, though, was a lack of starting pitching. KC had a couple of innings-eaters in Jeremy Guthrie and Bruce Chen plus a human BP machine in Ervin Santana. After that, it was a cavalcade of AAAA pitchers and disappointing former prospects. The Royals needed starting pitching badly, but they didn’t have the kind of cash to lure back Zack Greinke.

Will Big Game James Shields keep his nickname if there are no big games in which to play in Kansas City?

Will Big Game James Shields keep his nickname if there are no big games in Kansas City?

But instead of pursuing cheaper free agent options, the Royals decided to trade away their star-in-the-making Myers along with prospects Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery, and Patrick Leonard for James Shields and Wade Davis. Shields has 2 years and $21 million remaining on his contract, assuming the Royals pick up his team option, which is very affordable for a top-end starter. Davis will be under contract for four more years, but it’s unclear if he can stick as a starter.

But to land the two pitchers, the Royals gave up is six low-cost years of a potential cornerstone outfielder in Myers plus a potential mid-rotation starter in Odorizzi. Montgomery has had massive control issues, but he has top-of-the-rotation stuff. Of course, no prospect is risk-free, but Myers is about has low-risk as prospects come.

He’s shown he can hit for average. He’s athletic. He’s got some of the best raw power in the whole minor leagues. Defensively, he should become an above average fielder thanks to a strong arm and solid speed. Wil Myers will become a star in this league. However the Royals gave him up–along with a couple of young pitchers–for two years of a 30 year old pitcher.

But why? James Shields is a very good pitcher, but he’s no ace. He’s certainly not worth giving up an elite prospect–probably the best hitting prospect in the game–plus a couple of useful pitchers. The answer has two parts: the Royals want to win now and GM Dayton Moore isn’t exactly making moves for the betterment of the team.

The Royals decided that they are ready to go all in. 2016 Royals be damned, this team can compete if they add starting pitching–at least that’s what the KC front office thinks. Dayton Moore liquidated his biggest asset in Myers to make a run for the playoffs the next two years.

The problem, though, is that there are about a dozen teams clearly better than Kansas City (the Yankees, Rays, Tigers, Rangers, Angels, Athletics, Nationals, Braves, Cardinals, Reds, Dodgers, Giants…), including the defending AL Champs in the same division. This team really is more likely to compete in a couple years when Hosmer, Moustakas, and Myers are entering their primes.

Then comes the more likely addendum for the trade: Dayton Moore’s job security is the culprit. Moore has been at the helm of Kansas City since 2006, and last season was the first time a Moore Royals team  finished even 3rd in the division. His contract runs up in 2014, and if the team start winning soon, he could be on the chopping block. So to get the Royals winning sooner, Moore traded a great long-term asset for a short-term asset who can help the team out now.

Moore could be right. Myers could be flop just like top prospects of yesteryear  Delmon Young, Brandon Wood, and Lastings Milledge. Shields could be sensational and lead the Royals to the playoffs. But that’s not what’s more likely.

Dayton Moore took an unnecessary risk by giving up a cheap, young, talented player for a short shot at glory. He made a decision that very well may extend his career as an MLB GM, but it’s not a decision in the best interest of the Royals organization.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen GM’s take unnecessary risks because of the life of their job before, though. All the time, we see GMs dole out 9-figure deals over six to ten years given to 30-year old players.

Walt Jocketty gave Joey Votto $225 million from the age of 31 to 41. Jocketty will reap the benefits of the contract while he’s still running the team, but he won’t be around when Votto is making $25 million and well over the hill at the end of the deal. It’s not his $225 million and the last few years of the albatross contract won’t be his problem either. It’s been discussed over and over how $100 million deals rarely work, but GMs don’t have to worry about that if they won’t be around to see the end of the deal.

It’s tough to prove, but GMs certainly are not always team players. Players can have a bad year and get a new contract from a new team, but GMs don’t get too many jobs if their first one is a flop. Building a strong farm system is great for an organization, but if the team doesn’t win, the general manager might not be around to see how great the young players make his major league team. And therein lies the problem for why general managers are not truly team players.

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