NBA

A Dream Team Nightmare Debate

The debate has been going on for weeks now. Which team is better: the ’92 Dream Team or the 2012 team?

Now this debate is dumb for several reasons. One, we’ll never know which team is better since they can’t actually play each other, and two, it’s just a stupid debate.

But because it’s a stupid debate, I’m going to use up 827 words to throw my opinion into the ring.

Here we go.

Team USA won the gold medal Sunday, reaffirming that the team with 12 of the 41 NBA players in the Olympics was the best. Now no other country had more than six NBA players, which helps explain why the US won their eight game by more an average of over 32 points.

The original Dream Team, however, won their eight games by an average of nearly 44 points, so they’re clearly the better team, right? Well, not exactly.

The Dream Team had eleven NBA players plus Christian Laettner, but the rest of the world barely had any. I’m talking just Drazen Petrovic, Toni Kukoc, Sarunas Marciulionis, and Stojko Vrankovic. (Shockingly, I didn’t make up any of those names)

But that ’92 team wasn’t just dominant because they had more NBA players than the rest of the countries combined; the other countries feared playing them. And if they didn’t fear the Dream Team, they were just excited to be on the same court.

Conversely, international players were calling out the 2012 Dream Team left and right. Marc Gasol called out the team first before the Olympics even started, and Nicolas “Nutcracker” Batum joined in during the Summer Games.

Just because one team was revered and one team wasn’t doesn’t prove one was better than the other. 82% of RottenTomatoes.com users liked the first Twilight movie compared to 33% of users liked MacGruber, but I’ll always maintain that MacGruber is the far better movie.

To be clear, I do think the 1992 team would beat the 2012 team. Probably. But a lot of that has to do with the fact that the current Dream Team is missing a four key players. Give me Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, and this is a different conversation.

Let’s look at things a different way.

Athletes have gotten much better over time. Jesse Owens ran his historic 1936 100 meter dash in 10.3 seconds. He would’ve finished a distant 8th in the 2012 Olympics because Asafa Powell somehow ran an 11.99, well beyond 7th place Richard Thompson’s 9.98 time.

Even in 1992, Linford Christie won gold with a 9.96 100 meter time. That barely edges out Thompson to get 7th place in 2012.

Simply put, today’s athletes are bigger, faster, and stronger than the athletes of yesteryear.

Let’s take a look at the 1992 roster vs. my updated 2012 roster to include injured Olympians.

1992 Team

2012 Team

Pos.  Name Height Weight Pos. Name Height Weight
C David Robinson 7’1” 235 C Tyson Chandler 7’1” 240
C Patrick Ewing 7’ 240 C Dwight Howard 6’11” 265
PF Christian Laettner 6’11” 235 PF Chris Bosh 6’11” 235
PF Karl Malone 6’9” 255 PF Kevin Love 6’10” 260
PF Charles Barkley 6’6” 250 SF Kevin Durant 6’9” 235
SF Larry Bird 6’9” 220 SF LeBron James 6’8” 250
SF Scottie Pippen 6’7” 220 SF Carmelo Anthony 6’8” 230
SF Chris Mullin 6’7” 215 SG Kobe Bryant 6’6” 205
SG Clyde Drexler 6’7” 220 SG Dwyane Wade 6’4” 220
SG Michael Jordan 6’6” 200 PG Derrick Rose 6’3” 190
PG Magic Johnson 6’9” 220 PG Deron Williams 6’3” 209
PG John Stockton 6’1” 175 PG Chris Paul 6’ 175

We forget that the Round Mound of Rebound was Kobe Bryant’s height. Karl Malone? Just bigger than LeBron, but far slower.

Not only that, but Magic was 32, and Bird was on his last legs at the age of 35. Even Patrick Chewing Ewing and John Stockton were 30.

Nobody outside of Kobe Bryant is over 30 on the 2012 team. At an average age of 27, 2012 Team USA would be in far better shape.

LeBron James and Kevin Durant put up historic Olympic numbers while playing the best international competition we’ve ever seen.

And lastly, the big question is how the new team will match up with the original Dream Team’s big men. Well with the addition of Dwight Howard, that won’t be such a problem. The real question is how the ’92 team would match up against the starting lineup of Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Dwight Howard.

Kevin Durant scored at will all Olympics, and LeBron reinforced that he is the best player in the world. Karl Malone can’t guard LeBron. Charles Barkley can’t guard Kevin Durant. There’s clearly going to be a lot of scoring in this game, but I think the younger, more athletic, quicker team will prevail.

I know it’s blasphemy. I know it’s heresy. Michael Jordan’s star has grown and grown since he retired nine years ago until he’s reached a god-like pedestal,. But one player can only do so much with dozens of Hall of Famers playing in one game.

Michael Jordan is the greatest, but in my mind, he’s not enough to overcome a more athletic, better shooting 2012 Dream Team.

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Charlotte Observer and Bobcats Baseline Update

Earlier this summer I interned at the Charlotte Observer and got three articles published. Now I’m freelancing with the paper–specifically with the South Charlotte News sports section–so I’ve created a page with a link to all of my articles. Quickly, my three published articles so far are:

Also, I’ve had two more articles published at Bobcats Baseline, which are:

Keep checking in on The Knuckle Blog and my Charlotte Observer and Bobcats Baseline pages, and don’t forget to spread the word!

Categories: MLB, NBA, NFL | Leave a comment

2012 NBA Mock Draft 3.0

It’s finally here. The 2012 NBA Draft is in less than 24 hours, and here is your guide. These aren’t the players I necessarily would draft with each pick, but it’s a combination of who I feel would be the best pick and what I’ve been hearing about each team.

1

Anthony Davis

PF 6’11” 222 lbs Kentucky 19 Years Old

There’s nothing more I can really add about Anthony Davis. He’s just really, really good. The only interesting thing I can add is this question: would it be more of a surprise for Anthony Davis or Andrew Luck to be a total and utter schlub in the pros?

2

Harrison Barnes

SF 6’8” 228 lbs North Carolina 19 Years Old

Surprise! In a very Bobcatsian move, Charlotte takes another Tar Heel. But this move isn’t so bad, Barnes has a high ceiling as a potential 20 point per game scorer. GM Rich Cho loves Barnes, but Michael Jordan prefers Thomas Robinson. I actually believe that the Bobcats will swap picks with the Cavaliers, so Cleveland can draft Bradley Beal, and Charlotte can pick up the 24th pick and potentially a second rounder. There they can choose between Barnes and Robinson again.

3

Bradley Beal

SG 6’5” 202 lbs Florida 18 Years Old

Beal would immediately form one of the most dangerous backcourts in the league with John Wall and bring some much needed offense and shooting to Washington. But I’m not so sure Beal will be here if they don’t trade up. Reportedly, Washington, Oklahoma City, Portland, and Minnesota are all interested in trading up for Beal, and the Bobcats need as many players as possible.

4

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

SF 6’7” 233 lbs Kentucky 18 Years Old

If they don’t trade up for Beal, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a helluva consolation prize. He played high school ball with Kyrie Irving, and is one of the surest things in this draft. He’s an extremely hard worker who can guard nearly any position on the floor and rebound well above his size.

5

Thomas Robinson

PF 6’9” 244 lbs Kansas 21 Years Old

Sacramento is full of–as Bomani Jones would call them–Jack ‘Em Joes. They have six players who need more than their fair share of shots, and none seem to be concerned with their teammates. That’s why Sacramento has been trying to trade this pick for a veteran. The two players who the Kings really want are MKG and Thomas Robinson–polished college players who can be effective without the ball in their hands.

6

Andre Drummond

C 7′ 279 lbs UConn 18 Years Old

A risky young big man with crazy athleticism and all the talent in the world. Sounds like a broken record, eh Portland? Well although Portland hasn’t had much luck with big men over the years, the risk is seriously dampened six picks into the draft. Now the Blazers also really love Damian Lillard–who all but definitely won’t be around for their #11 pick–and may reach for him with this pick.

7

Dion Waiters

SG 6’4” 221 lbs Syracuse 20 Years Old

Golden State is in an awkward position. After Anthony Davis, there’s a clear five-player second tier. They’re at the start of the third tier. Their owner stressed drafting high-motor “winners,” so that may take them out of the Drummond and Perry Jones III sweepstakes. Although they still have young Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, Dion Waiters makes the most sense here. He may never have started at Syracuse, but he has the potential to be Dwyane Wade-lite.

8

Damian Lillard

PG 6’3” 189 lbs Weber State 21 Years Old

Toronto is in dire need of a scoring wing player, but Dion Waiters won’t be on the board at this point unless Portland takes Lillard. If this scenario plays out, the Raptors will settle on Lillard–who follows the Derrick Rose/Russell Westbrook model of a shooting point guard. Toronto could reach for Moe Harkless or even Evan Fournier if GM Bryan Colangelo wanted to continue drafting foreign players (kidding).

9

Meyers Leonard

C 7’1” 250 lbs Illinois 20 Years Old

I still think Jared Sullinger would be the perfect fit here, but teams are scared off by his ailing back. Detroit wants to move Greg Monroe to power forward, and drafting an athletic center like Meyers Leonard would ease that move. He’s a little immature, but he’s shockingly athletic, but as one assistant GM put it: If Meyers Leonard were black, he’d be the #2 pick. I don’t necessarily think that’s true, but he’s certainly a bit underrated.

10

Perry Jones III

PF 6’11” 234 lbs Baylor 20 Years Old

New Orleans could walk away from this draft with the two best players in the class. Perry Jones has center size and perimeter skills, but he hasn’t shown consistent effort throughout his two years at Baylor. He was miscast as a center at college, so maybe playing next to a tenacious big like Davis can free him up to be effective on the perimeter.

11

Austin Rivers

G 6’5″ 203 lbs Duke 19 Years Old

Lillard is off the board at this point, but the Blazers still need frontcourt help. Jeremy Lamb could be an option, but I think they’d prefer someone with more star power like Austin Rivers. If he can ever learn to get his teammates more involved, Rivers can become one of the best point guards in the game. But if he can’t he’ll likely be limited to a 6th man change-of-pace guard.

12

Tyler Zeller

C 7′ 247 lbs North Carolina 21 Years Old

Assuming Houston keeps the pick, they’ll want to add size in the form of Zeller. But assuming Houston will keep this pick is foolish. They’re trying to trade up to a top-10 pick to land Dwight Howard, and everyone in the league knows it.

13

Jeremy Lamb

SG 6’5” 179 lbs UConn 20 Years Old

Phoenix gave a promise to draft Dion Waiters, but there’s just no chance he lasts this long. Lamb isn’t such a bad alternative, but his stock has been falling ever since the last NCAA tournament. He hasn’t been as effective without Kemba Walker, but he’s freakishly athletic with a steady shot.

14

Terrence Ross

SG 6’7″ 197 lbs Washington 21 Years Old

The Bucks moved back two spots to add size in Samuel Dalembert, so now they can look for more perimeter help. While Ross doesn’t quite have small forward size, Milwaukee can play small with him, Brandon Jennings, and Monta Ellis, after they bring Ross off the bench. Then again, more size wouldn’t hurt, and John Henson or Jared Sullinger would be great alternatives.

15

John Henson

PF 6’10” 216 lbs North Carolina 21 Years Old

Elton Brand hasn’t been worth his $82 million contract in any sense–now he’s an amnesty candidate. Jared Sullinger would be a better replacement for Brand, but John Henson would be a safer pick and much needed provide interior defense.

16

Moe Harkless

SF 6’9” 207 lbs St. John’s 19 Years Old

Again, Houston is unlikely to keep this pick, but after trading Chase Budinger, the Rockets could use a high-upside small forward.

17

Jared Sullinger

PF 6’9” 268 lbs Ohio State 20 Years Old

Back injury or not, Jared Sullinger is way better than the 17th best player in this draft. He dominated college basketball for two years and has the big body to compete in the NBA right away. Even if his career is cut short a few years, Sullinger can provide a powerful presence down low for a contending team like Dallas, Orlando, or Boston.

18

Arnett Moultrie

PF 6’11” 223 lbs Mississippi St. 21 Years Old

Do I even need to say it again? Houston probably won’t be picking 18th, but they like Moultrie, and they can always use more size.

19

Terrence Jones

PF 6’10” 250 lbs Kentucky 20 Years Old

Orlando would love to pair Sullinger with Dwight Howard, but Terrence Jones is a very nice alternative. If he can ever keep his head in the game for 30 minutes or so, he can be an All-Star, or at the very least a Lamar Odom-type player. Jones measured bigger than most expected, so it looks like he can play the 4 in the pros. Match him up with Dwight Howard, and he can continue to play along the perimeter to draw out defenders.

20

Kendall Marshall

PG 6’4” 198 lbs North Carolina 20 Years Old

The Nuggets have a bunch of very good players, but no great players. Marshall will never be great, but he has great court vision. Bring him off the bench, and his matador defense won’t hurt the team so much. Plus, UNC connections in George Karl and Ty Lawson can’t hurt.

21

Royce White

PF 6’8” 261 lbs Iowa State 21 Years Old

Here’s maybe my favorite player in the draft. White is as talented as any player in the draft, and is crazy athletic. He’s even a gifted ball handler. But he’s cursed with a crippling anxiety disorder that kept him from playing at Kentucky since he’s afraid of flying on a plane. If he can land in a solid lockerroom with strong leaders–like Boston–he can become a very strong starter. Or even more.

22

Andrew Nicholson

PF 6’10” 234 lbs St. Bonaventure 22 Years Old

Boston is looking for lots of size that can help right away, so Nicholson fits in. Fab Melo may have more talent and potential, but he’s years away from helping a contender. Nicholson can stretch the floor with a solid jump shot (not to far off from near-Celtic David West), and most importantly can help from Day One.

23

Tony Wroten Jr.

PG 6’6” 203 lbs Washington 18 Years Old

Atlanta would love Moe Harkless, but if he’s off the board, they’ll likely take the best point guard available. Wroten has huge potential since he’s an incredible passer with great size and slashing ability. He’s not going to be Chris Paul or Deron Williams–and his jump shot is pretty broke–but he’s more of a pure point guard than Jeff Teague.

24

Fab Melo

C 7′ 255 lbs Syracuse 22 Years Old

At this point, the Cavs still need a big man and a shooting guard, but taking a shooter like Will Barton or John Jenkins is a bit of a stretch here. Melo adds more size and athleticism down low, and the Cavs can wait on him to reach his ceiling. If the Bobcats are picking here, they’re likely going with Quincy Miller or Tony Wroten Jr.

25

Quincy Miller

SF 6’10” 219 lbs Baylor 19 Years Old

Memphis could use another point guard, and Marquis Teague would be a great steal, but Quincy Miller is an even bigger steal. He’s a top-10 talent, but he didn’t show it at Baylor, partially thanks to an injured knee. Rudy Gay might be leaving the building soon, and Miller can take over at the 3, but if he puts on a bit more weight, he can back up Zach Randolph at the 4, too.

26

Marquis Teague

PG 6’2” 180 lbs Kentucky 19 Years Old

Point guard isn’t really a position of need, but the team is looking to deal Darren Collison, and Teague is fantastic value at this point. If Teague isn’t the pick here, a wing like Draymond Green or a big like Festus Ezeli would man great picks.

27

Draymond Green

SF 6’8” 236 lbs Michigan State 22 Years Old

Draymond Green is a hero among the stat communities, so it’d take a small miracle for him to last this long in the draft. He’s polished and a great team player, both of which should be key for a Miami Heat pick. If Green isn’t on the board, look for a Commodore to go here: either Jeff Taylor or Festus Ezeli.

28

Evan Fournier

SG 6’7″ 206 lbs France 19 Years Old

The Thunder don’t have a particular need, so look for them to take a foreign player to stash overseas for a year or two. Fournier is better than the 28th best player in the draft, and he’s very young with room to grow. Plus, with James Harden possibly too expensive to keep, Fournier is great insurance.

29

John Jenkins

SG 6’4” 212 lbs Vanderbilt 21 Years Old

Chicago is looking for a guard, particularly a shooter. Will Barton might be the better player available, but John Jenkins is far and away the best shooter in the draft. He may never be a Ray Allen, but at worst he’s J.J. Redick. Who, by the way, has turned himself into a very solid pro.

30

Festus Ezeli

C 7′ 264 lbs Vanderbilt 22 Years Old

Ezeli may be the third best Vanderbilt prospect in this class, but he can help address Golden State’s need for size. He’s massive with a 7’6″ wingspan and can help make up for where David Lee and Andrew Bogut come up short defensively.

Next Five off the Board: Jeff Taylor, Furkan Aldemir, Will Barton, Tyshawn Taylor, and Kostas Papanikolaou.

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2012 NBA Mock Lottery

Boy was that lottery painful if you were a Bobcats fan. Seven wins in sixty-six games, and the team can’t find any luck in the lottery.

No the lottery isn’t fixed–in fact, this was a pretty normal one. The teams with the fourth, first, and second worst records getting the first the picks is far more likely than the ninth-worst record owning Bulls leaping up to land Derrick Rose.

But that won’t give Bobcats fans any solace. And it’s really too bad. Because they’ll be back praying for the number one pick, again, exactly one year from now.

Here’s a preview for my full mock draft, which should come out about a week before the NBA draft on June 28.

1

Anthony Davis

PF 6’10” 220 lbs Kentucky 19 Years Old

What more is there to say? Davis is far and away the best player in the draft, and he’ll make the Hornets an immediate threat to make the playoffs. Well, assuming Eric Gordon doesn’t bolt for greener pastures.

2

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

SF 6’7” 210 lbs Kentucky 18 Years Old

What a let down. At least MKG fits a need for the Bobcats: talent. Kidd-Gilchrist is a high motor, high IQ, rugged defender with a relatively high offensive upside. To stay in a Bobcats-y mood, a great comp for him is Gerald Wallace with a better offensive game.

3

Bradley Beal

SG 6’5” 195 lbs Florida 18 Years Old

Beal is one of my favorite players in the draft–a high-octane scorer with range and surprisingly strong defense. Yes, he actually averaged nearly one block per game at just 6’5″ (and he’s probably not even that tall). Beal and John Wall would form a lethal backcourt combination…. if only Andray Blatche or Rashard Lewis could do something to help the frontcourt.

4

Harrison Barnes

SF 6’8” 210 lbs North Carolina 19 Years Old

Well here the Cavs are sitting at the #4 pick again. Only this time they don’t have the #1 pick, too. Harrison Barnes’ stock took a shot this year, but the Cavs liked him so much last year to the point that they would have taken him first overall last year. Barnes will be overrated if you think he’s going to be Kobe Bryant–as he was touted in high school–but if you think of him more like Danny Granger, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

5

Andre Drummond

C 6’11” 275 lbs UConn 18 Years Old

The Kings don’t really need more raw, young players, but they need size, and they need defense. Enter, Andre Drummond. One of the bigger enigmas of the draft, Drummond has all the talent in the world but a questionable work ethic. If he can put it all together, he’s Andrew Bynum. If he’s not fully committed, he’s Kwame Brown. But if Drummond and DeMarcus Cousins both play to their full potential….. look out NBA.

6

Dion Waiters

G 6’4” 215 lbs Syracuse 20 Years Old

If you’re thinking Waiters is a reach at six, you’re right. The Blazers need help at guard and center, but in this scenario, Bradley Beal and Andre Drummond are off the board. Thomas Robinson is the best player available, but power forward is the one position at which Portland is plenty of depth. Without Brandon Roy, Portland needs a dynamic guard who can score, and that’s exactly what Waiters is.

7

Thomas Robinson

PF 6’9” 237 lbs Kansas 21 Years Old

Golden State would be shocked Robinson fall this far, and although he doesn’t fit a particular need, he’s too good of value to pass up on at this point. There are some question as to if Robinson’s offensive game will translate to bigger, stronger NBA players, but Robinson won’t have as much pressure of the bench behind Andrew Bogut and David Lee.

8

Perry Jones III

F 6’11” 235 lbs Baylor 20 Years Old

For the longest time, Perry Jones III was projected to be the first pick in the 2011 NBA draft, but he made the shocking decision to return to Baylor for his sophomore year. Oh, and he’s got some crazy red flags. Lack of effort. Questionable defense. No sure position. But boy is he talented. Jones was miscast as a big man at Baylor, and he should be able to thrive as more of a perimeter player, if the team that drafts him is willing to play him at the 3. Toronto needs offense and a small forward, so here’s a good fit.

9

Jared Sullinger

PF 6’9” 280 lbs Ohio State 20 Years Old

Detroit is hurting for another blue-collar big-man, and Sullinger fits that bill. Although he’s only 6’9″, Sullinger is very strong, and won’t be matched up against centers any more, as he was at Ohio State. Alongside Greg Monroe, this could be a pretty fearsome front line.

10

Damian Lillard

PG 6’2” 185 lbs Weber State 21 Years Old

Ever since that Chris Paul guy left, New Orleans has been looking for a replacement. That’s not Damian Lillard. But what Damian Lillard is is a high-scoring point guard with a great shooting touch. He’s not a pure point guard like, say, Kendall Marshall, but he’s a much better athlete and scorer.

11

Tyler Zeller

C 7″ 235 lbs North Carolina 22 Years Old

With their hole at guard already addressed, the Blazers need help at center. I’m not a huge fan of Zeller because of his defense and limited upside, but he can stretch the floor offensively with nice range and above-average court vision. He’s a relatively safe pick.

12

Terrence Jones

F 6’8” 244 lbs Kentucky 20 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

Austin Rivers

G 6’4” 199 lbs Duke 19 Years Old

Talk about start power, Austin Rivers just screams star power. Ask Carolina fans. He may not be the best teammate, but Austin Rivers can rack up points. The Suns really need another guard and lots of scoring, and that’s Rivers. And who knows, maybe Steve Nash can rub off a little of his passing skills on Rivers, who is a shooting guard in a point guard’s body.

14

Meyers Leonard

C 7″ 240 lbs Illinois 20 Years Old

Stuck at the 14th pick again, the Rockets still need a big man. Last year, there were rumors about the Rockets’ interest in Nikola Vucevic, and Meyers Leonard is similarly raw and big. The man’s very athletic and has got some serious defensive potential, but I’m not so sure about his offense.

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Bobcats Baseline

I haven’t been writing too many blog posts recently for a couple of reasons. One, I’ve been distracted with whatnot related to college. Two, I can get a little lazy/procrastinate-y. But third and most importantly, I’ve started to write for another blog, Bobcats Baseline.

I’ve been blessed with this opportunity to write for this blog, which I mostly thank Bobcats Baseline’s own ASChin and Dr. E for. Hopefully, I’ll contribute twice or so per month.

I can’t thank these guys enough for this new writing chance. Of course, I’ll still be posting on The Knuckle Blog, but I’ll also put any posts I have for Bobcats Baseline on a newly created page for those posts.

Below are my first two posts for the site. The first is my new post on how the Bobcats can possibly trade Boris Diaw. The second is a post from way back in July about what to expect from Kemba Walker’s rookie season.

Don’t forget to check them out and read from the site in general, too. Also, you can follow ASChin on Twitter @bobcatsbaseline and Dr. E @BaselineDrE.

 

Trading Boris Diaw

Kemba Walker — Expect Big Things

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Playoffs or Week 4?

If I told you that an exhibition baseball game crushed the ratings of a late-season football game you would have said I was crazy, right? Then you’d say “Wait, that’s not possible, Spring Training starts after the Super Bowl.” Then I’d say “Hush, this is my hypothetical.” Of course, this would never happen. Not even in LA if the Dodgers were playing the Angels and Giants morphed into one team.

But this did happen–only the other way around. The Redskins matched up with the Ravens–certainly not the best matchup of the preseason–and it drew a 18.7 rating. On August 25th! That same day, the Yankees hit three grand slams and beat the A’s 22-9, but didn’t even put up a wimper in this unfair matchup.

So this week is the real challenge; we have the Division Series in baseball and Week 4 in the NFL–with no marquee matchups. Ravens-Jets is nice, but this early season game won’t hold a ton of weight at the end of the season. For baseball, this is what it all comes down to: 8 of the best teams in the game gunning for glory. And what’s sad is that Week 4 is probably going to win in ratings.

Maybe you can blame the fact that teams in Tampa Bay, Phoenix, Milwaukee, Detroit, and St. Louis are in over metropolitan cities like LA, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco, but the point is that football really is the king of sports. Or at the very least, the lockout revamped interest like never before.

But because this is my blog, I’m going to break down baseball first. If you want to skip down to my NFL picks, that’s fine–just know that there may or may not be a chance to win money by reading the baseball picks. I’ve already shared my MLB picks, but here is a more in-depth breakdown.

Yankees (3) over Tigers (1)

There are reasons to not like the Yankees, but they’re the exact same reason I picked against New York two years ago when they won it all. They don’t have a #2 starter. They’re old on defense. They don’t have Cliff Lee. But you can pick as many holes as you want in this team–they are really good. Even if you don’t think A-Rod is clutch in the playoffs, they’ve still got Granderson, Cano, Teixeira, and Jeter.

Detroit, on the other hand, doesn’t have quantity or quality of players New York does. Miggy Cabrera might just be the best player in the series, but after that you’re looking at the likes of Austin Jackson, Alex Avila, and Jhonny Peralta. Where Detroit does turn out to be better, though, is in the pitching department. Verlander is much more dependable than CC, and Fister, Scherzer, and Porcello are far less erratic than A.J. Burnett, Nova, and Freddy Garcia. But this isn’t Glavine, Smoltz, and Maddux we’re talking about–they’re just pitchers who lack the propensity to give up 8 runs in 1 2/3 innings (cue to A.J. Burnett).

At first glance, Detroit looks like a great team. 95 wins was good for the 5th best record in the league. But if you look closer, Detroit has really taken advantage of a weak division. No other team in the division had a winning record–an average of 89 losses per team. In divisional play, the Tigers cleaned up with a 50-22 record. But outside of the division? Try 45-45. And you can bet they won’t be seeing the Twins and Royals in the playoffs.

Brewers (3) over Diamondbacks (1)

I’m just going to be straight-forward: these are two seriously flawed teams. The Brewers have a horrific defense–especially in the infield, specifically on the left side featuring the great Yuniesky Betancourt. The Diamondbacks have an anemic offense and 25 players you’ve never heard of. But one team does have to (SPOILER ALERT!) get the honor of being crushed by the Phillies in the NLCS.

Name this Diamondback!

Name this Diamondback!

In this age of hoarding prospects and building for the future potentially in spite of today’s success (see Tampa waiting until the last possible moment to call up Desmond Jennings and Matt Moore), I’ve got to give props to Milwaukee’s GM Doug Melvin for pushing in all of his chips. This past calendar year he’s added 4 high-impact players Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Francisco Rodriguez, and Nyjer Morgan. He’s now built a division winning team with three #1-type starters, a deep ‘pen, and a powerful offense.

The D-Backs, too, have re-built around pitching–only they don’t have the flashy names like Greinke, Fielder, and Braun. Ryan Roberts, Willie Bloomquist, and Lyle Overbay may not be household names, but somehow someway, they’re making things work. This no-name group of hitters aren’t the forte of this team, of course, that would be the starting pitching. You can point to Ian Kennedy or Daniel Hudson–two young pitchers who have really broken out this year–but they have, in my opinion, been putting up much higher numbers than their actual skills would indicate. They, like the Tigers, have taken advantage of weak opposition with some of the worst offenses in the league like San Francisco, San Diego, and LA. The pair are huge fly ball pitchers, which will not bode well against the big mashers in Milwaukee.

The biggest issue for Arizona will come if and when they fall behind. If they lose the first game or two, they’ll have to turn to Joe Sauders and Josh Collmenter to out0duel Marcum and Gallardo. I don’t think Arizona is one of the 8 best teams in baseball–I’d almost rather face Atlanta, Boston, or the Angels. This should be quite a clean sweep because of Milwaukee’s holes on defense and Randy Wolf, but I’d be shocked if the D-Backs reached the NLCS.

Phillies (3) over Cardinals (0)

I’m not quite sure how the Cards made the playoffs. At the trade deadline, they dealt their best young player to come through their season in nearly a decade for Edwin Jackson while being undermined down the stretch by Tony La Russa’s over-managing (Post Game 1 note: there’s no reason to pinch run Gerald Laird for Albert Pujols. Ever.). But Atlanta went unnoticed in their massive collapse, and St. Louis has found its way too October.

Anyone can tell you why Philadelphia is great, so I won’t waste my time. Instead, I’ll just poke any holes I can find in their team. Well for starters, Domonic Brown is nowhere to be found while Raul “Coffee and Creme” Ibañez continues to labor out if left field. And Oswalt’s ERA is a ridiculous 3.69. Not to mention the fact that Charlie Manuel has gone through a league low 54 boxes of sunflower seeds this season–23 less than his previous career low in 2008. It’s just disappointment after disappointment.

As for the Cards, there’s just not much to put them over the top in the playoffs. It’s not that Skip Schumaker, David Freese, Jon Jay, and Rafael Furcal aren’t starting quality players, they’re just not starting quality players. Few teams have a threesome of sluggers as prolific as Pujols, Holliday, and Berkman, but when the last two-thirds of the team is below average, you can work around the tough spots. The rotation is similarly top-heavy with Carpeter on top, but Jaime Garcia, Edwin Jackson, and Kyle Lohse trudging along in the back.

I’m sorry if you’re a Cardinals fan, but congratulations on making the playoffs. Halladay, Lee, Hamels, and Oswalt will try to make this as painless as possible. And by the way, there isn’t a chance of winning money by reading my baseball picks. But congratulations on reading this far! Almost to the football.

Red Sox (3) over Rangers (2)

Yes, they stumbled their way through September, but the important thing is that they made–what? They didn’t make the playoffs? Dan Johnson hit a 2-out, 2-strike, pinch-hit homer before Jonathan Papelbon blew a 2-out lead, and Evan Longoria poked a ball 316 feet for a homer to claim the Wild Card? Crap.

Rangers (3) over Rays (2)

Andrew Friedman and crew look real smart right about now after they waited until literally the last possible moment to call up superstar youngsters Jennings and Moore to squeak in to the playoffs. In the end, they did make it to October, and they’ve got plenty of reasons to to be excited. They’ve got four young guns and hot bats–all you can really ask for in October.

Name this Ray!

You can call them the Lions of Major League Baseball because they’re a young, up-and-coming team with a ton of home grown talent–nearly impossible to root against. Unfortunately, with such a low budget, they’ve got some big holes on offense. Instead of mashers like Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamliton they can bring in, they have more economical options like Matt Joyce, Casey Kotchman, and Johnny Damon. But when it comes to October baseball, you don’t need good bats, you need hot bats. That and great pitching, which they have.

When it comes to big bats, look no further than Texas. They were 5th in the league with a .340 team OBP and 2nd with 210 home runs. With such a cadre of options offensively, You can’t pick and choose around big hitters like the Rangers will be able to with Longoria. If one of Tampa’s pitchers’ slightly off their game, you can kiss that game goodbye because Texas will make them pay. The key for Texas, though, still has to be if their young pitchers can rise to the occasion.

Without a doubt, this is the hardest series to call. Great pitching and great hitting collide with youth against experience. This series is, without a doubt, going 5 games, which gives Texas a slight advantage as they will host the rubber match. At the end of the day, though, I trust C.J. Wilson more than Matt Moore in a decisive game, especially with the difference if offensive firepower.

And without further ado, my Week 4 NFL picks; home teams in CAPS.

Bills (-3.5) over BENGALS:
Do you take the redhead day-walker quarterback or the Harvard quarterback. I’ll take the guy with 270 more passing yards. But doesn’t it scare the city of Buffalo that Ryan Fitzpatrick–Ryan Fitzpatrick–is about to get a $40 or $50 million contract this off-season?

BEARS (-6.5) over Panthers
Would you rather have Cam Newton play like he did in the first two weeks or in the last week? Well, if he plays like he did against Jacksonville, the only team he’s going to beat is, well, Jacksonville.

Titans (+1.5) over BROWNS
Is Chris Johnson this bad? Is Colt McCoy this competent? No and probably not. Gimme the points!

COWBOYS (-3.5) over Lions
This is the team everyone loves to have vs. the team everyone loves to love. These are the situations where the line is skewed against the unsuspecting public. Plus I like Romo a lot better than Stafford.

Vikings (+1.5) over CHIEFS
Yes, McNabb is bad, but the Chiefs are really bad. At least they’re making baby steps–they only gave up 20 instead of 40+ last week.

RAMS (-0.5) over Redskins
There’s a good chance I lose this one. But there’s also a good chance Rex Grossman throws 3 picks and fumbles twice.

Saints (-7.5) over JAGUARS
I’m utterly confused. Marques Colston is back, and so is Blaine Gabbert.

EAGLES (-6.5) over Niners
Is Michael Vick Iron Man or just crazy? Because I swear he’s broken his hand, been concussed, and had his hand concussed over the last two weeks. For now, I’m going with Iron Man. But if he was actually crazy, that wouldn’t stop him from downing the Niners.

Steelers (+3.5) over TEXANS
The Texans, like the Lions, are really hard not to like. They put up points, have cool unis, and are the darlings of the AFC South for the last decade. But this is the Steelers we’re talking about. They can take Arian Foster and Ben Tate out of the game without stuffing the box, and Big Ben will do just enough to beat this overrated defense.

Falcons (-4.5) over SEAHAWKS
I hope Seattle didn’t justify giving Sidney Rice $41 million by bringing in his teammate Tarvaris Jackson.

Giants (-1.5) over CARDINALS
The Cardinals aren’t stopping the run, and that’s New York’s forte. Furthermore Kevin Kolb hasn’t proved to me he’s that good. I think that people unfamiliar with the NFC West look at the Cardinals and see a handful of skilled players (Fitzgerald, Wells, Dockett, Peterson, Wilson…) and declare them playoff contenders without actually watching them. Arizona is not good. Not one bit.

Name this Patriot!

PACKERS (-13.5) over Broncos
Two touchdowns is tough to swallow, but not with the Packers. Kyle Orton could make up a bunch of ground at the end with garbage time points, but Aaron Rodgers–who needs a nickname other than A-Rod–has too many weapons to lose this one.

Patriots (-4.5) over RAIDERS
Bill Belichick is 16-2 in his last 18 games after a loss. Tom Brady doesn’t lose this game. This game is going to be like taking candy from a baby–or rather Lance out of Jason Campbell’s Pants. Lock that up.

CHARGERS (-8.5) over Dolphins
I can’t think of eight and a half reasons to consider the Dolphins here.

RAVENS (-3.5) over Jets
The Jets are 25th in rushing and 31st against the rush. You know which team that works well against? The Ravens. Oh, wait. No it doesn’t. Especially not for a team with a QB completing 55% of his passes.

BUCCANEERS (-9.5) over Colts
Did the NFL look at its Monday Night Football schedule? It’s awful! Not even counting Broncos-Raiders we’ve also got Chicago twice, Jacksonville twice, Miami twice, St. Louis twice, Minnesota, Seattle, and Kansas City. Do no red flags go up when Florida teams show up 5 times while Green Bay, Pittsburgh, and Philly show up once each?

Last Week: 6-10

Season: 24-24

Lance in my Pants Lock o’ the Week: 2-1

 

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A Way Out of the Lockout

As a passionate baseball fan, I love this time of year. Football and basketball are out of season, and America’s pastime rules supreme in the world of sports. But this year things are a little different. After the Commissioner’s trophy is lifted and a new World Series champion is crowned, I’m not sure if there will be an NFL or NBA season. We might be on the brink of the quietest sports winter in decades.

But being the eternal optimist that I am, I don’t think we’ll miss a single Tom Brady pass, a single LeBron James alley-oop. With so much money on the table, things should work themselves out sooner rather than later. Now I have no facts to back this up, no inside sources to fall back on. I just have to hope for the best and wait it all out.

As of this morning, however, the previously dismal NBA lockout situation looks to have taken a sudden turn for the better. As first reported by ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, Deron Williams will be taking his talents to Istanbul. For about $5 million, the All-Star point guard will play with Besiktas until the lockout ends, when he can opt out of his contract.

We’ve seen American players make the pilgrimage to Europe (most recently Josh Childress and Brandon Jennings), but never before have we seen a star make the move. Kobe Bryant has talked about playing across the pond, and the Greek club Olympiakos reportedly considered offering LeBron upwards of $50 million annually. But that was all chatter. Deron Williams is the first star to walk the walk.

The name of the game in negotiations is leverage. Says filmmaker Brett Ratner, “No matter how successful you are, you are not invincible. The studio is writing the checks. It`s all about leverage and who has the power. The goal is to get the biggest deal you can, because you are going to have to give something back to the studios anyway.” I’m not sure if Mr. Ratner has ever picked up a basketball in his life, but that sure applies to this lockout.

Before the NBA Players Association had the threat of star players leaving to play overseas, there’s not much they had to hold over the heads of the owners. Sure, owners would be missing out on selling $50 nosebleed tickets and $8 dollar beers, but when the minimun-salary players started missing paychecks, they would cave quicker than the billionaire owners. But now? Not so fast.

Do you think a team with Deron Williams and Kobe Bryant might win the Turkish League?

Do you think a team with Deron Williams and Kobe Bryant might win the Turkish League?

Expect more and more players like Deron Williams to start heading to the Euro League and Asia. The level of risk remains low–the injury risk is the same as if they’d be practicing in the states–and they’ll be making money playing basketball. They’ll stay in better shape that if they just ran organized practices like many of the NFL teams, and they have no commitment to their team once the lockout ends. Really, what is there to lose?

The trump card the owners had was that the bottom half of the league would start severely missing their paychecks around November. But now, these Garrett Temple-type players can make the move to a Spanish League team and make some money until the league opens back up.

For now, I have to believe that the momentum has swung towards the players. Remember, in the NHL lockout, over 350 players went overseas to play. Now of course, the percentage of foreign players in the NHL far exceeds that of the NBA, but there is still a major foreign influence across the league. Williams’ new team has made it known that they will target more NBA players, specifically Kobe Bryant. And once the dominos start falling, a mass migration of basketball players is not out of the question.

Williams’ move is the first of many to come. Will two All-Stars playing in Turkey make the owners rush to a less friendly deal? No. But could half the league playing overseas massively expedite this painful process? Absolutely.

The ball is now in the court of NBAPA executive director Billy Hunter. If he can encourage players to leave for Greece, Spain, China, and Israel, he could amount enough crucial leverage to end this lockout before the momentum of last season is gone. I’m not rooting for the players, and I’m not rooting for the owners. What I want to see–and what I’m guessing most fans want to see–is a resolution and more basketball. And if playing in Turkey is what it’ll take, I’m fully on board.

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NBA Draftermath: The Most Sneaky Good Pick of the Night

Finding someone who thought the 2011 NBA Draft was a good one is harder than finding someone who thinks Casey Anthony was innocent. Whoops. But just because it was a historically weak draft, that doesn’t make it short on talent, as discussed before.

One thing that really made this draft stand out was the influx of foreign talent. Six of the first seven draftees were born outside of the US (Kyrie Irving – Australia, Enes Kanter – Switzerland, Tristan Thompson – Canada, Jonas Valanciunas – Lithuania, Jan Vesely – Czech Republic, and Bismack Biyombo – Congo). This made for an even more confusing draft because no matter how many scouting reports and grainy YouTube videos you watch of these foreign talents, it’s near impossible for the average fan to gauge how bright their futures will be.

Luckily for the fans, however, the NBA teams know what they’re doing when it comes to the draft. They pour hour after hour and dollar after dollar into scouting to figure out Donatas Motiejunas will be Darko Milicic or Nikoloz Tskitishvili. I mean Mouhamad Sene or Yi Jianlian. I mean Yaroslav Korolev or… gah I give up. Teams shell out hundreds upon hundreds of man hours to find out who will be the next star in each draft. At least, that’s what we’d like to think.

Some front offices are what I like to call “fundamentally challenged,” for example Minnesota. Fundamental stuff like, you know, don’t draft two point guards in the top five of the same draft.

Some front offices are what I like to call “needy drafters,” like Philly and New York this year. Each team had a need they desperately needed to fill (size and defense), so they both reached for borderline first-round players (Nikola Vucevic and Iman Shumpert) while drafting in the teens. Tell me when reaching ever worked out.

So here we have arrived at the 2011 NBA Draft, full of intrigue, promise, and mystery. The draft is undoubtedly most important for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who look to finally be able to turn the page from LeBron’s Decision to the new chapter in Cleveland Sports. By hook or by crook, the Cavs landed the first and fourth picks in the draft, which, again, comes in the worst draft potentially since 2000.

The first pick was easy. Sure, they really hurt on the wings and could use the potential of a Derrick Williams, but there’s no way they could pass on Kyrie Irving, the scintillating point guard out of Duke. But as Williams and Enes Kanter came of the board 2-3 to Minnesota and Utah, the Cavaliers were suddenly faced with a tough choice with the fourth pick.

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Even if Valanciunas wouldn't help the Cavs this year, were they really going anywhere with him?

Everyone agrees that this draft is chock full of international talent. Not everyone agrees, however, with who the best player from overseas is. Some, including myself, like Kanter. He’s big. He’s rough. He’s polished. Some like Jan Vesely, an extremely athletic forward who has everything you look for in a perimiter player except a jump shot. But as the draft drew closer, eyes started turning to Lithuanian seven-footer Jonas Valanciunas.

Just 18 years old, Valanciunas started putting on a show for his Euro League team and has all of the physical skills to find success. With a great motor, proficiency in the pick-and-roll game, and a soft touch around the rim, there’s not much to dislike about him. But there’s just one problem–he has a sticky buyout situation that will prevent him from playing in the 2011-12 NBA season.

So here sit the Cavaliers. They had reportedly fallen head over heels for Valanciunas, even putting him above Kanter on their draft board, but the buyout could pose a dilemma. Which is more important: taking the better player and waiting a year, or taking a lesser talent who will help out immediately.

The Cavaliers made a mistake. Not only did they pass up potentially the best player in the entire draft, but they reached a good bit to take an even riskier player, Tristan Thompson. If you told someone at the beginning of the college basketball season that Tristan Thompson would be the fourth pick in the draft, you’d be laughed at. If you told someone during March Madness that Tristan Thompson would be in the conversation for the top five draft picks, you wouldn’t have even been dignified with a response.

I don’t want to knock Mr. Thompson too much because I believe he can be an effective roll player. With that being said, I think Cleveland could have gotten the exact same productivity with the man who was drafted 22nd overall, Kenneth Faried. Thompson will never make an All-Star game. He’s a little to small, a little to offensively inept. If he waited until next year to enter the draft, he’d need an incredible amount of luck or a preposterous string of injuries to make it back to the lottery.

Just hours before the draft commenced, word came out of the Raptors’ camp that they thought they had found their franchise center, a mysterious young international player with huge upside: Bismack Biyombo. There’s no way they thought Valanciunas would still be on the board; they had already looked ahead for the next best option. To their utmost surprise, their man was still on the board–I’m sure they wanted to send in their pick as soon as they heard Thompson’s name announced by David Stern.

Some Raptors fans will complain about their newest player. After all, he won’t score a single point, grab a single rebound, or block a single shot for the 2011 Raptors. But I actually think this is a good thing. I can’t think of a better scenario for the Raptors.

It’s been said by many basketball experts, “The worst place you can be is in the middle of the pack. You need to get bad to be good.” To use the phrase first used by Bobcats Baseline‘s ASChin, every team needs to escape the Nottery, a place where franchises go to die: Not good enough to be good and not bad enough to get good.

As long as you’re stuck in a small market, the only way to improve is through the draft. And as long as you’re stuck at the back of the lottery, you’ll never find a franchise-changing player. You need to become very bad to get good, or just very lucky.

Right now, I would classify the Raptors as very bad. If Andrea Bargnani is their signature player, I think that’s all that needs to be said, but just a quick perusing through their roster should probably upset your stomach. Amir Johnson. Ed Davis. James Johnson. Ugh. Even Lindsay Lohan has more talent. (Side note: is she talented in that she’s rich because she has no talents? Does that count as a talent? Hand me an Aspirin, please).

Now that the Raptors essentially added no players for next season through the draft, they immediately become the worst team in the league, just a level above the Bobcats, Raptors, Cavs, and Kings. They’ll presumably end up with another top-five draft pick–likely even higher–in the best draft to come around since 2003. Genius. Now the Raptors will have a stud center and a stud wing (Harrison Barnes or Perry Jones, perhaps) starting on a rookie contract next year.

Now let’s imagine Cleveland remained patient and took Valanciunas, while the Raptors snatch up Biyombo. The big man from the Congo immediately makes a difference on the defensive end and allows Bargnani to roam freely around the perimeter, where he is more comfortable. All of a sudden, Toronto isn’t a bottom-five team any more. Harrison Barnes isn’t coming north of the border. Suddenly, the Raptors are getting stuck in the Nottery. They’re just good enough to be bad, not bad enough to get good.

I’d also like to point out that this in an ingenious way to hold onto your job if you are a GM on brink of losing your job (cough cough Brian Colangelo). Toronto can’t fire him at the end of the season, his stud prospect hasn’t come over from Europe yet. The Raptors aren’t bad because Colangelo made a bad move, they’re bad because Valanciunas hasn’t arrived yet; you can’t fire a man who’s plan hasn’t yet been played out.

Is the a passive-aggressive form of tanking? Maybe. But who’s going to be laughing when the Raptors trot out a lineup of Jerryd Bayless, DeMar DeRozan, Harrison Barnes, Andrea Bargnani, and Jonas Valanciunas? Give Toronto a few years and GM Brian Colangelo’s patience will pay off with a young, talented roster headed to the playoffs instead of another fruitless trip to the draft lottery.

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NBA Draftermath: Getting to the Point

Many people like to say that love is a battlefield. I, however, like to think of the basketball court as a battlefield.

You need to out-duel the opponent, which is best done with teamwork and preparation rather than a loose group of rogue combatants. The field general in nearly every scenario is the point guard making him the most important player on the court.

The field general is not the most powerful soldier. In most cases, you won’t see him shed a drop of blood–but he calls the shots. Likewise, the point guard is rarely the leading scorer on his team–just four teams’ leading scorers played the point last year–but they are the primary ball-handler and distributor.

These generals need three key characteristics: poise under pressure, an ability to make teammates better, and most importantly the winning gene. A sweet shooting stroke is nice. Behind-the-back, no-look passes are nice. But what really matters is the ability to put your team on your back when it matters most and just flat out win the ballgame.

So as the newest draft class enters the now-locked out National Basketball Association, there is, as always, wild chatter about who the biggest flop will be, which team got the best sleeper, and how on Earth you pronounce those Lithuanian forwards’ names (it’s phonetic).

No one can be certain what these players’ futures hold, but what we can do is break down each player’s game to see what will best translate to the next level. The Class of 2011 had four point guards taken in the top ten: Duke’s Kyrie Irving, Kentucky’s Brandon Knight, UConn’s Kemba Walker, and BYU’s Jimmer Fredette. The draft as a whole was weak, but I believe the class of 1-guards has some potential. At least, some of the point guards have potential. Let’s dive in.

Kyrie Irving

I wonder if Kyrie will be as good as the last Cavs' #1 pick...

I wonder if Kyrie will be as good as the last Cavs' #1 pick...

Eleven games in college or not, there was little doubt on my behalf that this young man was worthy of the first overall selection in this June’s NBA Draft. He’s got NBA size, NBA vision, and NBA quickness. What’s even more impressive is that he joined a Duke squad fresh off a National Championship with two senior leaders (Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler), yet instantly became the definitive leader and scorer for the team.

Irving withstood a freak toe injury that left him out until March Madness, but when he returned, he seemed to have barely skipped a beat. In just 20 minutes, he scored 14 points on 4-8 shooting (2-2 from three and 4-4 free throws) with 4 rebounds, an assist, 2 steals, and a block in a 42-point romp of Hampton. Irving followed that performance with an 11-2-3-1 line, including shooting 9-10 from the charity stripe. Irving cemented himself as the clear-cut number one pick when he dropped 28 points in 31 minutes–shooting 9-15, 2-4, and 8-9–in Duke’s Sweet Sixteen exit to Arizona.

Yes, the case can be made that entering Irving into Duke’s lineup upset the team’s chemistry with Smith’s suddenly uncertain role off the ball, but that was much more to do with his prolonged absence than any problem with his attitude. At the start of the season, the offense flowed straight through the freshman guard. He was a true leader in every sense of the word: he’s a great distributor, he made every single one of his teammates better, and rarely forced unnecessarily risky passes. Overall, it’s just hard to poke holes in his game.

Kyrie isn’t athletic like former number one selections Derrick Rose and John Wall, but he can more than make up for it with his great quick burst to the basket and elite shooting (he was a 50-40-90 shooter in his limited collegiate career). Irving is most effective when he drives to the left side, but scoring isn’t his biggest threat–he’s most dangerous when he gets his teammates involved.

What makes Irving special is not what makes him unique–there’s not much that separates him from the upper tier of point guards. What makes Irving so great is that he’s such a safe pick–there’s no way he fails in the NBA. We’ve seen his skill set translate to success so many times before (Chris Paul, Andre Miller, and Raymond Felton just to name a few). He’s probably the safest pick in the draft because he will be a very productive pro–likely All-Star caliber, however, with the abundance of great young point guards he may not make too many All-Star appearances–but at the same time he has the potential of a top-5 one-guard.

From what we’ve seen at Duke and just his play in general, we can see that he gets it. He’s a true leader and embraces the team aspect of basketball. As soon as he stepped onto the court, he made each and every one of his teammates more dangerous, and was never afraid of the spotlight at one of college basketball’s biggest programs. Kyrie Irving is the type of player I want in my foxhole. He’s the guy I want on my team.

Brandon Knight

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If you had to trust any type of rookie point guard, wouldn't it be a Calipari one?

Derrick Rose. Tyreke Evans. John Wall. Brandon Knight? The next player in a succession of John Calipari-coached one-and-done guards has arrived, so we can pen him in for a Rookie of the Year, right? Not so fast.

Ranked as high as #1 by Rivals.com recruiting, Knight has been closely monitored for the longest time. Immediately as a freshman at Kentucky, he was handed the keys to the Caddy, but the start was a bit rough for him.

In his first seven games, Knight averaged 17 points per game, but totaled just 21 points in losses to UConn and UNC on 29% shooting. Worse yet, he had just 23 assists to 33 turnovers. While the turnover problem slowly started to fade as the season progressed, it reared its ugly head again in the NCAA tournament when he maintained a 17-16 assist-to-turnover ratio against non-Ivy League schools. Therein lies Knight’s problem: he’s not a true point guard.

As a pure scorer alone, Brandon Knight is very impressive. While he can be streaky at times, he’s already fairly reliable from NBA-3-point range and is great in the penetrate-and-kick game thanks to an explosive first step. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have shooting guard size. And he is not a shooting guard. I’m afraid that Brandon Knight is actually a combo guard.

Can you win with a combo guard? Sure. My preferences for point guards aren’t the end-all-be-all, and if in the right scenario, a combo guard can lead a team to a championship. But it’s so much harder.

Positions aside, there’s one thing Knight does do extremely well: he’s cool under pressure. By the end of the season, if the Wildcats were down a bucket in the waning seconds of the game, everybody new who was taking the shot–Brandon Knight. He became so steady at the end of games that even announcers would start to call it “Knight Time.”

There’s a lot to like about Brandon Knight. He’s smart, he’s mature, and he has all the skills in the world. But I’m not sure how much better he makes his teammates. With potentially the most talented roster in the NCAA, he flopped in the biggest game of the season when he jacked up 23 shots and finishing with just 17 points. Not only that, but he had 5 assists to 3 turnovers and took just two free throws. Taking 37% of your team’s shots is fine if you can score in flurries, but that’s not who Brandon Knight is.

I know it’s just one season, and I know he’s just 19, but I don’t see it in Brandon Knight. He didn’t step up when the light shined brightest, and I don’t really think he made his teammates too much better. I’m not even sure if he’s a winner as much as he is a stat sheet guy. One check out of three doesn’t work for me. I’m passing on Brandon Knight.

Kemba Walker

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Every team can use a tenacious leader with a winning mentality, especially the Bobcats.

When asked how to describe himself, Kemba Walker said, “Character, leadership, just heart. All New York City point guards are just tough.” Better words could not have been spoken.

Kemba Walker is one tough dude. I’ll get straight to the point and say that he is a warrior, a leader, and flat out winner. His size (6’1″) doesn’t stop him. His less-than-efficient shooting doesn’t get in his way. Because when the lights shine brightest on the biggest stage, Kemba is always there.

To say the least, UConn’s 2011 Men’s Basketball team was not that high on talent. After Walker, there really wasn’t much to work with. Jeremy Lamb may eventually be a first-round pick, and Alex Oriakhi is a serviceable big man, but there’s a reason why this team did not start the season in the AP Top 25: on paper, they are a really thin team. So off set Kemba Walker to prove to the world just how good his team actually was.

At the Maui Invitational, UConn looked really overmatched. With then-number 2 Michigan State and number 9 Kentucky, UConn was a small fish in a tank of sharks. So how did Kemba respond? 30 points per game, a 54-42-93 shooting line, a 12-6 assist-to-turnover ratio, and more importantly three tough wins.

By the end of the regular season, Connecticut was really being knocked around. A shaky 9-9 record in the brutal Big East didn’t help their 21-9 record, but a strong Big East Tournament run would really have helped their seeding in March Madness. Kemba’s move? Five big wins in five short days in which they played higher ranked opponents in four of the games. Again, Kemba stepped up under pressure for 26 ppg while shooting 47% from the field while gave us the coolest buzzer-beater of the year.

Kemba had already lighted up Madison Square Garden, ran through the Big East Tournament, and put himself square in the middle of the Player of the Year conversation, but this was truly the time for him to shine. Did he come through again? I guess you can just ask the net from the National Championship and President Obama.

When the stars shine brightest, you can bet Kemba Walker will be there. In the biggest six-game series of his life, Kemba put up 23.5 points, 5.7 assists, and 6 rebounds, missing just four free throws the entire tournament.

The man is electric fast. The man is clutcher than Kirk Gibson on a broken leg. The man was able to take a ragtag team to a 14-0 record on neutral court and a National Championship. If nothing else, he’s a winner.

There are some doubts that Kemba will ever make an All-Star Game. He’s small for a point guard. He’s shown flashes of being a scorer more than a distributor. But I can see past his small blemishes to see the bigger picture–he has the one thing you can never doubt in any sports: the Heart of a Champion

Jimmer Fredette

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No, Jimmer is not a good comp to (enter white basketball player's name here).

There’s not a single player in the last decade of college basketball who has received as much hype as Jimmer Fredette. Did Jimmer Mania grow to such outrageous proportions because he’s the first white player to dominate the sport in years? Is it because he is one of the few players not to leave after his first season for greener pastures in the NBA? Or maybe it’s just because he has a strangely captivating name and a rarely duplicated game.

I know, I know, how could anyone hate the great Jimmer Fredette? He took BYU, of all schools, to a 32-5 record while scoring 28.5 ppg. But I’m here to burst your bubble. Because Jimmer will not be a good pro.

What if I gave you an offer for a player to add to your team. He doesn’t play defense, he won’t rebound, and he’ll take a third of your total shots. Even if he shoots the lights out, that doesn’t sound like a great team player in my books.

What if I told you now that he’s only 6’2″, can’t jump, is rather slow, and doesn’t see the floor well. Now you’re cornered. You’ve got a shooting guard in a point guard’s body. He can’t defend 2-guards, but he doesn’t have the requisite skills to play the point.

One of the telling signs about Jimmer’s future was in the draft telecast itself. Where it said “Versitile Scorer” for Kyrie Irving, “Defensive Potential” for Brandon Knight, and “Tough Competitor” for Kemba Walker, it said “Capable Passer” for Jimmer. No, not “Good Passer.” Just capable. I’m a capable Bio student. That doesn’t put me in the top level in anything. And a “Capable Passer” won’t put you in anyone’s starting lineup.

With those shots being fired, I do think there’s a place for Jimmer in this league. Just take a look at not-quite-6′ J.J. Barea, who played a vital role in the Mavericks’ championship run. Every team needs a burst of offense off the bench, and I think Jimmer can play a Eddie House-type role. Good enough to help you if his jumper is falling, but if he’s cold, you can just yank him from the game.

I really wish that Jimmer had been drafted by Utah. He could have slid right into that Eddie House role behind Devin Harris with the entire state of Utah behind him. But, no. He ended up in the worst scenario possible: Sacramento.

The last thing Jimmer needed was to be put under this kind of pressure. Already with the pressure to be the next Great White Star–whether or not we accept that this is what we want him to be–he was moved to a team that needs a turnaround city to avoid moving to SoCal. Worse yet, he has been placed with the worst set of teammates to match his style.

Sacramento drafted Jimmer because they needed a point guard to take over now that it’s clear Tyreke Evans isn’t a point guard. The problem is, Jimmer isn’t a true point guard. Jimmer needs his shots to be effective, and so does Tyreke. And DeMarcus Cousins. And Marcus Thornton. And when they don’t get their share of shots, the group of 20-some year olds will pout.

Jimmer is not a point guard. He cannot distribute. He doesn’t make his teammates better. And now that he’s not being fed a steady diet of Vermont, UTEP, and Buffalo, I’m certain he doesn’t have the Winning Gene.

I’ve looked at his game up and down, and I just don’t see a place for Jimmer in this league as a starting point guard. The eighth man on a contender? Maybe. But not worth the tenth pick in any draft.

Categories: College Basketball, NBA | 4 Comments

2011 NBA Mock Draft 1.1

In case you missed my mock lottery, here is my full 2011 Mock Draft. There may not be a John Wall to this draft, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be quality players throughout the first round. Let’s dive into the world of mock basketball…

1

Cleveland-03-pres

Kyrie Irving

PG 6’4” 191 lbs Duke 19 Years Old

The Cavaliers have a ton of holes to fill, and even if point guard isn’t the most pressing need, Irving is the best pick with their first of two picks. Irving is the safest pick in the draft–he’ll almost assuredly become a many time All-Star. He’s not quite at the level of John Wall, but he has a a more reliable jump shot. He’s a fantastic passer and an excellent leader. Cleveland needs a new beginning, and Kyrie is the perfect player to grow the franchise around.

Cleveland could look at Derrick Williams for the first pick and go with Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker with the second pick if they’re sold on one of the two point guards. They desperately need a wing player, and Williams would fit the bill, but I think that ultimately Irving’s superior skill will prevail.

2

Minnesota-08-pres

Enes Kanter

C 6’11” 260 lbs Kentucky 1

There’s no doubt Minnesota wants to trade this pick. David Kahn can come out and say whatever he wants, but they are in an awkward position with this pick. Derrick Williams is clearly the best player after Irving, but the T-Wolves’ best two players, Kevin Love and Michael Beasley, play Williams’ position. Williams is a bit of a tweener, but I see him as more of a slashing three than a four. To make matters worse, Minnesota has already invested a lot in two more young forwards: Anthony Randolph–another tweener– and Wesley Johnson, who is playing out of position at shooting guard.

In the case that Kahn can’t move the pick, Kanter is the best fit. I firmly believe that if he was allowed to play at Kentucky, he’s be considered the second best player in the draft, and he showed some of his high potential at the draft combine. Kanter is a immediately a huge upgrade over Darko Milicic at center–he’s already a better rebounder, shooter, and passer than the 7-foot Serbian–and he’ll help a very nice young frontcourt.

Look for a team like Utah, Washington, or Charlotte, who all have two high first rounders, to try to move up to the second pick and take Williams.

3

Jazz-Logo-2010

Derrick Williams

SF 6’9” 249 lbs Arizona 20

Utah will be absolutely ecstatic if Williams falls to them with the third pick. They’ll need a small forward to replace Andrei Kirilenko, and Williams will a perfect fit in Utah. After Williams measured taller than expected at the combine, some see him as a power forward, but I just can’t buy it. I don’t think he’s big enough to guard the Zach Randolphs and Carlos Boozers of the league. Alongside Derrick Favors, Al Jefferson, and Paul Millsap, Williams will help form one of the best young frontcourts in the league.

In case Williams is gone, the Jazz will almost certainly pick Brandon Knight. It’s a little uncertain how much longer Devin Harris will be around, and they’ll need a point guard of the future. Knight and Harris should be able to work together with their above-average size and scoring ability.

4

Cleveland-03-pres

Jan Vesely

F 6’11” 240 lbs Czech Republic 2

The Cavs really hope Enes Kanter falls to them here, but in this scenario, they’ll go international. The choice comes down to athletic forward Jan Vesely or Lithuanian big man Jonas Valanciunas. Some scouts see Valanciunas as the top international player in the draft, but he he has a big buyout with his Euro team and could have a Ricky Rubio-style delay to his NBA career. Vesely, on the other hand, is incredibly athletic–unlike any other European big man to come over in a long time. The man is a vicious slasher and will be ready to contribute right away.

The problem with Vesely is that his position in the NBA is slightly unclear. I don’t see him as being tough enough to guard the Amar’e-type players (yes, I know it’s a European stereotype), but he doesn’t have refined outside shot. I think that if the Cavs select him, they will play him at the three alongside J.J. Hickson and depend on him to carry a large portion of the scoring load.

5

Toronto-08-pres

Brandon Knight

PG 6’3” 177 lbs Kentucky 18

Most people don’t see Knight falling this far, and Toronto will snatch him up if he’s available at five. He’s surprisingly mature for an eighteen-year-old and showed an uncanny knack for last-minute clutch. Yes, the Raptors just traded for Jerryd Bayless and already has an expensive starter in Jose Calderon, but Knight has a much higher potential. I think that Bayless will be able to work alongside Knight in the future (or off the bench), but Calderon will be headed out of Toronto–probably for fifty cents on the dollar.

Jonas Valanciunas could also make sense here as a nice compliment to the more perimeter-based Andrea Bargnani, and Kawhi Leonard would fit a more pressing need, but both are slight stretches. The most effective way to build a winner is to take the best available player, and that’s what Toronto would be doing here.

6

WashingtonWizards

Kawhi Leonard

SF 6’7” 228 lbs San Diego St. 20

Watching the Wizards last season, it was pretty clear that they seriously lacked awareness and effort. No offense to Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee, and Nick Young, but they aren’t the smartest players around. The young team really needs help on the wing–specifically a player who can play quality defense and just play smart basketball. That guy would be Kawhi Leonard.

Leonard is a late riser in this draft–he really only shot up most team’s draft boards before the combine when his wingspan measured a freakish 7’3″ and he silenced doubters about his shooting ability. The Wizards got new uniforms and want a fresh start to their franchise. Kawhi will provide a much needed change with his non-stop motor and tenacious D. While he will likely never become a star, Leonard will be a productive pro for years to come, and that’s all you can ask for in this shallow draft.

7

Sacramento-94-pres

Kemba Walker

PG 6’1” 184 lbs UConn 20

The Kings certainly don’t regret taking Tyreke Evans fourth overall in 2009, but he’s not going to be the answer at point guard. So now Sacramento desperately needs someone to run the point because Beno Udrih and Pooh Jeter is definitely not the answer. With Brandon Knight off the board, Kemba Walker is the best option and really the perfect fit for this club. He’s got star power, great instincts, and the heart of a champion.

Although most teams prefer Knight to Walker, I would rather draft Kemba. He’s not as small as his doubters thought (6’1″ instead of 5’11”), and he’s shown throughout his college career that he can be a good distributor. I see a lot of Brandon Jennings in Walker, only Walker is a proven winner. The man is an fantastic leader and incredibly inspiring–a guy you want in you foxhole. He’s a quality character, which will be a change from his potential teammates, Evans and DeMarcus Cousins.

8

Detroit-05-pres

Jonas Valanciunas

PF 6’10” 230 lbs Lithuania 19

Detroit could go all sorts of directions with this pick. They have so many holes right now as a team trying to rebuild while still handing out awful contracts (Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva for a combined $95 million over five years) that they really need to go best available here. The most skilled player left on the board at this point is Valanciunas. He’s far more skilled offensively than Bismack Biyombo, but like Detroit’s current center Greg Monroe, is a bit weak on defense.

To be honest, the Pistons are really in trouble. They could really use a wing player, but it would be a huge reach to take Alec Burks or Jordan Hamilton. My guess is the stash Valanciunas in Europe for a year (assuming they can’t buy him out) and gun for a high pick in next year’s absolutely stacked draft. I know this won’t make Pistons fans happy, but watching Monroe, Valanciunas, and Harrison Barnes in two years will.

9

Charlotte-07-pres

Bismack Biyombo

C 6’9” 243 lbs Congo 18

All year, the Bobcats lacked a center. Nazr Mohammad wasn’t that effective, Gana Diop went down with a torn Achillies, and Kwame Brown was Kwame Brown. As luck would have it, Michael Jordan’s guy may have fallen right in his lap. Bismack Biyombo may be short for a center, but he’s got a man body and an utterly ridiculous 7’7″ wingspan. Plus he’s only 18 (we think).

Under new coach Paul Silas, D.J. Augustin and Gerald Henderson proved that they can be building blocks to a rebuilding team. Add an elite defensive center in Biyombo, Tyrus Thomas, Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw, and a second first-round pick and this team may not be that far off from the playoffs. Well, maybe after another lottery pick in 2012 they’ll be close to the playoffs.

10

Milwaukee-06-pres

Tristan Thompson

PF 6’9” 228 lbs Texas 20

The Bucks are set for the next five plus years at center and point guard with Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings. And that’s about it. They need serious help on the wings and at the four, so just like the Pistons they’ll go best available. Tristan Thompson fits the bill at number 10 as a highly recruited freshman with high upside. One of the biggest knocks on Thompson was that he was undersized, but he measured an extra inch taller at the draft combine and has a very nice 7’1″ wingspan.

Thompson is by far the best player available at this point, but they could also take a look at Alec Burks if they really want an upgrade on the wing. Still, it will be hard to pass up such an athletic rebounder with nice potential; I’d be shocked if Thompson fell out of the top 10.

11

Golden-State-97-pres

Jordan Hamilton

SF 6’9” 229 lbs Texas 20

The Warriors need frountcourt help and a small forward, but there really aren’t many good options around. Jordan Hamilton fits the biggest need, but his biggest strength is his offense, which is not a problem at all in Golden State. Donatas Motiejunas would fit the need for size, but he is even more offensively minded than Hamilton. Marcus Morris is a nice defender, but he would for a very undersized frontcourt alongside 6’9″ bigman David Lee and 6’10” Ekpe Udoh and has a fairly limited upside.

Ultimately, I think Hamilton’s potential will prevail. He was the sixth highest recruit in a class that included John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Derrick Favors. He’s a pinpoint long-range shooter. And he’s just 20 years old. The Warriors may try to move back, but I doubt they find a taker.

12

Jazz-Logo-2010

Jimmer Fredette

G 6’3” 196 lbs BYU 22

Believe it or not, Jimmer is not actually a lock to stay in state. If they Jazz don’t address their backcourt need with their first pick, they’ll most likely take either Jimmer or Alec Burks at #12. The reason I give the edge to Fredette is that I think GM Kevin O’Connor really likes last year’s first-rounder Gordon Hayward as a future starter at shooting guard, and they need a scoring threat off the bench. Oh yeah, and because there would be riots in Salt Lake City if the Jazz didn’t take their hometown hero.

In my opinion, I don’t get the hype over Jimmer. He’s an undersized shooting guard who doesn’t rebound, is allergic to defense, and doesn’t distribute well. He’s too slow and doesn’t see the floor well enough to be a point guard and isn’t big or athletic enough to play the 2-guard. He doesn’t have a true position, and I don’t think he can create his own shot. He’s not as good as J.J. Redick, who can barely find a job as a three-point specialist. So if you want an Eddie House-type player with a lottery pick, fine. But if you’re expecting the second coming of Steve Nash, you’re out of luck.

13

Phoenix-00-pres

Alec Burks

SG 6’6” 193 lbs Colorado 19

Phoenix would snatch up Jimmer if he was still around (think back to their affection of Stephen Curry two years ago), but if not they’ll look for help on the wings. Vince Carter won’t be around for much longer, but Phoenix may have a Vince-lite in Alec Burks. The man has great athleticism and nice size, but lacks a great jump shot. If Vince is back for another season, Burks could sit behind him for a season to learn from the veteran. Burks won’t be a starter for a year or two, but he has the potential to be a Tracy McGrady-type player.

If Phoenix decides to go big, Donatas Motiejunas would be the best fit. He can play in their Run ‘N Gun system and will add some much needed size. In the end, I think this pick comes down to whoever the Jazz pass on: Jimmer Fredette or Alec Burks.

14

Houston

Donatas Motiejunas

PF/C 7’0” 220 lbs Lithuania 19

Daryl Morey is one of the smartest GMs in the NBA because he knows how to build a winner: buy low and take the top talent in the draft. They are set for years to come at power forward with Luis Scola, Patrick Patterson, and Jordan Hill, and they are set on the wings between Kevin Martin, Courtney Lee, Chase Budinger, and Terrence Williams. With Yao likely done, Brad Miller really starting to show his age and Hasheem Thabeet barely holding onto a roster spot, the Rockets could really use a center.

In the entire draft, there really aren’t many true centers. Kanter and Biyombo will be long gone, and otherwise there is a surplus of forwards. Not exactly what Houston is looking for, but they love talent, and boy does Donatas Motiejunas have talent. He’s a very nice scorer for his size and would compliment the more aggressive big men on the roster. Think Andrea Bargnani redux.

15

Indiana-05-pres

Marcus Morris

PF 6’9” 230 lbs Kansas 21

Indiana is a young team on the rise that is missing one piece (before they step up to 7th in the East): a tough rebounding power forward. Marcus Morris is their man at 15–a highly productive college player a polished offensive game and great rebounding skills. It is a little concerning that he sees himself as a small forward and seems set on switching to the wing, however. He’s not quick enough to guard small forwards and will play much better as a slightly-undersized power forward.

16

Philadelphia-09-pres

Markieff Morris

PF 6’9” 241 lbs Kansas 21

The Sixers are in search for a center, but there just aren’t any around here. They’ll still need a big man, and Markieff Morris is the best fit. Markieff is slightly taller than his twin brother, but his he’s not nearly as polished offensively. Markieff is a better low post defender and should be a quality role player. He won’t be a starter, but a very serviceable Taj Gibson-style player.

17

New-York-95-pres

Kenneth Faried

PF 6’8” 225 lbs Morehead St. 22

The Knicks can go two directions with their pick: a big to bolster their front line or a young point guard to run the team after Chauncey retires. I think Donnie Walsh and company firmly believe they can bring in either Chris Paul or Deron Williams, and with Toney Douglas on roster, point won’t be as pressing of a need as a big man. Kenneth Faried has a nonstop motor and is a fantastic rebounder, but lacks a refined offensive game. That’s perfectly fine for New York, though, because they have enough offense from Amar’e and Melo and just need glue players to do the dirty work.

18

wizards_logo_detail

Klay Thompson

SG 6’7” 206 lbs Washington St. 21

After taking Kawhi Leonard with their first pick, the Wizards will still be on the lookout for tough, smart players. With Nick Young likely on the way out of town, there will be a hole at shooting guard. Enter Klay Thompson. The big 2-guard really impressed at the combine with both his range and length. He’ll fit in great with Leonard and will work great to fix the shaky image of Washington’s franchise.

19

Charlotte-07-pres

Chris Singleton

SF 6’9” 230 lbs Florida St. 21

With Gerald Wallace gone to greener pastures, the Bobcats lost their best defender, biggest energy player, and their man at small forward. Kawhi Leonard would have been a perfect fit, but he’ll be long gone when they pick at number nine. Chris Singleton is the best defender in the draft, and while not nearly the shooter Leonard, is extremely tough, durable, and tenacious. Charlotte could suddenly become an elite defensive team in a few years with a lineup that includes Henderson, Singleton, Thomas, and Biyombo.

20

Minnesota-08-pres

Josh Selby

G 6’3” 195 lbs Kansas 20

How could I possibly make it through a mock draft without making a David Kahn point guard joke? Of course not. Well Minnesota will be looking for a guard with this pick which likely comes down to Klay Thompson, Josh Selby, and Marshon Brooks. Selby can play either guard position and has one of the highest upsides in the entire draft. Unless Ricky Rubio has a change of heart and comes to Minnesota this season, I see Selby as a point guard, but he could just as easily move behind Wes Johnson at the 2-guard.

21

Portland-04-pres

Tobias Harris

F 6’8” 223 lbs Tennessee 18

On talent alone, Tobias Harris could be picked in the mid-teens. However, he’s built like a power forward with the size of a small forward. Portland needs frontcourt help and can take a gamble on a high-upside youngster like Harris. Hey, maybe he’ll grow another inch or two before he can legally drink and fulfill the promise that led him to be ranked seventh in last year’s recruiting class. As a side note, Tobias’ father keeps insisting that he’s being played out of position and is really a small forward. I just can’t buy that.

22

Denver-08-pres

Marshon Brooks

SG 6’5” 195 lbs Providence 22

Carmelo is gone, so Denver could really use some star power. Marshon Brooks should be perfect for this reincarnation of the Nuggets. The man finished second only behind Jimmer Fredette in scoring, but he did it in the tough Big East instead the questionable Mountain West. Not only that, but he has an insane 7’1″ wingspan. Why on Earth is this guy not in the lottery? J.R. Smith and Aaron Afflalo may be gone, but Marshon Brooks can absolutely ball.

23

Houston

Reggie Jackson

PG 6’3” 208 lbs Boston College 21

With their second pick in the first round, the Rockets will likely chase the top point guard left. Reggie Jackson is the best fit left–an athletic guard with a knack for scoring. Jackson finally broke out in his junior year shooting 50% from the field 42% from three and 80% from the line. He’s an excellent rebounder as well with a 7-foot wingspan. It is a tad concerning that he never racked up too many assists in his college career and lost in his only March Madness game, but his talent outweighs the cons.

24

Oklahoma-08-pres

Nikola Mirotic

F 6’10” 226 lbs Serbia 21

GM Sam Presti doesn’t take on bad contracts, he doesn’t make heat-of-the-moment moves, and he doesn’t reach in the draft. Nikola Mirotic is the next player in the wave of European talent entering this draft. He won’t be able to play in the NBA for a year or two (think Serge Ibaka), but he should be worth the wait and the buyout when he does arrive. He’s got confidence. He’s got poise. And he’s smooth. He’s got the size to play power forward, but shoots like a three. Despite the similarity in style of game to Kevin Durant, they should be able to play together fairly easily.

25

Boston-95-pres

Lucas Noguiera

C 6’11” 218 lbs Brazil 18

Whether or not the Celtics would have been able to re-sign Kendrick Perkins this summer, they’ll probably live to regret that trade with OKC. Right now, Shaq, Jermaine, and Nenad Krstic are the only centers on roster, and that just won’t do for Danny Ainge and the Celtics. If they’re looking for a long, defensive center to replace Perk, look no further than the next international big man on the board. He’s incredible on the defensive end and has much room to grow, as well as much weight to gain. If he can form any semblance of an offensive game, Noguiera could be one of the biggest steals in the draft.

26

Dallas-01-pres

Tyler Honeycutt

SF 6’8” 187 lbs UCLA 20

Dallas will be looking for perimeter help, and they’ll be ecstatic if Honeycutt is still on the board this late in the draft. Honeycutt didn’t put up big numbers at UCLA, but former Bruins have a better track record in the NBA than they did in college (Collison, Westbrook, Afflalo, Farmar, Holliday…). He’ll have to put on a lot more muscle if he’s going to stick at the 3, but I believe he has the work ethic to do so. Honeycutt will never be an All-Star, but I’d be surprised if he didn’t become a solid rotation player.

27

New-Jersey-97-pres

Jeremy Tyler

PF/C 6’11” 263 lbs USA 18

Jeremy Tyler is without a doubt my favorite player in this draft class. He left his San Diego high school in the middle of his junior year as the top recruit in the nation so he could reach the NBA a year early but in the process completely shot down his draft stock. His time in Israel was absolutely horrible, and he eventually left to play in Japan and salvaged what was left of his stock. Say what you will about his choice in his path to the NBA, but he has an absolutely huge frame with elite athleticism, including a nearly 40-inch vertical, 7’5″ wingspan, and 9’3″ standing reach. He is a physical specimen, very worthy of a late first-round pick. At worst, he’s a Gana Diop-type lane clogger who can stay in the league with his sheer size. At best, he can be that top recruit and become a taller Zach Randolph. I have no idea why he’s not discussed earlier in the first round. If his only knock is a past decision on trying to get into the league sooner, sign me up for this guy.

28

Chicago-66-pres

Nolan Smith

G 6’4” 188 lbs Duke 22

With their first of two picks at the back end of the first, the Bulls will likely take the best guard available. Nolan Smith may not be a pure point guard, but he knows exactly what it takes to win. He’s a true warrior, a great leader, and a clutch shooter. Derrick Rose needs some insurance, and Nolan Smith can step up to be a nice energy player off the bench. So long as you look for him to be Kyrie Irving, Nolan Smith will become a very nice pro.

29

San-Antonio-02-pres

Kyle Singler

F 6’8” 228 lbs Duke 22

The Spurs could go international here as they often do with a player like Davis Bertans or Bojan Bogdanovic, but I think they take a polished college forward here. Ultimately, I see the Spurs settling on Kyle Singler, a proven winner with the ability to stretch the floor as an undersized four or bang a little as a three. There’s no one skill that he does great, but he does a little bit of everything well and has succeeded at every level. Singler can be a good player in the NBA if he finds the right system, and a veteran team like the Spurs will be perfect.

30

Chicago-66-pres

Travis Leslie

SG 6’4” 205 lbs Georgia 21

The biggest issue for the Bulls this season has been at shooting guard. The combination of Keith Bogans, Ronnie Brewer, and Kyle Korver together don’t add up to one quality player, so the Bulls will likely take a chance on an athletic shooting guard with the last pick in the first round. Leslie is no long-range shooter, but he’s an excellent driver with a great motor. He’s one of the hardest working players entering the draft, and he’ll likely be that very Keith Bogans-type player at worst.

Top Five Players Left: JaJuan Johnson, Justin Harper, Malcolm Lee, Jordan Williams, and Darius Morris.

Categories: NBA | 2 Comments

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