Friday, June 29, 2007

Immediate Draft Thoughts

Never go to bed on an empty stomach. Never let the sun set on an argument. Never wait until the next day to post some thoughts on the NBA Draft.

Words to live by.

Anyway, here are some quick hits from my favorite sports day of the year.

1. Kevin Pritchard Owns the NBA Draft. One year after getting pretty much all the good players in the 2006 Draft, the Blazers' GM once again dominated the event. He resisted the Siren Song of Kevin Durant in order to pick the artist that will eventually be known as Four-Time Finals MVP Greg Oden at #1. This was significant not only because Oden is going to be the Next Gen Tim Duncan in terms of interior dominance, but because it gave Portland maximum flexibility to shape the rest of the roster. This was evident when the Blazers peddled Zach Randolph in the middle of the first round in exchange for Channing Frye and Steve Francis' skeleton. On paper, this seemed a bit puzzling, as you would imagine there being a better market for a 24-10 guy that can crush on the low block. But apparently the Bulls aren't biting and the Mavs don't want to overpay for a guy they would bring off the bench. And bringing Rasheed Wallace back to town? Forget it. So the Randolph market wasn't that great, which makes sense when you remember that his high school coach once said something along the lines of: every day that I read the paper and see that Zach didn't die or wasn't involved in a death is a good day. I guess a few GM's heard that one as well.

Anyway. The other part of the deal that seems bad at first blush is that Frye is really a slightly lesser version of LaMarcus Aldridge. And Steve Francis blows. So where is the value? The value is that they can buy out Francis and get a bit of short term savings and some huge long term cap relief when Stevie Franchise (now THAT has become a hilarious nickname) comes off the books in 2009. I sincerely doubt he will ever step foot in the Rose Garden's home locker room. As for Frye, he may or may not have a home in the rotation or even in a Frankensteinish three-bigs front court with two gazelle-like 6'11 guys flanking Oden. Doesn't matter. Because Frye has value around the league and can be packaged with other assets to bring in the 3 that the Blazers need. My hunch is that they bring Steve Blake back to run the point, put Roy, Udoka, Aldridge, and Oden in the starting lineup, let Travis Outlaw, Sergio Rodriguez, Demetris Nichols (for his shooting), Josh McRoberts, and Joel Przybilla come off the bench, and then use Frye and Martell Webster to unload Darius Miles and bring a legit small forward back in return. That's just my hunch.

Speaking of Nichols and McRoberts, the rest of the night was superb for Portland. They got a top-20 player in McRoberts with pick #37 (classic case of an overexposed Duke guy dropping too far - he's no Carlos Boozer and I actually don't think he's all that great, but he will make people pay for this), the shooter they desperately needed with pick #53, and somehow managed to add Taurean Green, Petteri Koponen (who I felt like I knew, thanks to Henry Abbots' work over at True Hoop), AND Rudi Feranandez ... all for a handful of cash. Are you serious? They have so many assets and parts and guys stashed overseas (Koponen and Fernandez join Brit Joel Freeland across the pond) that it is a little ridiculous. In three years, they are going to have a lineup of:

PG - Sergio Rodrigeuz (next Tony Parker)
SG - Brandon Roy
SF - Ime Udoka (next Bruce Bowen, except not dirty)
PF - LaMarcus Aldridge
C - Greg Oden
6th - Rudy Fernandez (next Ginobili)

Throw in tough-minded coach Nate McMillan and savvy GM Pritchard and you can see why the Blazers are shaping up to be the next San Antonio. And that doesn't even consider all the moves they might make, from trades, to free agent signings, to draft picks.

Okay, I'd better move on to point #2.

2. Celtics Do Well. I don't care what Stephen A. Smith or Mark Jackson say, Boston did a great job tonight. In fact, I'm still incredibly confused by the lashing they gave the C's on national television. Am I missing something? Do they think that Boston traded the rights to Durant rather than Jeff Green? I mean, I'm a Jeff Green fan, but it's not like he's a mortal lock to the make the Hall of Fame or anything. And to get rid of Wally Z in the process? Did Delonte West become the Bionic Man in the past month? Seriously, I am perplexed. If I'm not mistaken, Boston was able to free up the point guard spot for Rajon Rondo, keep Paul Pierce happy, add Big Baby to the middle, draft Gabe Pruitt for backcourt depth, and pick up Ray Freaking Allen. And that's not a great night? I know Allen is almost 32, but last time I checked, 32 wasn't the new 40. Steve Nash won his second MVP at age 32 and was even better last season at 33. Plus, Allen is a jump shooter, which means he will probably hold up better than most shooting guards as he gets older. The guy has at least three great seasons left in him. And with Rondo, Allen, Pierce, and Jefferson, the Celtics become an immediate contender in the East. PLUS, they didn't have to include Theo Ratliff's expiring contract in the deal, which gives them a fantastic trade chip for the summer of even next year's deadline. I give them an A+ on the night, yet the ESPN guys were just killing them. Strange. Then again, the ESPN guys were calling Portland the biggest losers of the draft last year and we all know how that turned out.

3. Could Phoenix Be Any Cheaper? This is getting ridiculous. If my man Sarver can't afford to pay rookies, he might want to sell the club. For the second year in a row, Phoenix sold a first round pick to Portland for straight cash money. The Blazers must be in heaven. Find a Spanish player you like? Buy him from the Suns! Steve Nash probably feels like choking someone right now. Quick, get KG to the desert before they both go insane. (Note: I did like both the Tucker and Strawberry picks. Those guys are immediate upgrades over James Jones and Marcus Banks.)

4. Houston, You Have a Problem. Cheesy pun alert! But seriously, what were the Rockets doing? They might need a power forward more than any team in the last decade, they were on the board with several intriguing (if not totally safe) prospects sitting there in Big Baby, McRoberts, and Nick Fazekas. Instead, they took Aaron Brooks, who I like, but becomes their fourth undersized guard, joining Rafer Alston, Luther Head, and the recently acquired Mike James. Did they forget that they JUST traded Juwan Howard for James? Were the Houston execs reenacting scenes from Scarface by snorting mounds of coke before their pick? I want an explanation or a trade or something that justifies this. And then to compound the lunacy, they took some Australian guard just one pick before nemesis Utah grabbed super sleeper Herbert Hill. I give Houston an F- for this draft.

5. Other "F-" Performances.. The Lakers, for taking a point guard who isn't ready (Javaris Crittenton) one year after taking a point guard who wasn't ready. Milwaukee, for taking a guy who doesn't even want to set foot in your city and might set off a diplomatic showdown that has the makings of 24: Day Seven. And, of course, Philadelphia. Although, technically, the late Byers pick probably bumps them to more like a D+, I am still putting them in this group. Leave it to Billy King to have THREE picks in the first round of one of the deepest drafts in years and come away with zero starters. Al Thornton was available and ready to start right away; King passed. Julian Wright was a steal at #12; King passed. Instead, he went with project Thaddeus Young, who simply isn't going to be as good as either of those guys. Then, so worried was he that Miami might take Jason Smith (yeah, right), he doled out some cash to swap picks. Which means that they gave up Igoudala's running mate for the next decade in Daequan Cook AND a bag of money in order to take a power forward who doesn't rebound. Oh yeah, and their biggest need was rebounding. Stellar work, Billy King, as always.

6. "A" Performances. I don't want to focus entirely on the negatives, so I'll mention the teams that cleaned up as well. Obviously, Portland headlines this group. And I've got Boston in there as well. Seattle gets an A for taking Durant, bringing in Green, bringing Lewis back into play, and completely remaking the roster in one night. They are seriously going to be fun to watch. (And I LOVE that Carl Landry pick.) Washington gets at least an A- for nabbing their new shooting guard, Nick Young (pack your bags, Deshawn Stevenson), at #16 and then adding a Kirilenko/Gerald Wallace/Josh Smith type of forward in Dominic McGuire at #47. I'm not saying McGuire will become a starter or even an immediate rotation player, but I think the offchance that his freakish skill set could transform the Washington defense makes it a great pick. Finally, Atlanta gets an A for not blowing the draft and for taking two guys - Al Horford and Acie Law - who should step in at the 5 and 1, join Joe Johnson, Smith, and Childress/Marvin Williams/Shelden Williams (take your pick) and form a decent starting lineup next year.

I also give the Warriors an A, because they accomplished so much and did it under the radar. They moved Jason Richardson, who is a very good player and appeared to be a "true Warrior" this spring, but who also has a heafty contract and a history of injury problems. That was a true "sell high" move right out of the fantasy hoops playbook. It also means they can play Monta Ellis at the 2 and Stephen Jackson at the 3 with #18 pick Belinelli (who is going to be really good) and possibly Matt Barnes in that mix. And in the frontcourt they now go Harrington, Biedrins, and Brandan Wright. For Wright, this is a dream come true. Nellie knows how to bring young bigs along, the uptempo style will make his transition (pun intended) easier, and he won't have the pressure of playing for UNC Overlord Michael Jordan. I expect Wright to be a steal and for the first time, I actually think G-State can build on the exciting spring. Speaking of the Warriors ...

7. Yi Trade in Order? First, this Yi fellow seems to be a bit of a d-bag if you ask me. Either that, or his agent is secretly Scott Boras deciding to get into hoops and hide behind a Chinese syndicate. Furthermore, don't be surprised if you come back from a bathroom break tomorrow, refresh your web browser, and see that the Bucks and Warriors have made a deal. I have the sneaking suspicion that Larry Harris took Yi at #6 with the knowledge that the #8 pick was for sale (from Charlotte), that the Warriors REALLY wanted Yi, and that G-State might be willing to part with some goodies to make it happen. My hunch is that Harris set this whole thing in motion and informed the Warriors that Yi could be had for Wright Plus. What "Plus" is I have no idea, because Monta Ellis would seem to be off the table in light of the J-Rich trade, but you never know. Maybe a future pick? The premium probably won't be high, but it will be enough to make it worth Harris' time to bother with Yi, rather than just take Wright at #6. But my gut feeling is that Wright is the guy Milwaukee wanted all along and that they will wind up with him soon, along with something else fairly nice.

8. Bulls Do The Best They Can. I'll never forgive Chicago for sitting on that Pau Gasol trade. I've been over this a million times, but it still makes no sense. They basically gave Tyson Chandler away, never used P.J. Brown's oh-so-valuable expiring contract, and hoped that someone would come their way dirt cheap or via the draft once the summer rolled around. Whoops. The #9 pick wasn't going to yield the lowpost scorer they need and it doesn't appear they can make the numbers work for any of the bigs like KG or Jermaine O'Neal. So now they are stuck adding a no-offense big man to a team full of no-offense big men. And this just one year after trading a polished post scorer in LaMarcus Aldridge on the day of the draft. John Paxson must hate lowpost scoring. All of that said, I actually really liked the Noah pick. After all of the backlash, I'm starting to think he could really be an important cog on a title team someday and I think his passing ability will be really valuable in creating open shots for his Bulls teammates. Plus, they really lucked out getting Aaron Gray deep in the draft. He's not all that great, but my bet is that he winds up having just as good of a career as Spencer Hawes. Heck, he immediately becomes the best post option on the Bulls team.

9. Utah Does it Again. Once again, Kevin O'Connor has nabbed a legit rotation guy deep in the second round. Herbert Hill should slide in right next to Paul Millsap as a "surprising" contributor next year. Not only that, but the Jazz nailed their first round pick as well, scooping up the pure-shooting Morris Almond, who would immediately step in as the starting shooting guard if Jerry Sloan didn't hate rookies so much.

10. Amir Johnson and Jason Maxiell Are Stoked. I was curious to see how the Pistons would draft this year. They had retread guys (Flip Murray and Lindsay Hunter) providing depth in the backcourt, with young guns bolstering the frontcourt (I'm not counting Antonio McDyess since he's a free agent, nor am I counting Nazr Mohammed, because I think he might have vanished). I wondered if the Pistons would draft help in both areas or if they would show confidence in the young bigs and draft all perimeter players. The answer was loud and clear. Rodney Stuckey and Arron Afflalo went in the first round and the dude from DePaul went late, giving Detroit three young guards to add to the mix. Throw in Alex Acker, who is busy crushing overseas, and the Pistons should be set on the perimeter. Well, provided Billups re-signs, of course.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Draft (Advisory) Board

Now that most of the boxes are unpacked and we almost have Internet access, it seems like a fine time to start getting up some posts. Oh yeah, and my favorite day of the year, the NBA Draft is just 48 hours away.

To kick things off, I decided to do a mock lottery, except that rather than predict what teams are going to do, I'm going to opine about what they should do. I might take a shot at a mock draft on Thursday, but honestly, how do I know what teams are thinking?

So here is my advisory mock draft:

1. Seattle (from Portland) - Greg Oden. Of the two Northwest teams, Seattle is the one with the clearest need. The Blazers could always use a potentially dominant center, but they also have a current and glaring need at the 3 and no doubt a desire to avoid passing on the Next Jordan ... after they passed on the actual Jordan. The answer to this problem is a swap of the picks. Portland could demand a point guard back, a future pick, pretty much whatever they want. I've always preferred Rashard Lewis as the target, but if they make the move to land Durant, Lewis becomes overkill on the wing. I'll go with Seattle's first round pick in 2008.

(Note: If Portland can get Lewis for Randolph, this trade never happens, they happily take Oden at #1 and roll out a Jack, Roy, Lewis, Aldridge, Randolph, Oden nucleus next year while entertaining offers for Zebo.)

2. Portland (from Seattle) - Kevin Durant. I think deep down they want Durant and if that is the case, they should just take him. But, as mentioned above, they should exact a high price from the Sonics in the process. I still think Oden is the guy for Portland, if only because I think the Bulls would eventually come around on a Nocioni/Gordon for Randolph trade, which would give Portland a nucleus of Jack, Roy, Gordon, Udoka, Nocioni, Aldridge, and Oden. Not bad.

3. Atlanta - Al Horford. After all his mistakes, Billy Knight has been handed the chance to make it all right. He has a no-brainer on the board at 3 and a plethora of point guard options at 11. If he can't execute this draft, he needs to be fired on the spot. As in, before he leaves the building. Horford isn't getting the pub of Oden, Durant, or even Yi, but he is going to be a beast of an NBA player. I don't think his situation is unlike that of Chris Bosh and D-Wade in 2003, during the LeBron/Melo (and, ahem, Darko) draft.

4. Memphis - Joakim Noah. Everyone is talking about Memphis like they are the dregs of the NBA, jsut because they packed it in after Gasol's injury last year and decided to tank. This team is actually pretty good. They obviously miss Shane Battier, but I think Rudy Gay is going to ease that pain considerably this year. I expect Gay to make a huge leap during Year Two. They also have Mike Miller on the other wing and the totally underrated Gasol in the post. Noah is a perfect fit as an active frontcourt player than can guard centers and keep Pau free to roam. I'm sure Conley is tempting here, but they absolutely need to give Kyle Lowery a chance before drafting another Point Guard of the Future.

5. Phoenix (from Boston) - Corey Brewer. I suggested this over a month ago, but I have a feeling Shawn Marion is going to Boston in exchange for Brewer and the eventually expiring contract of Theo Ratliff. The Suns are bummed they missed getting a pick in the 4-6 range, they are desperate to cut salary, and they need to break up this Amare-Marion stalemate. I really don't think they are getting KG for Marion, so they might as well move the Matrix elsewhere. And while he's threatened not to re-sign in Boston, he won't have a choice once he realizes it will take a $5-million pay cut to opt out in 2008. Plus, I think he will rather enjoy playing between Pierce and Jefferson in the downtrodden East. As for the Suns, Brewer steps right into the starting lineup, improves the defense, and gives them a big upgrade over Marion regarding corner three balls.

6. Milwaukee - Mike Conley. Mo Williams is off and running and about to be the 2007-08 version of Mike James, so the Bucks will need a point guard. And preferably a guy that will actually look to pass the ball to Michael Redd. Conley is the guy. Easy pick.

(Note: if the Bucks like Law, they could try to trade down and take him instead. They could probably get Childress and #11 from Atlanta or Maggette and the #14 from the Clippers. Either deal would give them a win-now rookie point guard and solve their small forward problem at the same time. Plus, it would allow Atlanta or L.A. to get Conley. Win-win!)

7. Minnesota - Yi Jianlin. I'm expecting a whopper of a KG trade, but I don't know where and I don't know to whom. My Phoenix-Boston swap above probably restricts the Wolves' ability to deal Garnett, but then again, maybe not, considering KG won't go to Boston and Minny wants Amare for him. Regardless of where KG goes, I think the Wolves will go very young and stockpile talent. That means that Yi at #7 becomes a fantastic pick, from both a basketball and marketing perspective.

8. Philadelphia (from Charlotte) - Branden Wright. The Bobcats are a bit rudderless right now (see: taking Adam Morrison over Brandon Roy last year just because Roy didn't work out for them) and are probably better served dropping down a bit and getting two legit players (with less attention paid to position) than screwing up a shot at keying in on one impact player. The Sixers are a great trade partner because Philly has picks at 12, 21, and 30. It would probably take the former combo to get #8, but 12/30 might do it as well. Either way, this is Philly's golden opportunity to get a frontcourt scorer to go with Igoudala. Wright is slipping on draft boards, but I insist we are looking at the next Chris Bosh. By the summer of 2009, Wright will have joined the likes of Paul Pierce and Caron Butler of absolute studs that slipped for no good reason at all.

9. Chicago - Spencer Hawes. The Bulls would be crazy not to take Wright if he's there (Chad Ford's latest Mock had them passing on him for being too similar to Tyrus Thomas, which is maybe the oddest statement he's ever made, since they are nothing alike), but on my board, he's gone. And the Bulls are also crazy not to snatch up Zach Randolph (who might be the single most ideal person in the NBA to line up next to Ben Wallace, for myriad reasons I won't explain right now), but since they seem unlikely to do so - and probably can't get Gasol or KG now - they are stuck bringing in lowpost scoring via the draft. And that means Hawes, who just isn't going to be that good. Ugh. (Right now, nobody is more disappointed than John Paxson that Roy Hibbert went back to school.)

10. Sacramento - Jeff Green. Artest is supposedly very excited about Reggie Theus and is now BFF's with Mike Bibby after a year of feuding, but I think the Kings should still move him. Maybe they could send him to the Lakers if Kobe is traded. Jerry Buss always wants to have a show in town and perhaps Ron Ron would buy him a year or two. Either way, the Kings need to turn the page. But with Bibby and Miller going nowhere because of albatross contracts, they can't go real young. That makes Green the ideal pick. He's ready to play now, will be a Webber/Divac type passer from the midpost, and really compliments Kevin Martin on the wing.

11. Atlanta - Acie Law. No-brainer. The Hawks could probably dangle Marvin Williams or Josh Childress and move up to #6 to get Conley, but why? Law is ready to lead a team starting yesterday and is just what this moribund franchise needs. Law, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, one of the Williams, and Horford ... that's a decent lineup! In Atlanta! This 3/11 combo is a godsend. When it comes to Law, Atlanta needs to ignore shuttle times and vertical leaps and confidently take the Next Cassell and then try to move someone from the Marvin Williams/Josh Childress/Sheldon Williams group for a veteran big.

12. Charlotte (from Philadelphia) - Nick Young. Still plenty of talent for the 'Cats to select from here at 12. Depending on what their plans are with Gerald Wallace, they could go for a small forward in Al Thorton, Julian Wright, or Thaddeus Young. That said, I think they need to FINALLY draft a shooting guard (enough with playing Ray Felton there).

13. New Orleans - Julian Wright. Young would actually be perfect here as well, but he's gone. Meanwhile, Wright is an absolute steal this late. He's basically a more athletic version of Andrei Kirilenko without the giant mood swings. And for those that would argue Wright plays the same position as Peja, I mean, come on. So there's overlap for all 19 of Peja's games next year, no biggie.

14. L.A. Clippers - Al Thornton. Not only is Thornton good value at 14 and a guy that can step in and play right away, but he also gives the Clippers the flexibility to finally move Corey Maggette. If Portland takes Oden, the Blazers might make a great trade partner, as they are said to be shopping Jarrett Jack. Jack would solve a lot of problems for the Clippers (since he's basically a talented version of Jason Hart, who did a nice job for them) and Maggette would step right in at the 3 in P-Town.

(With each pick, I'm more convinced Portland should take Oden. There are so many opportunities to fill that need at the 3. Maggette is out there, Lewis might be available in a sign-and-trade, and as we've seen, Nocioni is a possibility, and there are a ton of big time 3's in this draft if the Blazers can steal a pick in the 10-15 range. I'm not going to go back and redo the top of this draft, but I officially think they should take Oden and then use Jack, Randolph, and their four second round picks to land a small forward.)

Two bonus picks:

15. Detroit - Thaddeus Young. Everyone is saying Rodney Stuckey because he's the type of combo guard Dumars loves, but those people are forgetting that the Pistons already have that exact player under contract. Alex Acker is tearing up the EuroLeague with Olympiacos in Greece and could be brought back at any time. So I don't think the Pistons should reach for a guy just like that when they can snag the ridiculously talented Young. They might also want to consider Crittendon if they think Billups would really leave town.

16. Washington - Shaun Williams. No one knows where Williams will go and no one knows what the Wizards are going to do, so this seems like a perfect match. He's an immediate upgrade over Etan Thomas and could really transform the Wizards' interior D.

NBA Draft Preview

So, I know Adam's pretty busy moving in, so I'll get things started with just over 48 hours until the Draft. I think this year's draft is exciting, as always, but beyond the top two choices, there seems to be a lot of unsurety (is that a word) regarding who goes where, and who will develop. There are question marks, as always, but the trend seems to have moved away from jumping at raw Euros, and GMs seem to be looking more for college winners (it's about time) and some good raw athletes. Indeed, as you'll undoubtedly notice in my preview below, most of the top prospects share a common trait: they're all very athletic. It's a new, fast-paced NBA, and teams are looking for players that will fit into that model. So here are some of the top prospects, tossed into categories where I feel they're appropriate. I'm hoping to put up a couple more categories later today or tomorrow, so check back again soon.

Seven Impact Players for Next Year

Greg Oden-There’s not a whole lot I need to say about Oden that hasn’t been said already. He’s a beast defensively; he’ll provide good help-side defense, along with altering and blocking plenty of shots. He runs the court well, and with his (supposedly) healthy wrist, he can supplement his dunks with range out to about 15 feet. As long as he’s healthy, he’ll help right away. Blahblahblah, you’ve already heard all this. He’ll be an immediate presence on D and the boards.

Kevin Durant-Similar to Oden, pretty much everything’s been said on Durant. He can score in a number of different ways, and is offensive arsenal is quite impressive. He’s also an underrated rebounder, and is athletic enough to be a good defender. I expect he’ll average about 18 ppg this season.

Corey Brewer-I love this kid’s game. He put on a show in this year’s NCAA tournament. He’s extremely athletic and has long length (great fake term). He’ll be a lock-down defender, and his rangy arms will allow him to get plenty of steals. He also has decent ball-handling skills, and is a good shooter.

Jeff Green-I want to like his game more than I do. He does everything well, though nothing spectacular. He’s 6’10” but athletic enough to cover most small forwards. He’ll be a solid NBA player right away, but never a star. In my mind, kind of a slightly poorer man's Brewer, so I'm a bit surprised that recent mock drafts have him going ahead of Brewer. Could this be a "Joey Graham before Danny Granger" type of scenario?

Acie Law-Law may not be the most athletic point guard in the draft, but this guy is just plain a winner. Everyone who saw his incredible performance against Texas this past season was awed by his will to put his team on his back will it to victory (or at least another overtime). He gets to the hoop well, and knows how to run an offense. He’ll be a solid floor leader for a long time.

Al Horford and Joakim Noah-I tabbed both members of the Florida frontcourt together. Horford is definitely a better NBA prospect, because he combines a prototypical power forward body with athleticism. He’ll bang down low, can rebound, score in the post, and passes well. He’s not a star, but he’ll be a very good player for many years. As for Noah, his offensive game is much rawer than Horford’s, but he’s very athletic, and as we’ve all heard countless times, a great motor. He’ll never be able to put the ball on the floor or hit a jumper consistently, but he’ll get plenty of rebounds and hustle points, and provide defense and energy.

Five Future Impact Players

Brandan Wright-Wright is extremely athletic and has all the tools to be a potential star in the NBA. It seems like every year, there’s a player like this at or near the top of the draft (Rudy Gay, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, etc.). He runs the court well and has a good offensive game near the basket. If he can add some strength, and maintain focus (there are questions about his intensity), he has All-Star potential.

Yi Jianlian-As an athletic 7-foot foreigner, there are some that think he’s the next Dirk Nowitzki. Other comparisons have been to Toni Kukoc (though Yi is more athletic) and Tim Thomas (hopefully Yi cares more about defense). I haven’t seen enough of him against real competition to weigh in, but he certainly has the tools to be a good player. He can score from the outside, but needs to add strength to become a better interior player. However, he’s a hard worker, and with his athleticism, he can develop defensively. Regardless, it’s hard to tell how far along he is in his development, since he’s anywhere from 19 to 22 years old, depending on which version of his birth certificate you believe (I'm going with 22).

Mike Conley-He’s drawn comparisons to both Chris Paul and Deron Williams because of his pure point guard skills. Personally, I think a better comparison is to Isiah Thomas because of his ability to spend the majority of a game effortlessly distributing the ball to get his teammates good looks, and then take over and score down the stretch when his team needs him. Obviously, he’s not going to be the all-world point that Isiah was, but he’s a prototypical point guard who doesn’t turn the ball over and makes the players around him better, and he has potential to be an All-Star once he gets the NBA game down.

Julian Wright-I’m always partial to Chicago guys, but “the other Wright” has great athleticism (notice a trend here?) and an NBA body. He’s a great on-the-ball defender, is quick, and passes well. He plays with a lot of energy, and once he develops a better jumper, he’ll be a very good all-around player.

Nick Young-This guy actually already has all the tools (explosiveness, ability to run the court and get to the hoop, jumper, ballhandling skills) to be a good swingman soon. However, he lacks intensity and work ethic, and may need a year or two to learn that in the NBA, you can’t get by on pure ability alone.

Six Potential Sleepers

Alando Tucker-After getting “Player of the Year” consideration for the first half of this past college season, Tucker has really fallen off the radar. This is largely due to the fact that NBA scouts wonder what position he can play. However, Tucker is athletic, strong, and confident. He knows how to score, and while he’ll be a bit undersized at the 3, he’s just plain a good basketball player, and he’ll be a solid rotation player for whoever is smart enough to take him in the second round.

Jared Dudley-Similar to Tucker, Dudley was a top college player who has scouts worried about his status as a “tweener.” Also like Tucker, Dudley is strong and plays hard, and will be a decent role player in the NBA.

JamesOn Curry-Curry is great at getting to the hoop, can hit the NBA 3, and is a good passer. Unfortunately, he’s a bit skinny and small for an NBA 2. Nonetheless, he’ll be able to provide good scoring off the bench, and is athletic enough to be a halfway decent defender, if someone can motivate him to care.

Josh McRoberts-I know it sounds silly to put this former McDonald’s All-American and supposed top-five pick in the “sleeper” category, but his stock has dropped so much he may be in danger of falling out of the first round. Yes, we learned that McRoberts doesn’t yet have the ability to be a star player, and he certainly couldn’t carry Duke this past season, but he’s very athletic and agile for a big man, and quite skilled, too. He can score down low along with range out to about 18 feet, and is a good passer and rebounder. Somebody will get a steal in him late in the first round, as long as he can motivate himself to play.

Chris Richard-The forgotten man from the Florida frontcourt, I was impressed with what I saw from Richard in the tournament. While perhaps a bit undersized, he’s strong and tough, and he’ll be an able and willing bruiser in the league.

Curtis Sumpter-He was supposed to be a first-round talent, until torn ACLs made scouts question his ability to ever play pro ball. However, he’s battled back, made himself into a decent 3, and can still score and rebound. With his knees, he’s a risk, but somebody who takes a flier on him as a free-agent signee may end up with a huge steal.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


I apologize for the extended absence, but was moving across the country and have had neither time nor Internet access. As it is, I'm typing this standing up, with "borrowed" broadband, while keeping one eye out the window for the moving truck. By Friday I should be rolling with some Draft coverage.

In the meantime, bullet point thoughts on the NBA (since I'm considering making this an NBA only blog - more on that later):

- Kobe Bryant is crazy.

- Are the playoffs over?

- I actually really liked the Mike James trade for the Rockets. Juwan Howard isn't any good and is the type of guy that always seems to demand 25 crappy minutes of PT. Now Houston can aggressively pursue a power forward with their exception (I suggested Mikki Moore about a month back) and they will be far more athletic next season. James was great in his first stint in Houston a few years back and is a perfect combo guard to add speed and playmaking to the Rockets backcourt. I know this trade was pretty minor, but I think it will wind up being a big deal.

- Interesting hire by the Kings. Reggie Theus never really impressed me with having a sharp basketball mind back when he would do Pepperdine games for Fox Sports West, but as we all know, being a good broadcaster and being a good coach are usually not related at all (see: Rivers, Doc).

I will be back with more later, but I need to post this before I lose my wireless signal.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

See Below

My only comment after Game One of Cavs-Spurs is "see below." The Cavs need to play Gibson and keep Hughes on the bench. End of story. John Hollinger spent 1,500 words over on ESPN basically saying "let Boobie spin." It is too obvious to break down all over again.

So, see below.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Let Boobie Spin

I've received quite a few emails of the APB variety, wondering where I've been lately (okay, one email). I figure if the NBA can take a four-day vacation in June, so can I. Actually, that's not the real reason. The real reason is a combination of life events that are chewing up all available hours.

However, I did want to drop in on the eve of the NBA Finals long enough to post two things I got right. If you think it is lame to brag about topics of this manner, I can respect that, but I'm doing it anyway. I get so few things right that I'm going to take this opportunity to bask.

1. Cavs in the Finals. I picked them to win it all at the beginning of the regular season (note also that I tabbed Dirk as the MVP for the sole reason that the Mavs would win the most games - now that is kind of eerie), and then put them in the Finals in my playoff predictions. So I'm feeling good about that. Now if only I hadn't tabbed the Rockets to beat the Spurs in the WCF and then win it all ...

2. Daniel Gibson being sweet. In fairness, at one point I said he should be in the D-League, but for the most part, I've been singing his praises ... even if the main reason is that he's NOT Larry Hughes.

Speaking of Gibson, this whole "Boobie" nickname is uprorious. Apparently his mom gave him the nickname when he was a kid and would go home crying after getting beat up. (Although that still doesn't make much sense to me. Is a boobie someone who cries? Was she trying to say boo-boo, like he had a wound? I'm confused.) Regardless of HOW he got the name, it lends itself to some great comedy.

In fact, when I asked my brother where the nickname came from, he replied, "Maybe his teammates think he looks like Boobie Miles." I came back with a hopeful, "Really?" To which he replied, "I sure hope so."

That doesn't seem to be the case, but it didn't stop us from laughing for a very long time. Why? Because we've long used the line, "If you wanna win, let Boobie spin" as an intro for any cocky act of athleticism. Namely, during a scramble golf tournament during which we treated our teammates to a "If you wanna win, let Boobie spin" boast right before each shot.

Where does it come from? The answer is the movie Friday Night Lights, where the horribly injured star running back Boobie Miles begs to get back in the game by telling this very thing to his coach. He lays it out there: if you want to win, put me in the game.

Of course, Boobie does go in the game and then suffers a career-ending injury. So, admittedly, you have to kind of overlook the events in the movie to truly enjoy how funny the line can sound.

Or maybe it isn't funny and we are just insane. Totally possible. But it doesn't change the fact that this random movie quote has suddenly become appropriate for the NBA Finals. Because if the Cavs want to win, they need to let Boobie spin.

Gibson needs to attack the rim and get to the line. He needs to use his speed and confidence to square off with Tony Parker (Larry Hughes - even healthy - will be even more worthless against the Spurs, unless the Cavs go to a three-guard set and he somehow learns to play basketball). He needs to pump in threes. In short, he needs to be everything he was in Games Three through Six against Detroit.

If Boobie spins, the Cavs have a chance.

Screw it, I'm taking them. Cavs in Seven.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Epic LeBron

So, LeBron goes 48-9-7 tonight, scores the last 25 Cavs points (and 29 of final 30), and etches his name in the history books. It was a performance that demands gushing blog posts, hyperbole, and even a few Wooden-turned-Walton quotes (like "doing your best when your best is needed!").

Unfortunately, I was on a flight to Denver and missed the game, so will have to hold off on comments until I get back on Sunday and watch it on TiVo. Fortunately the very nice Marriott I am staying at has free Internet access, so I'm able to at least post about how I'm not going to post.

I can tell you what publicity hound is smarting right now though. Here's a hint: he has worn two different numbers the past two years and has a propensity to talk out of both sides of his mouth.

Who would have thought that something on the basketball court would rise above the Kobe and NBA Draft chatter?

Oh, and how are all the LeBron Bashers (numbering in the thousands just last week) doing right about now? Crickets.

(Last thing: I think the Suns just assured themselves a title in the Nash era today by inking Steve Kerr as their new GM. He will make the moves to get this done and it will keep D'Antoni from trading all of their draft picks to sign someone like Marcus Banks again.)