Friday, June 24, 2011

Post NBA Draft Breakdown

First things first, Cleveland marked a line in the sand by drafting Kyrie Irving with the 1st overall pick.  They clearly wanted a point guard for the next 10 years, and he fits that bill.  The Cavs threw the first major curve ball of the draft by selecting Tristan Thompson.  I'm not sure what Cavs GM Chris Grant was thinking with this pick. I like Thompson as a lottery pick, but at least 4 picks later.

Minnesota may not be the league's doormat forever.  I really like their 3s and 4s with Love, 2nd pick overall Derrick Williams, and Michael Beasley (who I think should be traded).  They also have a lot of talent in the pipeline.  They were also very strategic about their selections, and could be a force to be reckoned with if they can improve by 10 wins each of the next two years and can retain talent.  Bogdanovic could be a steal, though trading away the rights to Mirotic and Cole (best rebounding guard in the draft, who can also fill it up and pass) could be moves that GM David Kahn could live to regret.

Though I am a slightly-biased resident of the DC area, I love the Wizards' draft and their new hats.  If Jan Vesely can play basketball anything like he kisses, the Wiz kids will be borderline watchable as the next season we have basketball.  He's a high-motor PF, which the Wizards badly need, and provides competition for the ever-lazy and pouting Andray Blatche.  When the Knicks were picking at 17, I was hoping "Please don't pick Singleton!  Please don't pick Singleton!"  When they took Shumpert, the Wizards landed the best defender in the draft class.  Players in the mold of Singleton and 2010 1st-round pick Trevor Booker are exactly what the Wizards need.  At pick 34, the Wizards needed a shooting guard who can back up John Wall at the point, and selected Shelvin Mack from Butler.  It's easy to get hung up on him being 6"2" (or his lack of foot speed, which is why he's not a lottery pick), which is too short to play the 2 or create his own shot.  But, if you watch the game tape, he had no problems hoisting and knocking down deep shots against guys who are 5 and 6 inches taller than him.  Great picks all around.

The Spurs are the New England Patriots of the NBA.  They scalp everyone, and know the board better than everyone.  When they drafted George Hill, I thought it was a horrible pick, as did nearly everyone else.  Well, not only were they right, but they shipped Hill to Indiana for Kawhi Leonard, who will be part of the nucleus of the new Spurs, as well as Davis Bertans, who will provide reinforcements in 2-3 seasons.

Overall High Point:  Booing of David Stern and cheering for Adam Silver.

Overall Low Point:  Picks 56- 59.  These were major reaches by teams trying to outsmart themselves, and just painful to watch, as there were some good prospects on the board (Hansbrough, Delaney, Skeen).

Who do I miss?  Former Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard.  David Kahn did everything in his power to make the draft exciting.  And to demonstrate his undying love for point guards.

Best value:  Charles Jenkins, G - selected 44th by Golden State.  Watch this space in 2 years.  Jenkins could be a starter and a top line guard somewhere in the NBA.

Forehead scratcher:  Cory Joseph, G - selected 29th by San Antonio.  From the times I watched Texas, Joseph did not demonstrate the quality required for the 1:  leadership.  He will learn a lot from watching Parker and Ginobili.  Pop must've seen something in him.

Burning question:  Why does Enes Kanter speak like a valley girl?  

Thursday, June 23, 2011

2011 NBA Draft - Pre-Draft Questions

We are less than seven hours from the 2011 NBA Draft.  According to the experts and anyone with a pulse, this is the weakest draft class and may also be a record-setting draft for international players who hope to be selected in the 1st round.

Here are my thoughts on some hot-button topics pertinent to the draft.

Q:  Who are your top 5 prospects irrespective of position?
A:  Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams, Brandon Knight, Enes Kanter, Kemba Walker

Q:  If you're Cleveland and the draft order among the top 4 stays the same, who do you take with the first pick? Why?
A:  Derrick Williams.  He is a proven leader, and can score from anywhere on the court.  He is also far and away the best player at his position.  While I like Irving as a prospect and believe he has the highest upside, Knight's potential is not far behind (and recall how much he improved as a floor general from November to March), and Walker may make the most immediate impact depending on where he lands.  At worst, Cleveland would be able to obtain one of the top 3 point guards at pick #4.

Q:  Who's your flop prediction?
A:  Jonas Valanciunas.  From his clips, he looks closer to 215 pounds than what he is listed (240).  Not everyone can add the weight.  He is highly skilled, but he looks very susceptible to being pushed around.

Q:  How far will Kemba slide?
A:  I don't buy Kemba sliding out of the lottery.  He was top 7 on everyone's draft board less than a week ago .  If he does not get drafted in the top 7 (especially if Sacramento trades their pick for Tony Parker), some team between 9 and 13 will

Q:  If you're a playoff team that wants to get over the hump, which player who is outside the lottery would you take?
A:  Kenneth Faried.  The man can rebound, play defense, and doesn't require a lot of shots to make his presence felt.  That is a coach's dream.

Q:  Which team has the most to gain tonight?
A:  Cleveland.  The last month has been Christmas for the Cavs.  First, they win the lottery with a pick from the Clippers.  Second, LeBron plays a key role in the Heat losing the Finals.  Third, they can add 3 players to their rotation tonight.

Q:  Who'll be dealing?
A:  We know Michael Jordan will be, because he announced it (Jordan didn't get the memo that this is not the draft to announce such a thing).  Milwaukee too.  Cleveland and New York may be buying a pick, as may Miami.  I wouldn't be shocked if the Lakers jump into the 1st round - completely unsubstantiated, but they need young legs.  They may want to package one or more of their 2nd-round picks and cash for a shot at the top 30.

Q:  Which top tier playoff team needs to make an impact tonight?
A:  The Heat were already mentioned.  They have several players out of contract, but by and large, they will replenish their ranks with veterans, and the guys they drafted last year.  The Lakers were clearly exploited, and need young legs at every position.

Q:  Who's the most intriguing player?
A:  Bismack Biyombo.  Check out his YouTube.  He's raw, but extremely talented.  He could be the next Mutombo ... or the next Yinka Dare.

Q:  Who are your top 3 sleepers?
A:  JaJuan Johnson, Charles Jenkins, Jordan Williams

Sunday, April 03, 2011

What College Basketball Needs To Fix

With a title such as this, this post may be better suited for a doctoral thesis rather than a simple blog post.  However, this is short and sweet, and suggests alignment between the pro and college games.

  1. Insert the Charge Circle.  This is the most obvious change that needs to be made.  Player control fouls are the most inconsistently officiating calls made by referees. Insertion of a charge circle not only takes some burden off of officials, whose scrutiny (and incompetence) is at an all-time high, but also aligns itself with the NBA.
  2. Align the NBA and college 3-point shooting distances.  Moving the distance back by a foot has done nothing to curb long-distance shooting. Student athletes Players practice in order to perform at the next level, so why don't you prepare them for the next level? And, you'd save a bunch of money on painting the arc.  More money can go to ...
  3. Extend profit sharing to players.  According to a recent report by HBO's Real Sports, the NCAA pulls in $757 million annually.  As we all know, they see very little of that, and it's through the means of an education and room and board, a means which is not preferred by a significant number of players.  There are some institutions where players are getting plenty in return (Duke, Stanford, Georgetown, to name a few), but those are exceptions to the rule.  This can be done through NCAA tournament payouts which would go to players as well and would carry ripple effects for schools under probation.  The concept of "amateurism" is a joke, and it should exclude D-1 football and basketball.  How many professional basketball players can say they've played in an arena seating 76,000 during their NBA careers?  
  4. Enable a hybrid draft entry system.  This would allow high school players to enter their name into the NBA Draft.  However, they would be forced to sign with an agent, could not withdraw their name, and would not be able to play in the NCAA (for the same sport).  This option should be for types like LeBron, Kobe, KG, and even those with failed careers who were drafted early out of high school such as Kwame Brown.  For players who forgo the initial entry route, they would have to be enrolled in college for 3 years prior to entering their name for the NBA draft.  What would this do?  For starters, it would help the college game because continuity is king.  Professionals would act more like professionals.  You will always have the outliers, and you will always have players who flee for Europe, and spend years toiling there before they get signed by an NBA team.  

Sunday, March 13, 2011

NCAA Field of 68 -- FINAL

This is the first and last NCAA Tournament projection of the season.  It's been a long and busy year, in which I've viewed the least amount of college basketball in years.  I also haven't used the same amount of rigor in past years, so this is more of a test to see whether watching less will reflect closer to what the Selection Committee offers at 6pm this evening.

At the top, Notre Dame edges Duke due to the number of quality wins (RPI Top 25).  They were about even on the eye test.  Had Duke won a share of the ACC in the regular season, it would've made the decision that much tougher.  The argument of top 100 wins made by Jay Bilas (if you heard it) lacks relevance, because the top of the bracket is determined by wins against top competition.  By that same token, UConn and Texas claim #2 seeds, and San Diego State lands on the 2 line, and Arizona finds itself outside of the protected seeds.

After Texas A&M with the 23rd overall spot, there is a severe drop-off in quality.  Between the 24th (UNLV) and 37th (George Mason) spots, there is little separating these teams.  From there onward, there is the next tier of teams, which are separated by even less.

Among the final block of teams is Clemson, Virginia Tech, Michigan, Alabama, St. Mary's, Georgia, USC, Boston College, and UAB.  Clemson claimed the 33rd at-large spot based on their 10 ACC wins, taking UNC to the limit on Saturday, and their overall quality of play.  Thanks to technology, some grit and luck, Virginia Tech takes the 34th spot.  Meanwhile, Michigan's late season form, which included close losses to good teams, showed they were worthy of a dance ticket. Then came the 2 toughest choices, because neither deserve it.  Alabama's 13 conference wins in the SEC, and overall performance since they were 8-6 was the decider (a win against SEC tournament Kentucky further helped the cause).  In the last spot is St. Mary's, who were deserving for much of the season, save a brief span in February.  As for Georgia, they squandered too many chances, including against Alabama (and Vanderbilt, and everyone else they played) in the SEC Tournament.  If you want to be in the Big Dance, you must play like it.  As for USC and UAB, I would not be shocked to see them in the field.  USC has a number of high quality wins which none of their cohorts have.  UAB won Conference USA, a top 10 conference, by an entire game.  They suffered a really bad loss against East Carolina, which placed them on the outside looking in.

Can't wait for the brackets to unfold!

1: Ohio State (Cleveland), Kansas (Tulsa), Pittsburgh (Cleveland), Notre Dame (Chicago)
2: Duke (Charlotte), North Carolina (Charlotte), UConn (Washington), Texas (Tulsa)
3: Louisville (Tampa), Kentucky (Washington), Purdue (Chicago), San Diego State (Tucson)
4: Florida (Tampa), Wisconsin (Tucson), BYU (Denver), Syracuse (Denver)

5: Vanderbilt, St. John's, Kansas State, Arizona
6: Cincinnati, West Virginia, Texas A&M, UNLV
7: Georgetown, Xavier, Old Dominion, Temple
8: Utah State, Richmond, Marquette, Washington

9:  Florida State*, UCLA, Tennessee, Missouri
10: George Mason, Villanova**, Penn State, Michigan State
11: Butler, Illinois, Colorado, Gonzaga
12: Clemson, Virginia Tech v. St. Mary's (play-in), Belmont, Michigan v. Alabama (play-in)

13:  Memphis, Oakland, Indiana State, Princeton
14:  Bucknell, Akron, Long Island, Morehead State
15: Wofford, St. Peter's, Boston University, Northern Colorado
16: UC Santa Barbara, UNC-Asheville, Hampton v. UT-San Antonio (play-in), Arkansas Little Rock v. Alabama State (play-in)

LAST FOUR IN:  Virginia Tech, Michigan, Alabama, St. Marys
LAST FOUR OUT:  Georgia, USC, Boston College, UAB

*   Moved up 1 seed line due to conflict
** Moved down 1 seed line due to conflict

Monday, November 15, 2010

7 Seniors Who Will Be Missed

John Scheyer, Duke.  Any time Duke needed to end a run or put a game on ice, John Scheyer was the man.  To boot, Scheyer was an underrated defensive player who made strides between his junor and senior season.  Yes, the Blue Devils have Kyrie Irving in place now, but there's no way a freshman not named Melo can account for a senior's intangibles.
 
Scottie Reynolds, Villanova.  Hated yet respected.  That is how opponents would characterize Reynolds, who was passed over in the NBA Draft.  In all of the college basketball I watched the last year, there wasn't a team who followed a single player's lead more than Villanova, and I think it took its toll on Reynolds, who stumbled down the stretch.  The Coreys will have an opportunity to carve out their own legacy.
 
Tweety Carter, Baylor.  Sure, Epke Udoh was a lottery pick.  Sure, LaceDarius Dunn is a great scorer.  However, Carter was the steadying force for the Bears, who enjoyed two trips to the NCAA Tournament, which is no small feat.  The Bears have Perry Jones to take on some of Udoh's responsibilities down low, but production at point guard will be a question mark all season.
 
Sherron Collins, Kansas.  Another point guard.  I promise you he's the last one on this list.  Collins took nearly every important shot for the Jayhawks, and will be remembered for dominating the Big XII during his last two seasons at Kansas.
 
Roman Martinez, New Mexico.  We go out west.  Gary and Hobson earned the plaudits, deservedly so, but Martinez was the glue.  Whether it was geting a loose ball that reset the shot clock or nailing a contested jumper, he was critical to Los Lobos' revival last season.
 
Andy Rautins, Syracuse.  Wes Johnson was the Orange's best player, but Rautins was their most important player.  Known throughout colege basketball circles as a clutch shooter from deep range, but those who watched the Cuse closely will know that Rautins was indispensable to the top of the 2-3 zone.

Omar Samhan, St. Mary's.  Power conferences starve for a player of Samhan's skill, so when the lowly Gaels lose a player of Samhan's caliber, his absence will be felt immediately.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

PHSports College Basketball Preseason Top 25

  1. Duke.  It disgusts me, but they are the best team on paper.  Kyrie Irving will not be as efficient as John Scheyer was, but he's more explosive.
  2. Michigan State.  If it were not for their unexpected shuffling of the backcourt, they would be #1.  Izzo will have this team ready come March.
  3. Kansas.  This ranking relies on the availability of Josh Selby.  If so, you're hard-pressed to find a more battle-tested squad with more depth.
  4. Illinois.  The Illini returns five starters and gains two blue chip recruits.  Bruce Weber may even get the chance to use a 3-guard lineup a la 2005.
  5. Pittsburgh.  If the Panthers can adequately replace Jermaine Dixon and the core stays healthy, they will be a top 5 team. 
  6. Ohio State.  I'm not buying that the Buckeyes are better without do-everything guard Evan Turner, but they most definitely reloaded.  If Jared Sullinger is closer to Greg Oden rather than BJ Mullens, then the Buckeyes may be Final Four bound.
  7. Kansas State.  How will the Wildcats replace Denis Clemente?  Conventional wisdom suggests a 3-guard led by Jacob Pullen who will be flanked by Martavious Irving and Rodney McGruder. If the Wildcats are to contend, they'll need more depth at all positions.
  8. Gonzaga.  Despite losing Matt Bouldin, the Zags will be deeper and more experienced.  Also, you have to love their scheduling.  They face San Diego State, Illinois, Washington State, Notre Dame, Baylor, Xavier, and Oklahoma State before the new year.
  9. Baylor.  If LaceDarius Dunn is reinstated, watch out.  Perry Jones may allow Bears fans to forget about Epke Udoh. 
  10. Kentucky.  Have you ever heard of a team that's lost 5 players to the 1st round of the NBA Draft?  And been able to reload?  Neither have I.  If Enes Kanter is not cleared, then Coach Cal will not have a chance to have a Final Four taken away by the NCAA.
  11. Memphis.  Josh Pastner knows how to recruit, and for that reason, they have this rating and will be atop the Conference USA throne.
  12. Georgetown.  The Hoyas boast one of the best, most experienced backcourts.  Should they get any contribution with consistency from the frontcourt, they could win the Big East.
  13. Villanova.  I have no question that Villanova is talented and well-coached.  I just wonder where the leadership will come from without Scottie Reynolds.
  14. North Carolina.  Tempo is the name of the game.  When UNC regains their speedy tempo, they will be great again.  What leadership abilities will Harrison Barnes exhibit in his first and only year?
  15. Florida.  Billy Donovan finally has the type of squad in the mold of his championship winning teams.
  16. Butler.  Brad Stevens returns four starters and one of the most disciplined teams in D-I.  They'll be around come the second round of the tournament again.
  17. Washington.  The Huskies have adequate replacements for Quincy Pondexter, and they return one of the quickest backcourts in the nation.
  18. Syracuse.  Jim Boeheim lost some great players, but his returning core is a year older and he has Fab Melo to patrol the middle of the lane.
  19. Missouri.  40 minutes of hell returns for its latest installment, and the Tigers have added some beef to address rebounding issues.  The jury remains out on their schedule.
  20. Purdue.  Even without Robbie Hummel, Purdue is well-coached with two of the best 25 players in the nation (JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore).  If they can find a consistent third scorer, they are a top 10 team.  
  21. Temple.  The Owls lost Ryan Brooks, but Juan Fernandez slides to the point.  Lavoy Allen will bring the pain at power forward.
  22. Virginia Tech.  Tech needs to show their worth in Maui.  Otherwise, they need to win 9 or 10 to make the NCAA Tournament.  Anything is possible with Malcolm Delaney at the controls.
  23. San Diego State.  Steve Fishers returns five starters including Kawhi Leonard, a double-double machine.  The Aztecs can limit teams to one possession, and have left their best basketball for March in recent seasons.
  24. West Virginia.  The Mountaineers lost DaSean Butler and Devin Ebanks.  If Deniz Kilicli can assume some scoring responsibilities and buy into Huggins's system, then WVU will be relevant in the Big East shuffle.
  25. BYU.  Jimmer Fredette is a stat sheet stuffer and a true baller.  The roster lost some talent, including Michael Loyd Jr., who saved his best games for the end of the season.  Expect them to contend with SDSU and UNLV for the Mountain West title.
Honorable Mention 
Tennessee.  Tobias Harris makes the Vols a legit top 15 team, but Bruce Pearl's status with the NCAA will affect the psyche of this team.  For that reason, they're not in the preseason top 25.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Coming Off the Mount...

Another entertaining affair between the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins tonight on NBC's Sunday Night Football. No surprise there, honestly.

Jets win 31-23. Believe me, it wasn't an easy victory.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

While the Jets walked away (
despite the WORST EVER attempted shovel pass from the Sanchize) with a HUGE win on the road (more on that later); the big story surrounding this game, with just cause, was the week Braylon Edwards had.

From early Tuesday morning...


Credit: Media.NJ.com

NEW YORK -- New York Jets wide receiver Braylon Edwards was arrested Tuesday on charges of driving while intoxicated after officers pulled him over because his SUV had excessive tinting on its windows, police said.

Officers on the lookout for vehicle violations like excessive tinting or missing registration stickers pulled over Edwards' Land Rover on Manhattan's West Side at about 5:15 a.m. ET and noticed a strong smell of alcohol, chief NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said.

Edwards was given a breath test at the scene and another at a police station. His blood alcohol level was .16, twice the legal limit, officials said. There were four other people in the SUV at the time.

Note: It was announced, late in the week that Edwards would NOT be suspended for the game. There is precedent for this ruling, too. Instead, he was suspended for the first quarter. And yes, he was in the first play of the second quarter.

Credit: Media.NJ.com

From late Tuesday evening...

Jets G.M. Mike Tannenbaum said in a conversation with the Associated Press that Edwards would be active for Sunday night's game against the Dolphins, although he wouldn't start. It will be up to Rex Ryan when and if Edwards plays. Greg Aiello of the NFL points out that the CBA does not allow teams to suspend or deactivate players for DUI arrests per CBA rules.


As for Mr. Edwards' performance tonight? 2 receptions for 87 yards and 1 TD. One of them a 67 yard touchdown was on the first play of scrimmage the Jets had after trailing the Phins 17-14 mid-way into the 3rd quarter, giving them a 21-17 lead. Edwards' other catch was a key 3rd and 10 reception - inside Dolphins territory - for (do the math, Clement) 20 yards on what would be the Jets final drive of the game (a TD drive giving them an 8-point lead, their margin of victory). Edwards
also was highlighted by Michaels/Collinsworth for a key seal-block on a 20+yard LT run (remember him?) and a costly tripping penalty inside the redzone (just lazy blocking on his part, if you ask me).

As for the situation at-hand; as I see it, there are three issues I'd like to address surrounding this Edwards-situation, aside from the game's result (
which was very pleasing, but very tough to watch, for me personally).

Issue #1: What Edwards did was wrong. In fact, it was flat out dangerous.

SportsGrid.com

Not a genius statement. But one that needs to be stated.

Now, I'm not opposed to Edwards doing jail time for his DUI, no matter what the circumstances were when he was pulled over (tinted windows, not poor driving). DUI/DWI is a
very serious crime. However, I don't want to compare what he did to what Donte Stallworth did, either. Two different outcomes, fair or not, and the two crimes can't be compared fairly. Nevertheless, I also don't believe it's okay for Edwards to "get off" because "other players often get off". However, I also don't think it's fair to demonize ONLY Edwards - even if it's in the news this week - as the only NFL athlete to be guilty of DUI. He deserves as much of a backlash as anyone else who has been found guilty of the crime.

Which leads me to...

Issue #2: Should Ronnie Brown have been sat out week 1 for his DUI this past March?

Credit: TerezOwens.com

Ronnie Brown had a DUI arrest of his own this past offseason (in March). Does that mean Miami should've "sent a message" by suspending him for the first game of the season? Is a DUI more of a crime, in the eyes of an NFL team, during the season than it is during the offseason? Does it show more or less or the same amount of recklessness? You tell me.

Many question whether Braylon Edwards would've been suspended if the Jets were playing the Bills - as opposed to the 2-0 Dolphins; which is a fair question. Nevertheless, why does Ronnie Brown not see any official team discipline - in terms of quarters/halves/game(s) missed? Is it due to the "timing" of his crime? I also don't want to demonize Brown, who hasn't had any trouble with the law since the arrest, mind you.

If you ask me, both should've been suspended for at least 1 game. Although you may clearly point out to me that I have the foresight of knowing Edwards played, scored a big TD (made a nice block, too), and the Jets won.

Which leads me to...

Issue #3: It's impossible to expect a fan to leave his loyalty, right or wrong.

video

Many of you may think this post is just a ploy for me to explain why it was "okay" for Edwards to play tonight. WRONG. Instead, it's me addressing an issue that a fan struggles to address. I have to step off the mount, and realize I'm completely conflicted over the situation/suspension (and ecstatic over a big win).

I'm not much of a fan of Mike and Mike, although - since Mike Greenberg is a noted, avid Jet fan - I did seek out their opinions this week on the Edwards situation. Surprisingly, Greenberg and Golics' words spoke to me quite a bit. (Listen to the video above.)

I started to realize that I've riddled plenty of Steeler fans for their QB's recent actions in a bar bathroom with an undergrad, reminded Laker fans about Kobe's night in Denver with a certain hotel employee, and been mocked endlessly (and justifiably) for Yankee first baseman Jason Giambi's "apology" over proven-steroid use.

Is it my fault, or anyone else's, as a fan, that players we openly root for are found guilty of crimes? No. But if I choose to support them, as I did Edwards during his long TD run (which admittedly had more to do with Jason Allen s-s-slipping on his butt), then I'll take some justly deserved criticism.

But a "fan" is still a fanatic. So you take the good with the bad...and move on.
Much like how you treat ego-maniacal, yet extremely talented wide receivers.