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