Friday, June 29, 2012

2012 NBA Draft Undrafted Free Agents

Here is a look at my top undrafted players and the teams that are rumored to be after them...

Drew Gordon (#26 on my Big Board) - Gordon was a first round talent in my opinion. Hes your typical steal in the second round - a hard working guy on the glass, strong, and a good defender. As a bonus, Gordon can even play some offense. He'll be heading to the Dallas Mavericks for summer league.

JaMychal Green (#38) - Green has everything needed to be an NBA role player. He can hit the short jumper, is an effective finisher, and plays good defense. He's surprisingly strong for his weight, but does need to get bigger. He can play a bit of center at the NBA level. No word on where he could be headed. Knicks and Kings both worked him out during the pre-draft and could bring him back on the summer league roster. So do the Bucks, but I dont think they have room for another skinny shot blocker.

Hollis Thompson (#39) - Hollis Thompson played in that Georgetown offense that didt allow him to truly exert himself. He's got James Jones potential and could provide some shooting to any team in need. Heat, Knicks, Sixers, Bulls, Wizards, and Raptors all saw him for workout for them. It'll be tough for him to make a team.

Scott Machado (#40) - I wasnt too high on Machado, but I can see him as a long time back up point guard ala Kevin Ollie. According to Adrian Wojnarowski, the Bobcats, Cavaliers, Hawks, Hornets, Raptors, and Rockets are all interested in his services.

Henry Sims (#46) - Sims has center size and center skills. Hes a very good passer who can operate in the post and has high character. No reason he couldnt be a third center for somebody. Hawks, Clippers, Raptors, and the Hornets are options. Hawks and Hornets make the most sense.

William Buford (#47) - Buford has been a good player for years on the Ohio State teams and can really shoot it. He's improved other areas of his game too and has good size. Magic, Grizzlies, or Kings could be landing spots - the first two being better choices.

Dee Bost (#54) - Bost flashes ability all the time with great scoring instincts. He has good size too, the only problem is he isnt a true point guard. He could be one of the sleepers that nobody is talking about as a sleeper. Knicks or Raptors would be a nice landing spot. Grizzlies and Hornets also worked him out.

John Shurna (#57) - I thought Shurna could be this years Jon Leuer. His ugly jumper is very effective and he's a tough player from the Big Ten. Ive heard he already has plenty of summer league options, Id just recommend that he doesnt go to Houston. The Blazers or Clippers both look like good options.

Maalik Wayns (#58) -  Wayns made my rankings based on potential. A Philly point guard with a good body that can get to the hoop and has no real character questions isn't a bad bet. He could be a starter down the road. Jazz and Timberwolves had him in for workouts.

Honorable mentions go to Cameron Moore and Kevin Jones.

2012 NBA Draft Grades (Part Two)

Houston Rockets - Jeremy Lamb (12), Royce White (16), Terrence Jones (18)

Grade: B+

The Rockets swapping picks with Milwaukee might have gotten them Lamb. No way of knowing, but the Suns could have easily taken him at 13. Lamb was a great pick here and could develop into a good starter.

With the other two picks, the Rockets added to their logjam of forwards, but it wasnt without adding even more talent to their roster. By now they have such a large crop at forward that they can pick and choose whatever style they want. Motiejunas, Patterson, Morris, White, Jones, Scola, Adrien, Leuer, and Brockman bring the total to 9 power forwards. The Rockets obviously have to make a few trades, but both of the picks are solid. Im not a huge fan of either guy, but good value was obtained here. Now they need to turn that value into something.

I think the Rockets might have intended of flipping White to the Celtics, but once Sullinger slipped, Ainge was fine staying put. Otherwise, I cant really explain why they'd go with White over Zeller.

Indiana Pacers - Miles Plumlee (27), Orlando Johnson (36)

Grade: D-

Larry Bird had announced that he would stay on for the draft before stepping down as team president and its funny to think about Miles Plumlee being his last mark on the organization. Unless you are a Pacers fan. Plumlee is a fourth big IF he turns out. Thats not what you target in the first round of a deep draft. Seems like the Pacers were going with their old "best white guy available strategy" but they even failed on that - passing on Shurna to get Plumlee.

Orlando Johnson just seems like one of those names that we won't remember in three years. With Doron Lamb and Tyshawn Taylor on the board, I cant support this selection.

Los Angeles Clippers - Furkan Aldemir (53)

Grade: B-

Clippers only had a late draft pick and used it on a Euro. Aldemir is a solid player overseas, but he isnt super skilled or very athletic. Good basetball player, not necessarily a good NBA guy.

Los Angeles Lakers - Darius Johnson-Odom (55), Robert Sacre (60)

Grade: B+

During the run of international prospects, Lakers stay American looking for potential quick fixes for next year. They traded the Mavericks for Odom, whom they hope will have the reverse affect Lamar Odom had when he was traded from Los Angeles to Dallas. Really though, DJO is a nice value pick here.

Sacre is worth a flyer on too. He's tough, can hit free throws, is a 7fter, and would have been a better player in the old NBA. I see no reason why this guy couldnt be a 3rd center on a NBA roster.

Memphis Grizzlies -  Tony Wroten (25)

Grade: C

Memphis swings for the fences for the second straight year after taking Selby in the 2011 draft. Selby and Wroten, if they both pan out, could actually complement each other pretty well. They are both combo guard types, but Wroten is more of the passer while Selby is a shooter. Selby would be an undersized 2 guard, but with Wroten, they could switch on defense to allow Selby to cover the PG.

That'd be a fun backcourt to watch if they were to work out, but the chances arent very high. Memphis has been taking risks in hopes of finding starter quality players to take over for some of their big contracts in their starting 5. They can't afford to pay them forever, so theyre hoping guys like Wroten and Selby can take over while in their rookie deals. However, Im just not sure Wroten ever realizes how to play. He certainly isn't ready to contribute now, especially to a team without the shooters to space the floor for him (and their post guys need shooters around them too). Marquis Teague would have been a better pick here as would a few others.

Miami Heat - Justin Hamilton (45)

Grade: F

Trading back from 27 can't be blamed on the front office, as Arison most likely just wanted to save money, but this draft looks terrible on paper. At 27 they had Perry Jones and Festus Ezeli on the board. They trade back and allow the Thunder to take Perry Jones, which definitely could come back to haunt them.

The actual pick at 45 was a waste as well. Justin Hamilton wasn't even a good player in college. Teams are suddenly looking for role players in college to fill role playing roles in the NBA just like when NFL teams draft pure special teamers (not talking kickers and punters. talking gunners, etc). Yes, Hamilton is fit for being a role player, but he is fit for being an NBA player. He's like a guy I wrote about here except he was never any good at any level. I dont understand why teams are suddenly taking these guys when just a few years ago Brian Zoubek couldn't get drafted.

Milwaukee Bucks - John Henson (14), Doron Lamb (42)

Grade: C+

I have no problem with Henson in the late lottery, but the only thing the Bucks didnt need was another skinny shot blocker. They now have Dalembert, Sanders, Udoh, and now Henson under contract. None of them can score, none of them are very strong, yet all of them can block shots. Bucks seem OK with being mediocre for the next ten years to come.

This grade gets bumped up because Henson might have been the last guy in that third tier and they took Doron Lamb in round 2. Lamb was my best player available at the time and he can mesh with both Jennings and Ellis in a backcourt. He gives the Bucks some versatility, shooting, and defense. All three things they need out of their two guard.

Minnesota Timberwolves - Robbie Hummel (58)

Grade: C+

I don't think much of Hummel as an NBA player, but its hard to be critical of the 58th overall pick. Hummel can actually bring something to a team, which you can't say about other picks around this area. Hummel will provide an example of toughness, hard work, and leadership while playing smart basketball. He's a practice player that every team would love to have wearing their pennies.

New Orleans Hornets - Anthony Davis (1), Austin Rivers (10), Darius Miller (46)

Grade: A+

Davis was obviously going to be the pick even if the most incompetent of all GMs was on the clock. I love pairing Austin Rivers with Davis. Davis does everything great but score, while Rivers is a great scorer who struggles elsewhere. Rivers gives the Hornets a face to their second unit and an alpha dog type. They got two cornerstones in this draft who were also the #1 and #2 high school players last year. Talent.

Adding Darius Miller, Davis' teammate, was another solid move. He fits the Lance Thomas equation where he has learned to play a role his entire college career, but has NBA talent dating back to his days in high school. He should have no problem making the 2012 New Orleans Hornets roster.

New York Knicks - Kostas Papanikolau (48)

Grade: B

Lots of Knicks fans were clamoring for a point guard, but looking at how the rest of the draft went, not a single point guard was taken. That should tell you that the talent wasn't there. Knicks got a good talent in Papanikolau who should stay overseas and develop for a few seasons. It would have been nice to get a contributor now, but thats just not the reality at #48. Knicks fans have been spoiled in recent years. Simply getting a NBA talent is good enough.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

2012 NBA Draft Grades (Part One)

Atlanta Hawks - John Jenkins (23), Mike Scott (43)

Grade: D+

Atlanta helped start the run on questionable picks in the late first round. Jenkins was bad, but it got progressively worse. Jenkins is a great shooter, perhaps the best in the draft, but cant play a lick of defense. Some scouts believe he can be the next Redick, but even if he turns out, Im not sure thats what the doctor ordered for Atlanta. I would bust them more if Fab Melo didnt go the pick before, but there wasnt a center available in a whole separate tier from Jenkins.

With Mike Scott, the Hawks got a talented college player who doesnt translate great to the NBA. I could bust on every team for passing on Drew Gordon, but that wouldnt make this fun. For the players picked around Scott, its not a noteworthy pick. Scott went right after the talent crop started to get thinner.

Boston Celtics - Jared Sullinger (21), Fab Melo (22), Kris Joseph (51)

Grade: A+

I like all of these picks. Sullinger very well could be the steal of the night. The Celtics got a top ten talent with a pick outside the top 20. I think the Celtics would have been willing to trade up for him, but instead all those knocks that were leaked about Jared allowed him to fall right into Ainge's lap. I liked the idea of staying put in a deep draft. Melo complements Sullinger well with his defense and is another definite first round talent.

Getting Kris Joseph at 51 is about all you can ask for. He was Melo's teammate at Cuse. Ideal scenario for him. And he gets to play behind Pierce and watch Garnett work. Joseph has talent and is really good at getting to the line, he could become something.

Brooklyn Nets - Tyshawn Taylor (41), Tornike Shengelia (54), Ilkan Karaman (57)

Grade: B-

If we were to consider the fact that they traded their lottery pick (which became Harrison Barnes) for Gerald Wallace, then the grade would be much lower. Still, lets not look at the grade and believe Billy King is competent GM.

At 41, they bought Tyshawn Taylor from Portland. He would have been a good pick from the late first round on, so it was good value here. Brooklyn needs major help at the PG position and Taylor could push Farmar for his spot. They are kind of similar players, a little turnover prone but Tyshawn brings great defense to the table. With their international guys, they stayed on the board and took two guys that were actually on pundits' radars. They don't have that mythical immense potential that they won't ever live up to, but they do have quality playing experience.

Charlotte Bobcats - Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2), Jeff Taylor (31)

Grade: B

The Bobcats set the tone for the rest of the draft at number two, surprising people by neither trading the pick or taking Thomas Robinson. Instead they took Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who can immediately change the culture of that team defensively. Bobcats were a good defensive team not too long ago with Gerald Wallace and MGK has been compared to the former Cat. Bobcats will certainly jump up from their league worst 107.8 defensive efficiency.

The worry about this pick though, is the pressure Kidd-Gilchrist will have offensively. Its good they brought in Gordon, and perhaps in retrospect, they may have made that trade knowing they were going to take Kidd-Gilchrist. But still, the #2 overall selection isn't a very good offensive player and a bad team could force him into bad habits. I wouldnt be surprised if he shoots under 40% this year.

Their second pick was Jeff Taylor. He reinforces their defensive philosophy for this draft. Him and Kidd-Gilchrist might be the two best wing defenders in the draft. He can back up both wing positions and provides some shooting that Kidd-Gilchrist can't. Good to see the Bobcats getting more athletic and not having to play Matt Carroll, but I think Thomas Robinson and Jeff Taylor would have looked better on paper. Still, Id be satisfied as a Charlotte fan.

Chicago Bulls - Marquis Teague (29)

Grade: A

The Bulls stayed put despite trade rumors circulating around the Chi city winds and were elated to find Teague still available. They desperately need ball handlers for next year and Teague brings that along with a ton of upside. I thought Tyshawn Taylor would have been a nice pick here because he could transform into a nice role player once Derrick Rose comes back, but Teague will make a nice trade chip if Chicago can develop yet another talent.

Cleveland Cavaliers - Dion Waiters (4), Tyler Zeller (17)

Grade: C-

Both of these players have talent and could end up making this grade look silly. Waiters, however, didn't deserve to go #4. The Cavs reached hard for a guy who didnt even workout for them. He basically rose all the way up to their spot on pure allure. He's got potential and can be a nice scorer, but he needs the ball in his hands and the Cavs should be focused on getting the right pieces around Kyrie. Waiters is not it.

With Zeller, he's obviously good value at 17. And hes a good fit. But look at what they traded. They gave up the 24th pick, 33rd, and 34th. In a deep draft, they could have added plenty of depth on a roster that needs it. Zeller arguably was the last guy available in his tier, especially if you are a team worried about injuries to Sullinger and Perry Jones, so I understand why the Cavs chose to play it safe at 17.

Dallas Mavericks - Jared Cunningham (24), Bernard James (33), Jae Crowder (34)

Grade: C+ (Actual Picks) B+ (turning pick #17 into 3 draft picks plus the draft picks)

The Mavericks added some solid depth to their team by trading back from 17 to 24. I think they were hoping Fournier would still be on the board, because when the 24th pick came back up they were said to be trying to trade back again. Instead, they had to settle for taking Jared Cunningham too high. He's got nice potential, but he's yet another combo guard on a team full of them (Beaubois, West, Terry, Jones, Calathes, even Kidd). So they reached for a player that doesnt even fill a need.

They came back strong in the second round with the two other picks they got in the Zeller trade. James and Crowder are both mature, hard working guys who will be great NBA defenders. They'll approach the game with a business-like attitude and do all the little things. Both are NBA ready and good value at their slots.  I dont think there is any question that they'll be on the opening day roster.

They also sold Darius Johnson-Odom for cash.

Denver Nuggets - Evan Fournier (20), Quincy Miller (38)

Grade: A-

Nuggets already have a full roster so getting an overseas player in the first round was a good bet. Fournier was good value at that spot and could come off the bench in a year and provide a change up to Afflalo's game. Nuggets have been good at drafting in the 20s lately and could have found another solid find here. Their second round pick may have fans even more exciting, getting the former #1 high school player in the country in Quincy Miller. Miller has fallen off since then due to injuries, but if he gets his legs back hes a steal. He was my best player available on the board for awhile during the draft. A very good reward possibility here with absolutely no risk. Great pick.

Detroit Pistons - Andre Drummond (9), Khris Middleton (39), Kim English (44)

Grade: C-

Dumars made the obvious selection when Drummond was on the board at 9. Can't really fault or credit him for that one. They needed a big man and get the BPA. Everyone sees this as a perfect fit at first glance. Im worried. For one, this isnt a great situation for Drummond to play in. Detroit has no quality veterans to show Andre the way. They haven't been great at developing talent (Afflalo, Milicic, Daye) and play a slowed down offense centered around Monroe. This is going to force one guy out of position and will diminish any defensive advantage they would seem to have picked up. Im being a little harsh, but the Drummond/Monroe frontcourt is no simple slam dunk.

In the second, they took Middleton who has a nice offensive repertoire. At one point he was viewed as a potential first rounder and then underwent a coaching change this season. He also had nagging injuries. He's able to get his shot off, the only problem is he was one of the worst jump shooters among drafted wings. If he fixes that, he could be a nice little player.

Middleton, along with Kim English were picked a little too high. But its semantics. English will be the only spot up shooting guard on the roster. Hes a hard worker and will be determined to make the team.

Golden State Warriors - Harrison Barnes (7), Festus Ezeli (30), Draymond Green (35), Ognjen Kuzmic (52)

Grade: B

Warriors caught a break with Barnes falling to them. They got one of the top tier talents in the draft and sewed up their need at small forward. He'll join other rookies Ezeli and Green on the roster.

Ezeli was the final pick of the first round so the Warriors were able to lock up a potential back up center for cheap. Backup centers on the open market go for way to much so its a decent pick, even though I dont think Ezeli will ever be a starter.

Draymond Green at 35 fits in well and gives the team a true competitor. He'll have no problem carving out a role on the Warriors roster.

Kuzmic is one of those mythological potential guys. Nothing wrong with going in that direction when you have four draft picks.

Draft Day Mock Draft

1. New Orleans Hornets - Anthony Davis

The only thing I know for sure.

2. Charlotte Bobcats - Thomas Robinson

Robinson is the pick if they Bobcats dont trade out. Beal will be the pick otherwise.

3. Washington Wizards - Bradley Beal

Wizards will pray Beal falls to them here.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers - Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Best player, character, and wing on the board. And also Kyrie's closest friend of the remaining players available.

5. Sacramento Kings - Harrison Barnes

This pick may be traded, but Barnes is BPA.

6. Portland Trailblazers - Damian Lillard

Blazers love Lillard and he looks likely to be the pick here.

7. Golden State Warriors - Dion Waiters

Waiters has seen his stock rise lately and the Warriors are a top landing spot.

8. Toronto Raptors - Austin Rivers

Theyd rather Barnes, Lillard, or Waiters but will settle for Rivers. In this scenario, they could trade the pick for a team wanting Drummond.

9. Detroit Pistons - Andre Drummond

Drummond is BPA and Pistons need a big. John Henson is the pick if hes off the board.

10. New Orleans Hornets - Moe Harkless

Hes been quiet, watch out for him to surprise and become a lottery pick.

11. Portland Trailblazers - Meyers Leonard

I stand by early reports that the Blazers really like Leonard as well.

12. Houston Rockets - Tyler Zeller

Typical Rocket pick.

13. Phoenix Suns - Jeremy Lamb

Suns pass on Marshall in order to get a adequate defender.

14. Milwaukee Bucks - John Henson

Bucks didnt imagine Henson being here and traded back for Dalembert, theyll be pleasantly surprised if hes still on the board.

15. Philadelphia 76ers - Kendall Marshall

Does Collins want a guy that can deal with his coaching or a guy he thinks his coaching can fix? The former, look for Marshall or Sullinger. The latter, he could go with Perry Jones.

16. Houston Rockets - Terrence Ross

Rockets get the BPA and fill a need. Ross makes sense here.

17. Dallas Mavericks - Evan Fournier

Mavs need a wing with good size.

18. Houston Rockets - Jared Sullinger

Rockets have been plenty active and have the picks to take chances. Maybe theyve been a team slandering Sullinger.

19. Orlando Magic - Perry Jones

The former Thunder GM goes with a extremely long and talented forward who is unselfish. Perry Jones can be of good value here as a super role player.

20. Denver Nuggets - Terrence Jones

Nuggets go for talent and have a potential replacement for Al Harrington. They need a forward to score.

21. Boston Celtics - Royce White

Late rumors they trade up for Rivers, they should stay and capitalize on a deep draft.

22. Boston Celtics - Andrew Nicholson

Local product with an actual post game.

23. Atlanta Hawks - Draymond Green

Hawks get another versatile player, a guy Larry Drew can appreciate.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers - Doron Lamb

Cavs close out their backcourt. Add MKG and teammate Lamb.

25. Memphis Grizzlies - Marquis Teague

Teague has too much potential to slip much farther.

26. Indiana Pacers - Quincy Miller

Talent wins out here. They can gamble.

27. Miami Heat - Fab Melo

Heat get lucky with Melo slipping.

28. Oklahoma City Thunder - Arnett Moultrie

Moultrie can provide what they havent had since Jeff Green left.

29. Chicago Bulls - Tyshawn Taylor

They need a ball handler bad, and Taylor will make a good back up PG once Rose comes back.

30. Golden State Warriors - Jeff Taylor

Best SF left. This pick could be traded.

Friday, June 22, 2012

6/22/2012 Mock Draft

1. New Orleans Hornets - Anthony Davis, F/C, Kentucky

The obvious pick. No chance of anything else happening here. Davis is on a whole other tier than the rest of the prospects. Hornets cant make it official until draft night due to NBA unwritten rules.

2. Charlotte Bobcats - Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas

I think there are two options the Bobcats are now considering. Robinson or Barnes. Jordan has given approval of Barnes, but despite popular belief, the Cats havent selected a UNC player since Jordan has owned the team. Jordan took over after the May/Felton picks. Robinson is the better prospect and gives the Bobcats something to potentially call a strength sooner rather than later - their interior defense and rebounding. Hes a nice fit with Biyombo and would be my selection.

I have a feeling Barnes could be the pick here, though. Even if he does, it doesnt screw up much of my top 5. Barnes and Robinson would just swap places with T-Rob going to the Kings.

3. Washington Wizards - Bradley Beal, SG, Florida

This pick Im pretty sure on. Beal fills in their weakest position and is the best player on the board. His shooting will compliment Wall. They desperately need a skilled wing player and Beal brings that. The Wizards owner is focusing on high character players so thats another plus. With the Ariza deal, the Wizards have too many defensive SFs on their roster already to take MKG. Remember, they took Singleton and Vesely last year.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers - Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky

Lots think Barnes, citing his friendship with Irving. Well, Irving and MKG went to high school together in New Jersey and would be a nice pair themselves. The Cavs two big draft indicators are analytics and character and MKG grades out better than Barnes in both of those situations. In fact, they dont make Barnes look very good at all. MKG was impressive in his workout for the Cavs and I honestly think Waiters or Drummond could be bigger competition than Barnes here.

5. Sacramento Kings - Harrison Barnes, G/F, North Carolina

While the Kings could pray for MKG, Barnes is the guy who slips to them. Hes pretty much their only choice here as Drummond has been ruled out (too much of a project on a team with plenty) and Lillard and Waiters are too much of what they already have. This would be a decent situation for Barnes (well as good as playing for the Kings could be) as he can fill a role as a shooter. The only problem is he probably wont like playing in Sactown. He had already canceled his workout with them.

6. Portland Trailblazers - Damian Lillard, G, Weber State

Trailblazers have the #11 pick too so that plays a bit of a factor here. Its looking like Lillard wont be around there so if they want him, hes got to be had here. Word is, Portland really likes him and could look big with their second first rounder. The Blazers brought in a sports psychologist to interview prospects this year so I think that could have eliminated Drummond. Dion Waiters has an outside shot here.

7. Golden State Warriors - Andre Drummond, C, Connecticut

Size and defense for the Warriors. Theyve been stressing that, and they get it here with the draft's first player to slip. The took a project in Jeremy Tyler last year, so I dont think theyll be worried about Drummond much here. They were rumored to be interested in Tyler Zeller here and Drummond slipping makes this a much easier pick. Hes on a whole other tier. Waiters and Ross are options should they choose to go with backcourt help.

8. Toronto Raptors - Dion Waiters, G, Syracuse

I think the Raptors really like where they are sitting. Waiters, Lamb, Rivers, and Lillard have all been rumored to have Colangelo's eye. With Lillard gone and Lamb falling off, I think this is Waiters spot. I actually think this could be Waiters' floor to be honest. He has a lot of interest up top, starting with #4. Rivers could go here if Waiters is not on the board.

9. Detroit Pistons - John Henson, F, North Carolina

Pistons are building around Greg Monroe, so they need to get an athletic defender to play beside him inside. Henson has been the favorite all along and guys like Moultrie havent gained enough momentum to become serious threats. Henson is the pick here.

10. New Orleans Hornets - Austin Rivers, G, Duke

This is rumored to be where the promise to Rivers came from. Promises can be broken, though, and New Orleans has some other choices to consider here. Kendall Marshall, Moe Harkless, and Tyler Zeller are all said to be targets for this team. Personally, Id love to see Sullinger paired with Davis, but that looks unrealistic right now.

11. Portland Trailblazers - Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois

The Trailblazers most likely will look for a big here after taking Lillard at number 6. Ive heard they like Leonard over Zeller so thats the pick here. Lillard and Leonard would be the Blazers idea of playing it safe to make sure they get two targets they like. I doubt Sullinger is a possibility after the Blazers have witnessed first hand TWICE of what pre-draft medical red flags can cause.

12. Milwaukee Bucks - Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina

Bucks really like Henson and it sounds like they think he can turn into a center. Theyve been interested in trading up and I think either him or Drummond would be their target. If they stay here, I still except them to go big. Zeller fits the Bucks mold and can provide depth. Perry Jones would have been an option had he not played his way out of a spot. He still has one final workout for the Bucks against Terrence Jones tomorrow to redeem himself. Right now though, Terrence Jones is the runner up here.

13. Phoenix Suns - Terrence Ross, SG, Washington

Suns are going to go with the best shooting guard on the board here. The want a defensive guy who can create his own shot and Ross fits the bill. Its a coinflip between him and Jeremy Lamb here.

14. Houston Rockets - Royce White, F, Iowa State

Tough call here. I decided between Terrence Jones, Kendall Marshall, Jared Sullinger, and Quincy Miller. Not many experienced players here that fit what Houston likes, but they really do need to take a risk on potential. White has the stats and is smarter and older than what his classification of a sophomore suggests. Hes got the numbers and character that Houston likes, but also provides the upside.

15. Philadelphia 76ers - Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State

Its hard to pinpoint what exactly the 76ers will target, but with Doug Collins running the team, I think they need to draft smart and coachable players that can deal with this critical style. Sullinger and Marshall would be good fits, while Perry Jones could crumble under the criticism. If Sullinger needs surgery, 76ers still have Brand signed for another year. The following year, Sullinger will be ready to take over for Brand.

16. Houston Rockets - Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina

I dont see the Rockets keeping both picks and I wouldnt be surprised if they traded both. Marshall is BPA and can help a lot of teams, including Houston if they keep the pick. This is mainly a BPA pick for whomever is drafting here next week.

17. Dallas Mavericks - Evan Fournier, G/F, International

The Mavs will be operating under the assumption that they will have D-Will and Dirk to build their next championship team around. Donnie Nelson is certainly not afraid of foreign players, so I could see him reaching a bit for Fournier. A center like Melo or Nicholson is possible, but just as much of a reach.

18. Minnesota Timberwolves - Jeremy Lamb, G/F, Connecticut

This would be a beautiful situation for the Wolves and a no-brainer pick. They are hoping at least one of the top SGs is available here. Terrence Ross is the other guy I could see being available at this spot. The rest all have lottery floors.

19. Orlando Magic - Moe Harkless, F, St. Johns

The Magic are a mess. They could swing for the fences with Wroten or Teague, or they could just get someone in there that can make them more watchable next year. Harkless is a bit of the best of both worlds, he'll be ready to help a team win before either of the young PGs.

20. Denver Nuggets - Quincy Miller, F, Baylor

In this case, Id actually listen to your PGs opinion (Lawson) and draft who he says. Miller would be great value here and the Nuggets have been stealing players late the past few years. Doron Lamb is someone else I think could help the Nuggets, by taking some pressure off of Andre Miller. He simply had too much on his plate in the playoffs.

21. Boston Celtics - Perry Jones, F, Baylor

Jones has slipped far enough that hes a very nice risk here. If Boston takes him, Id really hope they bring back Garnett back. As a basketball fan, itd be nice to see Jones' potential maxed out and Garnett could definitely show him how to play the game by example. Royce White might be their target here, but in this draft, they will have to move up to get him. Personally, I think they should keep both of their picks unless they fall in love with one player. There isnt a lot of separation in this draft.

22. Boston Celtics - Marquis Teague, PG, Kentucky

Ainge likes talent and the talent is there in Teague. The Celtics have been without a backup point guard for awhile, trying to solve the problem with names like Marbury and Nate Robinson. They can get a solution to the problem in this draft and perhaps even a starter.

23. Atlanta Hawks - Fab Melo, C, Syracuse

Hawks are another team hoping Royce White falls, but thats a pipe dream at this point. Theyve got Boston in front of them. Rick Sund has an obsession with centers and they just happen to be in the market for one. Melo has some intriguing potential that will definitely catch their eye. I could also see them taking a versatile forward. Draymond Green, Moultrie, Crowder, and Nicholson are some other names.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers - Doron Lamb, G, Kentucky

Kentucky could end up with another UK player if they take Lamb here. Id love this pick and it fits their style. Hes got good character and graded out well in John Hollinger's number cruncher. With Irving as the playmaker, MKG as the slasher and hustle guy, Lamb could be the shooter and secondary defender. Thats an exciting backcourt trio.

25. Memphis Grizzlies - Tony Wroten, G, Washington

Ive heard about their interest in some of the local talent - Jenkins, Taylor, Barton, and Lamb. They are definitely looking backcourt. I think Wroten offers plenty of intrigue since he can start down the road and the Grizzlies need to eventually trade one of their current starters to save money. Conley could be the weakest link. A Wroten/Selby backcourt is very risky, but they could potentially do a solid job of complimenting each other. Selby can play the 2 since Wroten has the height to switch and defend SGs while playing PG on offense. Selby is the shooter while Wroten is the playmaker.

26. Indiana Pacers - Jeff Taylor, G/F, Vanderbilt

Pacers look for another solid role player here and another college senior. Taylor is an excellent defender and can defend both wing spots. Tyshawn Taylor is another option here.

27. Miami Heat - Festus Ezeli, C, Vanderbilt

Chalmers proved he can step up in the Finals so the Heats biggest need is at center. Ezeli isnt great, but hes a big body who can play smart and hit his FTs. Riley likes guys with prototypical size and skills with a knack for defending.

28. Oklahoma City Thunder - Andrew Nicholson, F/C, St Bonaventure

Thunder might sell this pick, but either way, Nicholson should be off the board at this spot. Draymond Green is another option if the Thunder choose to keep the selection.

29. Chicago Bulls - Tyshawn Taylor, G, Kansas

The Bulls are going to desperately need a ball handler. Taylor is experienced and can step in for Rosoe and make some plays scoring and passing. When Rose comes back, they can use his defense and energy off the bench. Bulls always have a soft spot for winners and the last defensive Kansas guard who played in the Final Four had plenty of solid years for them.

30. Golden State Warriors - Will Barton, SF, Memphis

Barton is an interesting prospect. Hes got the size, numbers, and skills to be a player. Hes young and has that Baltimore toughness to his game. Hes still learning how to win, but hes a decent investment in the late first early second. The Warriors still need a SF after taking Drummond at #7. Darius Miller and Jae Crowder are other potential targets if the draft plays out this way.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Why Austin Rivers to Toronto Makes Sense

Rivers has been rumored to have a promise somewhere in the lottery. The prime candidates are Portland, Phoenix, and Toronto - all needing a scoring wing that can handle the ball. The curveball is there is another combo guard that is also rumored to have a lottery promise - Dion Waiters.

Now, Im not sure how great the chances are that BOTH these promises hold up, but there is certainly interests in these players between these three teams. And the team that has the most control is Toronto, picking ahead of Phoenix and Portland's 2nd lottery pick at #8.

I really like to take a look back at drafting history when trying to figure out what a general manager is doing. Some of it can be coincidence, but with guys like Colangelo and Stefanski running the front office, there is plenty of history to look at.

Rivers was a highly touted high school player, the #1 player in fact, and came into Duke with high expectations. His situation at Duke may not have been ideal - playing with a system coach who didnt fully let him do everything he wanted and alongside other talented combo guards without a true PG. By the end of the season, Rivers saw his stock drop out of the lottery after originally being thought of as a potentially top 5 pick.

Personally, I dont think his stock ever wavered that much amongst scouts. I dont think many saw him as a top5 pick then, nor do I think many scouts imagined him ever slipping out of the top 20. So here we are weeks before the draft and the media hype around him has worked his way up to a late lottery pick again...where he probably has been all along.

His great success in high school and a somewhat disappointing college career is where the Raptors Front Office comes in.

As the Raptors GM, Colangelo has gambled on Ed Davis and Demar DeRozan recently. As the head man for the Suns, he was rarely allowed to keep draft picks, but one of the few high picks he kept, was Amare Stoudemire.

What do these guys have in common? All were top 10 high school players. All were thought to be top 5 talents at one point. All had struggles between high school and the draft that knocked them down a bit.

For Davis, he had a chance to go top 5 his freshman year, but chose to come back. His next year was plagued by injuries and ultimately his stock suffered. He was still the same player as before and a smart GM like Colangelo never changed his opinion on him.

With DeRozan, he was heralded as the next big thing coming out of high school. Much talk surrounded him of being one and done and then going #1 in the draft. However, he was stuck in a bad situation at USC that really made him look bad. His stock dropped, but again, he was still the same player. Bryan (Colangelo) jumped all over him again.

Amare never went to high school, but teams had plenty of concerns about his attitude which sent one of the most talented players in the draft to tenth overall. Colangelo could never pass up such an immense talent as Amare.

Thats a decent sample size, but I wouldnt draw conclusion from that. Colangelo hasnt had many other high picks that hes kept . The few other ones were used on international players - also with very high upsides and young. There are no international players worthy of a top ten pick this year so lets continue to look at Americans.

Colangelo's right hand man in the front office is now Ed Stefanski. You might remember him from his time spend running the 76ers. In that time he selected Jrue Holiday and Marreese Speights as his only first rounders besides the slam dunk pick that was Evan Turner.

Holiday is the poster boy for what I'm talking about here. Top 5 talent heading into college. His season playing out of position next to Darren Collison had folks doubting he would even be drafted in the first round. 76ers stole him outside the lottery and have began to see the benefits.

Speights is a bit of an outlier here, as he was never projected to go top 5, but even out of high school he had the tools to develop into an NBA player and kind of got lost in the shuffle on the bench at Florida. Stefanski rolled the dice on his potential out of high school and has seen mixed results so far. They could have selected Koufos or Donte Greene here and would have also fit the mold, but there weren't many other options in 2008 that fit in their draft range.

So, back to Austin Rivers. I already typed a similar paragraph about him that would easily fit with the guys above. It also makes sense from a personnel standpoint.

The Raptors have Calderon at point, who could even be amnestied, but even if he isnt, they need a more aggressive guard that can handle to pair with him. Jose is one of the most vanilla PGs, so Rivers would fit great beside him.

The two main pieces the Raptors are building around are DeRozan and Valanciunas. Val might be the best building block (including Rivers), but hes not a big scorer. Val can make up for some of Rivers' deficiencies while Rivers can be the star scorer. DeRozan is ok, but he has proven to be more of a complimentary wing. He's a slasher, while Rivers would compliment him with shooting and ball handling. He'd also go well with Dwane Casey, who can cover for his defensive shortcomings.

While Rivers might be best suited for the bench, the Raptors really need an alpha dog type to come in there and change the locker room. Colangelo is in his last year of his contract and Rivers will show plenty year one to give ownership hope. And you know that Bryan has no problem with offense first players.

Colangelo normally zeroes in on his guys pretty quickly for the draft and I think there is a good chance he has already found his man. And based off of what Rivers has said, he wants to go there too (an NBA player that wants to go to Toronto!)

“I have kept up with teams that fit me and the Raptors are one of those places and that’s why I’m here,” Rivers said. “I think I fit in this program well. I like the way they play. I like the new coach, I like how he gets after it on defence. As far as offensively, they like to get up and down and go at them and that’s something I like to do.” Toronto Sun

“This is one of the places he likes a lot too,” Austin said of his dad, Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “There are only a few of them that we chose and my dad is even more of a critic. He likes this place and he loves their coach and so do I. Hopefully everything goes well.” Toronto Sun

The Lance Thomas Equation

****UPDATE: I drafted this write-up awhile back in December, but never published it. It turns out that another Dukie, Miles Plumlee might fit this category better than any of the guys I discussed. At the time, I didnt see him as much of a prospect, and still dont really, but he fits the mold and has a good shot to be drafted now. He only lost 6 games in his high school career and was right around the 100th best recruit in the nation. Not exactly the elite pre-requisites I looked for in the other guys, but he followed up high school with a NCAA career that certainly fits the bill.****

Seeing Lance Thomas on the Hornets preseason roster, and getting legit minutes, took me by surprise. Here is a guy that looked completely incapable of any offensive game at Duke and was pretty underwhelming from a physical standpoint. Still, a year later, here he was competing against NBA players. He's in the D-League now and putting up solid numbers with a solid chance of getting a call up at some point.

The appeal with Thomas is that he possesses many qualities that many teams look for in role players. Not the role players that get 20 minutes a game, but the role players at the very end of the bench getting their only run in practice. For those spots, teams have been known to settle for lesser talented players - guys who won't care if they get minutes, play hard in practice pushing the other players, and display good character. Towel waving classes are welcomed.

With Lance Thomas, you get a guy who will do the dirty work. He already proved that at Duke, and even as far back as his high school days at St. Benedict's Prep. He has always been on talented, winning teams and has always contributed in anyway possible. In High School, his team was one of the best in the nation, and he was a big time presence down low while also doing the small things to win. He wasn't the only great player on his team so he was fine making his adjustment to a role player at Duke.

He obviously has some talent, though, as there was a reason he was ranked in the top 25 in his recruiting class. He didn't bust in the sense of many top prospects - those who lack the understanding of the game, play selfishly, can't adapt to the team setting, etc. He just accepted a role on a great college team and it resulted in winning a championship his senior season.

I wanted to look for more players potentially like Thomas - guys who were highly regarded out of high school and then went on to have a solid, but unspectacular career on a great college team. Guys who are going to be in the draft either this year or next, who could sneak up on some people who have soured on them after never living up to their potential. Guys who have won at every level and do the little things that count. Preferably, Im looking for guys with a chance of making a bigger impact than Thomas - after all, I wouldnt argue that Lance Thomas should have been drafted - he shouldnt have. But there are some players out there with a similar background to Thomas that might warrant a draft pick.

First player that I found was Alex Oriakhi of UConn. He's a little more highly regarded than others on this list, but his stock is dimming now with not much of a chance of resurrection. He probably gets drafted, but I think he has a good shot at making a NBA team when he declares.

Like Thomas, Oriakhi played on a very good high school team, teammates with Jamaal Coombs-McDaniels, another UConn recruit. He won a National Championship last year at UConn as the starting center, but now has been miscast next to Andre Drummond. Oriakhi has high character, rebounds well, and is a solid defensive anchor like all UConn big men before him. His offensive game isn't polished, but is an efficient finisher at the rim. His 7'3 wingspan gives him respectable size for the NBA game. He should be a definite draft pick.

Next guy went from St. Patrick in New Jersey, a rival of St. Benedict's, to North Carolina, staying congruent on the opposite side of Lance Thomas. Dexter Strickland has been receiving solid minutes at UNC since stepping onto campus as one of the top 25 recruits in the country. However, he has played a complementary role the whole time, with no signs of it changing when he goes into his senior year next season. Still, he's a starter on one of the best teams in the country, providing great defense of team's top guards and displaying incredible speed and athleticism in the open court. As a guard, he's shooting over 50% this year from the field, mainly off easy buckets. His efficient play, lack of ego, and elite athleticism have helped him draw interest from scouting services as a potential NBA player. He's got his flaws, mainly shooting, but he could potentially be another Iman Shumpert type.

Delvon Roe would have been a good candidate this year had it not been for the unfortunate knee injuries. Then again, those knee injuries were a big part in why he didn't perform as well as he could have at Michigan State.

Ryan Kelly doesn't have the defensive and rebounding ability of a role playing power forward, but he fits the bill as a smart, efficient player. He's improved a lot in college, putting on weight, and his work ethic is promising for the future.