Thursday, May 22, 2014

Early Basketball Christmas 2014

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,

No… the real Basketball Christmas that I look so forward to isn’t here quite yet… but last night, the NBA held their Draft Lottery to determine who gets the first 14 picks of the draft… and I thought that I’d preemptively give some predictions. Now… I’ve said for many years that I think the whole lottery system to determine these picks is shady at best & conspiracies abound… and that certainly hasn’t helped with Cleveland winning three of the last four lotteries which so happened to correspond with their prodigal son LeBron James ditching them for championship runs in Miami… but I digress. Obviously my complaining isn’t going to change anything… and who knows, maybe God love Cleveland (highly unlikely) but… at least the Lakers & Celtics didn’t get the #1 pick. I would’ve shouted SHENANIGANS from the rooftops if that were the case… so I’ll give Cleveland a break… and just go with it.

So with that in mind, allow me to give you my predictions for the 2014 NBA Draft a month before it all goes down… and yes, I realize that by saying all of this… none of it is going to happen… but I’d still be okay with it. If I ran the NBA, this is how it would go down with the benefits of each team in mind… because I like good games & a level playing field… and the Spurs are going to win everything anyway.

1) Cleveland Cavaliers – Joel Embiid – Center from Kansas – For the 3rd time in 4 years, they will use the 1st pick on a player who had a slightly-above-average freshman year that ended in injury… has major flaws in their game… but they’re loaded with potential because they’re 19 years old. I saw this guy play briefly once while eating Thai food… and he seemed okay, so why is he the #1 pick in this scenario? Well… you can’t teach tall & he’s certainly that. He’s also a decent defender & can certainly bulk up a bit being a 19 year old from Cameroon. Basically with the write teaching & work ethic, he can either become a Hakeem Olajuwon - Dikembe Mutumbo type… or a Hasheem Thabeet - Mamadhou Ndiaye - Bismarck Biyombo type. Everybody on ESPN is speculating that LeBron may be interested in coming back now but… let’s be honest. I’m pretty sure that bridge was burned like the effigies of the Chosen One. Besides this guy could be an anchor on defense. He just needs to work on a few post moves to be a solid contributor on both ends.

2) Milwaukee Bucks – Andrew Wiggins – Guard/Forward from Kansas – Embiid’s teammate at Kansas is a highly-hyped, high-flying Canadian wingman & probably the only person that could take the Air Canada nickname from Vince Carter down the road. He had a fairly impressive freshman year after a slow start… and he’s been hyped as the 2nd coming of LeBron for over two years now… but I don’t think he’s going to take over the world just yet. He’s really good… but he’s 19. I see him as more of a Harrison Barnes kind of player at this point… but he can definitely bloom. My only concern with him going to Milwaukee in this scenario… is they already have a freakishly athletic fan favorite (Giannis Antetokounmpo or something Greek like that) and that’s… frankly about it. If I were Milwaukee’s new owners, I’d be shopping this pick for a proven asset. Kevin Love would be nice… but you’d only get a year out of him before he goes free agent (and he would if in Milwaukee). I’m thinking they could maybe trade down to Philly or Orlando to get two or three pieces that’ll help them in the future. Of course, if Wiggins is 70% of what he’s hyped to be then I’d sound like a f**king idiot but… I’m willing to play those odds.

3) Philadelphia 76ers – Jabari Parker – Forward from Duke – I really like this kid’s game. As far as ready to play in the NBA right now, I’d put my money on a guy with a year under Coach K than just about anybody else… but hey, that’s not how most think. There are very few “superstars” that come out of Duke… mainly great ball players who have lengthy careers as significant role players on playoff teams… and last I checked that doesn’t sell jerseys after the first two years. However, I think in the right situation, this guy could do it… again, he’s 19 & has serious skills on both ends… but we will see. With last year’s rookie of the year & Nerlens Noel returning from knee injury next year, the Sixers could make a major leap… or they could be poised for another run at the lottery next year with a super young trio of 20-year olds. Either way, at least they get three more years with them.

4) Orlando Magic – Noah Vonleh – Forward/Center from Indiana – Would you draft a 19 year old Chris Bosh with this pick? Because that’s basically how I see this guy. Sure, he has to work on his jumper & all that but… dead ringer in size, heck even face. I haven’t seen him play… but again, you can’t teach size & his stats are pretty damn good… and everybody seems to be really high on him… so that’s my prediction, that Orlando goes with him at #4 and then a point guard at #12 to help replace Jameer Nelson down the road. They have pretty good frontcourt play from Nikola Vucevic & Andrew Nicholson but you can’t have enough good bigs. They also used last year’s #2 on Victor Oladipo with hopes that he could be a point in the future, but he may just be an undersized two-guard like Dwyane Wade at best.

5) Utah Jazz – Julius Randle – Forward from Kentucky – Speaking of undersized, that seems to be the rap for this guy, that he’s an undersized power forward at 6’9” 234 pounds… which doesn’t sound too undersized to me. I’ve seen him play a few times… and I honestly think he’s the best player in the draft. There, I said it. He works hard for rebounds, has decent post moves (though I think he relies on that spinning, prancy hook shot in the lane too often) & plays decent defense in the post. As far as undersized goes, you know who else was undersized at 19 years old? PRETTY MUCH EVERYBODY!!! What I imagine… is he shows up day one… meets the legendary Jazz trainers who helped a young Karl Malone become a veritable Man among Boys… then God among Men from a physical standpoint, learns a few moves, maybe from Karl himself as an advisor… and he ends up being a perennial All-Star and future Hall of Famer… like other “undersized” guys like Charles Barkley, Dennis Rodman, Wes Unseld, or even Bill Russell. That may be lofty goals for this young kid… but if he can put in the work, that’s just how I see it going down. At the very least, I see this guy as a Kenneth Faried kind of player… and that’s not a bad “very least”.

6) Boston Celtics – Darco Saric – Forward from Croatia - They have Rajon Rondo for a point guard (and that’s about it) & most of the top players still on the board are that position… so I assume they are already looking to trade this for a proven asset… maybe include Rondo as part of a package deal to build around it (along with some of those crazy contracts for Humphries & Wallace). If that’s the case then I seem the taking Exum or Smart (more on them later) but if they absolutely HAVE to pick at #6… I see them going with this project for the future from Croatia who’s called a “Point 4” (tall guy who can dribble) but… the thing with the guys from Europe… it seems unless it’s Dirk Nowitzki or somebody the Spurs drafted… then they usually aren’t work a lottery pick. Look at the past results & you tell me… there’s far too many for me to elaborate on. Then again, there’s always Dirk… and frankly the Celtics need ANYTHING except a point guard right now… or a “Point 4”. They’d settle for just a standard “4” since they didn’t get a top 3 pick this year.

7) L.A. Lakers – Marcus Smart – Guard from Oklahoma State – I really like this guy’s game too. If I were the Lakers, I’d pick him over other guards available because he’s tough, plays hard, will be considered a steal at #7 since he was going to be the #2 pick last year, and isn’t as far of a reach as other possibilities… and he’s still only 20 years old. He’s about 6’4” and stout for a point guard… a BEAST if you will… and he had a few incidences this year with hitting dry spells (during injuries) and that fan altercation (even though he had it coming) but… he gets a good agent, Kobe gives him a few pointers for handling that mess, and the Lakers work out a deal to get Kevin Love into town via trade from Minnesota (it’s coming, my brother from another mother will go back to LA where he ruled UCLA for a year) then you will have a pretty formidable team with youth at the point & power forward, future Hall of Famers at the two & center, probably not MAJOR players but a LOT better than they’ve been. Again, that’s just how I see it in my crystal brain… er, ball. Besides, the NBA can always pull strings to make certain things happen for certain teams… hmm… wonder what Chris Paul has been up to lately…

8) Sacramento Kings – Dante Exum – Guard from Australia – Now, I know the Kings already have the 2nd coming of Isaiah Thomas at point guard… but that makes him tradable. I’m basing this pick on the best player available kind of thing… though, I’m always skeptical about point guards who dominated leagues that nobody has ever seen (i.e. Europe, Australia, China, basically anywhere outside North America… north of Texas). However, he’s tall for a guard, the highlight reels are good… and basically they already have young players at most of the other positions that are “in transition” so anything else would be depth… so yeah, I think they’d take Exum over Gordon & the rest of the field. Then again… figuring out the Kings has proven more difficult over the years.

9) Charlotte Hornets – Aaron Gordon – Forward from Arizona – That’s right… they’re no longer the Bobcats… they’re back to being the Hornets, now that New Orleans is the Pelicans. Everybody got that? Good. Now for this pick, Gordon is big, strong, athletic & seems to play VERY well when he plays well… and occasionally disappear into the background. That may be good coming off the bench to start… but hopefully he can flourish with the other young’uns on this team to make something good down the road. Starting lineup could be Kemba Walker – MKG – Gordon – McRoberts – Jefferson and a pretty good young bench including Zeller (last year’s top pick), Biyombo, CDR, Gary Neal, DJ White & others. There’s potential there. This pick was a nice steal from Detroit by the way… proving that God loves Cleveland… and hates Detroit.

10) Philadelphia 76ers – James Young – Guard/Forward from Kentucky – I liked this guy’s game too… and they could really use a good swingman now that point guard, center & whatever Jabari Parker will be is handled. Good all-around game. He doesn’t even necessarily have to be the starter as a rookie… he can be the sparkplug off the bench for Parker & whoever they’ll have as starting two-guard. That’s the thing with a young team… they’ve never played 82 games a year, they’re learning the team’s system, they’re learning about having money, no rush to get them out there Day One. Add a top free agent signing (or two), the Sixers may be in definite business again.

11) Denver Nuggets – Adriene Payne – Forward from Michigan State – I’ve like this guy for YEARS!!! The great run that he had in this year’s tournament only cemented his lottery status in my book. He’s got the size, post moves, big game experience, and tutelage under Coach Izzo to be a solid contributor from the start. There are lingering injury issues but… he’s kind of a solid player, ready to go in my book.

12) Orlando Magic – Tyler Ennis – Guard from Syracuse – After picking up Noah Vonleh with pick #4 for a solid big man, this is the pick where I expect the Magic to select their possible point guard of the future / successor to Jameer Nelson… and I’m guessing they’ll take Ennis over other possibilities like Zach LaVine (UCLA) or a guy I think will drop simply because of his size, but like Payne, I’ve liked for a while… Shabazz Napier of UConn. Regardless, Tyler Ennis has shown that he can lead a team fairly well with Syracuse’s deep run & long winning streak last year… and he’s 19 like just about everybody else so far… so yeah, the Magic could have a good, young, decent team.

13) Minnesota Timberwolves – Doug McDermott – Forward from Creighton – Again, I’ve liked this kid for a few years now… but he’s cursed with… let’s just say certain conditions that’ll make it so that he’s lucky to be a lottery pick, despite easily being the college player of the year last year… and among the top for three years… and it’s not just the fact that he’s 22 years old where everybody else in the draft is 19. He can score, he can rebound, he’s got a big body, not the fastest but fast enough… so yeah, I think the T’Wolves might get a bit of a steal here… and they’ll frankly need it when Kevin Love leaves town. Again, try to act surprised when Love becomes a Laker.

14) Phoenix Suns – Rodney Hood – Guard from Duke – He’s the big body kind of two-guard that teams are craving nowadays… he’s spent two years under Coach K… and if he can develop his 3-pointer to spread out Jeff Hornacek’s system in Phoenix, they could REALLY be the “how the hell did they do so good?” team again next year. Everybody had these guys as bottom three teams in the league at the start of last year… and Jeff Hornacek is so good a coach that he has the Utah Jazz looking to make John Stockton their next coach even though he had never even considered coaching his daughter’s high school team prior to last week… and he’ll probably get the job too. Anyway, I like Hood actually going earlier if there’s a good fit… but that’s just how it’s gone with my pics. I’d also keep an eye on somebody like Michigan’s Nik Stauskas as a deep threat for the Suns in this spot.

Anyway, in a month we can revisit this & see how poorly I did… I was just a little bored & I love basketball despite the nonsense of certain things concerning it. Mom arrives tonight & then I’ll be gone for a few weeks so… have a great few weeks everybody!!!

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