Thursday, May 22, 2008

2008 Mock Draft a.k.a. Where 2% matters....

The Miami Heat may have been hoping for the number one overall pick last night as the ping pong balls jumbled around. Dwyane Wade, their superstar, represented the team as they made their selection, hoping to get the same kind of luck he brought South Beach when they drafted him number five in 2003.

However, it was the "Baby Bulls" potentially getting first crack at the top college performers when they landed the first pick despite just a 1.7 percent chance of doing so.
That unlikely twist actually could end up benefiting both teams.

The Chicago Bulls have lacked a low post scorer since...well ever (Ok Elton Brand before 2001). Michael Beasley has the potential to bring the kind of inside rebounding and scoring presence they desperately need to go with that wing heavy roster. Chris Duhon is a free agent and Kirk Heinrich was inconsistent last year, a big reason the Bulls struggled. Derrick Rose, a Chicago product, will be tempting, but ultimately Beasley just seems to make too much sense to pass up.

The Heat, might actually be in a better position to upgrade their team despite having the second overall pick. Much like Seattle last year simply had to take the "other" guy, the Heat will gladly take Derrick Rose second as he is actually the player they would likely have taken with the first overall pick.

If the Bulls do take Rose first, the Heat will be able to package their pick, perhaps with Shawn Marion, and get a veteran low post scorer (Pat Riley REALLY wants Elton Brand and the Clippers believe he will leave if he does not opt out of his contract this offseason).
Despite their obvious struggles last season, a healthy Wade and either Rose or low post scorer X will be exciting if nothing else.

Keeping Flash and Shawn Marion while getting Rose could be the ideal scenario for next season and could make the Heat dangerous to once again challenge for the division.
For the rest of the teams in the draft, much still must be decided. With pre-draft camps, workouts, and interviews, we must take a wait and see approach. If the draft were to happen tomorrow, here is what it may look like:

1.) Chicago Bulls - Michael Beasley F Kansas State
Bulls must add toughness inside and Beasley's scoring will only make the "Baby Bulls" more dangerous.

Rose will certainly draw consideration, but ultimately Jim Paxon will likely decide Beasley is a considerable upgrade over Drew Gooden and Tyrus Thomas. Beasley makes the most sense, but as we know, the NBA rarely does.

Rose seems to be the sexy pick, but Beasley will absolutely dominate pre-draft workouts and make Tyrus Thomas, Joakim Noah, and Drew Gooden look like Mark Madsen.

Player comparison: Carmello Anthony

2.) Miami Heat - Derrick Rose PG Memphis

Anyone brave enough to watch the Miami Heat last season saw their offense was in disarray most of the time. Players stood around and watched a hobbled Flash go one on five. When he did pass the ball, his teammates couldn't make shots.

Rose would join his fellow Chicagoian Wade in the backcourt and create one of the most dynamic guard combos in the league. If it looks like Rose is the #1 pick, expect Pat Riley to be on the horn, trying to move this pick, particularly to L.A. (Nothing Riles does suprises me)

Player Comparison: Jason Kidd

3.) Minnesota Timberwolves - Brook Lopez C Stanford

While Lopez may not be the third best player in this year's draft, he will be a better fit with the T-Wolves than a guard like Jerryd Bayless or OJ Mayo.

Al Jefferson quietly put in one of the best seasons in the league down low (Fantasy Stud!!), but he gets little too no help inside. Lopez would bring strength on the block as well as a feathery touch (See the turnaround jumper to beat Marquette in the Tourney).

Jerryd Bayless could work too, but he is too much a shoot first point guard, and they already have two of those.

Player Comparison: Um..... (any suggestions)

4.) Seattle SuperSonics (Or whatever they're gonna be called) - OJ Mayo SG USC

The Sonics don't have a true point guard. This is true, but Jerryd Bayless is not a true point guard either.

Jeff Green can play point forward and Luke Ridnour, when healthy, has proven to be adequate (Plus how hard can it be? Pass the ball to Kevin Durant. Let him shoot. Repeat).

Mayo has unlimited capabilities as a scorer, but might be the best perimeter defender at the shooting guard position in this class. Mayo would take pressure off of Durant by spreading the defense.

I like Mayo over Bayless in this spot, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Bayless taken.
Player Comparision: reminds me a little bit of Kobe Bryant and/or D-Wade.

5.) Memphis Grizzlies (Thank you so much for Pau) - Anthony Randolph PF LSU

This now puts Memphis in a difficult position. They would really like to see Lopez fall after trading away Pau Gasol to my beloved L.A. Lakers (Did I already say Thank You Memphis?).

The Grizzlies have a glut of point guards which means Jerryd Bayless makes little too no sense here.

Randolph will add tremendous length alongside Rudy Gay and if he can get stronger, has the type of explosive athleticism to be a solid rebounder and shot blocker. He won't be Gasol anytime soon, but with talent on the perimeter, the Grizzlies must look to add low post fire power.
Player Comparison: Rudy Gay and Tayshaun Prince

6.) New York Knicks - Jerryd Bayless PG Arizona

Another shoot first point guard for the New York Knicks? Well, not exactly, but Mike D'Antoni will need to get a point guard to groom for his system.

Bayless already has a smooth scoring ability and D'Antoni will have to hope he can teach him how to be unselfish and pick his spots like Steve Nash.

Bayless has a similar skill set to current Knick Stephon Marbury, but won't make that kind of money and has the attitude to be molded into a solid point guard in the NBA.

7.) Los Angeles Clippers (They'll have this pick for about 5 minutes)- Danilo Gallinari SF Italy

Corey Maggette could opt out of his deal and Quinton Ross is a restricted free agent.

Gallinari has the body and the passing skills that would make Toni Kukoc proud, although he is not the long-range shooter Kukoc was.

He can convert oops as well as he can throw them and his feel for the game at only 19 gives him outstanding upside.

The Clippers continue to rebuild and with injury issues lingering for Shaun Livingston, Russell Westbrook or D.J. Augustine could be options here as well.

8.) Milwaukee Bucks - (Sleeper for R.O.Y.) Eric Gordon SG Indiana

New GM John Hammonds will have to decide what direction this Milwaukee team will be headed in. With Bogut, Villanueva, and Yi inside, the Bucks could look to build around their interior players.

Additionally, their most valuable trade chip is Michael Redd (Rumored to be heading to Lebron .. er the Cavs) and with all the money they just paid to Mo Williams and Charlie Bell, it might be time to trade the face of their franchise.

Eric Gordon has the kind of fantastic outside touch and possesses a better dribble drive game than Redd. If the Bucks can find a willing trade partner, Gordon and whoever they can get for Redd could make them tough much sooner than trying to simply build around Redd.

9.) Charlotte Bobcats - Kevin Love PF UCLA

Kevin Love reminds me a ton of Anthony Mason, only without the attitude (Great if we are talking about the Knicks' Mason, but not the Bucks).

The Bobcats have Gerald Wallace and Emeka Okafor in their front court and Love would create easy buckets for those guys with his cerebral ability to find his teammates.

There are two point guards and maybe a center ahead of Love, but the Bobcats have depth at point guard. If they don't think they can keep Emeka Okafor, DeAndre Jordan makes sense, but Larry Brown would rather have a guy who can help right away.

10.) New Jersey Nets - DeAndre Jordan C Texas A&M

After trading Jason Kidd, this Nets team did flirt with a playoff birth, but they are clearly rebuilding and should do so around Devin Harris and Richard Jefferson.

Now we're hearing Carmelo Anthony could be on his way to New Jersey with Marcus Camby for Richard Jefferson and Marcus Williams, but I can't believe the Nuggets would trade one of the top ten players in the league for so little.

Nenad Krstic has been hurt and was never strong inside. They could lose DeSagna Diop and Stromile Swift to free agency and will have very little inside.

Jordan has the body of Dwight Howard, but no where near the polish. With the best players on the board point guards, Jordan makes the most sense for a franchise needing a low post presence.

11.) Indian Pacers - D.J. Augustine (My personal choice for sleeper R.O.Y.) PG Texas

Jamaal Tinsley has been nothing but problems since he came to the Pacers. Jermaine O'Neal's days appear to be numbered in Indiana and D.J. Augustine could pick up guys like Danny Granger and help turn them into premier players.

He can create his own shot by getting to the rim and can get white hot from deep. He can run a pro offense and has passing abilities to distribute the ball. Augustine would be a steal for the Pacers and an ideal fit here at 11.

12.) Sacramento Kings - Russel Westbrook PG UCLA

I am not as sold on Westbrook as others seem to be, but the Kings really need a floor leader since trading Mike Bibby and Wesbtrook fits the bill.

He can come off the bench early on and play solid defense. He can straight handle the rock and get to the rim.

Reggie Theus ought to know how to coach guards and with scorers like Kevin Martin already in place, he will not have to carry the offensive load. Augustine would be better because of his experience, but he probably won't fall this far.

13.) Portland Trail Blazers - Joe Alexander F West Virginia

Players like Donte Green and Darrell Arthur could be good fits, both with huge upside, but ultimately the toughness and versatility of Alexander should win out.

Alexander reminds me of a Dirk Nowitzki only with a backbone and some mental toughness. He can handle the ball, really pass, and will take the big shot. He could be a valuable contributor off the bench for the Blazers next year.

There are some talented bigs available here, but with Aldridge in place and Oden coming back (presumably), Alexander or Greene make the most sense here.

14.) Golden State Warriors - Darrell Arthur PF Kansas

The Warriors will love Arthur's versatility, able to play the three or the four at 6'10''. He has tremendous feet and agility and can really score on the block out to 15 feet with his jumpshot.
He uses his length to block shots, although he is not exceedingly strong against bigger players inside.

Despite his age, he probably has more polish than Brandon Wright and expect him to compete for playing time, if not a starting role on this wing heavy team.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Playoff Predictions: Conference Finals

Commentary on Second Round action: Sweet. I got 4 out of 4 right in this round. Not too bad. Though I did get the number of games horribly wrong in the Boston vs Cleveland series. I thought that Boston would have finally been able to overcome their road woes. But how crazy would it be if Boston makes it to the Finals, or even wins an NBA Championship, without winning a road game? If Ray Allen had played better this series would have been over much quicker. Game 7 was a classic. Paul Pierce vs Lebron James has been one of the highlights of this year's playoffs. I don't see Cleveland making the NBA Finals again unless they overhaul their roster; and in a good way. Trading for Ben Wallace and Wally World was not the answer. Lebron James is a one-man wrecking crew. It reminds me earlier Kobe or T-Mac teams. I'm surprised how easily Detriot beat Orlando, given the injury to Chauncey Billups. But that goes to show you the importance of defense and experience. Orlando needs a true PG or PF in order to compete in the East. Prince's block on Turkoglu was reminiscent of his earlier block against Reggie Miller. Clutch!

The Lakers beat the Jazz in 6 games, just like I predicted. Utah could not win one on the road. Speaking of road struggles, how bonkers is it that the home team has a 22-3 record in the semi-finals round. That just shows you the importance of home court advantage and playing well in the regular season. If Boozer had played better in this series, who knows what would have happened. Deron Williams played brilliantly, but has been overshadowed by Paul this year. Utah is a few pieces short of being a contender. But you have to like their chances in the future though because they are a young team and have a great coach. They along with New Orleans are the future of the Western Conference. I'm not quite sold on Portland yet. What can I say about the Spurs. They stepped up their game and won a huge game 7 on the road. It was the first time they've come back from an 0-2 or a 2-3 deficit. It was even more impressive given their margin of defeat in the previous games in New Orleans. Manu and Parker played huge, and while Duncan did not put up huge stats, his passes out of double teams led to a lot of open 3's by their role players. Their window of opportunity has not closed quite yet. Chris Paul and David West will need more help in order to make a run at a championship and join elite company.

Predictions for the Conference Finals:

LA Lakers (1)

San Antonio Spurs (3)

It's a coin toss for me, but I think the defending champions will return to the NBA Finals (the first time that they've accomplished that goal in back-to-back years). These two teams have plenty of experience playing one another, and I think it will come down to defense and the play of their role players. Both teams are excellently coached; but I prefer the Spurs Big 3 over the Lakers, and I like their edge in experience (having played together for longer). If they fall down 0-2 in Los Angeles, they may not be able to recover from the hole however. So these first couple of games are crucial. Their short layover could be disastrous; as this is an old team that plays better with a lot of rest. I expect Duncan to have a huge series, if the Lakers elect to single-cover him. It will be harder to get their role players involved, however. Manu is always an X-factor for this team. On the Lakers side, Odom needs to stay aggressive and exploit the mismatches. No one on the Spurs can defend him. Kobe and Gasol will get theirs; but they will need to get their role players involved early and often to win. I know that everyone wants a Lakers vs Celtics Finals, but I'm going to go against the grain and pick the Spurs. How can you not root for the defending champions? --- Spurs in 7

Boston Celtics (1)

Detriot Pistons (2)

While Boston has struggled on the road throughout the first two series, I still like their chances to make it to the Finals. I predict they will finally win at least 1 road win. I think the difference maker will be Billups' health. If he comes back at full strength, I might have to switch my prediction. I'm not sure that Stuckey is ready to lead a team to the NBA Finals. On the flip side, Rondo is the X-factor in this series. But the key match-up will be KG vs Wallace. They are the heart and soul for their respective teams. Boston needs to get a better effort out of Ray Allen, also. Contrary to what many people are saying, I don't think that Detriot's bench is that much better than Boston's. Boston has Cassell, House, Allen, Posey, House, Davis, Powe. They've been pretty solid throughout the playoffs. Both teams play excellent defense, so I think it will come down to clutch plays by their superstars. And I like the Big 3 in Boston in this case. Pierce (against Prince) and Hamilton (against Allen) will need to play big for their respective teams. It should be an exciting, competitive series between these teams. --- Boston in 7

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Kobe gets MVP, and the win.

Where do I begin? Maybe with Kobe finally getting a well-deserved M.V.P. trophy? Or maybe with Charles Barkley's prediction that the Jazz would come out fired up, ready to spoil the M.V.P. celebration? Or possibly, if the Laker's would get some REBOUNDS this game???!!!!

I'll start with Sir Charles. Watching Inside the NBA a few nights ago, Barkely made the comment that when he won the Poldhoff award, he had a horrible game and they ended up losing as well, (Not really what a Laker fan wants to hear). Kenny Smith chirped in and also mentioned that when David Robinson won the award the year after Hakeem got it and they met in the playoffs, Robinson didn't mention the Dream in his acceptance speech, when speaking about all the great big men that had won the award before him. The Dream promptly went out and DESTROYED the Admiral in the series and told Smith: "I'm going to his house to get my trophy."
Now don't get me wrong, I don't think there were any M.V.P. candidates on the Jazz squad this year that would come out and give other-wordily performances, but with Deron Williams on the opposing team, along with Carlos Boozer who on Tuesday said he was going to: "Try and spoil the party on Wed", you kinda have to sweat a little bit. But I digress, on to the game.

The game started out exactly how I didn't want it too, with the Jazz coming out tough, playing aggressive and making shots and grabbing boards like you'd expect a Jerry Sloan coached team to do. Mister Andre "My wife let's me get a free pass every year" Kirilenko comes out and shows flashes of what made people waste a high fantasy league draft pick on him in years past, he hit's some jumpers, gets a few swats, and this game is close in the early going.

You can tell from the early going that D-fish and Pau know they are going to have to put buckets on the board early and often tonight to secure a 2-0 lead. I don't really mention Lamar Odom needing to contribute, because he's been the definition of consistent on both ends of the floor for the first six games of the Playoffs (Does anyone else besides me think he's feeling guilty about Bynum getting injured by landing on his foot?).

Utah is leading 13-12 in the first quarter, when the Kobe and Co decide to go on a 13-0 run, with the newly crowned M.V.P. scoring 6 of those 13 points. It is at this point that you realize why Utah sucks so bad away from Energy Solutions Arena. Seriously, aside from Williams, AK-47 and Milsap, no one else looks like they care less about the game at hand (However, 7 Utah players end up in double figures, odd). The Laker's are doing a great job of disrupting Utah's flow. Boozer, who has been channeling his inner Karl Malone with all his cheap shots has been getting whistled for pretty much every thing he does, thus limiting his output for yet another game. Laker's lead by 14 at the half 63-49 and you kinda get the feeling that the series is going back to Utah 2 games to none.

Fast forwarding a bit, the Lake show coasts in the 3rd quarter and it isn't until around the 6 minute mark in the 4th that the Jazz show some signs of life and whittle a double digit lead down to single digits. Seriously, if D-Will wasn't running the point for this team, it'd be real ugly folks. The "machine" Sasha Vujacic wets a couple of jumpers and the lead is back to double digits again. Fish hits a trifecta, and Kobe tops off the night with a sick dime to Gasol for the dunk. Game....OVER.

I'm not going to say this series is over, but Utah is going to have to get a win in the Staples center in order to win, and by the looks of the first two games, they'll need an M.V.P. performance of their own. And Utah fans, under any circumstances, DO NOT BOO DEREK FISHER!!!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Playoff Predictions: Second Round

Commentary on First Round action: So I got 6 out of 8 right; maybe 7 if you consider that I wrote Washington's win will be dependent on Arenas' health. And as we all know, Agent Zero played gimpy for a couple games before shutting it down. That's not too shabby. I correctly predicted that Detriot would take the 76ers too lightly, and lose a couple games to them. But I did not know that Boston would struggle so much against Atlanta. They clearly outplayed the Hawks in Boston, but really struggled on the road. You don't expect contenders to squeak out of the first round in 7 games against the #8 seed. But I think this will serve as motivation for them in bouncing their way to the Finals. Dwight Howard was a beast in a competitive first round series. His poor FT shooting could become a problem in latter rounds however. It's eerie how similar some of his stat lines are to Early Shaq, though. And they both played for the Orlando Magic.

On the West side, the Lakers trounced on the Nuggets in the only sweep in the first round. Melo put up some mediocre stat lines and is starting to look like the second coming of T-Mac. Is that 5 straight first round outs now? Mean while the Hornets are the feel good story of the playoffs. They surprise everyone by knocking out the Mavs. This young Hornets team is legit. Chris Paul was the MVP of the first round of the playoffs. And David West is showing everyone that his all star election was not a fluke. Josh Howard, who I thought would have a monster series, was garbage. I guess you can blame the marijuana for that. The Rockets showed heart in a lose to the Jazz. They just could not overcome the injury bug. Who knows what would have happened if Alston was healthy for the entire series. Props to the Spurs, who showed everyone why they are defending champions and why the regular season means nothing. They struggled against the Suns earlier in the year, but knock them out in 5 games. Game 1 was a classic. It looks like the Mavs and Suns are in a for a long summer.

Predictions for the Second Round:

LA Lakers (1)

Utah Jazz(4)

This could be the year that the Lakers finally break through and make it to the Finals. Kobe is playing at a high level and is coming off of his first MVP win. Gasol has given Kobe the side kick that he's been looking for since Shaq left town. The Lakers got plenty of rest after their first round sweep. And look to be fresh to start the series. Utah is horrible on the road, so I would not be surprised to see them drop both of the first games. After that, I don't think they'll be able to come back to win this series. The key for the Lakers will be stopping Deron Williams. On the flip side, Utah has no one that can guard Kobe. Gasol vs Okur will be an interesting match-up with their different playing styles. For me, Utah is one of those teams that falls just short of being an elite team. I don't expect them to challenge for a title unless they shake up their roster. It's disappointing to hear that Bynum will not return for the playoffs, but he probably wouldn't help the Lakers much anyways. Rarely will a player return from an injury at top form and be ready to contribute immediately. --- Lakers in 6

New Orleans Hornets (2)

San Antonio Spurs (3)

This is the most intriguing second round match-up. Will the young guns prevail over the old guards? I've learned from the first round to not underestimate the Hornets, but I'm still hesitant to write off the Spurs. Even though they've never won back-to-back titles, they just have a knack for winning. Chris Paul vs Parker will be an amazing match-up. San Antonio has a tendency to struggle offensively at times, so they will have to rely on their defense to win this series. They have to find a way to slow down Paul, who is the motor for this team. They can't expect their big 3 to carry them to win after win; they will need contributions from their bench. Who will provide them with that lift? Chandler and West will have their hands full guarding Duncan. If Duncan can get either of them into foul trouble, the Hornets lack of depth will be exposed. Ginobilli has an edge over either Peja over Peterson. But has struggled in the past against Bonzi Wells. It's a coin toss, but I'll pick the Spurs. But this might be the second time the Hornets prove me wrong. --- San Antonio in 7

Boston Celtics (1)

Cleveland Cavaliers (4)

I know that it's a bit of stretch to say that Boston will win this series in 5 games, but I'm really not impressed by this Cleveland team. They aren't getting any consistent effort from anyone not named Lebron or Zydrunas. And Boston is motivated to win this series after a poor showing in the first round. Cleveland cannot match the offensive firepower of Boston; and I think they'll have trouble stopping all 3 of Boston's stars. Rondo is super quick and could be a difference maker in this series. It'll be interesting to see how Boston handles Lebron, after they got torched by Joe Johnson last series. Tony Allen and James Posey might get extra minutes because of this. Cleveland could steal a couple games in this series if they can hit the outside shot consistently. Their shooters should get a ton of open looks with the Boston team collapsing on Lebron every time that he touches the ball. Gibson and Wally will need to step up. But I think Cleveland's Finals run last year was a fluke. --- Boston in 5

Detriot Pistons (2)

Orlando Magic (3)

Detriot matches up well against Orlando. Rasheed Wallace and Prince are their best defenders and they are matched up against Dwight Howard and Turkoglu. If they can slow down the two Orlando stars, this series could be over quickly. Rasheed is always a headcase, though, so it'll be interesting to see how he plays. Can he stop Dwight Howard, who has been a beast all playoffs long? Hamilton and Billups should have a huge edge in the backcourt. Nelson has played better than expected; but I'm not sure that he can keep it up. And SG continues to be a weakness for Orlando. An intriguing match-up will be Rashard Lewis vs Mickie-D/Maxiell. You have two completely different styles of play. We'll see which team will be able to exploit the match-up more efficiently. Orlando was able to hit a crapload of 3's in the Toronto series, but I don't think Detriot will have any of that. Defense wins titles, and Detriot has the edge there. Boston versus Detriot is destined for the next round. --- Detriot in 6