Wednesday, June 25, 2014

NBA Mock Draft

With the NBA Draft just over 24 hours away, here’s my projected first round pick-by-pick.

1.)    Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins (Kansas)- It’s either Wiggins or Jabari Parker here but I think they go with Wiggins for a few reasons.  Wiggins gives the Cavs an elite wing defender and in a league where there are a lot of star wings having one who can defend a lot them is ideal.  If Cleveland is serious about bringing LeBron James back, I think the fit with Wiggins is a little bit better than Parker who I think excels in the NBA as an isolation scorer.  Finally, I think Cleveland could get a significant haul for Wiggins’ rights from the Sixers, a team that has been all in on Wiggins for quite a while.  However, Utah is all in on Parker and so if Parker’s the guy here for Cleveland I wouldn’t rule out a trade involving Parker’s rights either.

2.)    Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker (Duke)- This is an easy one.  Milwaukee was 28th in the NBA in points per game this season and Parker gives them instant scoring.   Parker will be the favorite to win rookie of the year next season.

3.)    Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid (Kansas)- All of the injury news surrounding Embiid makes this pick a tough one for the Sixers who many thought would end up with Parker or Wiggins with this pick since all signs indicated Embiid would go first to Cleveland.  I think Cleveland tries to take advantage of the Embiid news and if he’s still their guy, they’ll draft someone else’s guy and then trade with that team to get Embiid and also get some more in return as opposed to just drafting Embiid first overall.  So I can see a Philadelphia-Cleveland trade in the works but if not, I think the Sixers take the chance on Embiid.  They waited a year on Nerlens Noel and the potential for Embiid might be too much to pass up on.

4.)    Orlando Magic: Dante Exum (Australia)- The Magic have been linked to Exum in several mock drafts and could definitely use a point guard.  Noah Vonleh is a real possibility here but I think if the Sixers pass on Exum, I don’t think Orlando does the same.

5.)    Utah Jazz: Noah Vonleh (Indiana)- Tough spot here for Utah as they were hoping for Parker all year.  But I think Vonleh is the pick here. Vonleh gives the Jazz a versatile big who can stretch the floor and perhaps would go well with Derrick Favors in the front court.

6.)    Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State)- There are a variety of different directions the Celtics can go here.  Aaron Gordon and Julius Randle are possibilities and if Embiid slips then he’s likely the pick, but I think Smart at six is the best value Boston can get.  A lot of this depends on how committed they are to moving Rajon Rondo.  Whether or not they move forward with him remains to be seen.  They could move him, use Smart as their point guard and look to acquire more picks.  Maybe they keep him and Smart plays alongside Rondo in the backcourt.  Maybe the Celtics use this pick to try and get Kevin Love.  I think if they make the pick, it’s Smart.

7.)    Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle (Kentucky)- Another team that has been rumored to possibly move their lottery pick however I think they keep pick seven and take Randle, the second-most NBA ready player in this draft behind Parker.  Pau Gasol is headed for free agency so a big makes sense and the Lakers seemed very high on Randle after his workout and don’t appear to be too concerned over a foot injury he has lingering into the draft.

8.)    Sacramento Kings: Aaron Gordon (Arizona)- The Kings have been actively shopping this pick and are probably the team in the top 10 that’s most likely to trade out.  They’re interested in acquiring Josh Smith from Detroit.   Smith is a good defender and athletic.  That’s the kind of skill set Gordon brings to the table.  In no way is that a comparison as Smith is much more polished offensively but if the Kings are looking for defense and athleticism, Gordon’s their guy if they make a pick here.

9.)    Charlotte Hornets: Gary Harris (Michigan State)- Charlotte could use a wing with their point guard and center solidified with Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson leading the team to a playoff berth this season.  Harris is a good combination of shooting and defense and is just a very sound two-way player overall.  Doug McDermott is in play here as Charlotte could use a sharpshooter but I see Harris having a better NBA career and believe Charlotte thinks the same.

10.) Philadelphia 76ers: Nik Stauskas (Michigan)- Whoever the Sixers come away with after their first pick, there’s no denying they need a shooter.  But Stauskas is more than just a specialist.  Shooting is his best attribute but he also possesses a good handle and ability to get to the hoop and score as well.

11.) Denver Nuggets: James Young (Kentucky)- The Nuggets had a lot of athletic players on their roster this past season in Anthony Randolph, Kenneth Faired, JaVale McGee, and JJ Hickson.  They need a wing player.  So why not draft an athletic wing who can shoot.  Adding Young to their athletic core with Ty Lawson as their control man makes the Nuggets an exciting team.

12.) Orlando Magic: Doug McDermott (Creighton)- If the Magic aren’t able to land Exum at four I think Elfrid Payton is the choice here.  However, if they do get Exum, they need a shooter.  While Victor Oladipo shot close to 33 percent from three-point land in his rookie season, he’s not the spot-up shooter McDermott is.  Exum’s jumper is quite the work in progress and so a backcourt with Exum and Oladipo making plays could use a shooter on the wing to dish to especially with Aaron Afflalo in trade rumors.

13.) Minnesota Timberwolves: Adrien Payne (Michigan State)- Regardless of when or if Kevin Love is traded, it’s becoming more and more evident that Love will not be around long term in Minnesota.  So I think Minnesota has to go with a big here.  International prospects Jusuf Nurkic and Dario Saric could be in play here but I think Payne is the guy Minnesota would be most comfortable with.

14.) Phoenix Suns: Rodney Hood (Duke)- Goran Dragic had a great year for Phoenix playing with Eric Bledsoe in the backcourt.  While Hood is listed at 6’9’’ he’s only slightly above 200 pounds and may be looked at as a two guard.  The Suns are high on Hood and may not have Bledsoe in their future plans as Bledsoe is set to be a restricted free agent.  Hood gives the Suns the frame of a true wing which is what they need.

15.) Atlanta Hawks: Elfrid Payton (Louisiana Lafayette)- There have been some reports that the Hawks are going to shop Jeff Teague over the summer.  With their frontcourt solidified with Paul Millsap and Al Horford, they could go with a wing here. But if Payton is available at 15 he’s likely the best player available and I think the Hawks grab him and maybe look to add a wing in a trade involving Teague’s departure.

16.) Chicago Bulls: PJ Hairston (NBA D-League)- Chicago could use a shooter.  Hairston gives them one with deep range and can also finish around and above the rim.  Great size for a shooting guard at 6’5’’230 and seems like the right pick for a Chicago team that may make a run at LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony this offseason to play small forward.

17.) Boston Celtics: Dario Saric (Croatia)- A rebuilding team like the Celtics can afford to wait on Saric, who has made it clear he’s going to play a few more seasons in Europe before coming to the Association.  Because of that, I think Danny Ainge doesn’t pass on Saric who was projected in the lottery before his announcement that he’d stay in Europe a few more years.

18.) Phoenix Suns: Zach Lavine (UCLA)- If he’s still available at 18, I think Lavine is the highest player on most teams boards here and I don’t think Phoenix passes.  A 48-win team can add some depth and slowly begin to implement a shooter and great leaper like Lavine into their rotation with hopes of him reaching the potential many scouts believe is through the roof.

19.) Chicago Bulls: Jusuf Nurkic (Bosnia)- Rumors have the Bulls prepared to amnesty Carlos Boozer to free up some space to try and sign James or Anthony in free agency.  If that’s the case, then the Bulls could use a big at a cheaper price and Nurkic fits that description.

20.) Toronto Raptors: Tyler Ennis (Syracuse)- A point guard makes sense here for the Raptors with Kyle Lowry headed for free agency.  Ennis is not on the same level of Smart, Payton, or Lavine but I think the Raptors will take the chance at this point and go with the Canadian native in Ennis.

21.) Oklahoma City Thunder: Kyle Anderson( UCLA)- Anderson draws lots of comparisons to Boris Diaw and the Thunder just fell to the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals in six games and may want to add this kind of forward that can facilitate especially considering Russell Westbrook isn’t your prototypical facilitating point guard.

22.) Memphis Grizzlies: Cleanthony Early (Wichita State)- Zach Randolph may be headed for free agency but it’s hard to imagine him anywhere else next season.  Assuming Randolph returns, the Grizzlies will look for a wing and Early seems to be a good fit.

23.) Utah Jazz: TJ Warren (NC State)- Assuming they go with Vonleh at five, then I think Warren makes sense here.  Having drafted Trey Burke last year, adding a wing to go with Gordon Hayward seems logical.

24.) Charlotte Hornets: KJ McDaniels (Clemson)- If they go with Harris at nine then I think Charlotte could use another wing.  McDaniels is extremely athletic and a good defender.  Offensively he’s coming along.  Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has not given Charlotte the kind of production they would like from a number two overall pick so maybe McDaniels can steal some minutes in the rotation.

25.) Houston Rockets: Shabazz Napier (Connecticut)-  Napier seems to have gained momentum on a lot of boards and could go higher than this.  There are a lot of good point guards in the NBA and I think teams that need one feel more comfortable drafting younger point guards.  There’s been a lot of speculation surrounding Jeremy Lin’s future in Houston and I think the Rockets would be happy with Napier falling to them.

26.) Miami Heat: Clint Capela (Switzerland)- The Heat definitely need help in the frontcourt and I think Capela provides that.  At 6’11’’ 222 he’s a bit of a tweener as teams can use him as a center or a power forward.  One thing’s for sure, Capela has major bounce above the rim and can be a really good shot-blocker.  I think this could be a late-round steal.

27.) Phoenix Suns: Mitch McGary (Michigan)- Having gone Hood and Lavine earlier in the draft, I think here’s where the Suns look for a big to give them bench depth.  McGary appears to be healthy and this late-first round area should be where he falls.

28.) Los Angeles Clippers: Jerami Grant (Syracuse)- The Clippers are in need of an athletic wing.  I think they’d like to get McDaniels here but aren’t going to move up to grab him.  Grant has slipped out of mid-first projections due largely to his lack of a jump shot.  But Grant fits the bill if the Clippers decide to go with the athletic wing they could use.

29.) Oklahoma City Thunder: Walter Tavares (Spain)- Quite the presence defensively as a shot blocker and rebounder standing at 7’3’’.  The Thunder could use somebody else like this besides Serge Ibaka and Tavares is that bigger body.  He could be a good find here and turn into a nice defensive piece off the bench for Oklahoma City.

30.) San Antonio Spurs: Jarnell Stokes (Tennessee)- Stokes can give the Spurs some physicality as a banger off the bench.  As a bruising kind of power forward he seems like the guy San Antonio could use and perhaps spell Tim Duncan with.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

2014 NBA Draft Analysis, Projections, and Big Board

Analysis and Projections
Point Guards
1.)    Dante Exum- Australia: Athletic, quick, slashes to the basket relentlessly, good finisher around the rim.  Biggest weakness would be his need to develop a more consistent jump shot.  Sounds like Russell Westbrook right? Difference is Exum is three inches taller. If a team with a decent point guard takes him merely because he’s the best player available and decides to use him more as a combo guard then the improved jump shot becomes even more important.  But he’ll reach his ceiling if he can make plays in the NBA as a true point guard.  Top-five pick.

                                                                         Associated Press
Marcus Smart does a lot things well and could become
a reliable NBA starting point guard down the road.
2.)    Marcus Smart- Oklahoma State: Lot to like about this guy. Does a lot of things well.  To name a few, penetrates and finishes, rebounds well for a guard, active hands in passing lanes make him a great defender.  Just a great college basketball player. Needs to be in the right situation to translate to the NBA. At 225 he’s bigger than lots of NBA point guards, but at 6’4’’ he’s undersized for a two guard and his perimeter game isn’t good enough.  However his wide range of skills makes him a lottery pick and he could wind up being a solid NBA starting point guard.

3.)    Tyler Ennis- Syracuse: Ennis lacks an elite scoring prowess and perimeter jumper and while he sees the floor well and makes others around him better I don’t think there’s anything he’ll do on a basketball court that makes people say wow.  He’s steady,consistent, and doesn’t turn it over which you like for a point guard.  I think he’s Andre Miller.  Miller and Ennis are both 6’2’’ and ironically Miller was picked 8th in the 1999 NBA Draft and many are projecting Ennis to be a lottery pick.  Given his court vision and passing are his best assets and he prides himself on making others better since he’ll likely be a lottery pick there may not be a ton of talent on the team he gets drafted by and I think it’s important for Ennis to be surrounded by talent.  We’ll see, but there’s some bust potential here.

4.)    Zach Lavine- UCLA: Like the size here for a point guard.  Maybe turns into more of a combo guard in the NBA.  Good leaper and uses a good first-step on drives to get the hoop.  But I think he could have used some more seasoning at UCLA.  Only played 24 minutes a game as a Bruin so the team that drafts Lavine is banking on lots of upside.  Not the best passer either so that’s a bit scary for teams looking at his as a point guard.  But due to the upside, lottery to mid first.  Proceed with caution.

5.)    Elfrid Payton- Louisiana Lafayette: Could be a first-round steal.  Gets lots of steals on the defensive end and is quick and a good passer on offense.  Jumper needs work and needs to add weight but if he were at a bigger school he’d be projected higher than mid-first round.  Jrue Holiday went mid-first to the Sixers in 2009 and became an All Star.  Payton will be a nice pick for teams in the 15-23 range.

6.)    Shabazz Napier- UConn: Turns 23 in July so hurts his stock.  No one questions the toughness and mental makeup and he’s a solid two-way player with good shooting range and is a great rebounder for his 6’0’’ height.  However, his lacks elite athleticism, can play selfish at times, and is small.  Late first rounder. Backup point guard.

                                                             Getty Images
There was a lot of hype around Andrew Wiggins coming out
of high school, and whether or not you believe he lived up to it
he has lots of potential at the next level as an NBA wing player.
     1.)    Andrew Wiggins- Kansas: The athleticism is off the charts, the defense is exceptional, and the potential is through the roof.  Needs to bulk up and polish his offensive game and become more aggressive because he’s at his best offensively when he attacks the basket and doesn’t passively chill on the perimeter and watch.  But Wiggins has the most potential out of any prospect in the draft.  Reminds me of Paul George with his athleticism and defense. Definite top-five pick

                                                                           USA Today Sports
Parker was also very much hyped coming out of high school
and shouldn't be one to shy away from the spotlight as the
draft's most NBA ready player and Rookie of the Year favorite.

2.)    Jabari Parker- Duke: Listed at 6’8’’ 241, Parker could be used as power forward in the NBA.  Whether he’s plays small or power forward, one thing’s for sure, Parker is the most NBA-ready player in this draft.  He can score from anywhere on the court and could be used as an effective isolation player.  So versatile offensively.  His defense will likely need to improve but if Parker lands on a team in dire need of offense he’ll fill it up.  If you’re looking for someone to come in right away and help an NBA franchise Parker’s your guy.  Likely the favorite for rookie of the year next season and has scoring title potential long term. Definite top-five pick.

3.)    Gary Harris- Michigan State: Love him. Harris may be the best two-way player in the draft.  Offensively he’s a great attacker and penetrator, makes a lot of athletic finishes around the rim, has a solid midrange game, and handles the ball well and he’s a sound defender that does his job. Overall he’s a very high-motor player who’s always in attack mode and playing hard.  I’d like to see him expand his jump shot out to the three-point line and he might be a little undersized for a two guard at 6’4’’.  But there’s a lot to like here.  Lottery pick.

4.)    Doug McDermott- Creighton: Amazing college career.  High IQ player.  McDermott has unlimited range behind the three-point line.  Scored out of the post a lot in college too.  So there’s lots of offensive versatility here.  He lacks the athleticism that other lottery picks posses and probably needs to put on some muscle.  But his sharpshooting and his IQ make him a lottery pick.  Tough to say how he pans out in the pros, he’ll have to prove he can defend players who may be bigger, stronger, and more athletic than he can and that comes back to his IQ.

5.)    Nik Stauskas- Michigan: I go back and forth here but I’m starting to believe. Much like McDermott, Stauskas can shoot the lights out of an arena.  He has a quick release and can also handle and play the point if need be which isn’t something McDermott is capable of.  He’s a bit of a stick though at 6’6’’, 190 and not that athletic either.  But his ability to shoot the basketball will make him a lottery pick and he could be very solid two guard in the NBA.

6.)    James Young- Kentucky: While he looked very average at Kentucky at times, I like this guy.  I think he could pretty good in the NBA.  Young is the definition of streaky shooter.   But unlike Stauskas and McDermoot, Young is very athletic and can score penetrating and above the rim (cue the National Championship dunk).  He three-point shot is developing and his basketball IQ stinks but when he’s on he’s can fill it up.  So essentially he’s JR Smith.  I could see him going above McDermott and Stauskas it really just depends on if a team has confidence in him to consistently hit threes because if he can he can be a shooting guard or a small forward. I’d take him with a lottery pick but he may not be one.  Won’t get past 16-17 range.

7.)    PJ Hairston- NBA D-League Texas Legends: Goes to the D-League after an indefinite suspension at UNC.  Good physical makeup and build at 6’5’’ 220 for a two guard.  Nice range from the three-point line, can finish around the rim, but his in between midrange game is suspect.  Maybe an improved handle would help as well, didn’t really play with the ball in his hands a ton at UNC before heading to the D-League.  Mid-late first rounder but could develop into a starter.

8.)    Rodney Hood- Duke: Good player that was overshadowed at Duke by Jabari Parker.  Love the size here at 6’9’’ for a shooting guard.  Hood posses above average athleticism and can shoot well from the perimeter.  His midrange game is decent as well so there’s a lot to like about his offensive repertoire.  He checks out at times on defense which is something he’ll need to stop doing in the NBA but I’m thinking mid-to-late first round here and if that’s the case, great value.

9.)    Jerami Grant- Syracuse: Long, athletic, good mid-range shooter.  I see Grant excelling in the open floor where he can showcase the athleticism.  Lots of defensive potential with a 7’3’’ wingspan.  Maybe a bit of a tweener at 6’8’’ but I’ll leave that to the team he’s drafted by to figure out how to implement his length and athleticism into their rotation.  His offensive versatility is lacking which could limit how far he can go in the NBA.  He’ll go mid-to-late first nonetheless.

10.) Cleanthony Early- Wichita State: This man just looks like an NBA wing player at 6’7’’ 219.  Fantastic finisher and athletic ability allows him to play above the rim.  Developing jumper which is improving.  His defense both on the perimeter and in the post against bigger wings needs work but I love the value here mid-to-late first.

11.) Kyle Anderson- UCLA: I think Anderson is one of the more undervalued players in this draft.  He’s projected to go in the late-first but I like him.  Anderson defines point-forward as his 6’9’’ height blended with his superior court vision and comfort on the perimeter make him a threat as a shooter, passer, and penetrator.  His wingspan and reach make him an active defender and he also uses his size to be an effective rebounder.  He isn’t as athletic or quick as some other draft prospects and the fit could be difficult given he’s such a unique player that really needs a team to cater things around him, but I love the late-first value here.

12.) KJ McDaniels- Clemson: Yet another athletic freak.  Great lateral quickness on defense which gives him the ability to guard multiple positions.  He can block shots which at 6’6’’ really stands out.  The fit is important for McDaniels though.  He’s caught in between the two and the three and his jump shot needs work.  So if he’s on a team that has shooters already and already has one established wing, then he could be a nice fit and a good find in the mid-to-late first.

13.) TJ Warren- NC State: Instinctual scorer.  Good frame for an NBA wing player and is comfortable scoring inside and outside.  Hot and cold three-point shooter but no doubt capable.  Also a solid rebounder for a wing as Warren averaged over seven rebounds a game at NC State.  He has good instincts on defense as well which result from his quick hands in passing lanes.  He doesn’t have the athleticism others in this draft do but he’s very good offensively and he’s penchant for getting to good areas on the floor to score from is why he’ll go mid-first.

14.) Glenn Robinson III- Michigan: Explosive leaper.  Fantastic length.  Another big-time athlete in this draft class.  Loves to play above the rim.  Decent shooting touch, just a very smooth offensive player.  So why isn’t he going higher than late-first or maybe early-second? Motor is a problem as he can check out at times.  Also is caught in between the shooting guard/small forward positions and at 211, I think some NBA scouts and GMs would like to see him add weight.

                                                                                   Getty Images
A back injury is the big question surrounding Joel Embiid,
but it may not stop Cleveland from selecting him first overall.
1.)    Joel Embiid- Kansas: The back problems could scare some NBA teams away but there’s a reason this man was viewed as the first overall pick in February.  Superstar seven footers are hard to come by in today’s NBA and the team that drafts Embiid may have one.  With a 7’5’’ wingspan to help him, Embiid is a fantastic shot blocker.  He handles the ball very well for a seven footer, his midrange game is decent, and his athletic ability for his frame is good.  A healthy Embiid is a scary Embiid and has a superstar ceiling.  Will go top-five for sure and there’s a chance he goes first.                                         

2.)    Julius Randle- Kentucky: Next to Parker, Randle is the most NBA-ready player in this draft.  His finishing ability is great.   Love the motor, plays the game so hard.  Fantastic first-step quickness which helps him score as a face-up forward and can also get it done with his back to the basket using his strength and NBA body to bully his way to the hoop.  As a bruiser, Randle is a bit of a dying breed when it comes to NBA power forwards.  Nowadays you have lots of power forwards facing up shooting midrange jumpers and even guys like Kevin Love and Dirk Nowitzki shoot the three well.  There’s nothing wrong with that but Randle’s post proficiency and ability to bully opposing defenders makes his a prototype power forward.  While he is an elite rebounder, overall on defense, he’s a work in progress.  Showed flashes in the NCAA tournament of defensive improvement but his short arms are a hindrance to how far he can go as a defender against NBA bigs.  He’s drawn lots of Zach Randolph comparisons.  Accurate for the most part but his handle for a grown man is very good.  If Randle can hone the midrange jumper like most power forwards have, including Randolph, then he can be even better.  Randle enters the draft with a broken right foot which could hurt his stock.  Nonetheless, he’s a walking double-double.  Top-ten pick.

                                                Getty Images
Noah Vonleh has loads of upside. His
all-around game mirrors that of Chris Bosh or
LaMarcus Aldridge if you're looking for a comparison.
3.)    Noah Vonleh- Indiana: Like this guy.  He’s a fantastic rebounder, he’s long and athletic, and has a 7’4’’ wingspan.  He can stretch the floor and shoot jump shots (16-for-33 from the three-point line this year) as a power forward which makes him versatile.  Maybe a little raw but once he uses his length, size, and athletic ability to develop his game both offensively and defensively could be like a Chris Bosh kind of player in the NBA.  A GM that has his choice between Randle and Vonleh has a tough decision to make and I would totally understand if Vonleh went ahead of Randle.  Top-10 pick.

4.)    Aaron Gordon- Arizona: I believe Gordon is the second most athletic player in this draft behind Wiggins.   Shades of Blake Griffin when Griffin was coming out of Oklahoma.  But I’m not sure Gordon will ever be as good as Griffin.  There’s a lot to like here but there are some red flags too.  I’ll be nice and say his jump shot is ugly.  His free-throw percentage was in the 40s this year, and his post game is nonexistent.  He’s athletic and he’s a good defender so he’ll go top 10.  But another Arizona power forward who fit this description was Derrick Williams who went second overall in 2011 and looks like a bust.  I’m not totally writing off Gordon but if I’m a GM and I want a power forward, I’m much more comfortable with Randle and Vonleh than I am Gordon.

5.)    Dario Saric- Croatia: He’s 6’10’’ and a point forward.  Fantastic ball handler and court vision for a power forward.  He isn’t super athletic but uses his high basketball IQ to make plays on both sides of the ball.  Can knock down the three but needs to do so on at a more consistent rate if he's going to shoot from beyond the arc in the NBA.  Needs more of an inside presence as well to really be an effective power forward.  A likely lottery pick but unsure how he’ll pan out and utilize his skills in the NBA.

6.)    Adrien Payne- Michigan State: Stretch four just like Vonleh as Payne has a nice perimeter game.  Also like Vonleh Payne is a good rebounder who posses good length, quickness, and athleticism.  But Payne’s 23 which hurts his draft stock.  Also it took Payne some time at Michigan State to get the level he is now where he’s viewed as a first rounder.  So teams may see that and be scared off of someone who may be more of a project and is 23 already.  But I love the value here in the mid-late first round especially if he ends up on a playoff team looking for bench depth who can ease him in.

7.)    Clint Capela- Switzerland: Another guy with a good frame.  Capela has a 7’5’’ wingspan and at 6’10’’ once he bulks up could be used as a center if his team wants to go small.  The athleticism is there and he’s a big that can really run the floor and get up and down in transition and finish above the rim.  He’s not fundamentally sound on defense but he’s a decent shot block nonetheless.  Fantastic rebounder as well.  The jump shot isn’t quite there, post game is a work in progress, and needs to add strength which makes him a bit of tweener.  But this again is good value mid-late first and he’s someone I can definitely see being a solid NBA starting power forward.

8.)    Jusuf Nurkic- Croatia: He’ll go in the first round merely because he’s a seven footer who’s strong and plays in the paint but I don’t see him ever panning out.  There are more and more elite athletes in the NBA nowadays and Nurkic will never be one of them as he’s someone that lacks athleticism and also has conditioning problems.  The team that picks him ought to use him in a limited role.

9.)    Kristaps Porzingis- Lativa: Nice athleticism for a big man.  In addition to his athleticism he’s also versatile on both ends for a big man with a nice perimeter shooting touch and can guard multiple positions on defense and block shots.  This said, Porzingis lacks toughness and I see him getting beat up by NBA bigs.  He struggles in the post defending and offensively as a back-to-the-basket big and for someone his size I’m not sure if he can make a living in the NBA relying on jump shots.  He’ll get drafted too highly due to the athleticism and shooting touch but he isn’t the prototypical NBA big and lacking those fundamentals will haunt him.

10.) Jarnell Stokes-Tennessee: Strong, powerful big, despite at 6’8.5’’ being a little undersized for the power forward position.  Very adept at absorbing contact inside and finishing.  Love the physicality he brings as he’s able to position himself in the low post and score.  He’s also an exceptional rebounder and shot blocker.  But GMs and scouts love to look at the measurables and for a power forward they just aren’t helping Stokes.  He’s not big enough to really be an elite four in the NBA and struggles to defend length.  Late-first to early second round pick.

 Big Board
This is how I feel these NBA prospects will pan out in the NBA.  The order I did my projections in has no correlation on the big board.
1.)    Andrew Wiggins- Kansas
2.)    Jabari Parker- Duke
3.)    Joel Embiid- Kansas
4.)    Julius Randle- Kentucky
5.)    Noah Vonleh- Indiana
6.)    Marcus Smart- Oklahoma State
7.)    Dante Exum- Australia
8.)    Gary Harris- Michigan State
9.)    Nik Stauskas- Michigan
10.) Aaron Gordon- Arizona
11.) James Young- Kentucky
12.) Doug McDermott- Creighton
13.) Adrien Payne- Michigan State
14.) Cleanthony Early- Wichita State
15.) Rodney Hood- Duke
16.) PJ Hairston- NBA D-League
17.) Elfrid Payton- Louisiana Lafayette
18.) Jerami Grant- Syracuse
19.) Kyle Anderson- UCLA
20.) Zach Lavine- UCLA
21.) KJ Mcdaniels- Clemson
22.) TJ Warren- NC State
23.) Tyler Ennis- Syracuse
24.) Clint Capela- Switzerland
25.) Dario Saric- Croatia
26.) Kristaps Porzingis- Latvia
27.) Jarnell Stokes- Tennessee
28.) Shabazz Napier- Connecticut
29.) Jusuf Nurkic- Bosnia
30.) Glenn Robinson III- Michigan


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

2014 Stanley Cup Final Preview

It’s been a long and arduous journey to the Stanley Cup Final for both the New York Rangers and the Los Angeles Kings.  The Rangers went seven games in the first round against the Philadelphia Flyers, seven more in the second round against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it took six for them to clinch their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 20 years in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Montreal Canadiens.  The Kings went the distance in all three of their Western Conference series against the Sharks, Ducks, and Blackhawks respectively.  So it’s only fitting that the marathons for both teams culminates with a series against each other for Lord Stanley’s Cup.

                                  Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Jonathan Quick poses with the 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy.
  He has more help offensively this time around.
Forwards: Until 2012, the Kings were always plagued by lack of goal scoring.  Without lots of offensive depth there wasn’t much help for Jonathan Quick between the pipes.  While the Kings did win the Cup two years ago, offensively they’re much improved now.  Los Angeles leads all playoff teams in goals a game with about 3.5 and they’ve really needed improved goal scoring to get to this point considering the teams they played in the Western Conference playoffs all have capable forwards as well.  The addition of Marian Gaborik, emergence of “That 70s Line” with Jeff Carter, Tanner Pearson, and Tyler Toffoli , to go with established forwards like Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Justin Williams, and Mike Richards gives LA lots of reliable options up front.  Kopitar, Carter, Gaborik, and Williams are all in the top five in points for the playoffs.  It’s not the same for the Rangers when it comes to scoring goals.  Only six of their 20 playoff games have the Rangers scored more than three goals and one of those was a 7-4 loss to Montreal in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals.  Martin St. Louis had a nice series against Montreal but they’ll need some consistent offense from other top forwards like Brad Richards and Rick Nash as well as some secondary scoring from guys like Derek Stepan, Benoit Pouliot, and Derek Brassard. But LA, is without question filled with some more offensive depth.

Advantage: Kings

                                                                          Getty Images  
Ryan McDonagh is the leader on a defensive
           that has been phenomenal for the Rangers.                
Defense: Drew Doughty has played close to 28 minutes a game for LA in the playoffs.  Alec Martinez had the game-winning goal in the seventh game against Chicago in the Western Conference Final.   Jake Muzzin and Slava Voynov have stepped up throughout the playoffs adding depth to a back end that Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell have been solidifying the last couple of years.  However, defense and the Rangers are synonymous.  I feel that it’s almost an indictment on John Tortorella is see the Rangers in the Stanley Cup Final, where he could never get to, playing a similar defense first block lots of shots style of hockey.  Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, and Mark Staal lead the way on the Rangers blue line but the Rangers are so good defensively not necessarily because of personnel but their style of hockey is very defensive-minded which is part of the reason they’re second in average goals against in the playoffs at 2.25.  Doughty’s better than any
defenseman on the Rangers, but everyone buys in to playing defense for New York.

Advantage: Rangers

                                                           Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
The 2012 Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist will have to
carry the Rangers in the Stanley Cup Final if they're going to win.
Goaltending: The two best goalies in the National Hockey League.  Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick.  Lundqvist has been magnificent, with the exception of Game Five against Montreal, in the playoffs.  
Statiscally Lundqvist’s numbers have been better in the playoffs but I wouldn’t read into that too much.  Los Angeles faced three teams that can really score in their three series in the Western Conference and as I mentioned previously defensively, the Rangers are a better hockey team.  Quick carried that Kings team in 2012 to the Cup.  In 2012, the Kings weren’t as polished of an overall hockey team as they are now, which explains why the Kings were eighth in the West, and so they had to rely on Quick more.  Just because I believe this group for LA is better than the 2012 team doesn’t mean that Quick has gotten any worse.  It’s obvious Lundqvist is the primary reason the Rangers are where they are, but Quick’s equally as capable.

Advantage: Even

                                                             Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Drew Doughty's offensive prowess for a defenseman makes him a
great power play point man as LA's power play has been clicking.
Special Teams: The LA power play has been firing on all cylinders in the playoffs as they’re converting at above a 25% rate and went six-for-19 in the Western Conference Final.  As I mentioned earlier the improved scoring of LA, plus quarterback like Drew Doughty on the blue line goes a long way for a power play.  The Rangers power play has not been nearly as efficient in the playoffs as they’ve been successful only about 13% of the time and they went into a serious drought on the power play towards the end of their series against the Flyers and into their series against Pittsburgh which was a big reason they got down 3-1 against the Penguins because they struggled to score a man up.  Though that defense first style of the Rangers makes it no surprise they have the second best penalty kill in the playoffs having successfully killed off about 86% of the penalties they’ve taken.  While LA’s penalty kill has been good, it’s not up to par with the Rangers.

Advantage: Even

Coaching: Darryl Sutter has done a great job in Los Angeles.  He took over midseason in 2011-2012 and we know by now the Kings won their first Stanley Cup in franchise history that season.  The Kings appeared in the Western Conference Finals last season and are now back in the Stanley Cup Final.  Sutter has been able to get the Kings to that next level from just another playoff team to serious contender.  The jury is out on Alain Vigneault and playoff success.  He never had much of it in Montreal in the late 90s, failed numerous times in Vancouver and the one time he reached the Stanley Cup Final before as a coach his Canucks were thoroughly outplayed in a seventh game at home by the Boston Bruins.  He’s done great in New York in his first season, but can he finish the job?

Advantage: Kings

Prediction: The Rangers did catch a few breaks en route to the Stanley Cup Final.  The Flyers were without Steve Mason for the first three games of the first round, which the Rangers won two of.  Montreal lost Carey Price early on in the Eastern Conference Final.  The Kings went through three grueling seven game series and went through the defending champions in the Western Conference Final to get here.  I believe the Kings and the Blackhawks are the NHL’s best two teams.  The games in this series will be close because of how good the Rangers are defensively and how good Henrik Lundqvist is.  But I don’t see enough offense for the Rangers to win the cup.  Kings in 5.