Thursday, June 26, 2008

NBA Draft '08 - The Winners and Losers

For about thirty minutes I thought that this year's draft had an off-shot at being normal. Teams were being logical with the exceptions of the best player not being picked first, the fourth best player not going in the top ten, and Michael Jordan sucking at his job. Overall, however, it was calm, serene, and understandable draft. Then teens came, and the deals started. By the end of the night, even the serenity of the top ten had been shattered by the ridiculous fleecing of Memphis by the Timberwolves (McHale finally figured out who is a worse GM than he is). So, with all of the Jay Bilas I can handle for the next year under my belt, it's time for an incredibly bouncy recap with freak athleticism, a 7'4'' wingspan, and remarkable potential. The good, the odd, the misunderstood, and, of course, the bad.


Minnesota - With the new report in that the Wolves fleeced NBA GM Punching Bag Chris Wallace in an eight-player swap after the conclusion of the draft, what was going to be a good ranking for the Grizzlies was essentially handed to Minny. The Wolves get the player that they wanted, Love, by taking the player with more value, Mayo. Then, in recognizing that Mayo had plenty of admirers, they managed to dump off their crappiest contract, Marko Jaric's atrocious deal with three years and $21 million left, in exchange for the slightly more palatable two years and $15 million of Brian Cardinal's deal (which basically turns into one year of Brian Cardinal and then Brian Cardinal's Expiring Contract), dumped Antoine Walker's and Greg Buckner's expiring deals, got value for them in Mike Miller, and then got ____ Collins' Expiring Contract. It was a risk to take Mayo and hope to not get stuck with him, but McHale pulled it off. Their second round is slightly discouraging, picking up some Serbian dude (whom I will not try to analyze due to the moral opposition to trusting scouts' takes on foreign guys). Did a solid job capitalizing on the free-fall of Mario Chalmers into the second round though, picking up two future second-rounders from Miami. Speaking of Miami though...

Miami - They did the right thing. Granted, if they dump Beasley now because they don't like his attitude, they'll be morons for doing so, and will immediately make everything I'm about to say completely invalid. However, if they keep the most talented player in the draft, and a guy who will be a star, Pat Riley's wavering stubbornness might be a godsend. Beasley's special. Like more than Kevin Durant special. Like making Dwayne Wade maybe have a teammate he likes again special. Like making Shawn Marion possibly think about a contract extension special. And by selling two future second-rounders to Minny for Mario Chalmers, they also got a point guard who can play some D to go alongside Wade and send Jason Williams back to... wherever it is that people like him come from (Mars? Venus? It's a mystery...). A starting lineup of Chalmers, Wade, Marion, Beasley, and Generic Defensive Center X can contend in the Eastern Conference.

L.A. Clippers - I know, I said that it would be nuts for the Clippers to draft Eric Gordon. You don't need to remind me. That said, I can't blame a team for picking the best player available at their particular pick. Gordon was the best player available at number 7. Perhaps grandpa Mobley can teach Gordon a few things about being an undersized scorer who can light it up from outside. I dono, it sounds mostly like it's just something you can do with ability, but maybe Mobley can be of some use... I'm being optimistic. As for the second round, I'm not sure if Jordan would be extremely motivated in L.A., but as far as talent goes, he's got plenty of it. It's a matter of when he wants to use it. Obviously, in hindsight, he should have gone back to TAMU and proven he wants to be a basketball player, but he's stuck with an unguaranteed contract, so it's shape up or get out of the league for him. And I don't think he wants to get out of the league, so this might shape him up. Clipperland still needs a point guard though. They'd better not think that it's Gordon, because that will ruin him.


New Jersey - Two picks make me want to give Rod Thorn a hi-five. One makes me wonder. The Brook Lopez pick is one that again, I love because Lopez was the best player available and fit a relative hole for the Nets considering that Nenad Krstic can never seem to stay healthy. Not that it was a hard pick to make, but overthinking it could have been disastrous. Their second-round stealing of Chris Douglas-Roberts was also rather remarkable, considering he could have gone in the first round without any complaints. However, I don't get Ryan Anderson at 20. They're basically drafting Bostjan Nachbar, a guy they have on their team. And although Nachbar is a free agent this summer, he's not going to have that big of a market and will likely not be racing to leave New Jersey after ending his journeyman ways upon his arrival in NJ. If the Nets are strictly looking to get a cheaper version of Nachbar with this pick, that seems like a totally illogical and terrible way to spend a first-round draft choice. These picks are supposed to build your team, not save you a few bucks on the same player.

San Antonio - It's hardly surprising to find San Antonio here, considering that they seem to draft completely differently than anybody in the league, but usually that means going international in some way. But George Hill at 26 (when he'd have probably been there at 45 - or perhaps 57)? And then they sell their second-round pick to the Suns for a future pick and some money. Riddle me this, why wouldn't the Spurs just trade the Suns their first-round pick, which the Suns had said they would have taken, for the money and future second-rounder, then take Hill at 45, where he would have still been available? What's the difference? The Spurs would have Hill at an unguaranteed contract. With this scenario, they have him on a guaranteed deal for three years. I'm not doubting that Hill is a decent player, because I tend to trust the Spurs, but unless they had some hot lead on someone wanting Hill (some thought the Raptors at 41... which would make sense with the T.J. Ford departure) before 45, it seems illogical to take him so far ahead of when he should have been taken.

Indiana - I'm a bit lost. They traded Jermaine O'Neal to the Raptors for T.J. Ford, Rasho "I'm Totally Useless" Nesterovic (henceforth known simply as ITU), and the 17th pick. The assumption is that with that 17th pick or their 11th pick, they'd pick up another point, or at least someone who could play point in case of Ford having injury troubles, to make sure that Jamaal Tinsley never has to be summoned from Dark Void of the Pacers bench again, and given Ford's aforementioned injury history. So they draft Jerryd Bayless at 11 after he slips. Good choice, he's a great talent and could start at the 2 alongside Ford, Dunleavy, Troy Murphy, and (*gulp*) ITU. So what do they do? They package Bayless along with Ike Diogu and ship him to Portland for Brandon Rush, Josh McRoberts, and Jarrett Jack. So you downgrade your swingman from Bayless (great) to Rush (in my opinion mediocre), just in order to pick up Jack as a backup point and swap useless forwards? Jack is your point guard answer? Could they have not just taken Chalmers at 17? Did they need to pick up a guy who averaged 10 points and 4 assists last year in 27 minutes (more than he'll get this year)? To top it off, with that 17th pick, they take a total stiff in Roy Hibbert who won't even be able to challence ITU for the starting center spot. This draft would have played out a lot better for the Pacers had they just stuck with Bayless and Chalmers... Why they liked the trio of Rush, Jack, and Hibbert more is beyond me. Oh yeah, to top it off, they picked an Australian guy in the second round. Because there have been so many successful Australian NBA players. Let me list them: N/A. Now let me list the crappy players from Australia: Chris Anstey, Andrew Bogut (of #1 pick bust lore), Mark Bradtke, Andrew Gaze, Shane Heal, Luc Longley, and Luke Schenscher. Anytime Luc Longley might go down as the best player from any particular list, that is not a good particular list to be on. Let's just move on...


Portland - Yes, Portland picked up Bayless. Yes, Portland had a lot of picks, made a bunch of moves, and threw around John Nash's money like Pacman Jones at a strip club the day after Roger Goodell's death. But... why? What are all of these players for? They had three second-round picks and traded them all away for... more future picks and cash. Of their two first-round picks, one got shopped away with one of those second-rounders to move up two spots and get Nicolas Batum, a French dude who you think might be a decent choice to stash in Europe for a while... Until you hear Kevin Pritchard say that he thinks Batum will sign with the Blazers this year. And then they get Bayless and Diogu from the Pacers for Jack, McRoberts, and Brandon Rush. I didn't like the deal for the Pacers, but I also don't like it for the Blazers. They're looking for a true point guard to play with their great scoring 2 guard combo of Brandon Roy and Martell Webster... and then trade the closest thing they had to a legitimate point guard, Jack, for a scoring 2 guard in Bayless. You're telling me they're going to depend on Rudy Fernandez, Sergio Rodriguez, and Steve Blake to handle the point guard position while Roy and Bayless try to share time at the 2? Or are they going to be one of those stupid teams that tries to take a gifted scoring 2 like Bayless and make him into a point guard? Because that simply will not work. Pritchard made a lot of moves but at the end of the day, when the dust finally settles, what did he really get accomplished? He left his biggest hole bigger than before, continued to stack players at his most stacked position, and continued to stockpile draft picks that he'll just end up turning into even more draft picks later on. Just a lot of white noise here, don't be too impressed.

Detroit - Now, many would think that the moves made by the Pistons, to trade their first round pick just three picks down and into the second round, and pick up another second round pick in the process, is totally and completely irrelevant. Really, the players they picked with their three second-rounders didn't matter too much. The fact of the matter is that the picks at the top of the second round are more valuable than the ones at the bottom of the first round, because they're the same caliber of player and come without guaranteed contracts. If the guy Detroit was looking at ends up panning out to be a flake in a year and a half, they can just cut his ass loose and not have to pay the guy another cent. Looking at the guys they picked up, the 32nd pick, Walter Sharpe, may turn out to be worth something. Aside from the awkward fact that he was diagnosed with Narcolepsy, he was pretty productive during his one season at UAB after transferring, and, while likely needing development, could become a solid player for the Pistons. Trent Plaisted at 46 is a stiff. Sorry, not much else to say. I have a hard time believing he'll make the roster. Same with Deron Washington at 59. Athletic, but out of control and totally ineffective on offense. Still, by being savvy, Joe Dumars saved himself from having to take on a financial responsibility to someone he may not have wanted to.


Charlotte (The Worst) - What is MJ doing with this poor franchise? First, he thinks that Larry Brown, a coach who has shown a clear inability to handle losing in his stay at New York, can inherit one of the worst teams in the league and make it work. And then, he makes boneheaded moves in the draft like the ones he made tonight. The best-case scenario guy for Charlotte was on the board when the Bobcats picked. It had become a foregone conclusion in recent days that Eric Gordon and Kevin Love would be long gone when the Cats picked, and with those two gone, the next guy on their list of players likely available at their position should be Brook Lopez, who could step in and fill the absolutely gaping hole at center. So, when Lopez was on the board when the Cats picked, they naturally totally avoided him and left the Nets with the most obvious pick since LeBron James was picked first by the Cavs, instead taking a D.J. Augustin, a guy who plays a position where the Cats already have a significant financial investment made to Raymond Felton. Hell, how is Felton supposed to take this? So, after that huge mistake, the Cats still had a huge hole at center to fill. So when their pick at 20 came around and guys like Kosta Koufos and DeAndre Jordan still on the board, they had an easy opportunity to ease everyone's worries that they wouldn't fill their center slot with a legitimate prospect. But, in classic MJ draft fashion, they blew it. They drafted a center, but one who'll have to be in Europe for another two or three years, Alexis Ajinca. The guy averaged 5 points per game last year... He shouldn't be drafted like... at all. And he's Charlotte's choice to hold down their center position. To make things even richer, the Cats picked up yet another point guard, Kyle Weaver, in the second round. I'm totally lost. Was Jordan smoking cubans and drinking scotch with Charles Barkley in the Charlotte War Room before these picks were made? Did he think he was drunk-dialing David Stern or did he actually realize he was making draft choices? These are legitimate questions...

Phoenix - I'm a huge Phoenix Suns fan. I love them. but I hate their first-round pick. Despise it. Yes, you know what you're getting with Robin Lopez. Some rebounds, a few blocks, a couple of dunks, no offensive skills whatsoever, and a lot of hair. But you also know that at no point in his career are you getting a starting center. And when your current starting center is 38, it might not be a terrible idea to start thinking about what you're going to do about the hole he is going to leave. Kosta Koufos or DeAndre Jordan were the guys the Suns needed to pick at 15, preferrably Koufos. What does Lopez have that Koufos doesn't? The fact that he knows how to be a backup? In two years, when Shaq is gone, Nash is a crippled special assistant coach for head coach Jeff Hornacek (after Terry Porter's firing due to the fact that his team was specifically built to be good for one year and then deteriorate, selling draft picks and setting itself up for a 25-57 record in 09-10), Amare is complaining, and Lopez is a poor man's Anderson Varejao, the Suns will be wondering why they passed up on a guy who had a potential to start alongside Amare and create an athletic (Koufos is athletic for a whitey - over a 30 inch vertical) starting combo for another seven years. Sigh. At least the Euro guy they got from the Spurs, Goran Dragic, appears to be decent.

Milwaukee - I obviously understand the Jefferson trade. They got rid of Bobby Simmons and Chairman Yi for an overpaid yet highly skilled small forward. It was a good move. So why pick up a guy who plays the same position with the eighth damn pick of the draft? After years of center futility, would Brook Lopez not have been a great pick for the Bucks? What does Joe Alexander do that Desmond Mason, the guy who now becomes the one of the highest-paid and best third-stringers around, doesnt? They both can't shoot to save their lives, and are both really athletic and dunk a lot. What, did the Bucks take Alexander because they would rather have a white guy who can do that stuff at that position and get along in Milwaukee? To top it off, they get another small forward in the second round. Milwaukee needs Bill Simmons, dammit.

There you have it. I’m glad this is a two-round deal, because I just can’t take anymore of this. Or anymore of Jay Bilas. A 364 day break from this has some pretty good upside right about now...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Token White Guy Mock Draft

It's been three months since my last post on here, and that last post was on a college basketball player's NBA future... a college basketball player not currently in tomorrow's NBA Draft... Fantastic. So, to get back on the posting trail with something that will be relevant within a year, I bring you my own Mock Draft. Now, let me tell you first off that this is not a "what I think will happen" Mock, but a "what I think should happen, and what would happen if GMs weren't stupid" Mock. Further note: I will not make any trades within the mock that have not been made already, but will suggest a few at the end of the article. Without further ado:

1) Chicago - Michael Beasley - PF - Kansas St.

Point Guard is, without any doubt, the most important position on any NBA basketball team. But choosing a point guard with inferior talent over a power forward with superior talent is simply inexcusable. Here are the numbers for Derrick Rose during the one season he played at Memphis:

PPG: 14.9
APG: 4.7
RPG: 4.5
FG %: .477

Do any of those numbers really stick out to you and tell you "this guys is Great!" No. The Bulls are looking for this kid to be a franchise point guard, a guy who will distribute the ball and be a floor general, who will lead them to an NBA Title. So, to help make a point as to why this guy is not a superstar in the making, I'll compare his numbers to a guy who is a superstar point guard, Jason Kidd (who played two seasons at Cal). These are Kidd's freshman and sophomore year numbers at Cal. (Stat: Fr. # / So. #)

PPG: 13.0 / 16.7
APG: 7.7 / 9.1
RPG: 4.9 / 6.9
FG %: .463 / .472

Again, consider the position. Kidd's assist numbers completely DOMINATE Rose's. It's not even close, Kidd had rose edged by 3 APG in their respective freshman seasons, and nearly doubled Rose's total in comparing Kidd's sophomore year to Rose's year. Isn't this supposed to be the most important statistic? Aren't point guards supposed to excel at passing? And even if you were to try to make the point that Rose is a better scorer than Kidd, he only averaged two more points per game than Kidd in their respective freshman campaigns. Kidd was known as an extremely sub-par scorer coming out of college, but he kept up with Rose and his supposed Jay-Bilas "blowbyability." This makes me sick. Rose is good, but he's not a #1 pick. At least not after just one year of college. Damn you David Stern... Damn you.

Now, after mentioning all of the reasons why the guy who is going to get taken shouldn't, let me once again show you the numbers Beasley put up that made everyone think he was the consensus #1 pick before everyone started talking themselves out of it after the college basketball season:

PPG: 26.2
RPG: 12.4
FG %: .532
3 Pt. FG %: .379

Hello? Is anybody looking at these? Anybody at all??? Beasley (a power forward) had a better three point field goal percentage than Rose (a point guard)(.337). To put Beasley's numbers in perspective, why don't we compare them to Kevin Durant's? They're both considered to be tall, long, smooth players who find scoring to be simply too easy to them. Here are Durant's Texas numbers:

PPG: 25.8
RPG: 11.1
FG %: .473
3 Pt. FG %: .404

Wait for it... Waaaaaaaaaaaaait......... Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaait for iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit. BEASLEY'S ARE BETTER!!! Durant was last year's #2 pick. What do you have when you have a guy better than a #2 pick - a #1 pick (note: that is definitely not a point that I'm making, it's crappy logic if applied to drafts from different years... I'd hate to image the crap that someone with way too much time on their hands - like me - could come up with by following this logic. I'll just say it was for dramatic effect and move on). My point is that Beasley's numbers are better than Rose's by a LOT, and don't we measure players by how they do in the games? Workouts don't matter once you get on the court. Just ask Chairman Yi (and that chair he totally posterized in all of those YouTube videos scouts fell in love with). Beasley's the right pick here, especially since Hinrich, despite his limitations, is on the books for (*wheeze*) four more years at over $11 mil per. And you're going to spend your first overall pick on that position? Sheesh.

2) Miami - Derrick Rose - PG - Memphis

Now, allow me to totally reverse all logic used in the previous statement and tell you that Rose is the only option here. Nothing is better to have than a point guard who is pissed off at the world and ready to prove everybody wrong, whether it be his old team after he is traded due to legal troubles (Jason Kidd after his wifebeating - not the white trash shirts, the white trash recreational activity - leading the Nets to consecutive Finals appearances and flipping the Suns the middle finger), his old team after he is let walk in free agency because the owner of the former team doesn't think you're worth a less-than-max-money contract (Steve Nash returning Mark Cuban's middle finger with a photo of his trophycase), those who labelled him as being "not a true point guard" (Chauncey Billups after finally landing in Detroit), or a young kid who totally abuses the top competition at his position in workouts (this would not have changed my opinion, mind you, but it did piss him off, so the point is still valid... sort of.) and yet gets taken in the late first round and then sold for $4 million (Rajon Rondo, who totally schooled the point guards of his draft class in workouts, and then had his rights and Brian Grant's $1 million salary sold by the Suns for $3 million). Pissed off point guards are the best. This situation would be PERFECT for the Heat, especially because of how much Rose has lobbied to play for his hometown Bulls, and how much Pat Riley would make sure Rose knew that they didn't want him. Also, anytime you can replace Jason Williams as your starting point guard, that's always a plus.

3) Minnesota - OJ Mayo - SG - USC

If the Wolves really want a point guard to help fill the oh-so-extremely-not-so-really-huge hole left by Sebastian Telfair's departure, they shouldn't take Mayo or Bayless. It's simply idiotic to think either of those two is best served in the NBA bringing the ball up the court and initiating any offense. They score. It's what they do. Let them do it at the 2. If they want a point guard, the choice is Russell Westbrook. The kid has potential that he clearly has not reached, but he's Rajon Rondo ver. 2.0. We all saw what happened when teams underestimated and passed over ver. 1.0, so I'm hoping for the sake of the league that the same mistake isn't made twice. However, if this team is ready to let Randy Foye know that he's their starting point guard, which they should, considering they gave up Brandon Roy for him, then the choice becomes a lot easier. Take whichever of the two everyone-thinks-I'm-a-point-guard-but-they're-morons guys is better at scoring. That's Mayo. Now, that was easy, wasn't it?

4) Seattle - Alexis Ajinca - C - Some foreign country... oh yeah, it's France

Are you buying this? Huh? Are you? Yeah, me neither, I'm joking. If the Sonics went ahead and drafted yet another center, to make the ultimate craptastic quadfecta of Robert Swift, Johan Petro, Mouhamed Sene, and Ajinca (who averaged 5 points in some French league) into four out of five years' worth of first-round picks, there would be a mutiny in Seattle. Then again, if Clay Bennett can make it so that the city of Seattle doesn't even want the Sonics there anymore...... I might be onto something here... Nevermind. Now for the real pick (and just so you know, Ajinca will be nowhere in my mock. You need to average at lest 10 points overseas to be considered, nomatter how long your arms are. Sorry, Alexis. Come to think of it, there will be no Euros with the exception of seemingly sure-thing Danilo Gallinari in this Mock. I'm sick of people saying how good someone is as a late-round pick to stash in Europe when they average 8 points per game in some Euroleague, or played well at one corporate showcase. They're all banned. This should make things a bit more interesting, eh?).

4) Seattle Sonics/Oklahoma City Rodeo Clowns - Jerryd Bayless - SG - Arizona

Who cares if the Sonics aren't high on him? They're being stupid. The two biggest financial commitments they've made to players are to Nick Collison (the only player they have under contract for three more seasons) and Luke Ridnour (one of two on board for two more seasons, and the other, Damien Wilkins, makes less than half of what Ridnour does). So why are they thinking of taking a worse player (Russell Westbrook) despite the fact that he plays a position that they've made a financial commitment to already? This league baffles me. Suck it up and realize that of course Bayless was pissed and moody last year, he got to play under Kevin O'Neill instead of Lute Olson in his one year of college basketball. You'd be pissed too.

5) Memphis - Kevin Love - PF - UCLA

Memphis has too many good young point guards, has a couple of solid shooters, but with the departure of Kwame Brown's corpse, there is no size left in Memphis. Love, as well as being immensely underrated after an extremely productive season at UCLA, does a lot to fill that huge hole in the interior. Some people are saying Eric Gordon here, but what does drafting a 6'3'' shooting guard here accomplish for Memphis? I love Gordon, as you'll read below, but how can you not also love Love? (yes, I really did just want to say "love Love," guilty as charged.)

6) New York - Russell Westbrook - PG - UCLA

People need to think more about the cities people are going to before they draft a guy. You really want to send some Italian guy to New York City (as many mocks have done)? Really? Mike D'Antoni can't watch over the guy all day long. He'd get torn to shreds at the first sign of struggles, which he would go through, and I'm not sold on any Euro guy being tough enough to handle the New York Media sticking their collective junk up his pooper. Just write a eulogy while you're at it. Instead, why don't they just take the best player available? Westbrook, or Rondo 2.0, plays the most important position on the court and does it well. Many are questioning whether a rookie can handle the Steve Nash system, but who says that Stephon Marbury can? Seriously, you can only go up from that starting point. Westbrook would be fine.

7) L.A. Clippers - D.J. Augustin - PG - Texas

Some are saying that the Clippers are looking at Eric Gordon, but why? Hell, all that would do is confuse the scorers table guys when he comes in for Cuttino Mobley, THEY'RE THE EXACT SAME PLAYER!!! Gordon is not a point, and this team drastically needs a point. I'm not a huge fan of drafting strictly for need, but it's not like Augustin is a huge reach here, he'd go within the lottery anyways, and likely within the next four or five picks. Augustin is a legitimate point guard, which they have been sorely lacking since they cut Space Man Sam loose and had the "Daunte Culpepper knee injury" re-named as the "Shaun Livingston knee injury." Not too hard of a pick to make.

8) Milwaukee - Brook Lopez - C - Stanford

Some are saying that West Virginia's Joe Alexander, a small foward who shot 27% from three-point range last year, will go here. Too bad they don't look at Milwaukee's roster, they'd see that they've already got two of him (Desmond Mason and Bobby Simmons), and have been trying to get rid of both. Alexander might be a good pick for someone, but it's just not the Bucks. Others say Gallinari, but, lo and behold, one of his main questions is his long-range shooting. Either of those picks will might cause Michael Redd to go drink a dozen pints of good ol' Milwaukee ale and sacrifice himself in a field Children of the Corn-style. No, the pick here is Lopez. Even though he's got the athletic range of a rock, the guy has some polished low-post moves, and won't be as much of a bust as many think he will. The kid averaged nearly 20 points a game last year... You can't be too bad and do that. After years of Dan Gadzuric and Jake Voskuhl, this would be a very welcome change.

9) Charlotte - Kosta Koufos - C - Ohio State

Charlotte basically has four players on its roster it would like to keep for the forseeable future - Emeka Okafor, Jason Richardson, Gerald Wallace, and Raymond Felton. That means, naturally, it needs a center. Koufos is far more athletic than Lopez, and since it's not like the Bobcats are going anywhere anytime soon as it is, they can afford to be patient and let Koufos develop into a good basketball player. Many are saying that if Koufos had waited a year, he's be a top-5 pick. So why does that mean he shouldn't be picked high this year (more fantastic broken logic from NBA scouts)? Some would call it a reach, I call it a good pick.

10) New Jersey - Eric Gordon - SG - Indiana

This is a pure talent pick. And it's a damn good one. Eric Gordon will be special, and since the Nets seem to be actively trying to dump off either Richard Jefferson or Vince Carter, this allows them to do so for the best offer on the table, and without worrying about filling the hole left behind from the deal. Gordon averaged over 20 points a game while playing for a coach who was embedded in a scandal (and eventually got canned mid-season), while playing with a wrist injury, and while the rest of his teammates essentially gave up on the season. And why is this guy not rated higher? Like, say, as a top-5 prospect? To let you know how much I like the kid, I seriously considered slotting him in at #4 instead of Bayless. I consider him to be either at the same level as Bayless or just barely below. The difference is that slim. Sadly, after that pick no other team makes sense for Gordon until perhaps the teens, and he was simply too good of a talent to make it there without some team neglecting need and snatching him up. I say the Nets should do it.

11) Indiana - Danilo Gallinari - SF - Italy

The Pacers just got T.J. Ford, and it's a darn good thing in my logic-based mock because the two best point guard prospects are gone. This allows them to go ahead and take Gallinari, whose short-range game is actually a nice compliment and fit for them to contrast with Mike Dunleavy's huck-up-the-trey style. Another solid talent pick, if all those foreign scouts are really correct about how good this guy is. I've personally given up on trying to guess which foreign prospects are any good. I just don't get it anymore.

12) Sacramento - Joe Alexander - SF - West Virginia.

One of the few crappy teams around that really has no need whatsoever for a post player. With Beno Udrih's inevitable overpayment and likely departure, this is a team in dire need for a point guard. Sadly for them, at this point in the draft, there looks to be absolutely none of any value available. The last point that seems to be first-round talent is Mario Chalmers, after which we get into Kyle Weaver territory, and that is territory that should never be approched anywhere until at least pick 25, not to mention pick 12. And with Chalmers, I just can't find it in myself to take a guy in the lottery who hasn't noticably improved statistically from freshman to junior year. Look at his numbers, they're all the same. 30 mins per game, 12 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 and a half steals, and 2 turnovers. That's the peak of your potential for a lottery guy? I'm not buying it. So, Sacramento should just brace itself for Ron Artest's new secret campaign to re-establish himself as a major sports headline grabber and take Alexander. By this point in the draft, he's not as wildly overrated as he is when teams are picking him in the top eight. And, quite frankly, it's simply the safe thing to do...

13) Portland - Donte Greene - SF - Syracuse

The Blazers would have really loved to have had Alexander. Like really loved to have him. But with him gone, and no players to fill any holes in sight, the Blazers should probably just take the guy who will be the best player in three to four years when the Blazers start winning titles. Green averaged 17 points last year and yet people have him out of the lottery. Why? Heck, I'd make Green the Sacto pick ahead of Alexander if the last Syracuse small forward who came out after one year (that's Carmelo for those of you who somehow might now know) wasn't embedded in legal troubles, and the Kings want to make sure that the guy backing up Artest doesn't have anybody within six degrees of separation with character flaws. Greene will be very good though. I'm almost scared to give him to Portland...

14) Golden State - Anthony Randolph - PF - LSU

While I would simply love for Randolph to fall to Phoenix, I simply wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I rigged my own meaningless mock draft to get my team the best player it could logically get at its draft slot. Hopefully this will give me some sort of good karma and we'll end up with him in the real thing. Who knows. Randolph basically is a freak of nature who put up solid stats in his freshman campaign, and has way more potential to tap into. He's another one of those really freakishly athletic guys drafted in the late lottery/mid first-round who has a chance to either develop into a special player or be a total waste of space. But he runs the floor well and G-State is coached by Don Nelson. Granted, they already have a better form of Randolph with a year of NBA experience in Brandan Wright, but they're both hit-and-miss, so if you have more than one of them, your odds are better.

15) Phoenix - DeAndre Jordan - C - TAMU

Phoenix is really one of the only three or four teams that I think would be smart to pick Jordan. Why? Because their current center is stud who could get this kid's act and work ethic straight. You think Shaq would be ok with this kid wasting his ridiculous talent by not caring? That's not going to fly with the Big Cactus, and you can bet he'd make sure that Jordan and Stoudemire became a freak show in four years. It's making my mouth salivate just to think about it... Can we cryogenically freeze Steve Nash for the next four years and then bring him back just in time to still be playing when Jordan and Amare both are in their primes? Please? Someone tell me we can make this happen...

16) Philadelphia - J.J. Hickson - PF - NC State

The Sixers are trying to get their hands on Elton Brand in some way, allowing them to free up their 3 spot for Thaddeus Young, but it looks like they will be unsuccessful in doing so, limiting them to the prospects of acquiring a short list of available elite players that is limited to that very 3 spot (Antawn Jamison, Shawn Marion, Josh Smith, and their own restricted free agent Andre Iguodala). With this in mind, they clearly need to address that power forward position, making the undervalued and tough Hickson my choice for them. How Darrell Arthur is rated above this kid is beyond me. Here's to hoping the Sixers don't either. (In terms of potential? Hickson was a freshman, and Arthur was a sophomore. That doesn't add up to me...)

17) Indiana - Mario Chalmers - PG - Kansas

Having tabbed Gallinari instead of a point guard to send Jamaal Tinsley back into the Dark Void where he came from, the Pacers get their chance for justice. Although I'm not high on Chalmers, the Pacers have such a ridiculously glaring point guard hole that any help to Travis Diener is appreciated, and Chalmers qualifies. Really an easy pick for me to make...

18) Washington - Marreese Speights - PF - Florida

I'm sure Washington, in making this pick, would hope that he would be a center for them. However, this simply isn't to be, as Speights really is meant in the NBA as a power forward. That does not, however, mean this is a bad pick (especially with Antawn Jamison's possible desparture). While getting very minimal time this year, Speights put up some solid numbers as a sophomore on an incredibly depleted Florda team. Especially after the Billy Donovan issue last summer with Orlando, it was hard to believe that anybody on Florida would give enough of a crap to even try to play, but Speights nevertheless managed to post some solid statistics. That actually impresses me, and that's hard to do.

19) Cleveland - Chris Douglas-Roberts - SG - Memphis

Any thoughts of the Cavaliers taking a post player makes no sense to me... They have Ben Wallace, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Anderson Varejao already tied up in large contracts. What this team, like most, really needs is a good point guard, but they aren't going to find that here, so they will likely settle for any guard help that can be found for Bron Bron. A stretch you say? Well let me explain. Many would wonder why I havn't had Brandon Rush tabbed yet, but what is so damn special about Rush? He averaged 13 points (exactly 13.5) his freshman year... and 13 points (exactly 13.3) his junior year (as you can see, actually a bit of a drop. This is a top pro prospect?). Douglas-Roberts showed huge improvement, and is a high-percentage, low-volume outside shooter. Isn't that exactly what LeBron wants - A guy who you don't have to give too many shots to, but who will make them when you give them to him? He plays good D, is smart, it just makes too much sense to me...

20) Charlotte - Brook Lopez - C - Stanford

It makes too much sense. While they were just barely unable to get Brook Lopez in the early part of my mock, they get his brother to be backup to Kosta Koufos, the role he's been comfortable with all throughout college. They manage to, in this scenario, take care of all of their center problems with two picks in one draft. MJ, sadly, probably will not manage to do this... When I'm torn between one guy and Bernie Bickerstaff as which was the better GM for one team, it's probably not good for that one guy.

21) New Jersey - JaVale McGee - C - Nevada

After lucking out with Eric Gordon with their first pick, the Nets would like to have some size here. This leaves them with very few interesting options, including a few foreign guys with "Saer Sene pt. 2" written all over them, the ever-underachieving Darrell Arthur, the ever-unimproving Roy Hibbert, or taking a flier on McGee. Both of his parents played professional ball, and he managed to put up some moderately encouraging numbers at Nevada this season. He needs to get a helluva lot stronger, but if he does so it could be scary.

22) Orlando - Courtney Lee - SG - Western Kentucky

Having Rashard Lewis, Dwight Howard, and Jameer Nelson all on the books for five more seasons, and having them not be the three most productive players on the team (Hedo Turkoglu is in there either just behind Howard or just ahead of Nelson) makes drafting pretty simple for the Magic. Find a shooting guard who can contribute and go small, or find a center who can contribute and go big. That leaves them really with two options in my opinion - Roy Hibbert or Courtney Lee. Hibbert's incredible oafishness, however, would totally get in the way of what the Magic try to do on offense (namely, have Jameer, Lewis, and Howard run, while Hedo spots up for threes), so Lee is the choice. The kid straight-up produced in college. Numbers remind me of guys like Kevin Martin, and that's a damn good comparison to have.

23) Utah - Darrell Arthur - SF - Kansas

This is a talent pick. Utah really isn't a team with a whole lot of needs, and they're in the fortunate position of picking based on talent. Arthur showed he's got talent in the title game, but he has to show that he is dedicated enough to play up to that talent all the time. We'll see if he can. Sadly, he is put in the unfortunate position of being a black basktball player in an all-white city. Maybe the thought of flocks of angry white mormons will motivate him. Who knows...

24) Seattle - DJ White - SF - Indiana

What Seattle really would probably like here is a legitimate center, but unless they think that adding DeVon Hardin qualifies as such an option, or that Trent Plaisted isn't a total stiff, then they're headed in the quality direction or the overseas direction. Since I'm morally opposed to the overseas direction, I went the quality direction with White. He finally had a healthy season and produced at a high level. Yet, somehow, he isn't being very highly considered. I don't get it, but don't think GMs even get why. They just do as they're programmed.

25) Houston - Kyle Weaver - PG - Washington State

The Rockets need a point guard. Aaron Brooks and Steve Francis just won't cut it, but the problem is that there's nobody decent out there for them. They had to reach a tad for Brooks last year and they're doing it for Weaver this year in my mock. They'll probably look to land the highest quality player they can find as some of the teams above make boneheaded moves and go for unproven crappy international guys. They won't end up really picking this guy, and probably shouldn't...

26) San Antonio - Ryan Anderson - PF - Cal

Apparently the Spurs have committed to this kid, and I tend to listen to Poppovich more than most GMs. He's figured this whole drafting thing out. This kid apparently does things similar to what Robert Horry does. How funny, Horry appears set to leave the Spurs through retirement. Now how convenient is that for San Antonio?

27) Portland - Jamont Gordon - SG - Mississippi State

He just scores... Many have worries as to how he scores, but the bottom line is that he does it. He's played three seasons at Mississippi State and has put up numbers. At the end of the first round, I've found that that's the best thing to look for. I'd have gone with Jason Thompson from Rider here, but they've got that position a bit log-jammed at the moment.

28) Memphis - DeVon Hardin - C - Cal

At this point in the draft, even after taking Kevin Love with my fifth pick, the Grizzlies are still shockingly small. Their only guys under contract going into the draft who might qualify as bigs are Hakim Warrick, and most agree he's somewhere between a 3 and a 4, Darko, who is bordering somewhere along the line of useless in athletic terms and being deceased, and one of the Collins brothers. It doesn't matter which Collins brother really, they both suck, but just know that he can henceforth be referred to as "That Collins Brother's Expiring Contract." Hardin might have never put up legitimate offensive numbers at Cal, but any athleticism and defense he can provide will be an addition for the Grizz.

29) Detroit - Richard Hendrix - PF - Alabama

Reminds me a lot of Big Baby Davis. Scouts think he relied on his strength so much to get his numbers that he isn't considered a big NBA prospect, but yet those numbers were so darned good that he's gonna get some sort of a look from someone. And, if you ask me, that team will be well-rewarded.

30) Boston - Shan Foster - SG - Vanderbilt

Foster has one skill - shooting threes. And he does it damn well, hitting a .469 clip last year (FORTY SEVEN PERCENT!!!) and averaging 20 points per game in the process. Guys can make careers out of shooting threes, and this is a guy who would compliment the pieces Boston has in place well, stay out of the way of the stars, and hit shots when given the ball. You know what you're getting with this kid, and the champs would love him.

Other guys I think will be solid basketball players:

Oregon SG Malik Hairston (put up good scoring numbers - why he isn't more highly considered is beyond me)
Kansas St. SF Bill Walker (poor man's Gerald Wallace... or maybe homeless man's Gerald Wallace - depends on how that good ol ACL heals)
St. Joe's PF Pat Calathes (big men who can shoot can usually find niches in the NBA - especially if they're clutch - we'll see on this kid)
IUPUI SG George Hill (some call him a point, but he simply doesn't pass well enough - can put the ball in the basket though, and put up huge numbers at IUPUI - plus, my bro played him, and if this kid turns out decent, there's another claim to fame for the Token White Guy Family)
Virginia PG Sean Singletary (someone give this kid a serious look - he averaged almost 20 points per game and over six assists per game in his senior year at Virginia - why is he not getting looks? The NBA baffles me)

Well, that's my Euros-excluded, if-it-was-me Mock Draft for 2008. Of course, the draft as a general process sucks, nobody (including me) really knows what they're doing, and a solid 25% of what I said in this article could probably be thrown in my face as proof of my idiocy in three years. Cheers, mates.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Stephen Curry: Davidson's Golden Boy and Future NBA Draft Steal

Yes, everyone (or someone... whoever that one lone reader of my column out there is), it's NCAA Tournament time. While I pay attention mostly to watch basketball games in which the players and coaches actually care and are trying to win for all 40 minutes of action (that's you, Isaiah Thomas - benching Zach Randolph to look at Randolph Morris?), I also watch to see if I can pick up any trends or rising stars that might someday be mailing it in on the big stage, as well as to pick up on trends within the college ranks. And this year has been absolutely rich with storylines and twists that have pretty much everybody thinking their bracket has been decapitated and left to rot by now. For me, Drew Neitzel taking down Memphis and Texas back-to-back is my only hope... Hey, it can happen.

But my focus here will be on the one team that has absolutely shocked everyone but me: Davidson. That's right, I'm the only human being outside of North Carolina who picked Davidson to win not only the Gonzaga game, but to beat Georgetown as well (my reasoning? Look at their non-conference schedule this year: lost by four to North Carolina, lost by six to Duke, lost by one to NC State, lost by twelve to UCLA, won at Winthrop by 13, undefeated in their conference - this is a good team). In the process, Davidson's golden child, Stephen Curry, has been taken away from the obscurity of the Southern Conference and thrust into the national spotlight for his lights-out jump shot, which he seems to get off in approximately .0000237 seconds. But it's not like he suddenly became good within the last few days - he averaged 25.5 points per game this year. And it's also not like he just became good this year - he averaged 21.5 points per game last year, his freshman season. But those numbers didn't do anything to remove him from the shadows of the Southern Conference, even though Davidson was in the NCAA Tournament last year, which nobody seems to remember. Only now, after canning 40 against Gonzaga (30 in the second half) and 30 against Georgetown (25 in the second half) in two winning efforts, Curry has become the talk of every confused NCAA Basketball follower in the country, wondering how one guy could propel an obscure mid-major team in an unheard of conference past the team synonymous with mid-major success and a national powerhouse in the matter of a few short days. And, beyond that, how was a guy that good not recruited by the bigger schools? After all, he had wanted to go to his father's alma mater, Virginia Tech. They're not even in the tournament, likely watching the guy they could have easily signed light up the big stage.

The answer to these questions lies in the biggest downfall of college recruiting - the one thing that gives mid-major programs like Davidson a chance to get a guy like Curry. When Curry was coming out of high school, he was 5'11'', scrawny, and looked about 8 years old (he still only looks about 12). Physically undeveloped, the big-time schools were looking for someone who was strong enough and physically built to handle the college game, and overlooked Curry. Since arriving at Davidson, the kid has already grown 4 inches to reach a respectable 6'3'', and has obviously begun to mature as a basketball player. It's not like this guy came from an obscure basketball background either - his dad is former NBA sharpshooter Dell Curry. This is where colleges (and the NBA) get it wrong. They overlook guys who have simply put up numbers and won games simply because they don't appear to be of the physical build that is necessary to be a good basketball player. What they forget is that physical features develop naturally, and if the player is dedicated enough, quickly. What can't be taught or worked into a player are all those other intangibles - the work ethic that leads a kid to have such a pure shot, the mentality and desire to step up on the biggest stage there is and get better as the game goes on, to knock down shots when the team needs them the most. That's what this kid has, and that's why Davidson is winning.

Now, as someone who is more into the NBA than College Basketball, I feel obliged to mention how Curry appears to project as an NBA prospect, where he should go if he comes out of the college ranks this year, and where he would go if he comes out of the college ranks this year, and why he would slip. First, let me start by giving a comparison to guys currently in the NBA if you havn't seen Curry actually play in any of these games. He reminds me a lot of Kevin Martin, but shorter and with a faster, above-the-hip shot form (which counteracts the height difference). Martin played his ball at Western Carolina, a similarly obscure school to Davidson, and averaged high point totals from the very beginning of his career, 22.1 per game in his freshman season. The similarities between the two, unfortunately, probably will extend to the draft for Curry. NBA teams will make the same mistake as the big-time colleges did back when Curry was being recruited - pass on him for being physically undeveloped. Martin was 6'7'' and weighed just 195 pounds, and that (as well as questions regarding the talent he played against) caused him to fall to Sacramento at the 26th pick. Looking at mock drafts around the internet this year, Curry is nowhere to be found (even in the second round, which is a crime). Curry is the ranked 85th among all prospects on Chad Ford's top 100 list, being projected to go either in the late second-round, or to be undrafted. This tourney showing isn't going to give him the publicity and stock boost that will be needed for serious draft consideration, and he will be forced, like Martin, to spend his junior year in the college ranks despite being perfectly ready to enter the NBA and begin to receive the highest level of coaching and develop into a big-time scorer. But, whoever does manage to eventually pick up Curry next year will be rewarded within three years of that pick with a guy who might not be the best defender on the court, but will definitely be one of the more prolific scorers the league has. You have my not-so-expert guarantee on that.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Why Robert Sarver Sucks

The Phoenix Suns should be the best team the NBA has ever seen. The Suns should be better than anybody in the stacked Western Conference. The Suns should have already won something around two of the last four NBA Titles. And we havn't because of Robert Sarver and his excessively tight wallet. And I'm going to prove it.

When Sarver bought the team in May of 2004, the Suns had just come off of one of their worst seasons in history, a season in which the Suns had won just 29 games, and had traded away two of their best players (Stephon Marbury and Penny Hardaway) at the deadline to the Knicks for next to nothing. Granted, this deal turned out to be one of the heists of the century, but only because Bryan Colangelo managed to turn the cap space we got after the season into Steve Nash. Sarver was set up with a team that had a low salary cap figure, three future stars in Shawn Marion, Joe Johnson, and Amare Stoudemire, and good draft picks to build a great team. So what did he do? He refused to spend money, and doomed the team to hovering around the top of the league, but never being able to get past the NBA's elite when it mattered. I'll break Sarver down move by move, tracking his impact and how it caused the team to suffer in the long-run.

The Joe Johnson Fiasco:

After that 29 win season, everyone knew that Joe Johnson was going to be a star. He had made ridiculous strides in his scoring ability since Marbury had been traded away, was young, athletic, had size, and could flat-out shoot the ball. So, instead of offering Johnson a contract extension that would have locked him up for somewhere around $6-8 million per year, the Suns waited, hoping that somehow Johnson would play his value down through some means - injury, struggles, etc. Whenever you hope for one of your prime scoring options to struggle, you're making a huge mistake. That kind of young talent is something that you lock up as soon as possible. But, instead, the Suns waited for Johnson to become a restricted free agent the following summer, when the Suns were comming off an amazing rebound season of 62 wins, and a playoff series where Johnson played with a mask to protect his broken eye socket. He had made even more strides in his three-point shooting due to the open looks he was getting from Steve Nash, and had managed to raise his value to around $14 million per season. He wanted a 5-year, $70 million contract, which, quite frankly, he had earned. Yes, it would have caused the Suns to go significantly over the cap, and would have made keeping the rest of the team intact difficult financially with the salary cap. But the Suns offered a joke contract of 5-years and $50 million, and ended up giving away Johnson for draft picks and Doris Diaw. The contract they offered Johnson was not going to be accepted, and they knew it. This was Sarver's first error, and his future mistakes would only end up making it worse and worse.

The '04 Draft Pick Sale:

The Suns walked into the 2004 NBA Draft with the #7 overall pick in the draft. They were set up to add another key piece to a team that was rebuilding quickly, and would be contending within a few years. So, when their pick came around, and the options for them included Luol Deng, who was coveted by teams around the league like Chicago, and Andre Iguodala, the U of A prospect who would have been a great addition to the team. This gave the Suns two choices, sell out on the pick in hopes that you could get another one next season, save money, and even get a few million bucks out of the team you're giving the pick to, or take the best available player for the team (this was Iguodala) and build the roster. The Suns, and Sarver, sold out. They dealt the pick to Chicago for (I believe) cash, Chicago's second-round pick that year (Jackson Vroman...), and Chicago's first-round pick in the following season's draft. Sarver didn't want to spend the appox. $3 million salary for a high-lottery rookie, and decided that the idea of adding a bit of cash to his bank account sounded irresistable. So we ended up giving Deng to Chicago, and watching them go on to have a resurgence season as the Baby Bulls made a run in the playoffs, giving us the 21st pick in the draft in '05. But the Suns weren't done with their mistakes. They traded Quentin Richardson, their second major acquisition in the summer of '04 that wouldn't have needed to be made if Iggy was drafted, allowing us to possibly acquire a solid, useful veteran, and that pick, Nate Robinson, to New York for Kurt Thomas and the rights to Dijon Thompson. And, as will be detailed later, Thomas was dumped off for salary-cutting purposes along with two future first-round picks for a trade exception (which we won't use). So, to track the final score of this set of moves inspired to cut costs: Andre Iguodala, Quentin Richardson, and two first-round picks in exchange for Jackson Vroman, Dijon Thompson, and a trade exception. Stab me.

The Bryan Colangelo Firing:

Let me start off by saying that Bryan Colangelo is a fantastic General Manager. So when he wanted a raise from the Suns to counter the offer he had received to take over Toronto, he should have been given the money, no questions asked. Instead, Sarver wouldn't fork the money over, and Colangelo was simply allowed to walk away. Instead, he was replaced with Mike D'Antoni in one of the worst GM hirings in years. D'Antoni loves his players, and thinks they're worth far more than they really are. As a result, D'Antoni forked over $9 million per season to Doris Diaw and $5 million to Leandro Barbosa. The Diaw signing is simply appalling, given that Diaw can't stay in shape, and Barbosa is simply ineffective come playoff time. So why are we paying $14 million per season to those two? D'Antoni, as decent as a coach that he is (note I said decent, not good), was a terrible GM. And Sarver is the reason why D'Antoni was allowed to screw up this team.

The Late First-Round Pick Firesale:

Anybody who has followed the NBA at all has noticed how the Suns have had a firesale on their first-round draft picks over the past four drafts. After having two first-round picks in '03 (the bust of Zarko Cabarkapa and the heist of "Leandrinho" Barbosa from S.A.), the trend started in '04 (what a coincidence) with the already-detailed Deng selling to Chicago. The next year, '05, Phoenix managed to end the day with three first-round picks out the door. Phoenix's original pick's departure can't be blamed on Sarver, that pick was sent to San Antonio from the Barbosa deal in '03 (the pick was then sent to New York - they picked the one guy on their roster who they like, David Lee). Phoenix also had Cleveland's first-round pick that year from a trade they made a long time ago (I think this was the Cleveland/Phoenix/Denver 1997 trade where the Suns acquired Antonio McDyess, but I can't seem to find out the exact details), where guys like Rashad McCants and Danny Granger were available. They sent that to Charlotte so that the Bobcats would take Jahidi White off their hands the previous year in the expansion draft (a double salary dump, nice one Sarver!). And of course, as previously written, the first-round pick they got from Chicago in the previous year's draft went to New York for what would eventually become next to nothing. Not to mention this was also the year where they sold their second-round pick, Marcin Gortat, to Orlando for cash. Granted, the chances of him amounting to anything are slim, but not even being willing to take a Euro hit-or-miss prospect, choosing cash instead, is cheap to a fault. In '06 the misery continued, with the Suns giving Rajon Rondo to the Celtics for a future first-round pick in order to dump Brian Grant's expiring contract on the Celts. Also, the Suns straight-up sold the rights to Sergio Rodriguez to Portland, when we could have gotten a big man like Craig Smith, Paul Millsap, or Leon Powe (if you're laughing, you know nothing about basketball). No future picks, just money. And, of course, the selling of last year's 24th overall pick to Portland, again for nothing but cash, when guys like Carl Landry, Glen Davis, U of A prospect Marcus Williams, and sharpshooter Morris Almond were all available.

The Kurt Thomas Dumping:

This I can't stand. Sarver, last summer, ordered Steve Kerr to dump Kurt Thomas' salary before the season started. How else do you explain giving away an expiring contract and two future first-round picks for a conditional second-round pick (which we won't get, by the way - the idea of making it conditional is that we don't get it) and a trade exception (which we again won't use, because it would cause us to spend more money, and Sarver won't). So we gave up two first-round picks and a guy who is reknowned for his post D and sweet mid-range stroke for... nothing. Giving up Thomas' post presence is what caused the Suns to have such a gaping hole in regards to interior defense, and made the Suns have to swing a deal for Shaq. Granted, I'm for the trade based on the build of the roster at the time of the deal, but Thomas would be a better alternative. And even if we didn't want to keep Thomas, we could have done exactly what Seattle did at the deadline and trade him to someone (Seattle chose our main rival, San Antonio - smooth move, Sarver) for picks and expiring deals. So, when you balance this out, we essentially just sold three more first-round picks for.... NOTHING!!!

Now, let me justify Sarver in the faintest, lamest way possible. Sarver is a businessman. He became the majority owner of the Suns for a reason, and that was because it was yet another business venture for him, and if the team was successful, that was a sweet bonus for him. So let this lead to the moral of this entire column - The best NBA owners treat the idea of owning a team like a really expensive hobby. The best NBA owners are guys who will spend the big bucks that they have already made in whatever previous business ventures they have undertaken in order to be able to say that they spent the money to build a great team. Great owners are like James Dolan of New York, just without the side order of Isaiah Thomas. Sarver is not that, he is worried way too much about the financial state of the team, and, as detailed above, it has had a direect impact on the possible shape of this team. Assuming that all other non-Sarver influenced free-agent moves and trades made over this time would have been made anyways (except the useless ones), this is the roster the Suns could have if Sarver were willing to spend money.

The Not-So-Bizarro-Suns

Starting 5:

PG: Steve Nash
SG: Joe Johnson
SF: Andre Iguodala
PF: Amare Stoudemire
C: Shaquille O'Neal


PG: Rajon Rondo
Leandro Barbosa
D.J. Strawberry
Grant Hill

SG: Leandro Barbosa
Raja Bell
Eric Piatkowski (or Sean Marks)

SF: Grant Hill
Danny Granger
Alando Tucker

PF: Danny Granger
Carl Landry
Craig Smith

C: Carl Landry
Craig Smith
Sean Marks (or Eric Piatkowski)

I am thouroughly convinced this is the best roster ever assembled. You have a starting lineup of three sure-fire All-Stars (Nash, Johnson, Stoudemire), with two potential All-Stars with them (Iguodala, O'Neal), four guys on the bench who could be Sixth Man of the Year contenders (Hill, Rondo, Barbosa, Granger), three rookies with solid potential (Landry, Tucker, Strawberry), and two scrappers (Bell, Smith), one of whom clotheslined Kobe Bryant (Bell), and a Token White Guy (Piatkowski or Marks)(in case you're wondering, the Skinner signing wouldn't have happened, this team has the max 15 players and he was signed simply to fill a roster spot). Notice that a lot of the guys on the bench are found in different positions in what seems to be a pretty jumbled up order - this is because this team, along with being one of the best ever, is also one of the most versatile ever. They can march out with Shaq and Amare and play big, or put in a bunch of shooters and a guy like Amare or Landry at center and go small. The depth of this team is ridiculous. And don't act like this is a pipe dream, or some sort of best-case scenario situation. This could have easily happened. The only debatable part about this is whether or not we draft the young guys in here (Rondo, Landry, Granger, Smith) that we ended up giving to other teams. Even if we only get one or two of those guys, this is still a team that separates itself even among the ridiculous Western Conference, and has already won multiple titles in recent years. This is what could have been, everybody. Suns fans need to be more upset about this - I know I am.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The State of the NBA Rookie

While living up the old days last night playing some pickup ball (I'm the Zoran Planinic of pickup basketball: tall, white, and plays the point by default because all I can do is pass and dribble), me and a few buddies of mine were discussing U of A's basketball team. Granted, I'm not a Cats fan, only really following the couple of guys on the team that will likely have an impact on the professional stage. However, my buddy Sean brought up the fact that the Cats, in his opinion, are likely to be among the favorites to win it all next year should both Bayless and Budinger spurn guaranteed money and come back. That's a fair point, but I responded by saying that the rumblings that Bayless is going to return for another season at U of A were about the stupidest thing he could do - why would you risk a guaranteed $3 million-or-so salary for the change to win an NCAA tourney? It's a lock that he's not going to stay there for four years and actually earn a degree, and he shouldn't, degrees are designed to allow someone to earn as much money as possible, and Bayless is going to make his living with something that requires no education whatsoever. So what is the point of wasting a year of salary when the most likely outcome is that he gets picked lower next year than he would have this year, due to the fact that NBA teams prefer players who are younger and can be coached at the highest level and play at the highest level for the longest periods of time? The response I got back was, "he's not ready for the NBA." This, naturally, got me thinking. When has a player ever been "ready" for the NBA, and how have those players' careers played out in the NBA as opposed to those who were deemed to be similarly "unready?" I've always said it's a huge mistake to make the "safe" pick, but do the numbers back me up? Thus, it's time to look at a few of the most recent drafts, assess who would have most likely been deemed "ready" for the NBA, who would have been deemed "not ready" for the NBA, and how they have all fared. Keep in mind this is all subjective, and I, with my extremely limited sports knowledge, am the one determining all of these distinctions. I have tried to do so in a manner that takes into account year in college ball, success on teams in college, physical build, presumed ability to handle 82-game schedule, etc.



Greg Oden
Al Horford
Jeff Green
Yi Jianlian
Corey Brewer
Joakim Noah
Acie Law
Rodney Stuckey
Marco Belinelli

"Not Ready:"

Kevin Durant
Mike Conley
Brandan Wright
Thaddeus Young
Al Thornton
Sean Williams

Obviously, it's really early to try to make any huge distinctions about the 2007 draft class, but there are a few things worth noting already. First, the rookies playing the best this season are, predominantly, those who were expected to do so - the "ready" ones. This includes Al Horford, statistically having the best season among all rookies (yes, better than Durant - the shooting percentages don't lie), and a few rookies who were not among those drafted, such as Luis Scola, Jamario Moon, and Juan Carlos Navarro. However, one must also realize that there are a few rookies who seem slated to amount to very little in their careers who were chosen high because of the fact that they were expected to immediately contribute as polished players. What has happened is that they have thus far been unable to crack their team's rotation, and given the fact that they have really never seemed to have a great deal of potential, it seems that these players will amount to little more than role players. Who now envisions Acie Law as becoming a potential starting point guard? If Corey Brewer can't average more than 5 points per game on the hapless Timberwolves, does he have a legitimate future? After such a dazzling preseason, can Marco Belinelli perform at a high level when he isn't more experienced and clearly more talented than everybody else on the court? This is the danger of drafting "ready" players, the upside is limited, and if they don't pan out immediately, it's hard to envision them being long-run mainstays on a good team. You might call me an idiot for predetermining the careers of guys no more than six years older than myself, and I may well look like an idiot for this column in a few years, but I simply don't see it happening.



Andrea Bargnani
Adam Morrison
Shelden Williams
Brandon Roy
Randy Foye
J.J. Redick
Hilton Armstrong
Thabo Sefolosha
Oleksiy Pecherov
Quincy Douby
Maurice Ager
Mardy Collins

"Not Ready:"

LaMarcus Aldridge
Tyrus Thomas
Rudy Gay
Cedric Simmons
Shawne Williams
Rajon Rondo
Kyle Lowry
Jordan Farmar

After just a year and a half, the comparison between those players who were "ready" and "not ready" is staggering. Andrea Bargnani's ceiling continues to be about as low as his vertical, Morrison looks to be a bust in Charlotte, the Hawks already gave up on Shelden Williams, Foye is stuck on the bench behind Marko Jaric, Redick has become Orlando's Token White Guy, Armstrong is a role player in New Orleans, Sefolosha's inability to perform forced Chicago to bring in Larry Hughes' terrible contract, Pecherov is a bust as a rookie this year having finally come to the states, and Douby, Ager, and Collins have all become quite irrelevant. Only Roy has been immensely successful in Portland out of that group. Meanwhile, Aldridge is a key piece of Portland's rebulding process, Ty Thomas has, between trade rumors, played well enough to allow Chicago to dump Ben Wallace, Gay is a star, Rondo is the point guard on the best team in the East, Lowry is stuck on a team with two other guys picked higher and more recently than him, and Farmar is L.A.'s point-guard-in-training behind Derek Fisher. If you had to choose between starting your team with the first or second groups, the choice is obvious. Having only one guy turn out to be a potential star as opposed to having only two guys (Simmons and Williams) not be important pieces to a team is a position that does not make GM's successful.



Andrew Bogut
Deron Williams
Raymond Felton
Channing Frye
Ike Diogu
Fran Vazquez
Sean May
Rashad McCants
Antoine Wright
Joey Graham
Danny Granger
Hakim Warrick
Julius Hodge
Nate Robinson
Jarrett Jack
Francisco Garcia
Luther Head
Jason Maxiell
Wayne Simien
David Lee

"Not Ready:"

Marvin Williams
Chris Paul
Martell Webster
Charlie Villanueva
Andrew Bynum
Yaroslav Korolev
Gerald Green
Linas Kleiza

Now things get interesting as we go back into the high school era. For starters, yes, I know, that is a whole lot of "Ready" guys. But this draft happened to be filled with guys who came out as either juniors or seniors in college. And looking at that group of guys, how well did it turn out for the teams that picked them? Larry Harris is about to be fired in Milwaukee, and Bogut is a big reason why. Sure, Deron Williams has turned out well, but I'd be willing to bet Jerry Sloan would rather be coming out of that tunnel with Chris Paul. The two guys picked before Andrew Bynum were Channing Frye and Ike Diogu... gulp. May has become irrelevant - partially because of injuries and partially because he didn't even perform when he wasn't hurt. Antoine Wright almost just got traded for a second-round pick before he had to be included in the Jason Kidd deal for salary cap purposes. Graham is unheard of. Hell, the only guys out of this group who seem to have exceeded expectations came in the back part of the round, when the expectations were so low. Even so, among overachievers like Danny Granger, Nate Robinson, Luther Head, Jason Maxiell, and David Lee are busts like Julius Hodge, Francisco Garcia, and Wayne Simien. Now, are you ready for the "not ready" guys? Marvin Williams is 21 and already averaging over 15 points per game. Chris Paul is this year's MVP. Webster, despite being so far behind the curve when he came out of high school, has managed to work his way into Portland's starting lineup. Villanueva can score in bunches, as shown by his recent 32 point outing, as Milwaukee's sixth-man. Everyone knows about Bynum's ridiculous development into a potentially dominant big man. And Kleiza has developed so much that Denver was unwilling to part with him as a part of a deal to get Ron Artest. Out of this group, really the only two guys who have struggled are Green and Korolev. For being younger guys who were thought to be high-risk and high-reward, the risk seems to be pretty small, and reward really really high.



Emeka Okafor
Ben Gordon
Josh Childress
Rafael Araujo
Luke Jackson
Kirk Snyder
Jameer Nelson
Delonte West
Tony Allen

"Not Ready:"

Dwight Howard
Shaun Livingston
Luol Deng
Andre Iguodala
Andris Biedrins
Robert Swift
Sebastian Telfair
Al Jefferson
Josh Smith
J.R. Smith
Dorell Wright
Kevin Martin (Despite coming out after his junior year, when kept him at the bottom of the first round was the fact that he was physically undeveloped, and had a shot that was not seen as suited for the NBA. Looks like that didn't matter too much, did it?)

This draft's comparison begins right at the top of the list and goes right down the order. Orlando could have easily made the safe pick, Emeka Okafor, at the start of the draft, and nobody would have complained, and everyone's job security would have been untouched. However, they made the daring pick, the unproven and unready guy, and what do they have now to show for it? Possibly the most dominant force in the NBA today. Were it not for Shaun Livingston's devastating knee injury last season, do you really think he wouldn't be far and away better than Ben Gordon, whose inconsistencies have kept him on Chicago's bench? Who would you rather have on your team - Josh Childress or Luol Deng? Andre Iguodala or Rafael Araujo? Andris Biedrins or Luke Jackson? Al Jefferson or anyone taken picks 3-14? Josh Smith/J.R. Smith or Kirk Snyder? Tony Allen or Kevin Martin? In all of these situations, the player who was "not ready" was selected immediately after the player who was "ready," and in every one of these situations, the player who was "not ready" has turned out to be a better player. Sure, there are busts like the unproven Robert Swift's and Dorell Wright's, but there are just as many Rafael Araujo's and Luke Jackson's among those "ready" players to make it idiotic to choose a player because he's "ready" for the NBA and a supposed proven commodity.

Now, I won't continue going to keep proving my point, but if you feel the urge, keep going back, and you'll find that it has been going on for a long time that making the safe pick and taking someone who is "NBA ready" doesn't mean that player will have a successful career, and that often players who are deemed as being "not ready" for the NBA often become the most successful players in the league.

So, to get to the point of this column - Jerryd, get out of UA and make your money. The Knicks are waiting for you.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

How to Fix the Lottery Teams

Pretty much year after year in the NBA we find the same teams mired in the mediocrity that is the NBA Draft Lottery. Atlanta, Memphis, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Portland, the L.A. Clippers, and Denver are among the teams that can be found annually hoping the ping-pong balls resurrect their franchises. So this year, I'm here to analyze the problems facing the fourteen teams that currently are lined up to be a part of the NBA Draft Lottery, Miami, Minnesota, Memphis, Seattle, New York, the Clippers, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Chicago, Indiana, Atlanta (pick owned by PHX), Sacramento, Portland, and Denver, and suggest methods for those teams to rectify their situations. Note that this will not be a mock draft (that's for a later date when the draft order is solidified), but just an outline of some of the moves and philosophies the teams need to have to rebuild. Some scenarios are very brief and simple, while others are so daunting as to nearing impossibility (that's you Isaiah). Starting from the bottom of the lottery, here we go.

Denver Nuggets:

Starting 5:
PG: Anthony Carter
SG: Allen Iverson
SF: Carmelo Anthony
PF: Kenyon Martin
C: Marcus Camby

Worst Contract: Kenyon Martin - $13.25 million salary, three years remaining after this season.

Remember a few years ago, when the Nuggets pulled off the sign-and-trade for Martin and everyone thought they were headed for the top? Well, now it seems like that's the move that is preventing them from making it to the top. They have two power forwards (Martin and Nene) who are both overpaid, have crappy knees which have had dreadful surgeries performed on them, and who the Nugs would love to dump off on someone. Honestly, if you're the Nuggets last summer, and you know Martin is under contract long-term, you know that the center position is locked up by the excellent Camby, what inspires you to sign Nene to such a terrible contract? Well enough griping on how the Nuggets have shot themselves in the foot, I'll offer some solutions. First off, there isn't a playoff team alive that really would depend on the play of a guy like Anthony Carter. Naturally, that's the first position the team needs to address. Problem is they're way over the cap, and there aren't great point guards available right out of college, especially around the bottom of the lottery, where the Nuggets will be picking this summer. So what can be done to rectify the Nuggets's situation? Well the first thing that strikes me is that Martin needs to be given a kick in the pants - he's making over $13 million per for the next three seasons following this one, and is averaging 11 points and 6 rebounds per game. How about a benching? Is it just me or is Martin the kind of guy who is enough of an athletic superfreak that he would be great in a role similar to David Lee's? He just runs and dunks, and has for pretty much his entire career, and given that he's 30, that isn't going to change. Inserting the emerging Linas Kleiza into the lineup instead of Martin, and having Martin come off the bench would not only maintain a solid starting 5 with Carter, Iverson, Carmelo, Kleiza, and Camby, but also give the Nuggets a great sixth and seventh man combo in Martin and J.R. Smith. Smith could spell Carter, with Iverson moving the point (given his new ability to pass), and Martin comes in for Kleiza to provide some instant energy after the opposing starting 5 has started to tire a little. Obviously that's a pretty insignificant change, but the fact of the matter is the Nuggets don't have any way to bring in free agents with their cap situation, and the draft is the only way they're going to bring in any more decent talent. As for the draft, Russell Westbrook or Ty Lawson appear to be the best options - they need a point guard. That, or they could opt for a shooting guard and move Iverson to point full-time (Chase Budinger?).

Portland Trail Blazers:

Starting 5:
PG: Steve Blake
SG: Brandon Roy
SF: Martell Webster
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge
C: Joel Pryzbilla (will be some guy named Oden when he returns)

Worst Contract: Raef LaFrentz - $12.4 million salary, one year remaining after this season.

Here's my advice for Kevin Pritchard: DON'T DO ANYTHING THIS SUMMER!!! Unless someone gives you an out-of-the-world offer of talent for Raef LaFrentz's expiring contract/corpse, don't ship it off for a set of longer, crappier contracts belonging to role players. Pritchard has been fantastic in building through the draft the past couple of seasons, acquiring picks in bundles from teams selling them off for nothing (that's you Suns, stop ruining the team's future for the sake of Sarver's bank account). This team has the talent currently on its roster to become great within a few years, as long as it doesn't undergo some unheard of unloading process of this talent. However, with such young, inexpensive talent comes the reality that all of those rookie contracts will soon expire, and once that happens, large contracts will be needed to replace them. So, for goodness' sake, let LaFrentz expire, and use that money to lock up guys like Roy, Aldridge, Webster, and eventually Oden long-term when necessary. Same applies for Darius Miles. Otherwise, keep the good track record on draft picks and continue to build inexpensively while acquiring relatively inexpensive role players (i.e. James Jones). Keep giving the young guys minutes, and keep alienating overpaid cancers like Darius Miles. Portland has the right idea, it just needs to stay patient. Jumping from the top pick last season to the 13th (thus far) is evidence of the progress, don't ruin it.

Sacramento Kings:

Starting 5:
PG: Beno Udrih
SG: Kevin Martin
SF: Ron Artest
PF: Mikki Moore
C: Brad Miller

Worst Contract: Kenny Thomas - $7.9 million salary, two years remaining after this season.

Sacramento started the process it needs to undergo at the deadline by shipping off Mike Bibby to Atlanta for spare expiring contracts. So now that it traded off one of the most expensive aging pieces that had trade value, why didn't it keep going? This is an example of a team that is floundering between wanting to compete now and building for the future. Last summer, the team signs Mikki Moore for over $5 million per season based on one playoff series of performance. And now it's trading away the guy who was its franchise point guard for years? OK, so you could argue the team decided to change its philosophy during the year after seeing they weren't going anywhere this season. So naturally, they choose to keep a guy making $7.4 million, who has had a history of making headlines for being insane throughout all of his career, but yet oddly seems to be as sane as he is ever going to be, and for whom there was legitimate interest throughout the league. Why do they not get rid of Ron Artest? He was a tradable asset who they can't see as being a part of their future - after all, why would you want to surround the young and budding star of Kevin Martin with a cancer like Artest - and they didn't trade him. Hopefully, next season, when Artest has opted out (making the Kings' net gain for him nothing) and Brad Miller is drawing attention from teams around the league due to his still-impressive play and short-term, high-salary contract, they make the smart move and deal him. This is a good young team that can build around guys like Martin, Spencer Hawes, Beno Udrih, and another lottery pick this year. O.J. Mayo's less-than-stellar freshman campaign at USC is starting to slip him down draft boards, and throwing him into that mix would make Sacto formidable if they can make the right moves.


Starting 5:
PG: Mike Bibby
SG: Joe Johnson
SF: Josh Smith
PF: Marvin Williams
C: Al Horford

Worst Contract: Speedy Claxton - $6.3 million salary, two years remaining after this season.

To start off, let me just say that the Bibby trade was spectacular. They gave up no first-round picks, nobody who was a significant part of their future plans, and got a guy who is just 29, has playoff experience, and plays the position the Hawks have been lacking for years. Granted, had they drafted Chris Paul, they wouldn't be in this situation, but the fact of the matter is they still have a really solid starting 5. The one problem here though is that by the time the young kids (Smith, Horford, Williams, and Acie Law off the bench) are in their primes, Bibby will be way past his. So the key here is the Hawks finding a way to contend before the kids hit their prime and after Bibby is past his. Also, the Hawks are without their first-round pick this year, having dealt it to Phoenix as a part of the Joe Johnson trade. However, the Hawks have a very managable cap situation, being just $126,000 over the cap, and Bibby's outrageous deal only lasts one season after this year, just as some of the kids are up for extensions. The key is what they do with the cap space they are likely to have when his deal expires. They obviously need to extend Smith and Williams. But one thing that the Hawks have been terrible about is signing insignificant players to short-sighted deals. They have Speedy Claxton on the books for another two seasons after this one at over $6 million and Zaza Pachulia on the books for next season at $4 million. One of the biggest rules for building an NBA team is to NOT overpay role players and guys who you aren't absolutely convinced will be significant parts of the team's rotation throughout the duration of the deal. However, the management in Atlanta is so screwed up, it's hard to imagine this foundation actually lasting for too long. If it does manage to survive though, this could be the Eastern Conference incarnation of the run-and-gun Phoenix Suns. We can hope.

Indiana Pacers:

Starting 5:
PG: Travis Diener (Jamaal Tinsley injured)
SG: Mike Dunleavy
SF: Danny Granger
PF: Troy Murphy (Jermaine O'Neal injured)
C: Jeff Foster (Jermaine O'Neal injured)

Worst Contract: Jamaal Tinsley - $6.3 million salary, three years remaining after this season.

Obviously, the depth chart is a bit skewed due to the two injuries mentioned, and the fact that Jermaine O'Neal has been injured for much of the season has left this team struggling, even in the Eastern Conference. First though, I'd like to look at the position where the other injury is hi-lighted, the point guard slot. Jamaal Tinsley has been inconsistent for years, and Diener looks to have some potential to be a fantastic point guard. In his last seven games, he has dished out a total of forty-eight assists - almost seven per contest, while also averaging 10 points per game. Given that Diener is paid much less, has more potential as a young player (only 26), and isn't despised by fans the way Tinsley is, it seems logical to me to simply keep him at the point even when Tinsley comes back. Similar to Kenyon Martin earlier, perhaps a benching will remove some of the lethargic play Tinsley has become associated with. After O'Neal fully recovers from his injury next season, this team looks poised to make a run at being one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference again. Thank goodness this team didn't panic and make a deal for Vince Carter - if they thought Tinsley mails in games, Carter has made it into his own art form. Not to mention Carter's contract is simply ungodly, whereas O'Neal's expires at the end of next season, either making O'Neal into a valuable trading chip next season, or giving the Pacers some cap flexibility to start over with. As far as what to do in the draft this year, the Pacers need a true center to pair with O'Neal, and while a guy like Marreese Speights of Florida would be considered a reach by some, he's the best center option that is likely to be available to the Pacers. Or, if the Pacers are looking to contend as soon as possible, they could go for Italy's Danilo Gallinari, although he might be off the board by this point.

Chicago Bulls:

Starting 5:
PG: Kirk Hinrich
SG: Larry Hughes
SF: Andres Nocioni
PF: Drew Gooden
C: Joakim Noah

Worst Contract: A tough call, considering the Larry Hughes deal is pretty bad, but Hughes was playing out of his element in Cleveland, and if he can recover some of his scoring ability he had in Washington, he could prove to be extremely valuable. I'm going to give the edge to Andres Nocioni - $8.5 million salary, four years remaining after this season. Role players don't deserve this kind of money, even glorified role players who happen to start on their team.

Analyzing the Bulls is especially tricky right now in the aftermath of their huge deal to ship Ben Wallace to Cleveland. However, what I notice when I look at the Bulls right now is that they have a much different problem than many other teams in the NBA Lottery situation right now. Instead of having a slew of underpaid young players who can continue to develop into potential all-stars in the mold of teams like Atlanta, Portland, etc., they are stuck with a slew of players who seem to have reached their potential in the starting lineup, backups with obvious deficiencies that prevent them from being starters, and only a couple of young players who seem to have star potential. Hinrich, Ben Gordon, and Luol Deng don't appear to be getting much better anytime soon, aren't going to be all-stars, but also aren't just average role players. This makes it a dicey situation for Chicago, as they now are faced with the challenge of paying a bunch of non-starters starter-level money. However, these players do have trade value, so the Bulls need to swing a big deal moreso than any other team on this list. However, in order to do so, the Bulls are going to have to remove their hesitation to part with some of their youngsters in Tyrus Thomas and Joakin Noah, as parting ways with one or both of these guys is likely the only way they're going to make any sort of significant splash. The deal to send off Ben Wallace was certainly a step in the positive direction, but this summer is going to be key for Chicago. If they can find a way to convince someone like the Clippers, Washington, or even Miami to agree to a sign-and-trade for someone like Elton Brand, Gilbert Arenas, or Shawn Marion, the Bulls can start to assemble pieces like Andres Nocioni and Larry Hughes around that one star player and rebuild this team around experience. In the Eastern Conference, that is going to be enough to make a serious playoff run. Some of their bad contracts prevent this team from being able to completely blow it up and rebuild from the ground up, but even if they wanted to do so, it probably wouldn't be the wisest course of action at this point. Let me just say I wouldn't want to be John Paxson right now, as he has some very difficult decisions to make. The makeup of this team even makes it difficult to try to suggest a way to go in the draft. The point guard position seems to be weak, especially since Chris Duhon is set to be a free agent, so one might expect the pick to be D.J. Augustin, but a big deal could throw all of their draft needs into flux. That is, if the pick isn't a part of the deal they make.

Milwaukee Bucks:

Starting 5:
PG: Mo Williams
SG: Michael Redd
SF: Bobby Simmons
PF: Charlie Villanueva
C: Andrew Bogut

Worst Contract: So many choices... I'll go with Bobby Simmons - $9.28 million salary, two years remaining after this season.

What has plagued the Bucks over the past few seasons has been being conservative when they need to be aggressive, and aggressive when they need to be conservative. Making the "safe pick" in the draft only ends up with teams passing up on elite talent like Chris Paul and Deron Williams to pick Andrew Bogut first overall. That's what makes last year's selection of Yi Jianlian so disappointing to me. It's not that Yi is a bad player - it's that he was the safe pick for Milwaukee. He's a guy who has legitimate game experience in international play and could come in and contribute now. The fact of the matter in Milwaukee is that right now, the Bucks aren't going to win, and a bit more production this year from Yi over taking a guy who could have a more significant impact in the long run shows no guts. Then, in looking at what they have done in free agency, you can only wonder why they throw gobs of money at second-tier free agents such as Mo Wililams, Bobby Simmons, and Charlie Bell. These guys are certainly not top-level players, but yet the Bucks seem to think they should pay them as such. What the Bucks need is patience right now - simply sit and let the crappy contracts expire, fire Larry Harris, one of the worst General Managers around (and hire Bill Simmons), start drafting for the future, and refuse to pay role players starter-money. Redd is a ridiculous scorer, and that won't diminish too much with age. Yes, this is going to take a LONG time, around three or four years in order to get rid of some guys and make others into expiring contract trading chips. But if Milwaukee basketball is going to be relevant again, the Bucks cannot start trying to swap out these deals for worse ones in hopes that they get a slight improvement in talent and can make a playoff run. It's not going to happen with this team, so suck it up and get ready for the long haul. Once Bell, Dan Gadzuric, Bo. Simmons, Jake Voskuhl, Mo Williams, and Desmond Mason are all finally off the books, this team can finally start to build and become relevant again. As for draft advice, the Bucks need to make a statement with a legitimate prospect. I've heard suggestions to go with Italy's Danilo Gallinari, who has been said to be "possibly a better prospect than Andrea Bargnani." That is absolutely not what Milwaukee needs. Milwaukee needs to take a guy who will need grooming and attention to develop his raw talents, and two names that come to my mind are Anthony Randolph of LSU and O.J. Mayo of SC. Both of those guys would be the start of a new trend in Milwaukee which would allow for the Bucks to begin making the drastic changes they need to make. Two great options (and at least one is likely to be available at Milwaukee's pick). Another less-appealing backup option could be Oklahoma's Blake Griffin, but it shouldn't be necessary to take him.

Charlotte Bobcats:

Starting 5:
PG: Raymond Felton
SG: Jason Richardson
SF: Gerald Wallace
PF: Emeka Okafor
C: Nazr Mohammed

Worst Contract: Matt Carroll - $5.45 million salary, five years remaining after this season.

Michael Jordan is drunk at the helm. Looking at all the recent moves the Bobcats have made, you can't help but wonder what their long-term plans are. The Bobcats have been hounded by the same issues the Bucks have been pestered by - making the safe pick in the draft. Adam Morrison had proven he could score and college and was a proven competitor. But did he have upside? No, and everyone knew it. Sean May played for a great team at North Carolina, but was he going to be a dominant, physically imposing power forward? Absolutely not, and, once again, everyone knew it. This timidity has prevented the Bobcats from really acquiring top-notch young talent through the draft. Last summer, when the Cats picked Brandan Wright from UNC, the kid with all sorts of potential and athletic upside, I thought they had finally reversed their thinking and made a move that made sense for the future of the franchise. So what did they do? They shipped him to Golden State for Jason Richardson, wasting their cap space on a highly-paid veteran who wasn't going to take this team to the playoffs, not to mention a championship. And then they break the golden rule of not overpaying role players by giving Matt Carroll a SIX-YEAR CONTRACT!!! Then, to only make matters worse, their in-season deal involved giving expiring contracts to Detroit for Nazr Mohammed, who was stuck as the third center on Detroit's depth chart before the trade. Sure, Mohammed improves the team from a talent perspective, but he has a terrible contract and isn't going to take this team to the playoffs. So why sacrifice your cap flexibility? Some drastic changes need to come, and quick. Same advice I gave to the Bucks applies to Charlotte: stop overpaying role players, draft for the future, not the present, and lay off the scotch/phone combination. As for the draft, this team needs a center, despite the fact that they gave up their cap flexibility to get Mohammed. He isn't going to cut it, and the team would have been so much better off not wasting their money. DeAndre Jordan is ideal, given that he has an incredibly high ceiling, but unfortunately his chances of being around when Charlotte picks are slim to none. So the Bobcats may be forced to pick someone like Stanford's Brook Lopez, despite the fact that he does seem to slightly go against the suggested philosophy of not making the "safe pick." The Cats' need at center is simply that big.

Los Angeles Clippers:

Starting 5:
PG: Brevin Knight (Shaun Livingston injured, Sam Cassell recently released)
SG: Cuttino Mobley
SF: Corey Maggette
PF: Tim Thomas (Elton Brand injured)
C: Chris Kaman

Worst Contract: Cuttino Mobley - $8.35 million salary, two years remaining after this season.

The Clippers have a lot of problems. For starters, Elton Brand is likely to opt out and bolt at the end of the season, and you really can't blame him with the lack of success the Clippers have had recently. It's been obvious for a long time that this team isn't awfully keen on winning as many games as they possibly can, and that they certainly aren't well-managed. However, there are reasons to believe that, if this team's management gets its act together, this team can start to re-build and become pretty good in a short period of time. After Brand opts out, the Clips will have some cap space to work with this summer. My advice to them - don't use it unless you can get one of the top three or four guys on the market. Their space in all likelihood would only get them a mid-tier player on the current free agent market whose contract they would be wanting to rid of in about two weeks (like what has happened with Tim Thomas). Instead, this team needs to start re-building around guys like Chris Kaman, Quinton Ross, and Al Thornton, while waiting for the contracts of Corey Maggette and Mobley to either run out or become expiring deals that they can get quality players and draft picks out of in the next couple of years. As far as drafting goes, the Clippers need a good point guard to take over for Cassell, and if Jerryd Bayless gets past the Knicks, he would be a fantastic pick for the Clippers. However, in all likelihood that does not happen, forcing the Clippers to look into possibly selecting either a big man compliment to Kaman (Jordan/Lopez) or reaching a bit for either a power forward (Randolph/Griffin) or even a polished foreign player like Gallinari.

New York Knicks:

Starting 5:
PG: Jamal Crawford
SG: Fred Jones (Stephon Marbury suspended/injured/who knows)
SF: Quenton Richardson
PF: Zach Randolph
C: Eddy Curry

Worst Contract: Good lord, can I say all of them? No? Well... if I have to pick, I'll say Quentin Richardson's beauty of a deal - $8.1 million salary, two years remaining after this season, and the guy who he was recently traded for, Kurt Thomas, is less washed up than Richardson is despite the fact that Richardson is eight years younger. Yikes. The Knicks weren't even the ones who signed the guy and they still ended up with his terrible contract. Is Isaiah doing this on purpose? I'm seriously asking this question...

Where in God's name do I begin? They're almost $40 million over the salary cap. I was discussing what I would do as Knicks GM with my buddy Travers, and came up with the idea of signing three fat cannibalistic Samoan guys to ten-day contracts, leaving David Lee, Renaldo Balkman, Wilson Chandler, Mardy Collins, Randolph Morris, and Nate Robinson in New York on some road trip with a mysterious "illness," and then having the Samoans have at it on the team jet. If they were hungry enough, could get through Jerome James' fat layers, and dodge Zach Randolph's prison shank that he keeps in his left sock, they could potentially get rid of all of the Knicks' bad contracts in a quick four-hour plane ride! Honestly, and in all seriousness, I do not know where to begin with this team. The only option that seems to be available to the Knicks is to simply stand pat, try to acquire some young pieces in the draft, sign NOBODY in free agency, give the young studs counseling so they don't commit suicide, and wait four years for all of these crappy deals to finally come off the books. That means that the Knicks get absolute free reign to draft whoever will be the best player in the draft, since they're completely starting over with their roster. Since the top-3 appears all but set, this leaves the two centers (Jordan/Lopez) or Jerryd Bayless as the pick for NY. Having watched Bayless crush BCP at St. Mary's in Phoenix for four years, I can't help but think that Bayless is the guy that will shine in the prime-time atmosphere of New York City. He's my pick.

Seattle Sonics:

Starting 5:
PG: Earl Watson
SG: Kevin Durant
SF: Jeff Green
PF: Chris Wilcox
C: Johan Petro

Worst Contract: Nick Collison - $5.75 million salary, three years remaining after this season.

This team is absolutely being ripped apart right now, as Clay Bennett prepares to move the squad to the booming market of Oklahoma City (what?!?!?!). So Sam Presti has been faced with the impossible task of trying to shed salary on this team while also building it up to have a future once it does finally arrive in Oklahoma City. To be short, Presti has been marvelous. If I'm forced to take over any one of these teams, Seattle is at the top of the list (with one other team that might surprise you - coming later). Presti has been marvelous in not only getting rid of the team's horrid contracts (like Wally Szczerbiak's, also known as "One of the Top 20 Most Untradable Contracts to Ever Get Traded"), while also stocking up on first-round picks, such as how he turned Rashard Lewis wanting to go to Orlando into three first-round picks and half a year of solid play from Kurt Thomas. He did so by using the trade exception to acquire Thomas from Phoenix, but only consenting to do so by taking two of Phoenix's future first-round picks, only to ship Thomas off to San Antonio at the deadline for another pick and expiring deals. And now by taking on more expiring deals in the Cleveland/Chicago three-way deal, Seattle is set to build their team around a young, exciting core of Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and this year's pick with solid role players like Nick Collison and Luke Ridnour (two examples of safe picks, by the way, and now both have gone from lottery selections to role players - I can't stress this enough...). Also, once their plethora of deals that expire over the next couple of seasons finally are off the books, the Oklahoma City Rodeo Clowns will have the resources to rebuild their franchise. It really is too bad that Bennett is forcing Presti to cut salary - I'd love to see what this guy could do if he were just trying to build talent, not cap space. As for the draft, they find themselves in the unfortunate position of being the fourth-worst team in the league. If they score in the lottery and get into the top-3, they can get their hands on one of the three guys who are widely expected to, and should, go 1-2-3, Beasley, Rose, or Gordon. If not, I would think they might go for DeAndre Jordan, but if the Sonics/R.C.'s picked up yet another center in the first-round of the draft, I think there might be even more of a mutiny than there is already after the abysmal busts of Robert Swift, Johan Petro, and Mouhamed Sene (picked three straight years before Durant came into town last year - too bad Oden didn't slip to them, we could be going for the quinfecta...). I can see management in Seattle/soon-to-be-OKC showing too much pride and refusing to admit that all three are busts, and instead reaching for a Jerryd Bayless, Anthony Randolph, or Danilo Gallinari, strictly to try to not end up with another center on the roster.

Memphis Grizzlies:

Starting 5:
PG: Mike Conley
SG: Mike Miller
SF: Rudy Gay
PF: Hakim Warrick
C: Darko Milicic

Worst Contract: Brian Cardinal - $5.85 million salary, two years remaining after this season. Tempted to put Darko though...

Good lord, what is GM Chris Wallace thinking? He accepted two prospects (one of whom is in Europe), two picks, and a corpse (it apparently has a name too, something like Kwame, I think) in exchange for one of the top power forwards in the league. And then, following that debacle, he tries to hike up his asking price for Mike Miller, resulting in the Grizzlies getting nothing out of a tradable asset with a high-priced contract to start rebuilding around the incredibly gifted scorer Rudy Gay. If Marc Iavaroni gets through this mess with his job, someone ought to give him a purple heart. Or at least a hug. The Grizzlies have precisely 37.4 young point guards on their roster (Conley, Javaris Crittenton, and Kyle Lowry), an even greater number of one-dimensional three-point bombers (Miller, Juan Carlos Navarro, Casey Jacobsen, and Brian Cardinal), one true center (the oh-so-talented Jason Collins), and two starters who don't have a definite position (Darko is not a center or a power forward, and Warrick is not a power forward or a small forward). Yikes. This team needs to do two things. First, it need to use one of its point guard assets and Miller to dump off Cardinal's contract for expiring deals. Ironically, they had just this opportunity when Miami offered to take Cardinal and Miller from the Grizz for the expiring deals of Jason Williams and Ricky Davis, yet the Grizzlies moronically refused. Second, they need to stop signing guys who havn't proven themselves over long periods of time to contracts that will pay them over long periods of time. This caution alone would have prevented the Darko and Cardinal signings, which unsurprisingly are now the two worst contracts on the team. As for the draft, take the best player available who does not play point guard. They could be tempted to go for DeAndre Jordan to finally get themselves that center, but I feel that this team has so many needs that it's hard to settle for any smaller amount of talent to pick for need. That player with the greatest talent looks to be Eric Gordon at this point, but if the Grizz fall in the lottery, they should focus on one of the two center prospects.

Minneota Timberwolves:

Starting 5:
PG: Sebastian Telfair
SG: Marko Jaric
SF: Corey Brewer
PF: Ryan Gomes
C: Al Jefferson

Worst Contract: Antione Walker - $8.3 million salary, three years remaining after this season.

Minnesota has pieces and quality young players to work with, but too many bad contracts to allow them to surround those young players with the quality guys they need to rebuild this team. Walker's deal is horrendous. Mark Madsen makes $2.4 million, and will for two more years after this season. Jaric makes $6.05 million, and will for three more years after this season. Greg Buckner makes $3.75 million, and will for two more years after this season. In case you're counting, that is $20.5 million in salary devoted to thsoe players The only one in the Wolves' rotation is Jaric, and quite frankly he shouldn't be. Minny is going nowhere in the next couple of years, and the young guys on the team are developing. So what Minny needs to do is get all of those young guys into their starting lineup and give them as much playing time as their bodies can handle. Telfair is leaving to get as much money as he can find this summer when his deal expires, so bench him and give Randy Foye the run he needs. Jaric is useless, and McCants has shown time and time again that he can score, so swap those two around. A lineup headlining Foye, McCants, Brewer, and Jefferson has four guys who have all proven they will be good, if not great, players in the NBA. This team has a fair number of guys whose deals expire at the end of the year, including Michael Doleac ($3.1 million), Kirk Snyder ($2.36 million), and Telfair ($2.56 million). However, this team shouldn't go out and spend it, and instead focus on building through the draft and making sure they'll have the resources around to extend the guys who will be keys to their team when the time comes to do so, while waiting for the crappy deals to start going away. For this year's draft, If the Wolves manage to hit the jackpot in the Lottery their pick will, without any doubt or hesitation, be Michael Beasley. He not only is the most talented player in the draft, as well as the best prospect, but also fits exactly the need that the Wolves have. It is, by all accounts, a perfect marraige. However, should they come up short, their pick is Derrick Rose should they choose second (moving Foye to the 2, and McCants to a great bench scorer role in the mold of what Leandro Barbosa is supposed to be), or one of the centers should they pick fourth or fifth (moving Jefferson back to his more natural power forward position). The Wolves are extremely fortunate that this draft has players in it that fit their needs.

Miami Heat:

Starting 5:
PG: Jason Williams
SG: Dwayne Wade
SF: Shawn Marion
PF: Udonis Haslem
C: Mark Blount

Worst Contract: Mark Blount - $7.9 million salary, two years remaining after this season.

I mentioned earlier that the Sonics were one of two teams that I would most like to take over if I had my choice of any of these fourteen lottery teams, and said that one other would come later. Well, this is the last team, so yes, the Heat are my second choice, despite being the worst team in the NBA and being almost $20 million over the cap. Allow me to explain. First things first, the the Heat, despite being so far above the cap now, will shed off a TON of salary at the end of the season. Since the Grizzlies did the Heat a solid and refused to take Davis' and Williams' expiring deals for Mike Miller and Brian Cardinal, the Heat now will have both of those deals, along with the deals of Dorell Wright, Smush Parker, Alonzo Mourning, Earl Barron, and Chris Quinn all expire at the end of the year. The combined salaries of those players alone, $24.97 million, is enough to get the Heat $5 million under the cap. Where it gets even better is when you consider the fact that Shawn Marion has the option to opt out of his $16.44 million contract, and it is widely assumed that he will do just that in order to get one last huge deal with whoever is willing to pay him the most money. So for this year, shut Wade down, lose intentionally, make Marion as unhappy as possible so he leaves, and the demolition is complete. That gives the Heat a healthy, rejuvinated Dwayne Wade, a couple of good supporting pieces (Marcus Banks, Daequan Cook, Udonis Haslem), one of the top picks of this year's draft, and over $20 million in cap space to re-shape their roster however they please. Moving on to the draft, the Heat look poised to have the best shot to acquire Michael Beasley due to their futility. However, what is even more important about their futility is that it guarantees them that they pick no worse than the fourth pick. This makes it so that they are guaranteed one of the top-5 talents in the draft, since only one player in that top-5 (Eric Gordon) plays the position that is locked up by Wade. Anybody from Beasley, Rose, Jordan, or Lopez would be a great pick for Miami to compliment Wade. Don't expect this team to stay down for too long.

There you have it - I have just pretended to actually have some sort of knowledge on the runnings and operations of the NBA and made myself into the GM of all 14 lottery teams. If any of these teams does what I say they should and it works for them, just know that I'm never going to stop talking about it. You've been warned.