Saturday, June 30, 2012

Wild Guesses and Outlandish Speculation: D-Day Plus 1 Edition

D-Day Plus 1 is a frustrating day if you're an NBA fan.  This is the day that all sites dedicated to the NBA determine who "won" the draft, who "lost" the draft, who was the big "steal" and of course, who will become a total, unforgivable "bust".  We wanted the dust to settle a bit before we offered our thoughts about D-Day.  This is a blog for the discerning NBA fan, after all not some cluckster from Sheboygan.  Nawmsayin'?  And my apologies to all our fans in Sheboygan.

1. Given that the draft is, at best, an educated guess, can we really assess "winners" and "losers" the day after?  Why or why not?

Hans Peterson: Not meaningfully.  I guess you can argue the Cavs should have traded back for more "value" since they could potentially get Waiters later.  But what if no one was willing to trade and Waiters becomes Dwayne Wade?  Then they did the right thing.  That said, I'm wholeheartedly in favor of predictions.  It is what makes these things fun -- it's gambling your basketball-mind reputation.  So I still think it's fun, we should probably just call it what it is.  Instead of "grade" the draft, it's "predict" the winners and losers.  So even though no one knows, I think it is fun to guess whether Andre Drummond is going to be a disaster (he will: Greg Oden's college body + Darko's brain + Ben Wallace's ball skills).

Jordan Durlester: We can assess "winners" and "losers" the day after the draft by doing essentially what we've been doing at The Diss for the past two weeks: evaluating where a team is lacking and seeing if they made a solid effort to identify the best prospects to fill their voids. Because successful player evaluation is anything but guaranteed, those teams who had a clear drafting strategy and executed it well were the winners.

Frank Mieuli: We can assess "winners" and "losers" if it comes with the caveat that we are missing the most important information.  It is absolutely fair to say things like "the Oklahoma City Thunder won the draft because they got Perry Jones III with the 28th pick" because, for that pick, they got tremendous value.  Now, it may turn out that Perry Jones III busts out of the league and some undrafted guy becomes an All-Star, but from our current vantage point, they did great.

Jairo Martinez: Initially you want to rate based on players drafted and potential impact they may have on rosters.  Its strictly hypothetical but fun putting it together.  I say a fair assessment should come after 3 (healthy) years.

Omar Bagnied: No of course there's no way to make an accurate assessment yet.  But we can use certain metrics in the interim.  Before the draft even begins you can look at quantity and quality (order) of pics, then account for trades to acquire players, gain picks and move up.  As for assessing the actual talent of players, you can gauge stats, competition and physique.  Right there are six objective metrics to take into account.  Other factors are more subjective in nature, like perceived personality traits (resilience, work ethic, focus, drive [read: Thomas Robinson]).  That being said, if we look at yesterday's draft it's unlikely there will be a team that improves more, based strictly on draft activity, than New Orleans.  A franchise-changing defensive big man with guard chops, the cold-blooded scoring son of Doc Rivers, and a small forward who player four years under John Calipari at Kentucky to supplant Ariza.

Jacob Greenberg: I think it's difficult to assess a winner or loser because no two teams are alike.  The draft provides a sort of clearing-house day to do some major clean up, and no team enters that day with the same agenda.  Some teams need massive rehauls (Hornets), and some need cosmetic fixes (Thunder). I think the only losers are those who made stupid moves that prevented them from taking part in the affair. The Nets, for example, are a loser because they sacrificed their pick to Portland for Gerald Wallace, who opted out of his deal a few days ago.  Everyone else is off the hook, as we have no idea what's going to happen, tomorrow, or ten seasons down the road.

2. Do you think it's harder to draft for talent (assessing the best player available) or to draft for need (assessing which player will excel at a specific skill)?

Hans Peterson: Talent.  Because then you have to factor in potential.  If your job was to pick the best player that day, it would be easier (this was closer to the case when the Blazers missed Jordan because everyone had 3-4 years of college under the belts).  Now it doesn't really mean pick the best player available, it is pick the guy who will BECOME the best player available.  If you desperately need a shooter, you can pick John Jenkins and know he will be able to do that.  If you desperately need someone who could turn into a top 10 player, do you take Kidd-Gilchrist or Beal?  The problem is, until you are a contender, you pretty much have to take the latter, more difficult approach.

Jordan Durlester: Drafting for pure talent, regardless of need, is a much more complicated process that doesn't pan out more often than not.  Your job as a general manager is identify the pieces that will enable your vision of a winning basketball team to come to fruition on the court.  As is the case for any executive, playying is an absolute keystone, and it is your duty to ensure you're drafting not only the most raw talent but the most specialized talent that will aid you going forward.

Frank Mieuli: Talent.  For a lot of these guys, you know what you are going to get.  Anthony Davis, for example, will always be better on defense than he is on offense.  If you need a defensive-minded center, I can guarantee that he will develop into one.  The question is, will he develop into Dwight Howard or Theo Ratliff?  That's the question that scouts find tough to answer.

Jairo Martinez: I think it goes hand in hand.  That's why being a "talent evaluator" is such a tricky job. Skill is great to have but you risk your chemistry and leadership.  It's all a balance and you have to get the right formula.

Omar Bagnied: It's more risky to draft for talent because you don't know how it'll translate to the NBA, the highest level of competition.  Drafting for need is smarter for two reasons.  First, you're picking a guy that can start immediately, develop, gain experience and make an impact.  If you draft for talent (read: Chicago picking Marquis Teague) you're delaying all of the above because you're likely to stick the guy on the bench.  Furthermore, if the guy you picked was a star in his previous league and picked high you're inviting resentment amongst teammates and financial strains.  Second, filling a need by drafting oftentimes means you're getting a guy you need at a lower price than an established player would demand.

Jacob Greenberg: Hans got it right here. If you're in the draft, you're probably in need of better players, period (unless you're Detroit in 2003 and you blow it on DARKO MILICIC, and miss out on Wade, Bosh, Melo, or even Chris Kaman.  Why Joe Dumars still has a job is beyond me).  As such, you're always drafting for talent.  I think the players themselves know that, and in many cases, unrealistic expectations lead to sad self-fulfilling prophecies.  I'm happy undrafted sharpshooters like Anthony Morrow have found ways to get paid, but I'd also love it if guys like Michael Beasley had their moments in the sun too.  

3. Given everything that goes into being an NBA draftee -- that is, your body of work as a player, combined with media and scouting reports (written by others) that assesses your skill-set and character -- did Jared Sullinger "win" or "lose" yesterday?

Hans Peterson: I mean, I guess he did fine yesterday given where he was at 8:00 am (out of the lottery) and then 10:00 pm (the 21st pick to the Celtics -- not a bad place to be).  But he lost overall.  He went from a top-five pick last year to a final four appearance, back troubles, and out of the lottery.  I respect his decision, but he gambled and lost.

Jordan Durlester: Well, both.  Closer to winning than losing.  He probably could have gone much earlier, earning him more money on his rookie contract, but by falling later into the first round he ended up in a position where he has much less pressure and fewer expectations.  By missing out on a top ten pick he gains the opportunity to be introduced to the NBA game within an already established, winning organization.  Seeing as he's not exactly the model for an NBA starting 5, this could allow him the opportunity to learn the game while being counted on as nothing more than a second unit guy, a role that could prove longterm.

Frank Mieuli: It depends.  If he's a sensitive guy, then his slide absolutely could kill his confidence and make his mountain much harder to climb.  But if he is one of those, "fuck the world, I'm going to act like a dick and destroy everybody" (take a bow, Russell Westbrook) then it could serve as a beneficial motivating factor.

Jairo Martinez: Jared Sullinger did both.  He lost being a potential top 10 pick and testing the new CBA (monetarily speaking).  However he won in striving to win a college championship, which very few NBA players can attest to.  Also despite the reports that he had an injury, he landed in an excellent scenario to play in Boston.  He will learn from a future HOF guy in KG.

Omar Bagnied: He lost money in the short-term, but I say he'll win in the long-term.  If Sullinger's back injury isn't serous, he's landed in an ideal situation.  He's on a great team with revered history, has KG and Doc as teachers, Rondo as his point guard, Fab Melo to develop alongside and will likely get significant playoff experience in his first year.  I really can't think of a better situation.

Jacob Greenberg: I think he wins.  People honestly don't remember what you did in college (Kurt Thomas, the NCAA's leading scorer and rebounder, anyone?), and you are defined in the pros. Take Glen Davis, aka "Big Baby", a former Celtics draftee who now plays for the Magic.  The Celtics, honestly, have missed Big Baby. Both guys sort of share a similar narrative. Both were former college stars whose physical limitations lead to a "disappointing" draft days.  Big Baby played really like he had nothing to lose, and was huge for them for three seasons.  If Doc and the C's veteran core (which looks likely to be reunited once again -- I think Ray Allen loves the Celtics more than he lusts for the Heatles) can do some good work with Sully, I think he will successfully reinvent himself.

4. If I could change one thing about the draft (or the way the draft is covered in the media), I'd change ____________ .

Hans Peterson: There are a lot of things I could say here.  I guess I would want the air of certainty/confidence/objectivity to be discared.  I think they should embrace the Draft as a fun and entertaining event.  Dreams are coming true, and we get to play a fun guessing game.  But stop pretetending that Dick Vitale knows any better than me whether Harrison Barnes is going to blossom in the NBA.  Everyone should get to guess the worst case scenario and best case scenario for each player, and they should spend the pre-draft part smack-talking clips of everyone's terrible predictions from the previous year.  And Charles Barkley should say at least 33% of the words that take place throughout the telecast.

Jordan Durlester: Move it out of the tri-state area.  The obnoxious and constant stream of boos every time Stern steps to the mic is a tired bit that wouldn't draw out nearly as long in a city filled with classier fans.  They boo everybody.  Move it to Chicago or San Francisco.

Frank Mieuli: The way trades are consummated.  It's ridiculous that a draftee has to wear a hat of some team that they aren't going to be on in 24 hours while we listen to the talking heads talk about how he will fit on a team that he won't actually be on, while everybody at home (and following on Twitter) knows there's been a trade.

Jairo Martinez:  No more spoilers via Twitter.  It ruins suspense and commentary.  Also Jay Bilas must have a board behind him where words are crossed off (and cannot be repeated) once he uses them to describe a player's attributes and skill set.

Omar Bagnied: Buzz Killington (read: NBA insiders) telling us who's going to get picked before it's announced.  None too amused by this...none too amused.

Jacob Greenberg: Move the Draft from ESPN to TNT.  ESPN's lineup of Jay Bilas, Jeff Van Gundy, Chris Broussard and Reese Davis did not click.  Neither Van Gundy nor Broussard (who rarely work together, and have little chemistry) seemed to like Bilas or Davis, both of whom cover the college game.  Van Gundy, in particular, seemed dour, and reluctant to participate in the cheerleader, American Dream pep-rally narrative that Davis put out there.  I think the TNT crew -- former NBA draftees who have experienced a myriad of successes and disappointments relative to their respective draft position -- would provide better insight into the event's history and importance.  I'm way more interested in what Chuck, Kenny, C-Webb, Steve Kerr, and yes, even Shaq, have to say about this event than Tom Penn, Jay Bilas, or Andy Katz.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bios and Breakdowns: Austin Rivers

The Basics:
Austin Rivers
Shooting Guard, Duke University (1 year)
Official Measurements from NBA Combine in Chicago
Height (with shoes): 6'5"
Weight: 203 lbs.
Wingspan: 6'7.25"

So who should go number 2 overall? If you ask Austin Rivers or Skip Bayless, both would tell you that he should

The 19 year old, one and done guard from Duke, oozes confidence and at times what could be perceived as selfishness on the court. Coach K, with his ultra traditional approach to basketball, would even tell you - shut up and just watch the kid play (though his outspoken critics may beg to differ by pointing out his lackluster showing during the NCAA tournament).

Austin Rivers. The name sounds vaguely familiar, right? The chip off the old block is following in his father's footsteps by playing the guard position and if tonight is any indication it will assuredly be somewhere in the NBA. His quick feet, killer crossover, and deep range could allow him to light it up at the next level.
Though the biggest worry for Rivers tonight is who is willing to take a chance on him? While he shows promise - his selfish play on the court (exemplified by his horrid shot selection  and very few to no assists) may scare teams away that are seriously considered with chemistry issues and limiting superstar squabbles. Rivers will need to address this in camp and help improve his game. His ability to drive to the paint is excellent, though finishing leaves something to be desired. His lack of a left hand and strong leaping ability may make him susceptible to defenses crashing on him. 

This is still a "what can you do for me now?" so look for the Hornets to pair him up with Anthony Davis at number 17. The Hawks, Suns, Blazers and Mavs may take a real good look at him for the future.

Lusty Bodies.

One of the more interesting (and memorable) books I read while I crashed and burned in my doctoral program was Saltwater Slavery, written by historian Stephanie Smallwood.

In the book, Smallwood describes the process by which slaves, captured on the Gold Coast (present day Ghana) of West Africa, were systematically stripped of their humanity and "commodified" by their European captors and slavers while traveling on the "middle passage" between Africa and the Americas.  Smallwood uses the official documents of European slavers, which tracked slave inventories (and losses to that inventory), as well as documents that listed ship cargo as well as rations for both crew and the enslaved, to show how Europeans perfected the art of simply keeping slaves alive so they could be sold for good prices.  In addition, Smallwood explores how a loss of sensory engagement with the real world stripped a captured African person of his or her ability to discern their surroundings, communicate with their fellow captives, and participate in traditional practices, and in turn, forced a transformation from human being to commodity.  If the cargo survived -- and the slave successfully was transformed from human to commodity -- it could then make the final transformation into a slave.  Smallwood's discourse analysis, which dives into the language of the slavers who gloated over the "lusty bodies" of slaves, highlight how deeply engrained the practice of human commodification was in the transatlantic slave trade. It was a compelling argument, and despite its flaws (it was beautifully written, and amazingly well-researched, but African historians deeply distrust work that makes heavy use of European sources to describe a particular African experience), it (and she) influenced me greatly in my abortive career as an academic (and blackademic).

And, to my surprise, I am finding myself thinking about this book at a strange time: in the hours leading up to the 2012 NBA draft.

Each year, sixty young men -- basketball players from all over the world -- are selected by thirty NBA franchises to start the process of crafting a career in the league.  Over half of the players chosen will never suit up for the team that drafted them, let alone play a minute of professional basketball in the NBA.  Many of them will last mere minutes in the league, and will earn money overseas.  Many will never shake injury bugs, and will fall prey to the scorn of media-types and fan-boys who'll never have any idea what it takes to perform unthinkable physical feats for a living.  Yet, for these gentlemen, this is a pinnacle moment in their lives: when a childhood talent becomes a major payday, and when their stories of "hard work" and "sacrifice" help secure the financial futures of their family, friends, and business associates.

For the college basketball fan, this is a moment of celebration for a group of student-athletes who are making good on a dream, as well as anywhere from one-to-four years of hard work and progress.  The college game attracts a very particular kind of basketball fan; one who sees charm and promise in imperfection, and concentrates on the players' youthful flashes of brilliance.  They appreciate the pressure that comes with the first national exposure of these players' lives, and can look forward to the fact that those players will go forth and grow into better players, professionals, and human beings.  This narrative keeps Dick Vitale relevant, and has created near cults of personality around figures like Mike Krzyzewski and John Calipari, who churn out heralded players year after year.

However, for the non-college ball fan, this is a far more sleazy time.  For folks like us, this is when these young men, most of whom we've honestly never heard of, or ever seen play (and if we did, probably can't remember it) cease to be young men, and instead become commodified. We assess their performance in college, which in our eyes, represent professional basketball's Middle Passage.  We see what they learned, how they grew, and most importantly: what condition they arrived in once they got to the auction.  Names like Anthony Davis, Thomas Robinson and Bradley Beal cause our eyes to widen and our mouths to moisten.  Names like Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones III produce frowns and a slow shake of the head.  We are all, in a sense, at an auction, selecting which players will win our attention and adoration, and which players will fail to pique our attention.

This is not to say that an NBA fan is not humanistic; far from it.  We certainly care about interest stories, and the personal lives of players are well known.  But we feelings are for kids.  This is a league of men, where crying is hyperanalyzed and the players foul like they mean it.  We are interested only in the ways the player will translate from college to the pros.  It is that middle passage that concerns us -- we need to know these players can survive the transition from college amateurs to bona-fide professionals -- and causes us to lick our chops, lustfully eyeing a promising combonation of stats, size, wingspan, "star power", and overall character.  Past mistakes and health issues are "red flagged", and players plummet just as fast as they ascend.  In a final analysis, we are left with a strange event, equal parts pagaent and auction, where we look forward to players delivering disappointment and failing expectations just as much as we look forward to players providing brilliance and succeeding in their new career.  It is a meat market in a strange sense.

In many ways, tonight is the moment when talented young basketball players cease to become human. It smacks of Saltwater Slavery.  They are stripped of their humanity, and instead become the sum of their stats; another workhorse to add to the stable, wherever that stable may be.  Some will blossom and grow into franchise cornerstones, but most (yes, most) will fail to make a lasting mark in the league.  Most will remain on the fringe, logging time with NBA Developmental League franchises in Sioux Falls, Austin or Boise, and taking long flights to Belgrade, Beijing, or Barcelona.  They will be forced to leave their families and support networks behind, and face a wild, unforgiving world by themselves.  And if and when they're services become expendable, they will be discarded and forgotten by the general populace, and forced to return home and confront their inability to become the professional they (and others around them) always imagined them eventually being.

Perhaps the most important argument of Smallwood's Saltwater Slavery is that "the inexorable one-way trajectory of African dispersal via the transatlantic slave trade" carried significant ramifications for identity formation and individual action while in transit and upon arrival in "the new world."  A captive's inability to fully comprehend the nature of being enslaved -- the ship, shackles, conditions of the journey -- combined with a sense of "social death" that forced a captive "to deny his natal kin ties and acquire certain fictive kin bonds to the master and his family", and in turn, led to poignant examples of resistance.  In a particularly memorable example, Smallwood analyzes the account of a slave ship captain who laments the loss of a "lusty healthy slave" who jumped overboard and refused rescue.  Smallwood chooses not to see this account as simply an "idiom of the market" (that is, a purely economic loss), but rather, a "decisive act" that "undoes what the market quite deliberately had sought to produce" and in turn, "robbed" the owner, and the slave economy "of the considerable quotient of labor power embodied in his person."  This defiant death, in a strange way, helped return the slave "to a place of personhood," and allowed him some agency in mitigating what was a totalizing and usurping "social death" at the bottom of a slave ship, and hopelessly separated from natal ties and kinship networks.  At that point, Smallwood argues, death was preferable to the trauma of captivity, and the slave knowingly prevented the slaver from turning him into a commodity that could be exchanged, overworked, or discarded.

When I read about the commodities that we gleefully discard -- players like Korleone Young, who was profiled by ESPN yesterday -- I wonder if we, in turn, are continuing a form of chattel slavery that colonial entrepreneurs established nearly 400 years ago on the Gold Coast of Africa.  As we look over variously lusty bodies, wondering if Thomas Robinson's shoulders are good indicators of an NBA-ready big man, or if Jared Sullinger's red-flagged back will spell the death of his career before it even begins, my mind goes to these faceless subjects of analysis, whose voices are only contained in the cold, calculated ledgers of their masters.  This is serious business happening tonight: the stakes are high, and lots of money is at play.  Vocational futures for many people -- players, scouts, general managers -- are on the line.

But despite this, we should remember something very important: these are human beings we are watching on the stage, preening in thousand dollar suits, flashing shit-eating grins with The Commish.  They are not commodities; indeed, they are certainly more than the sum of their stats.  If we forget this -- even when they're succeeding, even when they're earning millions, even when they're receiving unconditional adoration from scores of distant fans -- we are doing these men, and ourselves, a great disservice.  For Smallwood is correct in her assertion that when a man or woman is forced to become a commodity, an object of exchange, the person become "physically atomized as to silence all but the most elemental bodily articulation, so socially impoverished as to threaten annihilation of the self, the complete disintegration of personhood."  Or, simply put: they just cease to be themselves.

So tonight, as we consider the strange way history repeats itself in vastly different economic conditions, let us cherish humanity, and be ever conscious of the way we commodify lusty, able bodies.

Bios and Breakdown: Perry Jones III

The Basics:
Perry Jones III
Power Forward/Center, Baylor (2 years)
Official Measurements from NBA Combine in Chicago
Height (with shoes): 6'11.25"
Weight: 234 lbs.
Wingspan: 7'1.75"

The words “talented” and “potential” are used a lot, especially when trying to evaluate a player’s skill set. The debate of whether the potential meets or exceeds production is always waged to truly define one’s value on the big board. Such is the case in Perry Jones quest to the NBA stage.
Scouts have ranted and raved about his elite leaping ability ( monster dunks and defensive presence) and his natural scoring ability from any part of the floor. Jones is touted for his long and lanky stature, yet more impressive is his ball handling skills for big man. He is known in some circles as the second coming of Kevin Garnett. Last year in Waco he averaged 14 PPG, 7.7 RPG, and 1.3 APG for an explosively athletic Baylor squad.
All praise however is quickly challenged by a nonchalant perception during games. Jones has been passive and more focused on team ball versus being able to dominate the game alone. Thus, his talent/potential versus his production will cause teams to look at him more critically, affecting his position on the board. Recent reports claim to have uncovered a undisclosed knee injury which could also further hamper his stock and production. If healthy and refocused, good coaching and leadership could help him work on living up to the astronomically high expectations of even being mentioned in the same breath as KG.
Look for the Philadelphia 76ers and the Houston Rockets to be primary teams targeting him in the first round; if there is any truth to the reports about his knees he could slip down closer to 2nd round.

S.O.T.T. - Boston Celtics

Let's just get this out of the way. I've been a Celtics fan since the days of Dino Radja. At a young age, I got overly excited by players like Dana Barros and Andrew DeClerq because I thought their names sounded cool. Although I became infatuated with teams like the 1999 Knicks and the 2000 Pacers (thanks for not having cable TV, mom and dad!), the Celtics always held it down, and for good reasons - I didn't want all the kids at school making fun of me for being a Ewing or Miller fan...

With that said, I'm a diehard Celtics optimist, and you'll find me firmly entrenched in the Celtics could have made the Finals with a 80% Avery Bradley in their rotation against the Heat camp. Oh well, too bad. Congrats LeBron, D-Wade, and Bosh - if Kevin Garnett re-signs with the Celtics (god willing), you're going to have to deal with him barking and unleashing tirades of profanity at you for a few more years. He might have to use a cane on off days by the end of the 2013-2014 season, but that won't stop him from running his mouth, so get ready Miami, or as we used to say in 2004 in Boston - Cowboy Up!

So, while Skip Baylesses and Stephen A Smith's of the country decry the 2012-2013 Celtics as "too old to win anything, ever again," I'm much more optimistic. Re-sign KG. Put Paul Pierce on a strict off-season physical therapy regimen, and bring in a few veterans who can defend the wing and shoot the three ball. Also, Jeff Green? Chris Wilcox? The Stiem Engine? Pietrus? Cap Space? The return of Ray Allen could be the gravy on top, although he looked relatively washed up in the 2012 Playoffs - albeit with bone spurs in his ankle. Just please don't go to Miami Ray, please!?

What do the Celtics need to do in the draft? Well, with picks #21 and #22 in the first round, everybody's favorite Mormon GM has some ammunition to potentially move up (according to Woj, he's trying), down, and around the draft if he so desires. Remember, it was a draft day deal for Ray Allen that started the Big 3 era. If the Celtics keep both picks, they need depth at the 2-4 positions. Players liks PJ3,  Fab Melo, free falling Jared Sullinger, Andrew Nicholson could be considered, although I seriously doubt Danny is staying put with 21 and 22 in such a "deep" draft. WHAT IF THEY MOVED UP TO THE LOTTERY?

A Rondo-MKG backcourt with KG in the lane on defense? I'm starting to salivate.

S.O.T.T. - Golden State Warriors

Oh, the Warriors. The answer to any question about this team, like the relationship status of that Facebook friend that thinks they are clever, is “it’s complicated”.

After a year derailed by high expectations and injury, the Dubs finally decided to join the tank game all the way to the 7th pick in the draft. With players like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, David Lee and Andrew Bogut in the starting five, there is a feeling in the air that the team is a solid small forward (or 2010-11 Dorrell Wright) away from the playoffs. This feeling has been fanned by owner Joe Lacob who guaranteed the playoffs last year, and is surely looking to start a winning tradition.

Thus, the Warriors draft room is split. Some of the time we hear that they are looking to draft somebody who is NBA-ready, and if that player isn’t there at the seventh spot, they will trade the pick for an established veteran. At other times, we hear the mantra about a “changed” Golden State Warriors team, who have real talent identifiers in the room and are just looking to draft the best player available.

As a long-term Warriors fan, I know that this team is very good at pushing my emotional buttons, making me think “but wait, if these nine things break right, we will be a contender this year!” I do think that packaging the seventh pick for Luol Deng/Andre Iguodala/Rudy Gay would get the Warriors to the playoffs, but at what cost? They are still one or two superstars away for competing for the title, and shouldn’t that really be the goal?

Thus, I advocate a “best player” available strategy. If that player happens to be 18, extremely raw, and filled with potential (aka Andre Dummond) even better. I’d rather take a shot at the next Andrew Bynum, and if the Warriors don’t make the playoffs next year, so be it.

S.O.T.T. - Denver Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets are beginning to discover who they are, but should also be wondering if that's going to be enough.

The Nugs bravely entered their first "full" year in the post-Melo (and really, post-Chauncey) era, and all things considered, should be pretty happy with the results.  The Nugs went into the season with a roster that had been somewhat demolished by the lockout -- three of their rotation players (Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler) had signed deals overseas without exit clauses, so they could not immediately return to the Nuggets.  As such, Denver decision-men GM Masai Uljiri and owner Josh Kroenke decided to use their money on the players that they had, with the hope that their skillsets would be enough.  And for this season, it was.  The Nugs handed out considerable (but not back-breaking contracts) to forward Danilo Gallinari, center Nene, and shooting guard Arron Afflalo, while showcasing the underreported (but still legitimate) talents of Ty Lawson, Al Harrington, and Andre Miller.  The Nuggets ran a rotation that honestly went twelve deep, with talented players both starting and coming off the bench.  The Nugs lead the league in bench scoring this season, pouring in around 41.5 points per game.  And of course, the biggest boon of the year was 22nd overall pick Kenneth "The Manimal" Faried, whose 10.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1 block per game made Nene (and his 5 year, $43 million dollar contract) expendable, and who teamed up with newcomer JaVale McGee to create one of the more intimidating young big-men tandems in the league.  George Karl, for the umpteenth year in a row, did an amazing job with a sort of unbalanced roster without any stars.

After their inspiring playoff run -- they fought back from a 3-1 deficit in the first round to take the Lakers to Game 7 -- the Nuggets enter the summer with some rather pressing long term questions to address.  They are armed with a team similar to the Philadelphia 76ers: talented players with fairly manageable contracts, but none of whom could be considered "stars".  Their only players signed longterm (Danilo Gallinari and Arron Afflalo) had wonderful seasons, but are not likely cornerstones for a bona fide contender.  Two of their important rotation players (midseason edition JaVale McGee and dynamic backup guard Andre Miller) are both free agents, and will command both interest and money on the open market.  The Wizards traded McGee to the Nuggets precisely because they didn't want to set the price on the unquestionably talented but questionably motivated player, so the Nuggets will have to decide if he fits into their long term plans.  Miller will get nice offers from contending teams in need of a quality point guard such as the Lakers or the Heat, so I wouldn't expect him to be wearing powder blue next season.  Those players departures (as well as a few contracts coming off the books, or not fully guaranteed until the 2015-2016 seasons) give the Nugs about $14 million to use in free agency -- certainly enough to snag a nice player or two, but not enough to grab a star.

So the Nuggets are in an interesting place.  They aren't going to be major players in roster transactions this year.  They're still a bit hungover from the Melodrama, and seem content to pay a group of young, talented players who enjoy playing together, and playing for George Karl.  They should have a team that's good enough to make the playoffs every single year for the next several years, but who knows if that team will ever be good enough to make it past the first or the second round of the playoffs.  It seems that they're interested to see what Lawson, Gallo, Manimal and McGee (assuming he's re-signed) turn into as the league becomes longer, leaner and more aerodynamic.  Manimal and McGee look like formidable twin towers down the road, and the Nuggets, in many ways, seem like the perfect team to match up against the Thunder in the coming years.  If the Nuggets are committed to this team, they need to look in earnest for a player who can create his own shot.  That player doesn't necessarily need to start given the interchangeable nature of Karl's team, but should be able to provide 16-22 points on a nightly basis, and have the credibility (and desire) to be a leader in the locker room.

And the draft?  The Nuggets have the the 20th pick.  Given how well they did with Faried at 22, they will definitely do their homework, and try and find someone who can contribute almost immediately.  Much in the same way they replaced older, more expensive Nene with a player of a similar mold  (the younger, cheaper Faried), they should see if any players could do that for their other questionable contracts, such as Al Harrington (21 million over the next 3 years).  Then, we just sit back, watch the players develop, and see what happens.

Bios and Breakdowns: Jeremy Lamb

The Basics:
Jeremy Lamb
Shooting Guard, University of Connecticut (2 years)
Official Measurements from NBA Combine in Chicago
Height (with shoes): 6'5.25"
Weight: 179 lbs.
Wingspan: 6'11"

It seems like every time I sit down I find myself writing yet another article on a player who has brought me so much emotional pain. During his first year at UCONN Lamb shared the backcourt with Kemba Walker, and the two of them lead the Huskies on a ferocious run through the Big East and NCAA tournaments on their way to a National Championship (knocking out Arizona along the way). As Lamb and company cut down the net in Houston the national exposure had skyrocketed his NBA stock. However, Jeremy chose to return to school for his sophomore season and unfortunately for him he underwhelmed in his role as the team's leader and best player.

Succeeding with little to no expectations is much easier than succeeding after you've already won a National Championship and the spotlight is fixed steadily upon you. In his sophomore campaign, with Kemba long gone to the NBA, the Huskies were a measly 8-10 in conference play and capped off the year by losing to Iowa State in the first round of the tournament. Despite the team's woes, Lamb was the leading scorer averaging just under 18 PPG shooting 47.8% from the field. While these numbers are certainly respectable, the team had numerous chemistry issues throughout the season, and as the team's leader the blame for this must fall substantially on Lamb's hands.

Putting aside his shaky sophomore season for a moment there are some definite positives about his game. In 2012 the key physical quality that all the scouts seem to be salivating over is how "long" a player is. Well, Jeremy Lamb is nothing if not long. While only being 6'5" in stature - his lanky arms and long legs let him play much bigger which is a clear advantage at the off guard position. Again, he's only 19 and has some major work to do in regards to strengthening his upper body, but if he can put on some muscle he could really become a force at the 2. Another highly valued aspect of his game is his ability to use the dribble to create his own midrange shot. It doesn't take a genius to figure out how valuable that skill can be to a half-court heavy team.

Perhaps it's the Warriors fan in me that makes me weary of this pick. I've just watched so many draft busts on wings like this that I'm not too excited about his professional potential. However, there's always room on an NBA roster for a quality shooter so who knows?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

S.O.T.T. - Orlando Magic

There is a storm brewing over Orlando, and it's not Debbie.

After the drama that was "I am Dwight Howard", the Magic saw their season end flat on its face with a 4-2 series loss to the Indiana Pacers in the opening round of the playoffs.  Shortly thereafter, both Stan Van Gundy (of MTV Cribs fame) and general manager Otis Smith were dismissed.  The "good" news: Howard opted in for another year.  The bad news: new GM Rob Hennigan is in charge of dciding whether or not to sit through another rerun of last year's soap opera.  Furthermore, new reports are surfacing that that Howard wants to go to Brooklyn in hopes of teaming up with D-Will and Jay-Z.  This clearly does not bode well for both sides.

So what is Orlando to do?  Clearly Howard must be dealt or locked down.  At this point, blowing up the whole thing isn't a bad idea.  The team carried a payroll of $86 million (3rd highest in the NBA) with tons of bloated dead weight contracts (I'm looking at you, Hedo).  The team also seemingly overpaid for the services of Glen Davis, Jason Richardson, Quentin Richardson, and must decide whether to offer large contract extensions to J.J. Reddick and Jameer Nelson, both of whom are due for either raises (or transfers) next season, as well as restricted free agent (and 2012 Most Improved Player [or maybe just Most Improved Minutes Per Game]) forward Ryan Anderson.

The Orlando Magic have the nineteenth pick in the draft, and since so much of the roster is in flux (read as, tied to whatever Dwight decides to do), that pick is equal parts potential rookie-potential veteran-potential trade chip.  This team is a mess.  But if a trade is consummated on Draft Night, the team must at least get better at the forward and center positions, and help restock the lowly bench with some crafty/efficient veterans.

Either way, in 2013, this team may end up being in the top 10 after fans get their hearts broken yet again.

- Jairo Martinez

S.O.T.T. - Dallas Mavericks

Championship hangover, anyone?

After an outstanding championship campaign, the Mavs looked to repeat as champs with a whole new team.  Out was defensive anchor/heart-and-soul Tyson Chandler and key reserve J.J. Barea; in were Delonte West, Vince Carter and the enigmatic Lamar Odom.  The loss of Chandler was instantly felt, and the Mavs plummeted in the standings, and for a time, out of playoff contention.   Rick Carlisle and his staff made tough decisions to bench Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki for large chunks in-season, hoping to shake off rust from the long lockout.  Odom ended up being dreadful and banished from the team.  After that, a rejuvenated and refocused squad made a playoff push (with some help from Phoenix and Utah, of course).  Only this time, revenge was on the mind of their opponent from last year's Western Conference Final: the Oklahoma City Thunder.   The younger, faster and hungrier Thunder demolished the Mavs in a four game sweep in the first round.  Clearly outmatched at the guard position, and with absolutely no interior defensive presence, the champs were sent home.

Looking forward, the team will be addressing the point guard and shooting guard position via free agency in the form of Deron Williams.  Make no mistake: the Mavs are all-in to lure a big free agent to helmp make one last run for Dirk.  Deron Williams has expressed interest in playing for his hometown team.  If Cuban can pull some strings, he may also target Dwight Howard.  With the twenty-fifth pick, however, the Mavs should simply try and find a rotation player to fortify a rather weak bench, or package the pick in a  deal to either land another bona fide star or, more likely, shed salary in an attempt to clear cap space for a run at D-Will.

This off season will clearly be one to watch if you're a Mavs fan.  The franchise's future hangs in the balance.

- Jairo Martinez

S.O.T.T. - Memphis Grizzlies

What a difference a year makes.

A year after being the cinderella story of the league -- making the playoffs and knocking off top-seated San Antonio as an eighth seed -- expectations ran high for the boys in Music City.  An early injury to Zach Randolph looked to derail what seemed like a promising start.  But the growth of OJ Mayo, along with solid play from Marc Gasol, Rudy Gay and Tony Allen kept them in contention.  Eventually the team came back to full strength right around playoff time.  And things couldn't have been better, except for one hiccup: Lob City.

The playoff series against the LA Clippers exposed poor offensive and defensive execution (especially down the stretch) of this young team.  Unable to take advantage of mismatches and drive the lane at will (not to mention blowing a 26 point lead in the first game of the series) cost the team, and led to an early exit against a very beatable opponent.

Now looking ahead, most of the young core us under contract and playing in a division up for grabs.  Another strong interior presence would be helpful to cement an already aggressive (and fifth-ranked) defense.  Additionally, new owner Rob Pera is tasked with helping raise attendance in the smallish market of Memphis (though the team raised it's overall attendance numbers from 27th in 2011 to 16th in 2012).  The team is not going anywhere for now, but rest assured that Pera will be looking to make his mark as an owner.  This is very promising if Pera -- whose net worth is estimated at $800 million -- spends money to put this team on the map and competitive for several years (a la Mark Cuban and the Mavs).

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Bios And Breakdowns: Bradley Beal

The Basics:
Bradley Beal
Shooting Guard, University of Florida (1 year)
Official Measurements at the NBA Combine in Chicago
Height (in shoes): 6'4.75"
Weight: 202 lbs
Wingspan: 6'8"

Bradley Beal - birthday boy! Beal will turn 19 on draft day, which begs the question... What were you doing when you turned 19? Personally, I was just happy that a 63 hour streak of below 0 degrees Farenheit ended just hours before my 19th. Moral of the story - don't go to college in Minnesota - go somewhere warm, like the University of Florida.

Beal went to Florida for a year. Smart guy. As a true freshman, Brad started every contest and averaged 14.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. He used his 6'8 wingspan and 39" vertical to grab all those boards, and has GMs salivating over his 6'5" stature (in shoes), shooting stroke, and pure athletic ability. Scouts are apparently saying things like "He's a great kid, almost presidential," so I'm not quite sure why his Twitter handle is so pedestrian - @RealDealBeal23 - Personally I'd recommend a change to @BealIsASteal23 for draft day. On the flip side, at least he tweeted that his draft day suit will be #fresh. We'll see Brad, we'll see.

Brad Beal has all the physical tools to succeed as a shooting guard in the NBA, and as such is the consensus best 2 on the board. After the Hornets pick Anthony Davis at #1, it's possible that Beal could be the next player off the board at #2 to the Bobcats, #3 to the Wizards, and it's extremely unlikely that Beal will drop past the Cavs at #4. For some reason, the AP captioned the below photo "Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bradley Beal try to convince the Charlotte Bobcats that they are worthy of the No. 2 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.  

More like... MKG said "Yo Jordan, don't take me, take Brad Beal! He's a much better shooter than me, and you already have stiffs on offense like Gerald Henderson and Bismack Biyombo! I don't want to play for the Bobcats, can I go play with John Wall or Kyrie Irving instead? C'mon MJ, dude wore 23 in college! He's your guy!"

Bios and Breakdowns: Tony Wroten Jr.

The Basics:
Tony Wroten Jr.
Point Guard, University of Washington (1 year)
Official Measurements from NBA Combine in Chicago
Height (with shoes): 6'6"
Weight: 203 lbs.
Wingspan: 6'9"

One of the eminent and rather fortuitous aspects of this relatively free-formed basketball collaboration we like to call The Diss is that all of our writers hail from different regions of the country. While we all maniacally watch, read about, and analyze as much hoops as we possibly can - having our writers dispersed around the nation gives us a nice localized approach to covering basketball. I know I'm not shocking anybody when I divulge the poorly kept secret that basketball played in the Pacific time zone tends to be put on the back burner by most of the major networks. Having recently relocated to the Midwest I now have a better understanding of this somewhat unavoidable problem, but it's still a tragedy nonetheless. Tony Wroten Jr. is a terrific talent and if you haven't had a chance to watch him play I'll try my best to fill you in.

As an Arizona fan I'm thrilled that Tony Wroten declared for the draft after his freshman year. As a basketball fan, and someone who wants to see him succeed in his basketball endeavors, I kind of wish he had stayed at U-Dub for one more year. Tony is a well-built, taller than average, 1 guard who drives the lane with immense force and creativity. He is at his best in ISOs and off the pick-and-roll which allow him to utilize his aggressive style of the play to get to the rim. His handles and court-vission allowed him to thrive at the point guard position in college, but he also has the size and defensive abilities to slide over and play the 2 guard if need be. He unfortunately has yet to break many of the poor habits that plague most young guards - turning it over more than you'd like to see and being susceptible to streakiness.

He also has some bigger and more glaring issues that need to be addressed. Mainly, he's a horrific perimeter shooter. How horrific, you ask? Well, like only making only 9 of the 56 3-pointers he attempted last season, horrific. The only positive way to spin that terrifying statistic is to remind you that even if a defender doesn't have to worry about him shooting, Wroten still has the quickness and athleticism to get by him and to the rack.

Speaking of getting to the rack -- take a peek at which hand Tony is dribbling with in the picture above. His left, right? Right. His left. Tony is left-hand dominant, and it would only take you about 2 minutes of watching his film to figure it out. He loves going left. When he's forced to go right, which most Pac-12 coaches tried to force him to do, he still tries to use his left hand to finish. One more season in Seattle would have given him the opportunity to work on that aspect of his game and drastically improved his stock.

His perimeter shooting woes and left-hand-preference aside, this kid has a really bright upside. He comes from a region known for producing quality guards and gained some valuable experience playing under Coach Romar in Seattle. His explosiveness could really aide a team that needs a spark off the bench and his size advantage at the point guard position could create some favorable mismatches. If he's able to improve upon his perimeter shooting, I don't think it would be crazy to imagine him turning into a James Harden type of guy. If he slips all the way down to 29 - I think Chicago might be a nice destination for him to land.

S.O.T.T. - Chicago Bulls

Oh the Bulls.  I can’t remember a season that seemed so bipolar.  At one point, the Bulls seemed like an unstoppable machine.  It didn’t matter whether they had a full line-up or not; they operated like a machine, dismantling teams with mechanical efficiency.  Their defense was tops in the league, and they did the best job in the league at controlling the pace, and getting teams to play their style of halfcourt basketball.  They were also the best rebounding team in the league, as well as top five in assists, three point shooting, blocks and turnovers allowed.  There were few areas the Bulls needed to improve upon – this was a team that was poised to compete for years to come.

And then Derrick Rose tore his ACL in the team’s first playoff game, and everything changed, perhaps forever.

Going into the offseason, the Bulls have one question to answer: are they still a contender?  The Bulls are a proud but damaged group.  Most reports indicate that Rose will miss most, if not all, of the 2012-2013 season rehabbing his knee, and nearly all of the starting lineup underwent some sort of surgical procedure as soon as they were defeated in the playoffs, or announced that they were planning on undergoing some sort of surgical procedure in the near future. 

The team only has one free agent (their valuable backup center Omer Asik who, as a restricted free agent, will likely see most salary offers matched), so they already have a fair amount of salary committed to next season.  Additionally, reports have indicated that the Bulls will not pick up backup point guard CJ Watson’s team option, and neither John Lucas III nor Mike James have contracts with the team next season.  This seems like a team that is going to shake it up. 

Right now, the Bulls have the 29th pick in the first round.  Many nice players have been snagged at or around that pick (Tony Parker went 28th in 2001, Josh Howard went 29th in 2003, David Lee went 30th in 2005, Tiago Splitter went 28th in 2007, and Norris Cole went 28th in 2011) so the Bulls should do their homework and try and find a player that can immediately join the rotation.   If they are able to do what it looks like they’re trying to do – shed some salary and get into the first round of the draft -- their primary tasks needs to be to find someone who can take over lead guard duties for a season, then either shift to the “2” or become a key sparkplug off the bench once D-Rose returns.  If they choose to do that through free agency, Goran Dragic becomes an ideal candidate.

Bios and Breakdowns: Anthony Davis

The Basics:
Anthony Davis
Power Forward/Center, University of Kentucky (1 year)
Official Measurements from NBA Combine in Chicago
Height (with shoes): 6'10.5"
Weight: 221 lbs.
Wingspan: 7'5.5"

Easily the most recognizable name in this year's draft - Anthony Davis has proven in his one year at UK that he is an offensive-efficiency-machine. Even if you're only exposure to college basketball is watching a few games in March you've no doubt heard the high praise and positive projections he's received. With the first pick in the draft New Orleans has made it abundantly clear that they'll be selecting him to play the 5 for them, and he should be a welcome addition from day one.

Being the number one pick in the draft brings with it lofty (and sometimes unrealistic) expectations. Davis is lucking out in a sense because the New Orleans team he will joining, as Jacob pointed out in his SOTT piece, isn't completely in shambles. They've been strategically developing the young talented pieces around them and have the cap space that will enable them to add experience through free agency where needed. Juxtapose this scenario with that of Charlotte. If Charlotte had won the lottery and selected Davis first overall - the storyline would've cast Davis out to be the great savior of their franchise. While Davis is a fine young prospect there's just no way ANY one player (save LeBron) could turn that franchise around. The level of pressure placed on many number one draft picks of the past won't be nearly as extreme. So, what I'm trying to say is, New Orleans and Davis both should be pretty content.

The one word that keeps coming to mind to describe Anthony's game is smooth. The dude is just smooth. As I mentioned in the MKG piece, the difference in athleticism between this UK team and the rest of the field was enormous. They were just so much quicker and stronger than their opposition that they didn't have to run much half-court game since they were in transition so often. This isn't necessarily a bad thing because as I (or anyone else who's ever seen him play) have pointed out - the kid is incredible running the court and finishing. He cuts to the basket with NBA level speed and has the soft hands to adjust and finish at an extremely impressive rate. On the defensive side of the ball he has a natural understanding of floor placement and is a shot blocking freak. While that interview primarily gives you some insight into his shot blocking strategy it also cues you in on who he is as person. Anthony is a nice kid. He's not cocky, he doesn't carry any sort of sense of entitlement, and he seems to have the same kind of Durantesque disposition that everyone is so in love with.

Because he spent so much time in transition during college he's going to have to work on his post game and pick-and-roll play. He definitely needs to put some weight on his lanky frame to be able to bang down low with his competition. He's not a finished product yet but he's on a winning track.

I love that he rocks his unibrow proudly in all its glory. It's essentially giving D-Wade, Russell Westbrook, and the rest of the pretty-boy-hipster-revolution the finger. I want ballers not models on my team.

S.O.T.T. - Miami Heat

The State of the Miami Heat? The state is doing okay, and the city is presumably still cleaning up from their parade, detoxing a collective champagne hangover, and buying commemorative t-shirts left and right. Bandwagon fans of Florida and the greater Southeast, unite!  But - when all was said and done, Eddy Curry won his first NBA championship!

Ultimately, the haters hated all season, but in the end the Miami Heat won, and LeBron James got his sorely needed Larry O'Brien trophy.

A big deal was made all year about how LeBron had started playing smarter basketball, and we saw an evolution of that brand of basketball in the playoffs - there’s something to be said for the fact that James stopped taking as many three pointers, focused on his post game, and decided to "have fun" instead of taking on the role of the villain. His ability to play almost every position on the floor and his single handed evisceration of the Boston Celtics in the “gahden” in a pivotal game 6 with a ridiculous array of jumpers and moves to the basket was -- nasty. LeBron had decadently ridiculous stats in the Eastern Conference Finals, and also consistently produced above and beyond his past finals performances against the Thunder. His effort as a two way player defending Kevin Durant was admirable, and ultimately, I'm personally happy for LeBron that he finally “lived up to his potential” by winning a championship, whatever that “means.” 

As for the rest of the team, it was substantially better than any iteration of the Cleveland Cavaliers, but is by no means a finished product. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade are both aren’t perfect compliments to LeBron James’ - their respective games certainly don’t fit together with similar compatibility of other aging “big threes”, like Pierce, Allen, and Garnett or even Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker. Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, Mike Miller, Shane Battier, and Udonis Haslem also all played big roles for the Heat, but the team could theoretically improve any one of their positions through free agency or if they get lucky with this year's draft pick.

With very little cap space (but what if Mike Miller retires and they amnesty Ronny Turiaf or Joel Anthony?), the most the Heat will likely offer a marquee free agent is a $3 million mid-level exception, although if the front office is able to get below the luxury tax barrier, that number could jump to a $5 million exception - enough to convince Steve Nash to join Miami? The sizable contracts of LeBron, Wade, and Bosh’s have certainly limited Pat Riley and the Heat’s front office in free agency, which makes the Heat’s only draft pick, the 27th of the first round an intriguing chance to add a potential role player to Eric Spoelstra’s rotation. 

While the Heat could use depth everywhere on the roster, nowhere is it more needed than at the Center position. Joel Anthony is a handicap on the offensive end, and Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem are undersized against legitimate big men. So at #27, the Heat should probably look to draft a big man with the potential to develop. Projects like Fab Melo and combine freak Miles Plumlee, or “more developed” college big men like Festus Ezili and Draymond Green should be considered. However, if no potential impact player is available at #27, then it may be worth it to trade back to the start of the second round if there’s interest from another team. Every little bit the Heat can get under the luxury tax and the salary cap is extra cash money to improve the team through free agency, where the Heat must certainly be lining up veteran targets to make the “come chase a ring, be part of a dynasty, pay no income tax, and live in Miami” pitch - and those sound like some decent selling points!

Monday, June 25, 2012

S.O.T.T. - Sacramento Kings

The Sacramento Kings are in a strange place.  

For all intents and purposes, they had a great rebuilding season.  While former rookie of the year Tyreke Evans failed to improve, DeMarcus Cousins made a huge leap upwards, averaging 18 and 11 on 45 percent shooting.  Marcus Thornton solidified himself as a bona fide NBA scorer (18.5 ppg), and made the most of his minutes as the team’s starting shooting guard.  They managed to stumble into a nice point guard option with Isiah Thomas, who overachieved as the final pick of the 2011 draft.   They also found a long-term solution at coach, with Keith Smart winning over his players and the Kings’ passionate fan base with his affable style and high octane offenses.  Yet, the Kings have a lot of work to do.  They allowed 104.4 points per game – the worst defense in the league – while failing to reach 100 points per game themselves.  They were the league’s second worst three point shooting team at 31%, and, perhaps most troublingly, second to worst in the league in attendance.  This is an important statistic, given the King's tenuous prescence (and the Maloof's tenuous financial reputation) in California’s capitol city.

The Kings will have to rely heavily on the draft to reload their talent during this offseason.  Most of the Kings’ players are under contract for next season, though Tyreke Evans is eligible for an extension.  Whether or not they pick up his option will be a good indicator of their plans for Reke, and whether they will be searching for his potential replacement in the draft.  Favorably, there are no untradeable contracts on the Kings (their highest paid player is John Salmons, who is due around $8 million per year over the next four years), so they have a roster that can be pretty easily modified if the numbers match up.  GM Geoff Petrie has given himself a bit of room to retool the roster, but he's got a fairly slim margin of error.

Here is the problem with the Kings (as well as other teams with good individual talent but little team leadership or chemistry): It is hard to know which players on the Kings are surefire starters on a competent NBA team, and which players simply put up numbers on a bad team with lots of available minutes.  With the exception of Cousins and Reke, most of the rest of the Kings starting lineup of Thomas, Thornton and Jason Thompson would be riding the pine on a playoff team.   

As such, with the fifth pick in the draft, the Kings should simply select the best player available, regardless of position.  Every spot in the rotation should be considered open, and no player on that team (with the exception of Cousins) should be deemed untouchable.

Bios and Breakdowns: Andre Drummond

The Basics:
Andre Drummond
Center, University of Connecticut (1 year)
Official Measurements from NBA Combine in Chicago
Height (with shoes): 6'11.75"
Weight: 278 lbs.
Wingspan: 7'6.25"

There is quite the premium placed on quality NBA centers in 2012. These guys don't just grow on trees  and when a legitimate big man is tossed into a pool of prospects they always get special attention. And they should. Having a competent 7 footer to anchor your team is without a doubt a game changer. Andre Drummond, or more importantly the individuals in charge of making his decisions, are not in the least surprised by this news. After what can only be viewed as a disappointing freshman campaign for the big man, he threw his name in the draft confidently cognizant that his stock would remain pretty high regardless of his play last year in Storrs.

Andre drastically raised his stock in the latter half of his high school campaign and opted to reclassify and enter college last year as opposed to spending a year in prep school (a common step prospects whom haven't been playing organized ball for that long take). He chose UCONN over Kentucky, Louisville, West Virginia and other Big East powerhouses which was a semi-surprise because Coach Calhoun doesn't have the best track record in developing big men (oh hey there, Hasheem Thabeet).

Drummond put up respectable numbers last year (averaging 10 PPG, 7.6 RPG, and 2.7 BLK in 28 minutes) but was still considered a disappointment given the the hype surrounding him. He is the epitome of raw talent. His footwork is sloppy and inconsistent and he's still trying to figure out how to use his size to his advantage effectively. Andre Drummond is going all in and daring an NBA GM to take a chance on him. He exemplifies high risk/high reward - best case scenario: you end up with a young (he's only 18 years old) strong NBA sized center you can mold into an above average starter and worst case scenario: the kid is too raw physically and too immature mentally and ends up underachieving in the d-league.

In my eyes Andre would be worth the risk for an already established team to grab in the late first round. Under the tutelage of a caring coaching staff willing to put in the time there is a decent shot that this kid can be an NBA starter down the road.

Bios and Breakdowns: Kendall Marshall

The Basics:
Kendall Marshall
Point Guard, University of North Carolina (2 years)
Official Measurement from NBA Combine in Chicago
Height (with shoes): 6'4.25"
Weight: 198 lbs.
Wingspan: 6'5.5"

While most writers seem to rank Damian Lillard of Weber State as the best point guard prospect in the 2012 class I firmly believe Kendall Marshall to be the superior player and thus choice. As I've been doing with most of these Bios and Breakdowns segments I tend to note and analyze the player's impact on their team rather than just spit out their stat lines. Any idiot can simply google and regurgitate a guy's numbers in an attempt to analyze a prospect's potential, but the one can't-miss bet on draft night is that we're bound to hear "drafting players is an imperfect science" at least ten times. Basketball, especially at the point guard position, is so much more than just numbers. So let's take a minute to talk about what Kendall Marshall meant to UNC in the two years he was there, shall we?

So Kendall Marshall shows up to Chapel Hill in August of 2010 prepared to back up starting point guard Larry Drew II for the Tarheels. He was part of a stellar three man recruiting class, which also included 2012 NBA prospect Harrison Barnes, and was joining a Tarheel team that had failed to make the NCAA tournament the year before. Tarheel fans aren't used to not seeing their boys compete in March and blamed most of the disappointing season on Drew. However - it was still Drew's starting role to lose...and that he did.

Taking the role of starting point guard as a freshman from a junior in the ACC is not something that happens often. Drew's inability to consistently ignite the UNC offense, coupled with Marshall's fearlessness and passing abilities, caused Drew to see decreased minutes and eventually transfer - hoisting Marshall into the spotlight. Marshall stepped up big time and took this team, which had missed the big dance the year before, all the way to the elite eight where they missed a trip to the final four on a last second buzzer beater.

In his sophomore season Marshall averaged just shy of 10 assists per game and once more lead his team to the NCAA tournament. In their second round matchup against Creighton Marshall broke his wrist ending his season prematurely. Without the play and leadership of Marshall the Tarheels BARELY squeaked out an overtime win against cinderella-hopeful Ohio and eventually fell to Kansas.

The trend in guard play around college basketball in recent years has been that of combo-guards. It's mainly shoot first, lightening fast, 6'2" athletes who can score in bunches. While this style of play can be sustained at the collegiate level we know what happens to these guys when they reach the next level. They fail.

Kendall Marshall is a throwback. He's a strong, quick, pure pass-first point guard. He's a floor general. He's a leader. He's a guy who makes everyone on the floor better. He's a guy your coaching staff and teammates can trust. He's the best point guard in the 2012 class.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Diss Presents: The 2011-2012 NBA Pre, Regular and Post Season.

Below you will find The Diss' analysis of the 2011-2012 NBA pre, regular and postseason, grouped together in chronological and thematic order.

While this is an exercise in organization and archiving, it is also an attempt to understand what narrative -- if any -- the The Diss is developing as it evolves, and what themes are present in its analyses.

Happy reading.


The Diss Presents: The 2011-2012 NBA Pre, Regular and Post Season


Regular Season

(1) Games of the Week

(2) The Weeks That Were

(3) Wild Guesses and Outlandish Speculation

(4) Fortunate Moments for Unfortunate Franchises

(5) Oh, the Linsanity

(7) Interviews
Post Season

(1) The First Three Rounds