- The Nash thing feels anticlimactic to me. Bummed he couldn't get healthy, but feels so inevitable. 18 hours ago
- Man, EA Sports really nailed it with this "EA SPorts: It's in the Game!" This shit will still be going strong when I'm on my death bed. 1 day ago
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Just messing around, getting triple doubles
October 22, 2014Posted by on
October 14, 2014Posted by on
There are giants smaller than Jusuf Nurkic. At 6’11”, 280lbs, and having just turned 20, the massive Bosnian takes up space in ways that call to mind an Eastern European Jahidi White. He’s a rookie for the Nuggets, just drafted this past summer by the Bulls, but immediately traded to the Denver. It’s only pre-season so all this evidence we’re piling up is merely a miniscule sampling of a kid dipping a giant big toe in the paint of American pro basketball, but the early returns are cause for intrigue beyond the Mile High City.
Just ask Taj Gibson, the 6’9” all-world sixth man, ball of quick energy who’s held down the Bulls bench units since before Nurkic was even playing ball. Gibson was tasked with bodying up Nurkic in Monday night’s pre-season game and was soundly manhandled. In some ways it’s not surprising since Nurkic outweighs him by around 50 pounds, but if mass and weight were the only indicators of post-play success, then Luther Wright and Oliver Miller would’ve been enshrined in Springfield long ago. But there was Nurkic, a basketball beast in high tops, making seven of his nine shots, scoring 15 points in just 14 minutes on what SB Nation’s Denver Stiffs blog described as “very nifty post moves.” On the flip side, he also committed six fouls. If anything, I guess we know he was active.
Having seen snippets of Nurkic play in Denver’s pre-season opener against the Lakers, his feel for the game was evident even in a night where he shot a crummy 1-8. Laker reserve center Ed Davis looked like Billy Madison against a bunch of little kids as he repeatedly rejected Nurkic’s predictable interior attempts, but the big man still found ways to impact the game with nine rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot in 20 minutes.
It’s still too early to make declarations about a guy who projects to be the Nuggets’ third-string center, but his size, feel, and ability to improve game-over-game are positive indicators for the Denver faithful. We don’t love you just yet, Jusuf, but we’re happy to get to know you and see where it goes.
October 6, 2014Posted by on
As part of what’s become a completely random foray into the pre-season here at Dancing with Noah, today we’re exploring some strange comments by Miami Heat lifer, three-time NBA champion, and Li Ning-shoe lover, Dwyane Wade. On the Miami Herald’s Sports Buzz blog, writer Barry Jackson shares Wade’s recent comments:
“I’m not falling in love with the three but [will be] shooting it more than the last couple of years,” he said. “Coach hasn’t told me I could shoot threes the last couple years. So just him saying that is a different mindset.”
In Jackson’s own words, he specifies “corner threes,” which appears to be a league-wide trend and one need not stress too hard to imagine a future where the corner three is as fundamental as the Mikan Drill with pickup ballplayers racing to tight corners in droves while creative coaches strive to create defensive schemes leveraging corner traps.
Awkwardly enough, it was just over a week ago that ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh tweeted out:
As a player with dwindling athleticism due in no small part to a roughshod playing style that has seen him spend a good portion of his career picking himself up off the floor after countless fearless forays to the hoop (Wade’s averaged over eight free throws/game for his career – only three other players in league history who have been 6’4” or shorter have averaged as many FTAs), Wade no longer has the same lateral quickness or straight forward explosiveness that marked his first 500+ games. That he would choose to not work on his long ball is a questionable choice.
But contextually speaking, it could just be Wade was worn out from playing so many high stress minutes over the past four seasons. Maybe he saw LeBron leaving and decided to give himself a break this past summer. For his career, Wade’s three-point shooting has oscillated somewhere between below average (31.7% in 2009) and very bad (17.1% in 2006) with no trends indicating improvement in either volume or rate. If he’s done any work on the long ball in the past, it hasn’t stuck. Whatever the case, his comments that Coach Erik Spoelstra may be open to more Wade threes appears to be a poor idea or unlikely misinformation.
If we drill deeper into Wade’s corner-three ability, we see a player who rarely finds himself in the corners. Corner three attempts make up 1.5% of the total shots he’s taken in his career and over the past three seasons it’s made up less than one percent of his shot volume. And that makes sense because he’s a career 28% from corner threes. To put that in context, no single team has shot below 30% from corner threes in any of the past three seasons. As players are gaining efficiency and shooting more threes (and corner threes), Wade’s shot less of them, but to his credit, has made a few more (10-26 from the corners – over 172 games!). This is a guy who shot less than one three per 100 possessions last season. For more perspective, the only other non-post players who shot threes as infrequently as Wade were Michael Kidd-Gilchrest and Shaun Livingston.
So Dwyane Wade didn’t work on threes this off-season, he’s struggled without the shot for the duration of his career, Miami lost the great LeBron James, Wade’s no longer the same attack threat so it’s less likely he’ll have a big cushion (unless he keeps missing), and yet he may shoot more threes? Welcome to life after LeBron, a place where all options are on the table.
October 5, 2014Posted by on
When some people think of Spencer Hawes being strange, they might be like, “Oh wait, that’s that politically conservative dude that plays center and shoots threes, right?” While that’s true, it’s only part of the reason he’s showing up in this segment of Guess I’m Strange.
At 7’1”, Hawes contains a unique set of skills for a man his size. He’s just 26-years-old and coming off a career year split between the demoralizing rebuild in Philadelphia and underachieving turnover of Cleveland. Recently signed to the Clippers, he brings a dynamism that maybe Byron Mullens was supposed to add but never could. He’s the anti-Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan and that has nothing to do with skin pigmentation. Where Blake and DeAndre catch the lobs and smash them with pent up aggression, Hawes, all 85-inches of him, sees over the heads and hands of defenders and envisions himself throwing the lobs. Coach Doc Rivers is already on the record saying he’ll play the three big men together and Hawes, as a plus-40% three point shooter, has the ability to open up the court and give more room for Jordan and Griffin to operate inside while pulling big defenders further away from the hoop. That stretchability creates more chances for the Clippers to get creative with how they deploy Griffin who could create matchup nightmares at the three.
Hawes’s line last year: 13.2ppg, 8.3rpg, 3apg, 1.6 3s/game while shooting over 40% from beyond the arc was a statistical rarity for a seven-footer. The only other seven-footer in league history to put up a varied line like that is Dirk Nowitzki. No one’s confusing Hawes for Dirk, but there is an overlap in skills that not many other big men in the league’s history have shared.
When viewed through the lens of advanced stats, Hawes’s 2013-14 is much less impressive. His assist percentage and true shooting are still good for a center, but further advanced measures are average for a modern center.
But the Clips didn’t sign Hawes to be some kind of advanced-metrics savant. They signed him for all the things he can do well that Griffin and Jordan can’t. They signed him because he’s become a nearly-80% free throw shooter who can spell Jordan late in close games without sacrificing significant defensive drop off. They signed him because at seven-feet with a three-point shot, great passing, and a good rim protection, well, we guess he’s strange.
August 26, 2014Posted by on
Lindsey Hunter spent his off-seasons boxing and was a prolific scorer at Jackson St in the early 90s. The Pistons drafted the lean, but strong 6’2” combo guard from Mississippi with the 10th overall pick in the 1993 draft then took Allan Houston as his running mate, probably with some hopeful notions that the wiry Hunter and sweet-shooting Houston could/would catch the torch being arthritically handed off from Joe Dumars and Isiah.
Hunter was a part of one of my first real draft lotteries where I comprehended what the hell was going on. Before that, it’s impossible to know where my thoughts were placed or what they were incapable of grasping, but once I could associate college players with basketball cards and a televised event, it all came together so symbiotically. [Side note, the 1993 draft can be found in its mostly entire form on Youtube, but inexplicably the footage skips from Vin Baker at eight to Doug Edwards at 15, skipping all the way over Hunter and Houston and the new Detroit narrative.]
Hunter though, was an OK NBA player with a career that stretched nearly 1,000 games (937 to be honest, good enough for second most games out of his class). He gave capable effort on defense, handled the ball well, and was a volume three-point shooter before it became the lynchpin of the game that we know it to be today.
To my mind, he’ll always be a Piston (12 of his 17 seasons were spent in Detroit), but sandwiched between spells in the Motor City was a title-winning season with the Lakers in 2002, the same year Robert Horry hit the immaculate Divac tip out to complete a comeback against the Kings. Two years later, back in Detroit, he played a supporting role in helping the Pistons beat those same Lakers in the finals.
Two-time titlist, long-term pro, NBA lifer …. Oh Lindsey Hunter we can live without you, but your consistent professional presence over the years has added quality to our collective experience and we didn’t even realize it.
Jump to 1:43 to see a young Lindsey toss an iconic alley-oop to Mr. Grant Hill:
August 25, 2014Posted by on
Where oh where have the biographical sketches gone? If a man could tell you, that man would be me, but since I don’t have the answer, we’ll turn to that whale of a man known as Jahidi White.
Reaching into the recesses of my mental filing cabinet, I see the ominously large White during his Georgetown Hoya days as a 6’9”, 290lbs (listed) tank with a shaved head and maybe a barely-menacing goatee. He played alongside the great Allen Iverson at G-Town, but was more bodyguard than sidekick.
White was blessed enough to get seven seasons out of the NBA which is more than most of us could even dream. His time there is best remembered as a member of the Wizards and his best season in 2001 when I was a 20-year-old sophomore in college. That year White gave the Wizards a productive 8.5ppg, 7.7rpg, and 1.6bpg – all in under 24mpg. But it was all for naught or at least all for very little as the Wiz won just 19 games.
Over his seven seasons, White never sniffed the playoffs and never played on a winning team. He played alongside an over-the-hill Michael Jordan, shared a front court with Kwame Brown, spent a few games with the Bobcats and Suns, and retired with over $25-million made as a pro basketball player.
I don’t remember much about Jahidi White, but here’s a clip where someone says “He puts the fear of God in the opposition.”
July 27, 2014Posted by on
“I got it sellin’ nickel bags … bitch.” With that, we’re on the hook with Freddie Gibbs’ track “Knicks” off the Piñata album he released with Madlib earlier this year.
The only reason I’m writing about the track is the basketball overlap and the double meaning usage of “Knicks” and “nickel bags.” Gibbs kicks it off:
Pimpin on lil’ sis/
I’m watching Jordan drop a double nickel on the Knicks/
That was ’95, couple of us ain’t live til’ ‘96
(The first line also sounds awfully similar to “Pippen on the assist,” but doesn’t make as much sense with the following verse.)
With that opening we’re transported back to 1995 when MJ had just come back from his baseball sabbatical and was delivering up and down performances for 20-some odd games. In the middle of all, his Royal Baldness returned to the Mecca where he eviscerated the Knicks for 55.
While the rest of us were doing whatever it was we were doing (I was a freshman in high school recovering from a hideous basketball injury where I broke my arm and leg at the same time), Freddie Gibbs was “fresh up out a school bus fighting up at Pulaski.” The MJ game for him, like sporting events are for so many of us, acted as a mile marker on the highway of time. And while the Knicks mark one experience for Gibbs, selling nickel bags marks another.
If life is an endless stream of “same shits, different days,” Gibbs shows the continuity of it all 20 years later as marked by the Knicks and a basketball court and the cyclically painful familiarity of violence:
Chilling with a bitch/
Watching LeBron put up a 56 on the Knicks/
In 2005, police killed my n***a in 2006
While LeBron didn’t ever put up 56 on the Knicks (he put up 56 on Toronto on March 20th, 2005 and 50 in MSG on March 5th, 2008 and 52 in February of 2009), for the continuity of the cyclical nature of the song, it makes sense. In some ways too, the foggy memory more accurately resembles the way many of us end up sorting recollections in occasionally convenient sequences. After all these years though, for Gibbs, the best players in the game are still dropping 50-spots in the Garden and Freddie’s still encountering the same shit: women, friends dying, and nickel bags. I can relate in the sense that I’m still watching basketball, still trying to find a pickup game, and still kicking it with some of the same guys I was hanging out with back in 1995. 33-year-old me is a million miles from 14-year-old me, but there are quite a few things I’ve kept close all the way across these years and evolutions of self.
But as Jordan turns into LeBron and as Freddie Gibbs goes from a “middle school fool” to an emcee signed to a major label, collaborating with a legend like Madlib, we’re reminded that change still occurs within any season.
For Gibbs, both the change and cycle can be traced to the literal and metaphorical nickel bags. Towards the end of the track as he’s shouting out Melo and MJ’s fade away, he’s painting the conflicting dualities of slanging dope in the most Nino Brown style: highlighting the connection between his charitable side (giving out turkeys, building basketball courts) and the source of his charity: selling nickel bags.
I’m not out here selling nickel bags, but I can still tell you where I was when Mark McGwire beat Roger Maris’s homerun record. With clarity, I still remember John Paxson’s game-winning three over the Suns in 1993. Sports stick with us over times and call to mind the events that floated within our orbit for a given time and Freddie Gibbs captured that here in “Knicks” in his own uniquely American manner.
July 14, 2014Posted by on
Last week I wrote some brief thoughts on the bomb LeBron James dropped on the basketball world and while I wouldn’t stay I’m still reeling from it, there are aftershocks rumbling under my feet all the way out in Seattle. All day Friday I was unable to do anything but consider the choice a man from Akron, Ohio made which is an odd circumstance at which to arrive to say the least, but Bron’s done nothing if not become a sculptor, shaping the lives of millions and I was just one more being surreally affected by his decisions. For as big as LeBron has become (and it’s frightening how big he is), the rest of the basketball world is still orbiting around the sun, trying to do whatever it takes to achieve a hundred thousand different goals:
Carmelo Anthony re-signed with the Knicks and even penned his own letter a la LeBron which he posted on his site (that most people likely have never heard of): www.thisismelo.com. It’s unfair to compare Melo’s situation and letter with LeBron’s, but it’s hard to not compare them. They came into the league together, possess world class talents, play the same positions, have won Olympic medals together, and now explained their free agency decisions in remarkably similar fashions. All week leading up to LeBron’s announcement, we had heard speculation that he would tell us through his Samsung app or on his own website. All along though, it was Melo working behind the scenes on his own brief explanation and website release. It arrived with little fanfare, a New York wave in LeBron’s tsunami, great in his own right and sought after by all, but continually eclipsed by the King.
By returning to Cleveland, LeBron removed the massive roadblock that had created a Chinese National Highway-like traffic jam for free agents. And it resulted into a scrambling dash by front offices and agents to jockey for space and players, some of which leaked through to Twitter which made for a most exciting Friday. Beyond Bron, teammate Chris Bosh held the most intrigue as Houston GM Daryl Morey (of Sam Presti fleecing fame) rolled the dice with a whole lot on the line. At risk were trades of previous poison pill contract players and neglected humans, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, the Rockets 2015 first round pick, a future second round pick, and the choice of whether or not to sign the versatile and eminently handsome, but suddenly expensive Chandler Parsons (Parsons’s price tag went from a team option of $960,000 in 2014-15 to three years for $46M after Dallas signed him to an offer sheet).
After Morey had made the trades, cleared away depth and assets to bring on Bosh, the 6’11” native Texan surprised us all, and no doubt Morey the most, by re-signing with Miami. Houston then declined to bring back Parsons back with Morey predictably criticizing the deal by describing it as “one of the most untradeable (contract) structures I’ve ever seen.” Maybe it’s an untradeable deal or maybe Morey’s got sour grapes. Whatever the case, it took about 24 hours for the Rockets to go from Bosh and Parsons alongside Dwight and Harden to Trevor Ariza (signed to replace Parsons) and that can’t be spun as a positive.
Get your requiems ready because in addition to watching Derek Fisher make the transition from crustily grizzled veteran to head coach of the Knicks, we may soon be waving hasta la vista to Jermaine O’Neal and Ray Allen who are both considering retirement. But for those of you who have a soft spot for shiny-headed power forwards who have penchants for bullying European players and cursing to themselves, fear not because Kevin Garnett is reportedly “excited” to play with the Nets – and likely excited to make the $12M that’s owed to him for playing 20-25 minutes/game.
From the unrestricted batch of remaining free agents, the last big name without a home is playoff problem child, Lance Stephenson who, like so many before him, had to learn the hard way that you don’t tug on Super LeBron’s cape, you don’t blow into his ear, you don’t pull the headband off the King, and you don’t mess around in the Eastern Conference Finals. Jim Croce paraphrasing aside, Stephenson was one of just four players to average at least 13ppg, 7rpg, and 4apg in 2013-14. He’s only 23 and aside from the aforementioned ass-hattery of the ECF, he’s a terrific, if immature, player who can play either wing spot and whether he returns to Indiana or signs elsewhere he’ll continue his evolution in 2015.
The summer league circuit is well underway and Las Vegas has been overrun with scribes wielding pens and voice recorders and polo shirts and new Cavs Coach David Blatt coaching in jeans. I tuned in for the Jabari Parker vs. Andrew Wiggins extravaganza on Saturday when the weather in Seattle was hot enough that my living room felt like the inside of a convection oven, but it wasn’t so scorching for me to miss out on these rookies. Wiggins showed flashes of otherworldly athleticism while for Parker it looked just like another game at Cameron Indoor with a variety of slashing drives, strong finished, and a mix of well-developed jumpers. More so than the top-two picks in the draft were the contributions of last year’s number one pick, Anthony Bennett and Bucks’ cult favorite, the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo. (This is where I break the hearts of my few readers by admitting that this was the first time I’d undistractedly watched Antetokounmpo.) Bennett’s shed baby fat and looks like he could be ready to step into a contributing role off the Cavs bench, assuming he can set a screen without being whistled for a foul – he had eight in the game. Antetokounmpo was most impressive with his self-confidence on the long ball. At 6’11”, or however tall he is, his combination of shooting range and athleticism are worth getting excited about. It’s ok to be late for the train as long as you arrive.
Southern Methodist University, currently coached by basketball nomad Larry Brown, just lost a recruit named Emmanuel Mudiay who’s taking his talents across the pond to play pro ball. The 6’5” guard out of Texas wasn’t just some random player with marginal talents, but rather a top-five nationally ranked player good enough to be projected as the number-three overall pick on Draft Express’s 2015 mock. Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski broke the story:
“This is not an academic issue, since he has been admitted to SMU, but rather a hardship issue,” Brown said in a statement.
Nevertheless, little evidence supports the Hall of Fame coach’s assertion on Mudiay’s reason for leaving SMU.
Mudiay had conversations with Brown and university officials about his ability to become academically eligible and withstand NCAA scrutiny into his amateur status to play his freshman year, sources told Yahoo Sports.
Mudiay becomes the latest in a list that includes Brandon Jennings, Jeremy Tyler, and Latavious Williams as players who have, for varying reasons, bypassed college for either the D-League or international leagues. While I’m fundamentally opposed to any NBA age limits, as long as one exists, the league would do well to present the D-League as a better alternative to international pro leagues. The success of players like Glen Rice Jr. and PJ Hairston will continue advancing the league’s profile, but it would’ve been a coup for them to get a talent like Mudiay, but if money is even an iota of a consideration for the young man, then Europe or China or wherever he lands makes logical sense.
Nothing much else happened this week except for the latest great white hype Doug McDermott scored 31 points on 12 shots in Vegas on Sunday.
June 27, 2014Posted by on
Now that Carmelo Anthony is officially opting out of his contract and, for the first time in his pro career becoming a free agent, the possible destinations for his scoring prowess is narrowing by the day. The Bulls and Rockets appear to be at the front of the pack and while it’s a fun game to wonder where oh where would Melo fit, it’s even more fun to ponder the impossible: historically speaking, what are some of the top mutually beneficial teams for which Melo could’ve played?
2003-04 Detroit Pistons:
We’re all familiar with the Pistons’ legendary misstep taking Darko Milicic over Melo, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade. Any one of those players would’ve made a great addition to a talented and mature Pistons team that would go on to win the 03-04 title, but a 19-year-old Melo would’ve come in and immediately been the best offensive player on the roster. Whether the Pistons would’ve brought him off the bench behind Tayshaun Prince or started him doesn’t matter, the only man who could’ve stopped him from scoring 20/night would’ve been coach Larry Brown. Just as importantly as his on-court production is that he would’ve been on a rookie deal lasting through at least 2007. From 2004 to 2008, this Melo-less Pistons group made the Eastern Conference finals every season and reached the finals twice. Do they tack on another title with the ultra-talented Melo? Does Melo find winning ways in the pros and create a legacy to match his other 2003 draft counterparts? Thanks to Joe Dumars and the Pistons brass, we’ll never know.
1996-97 Utah Jazz:
Karl Malone’s best Jazz teams never could overcome MJ’s Bulls. Maybe it was Malone’s clutch woes or just the indomitability of Jordan and Scottie. Whatever the case, let’s re-imagine the methodically pick and rolling Jazz with the 6’8”, 230lbs Melo at small forward in place of 6’7”, 225lbs Bryon Russell. While Russell was absolutely a better defensive player than Melo, comparing their offensive games is like comparing a beautifully crafted club sandwich with Boar’s Head turkey, thick slabs of bacon, a little avocado, a slice of Swiss cheese on gourmet toasted bread to a butter sandwich made out of two dried out heels. Is Melo’s offense enough to extend Pip on defense and give Malone more room to operate? Does the presence of Melo in the pick and roll game add enough variation to an already excellent offense that it breaks the Bulls defense? I don’t know and I have my doubts, but me and Karl Malone and Bob Costas would like to see this.
1990-91 Golden State Warriors:
First thing’s first: There’s no way Golden State could’ve afforded Chris Mullin, Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Melo, but we’re going all in. The ever-imaginative Warriors Head Coach Don Nelson loved to tinker with a lineup and having a three-point shooting Melo at the four alongside an already potent offensive group would’ve delivered enough options to satisfy Nelson’s always-curious mind. Would Melo have been chewed up and spit out by the Mailman and Charles Barkley? Of course, but can you imagine those same guys attempting to defend Melo as he shoots 40% on threes and attacks slow-footed defenders with an array of moves that rivals the best players in the game. The net gain for adding Melo to Run-TMC is likely minimal, but inasmuch as we love Herm Edwards and his “You play to win the game” attitude, we yearn to be entertained.
1987-88 Detroit Pistons
For a team that won back-to-back NBA championships and made it to three straight finals and five straight EC finals, it’s hard to ask for more, but if we replace Adrian Dantley or Mark Aguirre with Melo, the offensive gains outweigh the defensive losses. Aguirre and Dantley both made individual sacrifices for team success and without the pressure of being the leader, I like to imagine Melo’s capable of doing the same. Assimilating into a Bad Boy culture of family and hard-nosed loyalty could’ve been the best thing to ever happen to Melo and maybe would’ve lifted Detroit into the stratosphere occupied by Magic’s Lakers, Bird’s Celtics, and Jordan’s Bulls. Also, Melo vs. Dominique, Bird, Pippen, and other 80s stalwart SFs would’ve been a joy to behold.
1988-89 Cleveland Cavs:
Everyone remembers MJ’s game-winner over an outstretched and overmatched Craig Ehlo and the Cavs in game five of the 1989 first round, but less people remember this Cavs team was one of the top-three teams in the league that year. With a starting five that featured healthy seasons from Mark Price, Brad Daugherty, and Ron Harper, plus Larry Nance and Mike Sanders, this team was on par with the eventual champion Pistons and Magic’s Lakers group. If we swap out the perennial role player Sanders with the perennial all-star Melo, we have a team of all pros and all-stars too good for MJ to overcome on his own. Melo gives them four players capable of scoring 20+ any night and a group that finished second in the league in defensive rating and third in opponents points/game. Maybe it’s enough to get Cleveland a title and revamp the entire future psyche of a long-fucked fan base. And maybe we’re even talking about Mayor Anthony.
1974-75 Washington Bullets:
There’s a good chance that you, like me, weren’t alive when the Washington Bullets were one of the league’s most successful franchises in the 1970s. They went to four NBA Finals and won one in 1978 with possibly one of the worst titlist teams of all time (they won 44 games in the regular season). That title team was far from their best. In 1975 the Bullets won 60 games and tied for the best record in the league. They had the best defensive team, the highest margin of victory, and kicked much ass with a front line that included all-stars Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld. The weakest spot on the roster was at small forward where the blue collar Mike Riordan teamed with Nick Weatherspoon to hold it down with some sense of regularity. These Bullets were destroyed in the finals by the Rick Barry-led Golden State Warriors in a series where Warriors coach Al Attles was ejected in game four for storming the court and fighting with the aforementioned Riordan. Mixing in the 6’8” Melo alongside the Hall of Famers Unseld and Hayes gives the Bullets two of the top players in the league. Chemistry questions will always arise, particularly with high usage guys like Melo, but how he would’ve blended with Hayes, a player whose presence was once compared to “Chinese water torture … it’s just a drop at a time, nothing big, but in the end, he’s driven you crazy,” is the ultimate question.
1958-59 St. Louis Hawks:
Were it not for Bill Russell and the Celtics’ dominating run in the 50s and 60s, Wilt Chamberlain would likely have numerous championships and a different reputation among basketball historians. Another team and player that nearly suffocated under the Boston success is the St. Louis Hawks and Bob Pettit who faced the Celtics four times in the finals, lost thrice, and went to game seven twice. The Hawks started 6’4” Hall of Famer Cliff Hagan at the SF slot, but the 1959 version of Hagan is simply outmatched by 2014 Melo and that’s the version we’d transport back in time. Melo’s combination of quickness, strength and legitimate jump shot would be indefensible by 1959 standards. Different challenges such as racism, dirty fouls, and uncomfortable shorts would replace modern obstacles, but for a team that spent five years on the cusp of all-time greatness, Melo would’ve gleefully pushed them over the top and instead of having a Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP, perhaps we’d have the Carmelo Anthony NBA Finals MVP award … chew on that. [Side note: In the 1957-58 finals, the one St. Louis won, Bob Pettit scored 50 points in a series-clinching game six win.]
June 10, 2014Posted by on
The current state of the mock draft is as much masturbatory as it exists for the voyeuristic. Mock drafting is as fun for mocker as the audience as we’ve witnessed with the NFL and the spawn of well-coiffed humans like Mel Kiper, but it’s also a participatory sport as the emergence of Fantasy Sports has revealed. For the 2014 NBA Draft, the mock laid out below covers the top-30 picks in the draft assuming no trades are made. Staying true to the tradition that mocks are a great way to pass the time, I brought along some old friends you don’t know and a newer friend you may know. The format is easy to follow and you can skip around or read straight through, but don’t miss the numerous gems sprinkled across this oddly fun, but probably not functional, mock draft.
The draftees were myself, Ian Levy of Hickory-High, Robert Hamill of the NBA Father/Son Two v. Two tourney, Brian Foster also of Father/Son, Andrew Maahs, and Rex Tredway. We drafted in a snake fashion, 1 thru 6, then the draftee with the 6th pick had 7 and so on.
With all that administration out of the way, let’s get on with the drafting which took place over the past couple weeks over email:
1. Cleveland Cavaliers, Andrew Wiggins as drafted by Ian Levy
The night after the Draft Lottery, Dan Gilbert was visited by three ghosts. The first was the ghost of Cavalier Past. A shade with the build and hairline of Karl Malone, the ghost of Cavalier Past told a story of the rich trappings of success being suddenly ripped away. The second and third were the ghosts of Cavalier Present. One was an overweight and overmatched disappointment, the other an overconfident and unaware star of debatable brightness. They told the story of missed opportunities and of struggles private and public. After they left, Gilbert sat in his luxiourous four-poster bed, shivering with fear, awating the ghost of Cavalier Future. But as dawn broke, the final ghost never appeared. The light stretching between his bedroom blinds brought renewed confidence, wiping away the terrifying memories of the night before. Gilbert grabbed his phone and accidentally called Chris Grant, “You again? Sorry, I meant to call David,” then hung up and rang David Griffin: “Forget about those questions we talked about yesterday. Get me that Canadian kid who can jump real high.”
2. Milwaukee Bucks, Jabari Parker as drafted by Kris Fenrich
On the eve of the 2014 Mock Draft, no ghosts visited the new owners of the Milwaukee Bucks, just a call from GM John Hammond who, after deep thought, reflection, and a consultation with his former employer and mentor … Joe Dumars … had arrived at his 1-2 scenario. Hammond didn’t hide his disappointment that the team’s #1 option was already off the board. “We needed Wiggins!” he shrieked out loud while pacing in the team’s war room. The rest of the assorted Bucks employees looked at each other in awkward embarrassment and someone suppressed a laugh. Hammond stopped cold, realized he was making an ass of himself and recounted the sobering conversation he’d had with Dumars the night before where Joe had reeled off all the truths of Joel Embiid’s franchise-lifting ceiling: athletic fluidity, rebounding and shot blocking, underrated, but rapidly developing offensive arsenal and all against the backdrop of that troubled Larry Sanders. With darkened memories of Darko Milicic dancing a fiendish jig in his mind, Hammond made the call: Jabari Parker.
3. Philadelphia 76ers, Joel Embiid as drafted by Andrew Maahs
Raw big man, check. High-upside, check. Injury red flag, check. Falling in the draft, check.
With Joel Embiid falling to the Sixers, GM Sam Hinkie asks, “HAVEN’T WE SEEN THIS MOVIE BEFORE?” And despite conventional wisdom the Sixers select another high-upside big man with injury concerns in Joel Embiid. But unlike last year’s selection, Noel, Embiid is in act one, scene four of a basketball career that some are comparing to a young Akeem Olajuwon, yes that Hakeem Olajuwon. Critics will question whether the two big men can share the same stage, questions that won’t be answered in year one as Hinkie and Co. will cautiously rest both players periodically, embracing year two of “Operation Tank.” With the #10 pick and five second-round picks, the Sixers brass will have endless opportunities to surround the young nucleus, of Michael Carter Williams, Noel and Embiid, with the right pieces. One thing is clear, Embiid is the Godfather II to Noel’s Godfather, and this time the sequel is better, unbelievably better.
4. Orlando Magic, Marcus Smart as drafted by Brian Foster
With the Otis Smith roster purge nearly completed (Jameer Nelson is the lone holdover), young gun GM Rob Hennigan is finally ready for the Orlando Magic to start making progress towards the playoffs in a watered down Eastern Conference. With no surprises in the first 3 picks, the Magic find themselves picking from a handful of players they expected to be available. It’s no secret that Orlando needs a PG badly to make this young core of players flourish going forward. Hennigan’s mentor and good friend, Sam Presti, found himself in a similar situation 6 years ago in the 2008 draft. There was an emotional, fiery guard with disruptive defensive ability and great size who no one knew whether or not he would be a true point guard. Presti was heckled by some draft pundits for taking the leap with Russell Westbrook. I’d say Westbrook turned out ok, so Hennigan has no problems pulling the trigger here . “Irrational shot selection and sketchy shooting be damned, I’m going with my gut!!” shouts Hennigan from the Magic war room.
5. Utah Jazz, Dante Exum as drafted by Robert Hamill
A somewhat surprising pick by Orlando at #4 forced Utah to reevaluate its choice. Prevailing thought had Orlando taking Dante Exum, leaving GM Kevin O’Connor sure the player he wanted was top-rated PF, Juius Randle. Of the remaining players atop Utah’s board, Randle was the proven choice – that is to say he proven in a present-day NBA draft. Also under consideration, Noah Vonleh blew minds at the combine. But the word “raw” gets thrown around with him, and raw doesn’t always become filet mignon when it’s fully cooked. O’Connor also had concerns about his build. Narrow shoulders aren’t a great asset around the basket. And finally, Exum, the wildcard from down under. Wildcards are often destined for the same fate as raw players. To a gambler, a wildcard has a malleable future, capable of being shaped to fit your scenario. For O’Connor, the big question was, can he play some SG? At 6’6″ with long arms and top-10 times in all the combine speed drills, the answer appears to be yes. O’Connor may not fancy himself a gambler, but today he is. Exum’s skills should help Gordon Hayward create from the wing, and let Trey Burke play to his strength by getting open 3s. The Jazz select Dante Exum. Now, who’s going to coach this group?
6. Boston Celtics, Julius Randle as drafted by Rex Tredway
The Sports Illustrated cover solidified the comparison. A Midwestern farm-boy from a mid-major who can stroke the three, as soon as Dougy McBuckets grows a stache he and Larry are basically the same guy right? I’m sure there’s a sizable portion of Celtic’s nation who thinks so. So the pick is obvious. With the sixth pick in the 2014 draft the Boston Celtics select: Julius Randle.
Randle is the easy selection here for Ainge and Stevens. He was a consensus top three pick before the season and has a body that’s NBA ready. He showed us that he can dominate the boards during Kentucky’s tourney run, and that talent fills a need in Boston immediately.
7. Los Angeles Lakers, Noah Vonleh as drafted by Rex Tredway
The D-League Lakers were an absolute mess this year. At this point in the off-season there still seem to be more questions than answers. Who’s going to be the Head Coach? How much gas will Kobe have in the tank when he comes back? Is Gasol out the door now or later? Not even a call to Miss Cleo can get you all of those answers. Question marks aside, I see the Lakers taking Noah Vonleh in this spot. He’s not the combine freak that Aaron Gordon is, but he’ll be a better rebounder in year one and more importantly he has the ability to hit the mid-range jumper on a pick-and-pop.
8. Sacramento Kings, Zach LaVine as drafted by Robert Hamill
If the Kings are indeed willing to trade for Kevin Love without any assurance he will sign an extension, they should take the most gifted player available and not give consideration to the current roster. A team that has tried stockpiling assets, the Kings are what we’ve come expect from an organization that has employed 6 coaches over the past 8 seasons. Aside from DeMarcus Cousins, all current Kings are expendable. At #8, the player that will either excite fans at Sleep Train Arena, or get the attention of the Love-selling T’Wolves, is UCLA freshman SG Zach LaVine. LaVine is compared favorably (and unfavorably) to Russ Westbrook. Fearless in transition; explosive athleticism; questionable judgment. But he’s different too. Legit SG size; effortless range from deep with a smooth, balanced release; not much of a creator for others. Like Westbrook he’s a late bloomer – a kid that wasn’t even in the top-50 of any recruiting service 2 years ago. He looks like a young guy who is still figuring out how to use all of his genetic gifts. The Kings now set their sights on Kevin Love and dream of an outcome that delivers Love while holding onto LaVine … because they know there’s a decent chance he becomes one of the top three players in this draft.
9. Charlotte Hornets, James Young as drafted by Brian Foster
Charlotte retired the Bobcats name respectably with a trip to the playoffs in their final season before becoming the Hornets once more. In a rare stroke of luck for the Michael Jordan Front Office Circus, the Hornets picked up the Pistons lottery pick that was only top-8 protected as the result of a Corey Maggette for Ben Gordon swap two years ago (you heard right, Joe Dumars somehow made the Ben Gordon signing even worse by giving away the 9th pick in this year’s draft just to dump his salary). With that being said, let’s go into the mind of Michael Jordan for this pick to see how his previous personnel blunders influence the Hornets for the 2014 draft: Rich Cho: “Doug McDermott?” MJ: “Oh no, I’m not falling for the high scoring, sweet shooting white guy again. Fuck. That.” Cho: “Aaron Gordon?” MJ: “Hell no, he reminds me of that bitch ass Tyrus Thomas who just runs and jumps around with no real basketball skills.” Cho: “Gary Harris?” MJ: “Too little, I would post him up after shoot arounds all day. Ask Gerald. No, for real, get his ass on speaker phone.” Cho: “…” MJ: “Fine, don’t call him. Who’s that guy that kid from Kentucky that dunked on the African dude in the NCAA title game?” Cho: “I give up…Rod (Higgins), call the pick in already.”
10. Philadelphia 76ers, Gary Harris as drafted by Andrew Maahs
Measuring in at a meager 6’2.5″ without shoes, SG Gary Harris found himself singing “I wish I was taller,” after the NBA combine concluded on May 15th. Despite his disappointing measurements, the Sixers pulled out the “rabbit in a hat with a bat” and drafted the combo guard. Arguably one of the best on ball defenders in the draft, Harris provides the Sixers another defensive asset for their young roster. The length of Michael Carter Williams will help neutralize Harris’ lack of size on the defensive end, and his ability to play both guard spots gives the Sixers some versatility, depth and playmaking they desperately need.
11. Denver Nuggets, Aaron Gordon as drafted by Kris Fenrich
Sometimes choice can be overwhelming and when you’re a mediocre team with needs across the board, having too many options can be like getting lost in the labyrinthine menu at Cheesecake Factory. Do I want the herb crusted filet of salmon (Aaron Gordon) or the grilled shrimp and bacon club (Dario Saric) or maybe the buffalo blasts (Nik Stauskas)? My God, man, why are we talking about Cheesecake Factory’s oversaturated fatty menu when my cholesterol is already too high and there’s plenty of leafy green options (Doug McDermott) out there just waiting to be devoured and deliver me the sustenance necessary to make strong, clear headed decisions? Screw the salad, we’re already here and what’s life if it’s not indulging in what you really want instead of what you need? Redundancy be damned, potential Shawn Marion clone (minus cockeyed jumper and insecurities) Aaron Gordon is the choice. Now if you don’t mind, I have platter of salmon and mashed potatoes drowning in a lake of lemon butter waiting for me.
12. Orlando Magic, Nik Stauskas as drafted by Ian Levy
With this pick the Orlando Magic have turned their back court into Voltron. Stauskas, Smart, Oladipo, Afflalo, E’Twaun Moore (in a pinch) can assemble themselves into a super robot, with each limb capable of spacing the floor, running a pick-and-roll, and taking a tough defensive assignment. Now they just have to figure out who gets to hold the giant sword.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves, Doug McDermott as drafted by Ian Levy
Timberwolves gonna Timberwolf.
14. Phoenix Suns, Dario Saric as drafted by Kris Fenrich
With three picks in the first round and a 48-win team that’s celebrating the departure of Emeka Okafor and his nearly $15-million deal, the Suns are the envy of the lottery. Maybe not, but as such, they’re in a good mood and pleased to take 6’10” Croatian point forward/future Toni Kukoc/slender Boris Diaw, whom they call Dario Saric. While preferring Saric to join ASAP, the Suns are willing to wait until 2015 if that’s what it takes. Also, there’s hope in the front office that his splotchy mustache thing will have either filled in or fallen out by then.
15. Atlanta Hawks, Rodney Hood as drafted by Andrew Maahs
When DeMarre Carroll and D-League vet, Cartier Martin are the only true Small Forwards on your roster you could use more than little help at that position. Rodney Hood fills an immediate need and fits well into the 3-point happy Hawks offensive system. Atlanta will be heavily chasing restricted free agent Gordon Hayward this offseason and Hood should be a decent consolation prize should they fail to land Hayward.
16. Chicago Bulls, Kyle Anderson as drafted by Brian Foster
With the uncertainty of Derrick Rose‘s knees and the departure of Luol Deng, the Bulls weaknesses were on full display in the playoffs against a young Wizards team. They lacked depth on the wings, and didn’t have anyone who can create for others like Rose. The Bulls address both needs with one player: Point forward, Kyle Anderson, out of UCLA.
17. Boston Celtics, Elfrid Payton as drafted by Robert Hamill
Only one piece of the contending Celtics teams remains. Danny Ainge has long desired to trade Rajon Rondo, and very well may have last year had the moody PG not been rehabbing a torn ACL. In the last year of his deal, and still considered a top PG, a market for Rondo certainly exists. Or perhaps they ride out the last year of Rondo and do a sign and trade in the summer of ’15. Regardless, the time to move on is approaching. Elfrid Payton brings some Rondo-like ability to the table – speed and quickness, vision, energetic defense (his 2.6 spg is tops amongst this draft class). Also like Rondo, his shot is disjointed and ineffective. At 6’4 he’s tall, young (played his freshman season at 17), eager to improve, and he’s the Celtics pick at #17.
18. Phoenix Suns, TJ Warren as drafted by Rex Tredway and rationalized by Kris Fenrich
Sure, the Suns might crave shooting threes like the NCAA craves hypocrisy, but coach Jeff Hornacek’s no dummy and wants to expand his offensive portfolio with the theme of diversification. And no one in this draft diversifies a three-heavy offense like NC State small forward, TJ Warren. I have no clue how or where Warren learned to play basketball, but with an array of two-point moves that already qualifies as mature, one wonders if he spent his childhood studying the likes of Alex English, Adrian Dantley, Kiki Vandeweghe, Mark Aguirre, Rolando Blackman, Kelly Tripucka, Bernard King …. you get the picture, Warren’s a throwback to the days before the three ball was crowned king and sat on a throne 23’9″ from the hoop. But God help us if the young man ever develops that part of his game.
19. Chicago Bulls, PJ Hairston as drafted by Rex Tredway and rationalized by Kris Fenrich
Chicago’s identity is crafted by two men: Sheriff Tom Thibodeau and Deputy Joakim Noah. With those two steel-willed men guiding the franchise, Thibs convinces the front office that the red flags (and wailing sirens and weed/gun/speeding infractions) that accompany wing-player PJ Hairston aren’t enough to deter the Bulls from snagging the big-bodied UNC reject. In Hairston, Thibs sees a bearded ball of unformed clay ready to be sculpted into a tooth and nail defender with a jumper good enough to catch feeds from Noah and a healthy Derrick Rose.
20. Toronto Raptors, Tyler Ennis as drafted by Robert Hamill
20 years ago the Raptors probably would have avoided taking a Canadian kid. The expectations on a local product for the new franchise could have been heavy. But it’s 2014 and the Raptors are just another franchise trying for consecutive playoff berths. With Kyle Lowry‘s future at the club up in the air, the Raptors need to add a PG. Masai Ujiri didn’t expect Ennis to be here at #20, and when he was, the call was easy. Will Ennis be a starting caliber PG for a perennial playoff team? Who knows – it’s hard to ever know for sure. But he’s the obvious choice for Toronto. He comes from a winning culture and has shown the ability to play well in big moments.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder, Adreian Payne as drafted by Brian Foster
Fresh off of their Western Conference Finals loss to the Spurs, GM Sam Presti realizes that it’s time to recruit some reinforcements on the front line. The injury to Serge Ibaka in the playoffs magnified the Thunder’s lack of front court depth. Steven Adams is a good, young prospect, but after that it gets ugly in a hurry. Nick Collison is near the end of the road of his NBA career, and I wouldn’t pick Kendrick Perkins to play on my team in a pickup game at the Y. Watching Kevin Durant get pushed around filling in at the 4 made this decision easy for Presti. Adreian Payne out of Michigan State is his man. Payne checks in at 6’10”, 240 with a Stretch Armstrong-like 7-4 wingspan. His ability to mix it up inside and stretch the floor with range out to 3 will definitely be a welcome addition to this young OKC core.
22. Memphis Grizzlies, Cleanthony Early as drafted by Andrew Maahs
The small forward position of the Grizzlies is a collection of has beens and never have beens. With Tayshaun Prince washed up and Mike Miller a situational player, the Grizzlies are in desperate need of a playmaker at that position. After a strong performance at the combine and in the NCAA tournament, against Kentucky, the 23 year-old, Cleanthony Early is ready to make the leap from the mid-major level to the NBA. If he manages to beat owner Robert Pera in his weekly one-on-one games, Early may find himself in Dave Joerger’s starting lineup. That’s if Joerger still coaching this team by the end of the week.
23. Utah Jazz, KJ Daniels as drafted by Kris Fenrich
While some in the organization believe the Jazz should’ve drafted another white hope in Doug McDermott at #5, good sense and a pro-Australian-faction won out. But by taking Exum at #5 and losing a handful of aging, calcifying players to free agency, the Jazz are getting younger while their current crop of kids (Hayward, Kanter, Favors) gain crucial on the job experience. A couple of Euro imports may be the best players available, but the Jazz need help now and that means taking the gaudy athleticism of Clemson’s, K.J. McDaniels. At 6’6”, Daniels uses his quick leaping ability to be a plus rebounder and shot blocker for his position. Jazz marketers are already planning campaigns with working titles as “McDaniels’ Den of Dazzling Dunks” or “KJ: More Athletic than RJ and less arthritic than Marvin.”
24. Charlotte Hornets, Glenn Robinson III as drafted by Ian Levy
The New Orleans Hornets are in desperate need of some spacing from the small forward position and Robinson is just what the doctor ordered. Long and athletic, oh, the marvelous, glorious basketball DNA. Also, they can now give up on Austin Rivers and not keep their Nepotism Rating high. #AdvancedStats
25. Houston Rockets, Mitch “Money” McGary as drafted by Ian Levy
The Rockets are still missing something. You can call it chutzpah, intensity, aggression, passion, physicality, giving a flying fuck, reckless abandon, the willingness to mix it up, cojones, muscles for miles. Whatever your chosen euphemism, McGary has it and the Rockets don’t. Now they can trade Asik, plug McGary in for 25 minutes a night as Dwight Howard‘s back slowly disintegrates and let the man go get frothy.
26. Miami Heat, Shabazz Napier as drafted by Kris Fenrich
Let’s be real, Mario Chalmers is exhausted from years of being the Miami whipping boy. Between the Heat cap jockeying and the availability of Napier, it’s time for Mario to take his title talents elsewhere and for Shabazz to sidle into the Norris Cole role (sans high top) as Cole becomes a not-so-annoying Chalmers. At the end of the day, we’re all just filling someone else’s shoes.
27. Phoenix Suns, Kristaps Porzingis as drafted by Andrew Maahs
After selecting Dario Saric, with the #14 pick, the Suns double dip and select another skilled 7-footer in Kristaps Porzingis. Porzingis is a few years away from being an NBA caliber player, as was evident by his 6.7 PPG and 2.7 RBG in Spain’s ACB League. With three first round picks, the Suns are counting on one of their European selections to stay overseas, giving them roster felxibilty for free agents and/or Kevin Love.
28. Los Angeles Clippers, Jerami Grant as drafted by Brian Foster
Since the beginning of the Chris Paul Era in Clipperland, they’ve had a revolving door of over the hill and journeymen small forwards (Ryan Gomes, Caron Butler, Matt Barnes, Jared Dudley, Grant Hill). With the Sterling saga in the rear view mirror, the Clippers are looking to turn the page by drafting some young legs to inject some energy into this mostly veteran core. In comes Jerami Grant from Syracuse. Grant is a slasher with protypical SF size (6-8 215) that likes to use his exceptional athleticism to get to the rim and put pressure on the defense. You can check out the kid’s dunk highlights on YouTube to get an idea of how well Grant will fit in with his new team. Welcome to Lob City.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder, Clint Capela as drafted by Robert Hamill
Unless you agree with Scott Brooks‘ comments following Game 6 of the WCF, OKC finds itself coming up short of expectations for the 2nd straight year (injuries or not). While the team needs to retool, and maybe hire a new coach, the pick at #29 doesn’t exactly lend itself to that effort. Sam Presti should regret giving Kendrick Perkins the deal he did, and it seems highly unlikely the scary big man will return once it expires in 2015. Clint Capela makes a great draft-and-stash pick and seems like a move Presti’s mentors in San Antonio would make. He’s only 20 and needs a lot of seasoning, but he’s big, strong and could be a nice piece alongside Serge Ibaka in a couple years.
30. San Antonio Spurs, CJ Wilcox as drafted by Kris Fenrich
Coach Gregg Popovich might claim to hate the three, but he knows where his bread’s buttered and there aren’t many better shooters in this draft than 23-year-old CJ Wilcox from UW. At 23 and having played behind bigger, brighter names and talents, Wilcox is humble and hungry. He brings a quick release and above average athleticism to a team that can never go deep enough. At training camp, his targets will be set on the minutes of Marco Bellinelli and his creepy neck beard.