Monthly Archives: June, 2012

New GMs not Prepared to Rebuild

New Magic GM Rob Hennigan likely isn’t ready to send Dwight Howard packing just yet, but is he really to blame?

When you’ve been on the job for less than a week, indecisiveness reigns supreme. Just ask Magic GM Rob Hennigan or newly appointed Atlanta Hawks boss Danny Ferry. Both were named General Managers for their respective teams with little time to prepare for the draft and it is showing.

Both teams have players in Josh Smith and Dwight Howard who have been shopped around for almost a year, but neither is ready to pull the trigger. With Houston trying to send two top-10 picks to Orlando and multiple teams showing strong interest in Smith, now is the time to make a deal. In what is considered one of the deepest drafts in recent memory, Atlanta and Orlando could both bring back young talent for their outgoing stars, but neither Hennigan nor Ferry feel comfortable shaking up a roster they’ve had only a few days to mull over.

And honestly, you can’t blame either one of them for being gun shy.

The mistake here lies with the owners and management in both Orlando and Atlanta. When the Magic decided to part ways with GM Otis Smith on May 21 there should have been a contingency plan in place. Instead, Orlando performed their due diligence and considered every option available, taking over a month to find the right guy to run their basketball operations. Unfortunately for Orlando, time was a luxury they did not have.

It is safe to assume that the fates of both Otis Smith and former head coach Stan Van Gundy had long since been sealed. Therefore, Orlando should have been preparing for their departures long ago. They should have been ready to find a replacement for Smith in 2 weeks or less. By hiring Hennigan days before the draft, they have put him in an awful situation. Now may be the best time to deal Howard, but without giving him ample time to assess the lay of the land, Hennigan is not prepared to trade Howard for what may ultimately be the best package offered to him this offseason. Realistically this would take some creativity on the part of Rockets GM Daryl Morey, but if Houston could offer two top-10 picks, Kevin Martin, and Luis Scola for Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu, is that not likely better than any package Brooklyn, Dallas, or Los Angeles is going to offer in the foreseeable future?

Likewise, Atlanta knew that the contract for Rick Sund was set to expire June 30, but instead waited until three days (yes, 3 DAYS) before the draft to bring in Ferry. How could anyone expect him to be prepared to flip Josh Smith for draft picks when the ink on Ferry’s new six-year contract has barely even dried?

None of this is to say that Hennigan and Ferry are not prepared for the draft this evening. No, I expect these two to be among the most prepared in the league. They will surely know the available players backwards and forwards; it is just that their lack of familiarity with the rosters they just inherited is limited and, because of this, so are they. Their respective owners have not put them in a position to wheel and deal on a night when they ought to be most flexible. The draft presents the best time in the year to make a trade as team’s try to set themselves up for long-term success with young talent. Bad timing likely will stop these two new GMs from making much noise tonight.

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2012 NBA Mock Draft

Yes, the NBA Finals finished less than a week ago, but the NBA offseason is about to get into full swing with the Draft on Thursday night.  For anyone living outside of Miami, this is the perfect opportunity to forget about the oh-so-hateable champs and focus on their teams’ and the league’s future talent.  Disregarding any trades that may happen on draft night, here is how Original NBA sees the draft playing out:

1) New Orleans: Anthony Davis
On Thursday New Orleans Hornets General Manager Dell Demps is going to have a tougher time deciding what he will have for breakfast than he will making this pick. This one is obvious and has been for months. Davis is a shot-blocking machine with a decent low-post game, good mid range shot, tremendous athleticism and loads of potential. From his demeanor all the way to his eyebrows, there is nothing not to like about this guy. The Hornets will be getting a player they can build around for years to come. The intrigue for this team begins at pick No. 10 when Mr. Demps will have to decide how he best wants to complement Davis. Will they find another big to put up front with him or a backcourt player with a completely different skill set? We will just have to wait and see…

2) Charlotte: Thomas Robinson
When you’re the Charlotte Bobcats, you do not, I repeat DO NOT, draft based on need; you take the best player available no questions asked. With Davis off the board, there is a swell of candidates for who is the second best player available. There is almost no way of knowing who out of the next several picks will be the best, but Robinson represents everything you would want from a high draft pick. He’s got a great build (6’9”, 240 pounds), a high motor, and a wide range of skills. While at Kansas the guy got better every year and there is no indication that he has hit his ceiling. Although there will be questions about his potential, the guy is going to give it his all and already has the talent to contribute to this team.

3) Washington: Bradley Beal
The way that GM Ernie Grunfeld is operating this team, he is trying to build a team that will win now while throwing caution and any thoughts of future roster flexibility out the window. Along the same line, he is going to focus on what player fits this roster best now. Beal certainly has the talent to start right away for this team and fill a need at the 2 spot. Beal will give John Wall a great running mate for years to come and, possibly more importantly for Grunfeld, he fills an immediate need.

4) Cleveland: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Cleveland would have to be ecstatic if Kidd-Gilchrist was still on the board for a litany of reasons. First off, Kidd-Gilchrist has become borderline legendary as a player with a rare combination of athleticism, skills, and athletic ability. He is the kind of guy that any player in the league would want on their team because of what he brings to the table night in and night out. With Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao, and Kidd-Gilchrist, Cleveland would have a solid foundation to build a contender.

5) Sacramento: Andre Drummond
Athletic big men with loads of potential should scare executives all over the league, but I cannot help but think that Sacramento is going to pull the trigger with Drummond. DeMarcus Cousins started to develop into a force during the latter stages of this season, but pairing him with a more athletic shot-blocker and defensive presence would free him up defensively, where he certainly is a liability. At this point in the draft, Sacramento would be lucky to fill a need like this one

6) Portland: Harrison Barnes
I know the Blazers has Nic Batum and are adamant that they plan on re-signing him, but if Barnes drops this far, I have a hard time imagining that new GM Neil Olshey would pass on him. Portland had a middling offense finishing 16th and 17th in scoring and field goal percentage, respectively. Barnes can obviously fill it up, as shown by his 17.3 points a game on 45% shooting from the field, and Portland cannot afford to pass up a player of his caliber. There’s such a drop off after the top 6 that Portland may have no choice whom to select no matter who is still available.

7) Golden State: Perry Jones III
There is no questioning Jones’ athleticism or potential, but he has consistently been criticized for his effort and willingness to take over games. However, Jones gets knocked for all the things he does not do to the point that critics overlook the things that he does well. People are quick to forget that he averaged 13.9 and 13.5 points a game in his freshman and sophomore campaigns while shooting 54.9% and 50.0%, respectively, from the field. Jones has said that his confidence, which held him back at Baylor, is at an all time high, but that’s all talk for now. Realistically he may not be what people want him to be, but in Jones, the Warriors would be taking the best guy still on the board and a player who may have the most potential out of anyone in this draft at a position they covet.

8) Toronto: Jeremy Lamb
Putting up a third worst mark in the NBA of 90.7 points per game, the Raptors need offense and they need it now. Lamb represents possibly the most offensively gifted player still on the board and the Raptors certainly will have him on their radar. This past season, Lamb posted 17.7 points a contest with the ability to both score from the outside and get to the free throw line. Although Toronto may be set at the SG position for now with DeMar DeRozan, they cannot afford to pass up on an offensive talent like Lamb.

9) Detroit: John Henson
The Pistons have been assembling a roster of misfits for quite some time, but picking up Henson here actually makes perfect sense. Joe Dumars has repeatedly expressed how pleased he is with Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight on the offensive end, but Henson would be an obvious upgrade defensively at a position of need for these Pistons. They ranked No. 27 in the NBA in rebounding and certainly need an athletic rebounder and defender like Henson to pair with Greg Monroe up front.

10) New Orleans: Tyler Zeller
There are plenty of options here for the Hornets, but this pick once again is all about Anthony Davis. He is their building block for the future and they should be thinking about how they can best help his transition into the NBA. A good place to start is to take an experienced player like Zeller to take a lot of the frontcourt pressure off of Davis. Davis will be at his best on the defensive end of the court as a help side defender so getting another guy on the team who can occupy the other team’s best big man is a must for New Orleans. Zeller is a tough player with a solid offensive game, but he and Davis both need to hit the weights. This would make for a scary frontcourt in New Orleans for years to come.

11) Portland: Damian Lillard
To me, this is one of the most obvious picks in the entire draft if Lillard is still available. Portland was clearly dissatisfied with the play of Raymond Felton last year and desperately needs to upgrade at point guard. Lillard was a big time scorer in college (24.5 points a game his senior year) and will fit in nicely with a unit looking for more production out of their backcourt.

12) Milwaukee: Meyers Leonard
With a backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis that is likely to give up their fair share of drive-bys, the Bucks would love to add a shot-blocker as a second line of defense. Leonard’s game is far from polished, but he would serve as an effective post defender, shot blocker, and finisher in transition for a team desperate for some size after the departure of Andrew Bogut.

13) Phoenix: Austin Rivers
Rivers is one of the most intriguing prospects in this draft as he is so talented, but did not show the promise that was originally anticipated when he committed to Duke. I believe that where he is drafted will largely determine whether he plays the point or on the wing in the NBA. Phoenix would serve well to pick Rivers, giving them a possible replacement for Steve Nash if he leaves during free agency. If Nash sticks around or they determine Rivers’ skills are better suited on the wing, Phoenix has one of the best shooters in the draft and an effective penetrator.

14) Houston: Dion Waiters
We have absolutely no idea what will end up happening with Houston and their abundance of mid first-round picks, but until they are traded, we will operate under the assumption that Houston is drafting for themselves and not somebody else. Waiters has loads of potential and only in a year with this much talent would you see a player of his caliber drop to the bottom of the lottery. His stock has been going up since pre-draft workouts were held in Chicago so it would not be a surprise to see him go sooner. However, Houston loves to stockpile talent and it would be no surprise if they snatched this athletic slashing combo guard.

15) Philadelphia: Terrence Ross
What does Philadelphia need? Wing scoring and perimeter shooting? Check and check. Terrence Ross can shoot from deep (37.1% on three-pointers) and puts the ball in the hoop at a good clip overall (45.7%). Add in his great size (6’7”, 197 pounds) and he looks like a great pick for Philly. The 76ers could certainly draft an athletic big here, but seeing as they would certainly have to reach for a player like Festus Ezeli, Ross makes a lot of sense.

16) Houston: Kendall Marshall
With Houston likely to be forced into choosing between Goran Dragic and Kyle Lowry, there is suddenly a need a backup point guard. Marshall is a steal here as a fantastic distributor and floor general. The assumption here is obviously that either Lowry is dealt or Dragic leaves in free agency, but either way, Marshall would be a capable understudy and a valuable asset for Daryl Morey.

17) Dallas: Terrence Jones
Jones seems like a great fit at a spot in the draft where there is an excess of players who are very similar in overall talent. Deciphering one player’s overall talent from the next becomes harder and harder as the draft goes on, but Jones is a matchup nightmare who is able to score both inside and out. His athleticism would be a tremendous asset on an aging Mavericks’ team and with Shawn Marion possibly on his way out, Jones would fill a need as a versatile and physical defender and slasher.

18) Houston: Jared Sullinger
I know that Sullinger has been red flagged because of his back issues, but I just cannot see him slipping past Houston here at No. 18, assuming they still hold the pick. Sullinger, who likely would have been a top five pick in last year’s draft, is just too good to let go. GM Daryl Morey would love to add a player of Sullinger’s talent level, even if Luis Scola and Patrick Patterson are ahead of him on the depth chart.

19) Orlando: Arnett Moultrie
New Magic GM Rob Hennigan is in an incredibly unenviable position with this pick. He can choose a player who can help Orlando win now or go for someone who will develop into a contributor down the road. The question is essentially this: should the Magic draft a player who will help the team win with Dwight Howard or begin the rebuilding process now? Hennigan needs to know Howard’s fate in order to effectively implement an effective offseason strategy and that all begins Thursday night. Don’t be surprised if Orlando is involved in a draft night trade or two, but if they keep this pick, Moultrie would be a good selection as he would provide the Magic with a versatile big who can score inside, outside, and in transition.

20) Denver: Moe Harkless
What do you get for the team with the most top to bottom talent in the league? Seriously, in which area should Denver focus its draft efforts? You guessed it: the Nuggets are going to take the best player available because they have good young talent at every single position. The addition of Harkless would certainly create a logjam on the perimeter, but with his length and athleticism, he represents the best player available at this point. Seeing as they do not have many glaring needs, I would not be shocked to see Denver package this pick with some of their young talent for a more experienced player.

21) Boston: Royce White
There were recent rumors that White canceled his scheduled workouts because he had received a promise from Boston that if he were still available, they would take him. Even without that piece of gossip, I think that White is an ideal fit for a Celtics team that will likely be trying to pull off a quick rebuild. To me, White is a more powerful Lamar Odom with the ability to develop into a more consistent scorer. That is an absolutely terrifying thought for teams not selecting the Iowa State product.

22) Boston: Fab Melo
Boston has needed size since the day GM Danny Ainge traded Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green. As exceptionally as Kevin Garnett performed in the playoffs filling in at center, he may not be back next year and even if he is, KG is not the long-term solution. Melo has all the physical tools to be a tough, physical, defensive center in the NBA. He will certainly have to overcome questions about his basketball IQ and character issues, but he could be the answer to whatever question the Celtics were trying (and failing) to answer with Jermaine O’Neal.

23) Atlanta: Quincy Miller
It is fair to say that the Marvin Williams experiment in Atlanta has not turned out as planned. Although Williams may not be on his way out just yet, bringing in another wing forward to compete with him would be a smart play for the Hawks. Miller is a skilled and versatile forward, much like Williams was when he came into the league. Miller likely could have benefited from staying in school, but he could ultimately be Williams’ replacement if the Hawks are able to deal the six year veteran down the road.

24) Cleveland: Andrew Nicholson
Nicholson’s numbers at St. Bonaventure are simply jaw-dropping. His junior year he scored 20.8 points a game while shooting 57.1% from the field and only 26.1% from three. In his senior campaign, his overall scoring dropped to 18.5 points a game, yet he still shot 57.1% from the floor and a breathtaking 43.4% from distance. It is astounding that a player like Nicholson put up such impressive and consistent numbers in back to back seasons while at the same increasing his three-point attempts a game from 0.7 to 1.7. For a team that is simply in need of young talent, Nicholson would be a fantastic pick here for the Cavs.

25) Memphis: John Jenkins
OJ Mayo is a restricted free agent this offseason, but with the more restrictive penalties against teams who are over the salary cap impending, Memphis may be forced to let Mayo walk and replace him through the draft. With Mayo gone, Memphis would have an overwhelming need for a perimeter shooter and Jenkins would be an ideal fit. Jenkins led the SEC in scoring the past two seasons while shooting 43.9% from behind the arc in 2011-2012. Although he may be a reach at this point in the draft, the best three point shooter in this class would be a smart selection.

26) Indiana: Jeffrey Taylor
As impressive as Indiana looked on the wing with fixture Danny Granger and budding star Paul George, their second unit could surely use some offensive help. Taylor is physically gifted with a tremendous build and impressive athleticism. He will take time to develop into a consistent contributor on a good team, but Indiana has been patient in their development into a contender and can afford to continue waiting on a player like Taylor.

27) Miami: Festus Ezeli
Miami’s need to a big man who can defend has been well chronicled so please allow us to beat a dead horse. The Heat won a championship by going small with Chris Bosh at center and LeBron James at power forward, but James has already stated that him playing in the post is not sustainable. Ezeli represents the best big available at this point in the draft; Miami would be smart to not overthink this one and select this shot-blocking fiend who averaged 2.6 blocks a game his junior year.

28) Oklahoma City: Draymond Green
Green seems to be a perfect fit with the Thunder because of his demeanor, if for no other reason. He is willing to do anything and everything to help his team win, as demonstrated by his leading Michigan State in scoring, rebounding, and steals while finishing second on the team in assists. For a team that has its talent as evenly distributed as any in the league, Green would be a perfect addition for the Thunder because of his ability to step up in multiple capacities depending on what the circumstances call for.

29) Chicago: Will Barton
Barton’s stock has sky-rocketed enough to launch him into the first round, which could land him squarely on a contender’s bench. Players like Barton might prefer being drafted in the second round and being given a chance to play more minutes on a lesser team, but I doubt Barton will scoff at a guaranteed contract. If Rip Hamilton continues to struggle with injuries, Barton may have a shot to step in and contribute immediately as the wing scoring threat the Bulls have been looking for.

30) Golden State: Evan Fournier
I badly want to put Bernard James in this slot as he would bring some serious toughness down low to a team who has been perennially soft in the paint. However, the Warriors don’t seem to think like I do and have not been shy about drafting wing players with upside. He has good size for a perimeter player and has the ability to score in several different ways, something that Golden State has valued for years. With a late pick like this one, I would expect the Warriors to take a project like Fournier.

The Top 5 Individual Matchups Prevented by Injuries

I feel your pain, Chris. I would have loved to see you match up against the likes of Kevin Garnett and Roy Hibbert.

There have been amazing games, incredible performances, and dramatic storylines throughout these playoffs, but when it’s all said and done the one thing we will all remember is the first thing we will want to forget: the injuries. Beginning with Derrick Rose in the first round and spanning until now with Chris Bosh, some of the best players in this league have had to sit out multiple games because of a litany of bumps and bruises. Not only have fans missed out on some memorable games, but audiences have also been deprived of great individual matchups, some of which certainly would have affected the outcomes of their respective series. Here are the top five one-on-one matchups that could have been, but injuries prevented from happening in this year’s playoffs:

5. Al Horford vs. Kevin Garnett
This matchup of two of the best centers in the Eastern Conference (and no, I cannot believe I just called KG one of the best centers out East) was ruined very early on in the season, January 9th to be exact. The only reason this matchup is so low on our list is that Horford was able to make it back for Game 4 of these teams’ first round series, salvaging one of the best one-on-one matchups in the first round. During those three games, Horford went for 15.33 points a game along with 8.33 boards a game. Garnett, on the other hand, posted averages of 19 points and 8.67 rebounds over the same span. It surely would have been a treat to see these two go at it for the first three games of the series.

4. Roy Hibbert vs. Chris Bosh
Hibbert is just about as frustrating as it comes in terms of inconsistency, as shown by his point totals of 17, 8, 19, 10, 8, and 12 in Round 2. From game to game, from minute to minute even, Hibbert can go from looking like the All-Star he was this season to giving off the vibe that he is an unfinished project, which he may always be. But the great thing about Hibbert is that for every head-scratching play he makes, there’s at least one that is just as jaw-dropping. That’s why I would have loved to see Hibbert challenged over a seven game series by a player like Chris Bosh. With Bosh in the lineup, Hibbert would have been forced to extend out and defend his jumper while also attempting to maintain a defensive presence in the lane. It would have been quite the task for Hibbert to hold up over an entire series, but it at least could have given us a better idea where this big man realistically falls on his ever-changing spectrum of talent.

3. Derrick Rose vs. Jrue Holliday
We got to see these two duke it out for almost an entire game. Somehow, after only putting up 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists compared to Rose’s 23 points, 9 assists, and 9 rebounds, Holliday came out on top simply because he was still standing by the end of the game. Without Rose around to wear him down over the final five games of the series, Holliday posted averages of 18.6 points, 5.2 assists, and 4.8 rebounds. Those stats nowhere approach Rose’s regular output, but Holliday was able to establish himself as Philadelphia’s most consistent offensive threat. The 76ers have to feel pretty good about their point guard heading into his third season, but you have to wonder if the franchise would be as confident about their lead guard of the future if Rose had been able to contain him in the first round and prevent an appearance in the conference semifinals.

2. Kevin Garnett vs. Chris Bosh
We were almost lucky enough to see these two forwards-playing-center go at it in Game 5, but instead Bosh only played 14 minutes. That now makes four games we’ve missed out on seeing these two match up when they’re both one hundred percent. Granted, Garnett rarely ever matches up on the opposing team’s best big man because his strong suit lies in his help side defense, the Celtics might not have many options. In Game 6, fans and media members alike had their eyes on Bosh to see how he would spread out the Celtics’ defense with his midrange jumper. However, Bosh played sparingly and failed to consistently challenge Garnett on both ends of the floor. Although we have seen Bosh for a limited amount of time in this series, we surely have not seen his best against what could arguably be the best basketball KG has played in his career. And that, my friends, is a crying shame.

1. Avery Bradley vs. Dwyane Wade
Bradley has turned into one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. Wade continues to be one of the best penetrators and finishers in both transition and the half court. How could that matchup not be a classic? Seeing one player transform into one of the most daunting defensive presences in the NBA while matching up against one of the most explosive players in the game certainly would have been a treat. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be as Bradley was knocked out of the playoffs with repeated shoulder problems. Instead, Bradley has to sit on the sidelines while his team has taken a 3-2 lead against the favored Heat and wonder what could have been if he had his shot at Wade. In a postseason that has been fascinating from so many angles, matchups like these that should have been are about all fans can find to complain about.

Time to Stop Doubting the Heat

Dwyane Wade was disappointed when his potential game-winning three-point attempt rolled out Sunday night, but Miami’s track record indicates the team will bounce back just fine.

Can the Heat bounce back?  How are they going to plug the hole in the middle with Bosh injured?  Is their bench good enough?  They are never going to advance if Wade keeps playing like this.  Can LeBron come up big in the 4th quarter for once?

We all want to know how and when the Miami Heat are going to stumble.  Any chance critics get to point out a flaw they are quick to hypothesize over the demise of the team.  This team, understandably, is analyzed and picked apart like no other in the league.  I’ll admit that I’m one of the biggest offenders; any chance I get to rip on LeBron James and company I will take it.

But it is time for all of us to realize one thing: this team, as much as us haters loathe admitting it, has proven time and again that it can bounce back from almost anything.

Believe you me, I want to see them fail just as much as the next person, but their track record shows that this team is at its best when its doubters have the most ammunition.

You need not look further than the Heat’s first round matchup with the Indiana Pacers.  After Chris Bosh went down in Miami’s Game 1 victory, they dropped two in a row to fall back 2-1.  Not only that, but the way they dropped Game 3 (which Original NBA predicted) by giving up 38 points in the paint and making Roy Hibbert (19 points, 18 rebounds, and 5 blocks) look like the franchise player he never will be, while getting only 5 points out of Dwyane Wade had the doubters in full force.  Wade was injured beyond repair, the Miami bench was quite possibly the worst in these playoffs, and the Heat absolutely could not replace Chris Bosh in the middle.

However, Miami shut us all up real quick.  They reeled off five straight wins to knock the Pacers out of the playoffs and go up 2-0 against the Celtics.  In fact, since that game Wade has put up 26 points a game and played some of the best ball of his life. Miami has had huge games from their non-star players, including Mike Miller, Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers, and Udonis Haslem.  Haslem and Joel Anthony have at times filled in admirably for Bosh, who will in all likelihood be back for Game 5 against the Celtics.

Earlier in the season, when Miami lost three games in a row in January to the Warriors, Clippers, and Nuggets, critics across the country were telling us all the reasons why the Heat should be concerned in the long term.  What did they do to respond?  They put up 20 wins over their next 23 games.  Hell, that run included a nine game winning streak and Wade even sat out six out of those 23 games.

And speaking of Wade, during the 14 games he missed due to injury, when Miami was supposed to be relegated to a two-man team incapable of running with the big boys without their leader, the Heat went 13-1.

The long and short of it is this: any time the Heat have faced significant adversity this season, they have bounced back to play some of their best basketball.

So now that they have dropped two in a row inBoston, how ever will the Heat rebound and get back on track?  They will do the same thing they have done all season long and battle through the questions and just play basketball.  Getting Bosh back is certainly going to help ease the pain, but even without him back in the fold, my money would be on the Heat to make a big statement against the Celtics tonight.  Instead of overreacting as I and countless others have done after things don’t go Miami’s way, I instead expect them to respond to their previous two defeats in a big way.  After how they responded to adversity throughout this season, I would be a fool not to expect their best tonight.