Wednesday, May 28, 2014

NBA Draft Top 5 According To Need....

  The more I look at this draft and the top 7 teams picking the more questions I have about how it will all go down.  We have all heard that NBA front offices generally tier players.  Meaning they put 3-5 different players in a one tier, 3-5 others in a second tier and so on.  This gives teams player pools to draft from according to draft position.

  In this draft there is a lot of talk about the top 2 tiers of players.  The first tier consisting of Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker and Dante Exum.  The second tier consists of Marcus Smart, Noah Vonleh, Aaron Gordon, Julius Randle.  The more I have looked at things the more I believe that these two tiers may not have as much separation as people think.  I believe with these two groups it boils down to immediate impact versus long term intentional.

  In the first tier, I believe there is one player that has an immediate impact, that being Jabari Parker.  The other three players will all get ample playing time and opportunity regardless of where they are drafted.  The second tier I believe has three players that will be immediate impacts, those players being Julius Randle, Marcus Smart and Aaron Gordon.

  Noah Vonleh, Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Dante Exum have the most upside of any players in this draft and all could very likely be the best player at their position some day, but I believe you may have to wait on them for a couple of years.

  So that brings the question, potential versus impact?  Not sure there is a good way to answer that question with such a special draft.  So lets try to dumb things down a bit.  Lets take a close look at the top 5 teams and their most glaring needs.

#1-Cleveland Cavaliers-Joel Embiid

  Well I could take some low blows here and let the Cavs have it but lets take the high road.  Players returning for this young Cavs team include, Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett, Jarrett Jack, Tyler Zeller and Sergey Karasev.  Pretty easy to see the Cavs lack a starting NBA center.  If they don't go that route the small forward position would be the next spot to look at.  If I am the Cavs I don't think you can pass on Joel Embiid. (barring back issues)  If they don't want to role the dice with a big man with back problems then they will have a choice between Parker and Wiggins.  Not sure which player is a better fit here.  Parker would likely be the better choice as he is a better shooter than Wiggins and Cleveland already has a pair of ball dominant players in Irving and Waiters.

#2-Milwaukee Bucks-Dante Exum

  This is where things can get interesting.  The Bucks have OJ Mayo, Ersan Ilyasova, Zaza Pachulia, Carlos Delfino, Larry Sanders, Brandon Knight, John Henson, Giannis Antetokounmpo.  Yep the all name team...The Bucks biggest needs seem to be the guard positions.  Last season Milwaukee ran a two guard backcourt with Gary Neal and Brandon Knight for much of the season (till they traded Neal)  They seemed to like having Knight as a play making guard looking for his shot more so than a true point guard.  O.J. (hold the) Mayo gave them absolutely nothing last year.  He was in terrible shape and was injured often.  They also have number of young bigs that have either under performed, been injured or caused some other sort of drama.  The lone bright spot for the Bucks is their young stud small forward Giannis Antetokounmpo better known as the "Greek Freak".  So with Embiid off the board here, I believe the Bucks have 2 plays, Andrew Wiggins or Dante Exum.  I believe Exum is in play here because they need a true point guard and he is a player that they could pair with Knight to develop as a backcourt of the future.  The other option is Wiggins.  I believe that Wiggins will end up as a shooting guard in the NBA, as he is rail thin and more of a slasher.  Not sure if the Bucks can go wrong with either player here, but with a point guard dominant league I would have to take Exum.

#3-Philadelphia 76ers-Andrew Wiggins

  This one falls right in to the Sixers lap perfectly.  The Sixers have Micheal Carter-Williams, Thaddeous Young, Nerlen Noel, Eric Maynor, Tony Wroten and Arnette Moultrie.  The Sixers clearly have a number of glaring holes.  The Sixers top pick Nerlens Noel did not set foot on the court last season as he was recovering from a torn ACL.  They clearly did all they could to clear cap and put themselves in the best lottery position.  Thad Young was arguably their best player and he was playing out of position most of the year, as the had him playing the power forward a lot.  They used him as a stretch 4 but he is not a great 3 point shooter at 30%.  Young is a small forward and a talented one at that.  If the Sixers choose to go to a small line up then he could play some stretch 4, but this is not something that should be relied upon.  Two spots the Sixers need, a power forward or a shooting guard. This gives the Sixers options.  They can go with the NBA-ready Julius Randle, who's upside and potential may not be what they would hope for.  Another possibilty is Noah Vonleh.  Extremely long smooth shooting big that developed a passable back to the basket game last year at Indiana.  He also had some of the best overall numbers at the combine.  Vonleh would be a great fit as he has the ability to stretch the floor making room for MCW to create for his teammates. Lastly and in my opinion the most likely scenario, Andrew Wiggins.  Arguably the player likely to be a star in the league.  He is long and a freak athlete.  He is a two way player that has the potential to be a defensive stopper.  Many compare him to Paul George defensively.  Pairing MCW with the likes of Wiggins would give opposing backcourts fits for years to come.

#4-Orlando Magic-Jabari Parker

  With Dante Exum the guy the Magic seem to covet the most off the board and the top 2 studs in Wiggins and Embiid gone, the Magic have to select Parker right?  Well next years roster has Aaron Aflfalo, Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, Andrew Nicholson, Moe Harkless, Nikola Vucevic all under contract.  That leaves a lot of holes to fill.  Again the biggest needs look to be the power forward position, small forward position and the point guard position.  Currently the Magic have both Harris and Harkless playing the small forward position.  Harkless is the more natural fit there but has yet to blossom.  Harris has the appropriate size and length but lacks quickness.  The Magic also used Harris at the 4 position where he seemed to be most effective.  The Magic have long coveted an explosive point guard and had hoped to land Exum here.  With Exum off the board do the Magic take a Marcus Smart?  Smart is the one player I believe is going to come in to next season and make every team that passed on him pay.  The knock is his jumper, and the lack of players on the Magic roster that can knock down open jumpers and open up the lane is....?  Smart likely is not the best fit here.  Jabari Parker gives the Magic a true small forward that is NBA-ready and will make an immediate impact.  He adds spacing for player like Vucevic down low and opens driving lanes for Oladipo.  Unfortunately for Jazz Fans Jabari should be there man.

#5-Utah Jazz-Aaron Gordon/Marcus Smart

  This is a depressing position for most Jazz fans.  The thought that Philly, Orlando and Milwaukee all "tanked" better than Utah did is a knife in the heart.  To be honest at times, if I dwell on it, I feel the same way.  The Trey Burke buzzer beater versus Orlando while at the time was fun to watch and exciting, is that "knife".  The Jazz have Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Jeremy Evans, Rudy Gobert.  The Jazz have a solid young player at every position so regardless of what position you pick you will be duplicating.  Jazz fans are clamoring for the Jazz to make a trade and move up in this draft.  I just can't see that happening.  Short of giving up Derrick Favors and picks the Jazz don't have much that is considered valuable enough to move up.  So where do the Jazz go?  In my opinion the biggest need is at the small forward position.  With Gordon Hayward's pending free agency the Jazz should look to shore up this position regardless of how things work out with Hayward.  With Parker and Wiggins having come off the board already, that leaves only one other player that can play both the small forward and while a bit undersized, the power forward position, that being Aaron Gordon.  There is a lot to like with Gordon.  He is a defensive monster that moves like a guard laterally and has the length and athleticism to block shots and be a rim protector.  Gordon is a great ball handler for his size and often sparked the break on his own while playing at Arizona.  Gordon's weakness is the same as Marcus Smart....shooting.  Given the right offensive concepts and the athleticism that the Jazz currently have could help negate some of the weaknesses of Gordon.  The other option here in my opinion is Marcus Smart.  Chad Ford has gone on record saying Jazz fans should not be shocked if the Jazz selected another point guard.  Does this mean the Jazz are not that high on Trey Burke?  Only the front office knows for sure.  But the combo of Burke and Smart could work.  They balance out each others strengths and weaknesses.  There is also the thought that the Jazz could move Burke and have Smart and Burks as the backcourt of the future.  In my opinion the Jazz can't go wrong here with either player.  Both players come in and make an immediate impact.  Personally, I can't choose between the two so I am going to call them 1a and 1b being Gordon and Smart.

  This draft has so much potential and there will clearly be some franchise players, possibly more than people think....June 26th can't get here soon enough!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Only 2 options....Utah Jazz draft options

Can we expect another pick like this?

  Wow!  That may be an understatement for both Jazz fans and NBA fans as a collective after last nights Draft Lottery.  The Cleveland Cavaliers with a 1.7% chance of securing the #1 pick, did so for the 3rd time in four years and for a second consecutive year.  We could go on and on about conspiracy theories and the lottery being rigged, but I won't.

  The only statement I will make on this is that Cleveland is a smoldering dumpster fire of an organization and its unfortunate that poorly run franchises continue to win the lottery.  They fire a coach, then turn around and rehire him after he was fired by his previous team after 8 games.  They sign players to hefty contracts (Andrew Bynum) and then pay them to walk.  Lastly, they clearly under-develop talent.  Kyrie, Trystan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett and now you can add this years first pick to that list (if they don't trade would be the only smart thing they have done....)  We can comfortably call the Cleveland Cavaliers the modern day L.A. Clippers.  #SAD!

  Ok, enough of that.  Lets take a look at (in my opinion) the only 2 options the Utah Jazz really have with this draft.  Lets preface this by saying that there is a general consensus that there are 3-4 sure fire players.  Those being Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid (if the back checks out) and Dante Exum.  Well as luck would have it, the Jazz are sitting at #5.  If the consensus is that these are franchise corner stone players, its unlikely that teams in the top 4 are going to trade out of those spots without getting a current top 10-15 player in the league.  So as far as the Jazz are concerned moving up is highly unlikely.  So that brings us back to our only two options.

Option #1- The Jazz keep the #5, #23 and the #35 pick and use them according to best available and need.

  As currently constructed the Jazz have Derrick Favors, Alec Burks, Trey Burke, Enes Kanter, Jeremy Evans, John Lucas III and Rudy Gobert on guaranteed contracts for next season.  Gordon Hayward is a restricted free agent and Diante Garrett, Ian Clark and Malcolm Thomas are all team options.  The Jazz clearly lacked depth last season particularly at the wing position.  While Richard Jefferson was a nice vet, he didn't give you much other than that veteran presence.  Brandon Rush gave you nothing.  Ian Clark and Malcolm Thomas barely saw the court.  The Jazz had depth with the front court but it was inexperienced depth, young and raw talents.

Option #2- The Jazz keep the #5 pick, but get aggressive and package the #23 and a current asset to move up in the first round.

  The Sacramento Kings have already come out and said that they are looking to move the #8 pick.  They are said to want an impact veteran, someone that can help them make that jump and develop with their young core.  There will be other teams besides the Kings that have 2 first rounders like the Bulls or the Sixers that may look to save cap room for the pending free agent class.  Plays like this would give the Utah Jazz an opportunity to grab a couple of high level players that could come in and contribute right away.  Radio voice of the Utah Jazz, David Locke, said that he really likes the talent pool in picks 15-20.  An example that I am personally fond of, would be to select Marcus Smart with the #5 pick and then package the #23 and Alec Burks or Gordon Hayward for Sacramento's #8 pick.  Giving the Utah Jazz the choice between Doug McDermott or Aaron Gordon (according to Draft Express).  All three of these players have a high probability of coming in and contributing right away. Smart and McDermott would be a perfect compliment to the current roster and to each other.  Smart and Gordon along with Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert would make for a scary good defensive unit.

  In my opinion, these are the to best and most feasible options for this young Utah Jazz squad.  I like where the Jazz are at currently.  I like the pieces they have to work with and love their financial flexibility.  I would hate to see the Jazz package any of their picks for a good or mid-level player and sacrifice the flexibility they have worked so hard to establish.  These two options allow this young team to continue to develop together and have the ability to make a splash in free agency or in the trade market.  But I am not a GM and not Dennis Lindsey......

Monday, May 19, 2014

Intrigue at the NBA draft Combine

  The NBA held its annul Draft Combine on May 15th and 16th last week.  There wasn't much hype going in to the combine due to the number of high level players pulling out.  Players such as Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid did not participate.  There were also a number of them that were in attendance that only performed the athletic testing.  Some of those players were Marcus Smart, Aaron Gordon and Dante Exum.

  Going in the the combine Exum was the player most fans and teams wanted to see perform.  He participated in the measurements and testing and he was one of a handful of intriguing prospects.  Others included, Zach LaVine of UCLA, Arizona's Aaron Gordon, Wichita State's Cleanthony Early, Florida's Patrick Young and Michigan's Glen Robinson III.  Lets take a quick look....

Dante Exum-

31.5" no step vertical jump
34.5" max vertical jump
10.75 lane agility
Measured at 6'6" in shoes
6'9" wing span
196 lbs

  While not the elite athlete some thought he might be, Exum tested very well.  He was run through the athletic testing with the shooting guards.  He actually tested the highest over all of all the shooting guards.  Exum considers himself a point guard and with his measurables and athleticism he has the potential to be an elite level point guard in the league.

Zach LaVine-

33.5" no step vertical jump
41.5" max vertical jump
10.42 lane agility
Measured 6'5.75" in shoes
6'8.75" wing wpan
180 lbs

  LaVine stole the show at the combine.  He was clearly the best athlete of anyone tested.  What makes it even more interesting, he was interviewed by ESPN's Andy Katz. and was asked by Katz what position he sees himself playing.  He answered the point guard, but was willing to play the shooting guard or small forward, what ever the coach needed.  If LaVine turns out to be a Point Guard he has all the same measurements as Exum, but also has elite level athleticism.  He also participated with the point guards in the on court drills and was a standout.  LaVine also has a decent shot that does not appear broken.  All in all, he may have more to work with than Exum, you just might have to wait a little longer.

Aaron Gordon-

32.5" no step vertical jump
39.5" max vertical jump
10.81 lane agility
Measured 6'8.75" in shoes
6'11.75" wing span

  Coming in most people knew Aaron Gordon was a freak athlete.  He did not disappoint.  For a player at basically 6'9" and to have a sub 11 second agility drill is impressive.  Even more impressive is having nearly 40" vertical!  After the vertical testing was complete, Andy Katz spoke with Gordon and asked him what he thought, Gordon said that he was a little disappointed with his vertical, said that his highest test ever was 42"!
That is unreal for a player of his size.  While Gordon did not participate in any of the on court drills he did mention that he has been working on his shot and his free throws, the two biggest concerns for teams in regards to Gordon.  He mentioned there was a disconnect between his jumper and how he shot it at the line and that he had worked on that and corrected it.

Cleanthony Early-

34" no step vertical jump
40" max vertical jump
11.15 lane agility
Measured 6'7.25" in shoes
6'10.75" wing span

  Cleanthony Early went from being undrafted to second round pick and now possibly solidifying himself as a first round pick.  Early participated in both the on court drills as well as the testing for the small forwards and was very successful.  Early had a great run in the NCAA tournament and put up some big numbers versus Kentucky and their star studded lineup.  This is where most people started to take notice.  Early shot the ball really well in drills and clearly was putting in work.  I think the thing that stood out the most to people, was his athletic testing numbers.  He showed good quickness with his agility testing, but he had elite athleticism with his vertical jump.  With Wiggins and Parker as the top two small forward studs there is plenty of room for a player of Early's caliber to end up on a team with a need at small forward....(Utah Jazz)

Patrick Young-

32" no step vertical jump
37" max vertical jump
11.18 lane agility
25 bench reps
Measure 6'10" in shoes
7'1.75" wing span
246 lbs

  If you are looking for a physical monster, you found it in Florida's Patrick Young.  At 246 lbs and still having a 37" vertical leap!  Who is going to want to challenge this guy?  He also showed great lateral quickness for a man his size, making him valuable in both rim protection and the pick and roll.  Young at one time was considered a late second rounder, but with these kind of numbers teams that made the playoffs that maybe  looking to add depth or a rotation big, Young would be the perfect fit.  There is a lot to like about this kid although he may not have the potential or upside that some of these other younger players may have.

Glen Robinson III-

36.5" no step vertical jump
41.5" max vertical jump
11.22 lane agility
Measure 6'6.75" in shoes
6'10" wing span
211 lbs

  Glen Robinson III has the pedigree.  His dad was a fantastic pro.  GR3 had a better than expected freshman year but then followed in up with what many consider to be a sub-par sophomore season.  Robinson, in my opinion is going to one of those players that is a better NBA pro than college player.  While he is a bit of a tweener (SG/SF) he has the athleticism and quickness to guard either position.  While he may lack elite length, he makes up for with strength and I have to give him something for the pedigree.  Having a father that played in the league goes a long way for these kids and can help them prepare for the rigors of the NBA.  I believe Robinson is one of those players.  He is going to be a nice piece that someone is going to get late first round early second.

Wiggins rumored to be between 42-44"

  While this years combine may not have had the big names people were hoping to see it still had plenty of intriguing performance that are going to give NBA front offices a lot to think about.