2015 NBA Mock Draft – One Month Out

This mock draft will take post-lottery positioning as well as perceived team needs into account. I am using my own rankings of the players available – not DX’s or anybody else’s.

On to the picks:

1. Timberwolves: Karl Towns, C, Kentucky
19 yrs, 7’0″, 248 lbs.

towns

It would have made sense to have Minnesota select Okafor here, but those three and half weeks Pekovic is healthy lead me suspect they’ll value Towns’ defense more than Okafor’s potent offensive game. Towns should be able to fit into the rotation nicely, even when Pek is healthy, possibly playing some PF.

2. Lakers: Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke
19 yrs, 6’11”, 272 lbs.

DURHAM, NC - DECEMBER 15:  Jahlil Okafor #15 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts after a basket against the Elon Phoenix during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on December 15, 2014 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Maybe this is just wishful thinking on the part of a Celtics fan but having the opportunity to witness two bigs as terrible defensively as Okafor and Julius Randle run for the Lakers is just too good to pass on. Current wisdom says the Lakers will be taking the big Minnesota passes on, so I’m not going off the reservation with this pick.

3. Sixers: D’Angelo Russell, PG/SG, Ohio State
19 yrs, 6’5″, 193 lbs.

russell

Despite the entire basketball world wishing them ill, Philly nabs the perfect player for them in Russell. His lack of defensive aptitude should be dimmed by the presence of the Noel/Embiid tandem. Russell will fill the Sixers biggest needs: Shooting and playmaking.

4. Knicks: Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Seville
19 yrs, 7’0″, 220 lbs.

Kristaps

By all rights, the Knicks should trade this pick and try to get Porzingis a few picks later or go further down in the lottery and get Frank. Either Porzingis or Frank will fit Phil’s ideal of what a big man should be in the triangle. My best player available here is Stanley Johnson, whose size/heft will not allow him to play minutes at SG, which reduces his value to the Knicks. The only other option I debated here is Miles Turner, another big man who can shoot the basketball. My feeling is Turner is too raw for the Knicks at present.

5. Magic: Stanley Johnson, SF, Arizona
18 yrs, 6’7″, 242 lbs.

johnson

While absolutely terrible, the Magic appear to have most of the pieces they want for a young starting five, with the exception of a power forward. This is unfortunate for them, given the dearth of power forwards worth a damn in this draft. Aaron Gordon may eventually turn into something but his day is not today. So, without the ability to fill a clear need, the Magic pick the best player available in Johnson, hoping he quickly surpasses Tobias Harris.

6. Kings: Emmanuel Mudiay, PG/SG, Crab Rangoon
19 yrs, 6’5″, 200 lbs.

mudiay

The Kings need a PG. While I’m not convinced Mudiay is actually a PG, I’m guessing Pete D’Alessando and company will be, by the time they get a gander at what’s available in this draft at the position. My best player available is Myles Turner and Boogie plays the pivot in SacTown.

7. Nuggets: Justise Winslow, SF, Duke
19 yrs, 6’7″, 222 lbs.

winslow

The Nuggets need a lot of things but they clearly need shooting. I’m skeptical about Winslow being able to create his own offense but last season proved he can shoot the ball. He will be a clear upgrade over Alflalo and Wilson Chandler at the SF position, offensively and defensively. Best player available Turner gets passed over again with the Nuggs believing in Nurkic.

8. Pistons: Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky
21 yrs, 7’1″, 242 lbs.

cauley stein

I agonized over this one. In losing Greg Monroe this summer, the Pistons will have a glaring hole at PF next season. While he isn’t really a PF, Cauley-Stein can at least guard them, and combined with Andre Drummond, should make for a formidable defensive front court for Detroit.

9. Hornets: Myles Turner, C, Texas
19 yrs, 7’0″, 239 lbs.

turner

Turner provides Charlotte with shooting, three point shooting and a defensive presence at the rim, all of which they are in desperate need. Even if you don’t have Turner rated as highly as I do, you just have to see the fit here.

10. Heat: Tyus Jones, PG, Duke
19 yrs, 6’2″, 185 lbs.

tyus-jones

Miami is in desperate need of a point guard and while my rankings see Jones as a bust, a lot of others do not. I am guessing the Heat reach for Jones to fill that need.

11. Pacers: Frank Kaminski, C, Wisconsin
22 yrs, 7’1″, 231 lbs.

kaminsky

The Pacers are going to have a serious need at Center if Roy Hibbert doesn’t opt in with his player option. Even if he does, Indiana could use help in the pivot – especially someone who can open the lane up with outside shooting. Frank should provide this, if nothing else.

12. Jazz: Delon Wright, PG, Utah
23 yrs, 6’6″, 181 lbs.

as the University of Utah plays Oregon in PAC 12 men's basketball  Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014,in Salt Lake City Utah.   Photo by Tom Smart/University of Utah Sports Information

It really matters here exactly how married the Jazz are to playing Dante Exum as a PG. If that is really the case going forward, this is a different pick but I’m going on the assumption they will realize Exum is more of a SG.

13. Suns: Devin Booker, SG, Kentucky
18 yrs, 6’6″, 206 lbs.

booker

After their deadline moves last season, the Suns could use a pure SG and the shooting that comes with it. Booker is pretty much a blank slate at present, but if he hits, he’ll be a good one.

14. Thunder: Mario Hezonja, SG/SF, Barcelona
20 yrs, 6’8″, 200 lbs.

hezonja

It’s bullshit the Thunder are in the lottery. It’s double bullshit they waltz into a potentially really good player this late in the lottery. This pick could go any number of ways, from Hezonja to mystery man Kelly Oubre to a defense and energy guy like Bobby Portis. I’m guessing the Euro-lure gets OKC to pick Hezonja.

15. Hawks: Bobby Portis, PF, Arkansas 
20 yrs, 6’11”, 246 lbs.

Portis

Paul Milsap is a free agent this summer. After the kicking they just took from LeBron and the Cavs, this might not be as complete a team as the win-loss record would have us believe. If the feeling is they are losing Milsap, they will replace him with Portis. If they feel Milsap will re-sign, I’d guess they would go for someone like Oubre here.

16. Celtics: Kelly Oubre, SF, Kansas
19 yrs, 6’7″, 203 lbs.

oubre

Position of weakness? Check. Best player available? Maybe. Oubre will bring some size and athleticism to Boston’s SF position. Is he worth the pick? He played for Bill Self, so who knows?

17. Bucks: Trey Lyles, PF, Kentucky
19 yrs, 6’10”, 241 lbs

trey lyles

Really, who cannot use a stretch PF? Sure, I think he’ll be a bust, but that never stopped anyone from picking them year after year.

18. Rockets: Jerian Grant, PG, Notre Dame
22 yrs, 6’5″, 198 lbs.

grant

Houston really needs replacements for Jason Terry and Houston is one team where Jerian Grant would actually fit well, if he can fix his shooting. I also contemplated dumping Sam Dekker on them.

19. Wizards: Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin
21 yrs, 6’9″, 219 lbs.

Sam+Dekker

The Wizards will likely need to replace Paul Pierce this summer and will think they just lucked into a player like Sam Dekker falling to them. Unfortunately for them, Dekker is fool’s gold.

20. Raptors: Kevon Looney, PF, UCLA
19 yrs, 6’9″, 222 lbs.

Kevon-Looney-UCLA

Toronto needs rebounding and that is one thing Looney can give them. The APBR guys love Looney but I remain skeptical.

21. Mavericks: Cameron Payne, PG, Murray State
20 yrs, 6’2″, 183 lbs.

payne

With Rajon Rondo and Tyson Chandler free agents this summer and Rondo’s return highly unlikely, Dallas turns to Cameron Payne to staunch the bleeding. I’m not seeing him being much more than a backup.

22. Bulls: Montrezl Harrell, C, Louisville
21 yrs, 6’8″, 253 lbs.

harrell

With Carlos Boozer off the books, an opening appears for Harrell, who, while short, should bring some energy alongside Joe Kim in Chicago’s front court.

23. Blazers: Robert Upshaw, C, Wedontwant U
21 yrs, 7’0″, 258 lbs.

upshaw

The Lamarcus Aldridge decision looms huge for Portland this summer. The Blazers are also in danger of losing Robin Lopez. This leaves a massive void in the Portland front court. Channeling their bad boy past, they select Upshaw from the Land of Misfit Toys. If Upshaw pans out, it could be a tremendous pick here.

24. Cavaliers: Christian Wood, PF, UNLV
19 yrs, 6’11”, 216 lbs.

wood

Player options for Kevin Love and JR Smith loom large for Cleveland. While Wood sort of duplicates Tristan Thompson’s strengths, I see Cleveland drafting for upside here, rather than fit.

25. Grizzlies: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona
20 yrs, 6’7″, 211 lbs.

hollis jefferson

Tony Allen is getting a bit long in the tooth and Memphis has seen first-hand that Jeff Green sucks. The hope is that Hollis-Jefferson fits in as a defensive swing man. Whether he can actually perform said job is up to debate.

26. Spurs: Dakari Johnson, C, Kentucky
19 yrs, 7’0″, 265 lbs.

dakari johnson

I see no reason for the Spurs not to go best player available here. They always do and it almost always works. Johnson should be a nice fit defensively for the Spurs going forward.

27. Lakers: Jerell Martin, PF, LSU
21 yrs, 6’9″, 239 lbs.

Martin

Everybody has Martin going to the Lakers, so who am I to buck a trend? Even with Randle and Okafor, size will still be welcome to the Lakers.

28. Celtics: Rashad Vaughn, SG, UNLV
18 yrs, 6’5″, 199 lbs.

(left to right)  Apple Valley's James Horton defended as Robbinsdale Cooper's Rashad Vaughn drove to the basket during the 2013 Minnesota Timberwolves Shootout at the Target Center on 1/5/13.]  Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune  bbisping@startribune.com  James Horton, Rashad Vaughn/roster.

Boston goes best player available here and selects Vaughn, everything their current crop of shooting guards is not. The athletic Vaughn should press Avery Bradley for minutes from go.

29. Nets: Cliff Alexander, PF, Kansas
19 yrs, 6’9″, 239 lbs.

alexander

Brook Lopez and Thad Young might opt out this summer. Bye bye front court. The Nets try and mitigate this by selecting Cliff Alexander, high school phenom.

30. Warriors: Mouhammadou Jaiteh, C, Nanterre
20 yrs, 6’11”, 247 lbs.

jaiteh

Golden State is fielding an all-time great team right now. There are no real needs for these guys, so I’m guessing the look for a draft and stash type player, like Jaiteh. Now, Jaiteh may be French for “toothpick” but he’ll have a couple years to fill out by the time he’s ready to come over.

McHale’s Defensive Gamble Fails In Game 3

hqdefault

After losing the first two games by a total of 5 points, Kevin McHale gambled and lost tonight. He decided to change his teams defensive philosophy and switch on ALL screens. No matter who was getting screened or where it happened on the floor, the Rockets were switching on defense. What followed was the Warriors racing out to a 20 point lead early in the first half and never looking back, cruising to a 115-80 victory.

Why McHale would try something so dramatic is anyone’s guess. The strategy was a miserable failure. They were a James Harden pass to a wide open Terrance Jones away from the series being tied 1-1 and he completely changes his defensive philosophy? This after holding the Warriors to under 100 points after letting them score 36 in the first quarter of game 2. Why did you think your defense was your problem? Why did you think there were ANY problems? Your coming home to a raucous crowd thirsty for a home team W, and players who understand the urgency of getting a win. The series was not to the point where you would panic, and this was no doubt a panic move by McHale. Maybe the Warriors beat you again, but at least make them do it with the same strategy that had you in position to win both games one and two on the road, and had your team within 8 wins of an NBA championship.

Well, your now down 3-0 and now the series is over as no team has ever come back from this deficit in the history of the league. It didn’t have to be that way. You didn’t need to have Dwight Howard comically try to guard Steph Curry at the three point line. Your GM has built a team to compete and win a series against a team like Golden State and making such a move signaled to your players that you didn’t believe so. You believed that a dramatic change needed to be made in a critical game which sends a very clear message to your players……”I don’t think you have what it takes to win this game unless we try something we haven’t done all season long”. The players responded accordingly.

There is a reason so few teams switch on all screens, and its because the large majority of 4’s and 5’s can’t guard 1’s and 2’s. Dwight Howard is certainly not one of them.

This man shouldn't be your choice to guard Steph Curry at any point during an NBA game

This man shouldn’t be your choice to guard Steph Curry at any point during an NBA game

People will talk about how the Warriors are too much for the Rockets and this series is a complete mismatch, but a deeper look reveals that might not be the case. If they don’t make the dramatic defensive change and manage to win game 3, this series is wide open and the Rockets would be looking at a home game 4 to even up the series. Kevin McHale torpedoed the chance of that happening tonight.

2015 Post-Lottery Big Board – The Busts

Due to the feedback we received on our Big Board post, it seems only fair to list the guys who didn’t make the cut. These players are either projected as outright busts or I just hadn’t seen enough of them to make an informed case for their inclusion in the Big Board. It should be noted, this is all one man’s opinion and I have been proven wrong enough in the past. For a lot of these guys, though, I’ll die on this hill.

On to the list:

payne

Cameron Paine, PG, Murray State

First off, just look at this guy. This is the big sleeper of the draft – a stick figure from the Ohio Valley Conference?

This player got to the rim an astounding 94 times this past season and sunk a bewildering 59 of them. Now, you tell me – will the effectiveness of his game take a hit going against NBA bigs at the rim, rather than the flotsam he routinely tooled in the Ohio Valley Conference? There is no reasonable way he will even get to the rim with that kind of frequency, never mind finish shots. Free throws also accounted for four of his 20 PPG at Murray State and he won’t be getting 5 of them a game as a professional.

The Verdict: Too small for a large percentage of his offense to translate. Bust.

 

Sam+Dekker

Sam Dekker, SF, Winsconsin

Dekker is Illustration #1 on guys I pick to bust – mediocre players who have a great tournament and get draft stock helium as a result. If all you go by is tournament legend, Sam Dekker is a surprisingly athletic white SF who absolutely bombed the shit out of Arizona and followed that up with a strong game against undefeated Kentucky. Legend: Born.

The truth of the matter is Sam Dekker can’t shoot worth a damn. He averaged 14 points per game on 10 shots. He only got to the line three and a half times per game while taking damn near half his shots at the rim. I’m chalking most of his admirable effectiveness at the rim up to Wisconsin’s offense. I’m also saying his jump shot is broken.

The Verdict:  Probably a bust, unless a college junior miraculously fixes his jumper.

 

trey lyles

Trey Lyles, SF/PF, Kentucky

I want to believe in Trey Lyles. I remember watching one Kentucky game in my brother’s man cave, pacing back and forth. Lyles hits a jumper and I say, “Maybe this kid has it.” This is, of course, followed up by Lyles looking like he has no idea how to play basketball.

“But he’s a perfect stretch 4. Cal was using him wrong.”

Nonsense. This “perfect” stretch 4 took 125 2PT jumpers last season. He made 49 of them. On a superteam where he was, what, the fourth or fifth option on offense? Mournful. If he’s a stretch 4, he’ll fail because he cannot shoot the basketball. If he’s a traditional PF, he will get completely owned offensively and defensively in the NBA by bigger, stronger, faster players.

I want to believe in Trey Lyles, but a turd’s a turd.

The Verdict: Absolute, positive BUST.

 

tyus-jones

Tyus Jones, PG, Duke

Got to give it up to his agent. There is no chance Tyus Jones’ draft stock will ever be higher than it is right now, after a National Championship run. Another guy living off tournament success, but in Jones’ case, it is all from one game. Jones is listed on DraftExpress at #18 overall. At least Cameron Payne had a great college season. This guy killed Wisconsin, but other than that, was pretty much a nobody.

I could go off on a statistical rant – about how he scored 10 or fewer points in half his games, or how he cannot create his own shots, but I just can’t. I don’t have it in me to even justify my stance with this guy.

The Verdict: Short? Check. Tiny? Check. Bust? Check.

 

Kevon-Looney-UCLA

Kevon Looney, PF, UCLA

Here’s a guy where I hope I’m wrong.

Looney can rebound the basketball. That’s about it. It is an admirable thing these days, being a guy who gets to seemingly every loose rebound. It is tough when you are undersized and rebounding is the only thing you are bringing to the table. I watched Looney’s high water mark game against Stanford. Despite the 27 points, he was nothing close to being impressive offensively. I came away from that game convinced he’d be stuck deep on someone’s bench for at least two to three seasons before ever getting rotation minutes. He’s done nothing since to dispel that impression.

He measured in at the expected 6′ 8″ at the combine but has a nice 9′ 2″ standing reach. That’s a plus, as I didn’t think his arms were that long. The one thing that sucks the life out of my enthusiasm is his inability to hit his 2PT jump shots, making just 27.3% of them. That’s going to keep him stapled to an NBA bench, when he’s not in the NBDL.

The Verdict: If everything goes right for him, he’s probably still a bench player. That isn’t much upside.

 

hollis jefferson

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona

Here’s someone everybody I talk to likes, yet every time I have seen him play, I’ve hated his game.

I’m not sure I even need to use statistics to convince anyone just how horrific Hollis-Jefferson is offensively. He has no jump shot, from either 2PT or 3PT range. He cannot create offense for himself. His handle is below par for an NBA SF. Basically, his offensive game is limited to putbacks, lobs and assisted shots in close.

Now I hear he is supposed to be some kind of defensive wizard. Sure looked awesome while Dekker took a shit right on his head, didn’t he? Truth is, a player being offensively inept doesn’t automatically make their defense better. Hollis-Jefferson’s 1.6 steals per game and .8 blocks is nothing much to write home about. His measurements at the combine weren’t all that either.

The Verdict: I still hate him. Bust.

 

grant

Jerian Grant, PG, Notre Dame

Now, here’s a guy I liked last season but cooled on after he regressed as a senior. I like bigger PGs. I like PGs who can get to the hoop. I love PGs who don’t turn the ball over. PGs who do all of that, as well as knock down three pointers make me giddy. As a junior, Grant was all of these things. Then came his senior season.

Problem is, Grant increased his three point attempts three-fold and we all found out he couldn’t hit them. That sucks. He was never a defensive mastermind, so his offense tanking with the added burden on him really dings him, as far as I’m concerned.

The Verdict: He’ll probably play in the NBA, but he’s likely a bench guy unless he fixes his shot. Could easily bust if the shot is perma-broke.

 

anderson

Justin Anderson, SF, Virginia

Hmmm….What’s that? I must have dozed off while watching Virginia basketball.

So a junior SF who averages 12 points per game declared for the draft? Wow, exciting stuff.

And those 12 points are a marked leap from his usual 7 PPG of production his first two seasons? Just amazing.

It’s all due to his impressive new three point shot? Heart be still.

Here’s the deal – Anderson’s shot is fool’s gold. His shitty 2PT shooting has remained static. His FT% has as well. With 120 shots, you can run a hot streak and Anderson did just that. Let’s just put that aside, though and consider, this exciting leap in production is all due to him hitting two three point shots per game. That’s it. The whole of his increased production this season. What you are left with is a junior who scored 12 points per game on 8 and a half shots.

Big whoop.

The Verdict: Hope he can qualify for a European visa because he won’t be playing basketball in this country much longer. Bust.

 

Feb 16, 2013; Fairfax, VA, USA; Georgia State Panthers guard R.J. Hunter (22) looks to drive past George Mason Patriots guard Sherrod Wright (10) during the first half at Patriot Center. Mandatory Credit: Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports

R.J. Hunter, SG, Georgia State

I will be honest here – I got lazy when it came to Hunter. I haven’t watched one second of Georgia State game footage. I watched a highlight video and looked at his statistics. Then I noticed he looks as though he may have Down Syndrome and figured he will be a bust for sure.

Everyone says he can shoot and that his 3PT percentage is a mirage. Well, his percentages on hitting 2PT jumpers sucks too, so I’m not a believer.

The Verdict: I really don’t have an informed opinion but the numbers are bustoliscious.

 

That should cover most of the top 30 players. If you’ve got a favorite I haven’t covered, well, comment or join our forums and let me know.

The 2015 Big Board

At long last, I unveil my big board for the 2015 NBA Draft.

This board lists the players, in order, that I feel will impact the NBA positively during their professional careers. You will notice quite a few names missing from this list, as I do not waste my keystrokes with busts. Maybe later on I’ll post a column detailing why I feel such a large number of players from this draft will not be successful. In a nutshell, I feel this draft is fairly awful with quite a smattering of busts. At the end of the big board, I list three players I have not seen enough of to form an educated opinion.

On to the list:

DURHAM, NC - DECEMBER 15:  Jahlil Okafor #15 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts after a basket against the Elon Phoenix during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on December 15, 2014 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

1. Jahlil Okafor, PF/C, Duke

Pros:

  • He’s got legitimate size to play either power forward or center. He’s no 6′ 9″ in shoes Al Jefferson here.
  • Best footwork coming into the NBA since Jefferson.
  • Dominant inside game with the upside to add a mid range game to his arsenal.

Cons:

  • He doesn’t know how to play defense. Either that or he just doesn’t want to. Hard to tell with kids. He’s got the height, length and athletic ability to defend at the NBA level, but there’s no telling whether he will ever have the smarts and the will.
  • Right now, he’s not the defensive rebounder I want him to be. Again, not a matter of measurables or skills – it is just whether he wants it or not.
  • Another big man who can’t hit his free throws. Hack an Oak in the making, if he ever plays for a good team.
  • If I have a big on the floor with his length and skills, he is assuredly not passing out off a single man defender. Okafor does this too much. This is coachable, at least.

russell

2. D’Angelo Russell, PG/SG, Ohio State

Pros:

  • One of those kids you rarely see, that can take stock of the entire floor, seemingly by telepathy. He knows where everyone is on the court. This is a PG skill, though I like this player more as a SG.
  • Pure stroke from outside, with a ton of room to grow that aspect of his game. What I mean by this is kids who shoot 41% from three at age 18/19 and only shoot 75% from the line have room to improve their outside shooting. This is just something I tried working on once a long while back, but the results were somewhat positive.
  • Has the penetration game of a mid-level point guard, including his finishing ability at the rim. Most shooting guards do not have this anymore, which is why I like him at the 2 as a pro more than as a point guard. PGs these days are a dime a dozen. SGs who can stroke from outside and take it to the hole 1 on 1 is a far rarer breed.
  • Super advanced passing ability. He can play the point with his passing. His outlet passes are outstanding and I envision him being death as a pick and roll guy as a pro with a few years seasoning on him.

Cons:

  • His defense right now is comically bad. Like, he couldn’t play worse defensively if he actively tried. This is why, besides the You-Can’t-Teach-Height conjecture, I do not have him at #1 overall. The sheer amount of work, effort and coaching it will take to turn him into a below average defender is daunting.
  • If his outside shots aren’t going down early, it takes him quite a while to figure this out. He’ll keep on chucking them for too long.
  • He’s scrawny and weak right now. In my opinion, he needs to play SG to reach the height of his powers and he’ll need NBA nutrition and training in order to be able to handle the load at that position.

towns

3. Karl Towns, C, Kentucky

Pros:

  • Has all the measurables you want in a center prospect – tall, long arms, gifted leaper, not fat.
  • The makings of an outside shot are there, which we all know helps with spacing in the NBA.
  • A big who can hit his free throws? Good lord.
  • Gifted shot blocker. Should he should help whichever team picks him shore up the inside defense right off the bat.
  • He might turn into a legitimate rim defender if his lateral movement is good. I could have gone either way with this, as I’m not entirely convinced he can rush guards effectively right now.

Cons:

  • Where’s the damn steak? Averaging 10/7/2 doesn’t do much for my hunger for productivity. I want to see a prospect like this dominate. To be fair, he did dominate a couple/few games last season, but it was mostly against weak sisters. If I’m picking the next dominant big man, him putting up a stat line age-comparable to Roy Hibbert at GTown isn’t giving me the warm and fuzzies. This is really his only con – a lack of productivity during his freshman season.

johnson

4. Stanley Johnson, SF, Arizona

Pros:

  • He’s got the body to play the classic SF role. He’s not one of those beanpoles everyone projects to play the position – just a tall, solidly built, moderately long armed forward.
  • His shooting wasn’t nearly as flawed as was heralded. I never understood the criticism after seeing him play in all the summer All-Star games. He can shoot effectively right now – there’s no need to project his jump shot.
  • His ball handling is very good for his position. Should be a good pick and roll guy at the next level.
  • Good mid-range game. His mid-range jumper actually looks textbook, compared to his three point stroke.

Cons:

  • Kind of hit the wall around mid-February. Not sure if this is indicative of fitness problems or not.
  • I don’t envision this player ever being considered a plus defender.
  • Not particularly sure his teammates actually liked him. This is totally arbitrary but he seemed to conflict with Mudiay at the McDonalds game too, so maybe there’s something there.
  • While I was impressed with his body control, he doesn’t finish at the rim as much as he should. Settles for short range jumpers and floaters a little too much for my liking.

turner

5. Myles Turner, C, Texas

Pros:

  • He’s a legitimate seven footer in shoes. Measured 6′ 10″ at the last USA Basketball camp. Adequately long arms. Decent frame that should be able to handle the requisite 270 lb. playing weight he’ll need in the NBA.
  • Talented shot blocker, but really only as a help defender right now. Uses either hand well.
  • He’s got a nice, quick little turnaround jumper that is basically his only real offensive weapon right now. Gets it off on the move and it looks very accurate. NBA bigs will have a tough time with that move.

Cons:

  • Though he does some things quickly, his running the floor is not exactly graceful. Not sure if he just looks slower than he is or if he’s really a trotter.
  • Again, where’s the damned productivity? Got few touches at Texas last year. His productivity blocking shots was very impressive, though.
  • While that turnaround jumper is a nice weapon, it would help projecting him if he had something else.
  • Just going by his college numbers as a freshman, he’s a poor offensive rebounder.
  • He’ll never be that elusive, rim protector. He won’t be rushing guards out on the perimeter with much success.

winslow

6.Justice Winslow, SF, Duke

Pros:

  • USA Basketball measured him at 6′ 6″ at their camp in 2014. That’s an increase of an inch and a half in one year, and if true, a very important measurement for Winslow. If he really is that big, he should be fine as an NBA SF, his natural position going forward.
  • Best transition player our of the young SFs entering the draft.
  • Shot over 40% from three last season. This is nothing to sneeze at.
  • By all accounts, he works hard at defense. This helps him be an effective defensive player.

Cons:

  • While his shots are effective, they are all seemingly rattlers rather than swishes. Might be an aestetic complaint, but there it is.
  • I do not believe he is really 6′ 7″ in shoes. Time will tell on this one.
  • He overpowered kids in college. This won’t happen early in his NBA career.
  • Cannot shoot off the bounce.

cauley stein

7. Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky

Pros:

  • He’s got the best center body coming into the NBA of anyone in years. He’s a legitimate 7 footer with a good frame to pack on more muscle. His arms are adequate.
  • Best center athlete I’ve seen in many years. Runs the floor like a gazelle. Has good hops. Super quick laterally.
  • Has the potential to be a monster defensively. Has the proven ability to not just blitz guards on the pick and roll, but actually switch onto them and guard them effectively. Combined with his ability to block shots, he presents a very rare package defensively.
  • On the break, he has the potential to be unstoppable.
  • His free throw improvment over the years has been commendable.
  • Good offensive rebounder. Gets to a lot of misses and flushes them.

Cons:

  • Extremely limited offensively. There are claims he has a vastly improved jump shot but he hit about 5 of them last season. Other than offensive boards, transition and point off pick and roll situations, Cauley-Stein gives you nothing offensively.
  • Will be 22 to begin his NBA career. Not much time for him to learn the professional game, starting this late. There isn’t much upside for players this old.
  • The motor isn’t exactly what you want to see. He takes games off right now.
  • Poor handle in the post and not the greatest hands.
  • Not the defensive rebounder he should be, given his athleticism. Gets pushed around boxing out, when he decides to actually box out.

mudiay

8. Emmanuel Mudiay, PG/SG, Peking Garden

Pros:

  • If he can play PG, he will be a huge, athletic one.
  • Looks like a decent/good pick and roll player.
  • He’s got some moves around the hoop.

Cons:

  • While he has a good handle for a 6′ 5″ guy, is that handle really good enough for an NBA point guard?
  • I do not like his shot. Something in there looks wonky right now. He’s effective with it, though, so we’ll have to see.
  • He tends to dribble neck high when he’s in transition, something I always ding players for.
  • Nobody really knows what kind of game he has right now. Highlight videos can only tell you so much and they are generally not enough to provide a solid opinion on a player.

Portis

9. Bobby Portis, PF, Arkansas

Pros:

  • Best motor in this draft. Non-stop effort in all phases of the game.
  • One of the best offensive rebounders coming into the league. Gets them with smarts and hustle.
  • Can help spacing with his outside game. Took less than one three per game but hit almost 50% of the ones he took.
  • Solid handle for a guy at 6′ 10″. Can penetrate from the perimeter.
  • Deceptive quickness, especially on defense.
  • Has the ability to stay with guards out on the perimeter defensively.

Cons:

  • Portis has no hops at all. He’s stapled to the floor.
  • His jump shot, while effective in the NCAA, is one inch away from a set shot. It has been my experience that guys with shots like this do not translate to the NBA.
  • Due to his lack of leaping ability, he isn’t much of a threat to block shots at the rim.
  • He’d be so much better if he could lose 20 lbs. and play the SF position.

kaminsky

10. Frank Kaminski, C, Wisconsin

Pros:

  • Solid scorer, off the catch, off penetration and in the post.
  • Fairly mobile for a center. If you project him as a PF, this gets knocked out.
  • Does not turn the ball over. This is huge for big men.
  • Effective defensive rebounder. Doesn’t have much of a vertical game but he knows how to box out.
  • Sets effective picks and can either roll or spot up off the pick.

Cons:

  • No hops whatsoever.
  • I feel he’s too slow to guard NBA power forwards.
  • He’s never going to be a plus defender or rebounder as a professional.
  • He’s a senior. What you see is what you are going to get. There is no upside here.

booker

11. Devin Booker, SG, Kentucky

Pros:

  • Solid size for a SG at 6′ 6″.
  • Picture perfect stroke from deep. Gets good height off a quick release. Just an excellent looking shot.
  • On a team full of donkeys, he was very careful with the ball. That stands out.
  • Very young. He has years to grow into the player he will eventually be.

Cons:

  • Doesn’t appear to be much of a defender at present.
  • According to his combine measurements, he’s a bit of a T-Rex.
  • Did not get the playing time you really want to see, so I’m not sure if he’s just a right-time, right-place mirage or not.

hezonja

12. Mario Hezonja, SG, Barcelona

Pros:

  • Great size for a SG, average size for a SF. Depending on where he can stick, his size might be an asset.
  • Surprising athleticism for a white, European swing man. He can jump and dunk, which not a lot of them can.
  • Good looking jumper.

Cons:

  • Might not stick at SG, which would mitigate his size.
  • Streaky shooter. When it’s not falling, it’s not falling.
  • Only got the occasional peek at playing time. Thankfully, he got some run during EuroCup or I wouldn’t have an opinion on him.
  • Doesn’t look like much of a defender right now.

as the University of Utah plays Oregon in PAC 12 men's basketball  Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014,in Salt Lake City Utah.   Photo by Tom Smart/University of Utah Sports Information

13. Delon Wright, PG, Utah

Pros:

  • Pass first PG with very good size for the position.
  • While not pretty, he has a very good handle, rarely turning the ball over off his dribble
  • Very effective defensive player. Keeps his man in front of him and gets turnovers.

Cons:

  • He’s 23 years old. What you see is what you get. No upside whatsoever.
  • Cannot shoot the basketball. Terrible jump shooter.
  • Remains to be seen if he can get to the basket as a pro. If he cannot, he will bust.

harrell

14. Montrezl Harrell, C, Louisville

Pros:

  • Great motor, especially for a center. Highly motivated.
  • Very long arms should help him protect the rim despite his overall lack of height.

Cons:

  • He’s a 6′ 6″ center. He has no other position he’d be capable of playing. Now, Ben Wallace was a 6′ 6″ center, so it isn’t like there absolutely no hope, but it is slim.
  • His offensive game is limited. He’s expanded to taking jump shots over the past three seasons, but it still isn’t all that effective. His break and butter will be put backs and lobs in the NBA.
  • while he’s relatively small for a center, I don’t think he will be able to hedge guards out on the perimeter.
  • He’s going to have a hell of a time dealing with the consistency of guarding bigger guys at the next level.

dakari johnson

15. Dakari Johnson, C, Kentucky

Pros:

  • He’s a legitimate seven footer with a solid body.
  • Johnson will be able to defend centers at the next level.
  • Not a terrible free throw shooter.
  • Effective offensive rebounder, if you use rate stats.
  • Still young at 19/20 years old. Despite a lacklustre college career, Johnson still have legitimate upside.

Cons:

  • He gained ten pounds of fat and lost nine inches off his vertical since UK’s Pro Day.
  • Extremely limited offensively. Put backs and lobs for this guy.
  • Saw very limited minutes both seasons at UK.

(left to right)  Apple Valley's James Horton defended as Robbinsdale Cooper's Rashad Vaughn drove to the basket during the 2013 Minnesota Timberwolves Shootout at the Target Center on 1/5/13.]  Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune  bbisping@startribune.com  James Horton, Rashad Vaughn/roster.

16. Rashad Vaughn, SG, UNLV

Pros:

  • Gets to the hoop better than most players in this class, including point guards.
  • Has range out beyond the arc.

Cons

  • Poor decision making. Whether he fixes this or not will tell whether he will be a successful NBA player or not.
  • Doesn’t have the vertical I thought he’d have

The Unknowns

Kristaps Pozingas, PF, Seville

I didn’t get to see a minute of play from this guy. He’s got all the danger warnings of a bust, being a Euro compared to Dirk being the biggest of the bunch. Still, the dude hit 46% of his threes during EuroCup.

Kelly Oubre, SF, Kansas

Thankfully, we who watch/scout NCAA basketball are finally done dealing with Bill Self. Oubre is the most physically appealing of the freshmen small forward crop, with freakishly long arms. Unfortunately for him, he played for Bill Self, so nobody has a clue what he is.

Robert Upshaw, C, Washington

Biggest center in the draft. Biggest nutjob in the draft. Players of his mental pedigree rarely make it in the NBA.

Taxicab Confessions Of An NBA Hall Of Famer

Special to Celticsnuts.com by Sean Flynn from http://www.breitbart.com

“I took the first guy from South Boston over to the Back Bay and he was a New York guy, so I took him the long way,” Dave Cowens, recalling his evening driving a cab in the midst of an NBA playoff series. “That was my first trip. Must have been a Knick fan.”

“I took the first guy from South Boston over to the Back Bay and he was a New York guy, so I took him the long way,” Dave Cowens, recalling his evening driving a cab in the midst of an NBA playoff series. “That was my first trip. Must have been a Knick fan.”

Thirty-five-years ago, after donning green and white for ten years, Dave Cowens closed out his final regular season as a Boston Celtic. Although captivating Cs fans with his above-the-rim, painted-area warfare, and two World Championship banners, Cowens’s interest in the everyman proved more fascinating.

“I had driven so many other kinds of machines, and I had rode in a lot of cabs, so I just said let me see what it’s like to drive one and pick people up,” recalled Cowens.

Catching up with Cowens forty-five years after embarking on a career with the Celtics, the Hall of Famer delivers his taxicab confession. He sets the record straight on cab driving, champagne swilling, park-bench bedding, renegade men’s leagues, and eating basketball camp cafeteria food.

In 1977, after receiving an impromptu visit from a hometown pal from the Blue Grass State, during a three-game playoff series with the San Antonio Spurs, Cowens vetoed a touristy afternoon riding the Duck Boats and opted instead for a more hands-on approach as sightseeing ambassador.

“My buddy came up from Kentucky, my good friend, and some guys told me I could go down and get a cab from the ITOA (independent taxi operators of America) for 35 bucks, and all I had to do was bring it in full of gas and I got to keep what I got,” said Cowens.

Although initially planning a moving tour of the Athens of America, Cowens’s competitive juices resonated, sacrificing city sightseeing to collect a few fares.

“The two of us started riding around in the cab together. Then we found out that people didn’t want to get in the cab with the two of us, so I made him get out and he went and did some things for a while,” reflected Cowens.

It’s inconceivable imagining LeBron James chauffeuring a cab without passenger notice. But for a night in the 1970s one of the 50 greatest basketball players in history drove one during the NBA playoffs and nobody knew the guy in the front seat started at center for the defending NBA champions.

“Actually, nobody even knew who I was,” Cowens remembered. “I put my cap on and just you know drove around. I got decent tips, though.”

Perhaps Cowens’s unassuming look, along with his working-class playing mentality, allowed him to become one with the fabric of blue-collar Boston. The Hall of Famer’s driving excursion proves that in the 1970s superstars enjoyed a more incognito form of stardom.

“It’s just a different marketplace today,” Cowens tells Breitbart Sports. “These guys just have so much to do. I don’t think these guys are any different, they are just a product of their environment and what they grow up in.”

Speaking to the era he starred in and blending in with the landscape spared Cowens unnecessary embarrassment after beating the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1974 NBA Finals.

“We had won the championship in Milwaukee, and by the time we had got back it was about 9:30 or 10:00. My brother and I got back to my little pool house in Weston, and I said, ‘I’m just still too geeked up,’” recalled Cowens.

Driving downtown, arming himself with a gym bag full of champagne, rather than attending a velvet rope after-party, Cowens elected to celebrate by going belly-up at blue-collar watering holes like an Improper Bostonian.

“That was my own way of doing it,” Cowens tells Breitbart Sports. “So then I just ran out of steam at 2:00 or 2:30 or so in the morning right down there at the Public Gardens.”

Stumbling blotto at the corner of Boylston and Arlington Streets, forgoing a suite at the adjacent Ritz—although inebriated enough to meet the prerequisites for a shared room at the Y—Cowens slept in a far less comfortable, although far-better ventilated, after-hours dormitory.

“My car was parked down there on the corner and I said I’m just gonna lay down here and rest my eyes. Well, about four hours later, I woke up,” the previous season’s MVP explained.

Sleeping on a park bench, just hours after winning the NBA title, Cowens, like all city-park snoozers appeared as just another faceless boozehound to early-morning strollers. Almost.

“I know it got in the paper, because someone obviously said something to someone, but I didn’t see any pictures,” Cowens explained. “Which is a good thing because nowadays, oh my God, now I’m not doing anything wrong, I’m just sleeping. But the only thing was there was a champagne bottle beneath me that was open.”

Spending a night on a park bench, any NBA player, let alone a former Rookie of the Year and MVP, would relive the experience on the internet for months if that happened today. But perhaps the pervasiveness of the cell phone recording, while capturing more, captivates our imagination less, retiring marching-to-the-beat-of-a-different-drummer characters such as Cowens and replacing them with caricatures of superstars living far less original, authentic lives.

Even after sharing Rookie of the Year honors in 1971, and returning to Florida State’s campus to finish the remaining thirteen hours towards a degree in criminology, Cowens hit the books that summer anonymously.

“I went down that summer and nobody even knew I was on campus. Of course, you didn’t have the internet at all or anything back then,” said Cowens.

Examples abound of Cowens coexisting with the plebeians while a member of basketball’s most storied franchise. Traversing local men’s leagues, he was infatuated with local players in the renegade circuits.

“I used to go around in the leagues to see what kind of talent was out there. I played in all kinds of leagues,” said Cowens.

In addition to spending his summer nights competing against over-the-hill, Schaefer-beer swilling, municipal-league, post players, Cowens dedicated summer mornings to blossoming ten- and eleven- year-olds attending his basketball camps. Rather than serving as a figurehead to the youth camp—signing autographs on camp pickup day or adding mundane observations at canteen—Cowens seized the camps as an outlet for vitality.

“I was with 1,200 kids, and I’d workout like a dog—do all the drills and calisthenics, sleep in the dorms, and eat cafeteria food with kids for seven weeks in a row. It’s all part of being young and strong,” recalled Cowens.

On a spring night in 1977, finishing his anthropological fieldwork as a cab driver, putting up his taxi at 10 p.m., while sporting a handful of five dollar bills, Cowens had reportedly told the Boston media that he was “suffering from burnout” and needed to “clear his head.” This is a notion he’s refuting today.

“I was burnt out when I arrived in 1970, they just didn’t know it,” joked Cowens.

Cowens’s passion for “regular” people grounded the NBA Hall of Famer’s career on and off the parquet floorboard.

“Well, I’m just interested in other people,” Cowens confesses. “I’d rather find out what you’re into than talk about myself.”

When reflecting on today’s narcissistic social-media culture ensnaring both pros and joes, it’s hard to fathom how an NBA all-time great’s night driving a taxi or his off-court, in-the-park transgression doesn’t live on forever on YouTube or win endless re-Tweets.

All proving our heroes’ most fascinating stories are best told the old fashioned way—because life’s true characters are rarely birthed in 140 characters or less.

Follow Sean Flynn in 140 characters or less @coachsflynn.

The Best Sports Day Of The Century?

The MAIN event

The MAIN event

Is this the best sports day from a fan perspective of the century to date? Depending on what you feel about the fight, here is what we have on the docket:

Some Premier League soccer match, if thats your cup of tea, starts things off on NBCS network at 7 am.

At noon, rounds 4-7 of the NFL draft will air on ESPN. Like it or not, the football is now this countries biggest sport, and appropriately they will find their way on the menu on a day as big as this.

People just can't get enough that is the NFL behemoth

People just can’t get enough that is the NFL behemoth

NHL second round game two between the Rangers and Caps starts at 12:35 on NBC. The first game ended with the Caps winning the game with 2 seconds left in regulation. A HUGE game for the biggest TV market in the US.

Lightning won game 1 at the buzzer

Lightning won game 1 at the buzzer

The Sox face the Yankees at Fenway at 1:35 on Fox. It just wouldn’t be right if there wasn’t the best rivalry in all of baseball (and maybe sports) participating in any day considered the “best” sports day of the century.

Why not add the best rivalry in baseball to the docket today?

Why not add the best rivalry in baseball to the docket today?

The Kentucky Derby runs at 6:30 on NBC. Billed as the most exciting 3 minutes in sports, there is nothing quite like a big horse race. A great early taste for the gambling crowd to get their pallet wet before the fight and hopefully some cash in the coffers.

There is nothing quite like the Kentucky Derby

There is nothing quite like the Kentucky Derby

Game 7 of the Spurs Clippers, which feels like its the NBA championship, and very well could prove to be as I think there is a decent chance the winner wins the NBA title. The finale of a fantastic series with tons of intrigue and incredible effort on both sides. Contrast in coaching styles and strategy, with the Clippers a more free flowing smash mouth approach while the Spurs with a quiet, execute no emotion approach. Which will win out? Is this the end of the Spurs run with Duncan and Popp? Will the Clippers finally be able to get over the hump and win a series where they were underdogs or evenly matched? Its hoop heaven. Tip, WISELY by the NBA will be at 8:05 on TNT.

For all the marbles tonight

For all the marbles tonight

Game 2 between the Duck and Flames, the Ducks crushing the Flames 7-1 in the opener. This one might conflict with the “main event” as the puck drops at 10:05 on NBCS.

There was lots of this in game 1

There was lots of this in game 1

Then the main event. The most anticipated fight since…….well I’m not sure since when. Tyson Holyfield 1?? Its certainly the most this century. In Las Vegas at the MGM, and no matter what happens in the fight the buildup and preflight will be at a historically hyper level. Ringside tickets going for $100,000. Should start around midnight and end around 1 am. Pay per view at an astounding $99.99 per buy.

Could the fight possibly live up to the hype?  Does it matter?

Could the fight possibly live up to the hype? Does it matter?

Which will cap off an epic day of sports, arguably the best sports day this century. I can’t think of a day that was more intriguing from a fan perspective. Its days like this a sports fan lives for.

Enjoy it sports fans!!

Ode To The 2015 Celtics

Jae Crowder shows the passion that exemplified the 2015 Celtics

Jae Crowder shows the passion that exemplified the 2015 Celtics

The season began with meager expectations, a coach with little experience and no discernible philosophy on offense or defense, and a roster loaded with leave average flotsam, a mercurial all star point guard on the last year of his deal, the maddening Jeff Green and an overpaid stiff making 10 million dollars. The Vegas over under had them at an optimistic 28 wins, and most expected the team to maximize their ping pong balls and cruise into the lottery and possibly NBA purgatory.

What happened over the next four months was nothing short of a miracle. It began with the trade of Rondo, the remaining face of the franchise, to Dallas for Brandon Wright, Jameer Nelson, and Jae Crowder. In addition the Celtics received a first and second round pick, both with protections. They then sent out Green to the Grizzlies for basically a first round pick and Tayshaun Prince. What followed was a furry of moves and transactions, including adding Isaiah Thomas while dropping the aforementioned Prince. When the dust settled they had a rotation of:

Evan Turner
Avery Bradley
Brandon Bass
Tyler Zeller
Jae Crowder
Isaiah Thomas
Marcus Smart
Jonas Jerebko
Luigi Datome

Then everything changed. After a bad loss early in the season Stevens declared “I need to get better at coaching NBA basketball”. And better he got. There was a whiff that something special might be happening when the team beat the Hawks, who at the time had the best record in the NBA, right before the all star break. The team began to gell in the second half, and eventually finished with the fourth best record in the entire NBA after February 2nd. A four game winning streak included W’s against the Grizzlies and at Indiana. They won with a team oriented defense, even though the roster contained no real rim protector, and an offense that stressed ball movement and three point shots. Thomas was as advertised, leading the entire NBA in fourth quarter scoring this season. No one has been better at getting to the line since the team dealt Paul Pierce, averaging a staggering 6.5 attempts per game in just 26 minutes of action. Crowder and rookie Marcus Smart added toughness to the team and Brandon Bass provided leadership, big time effort and experience at winning NBA games. Zeller and Olynyk provided an odd one two punch in the front court. Avery Bradley was the teams MVP, mastering the metric unfriendly 18 foot jump shot and leading the team in scoring. Some questioned the strategy of going for the playoffs instead of maximizing draft position, but that talk only seemed to fuel the teams desire to win games.

Avery Bradley was the MVP of the second half playoff run

Avery Bradley was the MVP of the second half playoff run

The Celtics win 8 of their last 9 games to not only secure a spot in the playoffs, but the 7th seed. Some will soon forget this bunch, which will no doubt be broken up next season, but not this fan. (Had they drawn the Hawks its very possible they would still be playing right now, but dems the breaks) They provided three months of exciting basketball, winning games they had no business winning, always playing hard and often times having the advantage at head coach. Of all the outcomes of this season, the emergence of Stevens as a viable and valuable head coach might be the most important. Before all the trades it looked like maybe the NBA might be too much for him….by the end of the year he was a coach of the year candidate, finishing ahead of Gregg Popovitch in the voting.

Stevens has the Celtics headed int the right direction

Stevens has the Celtics headed int the right direction

Where this team goes from here is anyone’s guess. They have an arsenal of picks to use as collateral in making a deal for an impact vet, and have rid the roster of any malcontents not interested in winning basketball games first. Its a good place to start, but its no lock they will be back in the post season tournament next season or even the season after. This is why I think Celtic fans should take a minute to appreciate the effort and accomplishment of this group in the second half of the season. That kind of basketball doesn’t happen often without a mega superstar leading the way, and who knows when they will be able to acquire one.

So I tip my cap to the 2015 Boston Celtics. They did the franchise and city proud.

It wasn't a banner year for the Celtics, but it was one that won't soon be forgotten for this fan

It wasn’t a banner year for the Celtics, but it was one that won’t soon be forgotten for this fan

What is the future for Rondo?

Rajon-Rondo’s-Time-With-Dallas-Mavericks-Done-After-Game-2-Performance

Those in Boston saw it coming. Rajon Rondo wasn’t the same player after suffering a knee injury two years ago. He had always had problems with coaches, dating back to his days at Kentucky with Tubby Smith. The Celtics did a wonderful job of keeping all his attitude problems under wrap, allowing him to come back to the team and be the de facto coach for the Celtics as they limped off to a terrible start this season.

What the Mavs saw in him is anyone’s guess. Its almost like the they didn’t even do any scouting before the trade. Putting aside the attitude issues, which were and are very real, the dude has been in a free fall since his knee surgery. He can’t shoot free throws, couldn’t for Boston, hasn’t defended since they traded Garnett and Pierce away, and in general has just stunk. The best player in the deal turned out to be Jae friggin Crowder, and the Mavs spent the next two months after the trade trying replace him and Wright. They settled on Stoudemire.

The Mavs settled on Stoudemire to replace Jae Crowder and Brandon Wright

The Mavs settled on Stoudemire to replace Jae Crowder and Brandon Wright

Ouch. I’m a big fan of Cuban, but one wonders why on earth they would make that trade if they had indeed scouted Rondo the past two years. It torpedoed their season, and puts them in a horrible situation moving forward as they now have to replace Rondo, Crowder and Wright. And Wright was GOOD for them, shooting over 60% from the floor.

So whats next for Rondo? If I’m his agent and I think he can turn around his attitude I want to sign a one year deal. If not then go for the long term deal. But where is the fit? A young team would be insane to want that type of attitude on their team, and a good, veteran team wouldn’t need his present skill set. Putting aside the attitude problems, he has been in a free fall since his injury. Can’t shoot free throws, won’t attack that basket for fear of shooting them, can’t defend, and could never figure out his jump shot.

There is a chance he simply walks away from the game. On several occasions he has admitted to liking football more than basketball, doesn’t seem to want to be coached. Didn’t want to be part of a winning situation in Dallas. Give Ainge a lot of credit here. He knew the player Rondo had become after the injury, including the petulant attitude, and did the most he could to prop him up as a viable player, keeping him as the face of the franchise and leaking information that the team wanted to sign him to a long term deal. He may have gotten a decent player in return with Jae Crowder, who they can match any contract he’s offered in the offseason.

What the future lies for Rondo is anyone’s guess, but its apparent he’s at crossroads in his NBA career, having to decide if he wants to be coached and be part of an NBA team or retire a multimillionaire and NBA champion.

Now its all about the past

Now its all about the past

Cavs take game 1; The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

celtics-and-cavaliers-logos

So it appears this will take a herculean effort from the Celtics to not only win the series, but take a game. I thought they had pretty good effort, got some solid games from a few guys, but no one really stepped up. Credit the Cavs defense, who disrupted what the Celtics wanted to do on offense all night long, and moved the ball well and with precision on offense. 8-22 from 3 isn’t really going to cut it when your gunning for the upset of the century. So on with the good, bad and ugly from game 1:

The good:

The Celtics were on the verge of being completely blown out several times during the game and wouldn’t let it happen. Should at least give them a tad of confidence in the series moving forward. Thomas with 22 points on 14 shots and 10 assists. He struggled a bit on defense but overall had a solid game. Olynik looked like he belonged, posting a 12/2/1 in just 18 minutes of play. Other than that, not a whole lot of “good” in a game you give up 113 points and lose by 13. Turner was solid with 12/7/5 but in a contest like this its really apparent to the eye that he’s not an NBA point guard, but is forced to on this roster. This MUST be addressed in the offseason. No more Turner or Pressey at the point next season.

I'm not a point guard

I’m not a point guard

The bad:

Bass, Sullinger, Olynyk and Zeller combined for 9 rebounds in game that featured 161 shots and 213 points. Thats flat out awful and must change moving forward, especially when you consider the Cavs don’t really have a lot of bigs that should prevent them from grabbing misses. Avery Bradley was just abysmal, putting up 7/2/3 and 1-6 from downtown. He was also horrific on the defensive end, playing a big part in Irving’s 30 points on 11-21 shooting, including 5=9 from 3.

The rebounds were out of reach today for the good guys

The rebounds were out of reach today for the good guys

The Ugly:

The Celtics team defense. Its been a hallmark of their second half resurgence, but they just couldn’t get stops all night long. Cleveland shot 45% from the floor, but it was the eye popping 41% on 13-31 shooting that really proved to be the difference. James with a lunch bucket 20/6/7, and Love managed to play a bad game and still grab 12 rebounds.

If the Celtics have visions of shocking the world and winning this series, they are going to have to make some big corrections in game 2. They will have to rebound better, defend the three point shot better, shoot from deep better, and get a world class game from both Thomas and Bradley. Its possible, but not much I saw tonight gave me a whole lot of hope. I will say this…….everytime this season they have been counted out, they have gotten up off the mat and did what most thought they could not.

On to game 2……..

Talk about the series at http://celticsnuts.com/forum/index.php

cropped-34hazjt.jpg

How The Celtics Could Beat The Cavs

Cs-and-Cavs

On paper its a mismatch of epic proportions. The Heat have an edge at every position with the possible exception of head coach, and boast the best player in the league in Lebron James. It should be a cakewalk for the boys from Cleveland, but there are a few things to consider before we delve into how the impossible might be made possible.

First, the Celtics boast the fourth best record in the NBA since Feb 2nd, bested only in the East by the Cavs. In fact only a handful of games separate the two teams during that stretch, and the Cavs were in the midst of an 18 game home winning streak during that time. (ironically, snapped by the Celtics when the Cavs rested their best players in the fourth quarter) This Celtic team, as presently constructed, have gone an impressive 24-12 to finish the season. This isn’t your normal 8th seed. Its a unique set of circumstances where a team headed for the lottery completely revamped their roster, not to maximize ping pong balls, but to win more games. And win more games they did, as Stevens got a bunch of castoffs, league average players, hard workers, and Isaiah Thomas to all pull in the same direction.

Second, the team they are playing resides in Cleveland, where Lebron James was unable to win a title in his first go around, and the culture of losing and choking in big games dates back decades. While one can argue that has nothing to do with this particular Cavs team, it is important to note that other than James, the Cavs are a team full of players with very little playoff experience, and its impossible to know how they might react if the fan base starts to get antsy, thinking history might repeat itself. The Celtic have always been somewhat of a thorn in James’ side, and it took him years to figure out how to beat them. Maybe those “ghosts” will show up in this series or further down the line. Or maybe they won’t. Its impossible to tell, but the concerns of past failure by the fan base with regards to modern teams are very real. Just ask the Browns.

Remember this?  I bet Cavs fans do

Remember this? I bet Cavs fans do

So how do the Celtics pull of the upset of the century? An injury to James comes to mind first, but assuming he stays healthy they will need a whole lot of the following and bunch of luck to get it done;

They need Isaiah Thomas to TAKE OVER games in the second half. He can do it, and Kyrie Irving will let guys do it, the problem is on the other end. If he goes off, will he be able to hold his own on defense and get the stops needed to pull the team over the finish line? He has been up and down on that end of the floor all year, but mostly its large guards that give him problems, and Cleveland doesn’t present that sort of problem. Thomas would pass a lie detector if asked if he was indeed the best player in the NBA, and he’s going to have to play like it if the Celtics were to have a realistic chance of winning the series.

If the Celtics are to have any chance, "phenom" better be the tip of the iceberg

If the Celtics are to have any chance, “phenom” better be the tip of the iceberg

They will need their ball movement, a staple of their second half surge, to be precise, happen on nearly every half court set, and use both sides of the court. The Celtics are at their best when they are sharing the ball and making their opponent expend a ton of energy on the defensive end. This can happen, but it will take some help from the Cavs, who have the ability with James and their size inside to disrupt this type of ball movement.

They are going to need massive games from Jae Crowder, Kelly Olynyk and Jonas Jerebko. Its possible Olynyk’s role in the postseason is limited because of his inability to defend, which would leave massive pressure on Crowder and Jerebko to make plays. Specifically they are going to need to shoot LIGHTS OUT from the three point arc, the great equalizer in the game of basketball. The problem is, marginal players usually play their best in front of a home crowd, and the first two games will be in Cleveland.

The Celtics will need to win one of the first two games in Cleveland. Possible, but not probable, as they come into the game as 11 point underdogs. But anyone in the NBA can beat any other team on any given night, and if they can make magic happen just once in the first two games, they could conceivably put a great deal of pressure on the Cavs in game 3, which will be next Friday night at the Garden. A Friday night at the Garden during the playoffs is one of the toughest places to win a basketball game in this league, especially if the crowd sincerely thinks the team has a chance, and the surrounding bars don’t run out of alcohol before the tip. A split in the first two games would give them that confidence and the place would be insane. These fans don’t like Lebron James and have vivid memories of him struggling to beat their team early in his career.

It would be a welcome sight to Celtics fans to see the return of the King's Mom to the rivalry

It would be a welcome sight to Celtics fans to see the return of the King’s Mom to the rivalry

Finally, Stevens would have to out coach David Blatt at every turn during the series. He would have to find ways to contain James, win every out of timeout play, have a perfect rotation, find the right mix of players for every situation in every quarter through the series. In short he would have to morph into the best coach in the history of basketball. A tall order to say the least.

Boston knows a few things about coaching

Boston knows a few things about coaching

While a more likely outcome of the series will be a 4-0 or 4-1 Cleveland win, teams have beaten the #1 seed out of #8 seed in the history of the NBA playoffs. The similarities of the two teams records since February 2nd aside would make this the upset of the century, but certainly not of all time, even in the NBA. This is why you play the games and don’t just congratulate Cleveland for securing the second seed in the East and advance them to round two without a contest.

Dare to dream. Because as we all know, anything is possible

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