by Joseph Fafinski
When it comes to the 2015 draft class, the floor generals are relatively hit-and-miss. Ohio State's D'Angelo Russell and Chinese study Emmanuel Mudiay are considered the only "sure things", but keep on the lookout for Tyus Jones, this year's Final Four MVP, and Cameron Payne, this year's token small school, big heart talent.
1. D'Angelo Russell, Ohio State
2. Emmanuel Mudiay, Guandong Southern Tigers (China)
3. Jerian Grant, Notre Dame
4. Tyus Jones, Duke
5. Delon Wright, Utah
6. Cameron Payne, Murray State
7. Terry Rozier, Louisville
8. Oliver Hanlan, Boston College
9. Andrew Harrison, Kentucky
10. T.J. McConnell, Arizona
The likely first-round shooting guards in this year's class are fairly untested, save for Devin Booker, who played the grueling Kentucky schedule, and fringe pick Norman Powell of UCLA. All eyes will be on top dog Mario Hezonja. Look for Terran Petteway and Michael Qualls of Nebraska and Arkansas, respectively, to garner more draft chatter as we near June 25th's main event.
1. Mario Hezonja, FC Barcelona (Spain)
2. Devin Booker, Kentucky
3. R.J. Hunter, Georgia State
4. Rashad Vaughn, UNLV
5. Norman Powell, UCLA
6. Michael Qualls, Arkansas
7. Tyler Harvey, Eastern Washington
8. Terran Petteway, Nebraska
9. Marc Garcia, FC Barcelona (Spain)
10. Aaron Harrison, Kentucky
Perhaps the most top heavy of the positions, small forward will undoubtedly give us at least five, if not eight, first round selections. Justise Winslow and Stanley Johnson lead this pack of athletic terrors, among them sleeper Justin Anderson of Virginia.
1. Justise Winslow, Duke
2. Stanley Johnson, Arizona
3. Kevon Looney, UCLA
4. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
5. Kelly Oubre, Kansas
6. Justin Anderson, Virginia
7. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona
8. Anthony Brown, Stanford
9. Aleksander Vezenkov, Aris BC (Greece)
10. Jonathan Holmes, Texas
Essentially, any of the top three listed can be interchangable. Bobby Portis, Myles Turner, and Trey Lyles can all expect to go anywhere from 8th to 20th in June's draft. Portis is the top gun based on his superior ability to stretch the floor as a power forward, something that more than makes up for his lack of athleticism. Also, all hail Cliff Alexander's amazing and rapid decline.
1. Bobby Portis, Arkansas
2. Myles Turner, Texas
3. Trey Lyles, Kentucky
4. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
5. Jarell Martin, LSU
6. Christian Wood, UNLV
7. Cliff Alexander, Kansas
8. Chris McCullough, Syracuse
9. Aaron White, Iowa
10. Brandon Ashley, Arizona
This group features four surefire lottery selections. Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns really could be 1a and 1b; Kristaps Porzingis and Willie Cauley-Stein may go back-to-back somewhere in the latter stages of the top 10. Alan Williams of UC-Santa Barbara may be the best center you've never heard of.
1. Jahlil Okafor, Duke
2. Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky
3. Kristaps Porzingis, CB Sevilla (Spain)
4. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
5. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
6. Robert Upshaw, Washington
6. Dakari Johnson, Kentucky
7. Nikola Milutinov, Partisan Belgrade (Serbia)
8. Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse
9. Cady Lalanne, Massachusetts
10. Alan Williams, UC-Santa Barbara
Ranking Results By Origin:
Arkansas, FC Barcelona (Spain), Kansas, Louisville, Syracuse, UCLA, UNLV, Wisconsin-- 2
60 Picks Top 30 Who Have Withdrawn Since April Ranking:
-Kris Dunn, PG, Providence
-Buddy Hield, SG, Oklahoma
-Caris LeVert, SG, Michigan
-Jakob Poetl, C, Utah
by Joseph Fafinski
1. San Antonio Spurs: Three things are certain in life: death, taxes, and the San Antonio Spurs in championship contention. It has been an annual theme since Bill Clinton was president. Coming off a title should not slow down 30-somethings (and future Hall of Famers) Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker, especially considering the youth surrounding them. Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green added a ring and additional Finals experience to their already impressive resumes. Plus that Gregg Poppovich guy is still at the helm. It’s been said every year, but (eye roller ahead!) do not count out the Spurs.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Durant’s injury may push the win-loss pace off a few games, but athletic terrors Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka won’t let OKC fall victim to the hungry, lurking Clippers. There is too much talent here, even without MVP Durant, to dismiss as anything other than what they are, a contender.
3. Los Angeles Clippers: Now that the first year of Doc Rivers’ reign and the madness that ensued over former owner Donald Sterling has concluded, it is time to talk basketball in Clipperland. Chris Paul is still the best floor general the league knows, and Blake Griffin is coming off a fantastic season. DeAndre Jordan, JJ Redick, and Jamal Crawford might all be one-trick ponies, but they sport PhD's in their respective fields. I do not, however, anticipate a jump over KD’s club this season. Nonetheless, this team would be one of the best three seeds in recent memory. Holy cow, the West is good.
4. Portland Trail Blazers: Sure, they had some luck in the playoffs health wise, but LaMarcus Aldridge, the league’s best power forward (there, I said it), and Damian Lillard, fresh off deep playoff experience, should lead this team back to the postseason with ease. Wes Matthews and Nic Batum are solid bets to knock down threes on the wing, and underrated Robin makes for an interesting case in the "Who's the better brother?" debate in the Lopez household. They didn't do much this offseason to shore up the roster, but they certainly did not need much to remain a contender.
5. Golden State Warriors: Not much externally has changed since we last saw the Splash Brothers in action, as trade rumors and World Cup domination did not hold down everybody’s favorite NBA backcourt. Steph and Klay (side note: Klay Thompson, albeit a great player, is not what the superstar everyone made him out to be during the Kevin Love fiasco) lead the offense, and Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut anchor the defense. Obviously the biggest question here has to do with getting over the hump. If Golden State is to take it to the next level, they likely will have to take down two perpetually tough Western Conference juggernauts come May. We shall see if they are up to the task in 2014-15.
6. Dallas Mavericks: Could there be anymore Chandlers? Tyson, back after three miserable seasons with Carmelo and the Knicks, and Parsons, who cruised north on I-45 by way of Houston, come to Dallas this season hungry to prove themselves after both falling short of great team success in 2013-14. Everlasting light Dirk Nowitzki and recently revamped Monta Ellis will bring the offense, but it's on the new guys to propel Dallas to heights they have not seen since the memorable 2011 championship campaign.
7. Memphis Grizzlies: As always, the Memphis Grizzlies will be a good basketball team. As always, the frontcourt of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol will terrorize opponents. As always, they will not garner any championship noise.
8. Phoenix Suns: The already loaded backcourt of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe Phoenix was blessed with last season added Isaiah Thomas, a man whose remarkable game is not reflected by his minuscule 5’10 frame. This three-headed monster is enough to push everybody's favorite underdog into the promised land of postseason basketball. We can collectively hope Goran's similarly named brother, Zoran, is half the man his elder is.
9. Houston Rockets: Surprised to see Houston out of the playoffs? Don’t be; they have a problem. Losing Chandler Parsons, Omer Asik, and Jeremy Lin, half the team’s six biggest contributors from a year ago, will certainly take a toll come launch time. After whiffing on Chris Bosh in free agency, Kevin McHale's boys have to feel a sense of emptiness, a void that could not be filled by the team's only substantial offseason addition, Trevor Ariza. There is Dwight Howard and his ongoing battle with what we call being serious, and James Harden's equally important bout with defense, which, as we know, is half the game of basketball.
10. New Orleans Pelicans: Where there is an Anthony Davis, there is a way. The 21-year-old took the most monumental step the league saw last season, and he will only get better as he cruises through a decade where most players are still trying to find themselves. Floor general Jrue Holiday will be healthy and ready to take the floor from day one. Tyreke Evans' late season surge is promising. There's reason to believe the Pellies will make a huge jump this season. If they were in the East, they could contend. You know the rest of this story; they're a year away and the West is ridiculously grueling.
11. Denver Nuggets: The Nuggets are unquestionably the hardest team to predict in the West this year. Sharp-shooting Arron Afflalo is back in town. The Italian stallion, Danilo Gallinari, may be following suit soon. Ty Lawson doubles as the leader and floor general. Kenneth Faried and Kosta Koufos anchor the frontcourt. Rookies Gary Harris and Jusuf Nurkic will contribute right away. Team chemistry is awry. Brian Shaw is still a mystery. Your 2014-15 Denver Nuggets, everyone!
12. Sacramento Kings: With Boogie, all things are possible. DeMarcus Cousins will be dancing in the paint on a nightly basis this year. Losing Isaiah Thomas was huge, and Kings fans will notice this when observing successor Darren Collison, whose speed and playmaking abilities can't touch Thomas'.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Now that he-who-must-not-be-named has taken his talents to Cleveland, the T’Wolves are set to prove trading 80 cents on the dollar was the appropriate decision, as opposed to letting the aforementioned he-who-must-not-be-named ride out his misery in one last season up north. The team is young but retains a few solid veterans in Godfather enthusiast Nikola Pekovic, who doubles as the league’s burliest player, and Thaddeus Young, who after seven seasons finally escaped the depths of basketball hell—also known as the city of Philadelphia. Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine will create highlights, but for now the team is in rebuilding mode. That is perfectly fine in a league where Western destruction occurs nightly.
14. Los Angeles Lakers: For as fantastic as Kobe Bryant has been much of the last 17 seasons, you cannot deny the gaudy $30 million he makes annually is blocking the Lakers from making a splash in the free agency and trade markets. They shored up the frontcourt a bit this offseason by signing and drafting Carlos Boozer and Julius Randle, but outside these two, shot-loving Nick Young, newly-inked Jeremy Lin, and Kobe, there is just not enough talent on this roster to make any noise in the ultracompetitive West.
15. Utah Jazz: It is going to be a long year in Salt Lake City but, as Utah is well aware, the future looks bright. Australian phenom Dante Exum joins a plethora of young studmuffins, highlighted by Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and the Burk(e)s’. This season will be considered a success if the development of these youthful stallions is progressive. Things will get Jazzy in Utah in a few short years.
Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets
by Joseph Fafinski
Now that the Kevin Love mess has sorted itself out in Cleveland and Minnesota, it's prematurely time to start focusing on this season's rookie class and where they might be headed. After being heralded as one of the best in recent memory, the 2014 group will always have insanely high expectations to live up to.
Understanding that it's still August and the season is two months from opening night, let's take a look at who some of the front-runners for Rookie of the Year for the coming season, and discuss their merits.
1. Jabari Parker, SF, Milwaukee Bucks: In recent years, the award has gone to players whose teams haven't performed at playoff-level expectations. Being that the Milwaukee Bucks will likely fall into this group in 2014-15, Jabari Parker's horse in the race might have a steady lead all season. Why is this? Unlike a few other noteworthy lottery picks, Milwaukee is ready to hand the keys over to its newest young gun. The sharp-shooting and slashing Parker could put up 20 a game this season, and that's really not too big of an exaggeration. At this point, put your money down on Parker--his Carmelo Anthony-esque skillset is good enough to sway voters as Milwaukee will "improve" to somewhere around 20 wins.
2. Nerlens Noel, C, Philadelphia 76ers: This selection screams "Blake Griffin in 2009-10" all over again. In the wasteland that is Philadelphia 76ers basketball, Noel will be inserted into the lineup from day one, and it's certainly not crazy to think his shot blocking ability and defensive skills could give him a worthy case.
3. Julius Randle, PF, Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle was a Kobe Bryant-approved selection at number seven in the 2014 NBA Draft. He shined in Summer League and there's no reason to believe his left-handed dominance in the paint can't translate to the professional ranks. The reason Randle stands above the next echelon has to do with the opportunity he has to truly make a mark in his debut season.
4. Andrew Wiggins, SF, Minnesota Timberwolves: What the Timberwolves received in Wiggins is a hard-working two-way athlete. What Andrew Wiggins received was a chance to shine from the opening tip, something he wouldn't have had the chance to do in Cleveland with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving also slotted in the starting lineup. The biggest problem regarding Wiggins' stock is a plethora of other young and able bodies on the T'Pups roster.
5. Elfrid Payton, PG, Orlando Magic: Voters saw the potential and huckability from Michael Carter-Williams last season in Philly and promptly donned him Rookie of the Year. In Elfrid Payton, you have a guy who is hailed by some as Rajon Rondo 2.0, a guy who does the little things and doesn't care about the statsheet numbers. I give him about 10/1 odds to overcome some of the big boys ahead of him.
6. Dante Exum, PG, Utah Jazz: Dante Exum joins a logjam of sorts in the Utah Jazz backcourt. As time progresses, everyone will realize he's clearly the most talented of the bunch and he'll get his due. Whether that means winning the award or the preferred method, on-court victories, remains to be seen.
7. Doug McDermott, SF, Chicago Bulls: Doug McDermott is a curious case in this race. The glaring need last season for the Chicago Bulls, aside from the ongoing health saga of former MVP Derrick Rose, was a primetime scorer. It's a big task for a rookie to come out and put up big-time numbers, but if anyone from the class south of Milwaukee is up to the call, it's McDermott.
8. Shabazz Napier, PG, Miami Heat: Poor Shabazz Napier went from the narrative "I'M STARTING ALONGSIDE LEBRON JAMES" to bench minutes in a matter of time and the re-signing of Wade and Bosh punching bag Mario Chalmers. Napier is a prototype of sorts at the point guard position and I believe he'll be starting at the end of the season, when it's too late to make a case to take home our good pal ROY.
9. Marcus Smart, PG, Boston Celtics: As long as incumbent Rajon Rondo stands pat in the Celtics lineup, the odds don't exactly swing in Marcus Smart's favor. If he blossoms to the point where the team deals #9, his chances will vastly improve. Rising from the bench (Avery Bradley is expected to start at the two) to win the award is something
10. Nik Stauskas, SG, Sacramento Kings: Bieber-touting, Canadian-loving Nik Stauskas will find a role in his rookie season equalling many others on this list, so why is he so far down it? The Sacramento Kings still have Ben McLemore, simple as that. He will eat up some of the minutes that could prevent Stauskas rising to the pinnacle.
11. Aaron Gordon, PF, Orlando Magic: Some folks were surprised when Aaron Gordon's name was dropped at number four in the draft. They must not have seen how freakishly athletic and cool Gordon made basketball look in Tucson last year. Gordon's role has yet to be determined, but there's certainly enough potential for this 18-year-old to bring home freshman gold.
12. Noah Vonleh, PF, New Orleans Hornets: Noah Vonleh didn't perform as expected in the Summer League. He'd be higher on this list based on past performance and future potential, but Vonleh's role will be limited to the already solid and newly re-chistened New Orleans Hornets. (EDITOR'S NOTE: Typing 'New Orleans Hornets' again makes me happy and feel as if NBA life is worth living.)
13. Zach LaVine, SG, Minnesota Timberwolves: High-flying, cuss-happy, athletic machine Zach LaVine will have to earn his minutes this season. If nothing else, he'll don a non-stop highlight reel for the new-look Timberwolves.
14. Cleanthony Early, SF, New York Knicks: The true darkhorse of the Rookie of the Year race, Cleanthony Early, the Big Apple's inaugural selection this June, is poised to show he was in fact a first-round talent that fell to 35th. While Carmelo Anthony and Andrea Bargnani will take many of his minutes, Early's athleticism and touch won't go unnoticed this season. Count on that, at the very least.
15. Joel Embiid, C, Philadelphia 76ers: Kansas product Joel Embiid will likely miss half the season, but if he comes back and runs train like he did with Kim Kardashian and Rihanna on the Twitter machine, in the words of Kevin Garnett, "anything is possible!!!!"
Also watch for: T.J. Warren, SF, Phoenix Suns; Gary Harris, SG, Denver Nuggets; James Young, SF, Boston Celtics; Rodney Hood, SF, Utah Jazz; SF Kyle Anderson, San Antonio Spurs (because Spurs)
(Image taken from solecollector.com)
by Joseph Fafinski
The 15th overall selection, Adriean won’t exactly bring the Payne at power forward his rookie season given incumbent All-Star Paul Millsap’s contributions in the slot. Payne will likely see bench minutes but his versatile play could come in handy, especially if Al Horford doesn’t recover fully from his season-jarring injury. Walter Tavares is an international project for now. If his Summer League play improves he could make the team, but it’s a long shot for now.
Marcus Smart is too darned talented to let the C’s pass him over in the rotation. A two-way point guard, Smart’s potential will allow Boston to shop Rajon Rondo. If Rondo is dealt, Smart would surely crack the starting lineup. For now, it’s a waiting game. James Young will no doubt make the roster come November, but his minutes won’t be guaranteed due to the possibility of a small-ball lineup and Jeff Green’s standing with the club.
Minnesota sold high-flyer Markel Brown to Brooklyn for an undisclosed amount of cash, and it's unknown if he makes the squad at this point. All will be determined, like so many other situations, by way of Brown’s performance in the Summer League. His dunks have impressed, if that counts for something.
If he remains a member of the organization, Andrew Wiggins will see major minutes from the moment he steps on the floor for the newly-revamped Cavaliers. A two-way player with that kind of potential taken first overall just has to be a part of the rotation (of course, that’s what we said about Anthony Bennett). Virginia stud Joe Harris might need a little time in the minors before making the jump, especially considering the logjam he’d sprint into at shooting guard. Dwight Powell, recently acquired from Charlotte, will also need grooming.
As of this moment, the roster in Dallas projects no rookies. Summer League invitee CJ Fair probably has the greatest chance of cracking the squad. Let’s revisit this in the fall.
In a draft day full of steals, the Nuggets landed two gems in Gary Harris and Jusuf Nurkic for the price of one (Doug McDermott). The former will contribute off the bench immediately while the latter has decisions to make regarding his standing on the 2014-15 Denver squad. If he chooses to remain a part of the roster, he’ll backup Kosta Koufos in a limited role. The same can be said about second-round selection Nikola Jokic if Nurkic decides to hop back across the pond.
Though Charlotte snagged Detroit’s first rounder via the lottery, the Pistons harnessed a treasure in the final round round in Spencer Dinwiddie. Time and the production of Brandon Jennings and newly inked Jodie Meeks will likely tell whether Dinwiddie sees any time this year, but barring a collapse he’ll make the roster.
Golden State Warriors
Because they lost their first-round selection via a salary-dumping trade with the Utah Jazz, the Warriors don’t currently have any rookies that seem to have a shot at making the final cut. It’d be fun to say summer prospect Aaron Craft could burst through, but Golden State’s standing at point guard is just too good to bring up the already slim possibility.
For where they were selected, Swiss native Clint Capela and fiery shooting guard Nick Johnson seem to be value picks. Capela and his post moves may struggle to find playing time at first, and Johnson’s extraordinary Summer League ball has Houston feeling high (pun intended) about what they have in him. Stay tuned to see if he makes the roster.
Like seeing your favorite band perform for the millionth time, you know exactly what you are getting with these Indiana Pacers. Right now, it doesn’t look like any rookie will crack the lineup.
Los Angeles Clippers
CJ Wilcox provides value and athleticism for the Clippers with the 28th selection, but there’s already a plethora of able shooting guards set to call the Staples Center home next season. If anything, Wilcox will provide what Reggie Bullock did off the bench in 2013-14 for the now Sterling-less Clipshow.
much floor time his rookie season. Props to the Grizz for bringing home Memphis native Jarnell Stokes, who was a steal at the 35th selection. I love Stokes’ intensity and hope dearly that his hometown team sees the potential and follows suit.
Before things went south with LeBron James, Shabazz Napier looked prime to make Miami his home alongside the world’s greatest basketball player. One Twitter unfollow and a steaming mess later, Napier’s future looks uncertain for the three-time champs. He’ll still play as a rookie but James’ departure suggests an eminent lesser role for the guy who was originally brought aboard to please the King.
Jabari Parker is a Buck-- no ifs, ands, or buts about it. He will immediately become the most important basketball player in Milwaukee, depending on your affinity for everyone’s favorite Greek. Parker possesses the scoring ability the team so often needed last season. I’m excited to see his potential. Basically, think Carmelo Anthony on the 2003-04 Nuggets here.
As a loyal diehard, let’s agree to move past the whole emotional scene caused by the team’s first-round selection, Zach LaVine. Maybe he didn’t want the cold weather or the mediocre culture, or maybe he’ll take some of JJ Barea’s minutes (okay, I’m dreaming with that last one). Nonetheless, he’s been showing just how high he can fly in Las Vegas. The T’Wolves need some excitement in perhaps Kevin Love’s last season in Minny, so why not give LaVine significant minutes? I’m all for it. He’s immediately the most athletic player on a roster that could use some explosiveness off the dribble. A value pick in the middle of the second round, athletic nightmare Glenn Robinson III might need to develop a bit to reach his potential. Big minutes might not be in the picture just yet for GR3, but stay tuned.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans can’t be too happy with their preparation for the draft, as they relinquished their first round selection via the Jrue Holiday-Nerlens Noel disaster blockbuster from a year ago. Russ Smith looks like the only newbie to provide any sort of production in the coming year. Holiday’s ongoing health saga will likely determine whether Smith will see any floor time for the 2014-15 Pellies.
New York Knicks
It may be Early to proclaim this, but the Knickerbockers may have landed the steal of the draft in Cleanthony at 34. I love the pick. Early is a mid-major prospect that felt he didn’t accomplish all that was expected with Wichita State’s undefeated regular-season run. He’s athletic, can play two positions, and will unquestionably be a piece to the Knicks’ whacky, misshapen 2014-15 puzzle.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder wanted a serviceable big, and they got one. Michigan’s Mitch McGary’s draft stock was shaky due to his recent injury history and his adoration for the reefer, but taking him felt so right. Hey, anything to shove Kendrick Perkins and his expressionless face off the floor as much as possible, am I right? I’m looking at you, McGary and Steven Adams. (Side note: McGary’s selection means there are three centers, each with documented character issues, on Oklahoma City’s roster. I love the NBA.) Josh Huesstis may have been a head scratcher in the first round, but you can’t deny what he brings to the table defensively. OKC may need him for depth. Oh, and there’s a fellow by the name of Kevin Durant who could help mentor him. That’s always a good thing. Xavier point guard Semaj Christon probably won’t see time in the near future due to Reggie Jackson’s continuing surge, but he’s a nice piece to stash away, should Jackson or star floor general Russell Westbrook flee the friendly confines of Oklahoma City.
Excuse me for the length of this report, but there’s an abundance of topics to discuss here in central Florida. The Magic stand, at this moment, as the potential lone team in the association to dub two rookies as starters, but due to recent transactions that could all change very quickly. Bringing in veteran Channing Frye greatly reduces the chance of Aaron Gordon hearing his name called routinely at power forward, unless they want to play out a lengthy lineup that would feature the former Arizona Wildcat at the three. This, of course, depends on Tobias Harris, the incumbent. In his sophomore season as head honcho, Jacque Vaughn will have many lineup-related decisions to make, clearly. One place in the rotation that won’t need fixing is point guard. Once longtime Magician and former All-Star Jameer Nelson was told to leave town, the keys were handed to Rajon Rondo clone Elfrid Payton. Like Boston’s star, Payton is a do-it-all-except-shoot floor general, but Orlando had enough faith in his improvement to give him what every young point guard lusts after. Potentially and perhaps realistically, we could see the Magic throw 30-plus minutes per game at both Payton and Gordon. Even Roy Devyn Marble, a first-team All-Big 10 selection last year, could see some time on the Amway Center floor. To say the Magic will rely the most on their rookies this season, save for maybe Utah or Milwaukee, is a gross understatement. They could easily round out two starters by mid-season. It’s a scary thought, but the team will be in good hands if Gordon and Payton project to be the way Magic fans dream.
MCW as a first-year player. Philadelphia’s rookies won’t set them up for immediate success, so consider this a tanking-approved squad. You know what? Forget Embiid’s, Noel’s and Saric’s “potential”. Let’s all climb aboard the “Whiff for Cliff” and “Blow for Okafor” express right now.
The Suns employ a blue-collared basketball team, so it only made sense that they picked natural scorer TJ Warren at 14th overall. Warren is poised for a role his rookie season, but he won’t start due to Gerald Green’s re-birth last season. Expect his minutes to be somewhere in the teens this year. Although the Suns often run a two point guard offense, Tyler Ennis won’t be a factor right away based on the the team’s signing of the speedster Isaiah Thomas, and the likelihood that they match any offer restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe is bound to receive. On the totem pole of the four floor generals on the roster (All-NBA performer Goran Dragic being the other), Ennis is the clear quaternary option. Bogdan Bogdanovic won’t come to the NBA for a while, so his impact obviously won’t be seen right away.
Portland Trail Blazers
Unless Summer League invitees Keith Appling and Davion Berry make noise soon, I don’t think a single rookie makes this roster. Portland seems pretty set on what it has.
The Kings surprised some when they used the eighth selection on Michigan shooting guard Nik Stauskas. Stauskas is a born basketball player, a guy who possesses the intangibles and shooting touch to make almost any roster in the NBA. Sacramento is no exception, where he may start from day one with a big role expected of him. Not many others in the class can say this is true about themselves.
San Antonio Spurs
Kyle Anderson, who many project as a Boris Diaw-type, will play under the wing this season of, you guessed it, Boris Diaw. Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim, a 6’6 forward, may need an extraordinary summer to make the final cut. San Antonio’s lineup projects to be nearly the same as the ball sharing, party-crashing crew that took home the gold a month ago. That’s a good thing.
Bruno Caboclo has impressed this summer to the point where Fran Fraschilla may regret the whole “two years away from being two years away” debacle. While his future remains in the air (and the same can be said for second-round selection DeAndre Daniels), there’s no doubt Caboclo is just as good as the Raps pegged him to be when they shocked everyone by selecting him at 20th overall.
Make no excuses, the Jazz killed the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft. Taking Dante Exum fifth and Rodney Hood 23rd were perfect and fearless selections. Exum may start right away and will undoubtedly contribute from the get go in Salt Lake City. Hood is dominating Vegas and will, rightfully so, earn a spot on the Utah bench.
The Wizards traded away their only pick in June, and the Summer League roster is full of question marks. It’s safe to assume there won’t be any major contributors for the upcoming season. The roster is set in stone, and solid.
by Joseph Fafinski (06.27.2014)
“With the next pick of the 2014 NBA Draft, the NBA selects Isaiah Austin, out of Baylor University.”
With the crowd on its feet in applause, a tall figure, stricken with emotion, emerged from the shadows.
The singular most memorable moment of Thursday’s NBA Draft came not from a kid who was heading for a new life and destination but one whose hope, crushed by a nightmare scenario, was given a silver lining, if only for a minute. Baylor’s Isaiah Austin’s dream, to be selected in the draft, came true, but this wasn’t how anyone envisioned it.
Just five days ago, Austin, thought by most as a lock to hear his name called Thursday, was diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome. This disease causes the misfolding of fibrillin, a protein that is necessary to aid strength and flexibility. Essentially, it helps connect body cells and organs together. It is estimated that one in every three to five thousand people suffer from this disorder, and it occurs more often in those who stand tall physically.
The 7’1 Austin, who through this life-changing week has showed nothing but positivity and strength, shined in his post-selection interview. He told ESPN’s Jay Williams that he plans to tell his story to as many people as he can, stressing that any obstacle one faces in their life can be overcome. For Austin, it was the dream of playing professionally, something no one doubted until last weekend’s shocking news.
"I worked so hard to get to this point and unfortunately it was taken away, but when God closes one door, He opens another for you,” Austin told Williams. It was a touching moment. The NBA was certain to give at least some of his dream to him, and you can bet goosebumps were had at the Fafinski household. This draft was more than just about basketball--it was about cherishing every moment you have on this Earth. Austin proved just that.
Despite the diagnosis, perplexing to some and devastating to others, that shut down his basketball career and will no doubt change his life forever, Isaiah Austin stood tall Thursday, and not just because of that 7’1 frame.
(picture taken from ABC.com)
by Joseph Fafinski (06.26.2014)
Welcome to the 60 Picks live NBA Draft blog!
Here's a breakdown of the top 10 selections--
1. Cleveland Cavaliers-- Andrew Wiggins: The best two-way player in the draft and the rightful choice at number one. Now we await the unlikely possibility of a trade.
2. Milwaukee Bucks-- Jabari Parker: Parker was pretty much a given once Wiggins flew off the board. Parker stated upon being selected that he wanted to be a guy who stayed with one club his whole career. So the Bucks have their franchise face.
3. Philadelphia 76ers-- Joel Embiid: I can't lie--I was surprised with this pick at three. With so many solid power forwards in the class and an up-and-coming center in Nerlens Noel eagerly awaiting his Sixers debut, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Philly is making it known they're planning towards the future. Nonetheless, Embiid's sky is the limit, although his post-pick face isn't.
4. Orlando Magic-- Aaron Gordon: The Magic probably should've gone point guard here (edit: they dealt for Elfrid Payton about an hour later. Solid pickup.), but I guess the most athletic prospect in the class had to do. Gordon could be a beast with Nik Vucevic down low.
5. Utah Jazz-- Dante Exum: The best all-around point guard in the class is headed to Utah. Exum, an Australian import, couples his ability on the floor with his excellent humor (and accent) in those new Foot Locker commercials.
6. Boston Celtics-- Marcus Smart: Oh, boy. Expect Rajon Rondo's days with the C's to be numbered. Nonetheless, a good pick.
7. Los Angeles Lakers-- Julius Randle: Kobe Bryant approved this move. Is there any better indication of a seal from the Lakers?
8. Sacramento Kings-- Nik Stauskas: Was anyone as awesome as Nik Stauskas tonight? I don't think so. Sacramento continues to put together, as a buddy of mine said, "the weirdest roster in the NBA."
9. Charlotte Hornets-- Noah Vonleh: Prior to tonight, many folks predicted they'd take a shooter like Stauskas or Creighton's Doug McDermott. Instead, they harnessed a gem in Vonleh, an enormous-handed, rebounding freak.
10. Philadelphia 76ers-- Elfrid Payton: Another interesting pick by the Sixers, who are in no means to exit tanking mode. Oh, well. Whiff for Cliff? (edit: Payton was later traded to the Magic in exchange for two-years-down-the-road Croatian stud Dario Saric. It doesn't get better, Philadelphia.)
by Joseph Fafinski (06.23.2014)
The 2014 NBA Draft class is loaded with top-tier talent and prospects. Already being proclaimed as one of the greatest ever, there are several players whose talents will flourish at the professional level. That being said, the second round of the draft could showcase guys who could make an impact in the NBA as well. Here are a few guys who, while flying under the radar, we see taking roster spots come fall.
Florida's Patric Young is a guy who has been up and down big boards and mocks everywhere. He's been everywhere from potential top-20 pick to undrafted. I say he'll go somewhere in the 30s. Unquestionably the most scrutinized of the potential second-rounders, Young would've likely been a top selection last season had he come out. His senior season in Gainesville might prove to be the biggest con in snagging him. He's extremely raw in the post and a bit undersized but possesses the essential mechanics defensively to succeed. I see a little Glen Davis, without the baby fat, in Young's game. He won't ever be the fastest player on the court, but he's big enough (his muscles have a cult following...seriously) to mesh with even the strongest in the big leagues.
Although he doesn't have the prototypical arsenal scouts love and he's a bit undersized, there's no denying Jabari Brown's scoring ability. He averaged a shade under 20 points per game for Missouri last season and was often the one called upon to make the big shot on a roster that also featured likely first-rounder Jordan Clarkson. Brown is in the mold of Jodie Meeks, meaning he won't do much outside his specialty but excels enough in that one trait than an NBA club will find a roster spot for him. Call this a homer pick, as I am a student at the University of Missouri, but don't say Brown's scoring won't translate. He could be a poor man's Jamal Crawford.
Like his counterpart Aaron Gordon in Tuscon, Arizona's Nick Johnson can flat out fly. He's athletic but doesn't possess the size (at 6'2, he's a combo guard) or the upside that so many other guards in the class share. Ultimately, as a professional, he poses more problems than scouts would like to see, but then again there are several NBA players who share very similar skill sets. Think of Johnson as an explosive but very limited pro.
His young brother, Giannis, might be headed for NBA stardom some day, but for now Greece's Thanasis Antetokounmpko remains a mystery. Secretly, I wish Milwaukee would take him in the second round to pair with The Greek Freak. He's a defensive-minded individual with crafty, long arms who is very limited on the other side of the floor. Thanasis displays shades of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and brings energy to any club. He has a work ethic any coach will love, which leads me to believe he'll find a spot on some bench somewhere.
If there's a mid-major prospect who thrives on the big stage, it's New Mexico's Cameron Bairstow. Originally from Australia, Bairstow lit up the city of Albuquerque during his four seasons in the desert. He's a hard-working big who primes himself on success in the paint, despite not being the most athletic specimen in the class. If nothing else, teams will see a guy who always puts forth his best effort. He scored in bunches in college, largely due to his improving post game and solid mid-range jumper. He's already 23 years old, which doesn't boil over well, and isn't the fastest tool in the shed. Nonetheless, the work ethic and stroke might be enough to seal a bench spot somewhere. It doesn't hurt that he stands 6'10 and weighs 250 pounds, measurements that will stack up well in the NBA.
(Image taken from onsugar.com)
by Joseph Fafinski (05.26.2014)
The Cleveland Cavaliers, after drawing the final ping-pong ball of the lottery for the third time in the last four years, find themselves in a fortunate situation that now must be resolved. According to Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com, the Cavaliers value Joel Embiid’s talents more so than any other prospect on the board. That being said, they’re not ruling out bringing Kansas wing Andrew Wiggins or Duke small forward Jabari Parker to the second-largest city in Ohio.
There has long been talk regarding LeBron James and his possible return to Cleveland this offseason. Nevertheless, the real question here—what the team should do with the number one overall pick—takes higher priority at the moment. Embiid, as noted earlier, is who a lot of people expect to be the first name commissioner Adam Silver calls out come June. If Cleveland relinquishes Anderson Varejao and his $9.8 million team option this summer, it’s completely feasible to see Embiid sporting the wine and gold next season. He’s long, defends excellently, and has upside through the roof. There are two problems regarding the Gainesville, Fl. native’s stock: first, his back issues, which have been documented to the moon and back, pose a threat (will he be the next Greg Oden?); and secondly, he might not even be the top prospect from his own university. In 60 Picks’ first mock draft, published the day after the lottery, Wiggins, Embiid's collegiate teammate, came off the board with the first overall pick. Wiggins, who has been touted for the last however long as “the next big thing”, got off to a slow start in his only season in Lawrence. After brushing off the nerves, the 6’8 Canadian rattled off a streak where he notched at least 17 points and four rebounds in 12 of 13 games. Wiggins, a unanimous selection to the Big-12 All-First Team, defends and scores at an elite level and his athleticism is arguably the best out of any recent hopeful prospect we’ve encountered. What remains to be seen is whether the Cavaliers re-sign Luol Deng, C.J. Miles, and pick up Alonzo Gee’s option. This is important for a wing like Wiggins, and the same can be said for fellow prospect Jabari Parker. Parker, like Wiggins and Embiid, is a diaper dandy whose somewhat elongated decision caused less tension than a college student earning an A pre-finals and needing a just 20 percent on the exam to pass the class. He’s athletic and possesses the prototype NBA-ready body that scouts drool over.
Really, none of these three being selected number one overall should surprise. All three are primed for success at the professional level and are the first three on the 60 Picks Big Board (Wiggins at one, Parker two, Embiid three). Regardless of what transpires over the coming weeks, we can all agree that there is a dilemma of sorts, albeit stemming from a lucky outcome in the lottery, up in Cleveland. At the end of the day LeBron James might be the ultimate answer, but in order for that to happen the team must primarily focus on the first question, and that is what to do with the inaugural selection in June’s draft. Without the chicken, the egg will never come.
(image taken from standingosports.com)
Matthew Quammen has just posted his first scouting report of UCLA's Kyle Anderson:
"Most likely, he’ll need to learn to play off the ball in the NBA, but with the ability to initiate offense as Andre Igoudala does in certain sets for the Warriors. Possessing high basketball IQ, he should be able to make the adjustment."
READ THE FULL REPORT HERE.