Friday, June 28, 2013

NBA Draft Day Winners And Losers

Shocking many NBA fans, the Cleveland Cavaliers selected
UNLV forward Anthony Bennett with the first overall pick.

     Most analysts considered this year's draft a weak class, but the 2013 NBA Draft was definitely exciting and intriguing in a number of ways. From selections, to trades, to the exit celebration for commissioner David Stern, it was a great night for most NBA fans. Let's examine the winners and losers of this year's hectic draft day.

Winner - Anthony Bennett

Why: Here's one of the more obvious winners of the night. Bennett even said himself that he was shocked to be taken first overall. Cavaliers fans might be worried, but Bennett is a young prospect with high potential. There are weight concerns, but if Bennett sheds some pounds, he can be a nightmare for traditional small forwards and bigger, slower power forwards. Bennett has special offensive versatility because he can shoot from the outside and post up in the paint. Out of all the prospects in this year's draft, he has arguably the highest potential.

Loser - Indiana Pacers

Why: This was simply a weird draft for the Pacers. In the first round, they selected Arizona small forward Solomon Hill. There is no denying Hill's talent -- I did see him play in several games this season and during the NCAA Tournament -- but the consensus of most draft experts was that he would be picked in the second round. Another concern is that Hill is a small forward, where the Pacers already have Paul George and Danny Granger filling that slot. To make things even more head-scratching, Indiana traded their second round pick to Boston. The Pacers may know something that other teams and fans don't, but selecting somebody they probably could have gotten later in the draft who doesn't fill a position of need is a fairly questionable decision.

Winner - Brooklyn Nets

Why: Duke center Mason Plumlee is a solid value pick for the Nets, but that's not the only reason why Brooklyn is one of the biggest winners of Draft Day. As most fans are well aware, the Nets pulled off a blockbuster deal with Boston to acquire Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry. Now, the Nets boast arguably the best starting five in the entire Association. The Nets are clearly in win-now mode under owner Mikhail Prokhorov and Billy King. From winning only a dozen games three years ago, the Nets are now legitimate title contenders.

Loser - Golden State Warriors

Why: At the end of the first round, the Warriors selected Serbian point guard Nemanja Nedovic. In most drafts, Nedovic was projected to be taken in the second round. With free agents Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry set to earn a bigger pay day if they decline their player options, the selection of an international prospect who won't contribute immediately is a bit underwhelming. Draftees that the Warriors passed on include Jamaal Franklin, Lorenzo Brown and Tony Mitchell, among others.

Winner - New Orleans Pelicans

Jrue Holiday becomes New Orleans' first franchise
point guard since Chris Paul.
Why: Another significant trade that was overshadowed by the Boston-Brooklyn deal involved Philadelphia 76ers All Star point guard Jrue Holiday being dealt to the New Orleans Pelicans for 2013 first round pick Nerlens Noel and a 2014 protected first round pick. Holiday, 23, is just starting to scratch the surface of his perennial All Star potential and gives New Orleans a legitimate star floor general for years to come. His modest salary of $11 million per year gives the Pelicans flexibility in attracting free agents to play with he and 2013 All-Rookie First Team member Anthony Davis. If the Pelicans can acquire a highly skilled small forward and an offensive-minded center to play next to Davis, they might be able to push for a playoff spot in their inaugural season as the "Pelicans."

Loser - Boston Celtics Fans

Why: Well, for this year at least. It's been a tough summer so far for Celtics fans. With three years left on his contract and mulling his options, head coach Doc Rivers fled Boston to become head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers via trade. Last night didn't make things much better once faces-of-the-franchise Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were dealt to Brooklyn, an Atlantic Division rival. All Star point guard Rajon Rondo is still in Beantown, but he's recovering from a torn ACL and likely will be out for a lengthy portion of the season. This is probably a year to forget for a proud Celtics franchise, but there are better days ahead, especially in the summer of 2014.

Winner - Detroit Pistons

Why: Detroit is one of the young, up-and-coming teams in the NBA and they improved even more last night in an impressive draft by general manager Joe Dumars. With the eighth overall selection, the Pistons selected former Georgia swingman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The shooting guard has bright potential and can step in to contribute right away. He can shoot the ball from the perimeter and attack the basket aggressively. His length and quickness helps him on both sides of the ball. But, Caldwell-Pope isn't the only reason that Detroit is a Draft Day winner. In the second round, Detroit selected Tony Mitchell and Peyton Siva. Mitchell, a power forward from North Texas, is a strong athlete that was projected to be drafted in the first round by most experts. Siva was the floor general catalyst for Louisville during their championship run. Both Mitchell and Siva were solid value picks that will help round out their young, growing roster.

Incomplete - Philadelphia 76ers

Why: What general manager Sam Hinkie did wasn't exactly confusing, but it was certainly a gamble. Some, notably ESPN analyst Bill Simmons, believe that the Sixers obtained great pieces/assets in this draft, but I'm not so sure. The Sixers traded the one player that kept them competitive last season in point guard Jrue Holiday to obtain Nerlens Noel, a very skinny center who has injury concerns, major offensive deficiencies and all the ingredients to become a draft bust. With the eleventh overall pick, their selection of Michael Carter-Williams was a smart one, but it's clear that this team is essentially succumbing this season in an effort to land a high draft pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, which is regarded as one of the strongest classes in recent history. They also acquired a top-five 2014 protected pick from New Orleans in the trade, but depending on how competitive the Pelicans are in the upcoming season, that pick could be mid-lottery, late lottery or even out of the entire lottery if they make the playoffs. Things may or may not pan out, but only time will tell for this franchise.

Winner - Minnesota Timberwolves

Why: Minnesota had arguably the best draft out of all 30 NBA teams. Flip Saunders was cunningly strategic by drafting Trey Burke, the best point guard prospect, at ninth overall knowing that he could flip Burke to a point guard desperate team for extra selections. Saunders did exactly that, flipping Burke to Utah for the 14th and 21st picks, which were used to draft Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng. Muhammad, a Co-Pac 12 Freshman of the Year, is heralded as a cold-blooded scorer and an exceptional work ethic. Dieng, the defensive stopper for Louisville's championship team, blocks shots and gets on the glass often. He also has a decent, developing mid-range game. In the second round, Minnesota selected North Carolina State point guard Lorenzo Brown, who was projected as one of the better point guard prospects, to presumably play behind Ricky Rubio.

Steal of the Draft: Memphis Grizzlies - Jamaal Franklin

Why: Franklin was widely considered a first round prospect and worked out for a number of first round teams, so it was surprising to see him fall all the way to the 41st overall selection. The main knock on Franklin is his lack of a perimeter shot, but otherwise, he is a solid, all-around role player who is very similar to Memphis guard Tony Allen. Franklin could attack the basket to score, defend, run and rebound the ball extremely well. Memphis is a gritty, tough team that Franklin's style of play meshes with perfectly. This is a fantastic value pick for Memphis because Franklin fills a need on this Grizzlies team and fits within the roster better than any of the other prospects that were available at that point of the NBA Draft.

     How do you think your team fared in this year's NBA draft? What did you think of all the activity and trades during the draft? Voice your opinion in the comments section below!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Complete 2013 NBA Mock Draft

The 2013 NBA Draft will be the last time Commissioner David Stern (right)
will read the selections, as he is set to retire. Adam Silver (left) will be his successor.

     The NBA Draft is officially less than 24 hours away, as fans, executives and prospects prepare for the future to unfold. Sixty young men will be picked out of a much larger pool to live their dream as an NBA player. In that being said, here are the sixty players who I believe will hear their name called on the stage whose futures will be changed forever. My analysis of the first round can be found here.

The First Round

1. Cleveland Cavaliers - Nerlens Noel, Center, Kentucky

2. Orlando Magic - Victor Oladipo, Shooting Guard, Indiana

Indiana's Oladipo (right) and Zeller (left) are
lottery-projected draft picks.

3. Washington Wizards - Otto Porter Jr., Small Forward, Georgetown

4. Charlotte Bobcats - Anthony Bennett, Power Forward, UNLV

5. Phoenix Suns - Ben McLemore, Shooting Guard, Kansas

6. New Orleans Hornets - Alex Len, Center, Maryland

7. Sacramento Kings - Trey Burke, Point Guard, Michigan

8. Detroit Pistons - Michael Carter-Williams, Point Guard, Syracuse

9. Minnesota Timberwolves - Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Shooting Guard, Georgia

10. Portland Trail Blazers - C.J. McCollum, Point Guard, Lehigh

11. Philadelphia 76ers - Cody Zeller, Center, Indiana

12. Oklahoma City Thunder - Steven Adams, Center, Pittsburgh

13. Dallas Mavericks - Sergey Karasev, Small Forward, Russia

14. Utah Jazz - Shane Larkin, Point Guard, Miami (FL)

15. Milwaukee Bucks - Shabazz Muhammad, Shooting Guard, UCLA

16. Boston Celtics - Dennis Schroeder, Point Guard, Germany

17. Atlanta Hawks - Kelly Olynyk, Center, Gonzaga

18. Atlanta Hawks - Giannis Adetokunbo, Small Forward, Greece

19. Cleveland Cavaliers - Jamaal Franklin, Shooting Guard, San Diego State

20. Chicago Bulls - Tim Hardaway Jr., Shooting Guard, Michigan

21. Utah Jazz - Mason Plumlee, Center, Duke

22. Brooklyn Nets - Gorgui Dieng, Center, Louisville

23. Indiana Pacers - Tony Mitchell, Power Forward, North Texas

24. New York Knicks - Jeff Withey, Center, Kansas

Glen Rice Jr. is attempting to make the
jump from the D-League to the NBA.
25. Los Angeles Clippers - Glen Rice Jr., Small Forward, Rio Grande Valley Vipers

26. Minnesota Timberwolves - Allen Crabbe, Shooting Guard, California

27. Denver Nuggets - Isaiah Canaan, Point Guard, Murray State

28. San Antonio Spurs - Rudy Gobert, Power Forward, France

29. Oklahoma City Thunder - Lucas Nogueira, Center, Brazil

30. Phoenix Suns - Mike Muscala, Center, Bucknell

The Second Round

31. Cleveland Cavaliers - Reggie Bullock, Small Forward, UNC

32. Oklahoma City Thunder - Alex Abrines, Shooting Guard, Spain

33. Cleveland Cavaliers - Pierre Jackson, Point Guard, Baylor

34. Houston Rockets - Deshaun Thomas, Power Forward, Ohio State

35. Philadelphia 76ers - Ricardo Ledo, Shooting Guard, Providence

36. Sacramento Kings - Tony Snell, Small Forward, New Mexico

37. Detroit Pistons - C.J. Leslie, Small Forward, North Carolina State

38. Washington Wizards - Nate Wolters, Point Guard, South Dakota State

39. Portland Trail Blazers - Andre Roberson, Small Forward, Colorado

40. Portland Trail Blazers - Colton Iverson, Center, Colorado State

41. Memphis Grizzlies - Lorenzo Brown, Point Guard, North Carolina State

Kabongo, a former All-American, is looking
to silence his critics at the next level.
42. Philadelphia 76ers - Livio Jean-Charles, Small Forward, France

43. Milwaukee Bucks - Erick Green, Point Guard, Virginia Tech

44. Dallas Mavericks - Myck Kabongo, Point Guard, Texas

45. Portland Trail Blazers - Marko Todorovic, Center, Montenegro

46. Utah Jazz - James Ennis, Small Forward, Long Beach State

47. Atlanta Hawks - Ray McCallum, Point Guard, Detroit

48. Los Angeles Lakers - Archie Goodwin, Shooting Guard, Kentucky

49. Chicago Bulls - Dewayne Dedmon, Center, USC

50. Atlanta Hawks - Jackie Carmichael, Power Forward, Illinois State

51. Orlando Magic - Seth Curry, Shooting Guard, Duke

52. Minnesota Timberwolves - Trevor Mbakwe, Power Forward, Minnesota

53. Indiana Pacers - Phil Pressey, Point Guard, Missouri

54. Washington Wizards - Grant Jerrett, Power Forward, Arizona

55. Memphis Grizzlies - Michael Snaer, Shooting Guard, Florida State

56. Detroit Pistons - Peyton Siva, Point Guard, Louisville

57. Phoenix Suns - Ryan Kelly, Power Forward, Duke

58. San Antonio Spurs - Bojan Dubljevic, Power Forward, Montenegro

59. Minnesota Timberwolves - Solomon Hill, Small Forward, Arizona

60. Memphis Grizzlies - Nemanja Nedovic, Point Guard, Serbia

     Comments? Questions? Feel free to leave a comment below and I'll respond as soon as possible. Also, I'll be present at this year's draft at the Barclays Center, so follow me on Twitter @TheSkiReport for live-tweeting and the latest NBA updates from Brooklyn!

2013 NBA Draft First Round Projections

Rumors have varied, but it seems the Cavaliers will select a center at #1 overall.
Question is, will they pick Nerlens Noel (left) or Alex Len (right)?
     In recent memory, the 2013 NBA Draft may be the most puzzling for scouts, analysts and general managers who study college basketball and international prospects. Many have touted this year's class of prospects as "weak" compared to previous drafts and lacking of future superstar talent. For the second time in three years, the Cleveland Cavaliers have won the top spot in the draft, but there has not been one bona fide prospect that has stood out to be the guaranteed first overall pick. The Cavaliers are still mulling who to select and have even considered trading the pick. With the draft just a day away, here are my projections for the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft. Feel free to leave a comment below!

The Mock

1. Cleveland Cavaliers - Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky

Why Noel: The Cavaliers have exhausted as many resources as possible to figure out what to do with the top pick, and they still might not know what to do. While they could go with the "safe need" pick and select Otto Porter, I believe the Cavs select Noel because of his defensive prowess and overall potential. If Noel didn't suffer a terrible knee injury, he'd be the consensus No. 1 choice. Also, the Cavaliers have Anderson Varejao and Tyler Zeller to hold down the paint as Noel recovers. Noel is a project and could have bust written all over him, but if the Cavaliers are patient, he can develop into a potential Defensive Player of the Year caliber player.

2. Orlando Magic - Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana

Why Oladipo: If the Magic decide to trade Arron Afflalo for Eric Bledsoe, Orlando will have a hole at shooting guard. Orlando will approach this situation in two ways -- to select either Oladipo or Kansas guard Ben McLemore. Both are freakishly athletic, but Oladipo's skill set is more polished than that of McLemore. Oladipo is much more fundamentally sound on defense and can create on offense. He is generally considered one of the "safe" picks in the draft and even ranked the top prospect by some analysts. Oladipo oozes All Star potential and should be Orlando's selection.

3. Washington Wizards - Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown

Why Porter: This projection is a tough cookie. Earlier reports were that the Wizards were determined to select Anthony Bennett, but now it seems that Porter could be the choice. Porter is the logical fit for the Wizards because he fills their gaping hole at small forward immediately and is considered -- along with Oladipo -- as the "safest" prospect in the draft. He can score, rebound, defend and handle the ball well. He has all the desirable traits a team would look for in a top prospect. Look for the Wizards to challenge for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference this season.

4. Charlotte Bobcats - Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV

Why Bennett: He is the offensive threat that this Charlotte team desperately needs in the starting lineup. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bismack Biyombo have shown little offensive skill this past season and guard Gerald Henderson will be a free agent this summer. Charlotte isn't exactly the hottest free agent destination, so they would be wise to select a big man with great offensive talent, such as Bennett or Alex Len, who can contribute scoring and on the glass immediately.

5. Phoenix Suns - Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas

Why McLemore: The young former Kansas phenomenon is exactly what this discrepant Suns franchise needs. He has the sweetest shooting stroke and arguably the highest ceiling of all the prospects in this year's draft. McLemore has even drawn comparisons to future Hall of Famer Ray Allen. McLemore will not reach that potential quickly, but his lanky, athletic frame is reminiscent of a shorter Paul George. McLemore's floor is probably O.J. Mayo, which isn't bad at all. McLemore has a bright future and gives Phoenix someone to be very excited about.

6. New Orleans Pelicans - Alex Len, C, Maryland

Why Len: The former Maryland Terrapin would be the perfect adversary to Anthony Davis in the future. Davis is more polished defensively and is better suited as a power forward anyway because of his long but not yet bulky frame. Len has the height (he stands at 7'1") and broadness to play center in the NBA. He has decent athleticism and much promise offensively, with a variance of post moves that are similar to those of Nets center Brook Lopez.

7. Sacramento Kings - Trey Burke, PG, Michigan

Why Burke: Trey Burke was the unquestioned leader of the Michigan Wolverines in leading them to the national championship game this past season. The Naismith Player of the Year is short, but plays with a ton of heart and has an alpha dog mentality. Under a new ownership group and coach, if the Kings select Burke to be their franchise point guard of the future, Sacramento could be on the way back to relevance.

Burke (left) and Carter-Williams (right) are the top point guards
in the 2013 NBA Draft.

8. Detroit Pistons - Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse

Why Carter-Williams: MCW brings a unique skill set to a Detroit team that is nearing its breakout. He's a 6'6" point guard that was one of the leaders in the country in assists per game. One of the knocks on Carter-Williams' game is his jump shot, but as Kawhi Leonard of the Spurs has proven, a player can develop an NBA perimeter jump shot over time. Carter-Williams is a natural point guard, which will allow Brandon Knight to move over to shooting guard. He has good potential and reminds me of a poor man's Rajon Rondo. C.J. McCollum is a popular choice to go to the Pistons, but they already have undersized combo guards in Knight and Rodney Stuckey.

9. Minnesota Timberwolves - Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia

Why Caldwell-Pope: KCP was the lone bright spot for a dismal Georgia team this past season and while his team suffered, Caldwell-Pope surely didn't fail to shine when in the spotlight. His incredible athleticism, long frame and proficient three point shot will help him thrive in the NBA. In Minnesota, he'll most likely step into a starting gig right away, but I expect Caldwell-Pope to have a very solid NBA career.

10. Portland Trail Blazers - C.J. McCollum, PG/SG, Lehigh

Why McCollum: Two seasons ago, McCollum led the nation in scoring average. He instantly adds a major factor to Portland's bench, which was abysmal for the most part last season. McCollum and point guard Damian Lillard are a potent, dangerous scoring tandem that will help lead Portland on a hopeful playoff run.

11. Philadelphia 76ers - Cody Zeller, C/PF, Indiana

Why Zeller: At the NBA Draft Combine, Zeller tested out in several drills extraordinarily which garnered praise that he could be the next LaMarcus Aldridge or Chris Bosh. Whether or not the mercurial Andrew Bynum returns to Philadelphia, the 76ers are in need of another big man. Cody Zeller could step in, be a leader and contribute from Day 1. This pick is a near no-brainer.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder - Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh

Why Adams: The big man from New Zealand has one of the highest upsides of any player in this draft. He is particularly strong on defense and the glass, but at the NBA Draft Combine shocked several scouts by showing off a nice mid-range game. Adams is still a developmental project, but he could develop behind Kendrick Perkins for a season or two. Plus, the Thunder don't need him to contribute right away. Oklahoma City usually plays its cards right and this could be the steal of the draft.

13. Dallas Mavericks - Sergey Karasev, SF, Russia

Why Karasev: This Russian prospect has been a noted fit with the Mavericks as an ideal "draft and stash." Dallas may or may not trade this pick in an attempt to clear up as much salary as possible to pursue big name free agents this summer. If Dallas keeps this pick, don't be surprised if they select an international prospect to stash overseas for a season so that they have more cap room for this summer.

14. Utah Jazz - Shane Larkin, PG, Miami (FL)

Why Larkin: Utah's biggest hole this offseason is at point guard. While Larkin is oft criticized for his diminutive stature, his unbelievable athleticism makes up for his height. His athleticism is Russell Westbrook-esque and if he becomes half the player Westbrook is, Jazz fans will have large smiles across their faces.

15. Milwaukee Bucks - Shabazz Muhammad, SG/SF, UCLA

Why Muhammad: Shabazz Muhammad came into UCLA as one of the most hyped freshmen in the country and for a long period of time, was considered to be selected near the very top of this year's draft. However, over the course of the past season and pre-draft events, his stock has dramatically fallen. The biggest positive about Muhammad is his scoring prowess and great work ethic. In Milwaukee, he gives the Bucks a potential All Star and a guy who isn't afraid to have the ball in his hands at the end of a long as Brandon Jennings would be willing to pass the ball to him.

16. Boston Celtics - Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany

Why Schroeder: The young German point guard has been up and down mock drafts, but I think Boston will be his landing spot. Rajon Rondo will be out for a good portion of the upcoming season after tearing his ACL, so Boston will need a natural point guard to fill his role. Schroeder has even drawn some comparisons to Rondo because of his elusiveness and huge hands.

17. Atlanta Hawks - Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga

Why Olynyk: Hopefully the Hawks aren't hedging all of their bets that Dwight Howard will be taking his talents to A-Town, even though it looks like they might already have, but Olynyk is not a bad draft consolation. He and Al Horford would form a solid scoring duo in the paint, yet defense will be a major question if they fail to re-sign Josh Smith.

18. Atlanta Hawks - Giannis Adetokunbo, SF, Greece

Why Adetokunbo: This international man of mystery is incredibly raw and will likely need to develop overseas for at least two years, but dividends could pay off if he is developed properly. Adetokunbo is listed as a 6'9" point-forward with a supposed high amount of potential. He could be picked anywhere from 10-29 in this draft, but whichever team selects him must know that he is the definition of a long-term project. The Hawks could gamble with this pick and stash him in Europe for a couple years, because he needs to grow into his body and start playing competition better than Division III basketball.

19. Cleveland Cavaliers - Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State

Why Franklin: The versatile guard plays very similar to his predecessor at San Diego State -- Kawhi Leonard. Franklin's biggest struggle is his three-point shooting, but that can be fixed over time. He is aggressive on defense, can attack the basket on offense and rebounds excellently for somebody of his size. He will be a welcome addition by head coach Mike Brown, who preaches defense.

20. Chicago Bulls - Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Michigan

Why Hardaway Jr.: The Michigan guard fills the Bulls' longstanding hole at shooting guard for the short and long-term future. He has great length and range and will be counted on to hit the perimeter jumper. His consistency on defense is a question mark, but if anybody could get the most out of his players, it's Tom Thibodeau. Hardaway Jr., like his father before him, should have a solid, productive NBA career.

21. Utah Jazz - Mason Plumlee, C/PF, Duke

Why Plumlee: After selecting a franchise point guard at #14, the Jazz need some size to neutralize the likely departures of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Young big men Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter can fill in for those two, but Plumlee will be needed as an athlete off the bench. You can never have enough size in the NBA.

22. Brooklyn Nets - Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville

Why Dieng: The Senegalese-born center is exactly who the Nets need in the draft. At Louisville, Dieng was the defensive menace in the paint that surely was a big reason why the Cardinals won the NCAA Championship this past season. At Louisville, Dieng averaged nearly a double-double in points and rebounds and led the Big East with over three blocks per game. He's the defensive stopper the Nets are looking for behind Brook Lopez. Also, if he falls to the Nets, it's unlikely that he slides past Brooklyn.

Dieng was instrumental to Louisville's success and is heralded
as an impressive, spectacular defensive stopper.

23. Indiana Pacers - Tony Mitchell, PF, North Texas

Why Mitchell: This hybrid forward had an underwhelming season at North Texas, but tested out well at the NBA Draft Combine, which should help him maintain his first-round stock. David West is likely to stay in Indiana, but there are rumblings that fan favorite Danny Granger might be traded. Mitchell is a high-energy, athletic body who could contribute right away off the bench and maybe start in the distant future. Indiana's small market and team chemistry would be a great setting for Mitchell.

24. New York Knicks - Jeff Withey, C, Kansas

Why Withey: This former Jayhawk fits the Knicks best because of his defense in the paint. He should not be asked to start because of his still-developing offensive repertoire, but he provides a reliable, intelligent backup to Tyson Chandler, who he has modeled his game after.

25. Los Angeles Clippers - Glen Rice Jr., SF, NBDL

Why Rice Jr.: The former Georgia Tech product is intriguing in many ways, but most of all because he's taken a different approach by playing in the D-League before going into the draft. He fills a need for the Clippers on the wing and should be able to contribute right away. In what is considered a weak draft, Rice Jr.'s developed learning curve in the D-League will help him thrive early on. For a Clippers team with championship aspirations, this could be a very beneficial move for "Lob City."

26. Minnesota Timberwolves - Allen Crabbe, SG, California

Why Crabbe: Yes, I projected Minnesota to take a shooting guard early, but if anyone remembers the 2009 NBA Draft, the Timberwolves do draft multiple players at a specific position. Crabbe comes in as a prodigious shooter that can be a sixth man right away. He and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope shall fill the Timberwolves' hole at shooting guard for years to come.

27. Denver Nuggets - Isaiah Canaan, PG, Murray State

Why Canaan: The Murray State point guard fell a bit off the map this year after his team failed to duplicate their collective, impressive performance of two seasons ago when they made a run to the NCAA Tournament. However, that doesn't take away the fact that Canaan is a skilled player. He is a score-first point guard, but can develop into a Jameer Nelson-type player.

28. San Antonio Spurs - Rudy Gobert, C/PF, France

Why Gobert: This is the perfect fit for the Spurs, who boast at least 1/4 of the French national team on their roster. Along with fellow Frenchmen Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and Nando De Colo, Gobert should be able to adjust better and easier. He fills a hole if Tiago Splitter decides to sign elsewhere in free agency and would have one of the best mentors of all time in Tim Duncan. Also, Gregg Popovich is a pretty good coach, so that helps too.

29. Oklahoma City Thunder - Lucas Nogueira, C, Brazil

Why Nogueira: Known as "Bebe," this extremely athletic Brazilian would fall into a great scenario with the Thunder. The Thunder don't really need this pick and it's no surprise that they are trying to trade this pick to secure a higher slot in the draft. But, if they do end up keeping this selection, Nogueira is a good choice. He is a developmental project and the Thunder don't really "need" him right now, so he will be able to hone his skills and talent for a year or two in Brazil before he comes over to the NBA. Another smart move by the Thunder.

30. Phoenix Suns - Mike Muscala, PF/C, Bucknell

Why Muscala: The former Bison averaged a double-double this past season in leading his team to the NCAA Tournament. His talent offensively is undeniable and while some suggest he needs to bulk up, he'll have at least one season to develop behind Marcin Gortat. Muscala could end up becoming one of the "steals" of this year's draft.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

2013 NBA Draft First Round Projections (Pre-Lottery)

Nerlens Noel has the highest upside, but also the highest risk factor
of all the prospects in this year's NBA Draft.
     With the exception of the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers and Memphis Grizzlies, every NBA franchise is focused on the upcoming summer. Several teams are searching for head coaches, and while that should be their first order of business, the NBA Draft is also a crucial part to a team's future success. This past week featured the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, Illinois, where many young talents were able to showcase their skills on the court in various drills and exercises. Several names that stood out include Indiana's Cody Zeller, Miami's Shane Larkin and French big man Rudy Gobert. Before the lottery, here's a pre-lottery mock draft. This draft order is subject to change depending on the results of the NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday, May 21.

The Mock

1. Orlando Magic - Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas

The case for McLemore: The shooting guard has arguably the highest potential of anyone in this draft class. Nerlens Noel is considered one of the top big men in the draft, but the Magic have a deep frontcourt occupied by Nikola Vucevic, Glen Davis, Andrew Nicholson, Maurice Harkless and Hedo Turkoglu. General Manager Rob Hennigan must now acquire shooters to stretch the floor and McLemore is just that.

2. Charlotte Bobcats - Nerlens Noel, PF/C, Kentucky

The case for Noel: The Bobcats statistically had one of the worst defenses in the NBA last season. While Noel presents a huge risk, he also presents a huge reward. His offensive versatility is raw, but he led the NCAA in blocks per game last year (4.4 per game) and will instantly instill a defensive culture within Charlotte. The two biggest concerns about Noel are his weight and ACL injury, but the possible reward is massive. Charlotte is still in a heavy rebuilding mode, so this is a chance the franchise can afford to take.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers - Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown

The case for Porter: The Georgetown product doesn't stand out or wow fans athletically, but he is a fundamentally sound player. He won't score 20 points per game, but he is arguably the safest option in the draft and will fill a hole for Cleveland that has been present since LeBron James took his talents to South Beach.

4. Phoenix Suns - Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana

The case for Oladipo: The Indiana shooting guard tested out very well at the NBA Draft Combine and was superb throughout this past season. He is talented on both sides of the floor, a dynamic athlete and an exceptional leader. He has the potential to be an All Star for years to come and fills a need on the wing for the Suns.

5. New Orleans Pelicans - Trey Burke, PG, Michigan

The case for Burke: The Naismith National Player of the Year is the perfect fit for New Orleans. He is one of the best on-court leaders in college basketball and is not afraid of the big stage. Some scouts are scared off by his size, but Chris Paul and Ty Lawson -- two players Burke is compared to -- have thrived in the NBA. Burke has the skill set and heart to produce in the NBA and become the Pelicans' point guard of the future.

6. Sacramento Kings - Cody Zeller, PF/C, Indiana

The case for Zeller: Zeller proved he is a freakish athlete at the NBA Draft Combine, which should certainly help his draft stock. The Indiana big man was consistent throughout the season and is very versatile on offense. He can post up and step back to hit the mid-range jumper. His style of play reminds me of Pau Gasol, and that's something a down-trodden Kings franchise cannot pass up.

7. Detroit Pistons - Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse

The case for Carter-Williams: The former Syracuse point guard is everything the Pistons need. He is lengthy and a great facilitator. His jump shot leaves something to be desired, but Carter-Williams creates on offense and adds another young stud into the fold for a growing Detroit team.

8. Washington Wizards - Anthony Bennett, SF/PF, UNLV

The case for Bennett: The Wizards need a physical presence on the wing and in the post. At 6'8", 240 pounds, Bennett is a tweener who can play both forward positions, like Carmelo Anthony. His upside may not nearly be as high as Anthony's, and his recent shoulder surgery is a concern for most lottery teams, but he has a respectable, high upside. Washington has a need at the small forward; Bennett fills that hole.

9. Minnesota Timberwolves - Alex Len, C, Maryland

The case for Len: Minnesota was hampered by injuries this past season and needs to acquire more size. Nikola Pekovic has been a sturdy rock for the Timberwolves, but he could be headed out of Minnesota this summer in free agency. Len could be a reliable option off the bench for head coach Rick Adelman and contribute on both sides of the ball.

10. Portland Trail Blazers - Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga

The case for Olynyk: The Gonzaga big man presents offensive inside depth behind LaMarcus Aldridge for the Portland Trail Blazers. Bench depth was one of Portland's biggest problems last season and the bench is something this team needs to address. Double-double machine J.J. Hickson is a free agent, so if he leaves, Olynyk fills his spot immediately.

11. Philadelphia 76ers - C.J. McCollum, PG/SG, Lehigh

The case for McCollum: Some 76ers fans will clamor for a big man because of the unknown in Andrew Bynum, but McCollum is an undeniably great scorer. He could put the ball in the basket, case closed. The Lehigh star led his team to a huge upset against Duke in the NCAA Tournament two years ago and can produce on the big stage. Wherever McCollum goes, he could provide a spark off the bench or start for some teams because of his great scoring prowess.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder - Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh

The case for Adams: Before the NBA Draft Combine, most analysts viewed Adams as a stellar athlete with not much else to praise. However, he elevated his stock to potential lottery pick during the combine in Chicago. He showed his offensive ability to post up, hit mid-range jump shots and also play exceptional defense. Adams can sit behind Kendrick Perkins for the next year or so to hone his skills and soon become a core member for Oklahoma City. He will be the offensive post presence that the Thunder desire.

13. Dallas Mavericks - Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville

The case for Dieng: The Louisville star and recent NCAA basketball champion is one of the most menacing defensive presences in all of college basketball. The Mavericks have a huge hole at center, and in case they cannot convince Dwight Howard to play for Dallas, Dieng becomes a nice insurance policy and the best defensive presence in Dallas since Tyson Chandler helped guide them to their 2011 championship season.

14. Utah Jazz - Shabazz Muhammad, SG/SF, UCLA

The case for Muhammad: This summer, the Jazz will have eight free agents on the market, including wings Randy Foye, DeMarre Carroll and possibly Marvin Williams, who was not the answer on at small forward for Utah. Muhammad automatically brings a star appeal that Utah hasn't had since Deron Williams was traded. There are some questions about Muhammad, but he is a great scorer and could be a go-to option for the Jazz starting right away in his rookie season.

15. Milwaukee Bucks - Rudy Gobert, C, France

The case for Gobert: With Samuel Dalembert, Gustavo Ayon and Joel Przybilla all possibly traveling elsewhere in free agency, Gobert could be paired next to star athlete Larry Sanders. Gobert is scouted as a long, athletic offensive weapon and could be the perfect adversary to Sanders' incredible defensive game.

16. Boston Celtics - Mason Plumlee, PF/C, Duke

The case for Plumlee: Over the past couple of seasons, it has been clear that the Celtics need an infusion of youth in the post. Plumlee is extremely long and athletic and could be slotted in the starting lineup next to 37-year old Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett.

17. Atlanta Hawks - Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia

The case for Caldwell-Pope: This is practically a dream scenario for both Caldwell-Pope and the Hawks. The Georgia product stays close to home and can be plugged as either a shooting guard or small forward, both positions of need for the Hawks. Caldwell-Pope, at 6'6", is extremely athletic and quick. He can be a dynamic, scoring threat in the NBA.

18. Atlanta Hawks - Jeff Withey, C, Kansas

The case for Withey: With their second first-round pick, Atlanta can acquire a big man to play next to Al Horford if Josh Smith abandons the Hawks in free agency. Withey is a very solid defensive presence down low and could start right away. As a senior, he gained great experience playing four years for an incredibly-run program in Kansas. Withey and Caldwell-Pope would result in a very good draft for Atlanta.

19. Cleveland Cavaliers - Lucas Nogueira, C, Brazil

The case for Nogueira: This could be a match made in heaven. Cleveland could use size off the bench and Nogueira gets to play with a great mentor in Anderson Varejao, an Olympic star for Brazil's national team. His potential is very high and in Cleveland, he will get to develop behind Varejao and Tyler Zeller. In 3 years, Nogueira could become a key piece for Cleveland.

20. Chicago Bulls - Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Michigan

The case for Hardaway Jr.: The star Michigan guard was one of the major reasons why the Wolverines were able to make a run to the NCAA championship game. His three point shooting ability will work perfectly in hand with the penetration ability of Derrick Rose and Chicago's inside tandem of Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. Hardaway Jr. may not start right away, and may even be a sixth man, but his game is similar to Jamal Crawford, a former Bull.

21. Utah Jazz - Shane Larkin, PG, Miami (FL)

The case for Larkin: His incredible athleticism is one of the headlines post-NBA Draft Combine as teams get ready for the NBA Draft Lottery. Larkin was a borderline first-round pick a couple weeks ago, but is now in lottery consideration. He is a prodigious three-point shooter and one of the quickest point guards in the 2013 NBA Draft. His size could be a concern, but his athleticism is comparable to Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook. Larkin doesn't have the potential of Westbrook, but will make an impact in the NBA regardless.

22. Brooklyn Nets - Reggie Bullock, SF, UNC

The case for Bullock: The North Carolina forward was arguably the best three-point shooter in the entire NCAA last season (over 43 percent made) and will automatically become an offensive threat off the bench for the Nets. Gerald Wallace was a disappointment this season and he did not have a natural backup behind him. Jerry Stackhouse and Keith Bogans are both likely not to return to Brooklyn, so bringing in one of the top young perimeter scorers in this year's draft will surely help the Nets.

23. Indiana Pacers - Erick Green, PG/SG, Virginia Tech

The case for Green: The Pacers are one of the best defensive teams in the league, but Green adds a potent offensive aspect into Indiana's fold. This past season, he was the NCAA's leading scorer (25 points per game). He could fill D.J. Augustin's role as the backup point guard and thrive as the top option off the bench as both a facilitator and scorer, similar to Memphis guard Jerryd Bayless.

24. New York Knicks - Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany

The case for Schroeder: Behind Raymond Felton, the Knicks have two veteran guards in Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni. Kidd was horrid and underwhelming in this year's playoffs, while Prigioni could garner interest from multiple teams in free agency. Schroeder has good potential and could develop behind Felton while playing in two-guard sets. Size is an issue for the Knicks, but they will also need guards for the future because both Kidd and Prigioni are encroaching retirement.

25. Los Angeles Clippers - Glen Rice Jr., SG/SF, Rio Grande Valley Vipers

The case for Rice Jr.: Glen Rice Jr. had some struggles while playing college basketball at Georgia Tech, but it was in the NBA Development League where he made his presence known. Last season in Rio Grande, he averaged 25 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game. Remember, he's a 6'6" wing, not a power forward or center. He can start at shooting guard or small forward and be a dangerous scorer for the Clippers, possibly next to the best point guard in the NBA, Chris Paul.

26. Minnesota Timberwolves - Allen Crabbe, SG, California

The case for Crabbe: The former California guard automatically fills Minnesota's long-lasting hole at the shooting guard position. Crabbe has improved each year at California in almost every statistical category. He is lengthy and can shoot from any spot on the floor. Adding him to Minnesota's starting lineup will give the Timberwolves a solid scorer next to Ricky Rubio. The two could form one of the best young NBA back courts.

27. Denver Nuggets - Jamaal Franklin, SG/SF, San Diego State

The case for Franklin: It is unlikely that Andre Iguodala leaves in free agency, but if so, Franklin is a decent insurance policy. The 6'5" wing is not a great three-point shooter, but he has an excellent motor and defensive prowess that will fit right in with head coach George Karl's system.

28. San Antonio Spurs - Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF, Greece

The case for Antetokounmpo: This young Greek talent is incredibly raw and would probably be best served playing in the NBA D-League for a year or two before stepping on an NBA court, but his potential is sky high. If any coach could maximize that potential, it's Gregg Popovich. Antetokounmpo is a 6'9" point guard who's versatile enough to play three or four positions. San Antonio has been known as a franchise to dig international diamonds from the rough and it should not be a shock if they select one of the top international prospects in the first round of this year's NBA Draft.

29. Oklahoma City Thunder - Sergey Karasev, SG/SF, Russia

The case for Karasev: The Russian perimeter presence will be welcome in Oklahoma City as a key contributor off the bench. At 6'7", he has considerable length, but he weighs under 200 pounds, so that is a fair concern. Like Antetokounmpo, it would probably be best if Karasev developed his skill set in the NBA D-League. He also has Kevin Durant, one of the best scorers in the game, as a mentor on the Thunder.

30. Phoenix Suns - Dario Saric, SF/PF, Croatia

The case for Saric: The Suns need pieces, period. Saric has been all over the place on online mock drafts, ranging from lottery pick to end of the first round. In this case, he arrives to Phoenix as one of the top international prospects who could step in and contribute right away off the bench, most likely as a small forward.

Have a question, comment, or your own mock draft? Leave a message underneath in the comments section!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

NBA Trade Deadline Recap

J.J. Redick headlines the player movements that took place at the trade deadline.

      Each year, the NBA trade deadline seems to be the most anticipated day for NBA fans. Some fans wonder whether their favorite team's star player will be dealt, some fans wonder if their favorite team will make a move for a game-changing franchise player, and other fans just hope their favorite team's general manager doesn't do anything naive or senseless. This year, the biggest trade rumors involved the likes of Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, Paul Millsap and Eric Bledsoe. However, none of the four will be switching up uniforms. Let's take a quick look at the deals that happened during this year's NBA trade deadline.

1. Should the Deer Be Feared?

Bucks receive: J.J. Redick, Gustavo Ayon, Ish Smith

Magic receive: Beno Udrih, Tobias Harris, Doron Lamb

Outlook: This trade was understandable, but I never saw it coming until the Bucks' attempt to acquire Josh Smith failed. This is a smart move for both teams and should end up being a win-win. Milwaukee receives a potent scoring threat on the wing in Redick and also clears up cap space. Orlando receives an expiring contract and two young prospects to help fasten the rebuilding process. This deal might be able to help the Bucks hold on to the eighth and final seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

2. Telfair to T-Dot

Raptors receive: Sebastian Telfair

Suns receive: Hamed Haddadi, 2013 second round draft pick

Outlook: The Raptors get the reserve point guard behind Kyle Lowry that they have been seeking, while Phoenix gets some extra size. Telfair, an expiring contract, gives the Raptors a little more flexibility heading into the summer but more importantly, runs an offense efficiently.

3. T-Rob to the Rockets

Rockets receive: Thomas Robinson, Francisco Garcia, Tyler Honeycutt

Kings receive: Patrick Patterson, Cole Aldrich, Toney Douglas

Outlook: This trade could become the steal of the year. I could to a degree understand why the Kings would want Patterson, because he played with troubled big man DeMarcus Cousins during their time at Kentucky. However, I don't understand why Sacramento would give up on a seldom-played rookie whose potential is much higher than Patterson's ever will be. Right now, the trade is even, but in two years, Houston will have won this trade. General Manager Daryl Morey has done it again and his candidacy for Executive of the Year is as respectable as it has ever been.

4. From Kansas to Phoenix, Twins Reunited

Suns receive: Marcus Morris

Rockets receive: 2013 second round draft pick

Outlook: This move can be beneficial for both teams. For Houston, it frees up even more cap space and stockpiles their draft picks. For Phoenix, it reunites Marcus with his twin brother, Markieff, in the Valley of the Suns. Phoenix may not be very good for the next few seasons, but the reuniting of Marcus and Markieff Morris has the makings to be one of the feel-good stories of this season, especially if they thrive while playing together again.

5. Crawford to the C's

Celtics receive: Jordan Crawford

Wizards receive: Leandro Barbosa, Jason Collins

Outlook: For the Wizards, this deal makes their team worse in the present, but saves them cap room in the future. However, I don't understand this deal from the Celtics' point of view. Yes, Crawford is cheap, skilled and young, but the Celtics already have a bevy of shooting guards on the roster without a natural point guard. Crawford will give the Celtics some scoring pop off the bench, so it's not a bad move, but I think Boston should have targeted a point guard instead, such as Telfair, Eric Maynor or Luke Ridnour.

6. Maynor the Blazer

Blazers receive: Eric Maynor

Thunder receive: Trade Exception

Outlook: Maynor is a solid backup point guard for Damian Lillard and will provide Portland a secondary facilitator. Maynor basically lost his spot to Reggie Jackson in Oklahoma City because of injury. This trade helps Maynor to move on and show his true skills.

7. Southeast Swap

Bobcats receive: Josh McRoberts

Magic receive: Hakim Warrick

Outlook: Warrick seems to be on the move a lot, but if he can find a home in Orlando, he'll provide the team with extra depth. McRoberts is an expiring contract that will give the Bobcats more cap room heading into the summer.

8. A Storm Brewing?

Thunder receive: Ronnie Brewer

Knicks receive: 2013 second round draft pick

Outlook: Brewer was getting little to no playing time in New York, so it's understandable why the Knicks moved him. The Thunder acquire a very skilled perimeter defender in Brewer, who can back up Kevin Durant. Does this put Oklahoma City over the top? No. But, it does help them if they face a great 3-point shooting team in the playoffs, such as the Houston Rockets.

9. Morrow to the Mavs

Mavericks receive: Anthony Morrow

Hawks receive: Dahntay Jones

Outlook: The Hawks acquire a veteran, defensive presence on the wing in place of a shooter, many of which they already have (i.e. Kyle Korver, John Jenkins). A move like this could benefit the team in the playoffs. For the Mavericks, Morrow is an expiring contract that is slightly more expensive than Jones', so this does prove the Bank Of Cuban is somewhat open.

10. The Bear Minimum

Grizzlies receive: Dexter Pittman, 2013 second round draft pick

Heat receive: Rights to Ricky Sanchez

Outlook: This doesn't do much for either team. For the Grizzlies, they get one of the lowest draft picks in the entire NBA draft and a raw, overweight center. The Heat free up a roster spot and can now look to add another big man.

      What do you think about this year's trades at the deadline? Who do you think were the winners and losers? Feel free to leave a comment below!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Winners and Losers of the Rudy Gay Trade

Gay will be taking his talents north of the border after the 3-team
deal that sent the scoring machine to Toronto.
The Deal

Toronto receives: Rudy Gay and Hamed Haddadi.

Detroit receives: Jose Calderon.

Memphis receives: Tayshaun Prince, Ed Davis, Austin Daye and a second-round draft pick.

What It Means for Each Team

Toronto: For the Raptors, they get their small forward of the future, but for a reasonable doubt of a price. Toronto parted ways with longtime point guard Jose Calderon, who was expected to be moved because of his expiring contract, as well as Ed Davis, a young, blossoming prospect. Rudy Gay has been an effective scorer throughout his entire career, but he has yet to be named an All Star and is paid a maximum salary, worthy of a franchise player. However, Gay is entering his prime and because of his offensive skill set, he could become an All Star in Toronto. Gay, inserted into Toronto's lineup, automatically becomes the most dangerous threat on the wing for the Raptors since Vince Carter electrified the Air Canada Centre.

Detroit: In Calderon, the Pistons get a veteran presence and floor general that was needed on this team. Calderon is a fantastic facilitator who will distribute the ball around the court to Detroit's three young stars: Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. The Pistons are currently less than five games behind the Rajon Rondo-less Boston Celtics for the last seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Pistons' young nucleus will provide the Motor City a future perennial playoff team, but Calderon will help the team make a hard push for the eighth seed.

Memphis: With this deal, the Grizzlies finally get the monkey off their back. Rudy Gay has been a solid player for the team his whole career, but his contract is paying him like a franchise player, something that Memphis clearly did not envision as when they shipped him to Toronto. In the trade, Memphis brings in two southpaws. First is a winning, polished veteran forward in Tayshaun Prince, who can effectively replace Gay for a cheaper price. Prince has reached the promised land during his NBA career and is still -- at 32 years old -- a stud on the defensive side of the ball. The Grizzlies also land a young, promising big man in Ed Davis. The former North Carolina Tar Heel has a massive amount of potential and has shown little bursts of it during his short career. Davis will have to earn minutes playing behind All Star Zach Randolph, but he will be a big piece of Memphis' puzzle for years to come.


Detroit: Detroit is the biggest winner of this deal because of the cap space they gain in this deal. This summer, expect the Pistons to be big players in free agency for wing players such as Josh Smith or O.J. Mayo. They also might explore re-signing Calderon, who could be a valuable point guard for the right price. However, it depends upon Brandon Knight being able to adjust to shooting guard. This is the brightest Detroit's franchise has looked since the championship days of Ben Wallace and Chauncey Billups and there is much more in store for Pistons fans.

Rudy Gay: For the Raptors, Gay is the bona fide franchise player. He will face pressure and scrutiny if he does not perform, but if Toronto's 98-73 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers is a sign of things to come, it will be a joyous campaign for the former UConn swingman.

Ed Davis: For the young forward, it will be a process, but he is a definite winner in this deal. Davis will be on a contending playoff team for the first time in his career and have a great mentor who also happens to be a southpaw: Zach Randolph.

Memphis: Believe it or not, Memphis is a winner in this deal. The team will officially be under the luxury tax for this season and next, while maintaining a championship caliber roster. Prince and Davis bring to the Grizzlies a strong, defensive mentality to what is already one of the top defensive teams in the NBA. It's usually said that defense wins championships and in this deal, Memphis remains a contender with arguably an even better shot to reach the NBA Finals.


Toronto: Simply put, the Raptors dealt their most valuable expiring contract and a young, promising big man for a talented volume scorer that is paid like that of a franchise player. What shocks me most, though, is that they did not attach Andrea Bargnani somewhere in this deal. Bargnani has created riffs with his team over recent months and while injured, the team has performed better without him. The former overall #1 pick is skilled offensively, but is a defensive liability and poor on the glass. Overall, the Raptors have several overpaid players under contract for at least two more years and not one All Star on the roster. They have the potential to be a playoff team, but the current contracts of the players on their squad creates a lack of flexibility for the franchise that could put the team in limbo and prevent them from becoming a contender in the Eastern Conference.

Boston: Yes, the Celtics are losers because of this deal. Earlier in the season, there were rumors that the Celtics could deal Paul Pierce to the Grizzlies for Rudy Gay, pre-Rajon Rondo's torn ACL injury. Now, the Celtics have no chance of acquiring Gay and to make matters worse, they'll be facing him more often now that he plays for the Raptors, an Atlantic Division rival. Also of importance, Detroit and Toronto are on the heels of the Celtics in a race for the eighth and final seed in the Eastern Conference for the playoffs.

Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Bryan Colangelo: The Toronto GM made a bold, yet significant move by trading for Rudy Gay. He showed his confidence to make a deal, but at the same time, might have hurt his team's future. The team is now built around a pair of athletic wings who lack range and struggle on defense (Gay and DeMar DeRozan), a rookie big man who has yet to show much flashes (Jonas Valanciunas) and several others who are average role players that get paid too much for the level of production they offer.

Chris Wallace: The Memphis GM had a tough decision to make, but he made the right decision. I'm not usually a fan of "money deals" but this deal is beneficial to the Grizzlies and will end up making the team better for a discount price. Initially, Wallace will face questionable criticism, but Memphis still has a legitimate shot to reach the NBA Finals.

Jose Calderon: The Spanish Olympiad is having an impressive season, but things might have just gotten harder for him because of three reasons. First, he was traded from a non-contender to another non-contender. Second, he will have to compete for playing time yet again, this time with Brandon Knight and third, he's having issues with his visa.

      What are your thoughts about the Rudy Gay deal? What parties do you think it was a good or bad trade for? How do you believe this blockbuster deal affects the other rumors around the NBA? Leave a comment below!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Biggest Names On The Block

Atlanta forward Josh Smith is one of the most popular names
on the trade block this season.

      Nearly one month away from the trade deadline, most NBA teams have figured out their identity as the season approaches its midpoint. Several teams are bona fide contenders (Thunder, Heat), some are middle of the road (Rockets, Bucks) and some are flat out train wrecks (Phoenix, Cleveland). Several teams who are contenders or middle of the road teams are eager to make a swap that will propel their team into playoff contention, where it could be anyone's game. Here are some of the top trade targets of this season and where they could be dealt by February 21st.

1. Rudy Gay

Statistics: 17.6 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.4 SPG, 36.6 MPG

Overview: Rudy Gay is a solid player in this league, but he's yet to be named an All Star. To be honest, this is the first time Gay and power forward Zach Randolph have been fully healthy together and with Marc Gasol, the trio forms one of the best frontcourts in the Association. Memphis has shined early on in the season and has proven to be able to hold its own against other contenders. The only reason why Memphis is attempting to deal Gay is because of his contract. Most will agree that Gay is grossly overpaid and in turn, that is why the Grizzlies are looking to deal the small forward. Gay serves as an effective scorer on any team and can instantly impact a struggling offense.

Best Fit: Phoenix Suns. The Suns have been setting since early December and it doesn't look like things will be getting better any time soon. Head coach Alvin Gentry and the team agreed to mutually part ways. Phoenix has several interesting pieces that could interest Memphis, but it might take a 3-team deal to make it work. Check out my deal here in which Memphis also receives a first round draft pick from Phoenix. In Phoenix, Gay would become the franchise player and continue to make strides while he is still in his prime.

2. Tyreke Evans

Statistics: 14.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.2 SPG, 30.0 MPG

Overview: Since he won Rookie of the Year, Tyreke Evans has steadily declined in Sacramento. The team has been stagnant since Evans was drafted and the havoc around the franchise has not helped. The Kings are on the verge of being sold, possibly to be relocated. Head coach Keith Smart has been unable to command the team and DeMarcus Cousins incidents seem to be one of the few things keeping the Kings relevant in the NBA. Evans' value is at a career low, but on a contending team, he might be able to live up to his potential.

Will Evans be sent out of the
Kings' court?
Best Fit: Indiana Pacers. Many people are assuming when forward Danny Granger comes back, the Pacers could fight for a top spot in the Eastern Conference. It's debatable, but at the same time, Granger has hit his peak and nobody knows how he will come back from injury. Granger is supposed to return soon, but the Paul George era has already begun in Indiana. George fits best at the small forward position but without Granger, the Pacers have gotten limited production from the shooting guard position. Lance Stephenson and Orlando Johnson are two young players who are still developing, but Evans can come in and become a huge piece of the puzzle immediately. In this trade, Indiana will also receive a protected first round draft pick.

3. Anderson Varejao

Statistics: 14.1 PPG, 14.4 RPG, 3.4 APG, 0.6 BPG, 36.0 MPG

Overview: Varejao's value is arguably the hardest to gauge of any player in the NBA. Since the 2012 London Olympics, in which Varejao was a member of Brazil's team, he has played great basketball. However, the 30-year old injured his right quadriceps muscle earlier in the season and underwent successful surgery last week. The big man will be sidelined until March and it might scare teams off from pursuing a trade for Cleveland's center. However, when healthy, Varejao has proven to be a menace on the glass and solid in the post on both sides of the ball.

Best Fit: Minnesota Timberwolves. Minnesota has been decimated by injuries and is now on the outside looking in for the Western Conference playoff seeding. All Star Kevin Love will be sidelined for a while, but if Varejao can return healthy, he can at the very least give the Timberwolves another dominant rebounder. Also, Nikola Pekovic could leave in free agency and Varejao would provide a suitable replacement for years to come. In this 4-team trade involving Minnesota, Cleveland, Oklahoma City and San Antonio, the Cavaliers would also receive a lottery-protected first round draft pick from the Timberwolves. Varejao and Love, if on the same team, could become the top rebounding duo in the NBA.

4. Paul Millsap

Statistics: 14.9 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.2 SPG, 30.5 MPG

Overview: Millsap has been a fixture in Utah for years now, but it might be time for the Jazz to trade the athletic power forward. Millsap can score but is mostly known for his defensive prowess. He is an expiring contract, but also has a successor waiting in the wings in Utah. Derrick Favors, who was acquired from the Nets in the Deron Williams transaction, has continued to grow as an all-around player and is just scratching the surface of his prime. Millsap has never been an All Star, but his level of productivity would be welcome by any franchise.

Best Fit: Brooklyn Nets. Last season, the Nets had trouble getting offense from the small forward position. That problem was fixed once they traded for Gerald Wallace. Now, the Nets can't seem to get much offense from the power forward position. Kris Humphries, after signing a big contract, has not replicated the production of his last two seasons. Reggie Evans is great on the glass, but is limited offensively. Mirza Teletovic has come on a bit of late, but his defense is still questionable and he's yet to make a smooth transition to the NBA. In a 3-team trade also involving Charlotte, Utah would receive a future first round draft pick from Brooklyn in the package.

5. Al Jefferson

Statistics: 17.4 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.1 BPG, 32.9 MPG

Overview: Millsap's teammate, Al Jefferson, has also been a hot commodity on the trade block. The big man has been an anchor for the Jazz since he was acquired from the Timberwolves. Jefferson has also never been an All Star, but is regarded as one of the top centers in the NBA. He is polished on the offensive end and his defense has improved this season. Jefferson will be certainly be among trade discussions during the next month.

Best Fit: San Antonio Spurs. Why the Spurs? Head coach Gregg Popovich has ingrained a winning culture into the franchise and although San Antonio isn't a team that would usually make a deal of this magnitude, it would certainly build on the franchise's chances of winning another championship. "Big Al" would become another sturdy force in the paint next to Tim Duncan and they would be able to match or dominate any other frontcourt combo in the NBA. If the Spurs re-signed Jefferson, he would be a force in the paint for years to come even after future Hall of Fame member Tim Duncan retires. In this swap, Utah would also receive two future first round draft picks.

6. Jose Calderon

Statistics: 10.8 PPG, 7.6 APG, 2.5 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 28.1 MPG

Overview: Coming into the season, it was widely assumed that the Raptors would move Calderon because of his expiring contract as well as the team's acquisition of point guard Kyle Lowry. While Lowry has performed well this season, he's also been injured often and Calderon has capitalized on his opportunities. The Raptors are playing it smart by starting Calderon to raise the 31-year old's value. Calderon is a great free throw shooter and facilitator who would be serviceable for a contending team.

Best Fit: Miami Heat. The Heat probably won't be making a move for a point guard at the deadline, but that doesn't mean Calderon wouldn't fit in Miami. As mentioned before, Calderon is a great facilitator who could spread the ball around to Miami's "Big 3" of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade as well as all of their shooters. Calderon is an upgrade over Mario Chalmers and might be able to break Miami out of its recent woes. While this trade isn't probably what would be best for Toronto, they'd also receive a first round draft pick from Miami. This trade is proposed because I believe Calderon would fit with the Heat, not necessarily because it's the best package available for the Raptors.

7. Josh Smith

Statistics: 16.5 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 3.7 APG, 2.2 BPG, 34.9 MPG

Overview: Josh Smith, born and raised in Georgia, has played for the Atlanta Hawks for his entire career, but that doesn't mean he's untouchable. This season, Smith has clashed with his head coach, Larry Drew, on a number of occasions. He was recently suspended for a game against the Brooklyn Nets for "conduct detrimental to the team." Smith is an expiring contract and it's very plausible that he could spurn Atlanta for another franchise. General Manager Danny Ferry will have to think long and hard about this one, but if he can acquire more young prospects, his team will be set up well for the future.

Best Fit: Houston Rockets. In the summer, Houston vehemently pursued Dwight Howard, but to no avail. Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey has proven he will go at lengths to improve his team after outbidding the Knicks for Jeremy Lin and trading for shooting guard James Harden just before the start of the season. Harden and Lin form a solid, young backcourt, but the Rockets are yet to have a true inside presence. Omer Asik is starting to come into his own, as is Chandler Parsons, but they are still developing. Insert Josh Smith into Houston's starting lineup and this team has a dynamic "Big 3" of Lin, Harden and Smith for years to come. In the swap, Atlanta gets three young prospects and a proficient perimeter shooter.

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