2014 NBA Lottery Mock Draft

Many teams have waited for this draft since last June. Many experts call this draft class one of the best in the last 25 years because of the depth of talent. Although it is unlikely that a LeBron James or Michael Jordan comes out of the draft, it is possible that more than 5 of these players will become All-Stars and All-Pro players at the next level.

 

1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Andrew Wiggins

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Since the Cavs drafted LeBron, they have won the draft lottery three times. However, they have been unable to become a playoff team since LeBron left to South Beach. Last year’s first overall pick, Anthony Bennett, was horrible and the Cavs cannot afford another bust. Although the Cavs have a void at the center position and were mocked to select Joel Embiid with the first overall pick, it has been reported that he has a foot injury that will require surgery. Although Embiid may still have the highest upside, foot injuries, specifically this injury, have crippled the careers of Bill Walton, Brook Lopez, and Yao Ming. However, the Cavs can still take Wiggins, who has the potential to be one of the best players in the league. Before the season, Wiggins was being touted as one of the best players in the past 10 to 15 years. Wiggins has incredible athleticism and showed at the end of the season that he can score and dominate games, offensively and defensively. The Cavs will have a tough decision between Wiggins and Jabari Parker, but Wiggins should be the selection. Wiggins may not have the offensive skill to play in the pros, like Parker, but he is a far better defensive player and has the athleticism and potential to match Parker’s offensive talent. The Cavs have two fantastic offensive weapons, Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving, but neither are good defensive stoppers. Although Wiggins will start from day one, the Cavs should attempt to re-sign Luol Deng. Deng, like Wiggins, is a great athlete and defensive player that will help Wiggins grow into a superstar. The addition of Wiggins and Deng will allow the Cavs to go to a small and incredibly athletic lineup that will be hard to stop in the future.

 

2. Milwaukee Bucks – Jabari Parker

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After a troubling offseason in which they lost their two best players, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, the Bucks had the worst record in the NBA. However, the Bucks believe that they found a future star in Giannis Antetokounmpo. Although the Bucks have stated that they are willing to take a player, who will take a few years to develop, like Dante Exum, Parker is the obvious selection for the Milwaukee Bucks. Along with Julius Randle, Jabari Parker is the most ready NBA player in the draft. At Duke, Parker showed that he has the offensive skills to make any shot on the court and carry a team offensively. Jabari Parker looks like a younger version of Carmelo Anthony. Like Melo, Parker has the ability to blow by defenders, shoot threes, and play with his back to the basket. However, Parker does not have the highest upside in the draft because he is not an all-world athlete. Parker’s physical limitations and desire to be a great offensive player makes him a liability on defense. Over the next few seasons, the Bucks should be able to build around Giannis and Parker.

 

3. Philadelphia 76ers – Dante Exum

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Although the 76ers have Michael Carter Williams, the Rookie of the Year, Dante Exum could be the most interesting prospect of the draft. Although the 76ers do not have a great fit for Exum, he is such a great player that it will be hard for the 76ers to pass on Exum, unless they want to take a risk and draft Embiid. Although the 76ers would have two point guards on their roster, Exum, 6’6″, and MCW, 6’9″, are two of the biggest point guards in the history of the NBA. Many believe that Exum will be a great player because he is dynamic and has the shooting ability to play like Russell Westbrook. Last year, Scott Brooks, the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder, showed that a team could be successful while playing two point guards, if they are great athletes with size and athleticism. The 76ers have another pick, 10th overall, to select another great player in this talented draft class. The 76ers need to have a great draft and hope that they will be able to build around MCW, Nerlens Noel, and their two picks.

 

4. Orlando Magic – Joel Embiid

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Joel Embiid is one of the most interesting prospects over the past 10 drafts because he has the potential to become a Hakeem Olajuwon, but his injury history frightens many general managers. During the first half of his freshman year, Embiid was playing great offense while dominating the rim and prohibiting baskets inside the paint. Embiid has great footwork, offensive moves, size, and athleticism to dominate any opponent. Fortunately for the Magic, they have had success with selecting centers at the top of the draft, Howard and O’Neal. The Magic have a solid young core with Victor Oladipo, Mo Harkless, and Aaron Afflalo. The Magic do not need to win next season and will be willing to sit Embiid and allow him to rest his injured foot and back. If Embiid rests for much of the season, the Magic will be bad again and have a high pick in next season’s NBA draft.

 

5. Utah Jazz – Noah Vonleh

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Over the past few seasons, the Jazz have been in full rebuilding mode, but have accumulated a few good players to build around. Although the Jazz would love to select a small forward like Parker or Wiggins to play along with Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Trey Burkes, and Alec Burks, Noah Vonleh would add another stud young player to the rotation. Noah Vonleh’s best pro comparison is Chris Bosh because he can shoot from the outside, has great athleticism, and plays quality defense. Vonleh will spread the floor for the Jazz and allow Favors and Kanter to pound the ball down low. Vonleh, Kanter, and Favors are three of the best and raw big men in the league. The trio has great size, athleticism, and talent, which is rare in today’s NBA since many teams do not have the luxury of talented big men on their roster. If the trio can accumulate more playing time and experience, they should continue to develop and grow to become All-Stars in the future. The Jazz have another first round pick, which will enable them to draft a solid small forward.

 

6. Boston Celtics – Aaron Gordon

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After 5-6 years of greatness and one championship with the Pierce, Garnett, and Allen, the Celtics were one of the worst teams in the league. Besides Rajon Rondo, the Celtics do not have much talent on the roster. However, they have a lot of future picks, which will likely be used to trade for a big time star like Love or Aldridge. Although Gordon is not great at one aspect of the game, he is pretty good at every part of the game. During his time at Arizona, Gordon was not a dominating player, which should scare NBA teams. Although Gordon has the athleticism to match Blake Griffin and many experts compare to him to Griffin, he will never be as good as Griffin. Gordon shows a lot of effort when he is on the floor, but he is a tweener and cannot shoot at a high enough level to scare his opponents.

 

7. Los Angeles Lakers – Julius Randle

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The Lakers have been the best and most consistent franchise over the past 35 years, but this season was an absolute disaster for the Lakers. The Lakers’ trouble started during the offseason when Kobe Bryant was injured and Dwight Howard refused to re-sign. The Lakers had one of the worst rosters in the league and hope that they will be able to sign or trade for a star over the next two seasons. The Lakers can hasten their rebuilding if they draft Randle. Randle is probably the most NBA ready player because he is incredibly strong and plays with more tenacity and intensity than the other players in the draft. Randle was one of the most consistent players in college basketball and was a walking double double. Randle has the size and strength to dominate in the paint against any player in the NBA. Randle has the ability to take players off the dribble, which will allow him to get past bigger defenders. If Randle can develop his jumper, he will become impossible to stop on the offensive end. At his peak, Randle should post numerous 20-10 seasons for the Lakers.

 

8. Sacramento Kings – Marcus Smart

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The Kings have been one of the worst franchises over the past decade. However, it seems that they are moving in the right direction and another great draft player would help the team. Current, Isaiah Thomas is a restricted free agent and the Kings want insurance in case he departs from Sacramento. Even if Thomas re-signs with the team, Smart could play shooting guard. During his two years at Oklahoma State, Smart became one of the best overall players in college basketball. Although Smart’s offensive game and shot is inconsistent, his defense is fantastic and has a determination to win.

9.  Charlotte Hornets-Doug McDermott

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The Hornets were one of the biggest surprises of the season and made the playoffs in the horrible Eastern Conference. The Hornets were able to have great success because they played tenacious defense, but they did not have a lot of offensive skill. In college, Dougy Fresh was one of the best offensive players in college basketball history. Doug has the ability to shoot from anywhere on the floor. McDermott should be able to add another dimension to the Hornets’ offense because he can shoot from three and inside the paint.

10.  Philadelphia 76ers – Dario Saric

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The top player in the draft from a foreign country should go in the top ten. Like many foreign prospects, Dario has a high basketball IQ and the ability to shoot from the outside. The 76ers are hoping that Saric can become a player like Kevin Love. Although Saric does not have the rebounding talent like Love, he can shoot from the outside and drive into the lane. The 76ers need more size in their rotation, especially if they draft a point guard with their number three pick overall. Saric will help the 76ers spread the floor since MCW or Exum cannot shoot extremely well.

11. Denver Nuggets – Gary Harris

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After the Nuggets had the third best record in the West last season, the Nuggets did not make the playoffs under Brian Shaw. The Nuggets do not have a solid shooting guard and Gary Harris can greatly improve the team. Harris has the potential to be a very good too way player. Although Harris is a little undersized, he cannot shoot from three and has the ability to score at the basket. Under the tutelage of Tom Izzo, Gary became a fantastic defensive player. Harris should be able to fit into the Nuggets’ plan, which could lead the Nuggets back into the playoffs.

12. Orlando Magic – Elfrid Payton

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The Magic are looking to rebuild and this draft will be important for the Magic to succeed in the future. In order to rebuild, the Magic do not have a need for Jameer Nelson or his salary. The Magic would rather give playing time to a younger point guard so he can grow and develop. Although Elfrid Payton is from a smaller school, point guards from small schools have succeeded over the past few seasons. A rotation of Nikola Vucevic, Elfrid Payton, Joel Embiid, and Victor Oladipo should be solid rotation in the future. Payton has great size and athleticism. Payton’s size allows him to see the whole court and assist other teammates.

13. Minnesota Timberwolves – Nik Stauskas

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The Minnesota Timberwolves are going to be extremely active this season due to the Kevin Love saga. If the Timberwolves trade Love, it is likely that they will also deal shooting guard Kevin Martin. Nik Stauskas would be a great addition to the Wolves because he can shoot at an extremely high level. Although Nik does not have great athleticism and does not play solid defense, he is the best shooter besides McDermott, but can also shoot from inside the arc.

14. Phoenix Suns – Zach Lavine

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Although the Suns did not make the playoffs, they were one of the most surprising teams in the league and almost made the playoffs in one of the most competitive western conferences of all time. The Suns were carried last season by Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic. However, the Suns are uncertain if they can keep Bledsoe and Dragic in the future. LaVine is one of the most interesting players in the league because he has great athleticism. Although he did not excel at UCLA, the Suns are hoping that he can become a player like Russell Westbrook. During his workouts, LaVine had great workouts and showed his amazing athleticism through his great dunks.

 

 

pics and stats from ESPN.com

Has the end of Spain’s Era Arrived?

By: Prad

It all started with a victory in the Euro 2008, then came a World Cup in 2010, and then another European Championship in 2012. The Spanish soccer team’s number one FIFA ranking in the world has been even more impressive throughout the last six years. Unfortunately for Spain, after this World Cup in Brazil, they won’t retain their status as reigning World Cup Champs and that FIFA ranking won’t stay for long either.

Although these judgments seemed premature after Spain’s 5-1 loss to the Netherlands, their 2-0 loss to Chile only validated this belief.  Spain’s outing from this year’s World Cup is the earliest a reigning champion has been eliminated from contention. Many predicted them to win at all or at least make it to the knockout round. However, if they lose to Australia, they will come in dead last in their group. Granted the fact that their group is a difficult one, this is still a shocking blow for a team that has dominated the international landscape of soccer for the past six years.

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There is a growing argument for Spain (2008-2014) being considered the greatest team in the history of international soccer. That’s a lot to swallow, but those who believe that have a point. After Spain lost to France in the ’06 World Cup, they won 10 consecutive knockout games without conceding a single goal. No team in history has won three consecutive major tournaments like Spain had in ’08, ’10, and ’12. Brazil was pretty close in the middle of the 20th century when they took three of four World Cups from 1958 to 1970. This feat seems impressive, but the overall roster was not nearly as impressive as the Spanish one. If Pele was injured, which happened for part of the 1966 World Cup run, the team would fall a part. West Germany was the closest to winning three in a row when they captured the Euro cup in 1972 and the World Cup in 1974, but failed to hoist the trophy after falling in the finals of Euro ’76. There is something special about this Spanish team.

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It all starts with the roster. Sure, the “tiki-taka” approach by the coaching staff to constantly keep possession of the ball was impressive, but without the individual talent the team could have never prospered. Any roster that includes legends such as Sergio Ramos, David Silva, Xabi Alonso, Cesc Fabregas, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Fernando Torres, David Villa, and of course goalkeeper Iker Casillas will undoubtedly produce extraordinary results. There are so many names that have contributed to the brilliance of the team. Their egos never got in the way and their ability to complement each other’s skills made the team function smoothly. Sadly, that’s history.

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The end of the glorious Spanish Era is certainly in sight for a few reasons. First, I don’t believe that any team in sports can keep that same dedication and will to win after so many years of dominance. Of course there are exceptions such as the Boston Celtics of the 1960s, but that’s extremely rare to find. It’s amazing that Spain’s excellence has endured for this long already. The inherent nature of sports is to become complacent and lose focus after a prolonged period of supremacy.

Second, those aforementioned great players can only stay young for so long. All of those players listed above are in their 30s except Fabregas, Ramos, and David Silva. There are young players who have great promise as well on the roster, but it’s just not the same. The same core that won so much together cannot stay together forever and that’s a difficult realization for Spanish fans everywhere.

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Third, the tiki-taka approach to playing soccer may be overdone. The entire premise of the strategy is to maintain possession as much as possible to give themselves as many opportunities to score as possible. This also gives less time for their opponents to advance the ball. Spain does not also blowout their opponents too often and are content with maintaining a one or two goal lead. They don’t compromise their backline to score more. Keeping possession away from their opponents by passing amongst the midfield and defense is of priority. The same game plan cannot be successful for too long though. Eventually, opponents will catch on. Other teams have begun to decrease the spacing between the Spaniards and this is part of the reason why the tiki-taka has become less successful over time.

Fourth, Spain may have just been a bit unlucky. Group B was certainly more difficult than at least four other groups in the tournament. But again, as the best, that shouldn’t be a factor. In their matches with the Netherlands and Chile, there were a few missed chances that could have changed the tide of the matches and shifted the momentum in Spain’s favor. That’s the nature of the game though. Still, I do not believe anybody should feel pity for Spain as they have had their fair share of luck over the last half-decade.

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It’ll be difficult to find another team in the near future that can surpass or even duplicate the accomplishments of this Spanish soccer team. But for now, the end of a dynasty has arrived and we should consider ourselves lucky to have watched this once in a generational unit play.

Pics and Stats from ESPN

A Team to Watch in the World Cup: Belgium

By: Natalie 

Led by Eden Hazard and Vincent Kompany, Belgium could be a tough out in this World Cup. Courtesy of ESPN.com
Led by Eden Hazard, the Red Devils could be a tough out in this World Cup.
Courtesy of ESPN.com

While this year’s World Cup in Brazil will set the stage for a wealth of big-name superstars and a number of teams with illustrious and storied legacies, there is always room for an underdog. While Belgium lacks the history of an Italy and the esteem of a Brazil, they will, however, have the benefit of arriving at their first World Cup since 2002 with little to no expectations and a relatively manageable group in Algeria, South Korea, and Russia. However, most importantly, this summer the Belgians will be able to field arguably their the most impressive starting 11 ever, with both young and experienced talents such as Romelu Lukaku, Maroune Fellaini, Mousa Dembélé, Thibaut Courtois, Thomas Vermaelen, and Axel Witsel. The Belgians will be more than capable of making a deep run in the tournament, knocking out major high-powered teams in the process. Furthermore, they will have services of Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany and Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, at their disposal. Despite the fact that most eyes will be glued to superstars such as the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar this summer, Belgium is the team to watch.