The stage is set for an action-packed series featuring two teams with a fierce rivalry and enough heart to eliminate the other even if that means getting swept in the Western Conference Semifinals. Both offenses include a stellar cast of perimeter shooters and rough front courts. If you want to see defense, then you will have to shield your eyes from this matchup. It’s not that both teams are atrocious at defense, it’s just that both teams have an overwhelming amount of offensive prowess.
For you offensive enthusiasts, this series has as much as you can find with thrilling dunks and guaranteed 30-point outbursts from some notable names. The head coaches from the two teams have very different levels of experience with Doc Rivers previously winning a title in Boston and Mark Jackson making just his second playoff appearance. This series is surely to go down as one of the best in this year’s playoffs, if not the best when its all said and done.
Los Angeles Clippers
There is no doubt that Chris Paul is the third best player in the league only after LeBron and Durant. He did not disappoint Clippers fans with averages of 19.1 points, 10.7 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.5 steals. It is as much as his statistics as the intangibles he possesses that makes him spectacular. He possesses leadership and floor general skills that cannot be understated. His assist numbers and teammates can only validate that claim. His numbers against the Warriors are even more better than his regular season averages. In three meetings with Golden State, CP3 averaged 28 points, 12.7 assists, and 3.7 steals per contest. Stephen Curry will probably not guard him in the series, as Curry is a subpar defender. Paul will draw matchups against either Klay Thompson or Andre Iguodala with the former being more likely. They may be able to limit his scoring but there is no chance they can stifle his distributing since Paul has way too many options and scorers on his unit.
The front court has only matured over the last couple seasons. Initially DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin were well known for lob city, but have transformed their games into much more. Jordan has turned into an excellent defender and rebounder. He leads the league in rebounds (13.6 RPG), field goal percentage (67.6%), and is third in blocked shots (1.48 BPG). He collected 4 offensive boards a game in the regular season. If he can have that same production in the playoffs, it’ll give Los Angeles more offensive possessions and opportunities to score. Blake Griffin is a very different player though. He averaged a career high 24.1 points and led the team in scoring to along with 9.5 boards per game. David Lee will draw the assignment of Griffin, which is not great for Golden state. Lee has been burned in the past on the defensive side of the ball, so Draymond Green may be guarding Griffin for some time as well. Griffin will definitely take advantage of his weak matchup which could be a difference maker.
Golden State Warriors
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, also known as the Splash Brothers, need to be more effective than ever against a Clippers unit that defends the three ball well. In fact, the Clippers are the best in the NBA at defending the three with opponents only shooting 33.2% from beyond the arc. Curry will draw an assignment from Chris Paul, who will be pestering him all night. In order for the Warriors to compete until the end, Curry needs to keep his turnovers down, which will be difficult as Paul is one of the best on-ball defenders in the game. Paul, who thrives at stealing the ball, will be less effective if the ball is moving within the offense more. Thompson, who will have Willie Green on him for the majority of the time, will need to step his game up throughout the series as he will be tasked with a greater scoring burden.
Starting center Andrew Bogut is injured indefinitely with a fractured rib. Jermaine O’Neal will take his place in the starting unit, something he has not been tasked with very frequently this season. He needs to adjust quickly to the extended playing time and needs to box out Griffin and stop Jordan from grabbing offensive boards. O’Neal does have experience on his side though as this is his 14th trip to the playoffs in 19 seasons in the league. He may be able to be an asset, but that is yet to be determined. Additionally, David Lee needs to be terrific on both sides of the ball for Golden State to have any shot of winning the series. He averaged 19.2 points and 9.3 boards this season. It would be good enough if he had similar production on offense. However, his biggest task is guarding Blake Griffin. He needs to keep Griffin under 25 points every night, so ball distribution will be greatly limited. Iguodala will come over for the help defense a lot and Iggy is one of the best defenders in the NBA, so it is bound to be effective. Golden State will need to make up on defense for the loss of their anchor in Bogut.
Los Angeles Will Advance in 6 games
The intra-California series will attract some hefty TV ratings. All of Los Angeles will be watching with the Lakers not qualifying, something that has not occurred since 2005. This is only a testament to the fact that the market in Los Angeles is moving towards the Clippers. There will be scuffles throughout this series, but Los Angeles will come out on top. The Clippers have greater depth and the injury to Andrew Bogut only limits the Warrior’s options. Sixth man Jamal Crawford will be a major factor in the Clippers winning the series because he can create his own shot off the dribble. If he and JJ Redick can provide valuable minutes for the second unit, then the Clippers can make it to the Western Conference Finals without a hitch.
As March Madness approaches and the NBA playoff picture becomes clear, prospects are trying their best to impress scouts so they can hear their name called by commissioner Adam Silver. This draft class has been hyped since the summer, and now we are starting to appreciate why franchises may be willing to “tank” for high draft picks. It is rare to have 4-5 franchise players in the top 10, as well as other talented players projected to fall to the mid teens. GMs have their work to do. Here is my mock draft, which is subject to change based on draft position (#1-#21 from position standing on 3-3-14 and #22 to end from 3-13-14) and whether players will declare for the NBA draft.
1.) Milwaukee Bucks- Joel Embiid (Center- Kansas)
Why the Pick: Joel Embiid came into his freshmen season as the mystery of the Kansas Jayhawks’ recruiting class, overshadowed by the talent of Wayne Selden and Andrew Wiggins. Now, Embiid has emerged as one of the best players in the country. Scouts compare him to a young Hakeem Olajuwon, one of the best centers of all-time with a litany of vicious post moves that would stun defenders. Embiid has earned this comparison(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Irvvb7Y4-w) and might be a better defender than Olajuwon was when he was at Houston. Embiid’s numbers don’t shout superstar as he only averages 11.4 ppg and 8 rpg but what drives the interest is his upside — he can become the best center in the NBA. And savvy evaluators know Embiid has to compete currently for shots with Wiggins and Selden, two prolific wing players with NBA futures themselves.
How does he fit the Bucks: Embiid may have a tough rookie season as he would need to adjust to playing more physical centers and the attention he would attract as the main scoring option. The Bucks also have Larry Sanders, a defensive player who takes up most of the paint and would leave Embiid fighting for position. The Bucks could try to trade Sanders but his poor performance this season combined with his hefty contract makes him an unattractive option. If the Bucks can deal Sanders, then Embiid would likely flourish and reach his Olajuwon-like potential.
2.) Philadelphia 76ers- Andrew Wiggins (Forward- Kansas)
Why the Pick: If the 76ers land at number 2 and Wiggins is still available, expect them to sprint to the podium to make this pick. Now Wiggins came to college with unfair expectations, drawing comparisons to LeBron James and Kevin Durant, the two best players in the NBA. As the season has progressed, we are starting to see why these comparisons were made. Watching Wiggins drop 41 on West Virginia, (where he played high school ball), he showed a full array of offensive moves and defensive tenacity. His athleticism is off the charts, and at the absolute worst, Wiggins will be able to guard premier wing players in the NBA. Some question his motor but Andrew has shown that when the lights get bright, he won’t disappoint. He tends to have his best games in the biggest games. Everyone will be watching Kansas during the tournament, and it won’t surprise me if Wiggins takes over and proves why he is the best player in America.
How he fits: With Michael Carter-Williams as the front runner for ROY (Look at Jon’s article for his predictions on the major NBA awards) and Nerlens Noel recovering from a torn ACL, the 76ers would have one the youngest cores in the NBA. And given the pitiful 76er season, Wiggins would undoubtedly create excitement in the city of brotherly love. Wiggins would immediately become the primary scorer and expected to average between 18-22 ppg. If Brett Brown can tap into Wiggins’ potential, the Sixers could be for real very soon.
3.) Orlando Magic- Jabari Parker (Forward-Duke)
Why the Pick: The Magic need a franchise player who can score and Parker would help solve this problem as he can score in bunches. He can face up and bring players to the outside and body smaller players down low with his 6’8 235 lbs frame. Averaging 19 and 9, Parker can take over a game with his ability to knock down shots and take pressure off bigs on the defensive glass. Parker also brings leadership and a high basketball IQ that has impressed scouts. Future potential is a great asset, but being able to contribute immediately is Parker’s calling card. Parker is a game changer and the Magic need immediate help.
How he fits: Parker would step into the 3 spot and establish himself as the main scoring threat. With Victor Oladipo and Arron Afflalo at the wings, things could get crowded but Afflalo only has 1 year left on his contract so he can be moved on draft day. With the defensive threat of Oladipo and the offensive prowess of Parker, the Magic would improve and have a solid nucleus of talent.
4.) Boston Celtics- Julius Randle (Forward-Kentucky)
Why the pick: Julius Randle is probably the best equipped to deal with the NBA’s physical punishment of the top like picks as he stands 6’9 250 lbs. Randle is extremely athletic (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zt8pMZ7Gg-M) and shoots well from about 15-20 ft. He doesn’t shoot as much at Kentucky because of the perimeter-oriented players like the Harrison twins and James Young. There is no doubt that Randle could be a double-double machine in the NBA and may develop into a primary scorer.
How he fits: With the coaching ability of Brad Stevens and the return of Rajon Rondo, Randle should be just fine in terms of having success in his rookie year. Imagine a Rajon Rondo/Julius Randle pick and roll, with Rondo’s ability to get into the lane if the big comes out and switches, combined with Randle’s size against a smaller guard. This duo could be potent. Boston would still be in rebuilding mode though as they have numerous holes to fill.
5.) Utah Jazz- Gary Harris (Guard-Michigan State)
Why the Pick: The Jazz have a nice young nucleus with Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors, but they lack a defensive stopper. Gary Harris is a tremendous two-player who could guard the elite playmakers in the West. He averages 17.7 ppg and 2 spg for the Spartans but his numbers don’t encompass his true value as Harris is asked to take all the big shots for Coach Izzo and he creates shots by himself. This is an important quality for any two-guard as scoring in the NBA won’t always be generated from a drawn-up set.
How he fits: Alec Burks is a good offensive player but he is nowhere near the overall player that Harris is, hence why Harris would start on the currently constructed Jazz team. Come crunch time, Tyrone Corbin should feel comfortable throwing Harris on the opposing teams’ best player.
6.) Los Angeles Lakers- Dante Exum (Guard-Australia)
Why the Pick: Sorry Lakers fans, the Kobe days are dwindling and they will need an heir to the franchise. Enter Dante Exum, the slim guard from down under. Exum is a super-quick combo guard who, standing at 6’6 is a nightmare for smaller guards. He can also pass, making him an even more intriguing prospect. He needs to work on his shot and his time training with the renowned Tim Grover (trainer of MJ, Kobe and D-Wade) should be beneficial. If Exum falls this far, there is no doubt the Lakers should take him.
How he fits: This draft process could be interesting as Exum is represented by Rob Pelinka, Kobe’s agent and rumors are swirling that Exum wants to end up in LA. All that hoopla aside, Exum will be a secondary type of scorer but learning from one of the most prolific scorers in history of the NBA shouldn’t hurt. After Kobe’s days are done, look for Exum to assert himself as the Lakers’ superstar.
7.) Denver Nuggets (Pick from Knicks)- Marcus Smart (Guard Oklahoma State)
Why the Pick: Even though Smart has had a down sophomore season, make no mistake his talent is off the charts. He can penetrate and finish at the rim and is a tenacious defender. He is also a vocal leader, evident by his invitation to last years’ Team USA summer camp. Frankly, the overreaction to Smart’s incident in Texas Tech is disappointing and I don’t think his stock will be impacted by the incident. He desperately needs to work on his outside shooting and even if he becomes a 45% percent shooter, his game will improve.
How he fits: Smart is deadly on the fast break and Denver currently averages 100 offensive possessions, best for 3rd in the NBA, making Smart a perfect fit for Brian Shaw’s up-tempo style. Smart won’t have the pressure of being the main scorer as Ty Lawson has that covered. Smart should start though, as the Nuggets don’t have a real threat at the two-guard position.
8.) Sacramento Kings- Aaron Gordon (Forward-Arizona)
Why the Pick: Gordon, like Wiggins was given an unfair comparison, this time comparing Gordon to Blake Griffin. While the two are both supremely athletic, Blake was much more refined in college and now has become a top 10 player in the NBA. Gordon can rebound, play defense on the perimeter and is a terrific passer in the post. His shot needs work, but his outside game will never be the focal point of Gordon’s success. Gordon also has a hot motor, a value overlooked by many fans.
How he fits: The Kings have a boatload of individual talent in Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore, Rudy Gay, Derrick Williams and DeMarcus Cousins but the wins are coming. Gordon won’t put up gaudy stats in his rookie year but he will definitely provide the necessary intangibles to win games. He reminds me of another Wildcat, Andre Iguodala, who never put up ridiculous stats, but has been a team leader and can defend the other team’s best player.
Why the Pick: With Luol Deng going to test free agency and LeBron not thinking about going back home, the Cavs are going to need a scoring wing player. Hood has a strong offensive array, combing individual moves with the ability to come off of Duke’s typical sreen-action. He is shooting 48 percent from the field and 42.5 percent from the three and has played a tremendous secondary role for Duke. He needs to work on his defense, which is strange for a Duke player from the Coach K system, but with more time and good NBA coaching, he should improve.
How he fits: Hood probably will be a third option on a good team, but for the Cavs he could be the second option behind Kyrie. The Cavaliers could use a knock-down shooter to reap the kick-outs of Kyrie’s driving prowess and Hood fits. Hood doesn’t have the potential as some of the previous prospects, but he should be good for 15-18ppg for his career, making him a safe pick for the troubled Cavaliers.
10.) Philadelphia 76ers (Pick from New Orleans)- Zach LaVine (Guard UCLA)
Why the Pick: The 76ers could change their franchise if New Orleans falls out the top 5 (part of the protection of this pick) and LaVine would provide an even more athletic piece to this team, already loaded with young talent. LaVine can shoot although he is a bit streaky evident by his 14 games with less than 10 points yet he has 8 games with over 15 points. These numbers don’t scream lottery pick, but his potential is worth the risk for the Sixers. He shoots 40 percent from behind the arc, and averaging a steal per game, LaVine does play both ends of the courts.
How he fits: LaVine can handle the ball, which would enable Michael Carter to play off the ball more and since LaVine can shoot he would open up driving lanes. Just imagine a Michael Carter Williams, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Thaddeus Young and Nerlens Noel lineup, not bad at all. The 76ers like to push the tempo, which would allow the super-athletic LaVine to get out on the break and finish at the rim.
11.) Charlotte Bobcats- James Young (Guard- Kentucky)
Why the Pick: James Young can flat out get buckets, and if he didn’t play for the Kentucky Wildcats, he would surely be averaging over 14.4 ppg. He has elite size for a two guard, standing at 6’6 with a 6’11 wingspan, meaning he will be able to get up shots on the NBA level. He needs to work on his defense but the size and instincts to become a solid perimeter defender are there, evident by his five steals in his last five games.
How he fits: Every team needs at least two scorers who can create for themselves and there is no doubt that Young would be able to fit this role in Charlotte. If he learns from the best player in the history of the game in MJ, James Young could have an advantage over the other prospects listed above him. It wouldn’t surprise me if Young became a 20+ scorer in due time.
12.) Orlando Magic (Pick from Nuggets)- Noah Vonleh (Forward- Indiana)
Why the Pick: Noah Vonleh came into Indiana as the next must-see player in Hoosier basketball and he has lived up to the hype. He averages 11.4 ppg and 9.1 all while shooting over 50% from the field. He has a nice inside-out type game and can shoot from 3, despite his hesitancy to do so. Vonleh also has a solid power forward sized body, standing 6’10 240 lbs, which means he should be able to play against the elite power forwards in NBA.
How he fits: Now that “Big Baby Davis” is gone, the Magic could use help at the power forward position. Vonleh would be given time to develop as a scorer as he could leave the scoring to Jabari (see above). There is no doubt that Vonleh can rebound and with his evolving offensive game, he could develop into a solid starter and maybe make an all-star team or two.
Why the Pick: Doug “McBuckets” McDermott is probably the safest NBA prospect as he will always be able to score the basketball. With over 3,000 points in his Creighton career, Doug is currently 7th on the list of all time college scorers. He has a bevy of offensive moves as he can use his big body in the post and can shoot from outside, with a 3pt shooting percentage of 45%. The NBA has a propensity to draft players with potential, and there is no doubt that McDermott deserves a lottery selection.
How he fits: In the caption I said that McDermott could be the perfect fit should Kevin Love leave the Wolves. This is not saying that McDermott will be the next Kevin Love, rather McDermott has a similar playing style as a stretch 4 that can shoot the three. McDermott could learn the game sitting behind Love and should Love leave during free-agency, McDermott could step in and contribute.
14.) Memphis Grizzlies- Jerami Grant (Forward-Syracuse)
Why the Pick: Jerami Grant is a NBA-ready athlete that uses his athleticism to beat opposing wings at the college level. Grant can shoot from the midrange but needs to work on his 3-point shot, which is essential for a small forward. He can defend using his 7’2 wingspan and knows defensive rotations as he leads from the back line of Syracuse’s famed 2-3 zone.
How he fits: Sure the Grizz could use some more perimeter oriented offense to combine with Z-Bo and Marc Gasol, but Grant has too much potential to pass up. As his offensive game evolves, Grant could become a 15 ppg player who provides tough defense to guard the opposing team’s best wing player. As Tony Allen primarily defends smaller and quicker point guards, Grant could lock down forwards, making for a dynamic defensive duo.
15.) Atlanta Hawks- Tyler Ennis (Guard-Syracuse)
Why the Pick: Tyler Ennis is a killer, he is calm under pressure (this has been said a billion times) and has led Syracuse to a 27-4 record this year and possibly a number one seed should the Orange win the ACC title. Ennis serves as a pass first point guard, looking for others to score then taking his own shots. Averaging 5.5 assists per game along with only 1.7 turnovers a game, he is showing why he is a lead candidate for the Bob Cousy award. He is not an elite athlete and with so many explosive players at the point guard position, the questions remains whether Ennis can handle the faster guards.
How he fits: The Hawks don’t need a point guard seeing as they drafted Dennis Schroder last year and just signed Jeff Teague to an extension, there is always room for improvement and I believe Ennis is a significant upgrade. Teague’s contract is relatively friendly with only $24 million owed for the next three years, making it a movable piece for the Hawks. If Ennis could be paired with Paul Milsap and a healthy Al Horford, the Hawks could be in business. The problem is if Ennis has a spectacular tournament, his stock will rise and will probably be off the board before the Hawks have a chance to get him. Ennis is a good bet to be the player picked later in the draft that turns out to be a top-5 player in the class.
16.) Chicago Bulls- (Pick from Charlotte) TJ Warren (Forward-North Carolina State)
Why the Pick: TJ Warren is a “bucket getter” averaging 24.7 points per game while shooting 53 percent from the field. He took a tremendous leap from his freshmen year where he only averaged 12 ppg and now he is the ACC Player of the Year. Warren does have his pitfalls as he doesn’t have the athleticism of an ideal NBA wing player and is really more a scorer.
How he fits: Warren fits perfectly, the Bulls need instant offense and a shot creator to come off the bench. Under Tom Thibodeau’s defensive system, Warren’s defensive weaknesses can be covered, allowing him to flourish on the offensive side of the ball. Warren would also work well with Derrick Rose as he can come off screens and spot up and shoot. The Bulls should be drooling if Warren falls to them at this spot.
17.) Boston Celtics (Trade from Brooklyn Nets)- Kyle Anderson (Guard-Forward UCLA)
Why the Pick: Kyle Anderson aka “Slow-mo” is as advertised, slow yet patient, never allowing an opponent to change his pace. Anderson improved from his freshmen year, his scoring went from 9.7 ppg to 15ppg, his assist from 3.5 to 6.6 and his field goal percentage from 41 percent up to 48 percent. He does have some turnover issues at 3.5 per game but UCLA runs a fast pace offense under Steve Alford averaging 72.7 possessions per game, making the turnover numbers greater. Anderson also possesses terrific size, standing at 6’9 he is bigger than all NBA point guards, making for a better view of the court, a plus for teams looking for point guards.
How he fits: Rajon Rondo looks to be on the outs as Danny Ainge tried to trade him at the trade deadline and there have been reports that Rondo is not happy with Boston’s plan to rebuild. Kyle Anderson would fit well, probably earning the starting point guard spot should Rondo leave. With the recent success of Michael Carter-Williams, Anderson might be a prime target for teams looking for a bigger guard. Anderson, like Ennis, could rise if he impresses during tournament time.
Why the Pick: As the NBA draft gets down towards the late-teens, teams look for situational-role players. Harrell fits the mold of a solid big defender who can guard in the post. A bit small at 6’8, Harrell has a massive 7’4 wingspan that should serve him well going up against the likes of Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, and all the other potent bigs in the Western conference. Harrell has a limited post-up game that needs significant improvement, but that is not his calling card as Harrell uses his athleticism to create easy layups and dunks.
How he fits: With a guard oriented team like the Suns, Harrell won’t have to worry about scoring a prolific rate in order to be effective. The Suns are in desperate need of a lock-down post defender and in time, I believe Harrell could become just that. Combined with Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, Harrell could feast off of lobs from the two-point guard system. Harrell should be a quality NBA player for the Suns and could be an elite defender.
19.) Chicago Bulls- Nik Stauskas- (Guard-Michigan)
Why the Pick: Nik Stauskas is a shooting machine who can light it up from 3-point land, averaging 2.4 3pt baskets per game while shooting a tremendous 45 percent. He also can shoot off the dribble, making him even more of an outside threat. Stauskas has good shooting guard size at 6’6 but he needs to improve his defense given his size. Stauskas reminds me of Klay Thompson without the defensive instincts.
How he fits: Kyle Korver. Mike Dunleavy Jr. Both have had success in Tom Thibodeau’s system and I believe Stauskas could play the younger and more athletic role of both of these aforementioned players. Combined with TJ Warren, the Bulls could have a lethal scoring duo from the bench. There is a possibility that the Bulls maybe trade the two picks for a higher selection so the Bulls might not be able to get both players.
20.) Toronto Raptors- CJ Fair (Forward-Syracuse)
Why the Pick: CJ Fair is a talented senior who has improved every year he has been at Syracuse going from a 6 point scorer freshmen year to a 17 point scorer this season. He has a tremendous midrange game and can even shoot the occasional 3 point shot. He is also a solid defender who has good lateral quickness but lacks power forward size. Although Fair doesn’t have size, the league is changing and stretch fours are becoming more and more popular, making Fair an attractive candidate to teams who need more shooting.
How he fits: Massai Ujiri came to Toronto because he saw the promise of DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas and viewed them both as franchise players. DeMar has clearly taken that step with the departure of Rudy Gay and now Jonas needs to take the same step. The problem is Amir Johnson primarily plays in the post, clogging up room for Jonas to operate. With CJ Fair, the Raptors could give Jonas more room in the post and have CJ as a potential 15 foot jump shooter.
21.) Oklahoma City Thunder- Adreian Payne (Forward-Michigan State)
Why the Pick: Adreian Payne is the cornerstone of the Michigan State program and is obviously the leader on the court and in the locker room. Add Payne to an already very positive and vocal locker room, and the chemistry is enhanced. On the court, Payne can stretch the floor and can play some defense against bigs but he needs to be more focused on both sides of the floor.
How he fits: Payne could be the heir apparent to the wily veteran Nick Collison and would likely serve a limited reserve roll for the Thunder. The Thunder have a nature of rotating rookies in and out of the D-League and then give them a bigger role in their sophomore campaign. If Payne fits the system he will probably ride the pine for his first year, yet emerge as a talented back-up later on.
Why the Pick: PJ Hairston minus his recent off the court trouble could have been a lottery pick, and maybe a possible POY candidate in the ACC. Make no mistake Hairston is talented, equipped with an effective outside game and NBA-type size, he is in perfect position to play the two-guard. In the D-league, defense is poor and some of Hairston’s stats are inflated but he is still showing why he was the best player on North Carolina last year.
How he fits: Gerald Green has found himself a nice niche in Phoenix, but his contract expires after next year and he could look to take a more lucrative offer elsewhere, leaving room for Hairston. Hairston most likely will rotate between the D-League and the NBA during his rookie year, but he could be a significant piece in his sophomore year.
23.) Utah Jazz- Chris Walker (Forward- Florida)
Why the Pick: Chris Walker was one of the best high school players in the nation last year, but he sat out the beginning of this year with academic issues. Walker is extremely athletic on both sides of court and can change the course of the game with his mere presence. Though talented, Walker is raw and his mid-range game needs significant work and development.
How he fits: Utah has one of the youngest teams in the NBA and they are clearly in rebuilding mode, so Walker would probably have the opportunity to make an impact his first year. Walker would probably back-up Derrick Favors but given playing time he could force himself into the starting lineup. Walker has tremendous talent and even reminds me of a rawer version of Amar’e Stoudemire.
24.) Charlotte Bobcats- Willie Cauley-Stein (Center-Kentucky)
Why the Pick: Willie Cauley-Stein is a prolific defender, who might just be a better shot-blocker than Anthony Davis but his offense is a work in progress. He is also extremely athletic, which helps him dominate in the paint. If Cauley-Stein can improve the post-game he could be a quality NBA center.
How he fits: Charlotte would be a tremendous fit for Cauley-Stein, as he could play next to Al Jefferson and primarily focus on the defensive side of the floor. The Bobcats are a nice, young team and Cauley-Stein would be another good addition.
25.) Los Angeles Clippers- Wayne Selden (Guard-Kansas)
Why the Pick: Wayne Selden has one of the most NBA-ready bodies, standing at 6’5 230lbs with a knack for getting to the rim, he could vault up draft boards with a strong NCAA tournament. Selden is also improving his outside game, a necessity if a player wants to survive as a two-guard in the NBA. His defense could improve as well as his shot selection but Selden is a solid prospect with nice upside.
How he fits: The Clippers tried to bring in two shooters in JJ Redick and Jared Dudley in the offseason and both have disappointed. Jamal Crawford is getting older and the Clippers could use another young, talented player like Selden to bolster their bench and possibly start alongside CP3.
26.) Houston Rockets- Glenn Robinson III (Forward-Michigan)
Why the Pick: Glenn Robinson III (son of “Big Dog” Robinson) has all the talent to be an NBA player, he has great size and tremendous athleticism and can shoot, but it doesn’t seem like he can put it together all at the same time. He is consistently inconsistent, which is infuriating to watch because he is such a talent. GR3 could be another player who could help his draft stock with a big NCAA tournament.
How he fits: Chandler Parsons is going to be a free agent after next summer and being a second round-pick he is probably going to cash in big time. There are rumors that the Rockets could target Carmelo Anthony during the offseason, leaving the Rockets with little to no cap room for Parsons, so this makes GR3 an ideal fit, seeing as he has the potential to be another Chandler Parsons as he can shoot it and can play defense.
27.) San Antonio Spurs- Clint Capela (Forward-Switzerland)
Why the Pick: Many have compared him to a young Serge Ibaka, a prolific defender with great size who needs to learn how to play the game in an NBA system. Granted, my access to Capela is limited but from the scouting tape he looks like an NBA player who could contribute as a back-up defender on a contending team.
How he fits: The Spurs are nearing the end of their run, yet Coach Pop always has a tendency to develop the unknown player and turn them into a contributor. With Capela, Pop would have a nice interior defender who can run the floor and provide solid minutes when Duncan or Splitter is out.
28.) Miami Heat- Mario Hezonja (Guard-Croatia)
Why the Pick: Hezonja is another prospect who I have to use film to watch, when I did watch his tapes I saw a player who has tremendous range and good size at 6’7 to play either the 2 or the 3. He needs to improve on the defensive end if he wants to be a solid player in the NBA, but the talent is there.
How he fits: Hezonja will most likely be a Euro-stash pick who would stay in Spain and play more and then receive a buy-out in a couple of years. With the Heat wanting to re-sign the big 3, Hezonja will likely be coaxed into staying the Spain for a couple of years until the Heat figure out their cap situation.
29.) Oklahoma City Thunder- Jahii Carson (Guard-Arizona State)
Why the Pick: Jahii Carson is small, but he has a bulldog mentality, constantly attacking the rim, regardless of the size of his defender. He also is a willing passer, evident by his 4.5 assists per game. Defending bigger point guards is going to be a problem but his elite quickness should help some.
How he fits: I have no idea why Derek Fisher is still getting minutes in an NBA game, but Carson could put an end to this foolishness if he were drafted by the Thunder. Frankly, the Thunder need another ball when Reggie Jackson is on the floor and Carson would be serviceable.
30.) Phoenix Suns- Semaj Christon (Guard-Xavier)
Why the Pick: Semaj Christon is one of the most underrated players in college basketball, as he can play the 1 and the 2 for the Musketeers. He is a terrific ball-handler and is capable of scoring for himself while also working inside the flow of the offense. His size is a question mark as he only weighs 190 lbs. He can shoot from deep, but he is still a work in progress.
How he fits: Jeff Hornacek has done a tremendous job with the Phoenix guards, Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic and rookie Archie Goodwin has shown promise and Christon could be the same way. The fast pace at which Phoenix plays fits right in with Christon and he could be a nice back-up for Bledose and Dragic.
Conclusion: This draft is a pivotal piece for the growth of teams and with so many teams trying to “tank”, the emphasis on this draft is highlighted even more. The hype has been a bit overstated as it was compared to the legendary ’84 and 03′ drafts, but make no mistake, this draft has extraordinary potential.
With a week to go before the NBA Trade Deadline, February 20, the Knicks need to look at their current position. The biggest decision they need to make is whether to keep Melo on the roster and risk losing him to free agency or trade him and begin the rebuilding process. Although many felt that Melo would retire a Knick after he arrived in New York, the recent Knick struggles make fans worry that Melo will bolt this offseason to a team with more talent and a more optimistic future. Unfortunately for the Knicks, they have $50 million locked up in Andrea Bargnani, Amare Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler. These three are vastly overpaid, which will make next season another tough year for Melo and the Knicks. If the Knicks trade Anthony, they will be looking for cap space, young talent, and draft picks. Since the Knicks do not have many future first round picks, they need to sign free agents at the end of the year. I have outlined 5 realistic trades that could give the Knicks more cap flexibility, young players, and picks. All of the trades are contingent on Carmelo Anthony signing a long term deal so that the Knicks can receive full value. Although next season will be a tough year, they will have money to sign big free agents like Rondo, Aldridge, Irving, Love, Marc Gasol, and other free agents that pick up their player options this season.
Trade number 1:
New York Knicks receive: Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, Al-Farouq Aminu, and 2015 first round pick
New Orleans Pelicans receive: Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith
Why the Knicks would want this trade: If the Melo leaves, the Knicks would receive nothing for their best player. In this trade, the Knicks will garner a nice young player, a quality rotational player, minor cap relief, and a future first round pick. Although Gordon is not posting the same stats that he accumulated with the Clippers, he has a lot of talent and is still only 25 years old. This season, Gordon has been healthy. Although Gordon is not posting great numbers, he has not been given many shots because he is the third option on offense behind Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday. However, his win shares are on pace to resemble his win shares during his best seasons. Also, it is well documented that he is not happy in New Orleans, which takes away from his effort. Gordon is set to enter his prime and should be an attractive option for other All-Stars to play with in New York. Along with Gordon, the Knicks will receive stretch forward Ryan Anderson. Ryan Anderson’s scoring numbers have improved during every season of his career. Before an injury this season, Anderson was averaging 19 points per game with 6.5 rebounds, 3.0 threes per game on 41% shooting from down town. Anderson would be a great role player on a playoff or championship team because he stretches the defense and can provide instant offense off of the bench. Although he is paid a lot, 17 million over the nest two season, he is a valuable player that the Knicks would want coming off of their bench during press filled situations. The Knicks will be gaining some cap space because they will be able to rid themselves of JR Smith’s horrible contract and Aminu will be a free agent after this season. The 2015 first round pick could be valuable for the Knicks because the rookies are cheap talent and the 2015 draft class looks pretty deep, although it is premature.
Why the Pelicans would want this trade: The Pelicans are a team on the rise and Carmelo Anthony could make them a legitimate threat in the West. Although the Pelicans are 6 games under .500, they have talent on their roster and one of the best young players in the NBA. This season, Anthony Davis has taken the biggest step forward of any player in the NBA. Currently, Davis is averaging over 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game. Davis has the potential to be a player like Kevin Garnett because he has great athleticism, has the ability to score on offense, and plays great defense that will win him a Defensive Player of the Year award in the future. Along with Davis, the Pelicans have Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans. Holiday made his first All-Star team last season and is having another quality season this year. Tyreke has talent, but he has been unable to produce like his rookie season in the league. The addition of Carmelo Anthony will give the Pelicans another legit star to play with Anthony Davis. The duo has the ability to grow over the next few seasons, which will enable them to compete with the Thunder, Rockets, and Golden State. If Evans can return to his former form with the Kings, they have a chance to actually compete for an NBA championship. Also, if they can turn around JR Smith career, he could provide another weapon. The Pelicans may have a chance to sign Anthony because of the talent and opportunity that they could give him in the future.
Trade number 2:
New York Knicks receive: Trevor Ariza, Marcin Gortat, Bradley Beal, 2015 first round pick, and 2017 first round pick
Washington Wizards receive: Carmelo Anthony
Why the Knicks would want this trade: Although the Knicks would not be receiving the same amount of talent in this deal, they will be given more cap space for the future and more draft picks. The center piece of this deal would be Bradley Beal. The second year shooting guard has a lot of talent and could be a future star in the league. After a strong rookie year when he scored nearly 14 points and shot 41% from the field, Beal has significantly improved this season while averaging 17.1 points, 3.7 assists, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game while shooting a higher percentage from the field and over 40% from the three point line. Beal is only 20 years old and is on his rookie deal, which will enable the Knicks to sign other players to play around Beal while he grows into a superstar. The Knicks will be able to net two first round picks in the deal, which should prove to be beneficial as they rebuild and reshape the image of their team. Although neither pick will be for this draft, which has been labeled as one of the best crops in years, the draft picks should develop into at least rotational players, if the Knicks select the right players. The Knicks will gain two expiring contract totaling $15.5 million, which could help them sign a player this offseason. If the Knicks choose to save this money for the following offseason, they will have about $17 million in salaries which should give them about 40-50 to sign players in free agency. The Knicks could possibly sign max players in free agency, which could totally change the fortunes of their team.
Why the Wizards would want this trade: The Wizards have been an embarrassment and a horrible team for the last few decades. However, this season, they are showing signs of life because of John Wall. The fourth year point guard is becoming one of the best young players in the league and should become a superstar in the near future. This year, Wall is nearly averaging 20 points, 8.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.0 steals per game. However, Wall does not have another superstar player that could help him take the Wizards to the next level. Although Beal has talent, he is not a superstar yet. Anthony could be the player that pushes the Wizards from the 5th or 6th best team in the East to one that could compete with the Pacers and Heat. Anthony has never played with another player with the talent like John Wall. Wall is only 23 years old, which means his best basketball is still ahead of him. Along with Wall, Anthony would be reunited with Nene, who is a quality big man. Anthony would probably be willing to sign an extension with the Wizards because they have a good core and Washington is a big city where he can expand his brand. Also, he grew up in Baltimore, which is only 1 hour away from Washington DC. The Wizards would still be under the salary cap, which would enable them to sign another starter or quality player to help them contend with the other teams in the East.
Trade number 3:
New York Knicks receive: Lance Stephenson, Danny Granger, Luis Scola, Rasual Butler, 2015 first round pick, 2014 second round pick, and 2015 second round pick
Indiana Pacers receive: Carmelo Anthony and Raymond Felton
Why the Knicks would want this trade: Besides acquiring young talent, the Knicks can succeed by garnering more draft picks and drafting good players. The main piece that the Knicks would receive is Lance Stephenson. This season, Stephenson is competing for the most improved player of the year award. After playing well in the postseason last year, he has been great this year and does everything on the court to help a team win games and championships. This year, Sir Lancelot is averaging 14.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 5.1 assists while shooting over 50% from the field. Lance is only the fourth option on the Pacers, which makes his numbers even more impressive. Along with playing good offense, Stephenson is a great defensive player and ranks inside the top 8 in the league in both defensive rating and defensive win shares. Along with Stephenson, the Knicks would receive Danny Granger. Granger has an expiring contract, but the Knicks may be inclined to sign him to a low risk deal because of his past history and talent. After two years of irrelevance, he should be healthy and ready to become an All-Star again. Along with Granger, Scola is a very good player. The Knicks could use the first round pick to acquire more young players. If the Knicks are willing to be patient, they could draft two international players and stash them in the European Leagues until they are ready for the big leagues. In todays’ NBA, more second rounds picks are performing in the NBA. Also, international players, who were drafted in the second round, have a significant amount of value.
Why the Pacers would want this trade: The Pacers already have the second best record in the NBA, but that does not mean they do not need to improve. Although the Pacers have been great this season, they have shown vulnerability lately. The occasional problem with the Pacers has been their inability to score. If the Pacers add Anthony, they would be nearly unbeatable because they already have the best defense in the league. Although George has been great this season and has greatly improved his scoring ability, it has not been seen if he can consistently lead the Pacers and score enough points to win the Larry O’Brien trophy. Anthony would take a lot of pressure off of George down the stretch of games. Although the loss of Stephenson may slightly diminish their defensive metrics, they would still be a top three defense in the NBA. The Pacers could fit Anthony in their starting rotation because they could slide George to the two position. The Pacers would be able to put an extremely tall lineup, Hill, George, Anthony, West, and Hibbert, which would be difficult for opposing teams to match because they have athleticism, defense, offense, and versatility. The Pacers could also go to a smaller lineup by putting Anthony at the 4 to match other teams like the Heat or Nets. The addition of Felton will allow the Pacers to have another quality point guard, if Hill becomes injured or struggles. If the Pacers are willing to spend extra money because of luxury taxes, they will have a chance to be a dynasty because they have so much talent and physicality that other teams cannot stop.
Trade number 4:
New York Knicks receive: Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler, Kris Humphries, and 2015 first round pick
Chicago Bulls receive: Carmelo Anthony and Phil Pressey
Boston Celtics receive: Carlos Boozer and 2014 Bulls protected first round pick (via Sacramento)
Why the Knicks would want this trade: The Knicks are almost totally devoid of young talent, but this trade would net them two young players. Taj Gibson, 28, and Jimmy Butler, 24, are two players that have significantly improved their games since Derrick Rose went down with his second knee injury. Last year, Butler showed his ability as a good two way player, who could become a quality starter in the future. Butler is strong, physical, and big, which allows him to play defense against any offensive player in the league. This year, Butler is averaging 12.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals, and 2.2 assists per game. If Butler was with the Knicks, he would be given more opportunities on offense to show his talents. Along with Butler, Gibson has taken a significant step forward this season. This year, Gibson is totaling 12.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game. However, his numbers have dramatically increased lately because he has been given more time and touches during the game. Like Butler, Gibson is a good defensive player that could change the dynamic of the Knicks. The trio of Butler, Chandler, and Gibson would make the team more defensively oriented. This trade would change the team’s dynamic and attitude from a team that plays with more finesse to a team that plays physically and puts fear into their opponents. Along with the players, Kris Humphries’ expiring contract and the future first round pick will provide the team with more assets as they potentially build a championship team in the future.
Why the Bulls would want this trade: The Bulls may be able to get Anthony during free agency, which would make this deal unnecessary. However, if the Bulls want to guarantee Anthony and possibly make a run this season, they should make a trade during the deadline. Also, the deal will allow them to rid themselves of Boozer without using their amnesty and wasting $32 million. The Bulls will never be able to compete with the other powers in the NBA with just Derrick Rose. Although Noah is taking steps forward, he is not a superstar because of his limitations on offense. Although his passing skills improve his offensive value, the number of passing opportunities will decrease when Rose returns from injury. Also, the Bulls do not know whether Rose can return to his prior form. Anthony would take a lot of pressure off Rose to do everything on offense. The Bulls are constantly stagnant on offense, even when Rose is in the game. A second scoring option, who could shoot like Anthony, will open the lanes for Rose to drive and find cutters like Noah or shooters like Anthony and Dunleavy on the outside for threes or long jumpers. The addition would put the Bulls over the Pacers, who possess similar defensive intensity, but would not have the offensive skill to match Rose and Anthony. With Anthony, Rose, Noah, and Thibs, the Bulls could start their own dynasty again for the next few seasons. Although the Bulls will be losing young players and draft picks, they may not get another chance to acquire a top 15 player in the league again.
Why the Celtics would want this trade: The Celtics are in full rebuilding mode and will look to acquire draft picks through any means necessary. Although they would rather not have to surrender an expiring deal like Humphries for Boozer, who has another year and is owed $15 million, it is unlikely that they will sign any free agents this summer. With Boozer and Rondo, the Celtics will be at least respectable.
Trade number 5:
New York Knicks receive: Emeka Okafor, Klay Thompson, Miles Plumlee, Archie Goodwin, 2015 first round pick (via Warriors), and 2014 second round pick (via Lakers)
Golden State Warriors receive: Carmelo Anthony, 2014 second round pick (via Raptors), 2015 second round pick from the Suns, and JR Smith
Suns receive: David Lee, Marreese Speights, and Jermaine O’Neal
Why the Knicks would want this trade: The Knicks would be receiving a lot of assets through this trade. The most prominent player would be Klay Thompson, a member of the ‘Splash Brothers’. Klay is a 24 year old shooting guard that has improved during each of his first three seasons. This season, Klay is averaging 18.3 points, 2.5 assists, 3.0 rebounds, and 41% from the three point arc. Last season, Klay is third in the league in three pointers, but this season he is second in threes, behind his teammate Steph Curry. Last season, Klay was able to succeed during the playoffs, which made him more of a household name. This year, Klay is averaging more win share per 48 minutes than any other season in his career. With the Knicks, he could become more of a star and move out of the shadow of Curry. Along with Klay, Miles and Archie would be good players that the Knicks could use to rebuild. This season, Archie has not been given a lot of time to play. However, he is only a 19 year old rookie with a lot of talent. The Knicks could give him more time to play and improve. Plumlee has been given more time with the Suns and has significantly improved since last year. Plumlee is averaging 9 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game. Plumlee is a young big that could develop into a strong physical player that the Knicks desperately need inside the paint. The future picks and cap space will help them develop more players and become a championship contender.
Why the Warriors would want this trade: Although the Warriors are 9 games over 500 and have a lot of talent, they are ranked 8th in the tightly contest West. The Warriors need more help if they are going to come out of the West and compete for a championship. The Warriors have been looking for a top 15 star over the past few off seasons. Although Curry has developed into a top 15 player, they could use another superstar to beat the Spurs, Thunder, Pacers, and Heat. Anthony will make the Warriors offense nearly unstoppable. Since it is impossible to double Curry and Anthony on offense, they will both have open shots or their teammates will be given more shots. The Warriors will be able to play smaller and quicker with Anthony at the 4 instead of Lee. Also the second round picks will enable them to either get young cheap players or acquire foreign talent and wait for the players to develop into quality NBA talent. Lastly, JR Smith will have less pressure to consistently score and be a number two like on the Knicks. Smith would be a fourth or fifth option, which will give him more shots and be a more consistent player with the Warriors. If Smith plays at his best, he could replicate Thompson’s production.
Why the Suns would want this trade: The Suns have surprised the NBA this season and could use more talent in order to make the playoffs and succeed. The Suns have been looking for more talent before the trade deadline. Lee would give the Suns a legitimate scoring option inside the paint. Also, the loss of draft picks will not be bad for the Suns because they basically have every other pick in the first round. This draft, they have the possibility to have 4 picks if they do not trade a pick. With Lee, Bledsoe and Dragic would not pressured to score as often from the outside. The extra offense skill will significantly help the Suns and improve their chances of making the playoffs.