Tag Archives: Shane Larkin

Western Conference Southwest Division Preview

By: Evan

The Southwest division will be one of the most intriguing divisions in the NBA with the potential for three different teams to win the division. The San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies all have talented teams that made significant runs in the playoffs last season and will look to make even deeper runs this season. The most significant change for the Rockets is the addition of Dwight Howard, who signed a four year $88 million dollar deal with the potential opt-out after year two. With a core of James Harden, Dwight Howard and Chandler Parsons, the Rockets are looking to win a title.  But they need to best the Spurs and Grizzlies, two experienced teams with elite players like Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.  It should be an exciting season, now let’s look at some predictions. *Denotes playoff team

1.) *Houston Rockets

The Rockets have a formidable starting lineup, one that can shoot and score inside.                    Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com

Dwight Howard is a tremendous addition to an already talented Rockets starting lineup, providing a low post presence that will take some pressure off of James Harden and Chandler Parsons on the perimeter. The main issue for the Rockets will be establishing a pace as last year they averaged 106 points per game, good for second in the league, but D12 likes to body his defender in the post and slow the game down. If Kevin McHale can set the tone and find a balance, the Rockets will be tough to beat.  Another key will be Jeremy Lin’s growth from last season as the media world focused on him and his play regressed from his days in New York. If he can eliminate some turnovers and improve his 34% 3-PT shooting, the Rockets will have a scoring threat from almost every position. As Jon mentioned before, James Harden has seized the opportunity to lead a franchise as he posted a ridiculous stat line of 26 ppg 5.8 rpg and 4.9 apg, all career highs. Look for him to better his assist numbers as well as efficiency since Dwight Howard will draw some double-teams in the post. This team is dangerous and when they make the playoffs, they have a shot at knocking off the Heat.

2.) *San Antonio Spurs

Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich were one rebound away from a fifth NBA championship.                                                                                                               Courtesy of Yahoo Sports

The only reason why the Spurs are not the top team in this division is their age.  Popovich likes to rest his older players during meaningless regular season games, which lowers their seeding.  After the disappointment of losing in the Finals last year, it will be tough for the Spurs to get back as so many other teams improved.  Last year might have been the last chance for this current Spurs’ core to win a championship, but that has been said for a few years now, and the Spurs have continued to excel.  This year the plan will be similar for Pop — give Kawhi Leonard more of Tim’s minutes and hope Tony and Manu stay healthy.   It will be interesting to see the growth of Kawhi Leonard, a player who was considered a role player, now being called on to take the reigns from one of the greatest big men of all-time, TIm Duncan.  Kawhi has emerged as a tremendous two way player with terrific athleticism, defensive intensity and an underrated 3-PT shot. The other player to watch is Tony Parker, who made a solid case for MVP last season, putting up 20.3 ppg 7.8 apg and shooting an insane 52% from the field. If he can replicate his play then Houston and San Antonio could switch spots come May. For Spurs’ fans, its all about the playoffs.  If the Spurs stay healthy, they might have another run left in them.

3.) *Memphis Grizzlies

Can Gasol and Z-Bo lead the Grizz to a title?                                                               Courtesy of Grantland.com

The Grizzlies are another interesting team that had a shot at the NBA finals last year when the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook was injured.  The Grizzlies needed an elite 3PT shooter last year so they added Mike Miller, a stud shooter who is prone to injury and is also a liability defensively. I don’t think he is enough to make the Grizzlies true contenders to represent the West in the Finals.  But now let’s look at the positives, they have Z-Bo and Gasol, two elite post players who compliment each other’s game very well as both are good passers and can make a 15 foot jumpshot. They also have Tony Allen, probably the best perimeter defender in all of basketball, but he can’t score, making him a non-entity on the offensive side of the ball.  The other player worth noting is Mike Conley Jr, a solid point guard who played well last season, but was eventually overwhelmed by the elite point guard play of Tony Parker in the Western Conference Finals. This Memphis team might need to make a mid-season trade for a perimeter scorer if they have any hopes of making a long run in the West. The Grizzlies are good but not good enough to be a top four seed.

4.) *New Orleans Pelicans

This core of Pelicans should give the Big Easy something to be excited about.                                                                          Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com

The newly named Pelicans are young, and a sleeper team.  The team has a terrific young core with Jrue Holiday 23, Eric Gordon 24, Tyreke Evans 24, Ryan Anderson 25 and Anthony Davis 20.  New Orleans’ biggest move was trading away next year’s first round pick to Philly for Jrue Holiday, a surprising move for some as the first round pick in 2014 could be a star, but New Orleans opted for a proven All-Star in Jrue Holiday. NOLA also signed Tyreke Evans, who was in a dreadful situation in Sacramento and although he has regressed since his standout rookie season, with more shooters and playmakers, he should be able to find more ways to score. The key will be Eric Gordon, an oft injured shooting guard who has past history of being a 20 point scorer and could improve the Pelicans’ playoff hopes if he stays healthy. The other integral member of this squad is last year’s #1 overall pick Anthony Davis, who was the most efficient rookie last year with a PER of 21.86 good for 15th in the entire NBA. He is a menace on the defensive side and his offensive game has clearly improved since his Kentucky season and Davis could be an All-star. The main problem with this team is the lack of girth up front as Davis isn’t your ideal big man with size and strength.   Davis is more finesse and quickness than power.  If  NOLA  trades one of their shooters like Ryan Anderson for a defensive big man, the Pelicans would have a solid team at all positions. The Pelicans should improve greatly from last season, and develop nicely as these young, talented players mesh well.

5.) Dallas Mavericks

Should the Mavs trade Dirk? Courtesy of ESPN

The Dallas Mavericks have gone from NBA champions in 2011 to the edge of irrelevance in 2013-2014. Most of this is due to the missed opportunities in free agency including the Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard sweepstakes. Now the Mavericks have constructed a team with Dirk at the helm and Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis as secondary players, a team that will be lackluster defensively to say the least. Mark Cuban won’t settle for medicority and that is why I posed the question, should the Mavs trade Dirk? The team publicly has said they want Dirk to retire a Maverick but if a borderline-championship team offers valuable picks for an aging veteran, the Mavs would be unwise to pass on the opportunity.    Dallas is not a serious contender, and they are in a rebuilding mode whether they know or accept the fact.   If this is Dirk’s last season as a Maverick, he will probably land with a contender by Christmas, and Dallas will look to get some new talent in the stacked 2014 draft.

Stats from ESPN

NBA Draft Analysis

By: Jon (odd picks) and Evan (even picks)

1.) Cleveland Cavaliers- Anthony Bennett UNLV

Anthony Bennett
Anthony Bennett

I said previously that Anthony Bennett was the most talented and best player in this draft. The Cavs clearly agreed with me and took Bennett off the board. The Cavs now have a strong player who can pick and pop with Kyrie Irving. The Cavs are definetely on the rise and have one of the best young lineups in the league.

2.) Orlando Magic- Victor Oladipo Indiana

Victor Olidipo
Victor Oladipo

Victor Oladipo is probably the safest pick in the draft this year and will immediately change the culture of the Orlando Magic. While Oladipo’s offensive game needs improvement there is no doubt he can become one of the elite defenders in the league. The Magic still other significant help but Oladipo is a great start.

3.) Washington Wizards- Otto Porter Georgetown

Otto Porter
Otto Porter

Well Otto Porter doesn’t have to move anything from his Georgetown dorm as he is staying the DC area. Otto is another complete player in this draft with no real glaring weakness but could improve in all areas. The Wizards now have a wing player who can help guard Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Paul George. The Wizards are on the rise but still will probably land in the lottery again next year.

4.) Charlotte Bobcats- Cody Zeller Indiana

Cody Zeller
Cody Zeller

Jordan has done it again…but it is not winning world championship. This comes as a big surprise from MJ’s Bobcats as they have many holes to fill. While Zeller tested off the charts at the combine, he needs to get bigger to defend the elite power forwards and centers. Zeller can run the floor well and with Kemba Walker they could be one of the fastest combos in the NBA. The Bobcats are still a strong a contender for the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes in 2014.

5.) Phoenix Suns- Alex Len Mayland

Alex Len
Alex Len

Alex Len is one of the most interesting rookies in the league because of his size and potential. In college, Len was not a dominant player averaging only 12 ppg, 8 rpg, and 2 blk. Len has the ability to block a lot of shots, but does not play good overall defense. He has bad footwork, which prohibit him from using his offensive skills and physical gifts. However, if the Suns can teach Len the correct footwork and gives him the right amount of play time, Len could turn into the star that the Suns desperately need. They are in one of the worst positions in the league because they do not have a young star or experienced veterans.

6.) New Orleans Pelicans (traded to Philadelphia 76ers) – Nerlens Noel Kentucky

Nerleons Noel
Nerleons Noel

Nerlens and a 2014 protected first round pick (1-5) were traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for Jrue Holiday. By trading the Jrue Holliday, the Sixers have clearly gone into rebuild mode and also have put themselves squarely in the competition for Andrew Wiggins next year. Nerlens Noel will help the Sixer fans get over the huge disappointment of Andrew Bynum and will also provide energy and hustle to a very mediocre squad. Nerlens still needs to improve his offense and his post game but should develop into a solid starting center with a high motor.

7.) Sacramento Kings – Ben McLemore Kansas

Ben McLemore
Ben McLemore

The Kings got the steal of the draft when they drafted Ben McLemore with the 7th overall pick. Many people believed that Ben would be the number one pick overall or at least a top three pick. Unfortunately for Ben, he will end up with the Kings, one of the worst organizations in the league. McLemore is the most talented player in the draft because of his incredible athleticism and scoring potential. Last year, Ben scored 16 ppg, grabbed 5 rpg, and dished 2 apg. Ben has the best shooting stroke in the draft, which led people to believe that he could be like Ray Allen. Ben McLemore will never be a great scorer because he cannot create his own shot because of his poor ball handling.

8.) Detroit Pistons – Kentavious Caldwell Pope Georgia

Kentavious Caldwell Pope
Kentavious Caldwell Pope

KCP is a great pick for the Pistons because he has the range that makes for great shooters. At Georgia, he was forced to score and now in the NBA he won’t have that same pressure. This pick also confirms the Pistons’ plan to keep Brandon Knight as their future point guard. KCP also has the quickness to create off the dribble and use his 6’6 frame to elevate over defenders. I like this pick and I also believe KCP could be a surprise ROY.

9.) Minnesota Timberwolves (traded to the Utah Jazz) – Trey Burke Michigan

Trey Burke
Trey Burke

The 2013 player of the year in college was the best point guard in this year’s draft. The leader of the Michigan Wolverines averaged 18.6 points, 6.7 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. Burke was lucky to be traded to the Jazz because the Wolves have too many point guards and the Jazz have a few nice big men that can help Burke grow. Burke will succeed  because of his ability to run the pick and roll with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Burke is a good defender and shooter as seen from his epic performances in the NCAA tournament. Burke may run into problems because he is only 6 foot and does not have a great shot selection. Over time, his selection will improve and he may become an All-Star in the future.

10.) Portland Trail Blazers – C.J. McCollum Lehigh

CJ McCollum
CJ McCollum

McCollum should be a great addition to the Portland backcourt with fellow mid-major draft pick Damian Lillard. CJ has the ability to create for himself and also distribute for others using his great court vision. Similarly to KCP, CJ had to carry his team by scoring points and now he has the opportunity to balance his play more as he plays with better teammates. This is another solid pick from the Blazers and the Damian/CJ backcourt is going to be deadly from 3 point range.

11.) Philadelphia 76ers – Michael Carter-Williams Syracuse

Michael Carter-Williams
Michael Carter-Williams

After trading away their All-Star point guard, Jrue Holiday, for Nerlens Noel and next year’s first round pick, the 76ers needed a point guard of the future. They hope that Williams will be an All-Star like Jrue Holiday. Williams is tall for a point guard, 6’5″, which allows him to see over the defense and set up his teammates. However, Michael is an inconsistent shooter, who needs to improve his offensive game if he wants to match Holiday. Many scouts are wondering if Williams can translate his skills to the next level. At Syracuse, Williams averaged 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 8 assists. Many Syracuse point guards, Wesley Johnson and Johnny Flynn, have been unable to succeed at the next level, even though they have the physical attributes and succeeded in college.

12.) Oklahoma City Thunder – Steven Adams Pittsburgh

Steven Adams
Steven Adams

The Thunder made a solid pick here with Adams. He has the ability to defend and rebound on both the offensive and defensive glass. While he needs to improve his offensive game some as well as his free throw percentage, he is still a better option then Kendrick Perkins and could compete for the starting job. The Thunder filled a significant role and in a few years Adams could develop into a solid center.

13.) Dallas Mavericks (traded to Boston Celtics) – Kelly Olynyk Gonzaga

Kelly Olynyk
Kelly Olynyk

Olynyk plays like small forward with the size of a center. The 7 footer has the ability to handle the ball and a consistent jump shot. However, Olynyk is one of the least athletic players in the draft, who may have trouble in the NBA. Kelly was an efficient player for Gonzaga averaging 18 points, 7 rebounds, and 1 block. Kelly will likely play small forward because of his shooting ability. In Boston, he will have the chance to play major minutes and improve his game. Kelly is not a good rebounder and will have trouble inside against the strong and more physical players.

14.) Utah Jazz (traded to Minnesota) – Shabazz Muhammad UCLA

Shabazz Muhammad
Shabazz Muhammad

I believe the Minnesota Timberwolves found their future SF and possibly the steal of the draft. Shabazz can score which is what the TWolves need desperately. Coach Flip Saunders has already been quoted saying Shabazz will start on the bench but I firmly believe he will rise into the starting lineup. Shabazz needs to improve defensively and also learn how to differentiate good shots from bad shots. Playing with Ricky Rubio will help Shabazz score and quite possibly develop into an all-star in a few years time.

15.) Milwaukee Bucks – Giannis Antetokounmpo Greece

 Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis Antetokounmpo

The 6’10” small forward from Greece was the first foreign player off the board. Giannis looks and hopes to be the like Kevin Durant. The Bucks also hopes he will end up like Kevin Durant. Although the eighteen year old wants to come to the NBA immediately, he will probably have to return to Greece so he can improve his game and mature physically and mentally. Giannis will have to improve his jumper and ball handling ability because he is not an explosive athlete. Giannis has great length, which will make him a good defensive ball player.

16.) Boston Celtics (traded to Atlanta) – Lucas Nogueria Brazil

Lucas Nogueria
Lucas Nogueria

If the Hawks do not get their man this offseason, D12, they will need a replacement for Josh Smith. Although Lucas does not have the offensive ability of Smith. Lucas has the defensive and athleticism to replace Josh. I see Noguiera as a Javale McGee type minus the bonehead plays. With some time to develop Noguiera could turn into a defensive force.

17.) Atlanta Hawks – Dennis Schroeder Germany

Dennis Schroeder
Dennis Schroeder

Many people believe that Dennis will be a poor man’s Rajon Rondo because of his build and style. Like Rondo, he is a pass first point guard, who has a great handle of the ball. Dennis may be a better scorer than Rondo because his jumper is better than Rondo’s jumper. Since Schroeder is a young player, he makes poor decisions and throws away the ball too often. Dennis is going to be a solid defender in the league because of his lateral quickness and length. Dennis could replace Jeff Teague if they decide to let him leave during free agency.

18.) Atlanta Hawks (traded to Dallas) – Shane Larkin Miami

Shane Larkin
Shane Larkin

The Dallas are another team that is on the verge of rebuilding mode with Josh Smith as a UFA and Jeff Teague is a RFA who might not get his desired contract extension. Larkin is solid pick who can play the pick and roll and create his own shot using various step-back moves. He needs to get stronger to be able to defend the elite point guards but with time he could be a Kyle Lowry type of guard.

19.) Cleveland Cavaliers – Sergey Karasev Russia

Sergey Karasev
Sergey Karasev

Sergey, the fourth foreign player taken off the board, is a proven scorer that could provide a boost off the bench for the Cavs. Sergey wants to come to the Cavs immediately and be like his hero, Andrei Kirilenko. Sergey has a high offensive IQ that allows him to score anywhere on the court. Karasev can score by attacking the rim and shooting from the outside. However, Karasev is a subpar defender and athlete. The lack of quickness and athleticism could give Sergey problems in the NBA. If Sergey comes to the Cavs immediately, he will probably not get a lot of minutes. He will be an offensive spark off the bench.

20.) Chicago Bulls – Tony Snell New Mexico

Tony Snell
Tony Snell

While there were better 3 point shooters still available the Bulls made a nice choice in Snell. Tony was teammates with Kawhi Leonard in High School and both play similar styles. Snell can knock down the open 3 and plays lockdown defense which is key to the Tom Thibodeau system in Chicago. While I would have liked to see the Bulls draft a better shooter this is still a solid pick.

21.) Utah Jazz – Gorgui Dieng Louisville

Gorgui Dieng
Gorgui Dieng

Dieng was a major reason why the Louisville Cardinal won the 2013 NCAAB championship. Dieng was traded, along with Shabazz Muhammad, to the Minnesota for Trey Burke. He was a solid producer, 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks. Dieng is a great shot blocker, who can also hit a mid range jumper. Dieng may end being like Serge Ibaka because of his ability to alter shots and shoot. Dieng will be able to start for Minnesota if Pekovic leaves for free agency. Dieng will be a solid player for years to come and I wish he stayed for one for pick so the Nets could grab him.

22.) Brooklyn Nets – Mason Plumlee Duke

Mason Plumlee
Mason Plumlee

Instant reaction: Nooooooooo. I do not know why the Nets went after Plumlee. The Nets currently have Reggie Evans, who does the same things as Plumlee. I hope this does not prevent the Nets from signing Andray Blatche. Blatche can be a key contributor to the team. Although Mason may be a better defensive and offensive player, the Nets needed a backup point guard or small forward. The Nets should have selected Tim Hardaway Jr or Tony Mitchell. Tony Mitchell would be the ideal candidate because he is a solid defender and can shoot the three. The players who broke out this post-season, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George, all have a similar body type and attributes to Mitchell. The Nets will need a backup for Pierce since he is too old to play major minutes.

23.) Indiana Pacers – Solomon Hill Arizona

Solomon Hill
Solomon Hill

Solomon Hill is a 6’7″ small forward that will be like the Warriors Draymond Green. Hill was successful in Arizona averaging 13.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. Hill will play behind George or Granger. He will be a solid back up that can do anything when he is on the court.

24.) New York Knicks – Tim Hardaway Jr. Michigan

Tim Hardaway Jr.
Tim Hardaway Jr.

No. Tim Hardaway Jr is not as good as his dad but could be a very valuable pick for the Knicks. Hardaway can knock down 3s with relative ease but still needs to improve on the dribble drive aspect of his game as well as his defensive mentality. Since JR Smith is a free agent this year it seems like Hardaway Jr could fill JR’s role on the team. This is a solid pick for the Knicks filling a critical scoring need off the bench.

25.) Los Angeles Clippers – Reggie Bullock UNC

Reggie Bullock
Reggie Bullock

Bullock will be a solid role player for the Clippers. He is a good three point shooter that can spread the floor. As seen in the finals, three point specialists are in high demand and can alter an entire series. Last year, he shot 44 percent from three. Bullock is 6’7″, which means that he will be able to get his shoot off easier than other smaller players. Bullock is an okay defender who tries hard. Reggie will fit with the Clippers because they need youth and energy on their bench, which he can provide. Bullock will probably end up being like a Shane Battier in the latter stages of his career.

26.) Minnesota Timberwolves (traded to OKC) – Andre Roberson

Andre Roberson
Andre Roberson

Roberson is small for a PF but has a niche that will suit him well in the NBA, rebounding. As Pat Riley once said “No rebounds, No Rings” and Roberson could be a key to a OKC  title run. While Roberson is limited offensively, he stays in his lane and does his job well. I see him having a Reggie Evans type career, which on the right team is very important.

27.) Denver Nuggets (traded to Jazz) – Rudy Gobert France

Rudy Gobert
Rudy Gobert

In one of the worst trades of the night, Rudy Gobert end up in Utah for practically nothing. The center from France has the longest reach of any player who went to he NBA draft combine. Rudy’s standing reach is 9’7″. To put in perspective, the rim is 10′ off of the ground… Due to his great size and hands, he is great at protecting the rim, alley-oops, and tapping the ball into the basket. He is a solid defender who can block shots as well as guard the pick and roll effectively. Rudy needs to put more go to the workout room and gain more strength. He is constantly pushed around because of his light frame. He needs a few years to develop, but Rudy could one day be the defensive player of the year.

28.) San Antonio Spurs – Livio Jean-Charles French Guinea

Livio Jean-Charles
Livio Jean-Charles

Livio Jean-Charles might be a typical European-stash pick who could come to the NBA in a couple of years. The Spurs have had great success with international players and maybe Jean-Charles could be the same. He needs to improve his long range shooting to stay in the league but seems to have the fundamentals that Coach Pop loves in his players. A solid late round pick for the Spurs.

29.) Oklahoma City Thunder (traded to Suns) – Archie Goodwin Kentucky

Archie Goodwin
Archie Goodwin

Archie Goodwin was the star of a poor Kentucky basketball team, averaging 14.6 points and 4.6 rebounds. Archie Goodwin was once believed to be a top ten pick at the beginning of the year. Goodwin is an outstanding athlete that can attack the basket at will. Goodwin needs to improve his decision making and jumper if he wants to be a solid contributor in the league. The Suns need more talent and Goodwin can fill their needs. Goodwin will be a good defender because of his athleticism and length. Also he is a solid rebounder. He will form a good tandem with Len.

30.) Phoenix Suns (traded to Warriors) – Nemanja Nedovic Serbia

Nemanja Nedovic
Nemanja Nedovic

Fran Fraschilla, an ESPN analyst on international players said Nedovic is a “European Derrick Rose”. While I find that comparison outrageous, Nemanja does have some athletic ability. With Jarret Jack approaching free agency, the Warriors need a sure backup PG and Nedovic fits. He will never be Derrick Rose but he could be a solid backup for his career. This is a good pick for a Warrior team that is on the rise.

Stats from ESPN.com