Tag Archives: Zach Randolph

NBA Western Conference Playoff Preview: #2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs #7 Memphis Grizzlies

By: Jon

Over the past few seasons, the Memphis Grizzlies and the Oklahoma City Thunder have been in the playoffs and have succeeded during their time in late April and May. However, the Grizzlies almost did not make the playoffs this season even though they were 18 games over .500. At the beginning of the season, the Grizzlies had trouble transitioning from Lionel Hollins’ to Dave Jaeger’s style of basketball. Also, Marc Gasol, the defensive player of the year last season, was injured throughout the beginning of the season. After the change of the calendar year, the Grizzlies have played great because they are reverting to their great defense. While the Grizzlies needed wins at the end of the season, the Thunder have been comfortably in the playoffs since the start of the season.

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Although the Oklahoma City Thunder won the second most games in the west, they had a roller coaster type season because of the status of Russell Westbrook. However, Durant has taken the next step forward and was able to lead the team without Westbrook, one of the ten best players in the league. Despite Westbrook making the Thunder a more talented and dangerous squad, he can be extremely inconsistent and take shots away from Kevin Durant. The departure of Russell Westbrook forced Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka to improve as players and become more integral members of the team. If Westbrook does hurt his knee again during the playoffs, the team will be ready to play at a high level. Last season, the Grizzlies and Thunder matched up in the second round and the Grizzlies were able to win the series in five games. The Thunder did not have Russell Westbrook and the team was unable to play at a high level. Kevin Durant was unprepared to put the team on his back and lead them to a victory over the rough and tough Grizzlies.

 

Why the Thunder will win?

Kevin Durant. Although some may believe that James is the best overall player in the league, Durant has been the best this season and will win the MVP and scoring title. Durant has taken his game to the next level and showed that he can lead a team all by himself. While improving his scoring, his defense has taken a monumental step forward. Durant is unstoppable on offense and his full array of skills will be on display in the first round against Memphis.

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Along with Durant, Westbrook is finally healthy and should be able to play at a high level. In his last four games, Westbrook has scored over 20 points per game while shooting 43% from the field. Westbrook is one of the most talented players in the league because he is among the most athletic in the league. Without Westbrook in the rotation, Jackson and Ibaka took a step forward and showed  they can be consistent contributors in the playoffs. Both players have scored over 13 points per game, which will be important for OKC. Both need to play at a high level in order for the team to win the championship because they will be open a lot when teams devote attention to Durant or Westbrook.

During the season, the Thunder went 3-1 against the Grizzlies because they have more talent and matchup well against the Griz. Westbrook has the ability to shut down Conley and Ibaka has the length and agility to stop Randolph.

 

Why the Grizzlies will win?

After a few lengthy playoff trips, the Grizzlies have the experience to take another long trip into the playoffs. The Grizzlies will be led by their three best players Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, and Mike Conley. The trio has been together for the last few seasons and extremely underrated as a trio. Mike Conley is one of the most underrated point guards in the league and has taken massive steps in the last few seasons. This season, Conley had the best season of his career and averaged 17 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, and 2 steals per game. Although many believed that Conley was overpaid when he signed his contract a few seasons ago, he has become one of the best players on the team and his contract proved to be a bargain. Conley will not turn the ball over frequently and will make his team run an efficient offense.

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Like previous seasons, the Grizzlies will rely on their big men to score and stop the opposition from scoring in the paint. Randolph has been one of the most consistent players in the league because he has averaged at least 17-10 over the past 6-8 years with different teams. Randolph may have difficulty scoring against the great shot blocker that is Dr. Nasty. However, Randolph will have a massive weight advantage over Ibaka. If Zach can use his strength to overpower the mangily Ibaka, he will grab a lot of offensive rebounds and give the Grizzlies extra possessions to score more points.

Along with Randolph, the Griz have another talented big man in Marc Gasol. He was an MVP candidate last season because he has the ability to do everything on a basketball court. Like his brother Pau, he is a great passer. Gasol can block shots, play defense, pass, score, and rebound at an extraordinarily high level.  The Thunder do not have an answer to Marc Gasol and he must play at his best, if the Grizzlies are going to win a few games in the series. Last season, Grizzlies were able to win because Marc Gasol did everything he could to lead the squad.

 

Prediction: Thunder win in 5 games

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The Thunder are playing at a great level right now. Kevin Durant is playing at an extraordinarily high level and he will not be stopped in the first round by a quality Grizzlies bunch. Although Memphis will definitely win a game or two because they are a good team and great at home, I do not see them winning three games against this great Thunder squad. The Grizzlies do not have an answer for Durant and it will become evident when he scores over 35 points per game during the series. Although Tony Allen may be able to limit Russell Westbrook’s stats because Allen is a fierce perimeter defender, Russell will be too much for the Grizzlies’ defenders. Although the games will be close because the Grizzlies play great defense, the combination of Durant and Westbrook will not be stopped towards the end of games. Marc Gasol should show that he is again one of the best centers in the game during this postseason.

 

All Pics and Stats from ESPN.com

NBA Mock Draft 1.0

By: Evan

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)

Joel Embiid has too much potential to pass up Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com
Joel Embiid has too much potential to pass up
Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com

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)

Andrew Wiggins isn't the next Lebron but that doesn't mean he can't be a star.  Courtesy of Ballislife.com
Andrew Wiggins isn’t the next Lebron but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a star.
Courtesy of Ballislife.com

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)

Parker will bring a offensive  repertoire that is unparalleled.  Courtesy of CBSPORTS.com
Parker will bring a offensive repertoire that is unparalleled.
Courtesy of CBSPORTS.com

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)

Julius Randle is strong and should be a force down low. Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com
Julius Randle is strong and should be a force down low.
Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com

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)

Gary Harris is exactly who the Jazz need to make the next step. Courtesy of Sports Illustrated
Gary Harris is exactly who the Jazz need to make the next step.
Courtesy of Sports Illustrated

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)

Dante Exum is an unknown to many basketball fans, but he could become the star of this draft. Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com
Dante Exum is an unknown to many basketball fans, but he could become the star of this draft.
Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com

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)

Marcus Smart would fill the 2 spot for the Nuggets Courtesy of Draftexpress.com
Marcus Smart give the Nuggets a legitimate 2 guard.
Courtesy of Draftexpress.com

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)

Could Gordon be the missing piece to the Kings' puzzle? Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com
Could Gordon be the missing piece to the Kings’ puzzle?
Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com

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.

9.) Cleveland Cavaliers- Rodney Hood (Forward-Duke)

Rodney Hood could be the perfect fit with fellow Dukie, Kyrie Irivng. Courtesy of ESPN
Rodney Hood could be the perfect fit with fellow Dukie, Kyrie Irivng.
Courtesy of ESPN

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)

Zach LaVine could vault up draft boards if UCLA has a good tournament. Courtesy of UCLABRUINS.com
Zach LaVine could vault up draft boards if UCLA has a good tournament.
Courtesy of UCLAbruins.com

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)

James Young has the potential to be a all-star shooting guard. Courtesy of Yahoo Sports
James Young has the potential to be an all-star shooting guard.
Courtesy of Yahoo Sports

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)

Noah Vonleh could flourish in Orlando bringing terrific rebounding and a developing post game Courtesy of Insidethehall.com
Noah Vonleh could flourish in Orlando bringing terrific rebounding and a developing post game
Courtesy of Insidethehall.com

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.

13.) Minnesota Timberwolves- Doug McDermott (Forward-Creighton)

Doug McDermott could be the perfect fit if Kevin Love should leave the Wolves. Courtesy of CBSSports.com
Doug McDermott could be the perfect fit if Kevin Love should leave the Wolves.
Courtesy of CBSSports.com

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)

Jerami Grant could be a nice pick for the Grizz, providing an immediate defensive presence and an evolving offensive game. Courtesy of NCAA.com

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)

Tyler Ennis is #15 now, but that could change in the coming weeks. Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com

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)

TJ Warren is exactly who the Bulls need to help them take the next step. Courtesy of ESPN.com

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)

Kyle Anderson would be a tremendous addition to Celtics, serving as the heir to the Rajon Rondo era. Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com

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.

18.) Phoenix Suns- Montrezl Harrell  (Forward- Louisville)

Montrezl Harrell is exactly who the Suns need to defend the premier 4s in the Western conference. Courtesy of NBCcollegebasketballtalk.com
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)

Nik Stauskas would be another viable offensive weapon for the Bulls. Courtesy of ESPN.com

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)

CJ Fair could be the stretch 4 that the Raptors need to give more room to Jonas Valanciunas in the post. Courtesy of USAToday

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)

Adreian Payne is exactly who the Thunder need to provide scoring and toughness off the bench. Courtesy of Huffington Post

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.

22.) Phoenix Suns- PJ Hairston (Guard-Texas Legends)

PJ Hairston is a good fit in Phoenix and could be a key contributor off the bench. Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com

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)

Chris Walker hasn’t played much at Florida but he has enormous potential. Courtesy of Fansided.com

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)

Willie Cauley-Stein could be the perfect compliment for Al Jefferson. Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com

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)

Wayne Selden would challenge J.J Redick for the Clippers’ starting 2 guard spot. Courtesy of CBSSports.com

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)

Glenn Robinson III is a big-time talent but his inconsistent play has dropped him on most draft boards. Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com

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)

Clint Capela needs to develop and San Antonio could be the perfect place for him. Courtesy of DraftExpress.com

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)

Mario Hezonja is regarded as one of the top international prospects and should the big three break up, he would become the next two guard. Courtesy of ESPN.com

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)

Jahii Carson could mean the end of the Derek Fisher era in OKC. Courtesy of ESPN.com

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)

Semaj Christon is just who the Suns need to backup Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic. Courtesy of Yahoo Sports

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.

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