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2012-2013 Raptors Preview

Posted by BP on September 14, 2012 at 6:55 PM Comments comments (0)



If you've read my previous entries on the Offseason Grades- East, as well as the Raptors Offseason Moves, you already know my thoughts on the Raptors heading into this season.


Though I like the new defensive direction of the team, as do many other Raptors fans, any knowledgeable Raptor fan knows that this team still has yet to prove that they belong in the NBA playoffs with the big boys, let alone actually putting up a fight to six or seven games when they get there. However, I do think the odds are in favour of the Raptors getting back to post-season basketball, for better or for worse.


Now, although it's tough to know exactly what to expect for this new Raptors squad, here's my take on what we can expect from the Raptors looking into the brand new season.



1. Playoffs


Yes, playoffs are a real possibility for the Raptors after making the necessary offseason moves to not only improve the starting lineup of the team, but to also improve the overall defense.


Although many of the NBA predictions I have looked at have the Raptors on the outside looking in, I do believe that the Raptors are one of the sleeper teams going into this season, and could prove the doubters wrong, even if they do only play four games of playoff ball.


Now, don't get me wrong, it's not like I expect the Raptors to even come close to winning the division, or even get higher than the 8th seed. But it certainly wouldn't surprise me to see a first round matchup of the Heat and the Raptors in April. Nor should it really surprise anyone. This team has improved enough to potentially call itself one of the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference.



2. All Star Possibility


The Raptors going into this season hold two key pieces that could become a part of All Star weekend, one obviously, being more likely than the other. And no, that does not mean DeMar DeRozan being involved in the dunk contest again.


I actually think with the right system in place, Kyle Lowry can take the next step in his career and be a reserve guard on the Eastern Conference All Star roster. He is a relentless defender, a capable scorer, and an above average rebounder for a point guard, who is a constant triple-double threat.


If Casey gives him the green light on the court to score and push the ball in the open floor, Lowry can once again improve on his impressive numbers from the past two seasons.


A second, but very unlikely player would be Andrea Bargnani, who could make an appearance as well, but it is also dependant on two factors. One being him getting back to the first 13 games he played last season, and the second is him being eligible as a "center".


Let's face it, he doesn't stand a chance of being picked over the likes of James, Bosh, Anthony, Stoudemire, Pierce, Garnett, Smith, etc at the forward spot, even as a reserve. So the only way I'm saying he does get into All Star weekend is if he's backing up Andrew Bynum or Tyson Chandler. Or, obviously, one of them being injured.


Yes, that's a lot of "if's", I know. But, I did say it was very unlikely.



3. Depth


Yes, I know good depth isn't as important as a good starting lineup in the NBA, but it still doesn't take away from the fact that the Raptors are among one of the deepest teams in the league. The only teams that I would say definitely have a better bench than the Raptors being Boston, Denver, Houston, Oklahoma City, and San Antonio.


So yes, the depth of the Raptors could make a huge difference this year. Especially now that Jose Calderon will be a part of it, as long as he is a member of the Raptors. Calderon will not only play a much different style than Lowry when he's on the floor (which may work to their advantage), but he will also help transition the young Raptors to the NBA. It should really help the offense on the second unit by getting get guys like Ross, Davis, and Valanciunas easy looks offensively.


When looking at a player like Ed Davis, who I think is still a starting quality PF, Calderon might be a blessing in disguise for him. Having him play most of his minutes with a pass-first point guard like Calderon may finally give him the opportunity to show that. However, if the Raptors don't intend on keeping the young big man long term, it could also help boost his trade value.



4. Improved Defense


Kyle Lowry, Landry Fields, Terrence Ross, Quincy Acy, Jonas Valanciunas, and Dominic McGuire are basically all of the offseason additions to the team in just this past season. They all share one thing in common. They are all either above average defenders, or have the ability to become above average defenders.


So, it shouldn't surprise anyone when the Raptors become one of the better teams in the league next season at least defensively. A feat that was almost unheard of when you consider that not too long ago, the Raptors were amongst the worst, if not the worst defensive team under its former coaches Sam Mitchell and Jay Triano.


However, with Dwane Casey now at the reigns, the Raptors are set to finally become one of the league's top defensive teams. Now, if you want to play meaningful basketball in April, this is definitely a step in the right direction.



5. Coach of the Year


No, believe me; it's not as farfetched as some of you may think. Casey was getting noticed last season for his work with the team even with its shortened training camp. Now, with an improved roster, a more defensive oriented team, and a full training camp heading into this season, I think that Casey will make a legitimate case for the Coach of the Year award now that he has more of a team that will fit his style.


Look, if Casey gets this team from 23-43 and a .35 win % to a 40-42 (my prediction) and a .49 win %, you will hear his name as a candidate. A playoff birth would probably put him as a lock to win it.



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Prediction:

 

40-42 Record


4th in Atlantic Division


8th in Eastern Conference


 


Offseason Grades- West

Posted by BP on August 22, 2012 at 1:10 PM Comments comments (0)



Western Conference Offseason Grades



Team: Dallas Mavericks


Key Additions: Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Dahntay Jones, Jared Cunningham, Jae Crowder, Chris Kaman, Elton Brand, Bernard James


Key Subtractions: Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Ian Mahinmi, Brendan Haywood


Projected Starting Lineup: Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Kaman


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: The entire offseason plans for the Mavs revolved around free agency. The whole plan failed after they lost out on the Deron Williams sweepstakes. After that, the dominoes continued to fall by losing both Jason Kidd and Jason Terry to the Knicks and Celtics. The Mavs were able to somewhat salvage at least one more year of competing, as they still look like a low seeded playoff team to me. I see O.J. Mayo with a bounce back year, similar to his rookie season. But, it could also end up hurting the team, as he has a player option for next year. If he does have a breakout season, it’s likely he opts for free agency for a bigger pay day. This also looks like it may be the last year for Dirk in Big D (as Dirk himself has even said he’s too old to go through a rebuild), unless things change dramatically for the franchise with the likes of Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. Hey, it’s unlikely, but anything can happen at this point. Now, they do have the cap space to do so, but it’s looking like a rebuild in Dallas is all but inevitable a year from now. The Mavericks do look like a better team than last year, but that’s not really saying much as they won’t be a contender anyways. Oh yeah, interesting fact here. After only one season after winning, only three players remain from the 2010-2011 championship team. Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Rodrigue Beaubois. Now you know.


Grade: C+


Projected Record: 44-38

 



Team: Denver Nuggets


Key Additions: Andre Iguodala, Evan Fournier, Quincy Miller, Anthony Randolph


Key Subtractions: Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington


Projected Starting Lineup: Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: The Nuggets had a great offseason by unloading Afflalo and Harrington to get Iguodala as part of the Howard trade. They ended up getting a nice return, and Iguodala should immediately improve the Nuggets’ offense, as well as the defense. They aren’t the most talented team out west, but they have a very good team and are definitely set to make some noise come playoff time. They could easily challenge the Lakers or Thunder to 6 or 7 games in a playoff series. They also got two very under rated players in the draft, Evan Fournier and Quincy Miller. However, it will probably be hard for Miller to find time on the floor with the amount of SF’s that the Nuggets have.


Grade: A


Projected Record: 54-28

 



Team: Golden State Warriors


Key Additions: Jarrett Jack, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Carl Landry, Festus Ezeli


Key Subtractions: Nate Robinson, Dorell Wright, Dominic McGuire


Projected Starting Lineup: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, David Lee, Andrew Bogut


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: The Warriors are another team that has made some really nice improvements this off season. Most notably the addition of Harrison Barnes, who I think is still the real deal. They look like a playoff team right now, and a healthy Andrew Bogut will give the Warriors some much needed size. If he stays healthy (which seems almost impossible), the Warriors have a legit chance at sneaking into the playoffs. The Warriors also have one of the deeper teams in the league, which should help them out if someone does get injured.


Grade: B+


Projected Record: 39-43

 



Team: Houston Rockets

Key Additions: Jeremy Lin, Toney Douglas, Shaun Livingston, Jeremy Lamb, Carlos Delfino, Terrence Jones, Royce White, JaJuan Johnson, Omer Asik


Key Subtractions: Luis Scola, Kyle Lowry, Goran Dragic, Courtney Lee, Samuel Dalembert, Marcus Camby


Projected Starting Lineup: Jeremy Lin, Kevin Martin, Chandler Parsons, Patrick Patterson, Omer Asik


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: Whether you’re a fan of Jeremy Lin or not, the team has made some very bad decisions this off season. The biggest eye opener was that the Rockets were willing to give up the future of the team to land Howard. But, thankfully for the Rockets, that didn’t happen. Another negative for the Rockets was that they also lost two very good point guards in Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic, and saw very little return for them. Lastly, the worst offseason move for the Rockets in my opinion came mostly because of the Lin and Asik contracts, which were not matched for a good reason. Have you seen them? If Lin does not live up to his past hype, or “Linsanity”, he may become the most hated man in Texas, very quickly. The draft however, is a different story as the Rockets had made some nice picks in the middle of the first round. Jeremy Lamb was a good pick at 12th (though, taking Marshall here probably would have been much better, and cheaper than Lin) and Terrence Jones being another good pick at 18th. The problem though, is that neither may see big minutes due to the amount of depth on the team. No, I didn’t forget about Royce White. He is probably one of the most unique players in this year’s draft for his ability to do it all, and should see some regular minutes behind Patterson. He may even take the starting job later on in the season. He is definitely a player to watch for.


Grade: D


Projected Record: 28-54

 



Team: Los Angeles Clippers


Key Additions: Jamal Crawford, Willie Green, Lamar Odom, Grant Hill, Ronny Turiaf, Ryan Hollins


Key Subtractions: Mo Williams, Nick Young, Randy Foye, Kenyon Martin, Reggie Evans


Projected Starting Lineup: Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: All eyes will be on Chris Paul this season as he enters the last year on his contract. He’s already in L.A., a big city, a big market, which is exactly what he wanted. But it’ll probably come down to whether or not he thinks he can win with the Clippers. If you’ve read my past blog about Dwight Howard trade scenarios, I had Dwight Howard going to the Clippers for Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan as my favourite one. As that would have given the Clippers two legitimate franchise players, and both would have been likely to resign long term. Lamar Odom is a good addition to the team if he gets back to his old Laker form, and Grant Hill is another good addition if his body holds up. The Clippers are a much improved team, a lock for the playoffs, but are in no way in a position to win right now. That’s the problem with the Clippers.


Grade: B+


Projected Record: 55-27

 



Team: Los Angeles Lakers


Key Additions: Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Chris Duhon, Jodie Meeks, Antawn Jamison, Earl Clark


Key Subtractions: Andrew Bynum, Ramon Sessions, Matt Barnes, Troy Murphy, Josh McRoberts


Projected Starting Lineup: Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: The Lakers added Steve Nash for late first rounders, and added Dwight Howard by only giving up Bynum for him. I’d say they had the best offseason out of everyone. The only questions now are, how will Steve’s body adjust to life outside of the Phoenix training staff, and more importantly, will Dwight even resign with the Lakers. If Dwight resigns, which I fully expect him to, this trade sets the Lakers up perfectly for life after Kobe. The Lakers do lack scoring off the bench, as well as depth at certain positions, but the Lakers should easily find themselves making a playoff run this season. It’s safe to assume they’ll probably be in the NBA finals, because no one can stop that lineup. Of course, all the pressure lies on Mike Brown to make it all work. He will be on a short leash this season, and we could potentially see a return of Phil Jackson if things don’t go as expected.


Grade: A+


Projected Record: 61-21

 



Team: Memphis Grizzlies


Key Additions: Jerryd Bayless, Wayne Ellington, Tony Wroten


Key Subtractions: O.J. Mayo, Dante Cunningham


Projected Starting Lineup: Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: The Grizzlies had a pretty quiet offseason, with their only moves were acquiring Jerryd Bayless as a free agent, and swapping Dante Cunningham for Jerryd Bayless. Bayless should thrive on the second unit in Memphis, where he will probably have the green light to score at will, which is something that he was not really given the chance to do in Toronto. Unless of course, Josh Selby is anything like he was during the summer league. Although the Grizzlies didn’t really need to change much, the one spot in need of an upgrade, a center to backup Gasol, still remains with just Haddidi. If they want any shot of competing in the West this year come playoff time, a serious upgrade of the front line will be needed. The Grizzlies still look like a dark horse, but they failed to upgrade where it was most needed.


Grade: C+


Projected Record: 50-32

 



Team: Minnesota Timberwolves


Key Additions: Brandon Roy, Andrei Kirilenko, Chase Buddinger, Dante Cunningham, Greg Steimsma


Key Subtractions: Wayne Ellington, Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph, Wesley Johnson, Anthony Tolliver


Projected Starting Lineup: Ricky Rubio, Brandon Roy, Andrei Kirilenko, Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: The Wolves look like a dark horse in the West right now. I have them as an 8th seed and sneaking into the playoffs. Looking at the job Rick Adelman did last season until Rubio went down, leads me to believe that this much improved team is ready to get to the playoffs. If Brandon Roy’s knees hold up, and if Kirilenko carries his Olympic success back to Minnesota, the Wolves will certainly be a team to watch for. The Kirilenko move, at first glance looks bad for Derrick Williams. However, it may also push him to bounce back after a less than stellar rookie season.


Grade: B-


Projected Record: 42-40

 



Team: New Orleans Hornets


Key Additions: Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers, Darius Miller, Ryan Anderson, Hakim Warrick, Robin Lopez


Key Subtractions: Jarrett Jack, Chris Kaman, Carl Landry, Marco Belinelli, Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor, Gustavo Ayon


Projected Starting Lineup: Greivis Vasquez, Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, Anthony Davis, Robin Lopez


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: The Hornets obviously had a good summer by landing the number one pick Anthony Davis. They have completely overhauled their roster with some good moves, and look forward to their future with Davis. After a great draft lottery, the Hornets then unloaded Okafor and Ariza for a 2nd rounder and will buy out Rashard Lewis’ expiring contract, giving Aminu, a young and talented wing player an opportunity to shine. Ryan Anderson, the league’s Most Improved player this past season, was also a nice addition for Ayon. Although I like how he will spread the floor when Davis plays center, it is a lot of money to pay a backup, seeing as how he plays the same position as Davis.  But I also don’t like the other direction they’re currently taking with two players who play the same position in Gordon and Rivers. On one hand, you have a guy who doesn’t really want to be there in Gordon, and on the other hand, a SG being turned into a PG that will likely take away from Davis’ game. I’ve also made it clear in my past mock drafts that Kendall Marshall was THE guy that would compliment Anthony Davis perfectly. Instead, they ended up using the 10th pick on Austin Rivers, and then matched the offer sheet to Eric Gordon, a guy who doesn’t really seem to want to be there. Unless the Hornets realize this and act fast, things could take a turn for the worst down in New Orleans.


Grade: B-


Projected Record: 31-51

 



Team: Oklahoma City Thunder


Key Additions: Perry Jones III, Hasheem Thabeet, Daniel Orton


Key Subtractions: Derek Fisher, Nazr Mohammad


Projected Starting Lineup: Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: The Thunder didn’t make much noise this offseason other than extending Ibaka, signing Thabeet and Orton, and drafting Perry Jones. But let’s be honest, they don’t need to make any drastic changes to the roster – at least not yet. Size probably could have been looked at a little bit, but Perkins/Ibaka should be able to manage Howard/Gasol for the most part. We’ll see how the next season or two pans out before we get into a discussion of what they need to do with Westbrook. As of right now, I think he’s a good fit. Furthermore, the Thunder made out with what could be one of this year’s biggest draft steals at 28th. Jones, once considered a top NBA prospect saw his stock plummet as a result of mediocre play at Baylor as well as from being red flagged for knee issues. Jones, at his very worst is a solid rotation player in the NBA. Imagine what he could turn out to be if he lives up to his potential, or even close to it. It’s a very low risk, high reward move for Oklahoma City. I like the pick a lot.


Grade: A


Projected Record: 64-18

 



Team: Phoenix Suns


Key Additions: Goran Dragic, Kendall Marshall, Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson, Luis Scola, Jermaine O’Neal


Key Subtractions: Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Michael Redd, Hakim Warrick, Robin Lopez, Josh Childress


Projected Starting Lineup: Goran Dragic, Wesley Johnson, Michael Beasley, Luis Scola, Marcin Gortat


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: It seemed pretty obvious last season that Steve Nash’s days in Phoenix were numbered, and that they were. They two time MVP was eventually signed and traded to the Lakers for picks. Now, drafting Kendall Marshall to be Steve Nash’s replacement was a good start for the club. But things went downhill fast for them once they signed Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley and Luis Scola. They should be in full rebuild mode now that Nash is gone for good. That’s not to say Phoenix isn’t still a playoff calibre team though. They still have a talented roster, and I think Beasley, and especially Dragic are poised to have huge seasons in the up tempo game that the Suns play. But at the same time, if Nash couldn’t do it, it’s tough to see anyone else making it work with the current roster. As I said, I think a total rebuild in Phoenix makes a whole lot more sense than simply fighting to stay in the hunt for a bottom seed.


Grade: C


Projected Record: 33-49

 



Team: Portland Trailblazers


Key Additions: Damian Lillard, Will Barton, Victor Claver, Jared Jeffries, Myers Leonard


Key Subtractions: Jamal Crawford, Raymond Felton, Kurt Thomas, Joel Przybilla


Projected Starting Lineup: Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, J.J. Hickson


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: New head coach Terry Stotts will have his hands full with this young Blazers lineup. The Blazers did also make some nice picks on draft night, by taking Myers Leonard 11th and Will Barton at 40th. Not to take anything away from Lillard, but I’m not sold on him just yet (but that’s not all at saying he won’t be a good player). Scouts have said great things about him, and he did have impressive pre-draft workouts. But the thing that worries me about him is having played in the Big Sky Conference, and very little experience versus bigger schools. If you look at the numbers, he was also not very impressive when playing the bigger schools. At 6th overall, the pick is a stretch and I think there were better options available. All in all, the Blazers will probably be in the lottery next season. Trading away Aldridge this season looks like a possibility, and by all means, should be done for the Blazers to properly rebuild and reload for the future.


Grade: B


Projected Record: 30-52

 



Team: San Antonio Spurs


Key Additions: N/A


Key Subtractions: James Anderson


Projected Starting Lineup: Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: The Spurs didn’t do much, if anything this offseason, which is probably a good thing. They made their moves last season near the trade deadline by adding Boris Diaw and Stephen Jackson. Needless to say, there isn’t much you can do to improve your team when you went 50-16 and first in the conference the previous year. It seems that almost  every year, the Spurs get written off as a potential contender and then surprise everyone which a great regular season. Well, not this time San Antonio. It seems that this year everyone is giving you high expectations. So, there will be no surprises when you perform well, once again.


Grade: B


Projected Record: 58-24

 



Team: Sacramento Kings


Key Additions: Aaron Brooks, James Johnson, Thomas Robinson


Key Subtractions: Donte Green


Projected Starting Lineup: Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton, Tyreke Evans, Thomas Robinson, DeMarcus Cousins


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: After several years of rebuilding, the Kings still look like just that – a rebuilding team. The picks they have made either don’t perform as good as expected, or the players simply don’t mesh well together. That’s the problem right now in Sacramento. There are a lot of young and talented players on the Kings, but it’s clear that they just don’t work well together. I think they have something in a future front-court of Robinson and Cousins and they should add pieces to compliment those two. The Kings are lucky to have Robinson at 5th overall, since the Bobcats strongly considered taking him in the draft at 2nd overall. They need to do what it takes to develop him to become a great PF at the next level.


Grade: B


Projected Record: 31-51

 



Team: Utah Jazz


Key Additions: Mo Williams, Randy Foye, Kevin Murphy, Marvin Williams


Key Subtractions: Devin Harris, Josh Howard, C.J. Miles


Projected Starting Lineup: Mo Williams, Gordon Hayward, Marvin Williams, Derrick Favors, Al Jefferson


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: The Jazz did the Clippers a favor by bringing back Mo Williams for his final season under contract so that they could sign Lamar Odom. Now, with Williams going into the final year of his contract, will likely be out to prove he deserves another one. This trade not only gives the Jazz an upgrade at PG over Harris, but also gives them trade flexibility at the next trade deadline. They could possibly package the expiring deals of Williams and Jefferson/Millsap for someone else to push into the playoffs. Even if they don’t get a deal done, the Jazz will have a ton of cap room to make any necessary changes in the offseason even if it means taking on bad contracts for better picks. The only question that remains, is can Tyrone Corbin bring this team back to the playoffs for a second year? My answer is no, only because I think there are 8 other teams that are currently better than the Jazz. But, they still have Derrick Favors to look forward to. He’s starting to look real good.


Grade: B+


Projected Record: 38-44


 

Offseason Grades- East

Posted by BP on August 16, 2012 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (0)



Eastern Conference Offseason Grades


Well, the offseason is just about over, and the rosters are pretty much set for most of the teams in the NBA. So, here's my take on what teams in the Eastern Conference have done so far.




Team: Atlanta Hawks


Key Additions: Devin Harris, Lou Williams, John Jenkins, Kyle Korver, Anthony Morrow


Key Subtractions: Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams


Projected Starting Lineup: Jeff Teague, Lou Williams, Josh Smith, Al Horford, Zaza Pachulia


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: The Hawks have had a surprisingly good offseason simply because they got rid of Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams' contacts, which sets them up to make a big splash in next year’s free agency of Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. That alone is a good offseason in itself. They still have a quality starting lineup, which still looks playoff worthy. But I wouldn’t expect anything higher than 6th seed in the East, and a first round playoff exit.


Grade: B


Projected Record: 44-38

 



Team: Boston Celtics


Key Additions: Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo


Key Subtractions: Ray Allen, Mickael Pietrus, Greg Steimsa


Projected Starting Lineup: Rajon Rondo, Courtney Lee, Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass, Kevin Garnett


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: The Celtics unexpectedly lost a member of the former “Big 3” to a rival team in the East. I don’t think anyone can truly replace Ray Allen, but the Celtics have filled in the void nicely both in free agency and through the draft. With Jet as the new sixth man, Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo as the bigs, they certainly have a deeper team than they did last year. Not only that, you cannot forget that combo-forward Jeff Green will also be back. The Celtics should be the Atlantic division winner this season, once again. This looks like it could be the last run for the Celtics before they blow it up and start over.


Grade: B+


Projected Record: 49-33

 



Team: Brooklyn Nets


Key Additions: Joe Johnson, C.J. Watson, Reggie Evans, Andray Blatche, Josh Childress


Key Subtractions: Gerald Green, Anthony Morrow, DeShawn Stevenson, Jordan Williams


Projected Starting Lineup: Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Brook Lopez


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: I don’t care what anyone says about the Nets. I’m not sold on anything that they have done this offseason. In fact, I’ll go out and say they’ve probably had one of the worst off seasons out of everyone because of what they’ve done. They ended up keeping Williams, which was good, but now have an overpaid and an untradeable contract in Joe Johnson, as well as overpaying for Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez for the next four seasons. This is a team that may not even make the playoffs next season. That’s right, I said it. All they really did was add Joe Johnson and role players to a team that was just terrible last season. I realize they want to open up in Brooklyn on a positive note, with a winning team, but the future is not looking very good right now if you ask me. The Nets are now one of the worst teams financially for the next several years.


Grade: D


Projected Record: 38-44

 



Team: Charlotte Bobcats


Key Additions: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Ramon Sessions, Ben Gordon, Jeff Taylor, Brendan Haywood


Key Subtractions: Corey Maggette, D.J. Augustin, Derrick Brown


Projected Starting Lineup: Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, MKG, Byron Bullens, Bismack Biyombo


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: I’m not really sure what to think with the Bobcats. I mean, it’s not like they could have gotten any worse than they were last year, right? But either way, some of their moves are puzzling to me. One was signing Ramon Sessions when they’re trying to develop Kemba Walker at the point. The second was going after Ben Gordon in what will be two more years of paying a 6th man all-star type money. The moves will surely improve the Bobcats, and will obviously keep them high in the draft lottery. But it could also stall the development of players like Walker, Kidd-Gilchrist, and Biyombo for the sake of getting a few more regular season wins. The Bobcats have a nice core of Walker, Kidd-Gilchrist, and Biyombo along with several future high lottery picks. They need to keep building through the draft, not trade and sign free agents. All in all, MKG was a great pick for them and should be a Rookie of the Year candidate right out of the gate. Other than that, there’s not much to say about the Bobcats. They have improved, but are far from making the playoffs.


Grade: B+


Projected Record: 22-60

 



Team: Chicago Bulls


Key Additions: Kirk Hinrich, Nate Robinson, Marquis Teague, Marco Belinelli, Nazr Mohammad


Key Subtractions: Derrick Rose (Injury), John Lucas, C.J. Watson, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, Omer Asik


Projected Starting Lineup: Kirk Hinrich, Richard Hamilton, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: Look, the Bulls aren’t in as bad of shape as most people would believe. I know that they will be without Rose for a large chunk of the season, but they still have Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, and Joakim Noah as guaranteed starters. Add in the fact that they have one of the best defensive coaches in the NBA, the Bulls are still currently a playoff team with or without Rose. Besides, they were still something like 18-9 without him last season. It’s not great, but it shows that they can still win without their MVP playing. The Bulls also didn’t add much as far as fire power to the lineup, but between Hinrich, Robinson, Teague, I think they have the point guard position covered in the mean time until Rose returns.


Grade: C+


Projected Record: 48-34

 



Team: Cleveland Cavaliers


Key Additions: Dion Waiters, C.J. Miles, Tyler Zeller


Key Subtractions: Antawn Jamison, Anthony Parker,


Projected Starting Lineup: Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: The Cavs made one of the most surprising moves on draft night by taking Dion Waiters as high as 4th overall, which is a risky move considering that they passed up Harrison Barnes and Andre Drummond-two players who would have also been good picks for the Cavs. But I still see Waiters playing a big role for the team this season if he lives up to his potential. Waiters is still a big unknown to most, including myself, because as we know, he was the 6th man for the Orange instead of a starter. In my opinion, this can be a good thing because we may not have seen the best of Waiters just yet. As far as the other moves the Cavs made, they moved up in the draft to acquire Zeller from the Mavs, and also added swingman C.J. Miles who will compete for the starting SF spot. Even though the Cavs looked good for the beginning of last season, losing Jamison and Parker is big for them, but it also allows them to develop Waiters and Thompson. They will probably still be in the draft lottery next season, but the Cavs definitely have a bright future ahead with Irving leading the way.


Grade: B


Projected Record: 32-50

 



Team: Detroit Pistons


Key Additions: Kim English, Corey Maggette, Kyle Singler, Andre Drummond


Key Subtractions: Ben Gordon


Projected Starting Lineup: Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey, Tayshaun Prince, Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The Pistons have gotten the steal of the draft for the third consecutive year. It was Monroe two years ago, Knight last year, and Drummond this year. They are one wing player away from becoming a playoff team once again, and they should be able to draft one next year since they should be a lottery team once again. They are still a couple of years away from making the playoffs, but I like the core of their team right now with Knight, Monroe and Drummond. If there’s anything that I don’t like about the current state of the Pistons, it was resigning Stuckey and Prince last season. They are two players that probably should have been let go in order to help rebuild the team and give a young player like Austin Daye a chance to prove himself. Kim English is another player to watch out for. The guy can shoot, and is a great pick for them at 44. He should see regular minutes behind Stuckey at SG because of the lack of depth at the position.


Grade: A


Projected Record: 33-49

 



Team: Indiana Pacers


Key Additions: D.J. Augustin, Gerald Green, Ian Mahinmi, Miles Plumlee


Key Subtractions: Darren Collison, Leandro Barbosa, Louis Amundson, Dahntay Jones


Projected Starting Lineup: George Hill, Paul George, Danny Granger, David West, Roy Hibbert


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: Not a bad offseason for the Pacers, but not a great one either. All that they really did was give the starting PG spot to Hill by trading Collison, signing Augustin as his backup, and then adding a little more depth with Green, Mahinmi and Plumlee. The Pacers have some really nice size to backup West and Hibbert, but look very limited on the wings. Resigning Barbosa would have been a good move for them, because it looks like they could use the extra scoring punch off the bench. Other than that, it looks like a very similar team to the one that we saw last year. Look for the Pacers to win the Central Division this year.


Grade: B


Projected Record: 54-28

 



Team: Miami Heat


Key Additions: Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis


Key Subtractions: Ronny Turiaf


Projected Starting Lineup: Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Joel Anthony


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: Who would have thought the Heat would be able to do this much with a MLE as their only free agency money. Well, it was enough to land HOFer Ray Allen and the sharp-shooting Rashard Lewis to the rotation. However, they still lack a true center which could hurt them, depending on who they play. To say that the Heat had it easy in the Finals last year would be foolish. But they just happened to match up well with the Thunder because neither team has true post players. The Heat do not even come close to the size of the Lakers, and if they match up with them in the finals, it could be a huge, huge problem for them trying to contain both Howard and Gasol in the post. Allen and Lewis were both good signings, but they already have decent shooters in Chalmers, Miller, Jones and Battier. Not focusing on adding more size this offseason may cause a problem for them in the playoffs.


Grade: B


Projected Record: 65-17

 



Team: Milwaukee Bucks


Key Additions: Doron Lamb, John Henson, Samuel Dalembert, Joel Przybilla


Key Subtractions: Carlos Delfino, Shaun Livingston, Jon Leuer


Projected Starting Lineup: Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Mike Dunleavy, Ersan Ilyasova, Samuel Dalembert


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: Without a doubt, the Bucks have a talented team. It’ll come down to whether or not the players will mesh well together under Skiles. They have a log jam at PF now that they’ve resigned Ilyasova, and also have Henson, Gooden, Sanders, and Udoh at PF. Unless they plan on putting Ilyasova at SF, it makes me wonder why they went after Henson in the draft when guys like Moe Harkless or Terrence Jones were there for the taking to replace Delfino at SF (who they should have kept). I think Lamb will end up being a good pick for the Bucks, who will add defense and 3-point shooting to the second unit. I think the Bucks have what it takes to possibly sneak into the playoffs next season if things click in their lineup, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if they don’t. They have improved this offseason, but nothing that guarantees them playoffs at this point.


Grade: C+


Projected Record: 40-42


 


Team: New York Knicks


Key Additions: Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Pablo Prigioni, Ronnie Brewer, Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas


Key Subtractions: Jeremy Lin, Baron Davis, Landry Fields, Toney Douglas, Jared Jeffries


Projected Starting Lineup: Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler  


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: The Knicks probably had one of the most, if not the most active and interesting off seasons in the entire NBA. Obviously the biggest news was that the Knicks were not going to match the Rockets’ offer on RFA Jeremy Lin, and then they decided not to match the Raptors’ offer on Landry Fields. These are two huge losses for the Knicks, as Jeremy Lin played so well as the Knicks starting point guard, and Landry Fields being their best wing defender hurts the defense. One thing’s for sure though, the Knicks are still a dangerous offensive team, and if they continue to play the way they did under Mike Woodson ending last season, they should be a much improved team this season. Adding a pass first point guard in Kidd should serve well to the shoot-first players on the Knicks. However, if the team struggles, and Anthony and Stoudemire fail to develop some type of chemistry this year, it may require trying to move one of them, likely Stoudemire.


Grade: B


Projected Record: 47-35


 


Team: Orlando Magic


Key Additions: Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Andrew Nicholson, Josh McRoberts, Moe Harkless, Nikola Vucevic, Gustavo Ayon, Kyle O’Quinn


Key Subtractions: Dwight Howard, Jason Richardson, Ryan Anderson, Earl Clark, Chris Duhon


Projected Starting Lineup: Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, Hedo Turkolgu, Glen Davis, Nikola Vucevic


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: Finally. The Dwightmare is over, at least for now. But after months and months of rumours and speculation, all the Magic could get for Dwight Howard was Arron Afflalo, Al Harington, Josh McRoberts, Moe Harkless, Nikola Vucevic and some late first round picks? They couldn’t even get anyone to take back Hedo Turkolgu (a previous requirement in a Howard deal), but somehow managed to have to take back Afflalo and Harrington’s huge contracts? Are you kidding me? If someone in Orlando’s front office could explain to me how this was a better deal than what Houston was offering, someone, please, enlighten me. I’m stumped on this one. As far as the Magic’s season goes, I just hope they get luckier in the lottery than they did with this Howard trade.


Grade: F


Projected Record: 24-58

 



Team: Philadelphia 76ers


Key Additions: Nick Young, Jason Richardson, Dorell Wright, Arnett Moultrie, Andrew Bynum, Kwame Brown


Key Subtractions: Andre Iguodala, Louis Williams, Elton Brand, Jodie Meeks, Nikola Vucevic


Projected Starting Lineup: Jrue Holiday, Jason Richardson, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, Andrew Bynum


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: After years of being rumoured to be getting rid of Iguodala, the Sixers finally bit the dust and shipped him off to Denver as part of the Howard trade. Losing Iggy is a big loss, as he is one of the best all around players and defenders in the league. Similarly, losing Lou Williams, the team’s leading scorer, who also came in off the bench, will be another loss to the depth charts. However, Bynum, if healthy, should be able to dominate games even more so without Gasol. I think he’s going to have a huge year, and keep the Sixers in the playoff mix. Wait, it gets better. It even looks as if Bynum will extend his contract to remain with the team as well. I also expect a breakout year from Evan Turner, who will now look to fill the big void left by Iguodala.


Grade: A


Projected Record: 41-41

 



Team: Toronto Raptors


Key Additions: Kyle Lowry, John Lucas, Landry Fields, Terrence Ross, Quincy Acy, Jonas Valanciunas


Key Subtractions: Jerryd Bayless, James Johnson, Gary Forbes, Ben Uzoh


Projected Starting Lineup: Kyle Lowry, Landry Fields, DeMar DeRozan, Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: The Raptors have made some pretty nice moves this offseason, and probably one of the most underrated moves by adding Kyle Lowry to take over the point. However, they still have a lot of young and under developed players on the roster like DeRozan, Ross, Davis, and Valanciunas, who all need time to adjust to the NBA and prove themselves before we start praising Bryan Colangelo for putting together a playoff team. The one thing that I don’t like about the Raptors moving forward is that they’re rushing the rebuild just to get into the playoffs, and still have a load of players who have yet to prove themselves. Them relying on veterans to get more wins, especially as we saw this past season, instead of playing their young guys is something that I’ve never been a fan of, and is the one of the only negatives I have about Casey, other than not holding all of his players accountable defensively. If there’s something that is vital during a rebuild, it’s playing your young players and/or rookies so that you can get an idea of what you have. We may have gotten rid of a quality NBA guard in Bayless, and may never know Ed Davis’ full potential, all because the Raptors wanted a few more wins. As far as me not having Valanciunas starting, if anyone has seen him during the Olympics, you know that he is not ready for a starting role or major minutes right now. It’s possible he may even play the entire season behind Johnson and Gray as he adjusts to life in the NBA. All in all, I like the moves that the Raptors have made. They finally look ready to push for the playoffs this year, and finally have a roster capable of doing so. But hold your horses. This team is nowhere close to actually doing anything once they get there.


Grade: B+


Projected Record: 40-42

 



Team: Washington Wizards


Key Additions: Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor


Key Subtractions: Andray Blatche


Projected Starting Lineup: John Wall, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Jan Vesely, Nene


Summary of moves and/or thoughts: I think the Wizards will be one of the league’s most improved teams next season.  Wall and Beal make for a young and talented backcourt, while veterans Ariza, Nene and Okafor will add playoff experience and leadership. Beal is going to be a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate, and could help to change the losing culture in Washington in the near future. I think the Wizards took the wrong route by simply adding veterans instead of continuing to build through the draft, but let’s face it, changes needed to be made in order to create a better team environment. The old Wizards team was just too immature, and didn’t really care about winning. The Wizards, though they did improve, still aren’t good enough for the playoffs just yet. Maybe next year Washington.


Grade: B+


Projected Record: 37-45




Up next will be my offseason grades and thoughts on the Western Conference teams.

 

Raptors Offseason Moves

Posted by BP on July 6, 2012 at 11:45 AM Comments comments (14)



When the Raptors’ 2011-2012 season took an unexpected turn for the better (or worse, if you were hoping for a high lottery pick like myself), Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo promised Raptors fans that it would be an “exciting and active off season” for us, and that we would see some major changes to the roster.


Bryan Colangelo was not lying when he said the team would be active, but the offseason has hardly been exciting. It has actually been more frustrating than it has been exciting, at least for me personally.


So, let’s take a look at the moves Bryan Colangelo has made so far this offseason, and of course the one that he didn’t make (sigh of relief).


 


Steve Nash


I’ll start with the most important move that Bryan Colangelo didn’t make this year, but tried so desperately to do.


Obviously by now we all know that Nash is going to be in Los Angeles next year as the new starting point guard for the Lakers. But Steve Nash was said to be the number one priority for the team this offseason.


Like it or not, Nash played a crucial role in the offseason activities for the Raptors. Everything was dependant on the 38 year old's decision of where he would be playing. All of the offseason moves of the Raptors were solely done for the purpose of bringing in Steve Nash (Fields), as well as building around him (Ross). It even included a backup plan if Nash to Toronto ultimately failed (Lowry).


While I will admit, I selfishly would have liked to see Nash play as a Raptor, but I certainly knew that it was a terrible decision for the Raptors’ future by bringing in a 38 year old point guard for 12 Million per year, for three years. The three years of Nash (if he held up that long) would have been fun to watch, but it simply would have made NBA in Toronto even more depressing once Steve Nash called it quits in the NBA.


Grade: A+ for not signing him, but easily an F if they had signed him, purely for basketball related reasons.

 



Terrence Ross


The offseason all started with the 2012 NBA draft, and the Raptors taking an unexpected, but a pretty nice overall pick in Terrence Ross. I’ve mentioned before, Ross is going to be a good NBA player, and is a much better pick for the Raptors in my opinion than Austin Rivers or Jeremy Lamb would have been.


However, it was the circumstances of the pick that I didn’t really like.


One of those circumstances being that they passed on a potential franchise-changing talent in Andre Drummond. If Drummond turns out to be anything remotely close to Dwight Howard, Raptor fans will have another reason to hate Colangelo for. At the very worst, Drummond will be a defensive specialist in the NBA, an almost picture perfect pairing with another young big man Jonas Valanciunas.


Two being that the pick was really made around Steve Nash and giving him more offensive weapons on the wing to pass to. If anyone knows how to build around Nash, it’s probably Colangelo. But the fact that they were doing so in an attempt to give Nash more weapons offensively is just a bad basketball move.


Grade: B. I’ll take the average between the A (for passing on Lamb + Rivers), and C (for building around Nash and passing up Drummond).


 


Quincy Acy


Quincy Acy is the perfect role player for the Raptors off the bench. Anyone who watched Baylor the past few seasons knows what I’m talking about. Quincy is a high energy player, very athletic, and relentlessly attacks the basket for dunks and offensive rebounds.


Think of this pick as a younger version of Reggie Evans, but much more athletic. Or possibly even another Jerome Williams, aka the “Junkyard Dog”. If Acy is anything like what I’ve seen, Toronto will have a new fan favourite known for his hard work on the court.


This is the exact type of player that the Raptors need to have in the lineup. The fact that Toronto was able to use one of their second round picks on him is even better. Very low risk, high reward type move.


The problem though, is with an already jammed rotation at PF, how much time will Acy even see on the floor? Well, we know that Casey prefers the proven veterans. But, if Casey rewards players for defense and effort (rookie or not), Acy should see some regular minutes.


Grade: A

 



Tomislav Zubcic


Grade: N/A, to be honest I’ve never heard of the guy. But I do know that Robert Sacre was available. Why not take the Canadian guy, the Raptors could have used a backup center anyways.

 

 


Landry Fields


Landry Fields, said to be just a tactic for luring Nash away from the Knicks, was another off season addition set to improve the defense and wings on the team. However, if you ask me, I’d say the Raptors had targeted him the entire time, not just to get Nash.


It was the contract that they offered Fields which was the tactic to deter the Knicks from signing both him and Nash. You could argue that Fields is a little overpaid, but I think it’s a reasonable signing nonetheless. He’s an athletic combo-wing player, capable of playing both the 2 and 3 (maybe even the 4 at times) and definitely should be an upgrade for the team.


Fields lost a lot of hype in New York after the addition of Carmelo Anthony, but who can blame him. It’s not easy playing with a guy who slows the game down and likes to take a lot of shots. He’s still one of the better rebounding 2-guards in the NBA, and should be able to fit in well as a starter on a team that doesn’t rebound particularly well.


The problem with this signing is that the Raptors probably could have been able to sign him around 4-5 million per year instead of 7, but I still like the addition.


Grade: B+

 


Kyle Lowry


Kyle Lowry is finally the upgrade I’ve long been waiting for in Toronto. Lowry is an all-star calibre point guard, who is a huge upgrade defensively over Calderon. While he may not be as efficient offensively as the Spaniard, I don’t feel as though it will be a problem due to the huge upgrade on the defensive side. Lowry will look to push the ball in transition, and may even score more for the team than the slower paced Calderon did.


I think it’s pretty safe to say now that the Raptors should almost be a lock to sneak into the playoffs as a 7th or 8th seed next year. Which means that the likelihood of the pick being top-3 is very, very small. But at the very worst, the Raptors barely miss the playoffs and are forced to give up a 12th-14th pick for him.


Anyone who is saying that's too much to give up for Lowry, remember that prior to the draft the Raptors had considered giving up the 8th overall pick for Lowry. So, if you ask me, this is a better deal for the Raptors. For that reason, it's not a bad move at all by Colangelo to give up a late lottery pick instead of having giving up a sure-thing at 8th.


Now, that is not to say that Lowry automatically pushes the Raptors into championship contention either. The Raptors are still are a ways away before they look to do any damage past the first round. Especially when you consider, that, as a 7th or 8th seed as I am predicting, would likely have them facing up against the Heat or the Bulls.


Grade: A


 

John Lucas III


Lucas is a veteran point guard brought in to help the second unit. However, as long as the team has Calderon, it's likely that Lucas will see very little action on the floor. But as far as im concerned, it almost looks like the type of move that you would make when you expect to trade Calderon at some point during the upcoming season. So, while I don't expect much from Lucas right away as the 3rd-string point guard, he could eventually become the go-to guy on the second unit once Calderon is gone for good.


In that case, I think it's a good addition considering the price they got him. They obviously could have gotten Uzoh for much less, but Lucas will bring a veteran presence as well as scoring off the bench, which are both areas that the Raptors desperately need to improve on.



Grade: B



Dominic McGuire


Though many fans may not know who this is, McGuire is a combo-forward who is another defensive-minded player. While McGuire will make a very minimal, if any sort of impact on the offensive end, his presence defensively is what I like about this signing.


He is also expected to play a role similar to the role that James Johnson played last season.


Grade: B+




*Will update this regularly as more offseason moves are made.*

 

2012 NBA Draft Recap

Posted by BP on June 29, 2012 at 6:30 PM Comments comments (0)



Well, finally, after weeks of anticipation, the night had finally came and gone before I knew it. As I said earlier in my First Mock Draft, I would come out with my final thoughts and opinions about the draft. So, those will follow.


But as far as my Second Mock Draft, I think I did pretty well in some of my picks. The biggest hurdle was finding out what Charlotte was going to be doing with their 2nd pick, but after that, there weren’t really any major trades other than the Mavs-Cavs swap of 17 for 24, 33, 34.


So here we have it. If there actually is anyone out there who reads this, here are my thoughts on the 2012 NBA Draft. My three top picks of the night, favourite first round picks, least favourite first round picks, as well as potential second round steals.


 

The 3 Best Picks


1. Andre Drummond. At 9th. Seriously, at 9th. Now if someone told me in December, or even a month ago that Drummond would slip down to 9th, I would think they were crazy. Simply put, Drummond is in the perfect situation for the Pistons.


Not only do the Pistons now have a fantastic front-line in Monroe-Drummond, but they now don’t even need Drummond to be a great offensive player with Monroe either. He just has to defend the middle and clean up the glass for Monroe. I see this pick as a pick that really cannot fail. Worst case scenario is that Drummond remains as a defensive specialist to protect the rim, which isn’t a bad case at all, really.


2. Kendall Marshall. Face it Suns fans, Steve Nash is leaving Phoenix. But things are definitely heating up already in the desert now that you have a new, younger, pass first point guard to build around. Marshall is in the perfect run-and-gun system which I think is almost sure to have him on multiple all-star teams.


The problem for Marshall, though, is who does he pass too? Steve Nash made it work, because he’s, well, Steve Nash. But expecting a rookie Kendall Marshall to come in and put up Steve Nash assist numbers is a little much. But I still expect a strong ROY type season for the rookie point guard, even if he isn’t the “best” rookie next season.


 3. Perry Jones III. Will almost certainly be a bench player for the Thunder, as long as they have Ibaka and Perkins on the roster. But the Thunder got a lottery talent, potentially a top-5 talent at #28. If that isn’t a steal, then please, tell me what is.


Regardless of Jones’ reported knee issues which caused him to drop so far, the fact that they got him at 28th is a pretty nice pick. There is no risk with this pick, only upside.


 

My Favourite First Round Picks


2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist- after all the speculation of trading the #2 pick down in order to draft Barnes, the Bobcats played it safe and drafted MKG instead. This will end up being a really good pick for the Bobcats, who now have a really nice nucleus of young players in Walker, Henderson, Kidd-Gilchrist, and Biyombo to build on.


3. Bradley Beal- the Wizards have now formed a really good back court with Wall and Beal. They got the guy that they wanted all along, and have now formed a very nice team to compliment Wall in the future. Expect a huge improvement for the Wizards next season.


9. Andre Drummond- The Pistons lucked out with Monroe in 2010, Knight last year, and now Drummond. The Pistons may have come out with what could be the steal of the draft for the 3rd year in a row. At least I think so.


13. Kendall Marshall- There was no better person to take over for the Steve Nash-led Suns than the best passer in the draft, Kendall Marshall. He should have no problem in Gentry’s run-and-gun system, and I am predicting now that he will be one of the top rookies next season, even if Phoenix has a poor record.


23. John Jenkins- Could be either a 6th man, or a starter next season for the Hawks, which puts him in a perfect position to make an immediate impact for a likely playoff team. As a sixth man, he basically plays the old Jamaal Crawford scoring role off the bench, and could be one of the top rookies, and even top 6th men next season. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to even see him get some 6th man nominations next season.


22. Fab Melo- If the Celtics Big-4 decide to come back for another season, they will have found their center in order to protect the rim. This also allows KG to be moved back to PF, even though he played extremely well at center at the end of last season and into the playoffs. This is a pick that will help one last run.


28. Perry Jones III- Due to recent knee issues, his draft stock plummeted. But this is a very low risk (if any), high reward move for the Thunder. Whether he plays alongside Durant at PF, or off the bench as a combo-forward, this is a very good pick for the Thunder considering he was a projected top pick two years ago, and at his worst considered a high lottery pick shortly before his knee issues arose before the draft.

 

 

Least Favourite First Round Picks


Well, to be honest, it was a draft where I felt that a lot of teams made moves that actually improved their teams, based on their roster, based on their spot in the draft, and based on who was available at that pick. There were, however, some picks that stood out to me more than the rest.


8. Terrence Ross- Well, after months of anticipation and trade rumours, to say I was a little disappointed with the Raptors selection would be an understatement.


However, in spite of that, I am actually happy that the Raptors took Ross instead of going after the other shooting guards Lamb and Rivers. As stated in my earlier Draft Preview, they were in my “Players to Avoid” list. So I was at least happy to see that.


But at the same time, if the Raptors knew that that wanted Ross all along, why not try and move down to take him, while potentially acquiring another first round pick in the process.


Now, with respect to Terrence Ross, this is not an attempt to try and take anything away from him. It’s not that it’s a bad pick because I don’t like him or don’t believe he’s going to be a good player. Ross, I think is a going to be a good pro player, and will have a long NBA career. So I will point that out and make one thing clear. It’s just that when you have a potential franchise-changer in Andre Drummond fall into your lap at 8th, you have to roll the dice with him. High bust potential or not, the ability to be the next Dwight Howard is an opportunity you just DO NOT pass up.


So, long story short, if Drummond wasn’t available at the time, I would have rated this as a very good pick for the Raptors.


But this is also one pick that really could hurt the future of the Raptors.


10. Austin Rivers- I’m wondering a few things with this pick. One, how Austin Rivers is going to play point guard. Two, how will Gordon and Rivers co-exist in the backcourt, both being scoring guards. Three, and most importantly, how is Anthony Davis ever going to get any shots. The perfect pick here for New Orleans, as I said in my last mock draft, would have been a pass-first point guard Kendall Marshall to get everyone else easy looks.


Now, I’m not sure if that can happen with a guy like Rivers. I would also hate to see Davis’ potential stalled because of team mates with high egos.


15. Moe Harkless- I don’t like this pick for the Sixers as long as they have Iguodala. If, however, they end up trading him, as many believe, this will end up being a good pick.


29. Marquis Teague- I think C.J. Watson did a really good job for the Bulls with Rose out. Now, I know that the Bulls need a temporary replacement for Rose while he misses the first part of the season, but what they needed was players to put around Rose. I would have liked to see Kentucky’s Doron Lamb here instead. A player who can spread the floor for Rose, and knock down 3’s consistently would have been perfect for the Bulls.


 

Potential Second-Round Steals


34. Jae Crowder- traded to the Mavericks. High energy player to go behind Shawn Marion, if he ends up staying in Dallas. I can see him getting a lot of minutes next season because the Mavs really lack SF's. He may find himself getting regular minutes behind Marion. Or dare I say, alongside Deron Williams and Dirk Nowitzki?


35. Draymond Green- I honestly still don’t know whether or not he will be a PF, or a SF, or both. But, nonetheless, I like this pick for the Warriors who have added a player who can come in right away and help them make a playoff push for next season.


37. Quincy Acy- I think that this was a really nice pick for the Raptors. Immediately, I start thinking Reggie Evans 2.0, and that, is music to my ears. One of the best players physically in the draft, and is a guy that will back down to no one when trying to dunk or grab rebounds. That is something that should fit in well with Casey, if, he manages to find minutes behind Bargnani, Johnson, and Davis. I really hope he’s a long-term keeper in Toronto, because if he’s anything like the guy I watched at Baylor, he will be a fan favourite in Toronto for quite some time.


40. Will Barton- One of the more underrated players in the draft, in my opinion. But even for a guy playing in the Conference-USA (I’m not a big fan of small-conference players) I think he could make an immediate impact for the Blazers next season, if not as a starter, then definitely as a regular player in the rotation.


41. Tyshawn Taylor- May even be a starter next season if Deron Williams leaves for Dallas. If that’s the case, Taylor should have the floor to himself to create and score, just like he did all of this season at Kansas. For that reason, he may be a blessing in disguise for the Nets.


42. Doron Lamb- It’ll be hard for him to get his shots with both Ellis and Jennings in the back court, but he’s gotten use to playing the lesser role while at Kentucky for two years, and he actually played it to perfection. Lamb should be able to step in immediately for the Bucks next season as their backup SG with guard oriented coach Scott Skiles.


51. Kris Joseph- I like Joseph here because of the lack of depth for the Celtics behind Pierce. An athletic wing player, who may even be able to step in and play the SG position when called upon. Assuming that the Celtics keep their team intact, I see him as a rotational player who will be useful for rest days, or days when there’s foul trouble for the Celtics’ starters.


 

With that said, congratulations to all the new faces in the NBA. As always, I look forward to watching them all next season.


Well, that’s it for my draft recap. Now, my excitement lies on October for training camp and the start the NBA and NCAA season once again.

 

2012 NBA Mock Draft 2.0

Posted by BP on June 27, 2012 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (0)



As stated before in my Previous Mock Draft, I would put out another mock draft right before the NBA draft to account for any changes in the draft order (trades) and any rumours of players who were impressive for their team’s workouts.


Now, although I don’t have any “Insider” news, I simply base that on what I see and hear in NBA rumours. While some, if not all may or may not be true, let’s take a look at what my official 2012 NBA Mock Draft will look like for the highly anticipated Thursday night event.


 

1. New Orleans Hornets

Anthony Davis. No ifs, ands, or buts. Anthony Davis will be the pick here.


 

2. Charlotte Bobcats

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (pending Charlotte-Cleveland trade for Beal-Barnes). But considering the recent trade for Ben Gordon, Charlotte would probably be best off drafting a SF. MKG would be my choice here, but the Bobcats seem to be really high on UNC’s Harrison Barnes, and may be willing to pass on MKG for Barnes. If it happens, Jordan will either look like a genius for going all-in after Barnes, or really, really dumb for passing on what seems like a sure-thing in Kidd-Gilchrist.


I’ve also said in my last Mock Draft that if the Bobcats want to make a bold move to find a star, they may be best off taking Drummond here. A front-line of Drummond-Biyombo would be one of the best defensively if it were to happen. It is one hell of a risk, but could be worth the very, very high reward.  


 

3. Washington Wizards

Bradley Beal (pending Charlotte-Cleveland trade for Beal-Barnes) because if Cleveland picks 2nd, they are most likely taking Beal. But as of right now, I will have Beal at number-two because the trade isn’t official, and may not be until the actual draft takes place.


If Washington happens to land Beal, they will have made some nice moves in the past trade deadline as well as this offseason in order to improve the team. Beal and Wall would form one of the top back courts in the NBA in the near future. Now it’s on the Wizards to find a way to rid themselves of Andray Blatche, even if it means amnesty.

 

4. Cleveland Cavaliers

Harrison Barnes (pending Charlotte-Cleveland trade for Beal-Barnes). The other choice here would be Michael Kidd-Gilchrist if the trade doesn’t happen, and both the Bobcats and Cavs keep their picks. The Bobcats may still like Barnes enough to take him 2nd overall, which would then clear the way for the Cavaliers to take MKG at 4th. What a steal that would be, and I’m sure Cleveland would be happy enough with that.


 

5. Sacramento Kings

Thomas Robinson. I hate to sound repetitive, but it’s true once again. The 5th pick will depend heavily on what the above teams do, as well as what the Kings decide to do with Tyreke Evans. The most recent rumour I’ve heard is Evans and the 5th pick to Houston for Lowry and their picks, which, if you ask me, seems heavily one sided, and looks like the Rockets would get the sweeter part of that deal.


The Kings are probably hoping that one of Barnes or Kidd-Gilchrist fall to them at 5th since they desperately need a new SF. But as you see in this mock draft, that isn’t happening so they’ll have to settle for the BPA Thomas Robinson, and hope to sign or trade for a new SF.

 

6. Portland Trailblazers

Damian Lillard. What position do the Blazers need more than anything right now? Yes, I know, they need just about everything, but the biggest weakness for the Blazers with Felton and Crawford leaving is at point guard. That’s why I think they’ll take a shot on Weber State’s Damian Lillard.


Now, I do think that he is a tad over rated at this point, despite his impressive workouts. Big Sky conference talent is nowhere near the talent level that we see in the Big East, Big 12, Big 10, ACC, SEC, etc. But Portland would be the best opportunity for him to come in and prove himself right away as a starter.


So what do the Blazers have to lose if Lillard is a bust? Not much, they got this pick from New Jersey for Gerald Wallace anyways.

 

7. Golden State Warriors

Andre Drummond. No, I didn’t forget that they did deal for Andrew Bogut at last year’s deadline. But because of his constant time on the sidelines, it tells me that the Warriors would not pass up Drummond if he falls to 7th. It just wouldn’t make sense if the Warriors actually did something that drastic.


Besides, at this point, Drummond wouldn’t be a high-risk pick at 7th like he is said to be in the top-5. I don’t buy it though, I still have faith that Drummond is going to be a solid pro. The Warriors should be very happy to land the UConn big man here.

 

8. Toronto Raptors

Dion Waiters. Kendall Marshall would be my other choice according to my mock draft. But if Drummond slips to 8th, by all means they need to take Drummond.


Although I don’t agree with the Raptors’ offseason strategies of going all-in just to try and make the playoffs, Waiters is a nice pick here. Scouts are even saying that he has the potential to develop into a star, despite only being 6’4 in shoes.


What many people seem to forget, including myself at times, is that Dion Waiters was a 6th man for Syracuse this year. And without question, the best 6th man in all of the NCAA. While that may prove that Waiters is committed to sacrificing minutes and a starting spot for the betterment of the team, but also that we may not even have seen the best of Waiters just yet. Which is one reason I find Waiters intriguing, not because of what I’ve seen at Syracuse, but also what I haven’t seen either.

 

9. Detroit Pistons

John Henson. The Pistons definitely need another big man to protect the middle along with future star Greg Monroe, and Henson would be able to make an immediate impact as the likely starter at PF if he ends up here. The Pistons, who have just gotten rid of Ben Gordon for Corey Maggette would be filling their biggest need in the starting lineup.


Already with Knight and Monroe, the Pistons would put themselves in pretty good shape with Henson as a new starter to build on.

 

10. New Orleans Hornets

Kendall Marshall. I love the idea of seeing Kendall Marshall in New Orleans next season to join Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon. Don’t look now, but the Hornets are quickly acquiring draft talent, and are in very good shape for the future, especially with what I think is the best point guard in the draft this year. The city of New Orleans can now be happy that they have a very promising future, even after losing franchise-player Chris Paul at the beginning of last season.


Marshall to me is a much better fit for the Hornets than Lillard due to his great passing ability, and willingness to set up team mates before looking to score himself. If he is able to develop a decent offensive game (which is definitely possible), he has the potential to be one of the league’s top point guards in the very near future.


Marshall could potentially be setting up new team mates Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, Anthony Davis with a plethora of easy baskets for the next several years. I love this pick for the Hornets, now it’s up to them to take him, if he’s available.



-     -     -     -     -



After the 10th pick, it’s more of a guessing game than 2nd-10th is. So I won’t bother writing descriptions like I did for the rest.


 

11. Portland Trailblazers

Tyler Zeller

 

12. Houston Rockets

Jeremy Lamb

 

13. Phoenix Suns

Austin Rivers

 

14. Milwaukee Bucks

Myers Leonard

 

15. Philadelphia 76ers

Arnett Moultrie

 

16. Houston Rockets

Perry Jones

 

17. Dallas Mavericks

Moe Harkless

 

18. Houston Rockets

Jared Sullinger

 

19. Orlando Magic

Terrence Jones

 

20. Denver Nuggets

Terrence Ross

 

21. Boston Celtics

Marquis Teague

 

22. Boston Celtics

Fab Melo

 

23. Atlanta Hawks

Andrew Nicholson

 

24. Cleveland Cavaliers

 Jeffery Taylor


25. Memphis Grizzlies

Evan Fournier

 

26. Indiana Pacers

Festus Ezeli

 

27. Miami Heat

Miles Plumlee

 

28. Oklahoma City Thunder

Will Barton

 

29. Chicago Bulls

John Jenkins

 

30. Golden State Warriors

Quincy Miller

 

2012 NBA Mock Draft

Posted by BP on May 31, 2012 at 8:15 PM Comments comments (0)




In my last Draft Preview, I looked at some of the players I like, and some of the players I don’t like before the draft order was set. Now that the order is set, and we know who picks where (pending any trades between now and the draft), I’ll take a more in-depth look at the lottery board.


First, I’ll go over who I think the most likely pick for each lottery team, and then propose a second “Possible” pick that they may also consider for any reason, such as drafting for need, best available, or simply another pick that I think makes the most sense for the given team.


So, without any further ado, here is my 2012 mock draft as of May 31 2012.


 

1. New Orleans Hornets

Actual Pick: Anthony Davis.

There is absolutely no way that the Hornets would draft anyone other than Davis, so I don’t even need to go on further about this.


Other Possible Pick: N/A

 

2. Charlotte Bobcats

Actual Pick: Michael-Kidd Gilchrist.

Although there is no consensus number two pick at the moment like there is for the number one, the odds are in favour of Charlotte drafting MKG simply because many believe he is the second best player available. While I think that they will take a hard look at other players as well, chances are they will play it safe instead of trying to find a diamond in the rough, aka...


Other Possible Pick: ...Andre Drummond. Drummond is quite possibly the second highest ceiling in all of the draft, still. But there is also no guarantee of that either. The question will be whether or not Michael Jordan is willing to risk what is to be a sure-thing serviceable pro for quite a long time in Kidd-Gilchrist, or take a chance on someone who could finally turn the Bobcats around for the better in Drummond.


Pairing Drummond with Biyombo is a scary defensive front-line that could one day dominate the NBA, however, after Jordan’s last risk with taking Kwame Brown that failed miserably, it may hold him back from doing so once again.  While it wouldn’t surprise me if they took a chance on what could be the NBA’s next Dwight Howard, the most likely scenario for the Bobcats remains drafting Kidd-Gilchrist to go with its young nucleus of Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, and Bismack Biyombo.


 

3. Washington Wizards

Actual Pick: Bradley Beal.

Well, it’s clear that the Wizards need just about everything except for a point guard right now, another scorer seems the most obvious need to me. Had they not gone out and got Nene at the trade deadline, I think that they would probably lock up Thomas Robinson with this pick here. But either way, given that you already have Nene and other young bigs like Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker, I don’t see why they would pass on what looks to be the best SG in the 2012 class to lead the back court with young star John Wall.


Other Possible Pick: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (if available), otherwise, the second choice would be Thomas Robinson. Like I’ve stated, it’s hard to see the Wizards passing up Beal since they are in desperate need of a new back court teammate to pair with Wall. However, the Wizards may feel that Robinson is the best available and want to bolster their front court instead with Robinson and Nene manning the middle together for next season and beyond.

 


4. Cleveland Cavaliers

Actual Pick: Andre Drummond.

I like this for a couple ofreasons. One because they would be pairing Andre Drummond with another defensive force in Tristan Thompson at PF. Second, because taking Drummond at 4th is about the range where he’s not exactly a gamble if taken. Cleveland fans may be disappointed to see fan-favourite Anderson Varejao coming off the bench if they take Drummond, however, would probably be more pleased if Drummond actually reaches his potential under coach Byron Scott. However, only one other need on the Cavaliers would warrant another pick, if he happens to be available.


Other Possible Pick: Bradley Beal (if available). The biggest need for the Cavaliers right now is to upgrade the shooting guard position. The only reason I could see them passing up Drummond is if, and only if, Beal is available. Otherwise, it’s likely that they would fill their second biggest need at center.

 

5. Sacramento Kings

Actual Pick: Thomas Robinson.

I think the Kings would be pretty happy to land Robinson at #5, given that he is a potential top-3 pick. Drafting Robinson would not only fall into the “best available” category, but would also fill a need for the Kings as well. They have just about every position filled moving forward except for PF. I think Robinson would fit nicely into this rotation alongside DeMarcus Cousins in the front court.


Other Possible Pick: Harrison Barnes. The Kings may feel the need to make a safe pick here if neither Beal or Robinson are available. While the roster would likely require a trade or two to make room for Tyreke Evans to play SG once again while Isaiah Thomas plays PG, it would be a pretty solid choice to add some scoring to the Kings’ lineup with Barnes.

 

6. Portland Trailblazers

Actual Pick: Damian Lillard.

The Trailblazers are a mess right now and it would seem like they need a new PG deperately with Jamaal Crawford gone, and Raymond Felton likely leaving this off season. No other positional needs come to mind with the Blazers other than a center. Who, would likely be happy to draft Andre Drummond to pair up with LaMarcus Aldridge if he’s available, and then obviously hope that Kendall Marshall is still on the board when the Blazers pick again at 11th. But, going with my board, Drummond will not be available, so Lillard would end up here.


Other Possible Pick: Andre Drummond (if available). To me, the Blazers’ pick will go based simply on who is available to them between Lillard and Drummond. If Drummond is available, they would probably take him. However, since I have Drummond being taken 4th by Cleveland, by process of elimination, I think the Blazers would lock up Lillard at 6th to run the show for new coach Kaleb Canales.

 

7. Golden State Warriors

Actual Pick: Harrison Barnes.

Both players should be available, so it’ll basically come down to who the Warriors believe will be the better long-term prospect between him and Perry Jones. Honestly, I think it will be, and probably should be Harrison Barnes if you had to pick between the two. Barnes is a good all around talent, who is a good scorer, and has a NBA-ready game to offer the Warriors. While both had two pretty mediocre years after being hyped so much, it's safe to say that Barnes proved to be the better player in college.


Also, looking at the Warriors roster, the emergence of Klay Thompson late last season and the addition of Andrew Bogut at last seasons deadline, the only real positional need for the Warriors would be a SF.


Other Possible Pick: Perry Jones III. As stated before, if they think Jones will be the better pick, they’ll take him.

 

8. Toronto Raptors

Actual Pick: Dion Waiters.

It was a surprise to me to see Waiters slotted at #8 on Chad Ford's draft board, but after looking at his numbers again for the first time since the NCAA season ended, and hearing what scouts and GM's have been saying about him in the workouts, he seems like a great player to have at 8th for the Raptors. For anyone saying that they already have DeMar DeRozan to play SG, well, he's probably better suited to play SF anyways.


I'd have no problem if this is who the Raptors were to pick up at 8th overall. Seeing how that the Raptors are in need of just about everything, I think it makes the most sense to go with the guy who would likely have the most potential from everyone else that would be available. However, it still remains a mystery what the Raptors will do with this pick. Rumor is that they may move this pick, for, you know, Kyle Lowry.


Other Possible Pick: Perry Jones III, Kendall Marshall. Other solid mentions of course, would be Kendall Marshall as well as Perry Jones. Marshall would be my pick over Jones, only because I think Marshall could be a legitimate point guard to build around where as Perry Jones is just so much of an unknown right now. And, of course, it would mean the Raptors could finally move Jose Calderon for another positional need, like a center.

 

9. Detroit Pistons

Actual Pick: Jared Sullinger.

While I think the Pistons have somewhat screwed themselves over by signing Stuckey and Prince, which have resulted in a few more wins than expected this season, the Pistons still seem to be in a position to draft a pretty good player. Nothing that will be a franchise changer, but definitely someone that can bring the team back to the playoffs alongside other young stars in Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe.


This pick basically came down to a SG or a PF, the two biggest needs for the Pistons right now. And once I narrowed it down to PF (because the Pistons already have invested in Stuckey and Knight in the back court), I then needed to pick from the two best PF's available in John Henson and Jared Sullinger. Between the two players, I think Sullinger makes the most sense not only for the Pistons, but to also play next to another big man with a bright future in Greg Monroe.


Other Possible Pick: Jeremy Lamb. While Lamb is still another solid choice for the Pistons, they would need to trade Stuckey and amnesty Ben Gordon prior to the draft before I'm convinced that they would pass up a post player like Sullinger. It could still happen, but they would need to at least amnesty Ben Gordon to let Lamb, or even Stuckey be the full time 6th man.

 

10. New Orleans Hornets

Actual Pick: Kendall Marshall.

Could this draft get any better for the Hornets? When the team was in jeopardy of leaving New Orleans after losing Chris Paul, the Hornets secure the number one pick Anthony Davis, as well as another first round pick from the Timberwolves, which they got from the Clippers via the Chris Paul trade.


So, not only do the Hornets get the best prospect in all of basketball, but they likely end up with the best pure point guard in the class as well. I'd say that's a pretty good draft day for the Hornets if it ends up being this way. Add in the fact that they have Ariza, Aminu, and likely keep Eric Gordon long term, New Orleans is sure to be back on the rise with Davis and Marshall as the new additions this off season.


Do I think the Hornets might draft someone else, yes. But should they draft anyone else but Kendall Marshall at #10 if he's available? Absolutely not. Kendall Marshall would be the perfect pass-first point guard to feed Gordon and Davis and help bring NOLA back to the playoffs once again.


Other Possible Pick: Jeremy Lamb (if available). But that would only be if the Hornets didn't want to spend the money to keep Gordon. But now that they have gauranteed themselves Anthony Davis, I don't see how or why they wouldn't restrict Eric Gordon and lock him up long term.

 

11. Portland Trailblazers

Actual Pick: Tyler Zeller

Well, obviously the 6th overall pick by the Blazers will affect this one. But since I have them drafting Lillard, it's only fitting that I have them drafting the center that they so desperately need at 11th. Which leaves the Blazers with one of two choices in my opinion. Tyler Zeller and Myers Leonard.


According to the other mock drafts I've seen, and the scouting reports on both players, Zeller seems to be the safe pick for the Blazers. He's a pretty mobile big man, cabable of playing PF or C, and would probably be the perfect sidekick next to LeMarcus Aldridge.


Other Possible Pick: Myers Leonard, Perry Jones (if available). I don't know a whole lot about Leonard, other than that he's physically the same as Zeller, but just a couple of years younger. Leonard is a good long-term experiment for the Blazers to develop, however, I think they are in a win-now mode as long as they are built around Aldridge, and I think Zeller would add that extra bit of experience and less development to get the Blazers winning now.


Meanwhile, for Perry Jones, the question still remains whether or not the Blazers keep Batum. Because I think that they will most definitely keep him, that pretty much rules out the possibility of adding another young small forward since they would already have Batum as well as Luke Babbit.

 

12. Milwaukee Bucks

Actual Pick: Jeremy Lamb

Probably a steal for the Bucks to be able to get Lamb this late, at 12th overall. While Lamb may find it difficult to get his shots with a trigger-happy backcourt of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, (I guess he's somewhat accustomed to that anyways playing at UConn last season?) but the Bucks would probably not be willing to pass up Lamb this late.


Lamb would provide instant offense off the bench for the Bucks, who happen to need a backup SG anyways. It seems like a perfect fit for the Bucks if he's available. Of course, they may potentially also have two SG's to pick from on draft night.


Other Possible Pick: Austin Rivers. Very much the same as Lamb. The reasons for picking Lamb would be the same reasons for picking Rivers. Unless of course, Lamb is off the board. Then the obvious choice for the Bucks would probably be to take Austin Rivers at this spot.

 

13. Phoenix Suns

Actual Pick: Austin Rivers

With Steve Nash likely playing his last season in Phoenix, is there a guy that fits better in Phoenix than Austin Rivers does? Seriously. Other than Kendall Marshall, who probably wouldn't be available anyways, Rivers is the perfect fit for Phoenix run-and-gun style offense. Not only that, he could also be the primary ball handler, the number one option offensively, and be a legimate ROY candidate next season if he ends up in the desert.


Then you add in the fact that Phoenix has some other talented players in Shannon Brown (if resigned), Jared Dudley, Markieff Morris, and Marcin Gortat, it could be a pretty quick rebuild if you add a player like Rivers to the mix. Instant offense = perfect for the Suns' system.


Other Possible Pick: Jeremy Lamb. Like I've stated previously with Milwaukee, picking Lamb would be for the same reasons as picking Rivers. It would really come down to which one is available for them.

 

14. Houston Rockets

Actual Pick: Perry Jones III.

Yes, I actually have Perry Jones III being all the way down at 14th for the Rockets to pick up. Although they have a plethora of forwards already on the team, the Rockets would definitely use this pick to draft the best available player, and I think that will end up being Jones.


Mind you, the Rockets have been in recent discussions about trading this pick, as well as Kyle Lowry in order to move up in the draft. So we will have to wait and see with the Rockets. But as of now, at 14th, they would likely draft Perry Jones. But it also wouldn't surprise me if the Rockets made some major offseason moves to add some Spaniards, who go by the names of Jose Calderon and Pau Gasol.


Other Possible Pick: Austin Rivers. Again, purely based on what is available. Rivers would be a solid choice as well if he's available at 14th. Depending on which boards you've been looking at, he very well could be available at 14th for the Rockets. With Rivers, they'd basically be getting a younger, and less expensive version of Kevin Martin, which would definitely be of interest to the Rockets.

 


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I’ll have updated mock draft right before the draft if any trades involving picks occur. Also, I’d like to throw out my thoughts of the draft once its completed.


Captain Canada- For Real?

Posted by BP on May 10, 2012 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (0)



"Hopefully the opportunity falls upon me to play with a team that contends."


Those are the exact words of Steve Nash according to an article written in USA Today. When looking at that statement, you would think that it limits the possible Nash suitors to the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, L.A.Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Dallas Mavericks, or the San Antonio Spurs, right?


Well, apprently, that could also mean the Raptors as well.


Recent rumors have it that Steve Nash could be heading back north of the border to come home and play for the Raptors. Well to be fair, it’s not exactly his home, but you get the idea. Playing for “Canada’s team” to end his career would be something special for all of us Canadian basketball fans.


I don’t think there would be too many people opposed to seeing Steve Nash come to Toronto and bring this team back to relevance again in the Eastern Conference.


However, as I look at both sides of the “should they” or “shouldn’t they” dilemma, here are some of the pros and cons of bringing in Steve Nash to Toronto for next season, as well as my opinion looking at the big picture.


 

Pros


1. It’s Steve Nash, duh. Again, most Canadian basketball fans are probably excited about the idea of a two-time MVP, as well as an eight-time all star coming to Toronto. When’s the last time that the Raptors have had a former MVP and a multiple-time all star on the roster? Well, Hakeem Olajuwon was, in 2001-2002 when he played his final season in the NBA with the Raptors. Fast forward ten years, and here we go again with another future hall-of-famer who could end his career with the Raptors.


2. Two-time MVP. Yes, I thought I would emphasize Steve winning the MVP twice, and actually, almost three times. Which, if you ask me, is even more reason to want Steve Nash to come to Toronto. Winning an MVP is more than just getting a team more wins. It’s about getting wins AND making your teammates better. That’s exactly what Steve Nash does, which is something that Toronto needs if it wants to improve.


3. Leadership. He’s a point guard, a coach, an all-star, an MVP, and of course, a leader. One of the biggest weaknesses on the Raptors roster in the post-Bosh era is a lack of true leadership. Captain Canada would bring that much-needed leadership into the Raptors’ locker room along with fellow Canadian Jamaal Magloire.


4. Playoffs. I’ve said it before. I think this team can compete for a low playoff seed next season without Nash on the team. But with Nash, I think they would all but guarantee themselves the 7th or 8th seed in the Eastern Conference next season. Maybe even slightly better than that, which then brings me to my next point.


5. Three-time-MVP. Steve Nash could be a legitimate MVP next season, even if he gets the Raptors to the 8th seed in the playoffs next year. Anything higher than a 7th or 8th seed could all but seal the deal for him to be a three-time MVP award winner at this time next season, which is definitely something special.


However, here are the negatives of adding Steve Nash to the Raptors.



Cons


1. He’s 38 years old. Being this old is definitely not young at all by NBA standards. So I have to ask, what is it that the Raptors look to accomplish simply by having someone like Nash play for the Raptors for the next two, maybe even three seasons? A low playoff seed, and then having to go out and find another point guard to build around, assuming Jerryd Bayless is gone. Really, is it worth it for a few good years?


2. Use up all the cap space. This is another issue that I have a problem with. Steve Nash would not likely come as cheap as some of us might think. Though the Raptors have a lot of cap room to use this off season, you’re still looking at using about $6-7 Million of it on Nash at the very least. This would go against two of my beliefs that:


-You shouldn’t spend money on free agents just because you have it, and


-That you shouldn’t sign aging, or high-priced free agents during a rebuild.


3. Nash is a defensive liability. Which is really no secret to anyone that watches the NBA regularly. This means you have to get rid of Calderon and Bargnani if you want any chance in contending with a team led by Nash.


If two of your starters are going to be Nash and Bargnani, you’re already at a disadvantage defensively. And it doesn’t matter how good the offense is, any team that doesn’t defend well is very rarely going to do well when it counts-in the playoffs. As we’ve seen with Calderon and Bargnani, there really is no change or improvement defensively which is definitely a red flag to me.


4. Jerryd Bayless’ development stalled once again. What some people have been calling the potential “point guard of the future” may be something we will never know. In fact, we may know, but it may very well be with another team, and yet another talented Toronto player that got away. The Raptors may be taking that chance, if they decide to go with Steve Nash and decline to match a high offer for the Restricted Free-Agent Jerryd Bayless.


Sure, he could still be the sixth-man, and could probably learn a lot of a guy like Steve Nash, but I think that the Raptors owe it to a hard worker like Jerryd Bayless to finally get the opportunity to start, something that he has already proven to do well in the past, averaging 18 PPG, 5.3 APG, 3.0 RPG, 1.4 SPG, and shooting at 45% as a starter this season. Not to mention, he is a huge upgrade defensively over both Nash and Calderon.


5. Goes against the current direction. As does holding onto Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani (Which is why I'm confused that they still have both of them). But more so contrary to any “defensive direction” the team is taking by signing another player who doesn’t defend well.


Nash excels on the open floor as a run-and-gun style offense which plays very little defense. Though, I don’t have a problem with fast break offenses, or run-and-gun, but you still need to have the stops on defense if you want any chance at all of winning playoff games.


With Nash, Calderon, and Bargnani, there really is no defense, and would be unfair to put the pressure on rookie Jonas Valanciunas to defend the paint by himself, which is likely to happen.


Besides, the Raptors have already made so many strides and improvements defensively that is just doesn’t make sense to add more players that don’t defend well. Defense is something that you just can’t teach. You can teach someone to shoot a basketball, but you can’t teach them how to put it in the net. The same goes with defense. You can put all the effort you want defensively, but you still need the natural abilities defensively if you want it to work.

 


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Of course, the NBA, and more specifically, each and every professional sports team is a business. That’s the bottom line. The sole purpose of any business in that case, should be to make money.


Without a doubt, Steve Nash would bring in a ton of cash to the Raptors’ MLSE owners. But should the Raptors forfeit the current “rebuild” as they call it, in order to gamble on Steve Nash? Who knows? That alone spells trouble to me. When making money is more important to management in professional sports than winning is, there is a huge problem.


 

My Final Recommendation:


All in all, I think the negatives outweigh the positives in this case. A part of me really wants to see Steve Nash sporting the red and white Raptor uniforms in Toronto, while the other part of me sees the future of the Raptors with no point guard to build around in two to three years at the end of the contract. What do the Raptors do then?


With the luxury of having pass first point guards in Nash and Calderon, will the players become too accustomed to being fed the ball all the time, and not allow them to create shots for themselves?


There are so many questions, and not enough answers. Short-term, yes, I like the addition of Steve Nash to the team. But, long-term, for the future of the Raptors, I don't believe that it's the right thing to do.


If there's one thing that Bryan Colangelo stresses, it's the future of the Raptors. Adding Steve Nash would go against his own beliefs.


It would be one thing if the Raptors were already a team of seasoned veterans, and had all of the pieces right now to contend. But let’s be honest, they don’t. They still lack a real star, (which I think they will regret not trying hard to land Anthony Davis).


In conclusion, adding a 38 year-old to a rebuilding team isn’t what’s best for the Raptors long-term. And for that reason, I say "pass" on Steve Nash.


Dwight Howard Trades

Posted by BP on April 27, 2012 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (0)



It has been confirmed, or at least reported that Dwight Howard will officially request a trade from the Orlando Magic after they are eliminated from the playoffs, and once their disastrous 2011-2012 season is over for good.


Wow...What a surprise. Dwight Howard requesting a trade from Orlando? I didn’t see this one coming...


Anyways, this is an issue that’s sure to heat up in June around the same time as the NBA draft. So instead of waiting until then, I thought I might as well throw out some trade scenarios involving Howard before the rumours heat up.


But note that these are not just deals involving any team with the tradable assets for Howard. These are deals strictly from teams that I could see him signing long-term with. So basically, the New Jersey Nets, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, and the Dallas Mavericks are the only destinations that make sense, because Dwight himself prefers these teams.


However, I have also included the New York Knicks even though they aren't on Howard's list.


Of course, you may have the “rental” team that will risk it all for one year with Howard in the hopes that he commits long term. I've included them as well.


In any case, both L.A. teams are my most likely destination for Howard. Not only will each L.A. team give Howard the best opportunity to win championships, but both also have a fair return to Orlando for him.


But, it is important to remember that if the Lakers do end up winning a championship this season, I’d say that the probability of them breaking up the current roster is minimized greatly.



Trade Scenarios:

 

1. Team: L.A. Clippers

Clippers Trade: Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe

Magic Trade: Dwight Howard

ESPN Trade Machine: http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=6w9e72x

Probability: Very Likely


This is my favourite of all of the trade scenarios. Pretty much a win-win for both teams involved.


Simply put, I think combining the best point guard in the league in Chris Paul with the best center in the league in Dwight Howard would put the Clippers above just about everyone in the league, no matter who they surrounded them with.


If this trade were to happen, next season, the Clippers would be the second best team in the Western Conference (behind Oklahoma City), or maybe even the top team in the West. I like it that much.


For that reason, I think the Clippers would be willing to give up the current “Lob City” team, for a new one involving Howard.

 


2. Team: L.A. Lakers

Lakers Trade: Andrew Bynum, Steve Blake, Andrew Goudelock, Future First Round Picks

Magic Trade: Dwight Howard, Jason Richardson

ESPN Trade Machine: http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=7h9clgk

Probability: Very Likely


I could definitely see this as a very likely trade scenario. Not only because of the uncertainty involving Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, but because I think that the Lakers will do whatever it takes in order to take away the hype surrounding the new Clippers team.


Putting Dwight Howard on the Lakers immediately brings them back to being the best team in Los Angeles, and will ensure that they are competing for multiple championships with Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard. I think it’s impossible for the Lakers management to want to avoid adding Dwight Howard, even at the expense of both Bynum and Gasol.



3. Team: New Jersey Nets

Nets Trade: Marshon Brooks, Brook Lopez, Gerald Wallace, 2012 Top-3 Protected First Round Pick

Magic Trade: Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu

ESPN Trade Machine: N/A

Probability: Likely


Let’s put it this way, the Nets still could be the top destination for Howard. Getting Dwight Howard will be a top priority for the Nets, because it would likely encourage Deron Williams to sign long-term with the team as well. Losing him could spell disaster for the Nets for the next couple of seasons as they adjust to Brooklyn.


The Nets were also Dwight’s “preferred” destination in the days leading up to the trade deadline. Most likely due to the team's move to Brooklyn for next season. Since the team is still going to Brooklyn with or without Dwight, it’s definitely possible that this is still his preferred destination.


The fact that the Nets would willingly take Turkoglu in a deal, and the fact that the Nets could have a Top-3 pick to deal, New Jersey is still a viable trade partner for the Magic.


But I think that they really took a big risk by acquiring Gerald Wallace at the deadline. The only hope for the Nets now is that they must be able to keep that Top-3 protected first round pick for Orlando to likely have any interest in a trade.


Of course, if the Nets were to somehow land the number one pick and draft Anthony Davis, I think the Nets would stand pat and try to build around Davis instead. The only realistic chance the Nets have now is if they were to grab the 2nd or 3rd overall pick. If the Nets land a pick outside of the Top-3, it goes to Portland.

 


4. Team: New York Knicks

Knicks Trade: Amare Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler, Future First Round Picks

Magic Trade: Dwight Howard, J.J. Redick, Jason Richardson

ESPN Trade Machine: http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=6wsd5rn

Probability: Not Likely


While I think Dwight Howard would sign long-term to be with the Knicks, I’m not sold on the fact that the Magic would actually want to take back Amare Stoudemire’s contract, given his age and his history of injuries. Getting a healthy Stoudemire, and a defensive force in Tyson Chandler is certainly intriguing from a Magic perspective, but I think the Knicks would have to do better than that to land Dwight Howard.


The trade looks good for the Knicks, and I think would be a much better fit for them than the current trio of Anthony-Stoudemire-Chandler. If I’m the Knicks, and Dwight Howard agrees to sign an extension, I would be all over this trade in a heartbeat.


 

5. Team: Dallas Mavericks

Mavericks Trade: Brendan Haywood, Shawn Marion, Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones, Future First Round Picks

Magic Trade: Dwight Howard

ESPN Trade Machine: http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=cjag3se

Probability: Not Likely


Obviously the Magic would not do this trade.


To be fair, the only way I can see Dwight coming to Dallas is through free agency. In that case, Cuban and the Mavs management would do anything, and everything possible to clear the needed cap space for him to join them after next season.


That being said, although Howard has expressed interest in playing with the Dallas Mavericks, it is a very unlikely destination via trade because the Mavs lack any tradable assets that the Magic would want in return for Howard.


I would be completely shocked if the Magic wanted to take on Brendan Haywood’s massive contract for the next four years, and Shawn Marion’s for the next two.


If Otis Smith were to trade Howard for anything that the Mavs have to offer, it would probably be the most one sided trade in NBA history.


The only way a Dallas trade is possible, is if Howard ONLY wanted to play for the Mavericks. Which is possible with an addition of Deron Williams, but still, very, very unlikely.


 

Possible Rental Teams:

Golden State

Houston

Atlanta

Sacramento


2012 NBA Playoff Bracket

Posted by BP on April 27, 2012 at 1:20 PM Comments comments (0)



NBA Playoffs are finally here. So I’ve started my playoff bracket already, and here it is.


Now, since the beginning of the year, I’ve predicted a Chicago versus Oklahoma City NBA finals, with Chicago winning. But because ofthe Harden incident, I’m not sure how that will affect the Thunder’s ability to perform in the playoffs against better teams.


Harden is expected to return from his concussion symptoms, which is a relief for Oklahoma City, as it would have been a huge blow to the Thunder’s playoff hopes this year. The probability of the Thunder making it past the first round would have been very questionable against a healthy Dallas team, even with home court advantage if they were without Harden.


But my goodness, imagine how intense of a second round matchup that will be if the Lakers and Thunder play each other, as I am predicting, and is likely to happen now. Mark my words, other than a possible Heat vs Bulls Eastern Conference finals matchup, a second round matchup of the Lakers vs Thunder will be one of the best series to watch this year.



Eastern Conference


First Round

1. Chicago vs 8. Philadelphia

2. Miami vs 7. New York

3. Indiana vs 6. Orlando

4. Atlanta vs 5. Boston


Second Round

1. Chicago vs 5. Boston

2. Miami vs 3. Indiana


East Finals

1. Chicago vs 2. Miami



Western Conference


First Round

1. San Antonio vs 8. Utah

2. Oklahoma City vs 7. Dallas

3. L.A. Lakers vs 6. Denver

4. Memphis vs 5. L.A. Clippers


Second Round

1. San Antonio vs 4. Memphis

2. Oklahoma City vs 3. L.A. Lakers


West Finals

1. San Antonio vs 2. Oklahoma City



NBA Finals


1. Chicago vs 2. Oklahoma City


Winner: Chicago in 7

 

2012 Raptors Season Recap

Posted by BP on April 24, 2012 at 10:20 PM Comments comments (0)

As the shortened NBA season begins to wind down, and as we prepare to get ready for the playoffs, I decided to write some of my “Likes” as well as my “Dislikes” for the Raptors, regarding their 2011-2012 season.


My 5 Likes for 2012 Raptors Season are as follows:


1. Dwane Casey. 


I’ve liked the addition of Dwane Casey for this team since day one. And it’s not because I’m bias towards the Mavs since I like them. If anything, that made me even more excited to see Casey as the new head coach.


Having spent the last three years with the Mavs, not just as the assistant to Carlisle, but specifically as the “defensive specialist” assistant which propelled Dallas through the playoffs to become the eventual 2011 NBA Champs. Casey was the man in charge of implementing the defense that helped the Dallas win their first ever title in franchise history, with a front line of Tyson Chandler and Dirk Nowitzki.


Now, I don’t expect similar results for the Raptors right away, obviously. But I really do feel like the team now has a defensive strategy, as opposed to previous years under Jay Triano and Sam Mitchell, who had been some of the worst defensive teams the city has ever seen. Evidently, the offense will need some work, showing major inconsistency throughout the season, but that’s something that should always be secondary to the defense.


Even as we look now, the full results aren’t going to be seen right away. The defense has improved, but it’s still not at a level where it puts the team to a playoff level. It will have to be a long process, taken in stride to improve the defense to where it can be consistent enough to get to the playoffs, and hopefully beyond. But the “pound the rock” and the “no lay-up” philosophy Casey has brought is one that I have been desperately wanting to see in Toronto for quite some time. This makes me happy, and quite optimistic about the future of basketball in Toronto.


2. Big Man Jonas Valanciunas.


I will be the first to admit, if I was in the same situation as Bryan Colangelo in the 2011 draft, I probably would have passed on Valanciunas to take either Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker. It’s not because I don’t believe Jonas is capable of being a good player. I’ve said before, I think he is capable of being a solid player in the NBA.


That being said, I am a BIG believer in having a point guard to build on, rather than a big man. They had two point guards available to pick from last year, and plenty of big men to pick from in this year’s draft. Could you imagine building around a team of Brandon Knight, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Ed Davis, Andre Drummond as your starting five? I’d be more than happy with that line up. Drummond can still happen, but like I said, they missed a critical building piece at point guard.


My point is, they would have filled two vital positions, versus filling one, and possibly drafting another player they really don't need.


So it’s nothing personal I have against the Lithuanian, rather, my own belief that point guards are more important to a team, and ironically, a position in Toronto that has been in desperate need of for a long time, as well as a center. Whether that would have been a good decision, or a bad decision, remains to be seen.


Having said all of that, I still look forward to seeing what Valanciunas brings to the team for next season. A 6’11, and only 19 years old, he has the potential to develop into a good center (or power forward), especially if he can bulk up and become stronger. But I doubt that will be a problem for him.


Furthermore, it’s no secret that he is a defensive minded center (contrary to Bargnani), which also fits perfectly into Casey’s defensive approach. He does need to work on his fouling, because that will limit his minutes a lot. But there is definitely something that intrigues me about a center like Jonas. With his explosive athleticism, and his potential (only being 19), he could develop into a very dominating center for the Raptors, something that we have not seen since the days of Marcus Camby and an aged Hakeem Olajuwon.


Realistically though, will he be a Rookie of the Year candidate next season, well, probably not. It’s possible, but I fully expect him to be eased into the NBA as a bench player to start his career until he gets a feel for the NBA. But you don’t need to be a starter right away in order to have an impact in your rookie season. Not even Bargnani, a former number 1 overall pick, was a starter his first season. So Jonas not being a starter right away doesn’t concern me at all.


Though, if Casey can slowly turn Valanciunas into a player like Tyson Chandler in the NBA, (which, I think is a pretty fair comparison already), the Raptors may very well be heading into a bright future as one of the youngest teams in the league. Of course, like any Raptor fan, I dream of much more, but I really do hope he does well for himself in the NBA.


3. Potential 2012 Top-5 Pick.


Although, it is not guaranteed at this point with how the team is somewhat over-performing to an extent, it is still possible for the Raptors to land another top-5 pick this summer. Landing another top-5 pick, in what was once considered a loaded draft class (but come on, it still could be) gives them another player that they can build around.


The overall perception and hype of the draft class has seemed to die down an awful lot, but I still feel as though getting a high pick this year would still help the team long term. I still think realistically, the Raptors could do well with any of the top-5 projected picks Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Andre Drummond, Thomas Robinson and Bradley Beal. Even Harrison Barnes at 6th is a pretty nice pick.


I don’t have a strong preference towards either of the SF’s, but I particularly like the idea of drafting Drummond over both of them simply because of what he already is, and what he could turn into. He is crazy athletic for a big man, and that’s only at 18 years old. Not only that, he is a great interior defender, something that would be a huge help to Toronto. According to recent draft boards, he would be available at 5th. I think he is really flying under the radar right now, and could be a huge steal if taken any later than 3rd or 4th.


Moving on, while the consensus number 1 is obviously Anthony Davis, the Raptors could still luck out anywhere in the top of the lottery. As we all know, the worst teams rarely actually do win the lottery. Additionally, the Raptors were projected as 5th when they won it in 2006, the Bulls were projected at 9th when they won in 2008, Clippers 3rd in 2009, the Wizards 5th in 2010, ok, you get where I’m going with this. Long story short, anything can happen with the draft lottery.


4. Cap Room.


Though cap room can be somewhat meaningless, it can obviously benefit a team if it’s used effectively. By meaningless, I mean to are building team, who should continue to build on its assets through the draft. The Oklahoma City Thunder are a great example of this. Getting rid of players like Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen, and then simply drafting younger talent to compliment Durant. Oklahoma City basically swapped those two for Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Jeff Green (now traded for Perkins) which has worked out perfectly so far.


I would like to see more of the same for the Raptors this year and next. Keep building through the draft rather than acquire declining talent, or over paying for players that simply aren’t worth it. Not only will this allow the Raptors to keep their young players, but will also allow them to have more of them. Spending just to spend money is never a good thing, and I would hope that’s not the fate of the Raptors this summer.


As of right now, the Raptors will have some money to spend on free agents. Although, it doesn’t mean that they need to spend it right away, or use it just because they have it. The last thing the team would need during a rebuild is another Hedo Turkoglu type disaster that they get stuck with for the next few years.


5. James Johnson.


What seemed like just a meaningless trade for another bench player at the time, has turned into something more. In Chicago, James was nothing more than a bench player, averaging just about 10 MPG in his season and a half with the Bulls, despite him being a 16th overall pick by the Bulls in the 2009 draft.


However, since being acquired by Toronto, he has looked like a completely different player. Johnson has surprised everyone, in a good way though, and has turned into an every day starter for the Raptors.


He is a pretty solid option as a combo forward, for only costing them the 28th overall pick, which they received from Miami. Not only is he a pretty good all around player, but he is arguably the best defender currently on the team. I’d say that’s a pretty good deal when you only have to pay him just under 2 Million a season.


He is also a very versatile defender, which is never a bad thing, and is capable of guarding just about every position on the floor, except maybe for centers. That being said, it’s hard to imagine the Raptors letting him walk as a free agent when his contract is up, because he is definitely worth keeping in Casey’s defensive system. He is a player I would definitely like to see with the Raptors long term.



My 5 Dislikes for 2012 Raptors Season


1. No point guard.


Don’t get me wrong, Jose has played well, obviously, but at 30 years old, I just don’t see the use in signing him long-term to continue to be the starter. I love that he’s unselfish, and a very efficient passer. But is making a soon-to-be 31 year old point guard the best solution for a rebuilding team in the long-term? I don’t think so. Therefore, I don’t think that he is the right player moving forward, given that this is a fairly young team.


Similarly, the debate about Bayless being a point guard is endless. I think he could be a starter, and should have been in my opinion, but him being in a contract year could mean the end of his days in Toronto. Which brings another problem to the point guard situation. What do the Raptors do this summer if Bayless gets an offer as an RFA that they don't want to match? Simply put, they're screwed.


Like I have stressed in the past, the draft last year was the opportunity to draft a point guard you could actually build around. But because that isn’t happening, the next best opportunity for the Raptors to get one is using their first rounder on Kendall Marshall, or use one of their second-round picks on one and hope for the best.


2. No direction.


Well, yes and no. Obviously, we’ve seen the new “defensive” direction the Raptors have appeared to taken with Casey. But the fact that the Raptors continue to build around players that don’t defend well (Bargnani, Calderon) makes me question that so-called "direction" they have taken.


It is supposed to be a defensive minded team, but I must say, if you ask me, it looks more like a team that can’t make up its mind in the end. Having a defensive mindset doesn’t work when two of your best players aren’t even above average defenders.


If the Raptors really wanted to be a defensive minded team, the first thing they should have done would be to get rid of Bargnani and Calderon for younger assets or draft picks. Since they haven’t, and don’t appear to be interested in doing so, makes me very skeptical of any future contention with this team as long as they are both starters and playing large parts of the game.


A team is only hurting itself by holding onto players that do not defend well, especially when it’s one of your bigs.


3. Ed Davis very under used.


This goes hand-in-hand with my previous point. Ed Davis, probably one of the best post defenders on the team, actually saw a reduction in minutes this year. Even with Bargnani out for most of the year. I don’t understand how that’s even possible considering Bargnani was out, and that this was supposed to be a defensive minded team.


At this point, it looks more like a lose-lose situation for Ed Davis in Toronto. I’ve been a supporter of the pick since they drafted him. I had fully expected him to be the replacement for Bosh, until he missed the first part of the season with a knee injury. Now this season, since Bargnani was moved the Power Forward, the same position as Davis, finds himself with limited minutes behind Bargnani as well as Amir Johnson, and James Johnson.


As I said earlier, the Raptors don't appear to be interested in moving Bargnani. Which leads me to believe Davis will be trade bait this off-season. Otherwise, what is his purpose in Toronto? He has value, they need to trade him, or let him start. Period.


4. Bad “tank” strategy.


As a result of a miscalculated “tank strategy” by Bryan Colangelo, it may now leave the Raptors out of a Top-5 pick. I’m sure at the beginning of the season, it looked like this team was a lock for one of the top picks this summer. But fast forward to April, the Raptors have actually done surprisingly well (or maybe other teams have just done worse than expected?), which consequently, could cost them a better pick, which they are in desperate need of.


The Raptors, without a good pick this year will slowly fall into the trap of being just a mediocre team. They may be a playoff team, but not even close to being a contender, which is without a doubt the worst position to be as a team in the NBA.


They’ll still get a pretty good pick where they’re projected right now, at 6th or 7th, but likely nothing to make them a great team.


This could also be the last year the Raptors have a chance for a good pick. Which makes this year even more important to tank, and more frustrating that they have done well, because after this year, it could be several more years before Toronto has a chance to get a superstar in the draft. Some may disagree with me, but I actually think this team will be fighting for a low playoff seed a year from now.


5. No scoring.


But it’s the least of the worries, as far as I’m concerned. I’m a big believer in defense over offense, any day of the week. So the fact that the Raptors were one of the lowest scoring teams doesn’t bother me that much. I would much rather see the Raptors holding opponents to 90 PPG than seeing them score 100 PPG, and it’s not even close.


What does bother me, however, is the inconsistency of the Raptors players offensively. Bargnani and DeRozan are both far too inconsistent scorers for me to have total faith in, and we have also seen that in games without Calderon especially, the team struggles even more offensively. But I think that may change with a healthy Jerryd Bayless next year, as the Raptors offensive struggles looked more evident with D-League call ups Ben Uzoh and Justin Dentmon taking his place.


The low scoring may also have to do with a new coach, and a lack of training camp. But it’s not like the Raptors are the only team who had a reduced training camp, every team did.



-      -      -      -      -      -      -      -     -      -




That pretty much wraps up my thoughts on the 2012 Raptor’s season. I had predicted the team to be around 22-44 at the beginning of the year, and it looks like that’s exactly where they are.


Howard's Disappearing Act

Posted by BP on April 18, 2012 at 10:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Well, the Magic Madness in Orlando continues to swirl as new rumours of Dwight Howard have surfaced. Just as I thought the whole controversy in Orlando couldn’t get any more awkward after the Van Gundy and Howard interview, (where Stan openly said Howard wanted him fired), things just got a whole lot more awkward, which is hard to imagine.


As it turns out, Howard apparently has another trick up his sleeve for the Orlando Magic organization. Howard supposedly dislikes his coach Stan Van Gundy so much so, that he is willing to sit out the rest of the year, as well as the playoffs because of his coach. Talk about a low blow. There's no way the Orlando Magic would fire a coach at this point in the season.


No, seriously. That is the current rumour going around.


I know it’s only a rumour at this point, and may be blown totally out of proportion, but if it is true, it is just a terrible and immature thing to do on Howard’s behalf. Clearly Howard cares more about his personal wants and needs before winning, and before betterment of the team. But what a shame.


At this point, it’s hard to decide which side to believe in this particular story, if it happens to be true. But after everything he’s already put everyone through this season, it’s really hard to trust Dwight Howard and anything he says at this point.


After showing some promise from the whole trade deadline fiasco, it looked like the Magic could have been back on track to take down the villains in Miami, and be the best team in the state of Florida behind “Superman” Howard.


But things may now have taken a turn for the worst, for both Van Gundy and the Orlando Magic. Both Howard and Van Gundy are now playing a seemingly endless game of tug-of-war at this point, to see who will give in first and leave. Now, the Magic must decide who must go, and who can stay.


But at this point, Stan has done nothing wrong from what I know. So it’s unfair for him to have to take the fall for Howard, especially with about a week left in the regular season.


While blame for this move can’t all be put on Howard though (most of it yes, but not all of it). The signs all leading up to the trade deadline led me to believe Howard didn’t want to be there anyways, despite opting in for another year. So part of that blame has to be put on the Magic’s management for keeping him around longer than they should have. I mean seriously, how many more clues did the Magic front office need before deciding to move him?


The first clue was he stated he planned on testing free agency this summer.


Then second clue was that he said that if he was traded, he wanted to go to one of his “listed” teams.


The third clue he was that he said he wanted to go to New Jersey and play with Deron Williams.


But now, we’re still stuck in the same spot we were originally in with the Howard situation. They were obviously waiting for Howard to come out and literally tell them to trade him in the days leading up to the deadline, but I think it’s safe to say his actions speak louder than any of his words would have.


I was in support of moving him, even with his “opt in” for another year. It just meant there was going to be another year of what we all had to anxiously wait through this year, happen again next year.  


But, to be honest, this doesn’t shock me as much as it normally would. Dwight Howard has completely turned himself from the hero to the villain in a matter of months. A player who vowed never to sink to the level of the Miami Heat players, just sunk to a whole new level well below them.


The latest rumours of the Howard dilemma show that he may have indeed, saved his best trick for last. Disappearing from the team, or better yet, disappearing from the organization he has called home for his entire NBA career.


The Magic Show in Orlando may soon be searching for a new magician to replace the show that was once named, Dwight Howard.



2012 Draft Preview 1.0

Posted by BP on April 16, 2012 at 12:55 AM Comments comments (0)



So, now that the NCAA season has concluded, and the draft lottery about a month away, I thought I might as well throw out my early thoughts for a 2012 draft preview. Remember, this is without knowing what the draft order will look like, and still figuring out who will declare, and who will go back to school.


So here is a brief preview, aka my thoughts on the draft so far.



Five Players I Like


1. Anthony Davis (obviously, so I won’t bother describing why this is a great pick)


2. Andre Drummond- possible high risk, depending who you ask, but very high reward as one of the highest ceilings in the draft. Drummond was originally projected as a number 1 pick and a number 2 pick before the 2012 NCAA season started. But after a pretty mediocre year, he’s dropped down a little bit to the 4th-6th range. Still a nice spot to be, but probably not where he expected to be. And I don’t think we would even be having this conversation if he had decided to go to Georgetown instead of UConn. As he could have still been a lock for top-two.


Clearly UConn and Drummond were not meant to be, having played with a plethora shoot-first guards that rarely utilized him offensively. Perhaps former Huskie Alex Oriakhi may have been thinking the same thing as me, having just transferred over to a better Missouri program for his final year of eligibility.


Despite that, Drummond still remains one of my favourites on the board due to his extreme amount of athleticism and size. People say he has no desire, or motivation to play. In his defence though, I think that has to do in large part because of his Huskie shoot-first teammates. But even so, he is still going to be a solid pro without even trying very hard. Imagine how good he can be with the right NBA system, and coaching staff to "motivate" him. Simply put, he has the potential to dominate the NBA at center.


3. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist- one of the hardest workers in the draft. His overall package reminds me more of Shawn Marion than a Gerald Wallace, being a high-energy player and very capable of defending four positions extremely well. But be cautious with his fouling and raw offensive game. Given his work ethic, it's very hard to not see him succeed in the NBA. At his very worst, he would probably be a Tony Allen type player, but 3-4 inches taller.


One thing that I like more now about MKG was his consistency throughout the year, as well as his play in the NCAA tournament, where as Barnes seemed to disappear without Marshall.


There is still some debate between MKG and Harrison Barnes over who the better SF is. Right now, I’d still say Barnes is the better player. Barnes is probably the safe pick if you want someone who is going to perform well in all areas in the NBA. But MKG does have a higher ceiling to be a better overall player IF he gets better offensively. And that’s still a pretty big risk. If he doesn’t develop offensively, Barnes will likely be the better player down the road.


4. Bradley Beal- I’m not usually a fan of “tweener” players like Beal, but I really have to make an exception for him. And I still have no clue what his actual height is. Some boards have him at 6’3, while others have him as high as 6’5. Not that it’s really a big deal, but for arguments sake I’ll just take the average of the two and say he’s 6’4. I’m not sure yet if he’ll just be a SG, a combo guard, or a SG/SF, but either way, he is without a doubt the top SG in the draft class.


Another highly competitive player, who does a lot of things really well. Eric Gordon has been the comparison that’s been given to him. Which I’m not too sure about, given that Beal is an excellent rebounder. But I think a comparison to Avery Bradley is more suiting for him, but a little better offensively.


5. Tony Mitchell- a guy some people probably have never heard of because of playing at North Texas. But he was the #2 rated SF of the 2010 class. Mitchell is also a very high energy player/defender like MKG. He was supposed to be going to Missouri, but I guess academic issues got in the way of that. If he had been in Missouri as expected, he is probably a lock for the top 10 at least in last year’s draft. Very athletic combo-forward player that is flying well under the radar right now. Very much like MKG, only 2-3 inches taller.


It has been reported that Mitchell is going back to school another year, but often players say that and declare for the NBA anyways. If he does declare for the draft, watch out for him. He could be an absolute steal if he goes late first round, as expected.



Players I would avoid


To be fair, this is not to say any of these guys won't be good NBA players. But just based on what I've seen, and potential, these are the potential lottery players I'm not too certain about.


Jeremy Lamb- Although very athletic, and a pretty good defender, he doesn’t seem like a team player, or one that really cares about winning. I see him more as a stats only type player, and I like to avoid these at all costs. NBA comparison- Nick Young.


Austin Rivers- basically the same as Lamb. I don’t see much about him that stands out. Another thing I don't like is being that he went to Duke. If Coach K can't make it work, how would anyone else in the NBA? Sure, he probably has the most potential on this list, and his dad being an NBA coach and former player probably helps. But I can’t see him being more than an O.J. Mayo type player at best. A good pick around 15th-20th, but I would not use a top-10 pick on him like he's expected to be.


Damian Lillard- pretty much this year’s version of Jimmer Fredette.  Basically a SG playing PG. Not only that, I’m not usually a fan of tweener guards where all they do is score, and not much else in a pretty weak conference. He's a scorer, and a great one at that, but I'm not convinced of huge NBA potential like many believe there is.


Perry Jones III- it’s safe to say he probably would have had better luck in last year’s draft. I also wasn’t very impressed with his mediocre play for his two seasons at Baylor. For a guy with his size and athleticism, I felt like he could have done a whole lot more. While his length and athleticism give him NBA potential, if he couldn’t stand out at the NCAA level, I don’t how he will in the NBA. NBA comparison- poor man’s Kevin Durant.


Updated thoughts on the 2012 draft coming once the Draft Lottery is completed, and we know where teams will be picking. I'll also have a better idea of where players are expected to go then. Right now, they're all scattered around for the most part.

 

Reasons to Trade Bargnani

Posted by BP on April 12, 2012 at 9:55 PM Comments comments (2)



There's been a lot of discussion lately about the future of Ed Davis with the Raptors. Specifically, whether he's in the future plans of the team, or if he's simply trade bait for this off season.


Well, coincidentally, guess who recently went down with an injury for the third time this year. To make matters worse, it’s the same recurring injury to his calf. Yep, Andrea Bargnani could now be shut down for the entire season.


To me, it seems like it could go one of two ways for Davis. It either means they could get good value for trading him, or they finally decide to move on with Andrea Bargnani and let Davis start with Valanciunas.


While the injury is not exactly why I think they should trade Andrea, there are several reasons why I think they should pull the trigger on him. Here’s five of my reasons why.


1. Value.

Apparently teams at the trade deadline were pitching offers to the Raptors for both Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani. However, as we have seen now, no deal was made involving either one. Will the Raptors ever be convinced to move him even for a good trade?


It would be interesting to know what sort of offers were given. Although, I wouldn’t complain much about any offer if it involved a first round pick and a backup point guard. At this point, if teams are calling about him, he obviously has some value. Take it before it's too late!


2. Doesn’t defend well.

This is no secret. Although he has made great strides of effort defensively under coach Casey, the defense simply isn’t at an acceptable level for a player that had been in the league for five years. There have even been several instances throughout this season, still,  where he has shown very little desire to defend, and more less allowing players to score without even contesting a shot from the paint. Layups included.


No matter how many points Bargnani scores, a team will likely never be in serious title contention unless both of its big men are committed to defending the paint. Bargnani, despite the increased effort, will likely never defend at the needed level to contend in the playoffs. So tell me, how exactly will the team ever contend with him as a starter?


3. Doesn’t rebound.

Again, this is no secret. For a 7-footer, I find it inexcusable that a player has a career average of only 5 rebounds, despite playing a career 30 minutes per game. If one does the math, it means that he grabs one rebound for every six minutes of playing. Even if you look at his per-36 numbers, it’s still only 6 rebounds per game. So his minutes aren't exactly the problem here.


There’s also a big difference between a player who tries to rebound, versus a player who stands around and watches.  Andrea is usually a player that stands around and watches, unless the ball bounces towards him. Which makes me really question his effort defensively. All five players should be getting defensive rebounds, but it seems like the Raptors always have four when he's playing.


How is it that a 6’4 Jason Kidd has a higher career rebounding rate than a 7-footer? Because he has great instincts as a player. Anyone who has played basketball knows rebounding isn’t just about being tall, it’s about anticipating shots, knowing where to be, boxing out, and most importantly, just making the effort to get the ball. Being tall definitely should make it a lot easier.


Meanwhile, his counterpart, or supposedly his comparison, Dirk Nowitzki is a career 8.3 rebounds per game, while averaging a career 36 minutes per game. Although I’ll be the first to admit, Dirk isn’t a great defender either, but he is still a good defender. He makes the effort to defend, as well as to rebound, which is something that every PF/C should do.


4. Ed Davis.

This season, it still amazes me how under a defensive coach like Casey, who says he rewards players defensively, and for effort, still doesn’t give a guy like Ed Davis more minutes. Ed is a raw talent, but is losing critical development years due to the double standards held by Andrea. Ed has proven to be a hard worker, and like Amir, has a commitment to the defensive end. But still finds himself on the bench for most of the game. This is just unacceptable, and this needs to change.


Now, in the back of my mind, something tells me it’s not entirely Casey’s fault. He could simply be doing what he’s told in order to keep his job. It could very well be the Raptors management forcing him to keep playing Bargnani so that he can prove to be a great pick. If that’s the case, I feel sorry for Casey and Davis for both being brought into a lose-lose situation in Toronto.


Now, I really like the strides Casey has made to the team’s defense in just his first season in Toronto. But if players feel like there are favourites, or a double standard to a guy who doesn’t show effort, it will create a hostile environment within the team. Players will eventually lose trust in the coach, start to tune out him out, and eventually won’t listen. Would the Raptors management want to lose Casey like that?


The injury to Bargnani could be a blessing in disguise for Davis. A chance to prove that he should be the new starter at PF next season. And if they don’t draft one this summer, I’d be in favour of him getting that spot next year.


5. Six years.

Yes. Six years. Ok, maybe five and a half considering the lockout shortened season, and the amount of games missed this year. Either way, this is his 6th season in the NBA. How long is it going it take for Andrea to prove if he’s still worth keeping long-term?


I find it so frustrating as a fan that Bryan Colangelo still feels obligated to prove us all wrong with him, and believes that he can still be the “franchise player” for Toronto. Just admit you screwed up, and move on from the whole “Dirk Nowitzki” comparison that ceases to exist. Dirk was an all-star in his 4th season, and could have been an all-star in his 3rd. Bargnani is no where close to being a Dirk Nowitzki, and probably never will be. So enough with the Dirk comparison.


I’m well aware that he played well, and some would say “like an all-star” (although I’d still say all-star level is debatable), but that was only during a 13-game stretch. The only 13-game stretch out of his entire 398 games played that he actually looked like he was worth keeping.


If you’re going to tell me he came back with nothing to play for, since the Raptors were already out of playoff contention, well then that’s an even bigger red flag to me. If a player isn’t motivated to play, why do you still continue to play him and believe in him? That just isn't right.


 

-     -     -     -     -



All in all, I won’t say that Bargnani isn’t a good player. Bargnani is a good player, obviously as he has proven to be offensively. But that's it. He's just a good offensive player. Which means Bargnani simply isn't a good fit for what the Raptors are currently trying to do.


If the Raptors truly want to be a “defensive minded team” under coach Casey, doesn’t it make sense to have better defensive players playing?


I have serious concerns over the future of the Raptors if they do not want to fully commit to their defensive direction.


The NBA D-League

Posted by BP on April 4, 2012 at 3:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Almost every year when the NCAA season ends and the draft lottery nears, players are always having to decide whether or not they should declare early for the NBA. This causes a lot of concern for players because they know that once they declare and hire an agent, there is no turning back to school if they are unlucky and go undrafted. There is also no guarantee that a drafted player even gets signed by a team either.


This becomes very tedious as there always seems to be the same debate about the draft over and over again. Some say the NBA needs to change the eligibility to more than one year of college, some say it needs to go back and allow players straight out of high school, and some say its fine the way it is.


David Stern, however, has recently announced that he would like to change the eligibility rules, presumably to at least have players be 20 years old, instead of the current 19 year old rule. I’m on the fence with the idea. I’m not in support of players going to college just because they feel like they HAVE to, but at the same time I think it makes the NCAA product better.


I don’t really have a problem with players who want to be a “one-and-done”, want to play two years, or even play overseas for a year before turning pro (like Brandon Jennings did). Adding another year or two to a player’s eligibility would certainly make the NCAA games more exciting, and a little easier to follow. But I still think that if a player is ready, they should be allowed to make that decision for themselves. The risk is theirs to take, but just don’t complain when you go undrafted, or don’t get signed by a team and can’t go back to school.


The thing that makes the NBA so complicated, and different, is that unlike almost every other major professional sport, the NBA always seems to forget about its minor league affiliates, otherwise known as the NBA D-League or Development League. They are very rarely, if ever used.


My solution to the problem would be to follow the model of the MLB and the NHL, and actually USE your minor league teams. Forget the whole debate about how many years a player should or shouldn’t have to play in college. Instead, focus on what you have, and could make a whole lot better as well as bring in more revenue by developing players in the minor league.


Now, before anyone argues that this would be a terrible thing for the NCAA, remember that the MLB requires players to come straight out of high school, or a mandatory three years playing at the collegiate level before they are eligible to turn pro. A similar system like this could work for the NBA. But I wouldn’t say a minimum of three years is the right number for the NBA, probably two years.


Now, not only are the current D-League teams hardly ever used, but there are some teams that don’t even have their own minor league affiliate. In fact, most NBA teams actually share a D-League team with another NBA team, or in some cases, more than one NBA team.


Right now, it’s almost as if the D-League is punishment for players, rather than a Development system like it's supposed to be. It’s hardly ever used, and it’s basically useless as is. Players currently in the D-league are more often than not players who either go undrafted, or players who are just trying to get back into the NBA.


But why not make it exactly like its name says, a “Development League” where rookies can go there and adjust to the NBA level before they are forced to sit out on the bench. All there is for an adjustment from college to the NBA is the summer league, and training camp. So it's no wonder why so many players don't live up to their potential. They're simply not ready for the NBA.


I would actually like to see each NBA team have its own D-League team like the NHL and MLB system. Not only would it help create a few extra jobs in a struggling economy, but it allows for players to play semi-pro without taking their talents overseas. Players are regularly called up or sent down in these two leagues, and it doesn’t appear to be a major problem either.


Not only that, but young players can actually play, develop their game, and get better instead of sitting on the bench and watching, because they could easily do that on TV. It would surely beat the system in place right now, knowing that there are future NBA players on each and every D-League team versus how it is now, which is very few and far between.


I’d guarantee that if there were sure-thing NBA prospects in the D-League, like in the MLB and NHL minor leagues, it would actually draw a lot more interest, and people would probably follow it more.


If you ask me, no change needs to be made to the NBA eligibility rule at all to make the NBA better. Actually making the D-League relevant will do far more for the NBA to help the development of it's players, which can then result in an increased product for the NBA.


Toronto not an NBA Market

Posted by BP on March 29, 2012 at 9:00 PM Comments comments (0)

The “Blue and White” seems to be the common theme among Toronto’s professional sports teams. The Maple Leafs, the Blue Jays, the Argonauts, and the Raptors. One thing about these franchises stands out over the rest. The Raptor red.


Toronto has proudly supported it’s now only Canadian NBA team since its entry into the NBA. Today, it still remains as one of the largest markets in the entire NBA, and maintains a healthy profit to the league and its owners.


However, when looking at the Toronto Raptors, it seems as if it has always had a disadvantage in the basketball world. Population size, TV ratings, and profitability may make it an “owners market”, but it certainly does not make it a “players market” in any sense.


If you ask me, the NBA could very well be a US only league just like the NFL is, and probably always will be. But because of the weak US economy, several of the NBA teams are struggling to make money, which was one of the reasons for the partial NBA lockout. If the US economy was still going strong, and players like Vince Carter never gave a sense of hope to the organization in its early days, I think the team may have been relocated already, just like the Vancouver Grizzlies had been.


Sadly, whether you would like to admit it or not, the city of Toronto has major disadvantages when it comes to the culture of the NBA.


When you think of Toronto, the first thing that comes to mind obviously isn’t the Raptors. That should be the first clue. It's the Leafs, no brainer.


In a sport like basketball that is dominated by US born players, just like hockey is dominated by Canadian born players, them wanting to stay in the US doesn’t surprise me at all. Even though the Raptors have had some big spending money to offer free agents, top players still seem to avoid Canada’s team like the plague.


Before anyone tries to argue that the Leafs and the Blue Jays have no problems luring big name players to the city, let’s remember that comparing different sports leagues is just ridiculous. The players are different, the culture is different, the sports are different, and the nationalities of the players are different. There is no comparison between the teams, other than maybe the building that two of the teams share, the Air Canada Centre.


Everyone seems to forget, Canada is a foreign country to US citizens. Just as the US is a foreign country to us. Can any of us honestly say we would want to be a professional athlete in the States, when we could be a professional athlete here at home in Canada, while making the same money? No, I didn’t think so. Just as you probably couldn't picture yourself living permanently in a foreign country you visited on vacation or holiday.


It’s not even just about the money in professional sports. Players simply want the exposure of living in the United States that they saw growing up, like ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and endorsement deals that they could only get in the US. They simply do not get all of that playing for a Canadian team like the Raptors. Well, maybe they do, but its just not the same. While we may have our own sports networks, the entire country on your side, and very passionate sports fans, many players still feel more comfortable in their own country, and who can blame them.


The different currency, the somewhat different food, the slightly colder weather, the metric education, as well as “myths” about Canada also play a crucial role on the prejudices and biases players have towards the city and country.


Ironically enough, players love to visit the city on a road trip. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean they would actually like to live here long-term.


Until (or, if ever) the Raptors become a legitimate title contender, like the days with a young Vince Carter, the team will likely continue to just be a quick stop in the road for most players. Either as a draft pick under a rookie contract, or a veteran with a one-year contract.


Toronto almost always has been, and will probably continue to be, a team where players can increase their value so that they can live out their dreams in the bigger US markets.

 

My 2012 NCAA Bracket

Posted by BP on March 15, 2012 at 8:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Yep. It's that time of year, once again. Heres my bracket for this years tournament.

http://games.espn.go.com/tournament-challenge-bracket/en_CA/entry?entryID=2025560

In case the link doesn't work, here's my picks.


South Region:

1 - Kentucky vs 16 - W Kentucky

8 - Iowa St vs 9 - Connecticut

5 - Wichita St vs 12 - VCU

4 - Indiana vs 13 - New Mexico St

6 - UNLV vs 11 - Colorado

3 - Baylor vs 14 - S Dakota St

7 - Notre Dame vs 10 - Xavier

2 - Duke vs 15 - Lehigh


1 Kentucky vs 9 Connecticut

4 Indiana vs 12 VCU

3 Baylor vs 6 UNLV

2 Duke vs 7 Notre Dame


1 Kentucky vs 12 VCU

2 Duke vs 3 Baylor


1 Kentucky vs 3 Baylor



West Region:

1 - Michigan St vs 16 - LIU Brooklyn

8 - Memphis vs 9 - Saint Louis

5 - New Mexico vs 12 - Long Beach St

4 - Louisville vs 13 - Davidson

6 - Murray St vs 11 - Colorado St

3 - Marquette vs 14 - BYU

7 - Florida vs 10 - Virginia

2 - Missouri vs 15 - Norfolk St


1 Michigan St vs 8 Memphis

4 Louisville vs 5 New Mexico

3 Marquette vs 6 Murray St

2 Missouri vs 7 Florida


1 Michigan St vs 5 New Mexico

2 Missouri vs 6 Murray St


1 Michigan St vs 2 Missouri



East Region:

1 - Syracuse vs 16 - UNC Asheville

8 - Kansas St vs 9 - Southern Miss

5 - Vanderbilt vs 12 - Harvard

4 - Wisconsin vs 13 - Montana

6 - Cincinnati vs 11 - Texas

3 - Florida St vs 14 - St Bonaventure

7 - Gonzaga vs 10 - West Virginia

2 - Ohio St vs 15 - Loyola (MD)


1 Syracuse vs 8 Kansas St

4 Wisconsin vs 5 Vanderbilt

3 Florida St vs 6 Cincinnati

2 Ohio St vs 7 Gonzaga


1 Syracuse vs 5 Vanderbilt

2 Ohio St vs 3 Florida St


2 Ohio State vs 5 Vanderbilt



Midwest Region:

1 - North Carolina vs 16 - Vermont

8 - Creighton vs 9 - Alabama

5 - Temple vs 12 - S Florida

4 - Michigan vs 13 - Ohio

6 - San Diego St vs 11 - NC State

3 - Georgetown vs 14 - Belmont

7 - Saint Mary's vs 10 - Purdue

2 - Kansas vs 15 - Detroit


1 North Carolina vs Creighton

5 Temple vs 13 Ohio

6 San Diego St vs 14 Belmont

2 Kansas vs 7 Saint Mary's


1 North Carolina vs 5 Temple

2 Kansas vs 6 San Diego St


1 North Carolina vs 2 Kansas




Final Four:

1 Kentucky vs 2 Missouri

1 North Carolina vs 5 Vanderbilt



Championship Game:

1 North Carolina vs 2 Missouri



Missouri over Kentucky is probably a little bit of a surprise, but as I had said in my preview. They are one of the best offensive teams in the country. If they shoot the ball well in the tournament, and they shoot it at a high FG% like they have been all season long, they will be very tough to beat. They're rebounding is weak, and they start four guards and only 1 forward, but I still like their tournament potential with their experience.


There you have it. I've said since about the beginning of the year that I really like North Carolina to win it all this year. I continue to believe that they will.

The Sun Setting in the Desert

Posted by BP on March 3, 2012 at 9:15 PM Comments comments (0)



The sun can be described as the biggest, the brightest, most powerful, and most important star in our entire solar system, and as the key to human life. This description also completely describes the effect that Steve Nash has had in Phoenix as a member of the Suns.


Steve Nash, now 38 years old and on his way to another All-Star game, has clearly defied the laws of aging in the NBA. Normally, for the 99% of players in the league not named Steve Nash, players start to decline in athleticism and in what they can do on the floor around the age of 30.


That’s exactly what Dallas’ mindset was when they let him go as a free agent in 2004, when he was 30.


Little did they know, or anyone for that matter, that the then 30 year-old Nash would go on to win two consecutive MVP awards, as well as three conference finals playoff runs with fellow All-Star team mate Amare Stoudemire.


The future was bright for the rejuvenated Suns team, who like the sun, had given life to an organization that needed a new point guard after parting ways with both Stephon Marbury, as well as future hall of famer Jason Kidd.


With Nash, the team under Mike D’Antoni was the new up and coming team in the league that put on a show with its offensive flow. In just his first season, Nash and company propelled this team with his offense from a 29-53 lottery team the year before, to a 62-20 contender with Nash.


All was great in the desert, or so it seemed. Over the last few years in Phoenix, management had changed, coaches had been replaced, and key players had been swapped. What had once been a fun an exciting team, turned into Steve Nash and eleven other players trying to fill the void left behind by the players that made Phoenix, and Nash a successful combination.


Ever since the departure of players like Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Boris Diaw, Raja Bell and Leandro Barbosa, which made the Suns one of the league’s most exciting teams, had slowed down an awful lot. Slowed down enough so, that the Suns had failed to make the playoffs in 08-09 for just the first time since Nash’s arrival in Phoenix.


Now, Nash, with an entirely new roster from when he first arrived in Phoenix, is left with the task of carrying the team back into the playoffs. All of this while heading into what could be his final year with the team that had revitalized his career to unpredictable levels.


With his expiring deal giving him leverage, and the freedom to choose where he would like to be, the future for Steve Nash is, well, I’m not really sure. In fact, no one really knows.


He could go anywhere of his choosing. Who wouldn’t want a class act guy like Nash on their team? Surely a contender will want him, and surely he wants to win a championship before he retires.


Back to Dallas with his buddy Dirk, on the team that left him out to dry? Reuniting with D’Antoni and Amare in New York? At home in Canada with the Raptors? With Oklahoma City, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles?


Again, it’s any body’s guess as to what Steve Nash is thinking, or where he would like to play.


But, what we do know for sure is that Steve Nash is 38. The Suns have some tough decisions to make in the coming weeks, and even months. They can still trade him before the deadline, and I really think that they should.


Steve’s loyalty, although very uncommon in the NBA today, may be his one and only weakness. If the Suns do not trade him, I feel like he will resign with the team, because he’s that loyal, and that much of a professional.


Letting him go by trading him, and letting him choose his own destiny at the end of the year, is the best thing they could give the player who gave his all to the organization.


He gave more than what anyone could have expected of him, and then some. If he wishes to play out his career for another team, let him. Give him the opportunity to win the championship that so few players are able to experience. It’s the least the city of Phoenix could do in return.


I know that the Suns would likely get very little for a 38 year old. And, no one would probably want to watch the Suns, at least for the rest of the year. Which is why they have been reluctant to trade him so far (that and because he hasn’t asked for a trade). It’s suicide for business in an already struggling league. But, for all that he’s given to the organization; I think it’s time that they give back to him. Let him go to a championship team.


Players come, and players go. It’s hard to see him leave, but it was clear the time had to come. Phoenix, it could sadly almost be the end of the line for Steve Nash’s career, and time in the city.


Surely, the city of Phoenix is getting their sweaters and jackets ready for the cold night ahead. I can already feel the chill from the sun setting in what used to be the scorching hot desert sun.


Not to worry, the sun is sure to rise again in the desert.


NCAA Tournament Preview- As of March 3 2012

Posted by BP on March 3, 2012 at 5:40 PM Comments comments (0)

NCAA Tournament Preview


It’s almost that time of year, yet again. March is easily one of my favourite times of the year to be a sports fan. The Men’s Basketball Tournament is the biggest stage in all of college sports. Chances are, any basketball fan, whether you’re a fan of the NCAA level or not, will be tuned in at some point to follow it.


The best thing about the NCAA tournament to me isn’t only the one and done format, but the uncertainty about predicting it. Not only are games played on a neutral court (in most cases), but many times the teams have never played each other in regular season. Making the scouting reports that much more important, and tournament “upsets” very common.


Now I can’t make any exact bold predictions yet, because the brackets haven’t been set. And obviously, we don’t know for sure yet which teams will get in. But here is a preview of what teams, from what I know, will be in the tournament, and what I think they will do. However, thing’s may change upon seeing the actual bracket of the tournament. But, this is being made March 3rd 2012, before the bracket is even out. So here’s what I have so far.



Ranked Teams with Potential Deep Runs


It’s no secret that top 25 ranked teams are always the favourites to win, and rightfully so. They do win. So here are some teams that are ranked Top 25 now, that I personally like, and think could be ready for a deep run in the tournament.


Note- any records/stats may not be completely accurate. I’m writing this with one game to go for a lot of the teams.


Syracuse

It seems like every year Syracuse is poised for tournament runs. Rightfully so, with Jim Boeheim, one of the greatest college coaches of all time, it’s no secret as to why the Orange continue to bring in stellar recruits to the school. This year will be no different, with tournament veterans Kris Joseph, Scoop Jardine, Brandon Triche, and sixth man, also the team’s 2nd leading scorer, sophomore Dion Waiters.


Another Syracuse player to watch for is Brazilian sophomore Fab Melo. One of the best shot blocking centers, at 7-feet and 250lbs. The only ‘Cuse loss this year was @ Notre Dame, another currently ranked team, and without him in the line up. Had he been in the line up the Orangemen could have been an unbeaten team this year.


The Stats (Provided by ESPN):


Points Per Game- 75.9 (28th)

Rebounds Per Game- 35.5 (117th)

Assists Per Game- 16.1 (12th)

Field Goal Percentage- .471 (38th)


Baylor

The Bears have just about everything needed to make a run this year. Size, experience, and balanced scoring. Sophomore forward and leading scorer Perry Jones III, Junior guard Pierre Jackson, Senior forward Quincy Acy, Freshman forward Quincy Miller, and Sophomore guard and 3-point specialist Brady Heslip.


Although, Perry Jones III, a potential NBA lottery pick this year has been somewhat disappointing in my opinion. He probably could have went top-5 in the draft last year, and now has no guarantee that he will even be a lottery pick. Staying back the extra year has probably hurt his draft value a lot. Maybe he will use the tournament to prove that he is still one of the top players in the draft. An early exit will definitely hurt his stock, so maybe he’ll have that extra motivation to be the player to lead this team deep.


The Stats (Provided by ESPN):


Points Per Game- 74.5 (40th)

Rebounds Per Game- 36.5 (75th)

Assists Per Game- 15.2 (30th)

Field Goal Percentage- .474 (26th)

 

Kentucky

Ok, this is an obvious pick. I really wanted to avoid a team like this, but you HAVE to include Kentucky if you’re going to talk about ranked teams that can make a nice run. The consensus top pick for this year’s NBA draft, Anthony Davis, is also the best defender, and the best freshman in all of the NCAA. Another guaranteed top-5 pick on this team is freshman forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Who is another one of the best defenders in the country.


The team is currently 29-1, pending tomorrow night’s game in Florida, which is sure to be another great game for the two only ranked SEC teams. That one single loss by Kentucky was also a one point loss, in Indiana from a last second game winning three. If that shot didn’t go in, this team would be 30-0 right now, and could possibly be 31-0 after tomorrow.


There are two weaknesses, in my opinion that the Wildcats have.


One being is that much of the team is first year players (Of course, that’s the risk you take when you recruit one-and-done recruits who will be future NBA players). Tournament experience is one of the most under rated stats in my opinion. Regular season play, and NCAA tournament play can be like night and day. It will be interesting to see if it continues to be their downfall.


The second is that this is a team that only averages just under 14 assists per game. You would think that for the #1 team, there would be a lot more ball movement. But that’s not the case.


Of course though, you have to remember that this is a team that gets a lot points from turnovers, fast breaks from defensive stops, and players that can beat you on 1 on 1 isolation matchups in the half court. So the assists number may not be as worrisome as it may seem at first glance.


Most importantly, when looking at their conference, the only other ranked team in it is Florida. The only 4 ranked games that they’ve played so far were actually pretty close games as well. Except for the one 20-point win versus Florida, which was also played in Kentucky.


Now, I’m not at all saying Kentucky isn’t a good squad. They’re obviously 29-1, and ranked #1 because they’re a very good team. However, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Kentucky gets eliminated early when they start playing better teams than they have been.


Regardless, this is a team loaded with enough talent to win it all after losing in the Final Four last year. Freshman forward Anthony Davis, Sophomore guard Doron Lamb, Sophomore forward Terrence Jones, Freshman forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Senior forward/guard Darius Miller, and Freshman guard Marquis Teague.


The Stats (Provided by ESPN):


Points Per Game- 77.8 (19th)

Rebounds Per Game- 39.2 (17th)

Assists Per Game- 13.5 (120th)

Field Goal Percentage- .489 (11th)


Wisconsin

Is another team that’s loaded with tournament experience, and that’s why I like them to make a run. Last year, the team made it all the way to the sweet sixteen, but lost a close game to the eventual runner ups for two straight years, the Butler Bulldogs.


Key players for the Badgers include Senior guard Jordan Taylor, Junior forward Ryan Evans, Junior forward Jared Berggren, Sophomore guard Ben Brust, Sophomore guard Josh Gasser, and Junior forward Mike Breusewitz. Obviously, the team has changed with the loss of now NBA player Jon Leuer, but much of the team remains the same.


The team right now is only 22-8, but has lost to some pretty good teams both in conference as well as out of conference. Losses to #8 Michigan State twice, #13 Michigan, #3 Ohio State, Iowa twice, #5 UNC, and #16 Marquette. Most of these games, however, are ranked teams, and had also been fairly close.


All in all, if the Badgers get lucky with some favourable matchups early on, they may ride that momentum pretty far. I think this team is capable of winning some big games in the tournament. Wisconsin is one of the more under rated teams at the moment in my opinion.


The Stats (Provided by ESPN):


Points Per Game- 63.6 (269th)

Rebounds Per Game- 34.2 (199th)

Assists Per Game-11.6 (272nd)

Field Goal Percentage- .423 (237th)


Missouri

Is easily one of the best teams in all of college basketball.  They were also one of the last unbeaten teams in all of the NCAA, until its first loss of the year @ #22 Kansas State. Since then, have lost more games than it did the entire year @ Oklahoma State, versus Kansas State again, and @ Kansas.


However, except for the first 16 point loss @ Kansas State, all of its losses have been close games, and against good teams. With 3 out of 4 of those loses being on the road, and all 4 being losses against conference teams. Not to mention, a single-point loss in OT to the #5 ranked Kansas team, in Kansas.


In addition, Missouri will probably be one of the most experienced teams in the tournament. The team is led by Seniors Marcus Denman, Kim English, and Ricardo Ratliffe. As well as Junior guard Michael Dixon, and Sophomore guard Phil Pressey.


Looking closely at the stats, not only is Missouri one of the best scoring teams, but also shooting at almost 50% is going to make them one of the hardest teams to keep up with offensively.


If they were a better rebounding team, they would probably be regarded as one of the Top-3 teams in the country. But, they currently sit at the #8 spot. If they have any weaknesses, that would be it.


In my opinion, the Missouri Tigers are the 2nd best team in all of college basketball behind North Carolina.


The Stats (Provided by ESPN):


Points Per Game- 79.7 (3rd)

Rebounds Per Game- 32.3 (281st)

Assists Per Game- 16.1 (15th)

Field Goal Percentage- .499 (3rd)


North Carolina

Very much the same description as Syracuse, so not much more I can say that I didn’t already say about Syracuse. They have another one of college basketball’s greatest coaches in Roy Williams, as well as solid recruiting classes year after year.


What I like about North Carolina, is that they have a ton of experience on this team. By that, I mean Tyler Zeller, as well as a few others from the UNC team that won the tourney in 08-09. In addition, it has some of the country’s best players who will also be future NBA players in Harrison Barnes, John Henson, and Kendall Marshall. Having four future NBA players on your team is usually a sign of a team with great tournament potential.


Not only that, if you look at the teams that North Carolina has lost to, shows that they have the potential to be the best team in the country. A loss by one point against the #1 ranked team Kentucky, also in Kentucky, and a one point loss to Duke, on a last second game winning 3-pointer by Austin Rivers of Duke. As well as another game tonight, in Duke, which is likely to be another that goes right down the wire.


Now, the two other loses to UNLV and an embarrassing loss to Florida State I cannot explain. Those were two games they should have won.


What hurts the Tar Heels though, is losing Junior guard Dexter Strickland for the season. Now, Reggie Bullock has played extremely well as the new starting guard, but it hurts the team’s depth. Instead of having Sophomore Bullock, with Freshmen P.J. Hairston, and James Michael McAdoo off the bench, it now only has Hairston and McAdoo as its key bench players who can make an impact on the game.


Nonetheless, the Tar Heels to me are the best team in the country. And even without looking at the tournament bracket, am predicting that they will be the champs in April. Here are the stats, which only adds to why I think they are the best team right now.


The Stats (Provided by ESPN):


Points Per Game- 82.1 (2nd)

Rebounds Per Game- 45.8 (1st)

Assists Per Game- 17.6 (4th)

Field Goal Percentage- .459 (71st)




 

Unranked Tournament Sleepers: Washington, UConn, Memphis, BYU, Vanderbilt,



Champ: North Carolina

 

Everything's BIGGER in Texas

Posted by BP on February 23, 2012 at 10:35 PM Comments comments (0)

You’ve probably heard the saying, “everything’s bigger in Texas” before. Well, five months from now, the Dallas Mavericks may bring even further truth to that line.


Highly touted superstars Dwight Howard and Deron Williams lead the NBA’s free agent class going into the 2012 off season. This NBA offseason could bring almost as much drama as the 2010 free agent class of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, in what is now two years past.


It remains very unclear right now to every NBA fan as to where they may end up. Ironically, to make things even more complicated, both players have made one thing clear. They intend on playing together, wherever that future destination may be.


That being said, the fate of either player remains solely on the other. Wherever one goes, it is likely the other will follow.


As we all know, Howard has come out with his “list” of teams which he would like to play for. Although I have no problem if a player wants to play in a certain city, with a certain team, or with a certain player, it bothers me how players go about doing so. Making your free agent plans known before you’re a free agent isn’t fair to your current organization, your die hard fans, or your team mates.


In contrary however, for three other teams, the New Jersey Nets, the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Dallas Mavericks, Dwight Howard’s “list” of teams includes each of them. So they must be pretty happy about all of this.


To make things perfectly clear, I don’t see how, or even why, the Magic, or the Nets' front office would let their superstars walk away with nothing in return. This leads me to believe that the likelihood of either one or both players being traded before the deadline is very high.


That being said, I have said since the Los Angeles Lakers tried to go after Chris Paul that they will also try and go after Howard. With that CP3 deal out of the question, the Lakers still have a surprisingly healthy Andrew Bynum, and Pau Gasol (whose tenure with the Lakers seems sadly all but over) to offer back for the Magic. This deal is easily the best case scenario for both teams as far as talent. When this happens, the Lakers would then make the necessary cap room in the summer in order to sign Deron Williams in free agency. That is what I am expecting to happen, or vice versa with Howard/Williams.


Now, hypothetically speaking, and all biases aside, if, and I emphasize IF, both players happen to become free agents, the Dallas Mavericks seem the most logical destination for both players to end up. The Mavs, if needed, can make enough cap room to sign both players to a reasonable deal, which would put them along side recent NBA Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki.


The reason why I like the Dallas Mavericks as a destination for the two to end up is for two particular reasons.


One reason Dallas makes sense is being Deron’s connection to the city. The Dallas area is where he grew up as a kid, so like almost any player dreams of, will be playing for the team he watched growing up.


Secondly, the Mavs already have some vital pieces which can be used to help build the championship contending team right away. Some of those players being the obvious Dirk Nowitzki, as well as Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Lamar Odom, and either Brendan Haywood or Shawn Marion (Though Haywood is the likelier of the two to be amnestied). Vince Carter and Delonte West are two other current Mavs who may be reasonable options to bring back for the right price.


Jason Kidd, one of the NBA’s all time great point guards and Jason Terry, the Mav’s 6th man, and not to mention one of the league’s best 6th's over the years, will be unrestricted free agents this off season as well. Both are almost certain to take a pay cut at this point in their careers to be a part of this championship contending team. With the Mavs having bird rights on the two makes them able to go over the cap to keep them.


Odom, another current Maverick also becoming an unrestricted free agent, will also have bird rights the team acquired because of the trade. With his performance thus far, resigning him would seem very unlikely, but wouldn’t surprise me if they brought him back for a reasonable price. Perhaps a full training camp with the team is all he needs to get back into his old Lakers form that the Mavericks so desperately need from him.


A former Mav that would be a great target to add, is soon-to-be free agent DeShawn Stevenson. His defense in the playoffs, was fantastic to say the very least, and is surely a target of the Mavs to make this contending team even better. He would have been back with the team this year, but decided to take a bit more money to play in New Jersey. I would really like to see him back in Dallas as the starting shooting guard once again.


With the addition of Deron and Dwight, the Mavericks lineup could at best look something similar to this.


Deron Williams, DeShawn Stevenson, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard. With a possible bench of Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Delonte West, Lamar Odom, Ian Mahinmi, Brian Cardinal, and other small additions from free agency.


With trade deadline right around the corner, the future of these players remains up in the air. It’s still anyone’s guess as to where they may end up. Only time will tell.


But here’s to hoping the Big 3 end up in Big D.

 


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