Final NBA Mock Draft: Head to Head

The draft is finally here and we here at the Pick and Pop are over the moon about it.  Evan and I have decided to each do our own Mock and post them together as a head to head battle from two NBA and NCAA basketball junkies.  As we go, my selections will be in GREEN, while Evan’s will be in BLUE. We have not seen each others selections till right now. Off we go:

Greatness

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

 Andrew Wiggins, SG/SF Kansas:

Wiggins is the only player besides Joel Embiid, who has the potential to be a generational talent.  Wiggins showed us glimpses of what he could do at times this season, but struggled to put together monster efforts with consistency.  While this certainly has Cleveland feeling a little uneasy, the combination of athleticism, speed, second jump ability, improved shooting and elite level defense is too much to pass on.  People have said Paul George is a good comp for him, but I believe his ceiling is even higher than that.

For Cleveland, either Wiggins or Parker would be a good pick for their team, as they need big time talent at either wing position, but it remains a very real possibility that they trade this pick in order to clear up room for making a run at Lebron. Cleveland holds all the cards right now, I’m excited to see how they gamble.

Jabari Parker, Forward, Duke

Parker goes number one because he can produce immediately. Whatever team drafts him will get 15-20 points a game out of the gate. However, I don’t think he plays in Cleveland. With Milwaukee and Utah reportedly pining for Jabari expect the Cavs to pick up an asset to help their team now in return for moving back a couple spots.

2. The Milwaukee Bucks:

Jabari Parker, Forward Duke

The Sixers find themselves in a pretty good position. Jabari is as close to a sure thing as there is.  He will come in right away and score close to 20 while grabbing 7 boards.  He is a good leader and teammate, I’m just not yet convinced he is a good defender.  Honestly though, I think he is the perfect scorer to compliment the defensive minded and athletic Giannis so he will work nicely in their system. The Bucks will be making a huge immediate step forward with this pick.

Andrew Wiggins, SG/SF, Kansas

Wiggins is the second best healthy player in the draft, so he will go second. If the Bucks aren’t able to work out a deal with Cleveland for the first pick, expect the 76ers to aggressively pursue moving up to nab “Maple Jordan”. Whoever gets him will get one of the most athletic players in the league, elite defense and shooting. The question is do teams, get a scorer who is always engaged?

3. The Philadelphia 76ers:

Dante Exum, PG/SG, Australia

Exum combines freakish length at the guard spot with great athleticism and instincts.  He is a smart, well intentioned diligent kid from all reports and I think he will absolutely be an all-star caliber player. His shooting mechanics are inconsistent but they are not broken and with some hard work he will perfect his higher release.  I think he may struggle off the bat, but we should see him come into his own by the new year. His biggest obstacle will be adding the strength necessary to guard NBA 1’s and 2’s. The pairing of Exum and MCW is a frightening thought for opposing backcourts.  Their length, speed and ball handling will allow them to wreak havoc in the open floor fast paced offense the sixers have adopted.  

Dante Exum, PG/SG, Australia

Exum has been reported by many to be the quickest player in the draft, who excels in transition. Philadelphia’s fast paced system is made for Exum, who can score in the open court with the best of them. If Exum is the pick here look for Michael Carter-Williams to be dealt to the Lakers, Kings, Hornets or Magic for an upcoming pick. Sixers fans, if Exum is as good as everyone says, then you won’t miss MCW at all.

4. The Orlando Magic:

Marcus Smart, PG Oklahoma State

Smart would have been the choice for the Magic last year had he declared and I don’t see them passing on him this time around.  He has the strength, skill and competitiveness to be a very good player during his rookie campaign.  Defensively, I think he will be an impact player right away using a quick lateral first step and outmuscling leaner guards. Offensively,  he may not be the most efficient prospect, but he can create his own shot and get to the rim.  One of his biggest strengths will be drawing fouls, He should shoot 5.5-6.0 free throws per game during his rookie year.  Him and Jabari are the two most NBA ready of the top 7 prospects, and I expect one to win ROY.

Noah Vonleh, PF/C, Indiana

Noah Vonleh has length, shooting touch and a rebounding acumen. During the season Vonleh did not look like an explosive athlete, but at the combine we saw this simply was the case. Vonleh’s 37 Max Vertical at the combine outshines big men such as Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard and Amare Stoudemire  when they were tested at the combine. With the makings of a reliable jump shot Vonleh could be the whole package. He will never be the first scoring option on his team, but he will provide excellent defense and rebounding while improving offensively every year.

5. The Utah Jazz:

Noah Vonleh, PF/C Indiana

I truly believe this is a no brainer for the Jazz. If the top 4 healthy players are off the board, they get to take Vonleh, who in my opinion is the best PF prospect in this draft, and add him to a young rotation with Derek Favors and Enes Kanter.  Vonleh, a Massachusetts native, has great handles for a 6’10” big man with a 7’4” wingspan and excellent shooting touch from the outside, which compliments his back to the basket game making him a dangerous threat offensively all around. Not only can Vonleh score, which he showed at Indiana despite Indiana having some of the worst guard play in the conference, but he also was a monster on the glass.  I think Vonleh has the potential for 20 + 12, but he will need a season or two to mature physically in order to handle the physicality of the NBA for a big man during an 82+ game schedule.

Marcus Smart, Guard, Oklahoma State

Marcus Smart. It has been leaked that the Jazz are considering packaging their 5th pick with Derrick Favors, in order to draft Jabari Parker at one. If this is the type of package they offer I would be shocked if it wasn’t Cleveland picking at 5. Both the Cavaliers and the Jazz could use a combo guard that brings elite defense, which is why Marcus Smart makes sense here

6. The Boston Celtics:

Joel Embiid, C, Kansas

Danny gets his man! Embiid is certainly a risky pick now with his stress fracture, but the talent and potential to be the best center in the league is wayyyyyy too much to pass on.  When healthy, Embiid displayed a dominant defensive presence, altering shots and handling the pick and roll.  Furthermore, Embiid has a beautiful shot with soft touch out to 17 feet. He displayed a surprisingly high level of instincts and playmaking on the block with his back to the basket, and, like few big man we see, is fleet-footed like a guard.  He has all the physical prerequisites to be a franchise player—-except health.  Celtic fans will need to be patient, but a year from now, they could be looking at a quick turnaround into a contender with a healthy Embiid to go along with a slew of young prospects Danny will have if they don’t make big moves this offseason.

Joel Embiid, C, Kansas

The Celtics are not ready to contend. Even if they were able to trade this pick for Kevin Love, they are still at least one big piece away. With the rebuild under way, the Celtics pick the player with the highest upside despite his huge injury risks. If healthy Embiid can be the best center in the league by the end of his rookie contract, however that is a big if. This pick could have a big effect on Rondo, if they draft Embiid the Celtics are showing they are fine with the rebuild continuing, something Rondo will not be fine with. I love Embiid, but it could be bittersweet knowing that his arrival signals the departure of number 9.

7. The LA Lakers:

Julius Randle, PF Kentucky

This would be a great pick for the Lakers.  Randle is ready to play at the NBA next season as he has an NBA body to go along with his high level of passion for the game.  If his foot is okay following surgery, I think he is a double double machine at the NBA level and will pair nicely with Kobe as they prepare to turn the Lakers ship around from last years horror show. Everyone is curious to see whether he will be able to shoot the ball from mid range with high efficiency, and honestly I can’t say either way with confidence, but I do know, if he can, especially being a slightly undersized player, that his potential will skyrocket.

Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky

I expect the Lakers to trade this pick, probably to Boston, Atlanta, or Philadelphia. Regardles of who picks here Julius Randle provides the best value. Although he was strictly a low post scorer in college, his high free throw percentage could indicate that he has the ability to become a good shooter.

8. The Sacramento Kings Select:

Aaron Gordon, Forward, Arizona

As a player who excels without the ball, Gordon would fit in quite well being paired with a volume shooter like Gay and another shot hungry player in DeMarcus Cousins.  Gordon, and I believe this without any hesitation, will make the biggest impact on the defensive end of any player in the draft next season.  He is so quick laterally with incredible strength and amazing verticality. If his shot has improved like I have been hearing, the Kings could get the perfect compliment for their current team here.  If Marcus Smart slips, I think they choose him, but they won’t go wrong choosing Gordon here. Quality player and quality person. He could be a combo of Scottie Pippen and Shawn Marion if he reaches his potential.

Aaron Gordon, Forward, Arizona

In my estimation there is a 75% chance the Kings make a trade. With Rudy Gay opting in the Kings will be right up against the cap next season. Ownership is not paying for a high priced roster just to select a player that won’t have immediate impact, the Kings are trying to win now. I put Aaron Gordon here because he has the highest value for any prospective trade partner.

9.  The Charlotte Hornets:

Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan

The Hornets (formerly the Bobcats) get the shooter they covet here.  I went and saw Stauskas play in person this past season at Michigan and he seems to score effortlessly, getting off shots both coming off screens and rotating on penetration.  He has excellent footwork on the offensive end—he squares up to the basket fluidly and consistently. I think this is a great pick.  I know he isn’t where he needs to be on the defensive end yet, but he’s coming along….and you just can’t teach someone to shoot the way he does.  Gym rat!

Doug McDermott, Forward, Creighton

Charlotte needs shooting and scoring, Doug McDermott is the best scorer in the draft. Pairing McBuckets with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist gives the Hornets a wing combo that allows Charlotte to hide McDermott on defense

10. The Philadelphia 76ers:

Gary Harris, SG Michigan State

A spartan after a wolverine, like the rivalry needs any more juice. Gary Harris could be the steal of this draft.  He does everything well, seriously.  Offensively, he can get to the bucket and is a better shooter than his numbers would indicate.  He isn’t afraid of the big moment and comes up big when it counts.  He is also a top tier defensive prospect, cutting into passing lanes and creating chaos for ball handlers.  Worst case scenario he is Avery Bradley with consistent offense, best case scenario he is James Harden with Defense.

Elfrid Payton, PG, Lousiana Lafayette

Elfrid Payton is an elite defender at the point guard position. With great athleticism and effort his upside is potentially the greatest of any pg in the draft. Pairing Payton with Exum gives Philadelphia it’s long athletic and supremely quick back court of the future.

11. The Denver Nuggets:

Dario Saric, SF/PF Croatia

Saric is signed on to play in Europe for two more seasons, but the potential is great.  I think he is worth the risk for the Nuggets here if they don’t trade this pick.  Blessed with the court vision of a guard and the body of a PF, his smooth style of play will translate well to the NBA.  He needs to get stronger and fine-tune his shooting mechanics, but he is without question, a top 10 talent in this draft.

Nik Stauskas, Guard, Michigan

Stauskas can really fill it up, especially from 3 point range. If Galinari is back to 100% this international pair could make the Nuggets shooting deadly next year. Stauskas will provide scoring as well as ball handling when Ty Lawson needs a breather.

12. The Orlando Magic:

Doug McDermott, Forward, Creighton

Instant offense.  The Magic will get exactly that next season with the NBA ready McDermott.  He is one of college basketball’s most prolific scorers of all-time and I don’t see how his offensive game won’t translate.  He is very capable of knocking down both open and guarded jump shots, but what makes him truly special is his one or two (max) dribble moves.  He is able to use his advanced footwork in a series of step backs, step throughs, and side steps to create offense for himself despite lacking elite lateral quickness or agility. He is a huge huge weapon on the offensive end of the court.  Sadly, he is also likely a liability on the defensive end.  He just doesn’t have the foot speed to guard 3’s, nor the strength/length to guard 4’s, but with good instincts and high basketball IQ, he should be passable enough to allow his offensive game to flourish.

Gary Harris, Guard, Michigan State

I expect the Magic to draft a point guard with either of their picks in this draft. If they go Vonleh like they did in this mock draft, expect them to try and package Aflalo and this pick to move up and get Elfrid Payton. If they are not ale to move up they will pick the best guard available, which is Gary Harris.

13. The Minnesota Timberwolves:

James Young, SF Kentucky

The sweet shooting lefty will provide much needed spacing for the Timberwolves who desperately need a shooter like Young to help limit the double teams Kevin Love faces.  He is ready to have an immediate impact next year despite being one of the younger prospects in the draft.  Sit in the corner and drain threes and James Young could be a solid NBA player for the next 12 years.

TJ Warren, SF, North Carolina State

All the news on Minnesota trading Kevin Love seems to be pointing in the same direction, the Wolves aren’t interested in a rebuild. With this pick they add the best remaining scorer in the draft, TJ Warren, who should be able to immediately come in and score for them.

14. The Phoenix Suns:

TJ Warren, SF, NC State

Warren is an amazing scorer.  His outside shot isn’t pretty but I don’t think it’s totally broken.  He has great footwork and an ability to score in the lane reminiscent of a young Paul Pierce.  He needs to get better on the defensive end and tighten up his handle, but on an offensive minded team like the Suns, he could be a huge addition on a night where the Suns could be adding a few prospects to their team.

Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State

 Channing Frye just opted out of his deal. Phoenix will look to replace him with a young, athletic, sweet shooting big. While Payne won’t immediately shoot like Frye, his defense is already better than his predecessor.

15. The Atlanta Hawks:

Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia

Nurkic is just a massive person. He is 7 feet tall and 280 pounds. He plays with soft hands and good energy when focused.  He seems to get caught out of position on both ends of the floor too frequently, but at his age and possessing his rare physical gifts, he is worth the risk here for the always international leaning Hawks.

 Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia

The Hawks have one of the best European scouting departments in the NBA, Expect them to pick Nikola Pekovic 2.0 here at 15. Nurkic is quick footed but not vertically athletic and a load to handle in the post. So Far Ferry has shown very patient with the Hawks, and I think this patience continues with this young center.

16. The Chicago Bulls:

Elfrid Payton, PG Louisiana Lafayette

The Bulls and coach Thibs get the defensive minded physical point guard they have craved as a back-up next to D Rose.  Payton is quick and strong going to the basket, but needs to improve his finishing ability.  He also needs to clean up a messy looking perimeter jumper, but thanks to his defense, i think he is ready to contribute right away with rotation minutes.

Rodney Hood, SG/SF, Duke

The Bulls desperately need shooting. Rodney Hood is the best shooter available. Although I have concerns about his defense and ability to create, coach Thibbs has developed a  lot of players with less talent than Hood.

17. The Boston Celtics:

Zach Lavine, SG, UCLA

Don’t be fooled, Lavine is a SG all the way.  While he is very physically immature, he has absurd athleticism and a pretty shooting stroke making him well worth the gamble at this point for the Celtics.  He could either be Kedrick Brown or Russell Westbrook.

 

Zach Lavine, SG, UCLA

 The Celtics have already drafted Embiid, and probably traded Rondo. Since they know next year will be a rebuilding one, why not draft the best athlete available. Although he might take a couple years LaVine has the speed length and athleticism to end up being a top 5 player in this draft.

18. The Phoenix Suns:

Shabazz Napier, PG UCONN

Shabazz is battle tested, NBA ready and has an explosive offensive game.  He can create his own shot on the perimeter with ease and is as scrappy as the came on defense.  He reminds me of a young Derek Fisher.

Dario Saric, Forward, Croatia

The Suns have 3 first round picks, so they can afford to draft a top ten talent even if he won’t play for them for at least two years. While I question whether Saric will ever have the quickness to defend in the NBA, he has top ten offensive talent and is great pick at this spot.

19. The Chicago Bulls:

Adreian Payne, PF Michigan State

An older player, he isn’t going to improve too much, but he doesn’t have to. He is a highly useful rotation player in the NBA as he can stretch the defense in the half-court offense, can get out and play above the rim on the break and he can provide some rim protection on the defensive end. Very safe pick here and he is exactly the type of player the Bulls need if they want to get back into contention in the east right away.

James Young, SF, Kentucky

Young is the best shooter left in this draft. There is also a good chance he develops as a slasher and becomes a complete scorer. The Bulls come out of the draft with two deadly 3 point shooters to bolster their offense.

20. The Toronto Raptors:

Tyler Ennis, PG Syracuse

Ennis’ stock was higher earlier on during the season, but he is a solid pick here for the point guard needing Raptors.  He always seems to make the needed play, relying on instincts over athleticism.  He needs to get in better shape, but he could be a solid point guard immediately.  I think this is really best case scenario for the Raptors.  They would also take Shabazz or Payton should they be available.

Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut

With Kyle Lowry’s tenure with the Raptors in flux, drafting a point guard is a great insurance policy. Shabazz Napier is a winner, who will hit the big shot whenever his team needs it, despite his physical limitations, that is all that matters.

21. The Oklahoma City Thunder:

PJ Hairston, SG/SF NBDL/UNC

Hairston is a strong, physical, sweet shooting scorer from the D League.  He left UNC after being dismissed from the team, but I tend to think he has grown from his mistakes.  He can get to the bucket and could be a very good defensive player.  He, Westbrook and Durant along with Ibaka and Adams could make for one hell of a physically dominant and gifted starting unit.

PJ Hairston, SG/SF NBDL/UNC

Evan: PJ Hairston. Despite the emergence of Reggie Jackson, the Thunder desperately missed having a top notch scoring coming off the bench. Hairston can really shoot and is a good option to eventually take on the bench scoring mantle.

22. The Memphis Grizzlies:

Rodney Hood, SF Duke

The other sweet shooting lefty from an elite college program, Hood is a lanky yet skilled scorer from mid range and long distance.  I don’t see him being able to achieve stardom at the next level, but he could play in a similar way that Tayshaun Prince does.  Corner threes and good defense will be the keys to a long career for Hood.  I think he works for Memphis here, but I’m not wild about his long term prospects, he needs to get a lot stronger.

KJ McDaniels, SG/SF, Clemson

McDaniels is already a great defender and athlete. He is the prototypical 3 and d guy. Memphis’ system more than any in the league is built to utilize types of players. He will come in and immediately improve upon Tayshawn Prince’s production. 

23. The Utah Jazz:

KJ McDaniels, SF, Clemson

After drafting a big man in Aaron Gordon at number 5, they continue their effort to bring in elite athletes and defensive talents with McDaniels.  If he learns to be a passable shooter, McDaniels will be a great pick here as he can score in big time ways in the open court and is good at everything defense.  I’d be excited about this draft if I were a Jazz fan.  It’s a big step forward.

Kyle Anderson, Forward, UCLA

I believe Kyle Anderson will be a power forward in the NBA because he has no chance of staying with a small forward on the perimeter. With the Jazz sporting two brutes in the post, adding a skilled passer and shooter to their rotation should do wonders.

24. The Charlotte Hornets:

Patrick Young, C Florida

Young may be undersized in terms of height, but he has the strength and leaping ability to be a factor on the defensive end. He won’t do much on offense except finish off open dunks, but he looks the part of emotional leader/backup defensive minded center to me.  For the Hornets (Bobcats) this makes sense as they need to add some leadership and a winner in order to get over the first round hump next year.

CJ Wilcox, Guard, Washington

Wilcox is the best available shooter. The Hornets would be best served to surround Al Jefferson with shooters since they currently don’t have any Wilcox fills a need.

25. The Houston Rockets:

Glen Robinson III, SF Michigan

I know, I know, Robinson hasn’t produced consistently yet, but he does have the mandatory physical tools to play at the NBA level.  He can leap out the gym, is quick both laterally and north/south and shows a serious fire in his belly.  He play above the rim and has a pretty shot.  I think he could be the steal of the back end of the draft.  He is everything Kyle Anderson is not, and that’s a good thing.

Clint Capela, PF/C, Switzerland

Houston is at the forefront of the analytics movement in basketball. According to Kevin Pelton’s WARP metric Capela is a the second best player in the draft. With James Harden’s ambivalent attitude towards defense the Rockets can use all the rim protectors they can get.

26. The Miami Heat:

Cleanthony Early, SF Wichita State

Early is another player who looks to have all the physical requirements for a successful player.  He was the number one option for a great college program and showed up huge in the tourny. For a team that may lose Lebron, he is worth a pick here.

Tyler Ennis, PG, Sycacuse

With Mario Chalmers being non existent in the finals the Heat could use a distributing point guard like Ennis to make sure the big 3 all get good shot opportunities.

27. The Phoenix Suns

Mitch Mcgary, PF/C Michigan

If Mcgary has recovered from his back surgery, he has great strength and agility for his position. He is a solid player on both ends, and would do well in the Suns rotation.  The Suns will almost certainly trade this pick, but if they don’t, they could end up with a quality player in McGary.

Glen Robinson III, SF, Michigan

GR3 is a great athlete and when you are a great athlete in the Phoenix system you can get a lot of easy buckets. The Suns add to their turbo paced offense while adding a prospect with high defensive upside.

28. The LA Clippers:

Kyle Anderson, SF/PG/PF, UCLA

Personally, I’m a huge hater of Anderson’s game.  I think he is too slow laterally and too weak to play any position defensively in the NBA.  He is a terrific passer and ball handler for a player his size though.  If he can add strength, he could be Boris Diaw like, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.  Boris Diaw was an amazing prospect, far better than Anderson.  I think the Clippers reach here to try and add a facilitator rather than a scorer to their prolific offense. I just think they could do better.

Jordan Clarkson, Guard, Missouri

Jordan Clarkson is a scoring two guard who is deadly in the pick and roll. With Daren Collison opting out, Clarkson should be able to play with Jamal Crawford to create a strong bench back court.

29. The Oklahoma City Thunder:

Jarnell Stokes, PF Tennessee

Stokes is a physical monster, a bull that reminds me of Craig Smith.  He is a top end rebounder and finisher at the basket.  I’m not worried about being undersized, I think he can be a rotation player for years.  He adds another huge piece to a Thunder team who is close to breaking through for a championship shot.

Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State

Early might be a tweener because he doesn’t have the handle to create for himself on the wing. What he can do is run the floor, play solid defense and knock down open shots, an excellent addition to the OKC bench.

30. The San Antonio Spurs:

Clint Capela, PF/C Switzerland

Why? Best remaining international prospect and this is the Spurs we are talking about.

Mitch McGary, Center, Michigan

The Spurs will gamble on McGary’s back and they will get the type of production from a solid passing big that only they can.

 

THAT’S A WRAP! Thanks for reading! Let us know what you think…

Pick and Pop Predictions: 2014 Playoffs and Awards

Most Valuable Player

Kevin Durant, Forward, Oklahoma City Thunder- Andy

Kevin Durant, Forward, Oklahoma City Thunder- Evan

Kevin Durant, Forward, Oklahoma City Thunder- Winston

As great as Lebron is and has played this season, Durant was better during this campaign carrying a team that was often without it’s other top player in Russell Westbrook.  Durant is the best pure scorer in the game, but this season made terrific strides in improving his defense and rebounding.  It’s his award this season.

Rookie of the Year

Michael Carter-Williams, Point Guard, Philadelphia 76ers- Andy

Michael Carter-Williams, Point Guard, Philadelphia 76ers- Evan

Victor Oladipo, PG, Orlando Magic- Win

You don’t have to be on a winner to be in consideration for this award.  MCW has the most impressive stats while Oladipo showed flashes of the highest upside. It’s a weak rookie class but these are both future all stars.

Coach of the Year

Jeff Hornacek, Phoenix Suns - Andy

Greg Poppovich, San Antonio Spurs- Evan

Jeff Hornacek, Phoenix Suns – Win

With such a huge turnaround this season, Suns coach and former Jazz standout Jeff Hornacek seems like a shoe-in for the award this season, but there is no argument that Pop is the best coach in the game and could win this every year.

Most Improved Player

Goran Dragic, PG/SG, Phoneix Suns – Andy

Anthony Davis, Power Forward, New Orleans Pelicans- Evan

Gerald Green, SG, Phoenix Suns – Win

All three are great choices and all three players have shown marked improvement this campaign.  Davis is clearly the best of the bunch and should enter the top 5 players in the league conversation for the next decade.

Sixth Man of the Year

Manu Ginobli, SG, San Antonio Spurs – Andy

Taj Gibson, Power Forward, Chicago Bulls- Evan

Jamal Crawford, SG, LA Clippers – Win

Such a valuable role and these are the elites. Generally this award is given to a player on a top tier team so my money is Manu, who is sporting an absurd PER of over 20.

Defensive Player of the Year

Joakim Noah, Center, Chicago Bulls – Andy

Joakim Noah, Center, Chicago Bulls- Evan

Joakim Noah, Center, Chicago Bulls – Win

Ok, so they awarded this already, but he was an obvious choice anyways,

Western Conference Predictions:

The 4 series:

San Antonio vs Dallas

Houston vs Portland

LA Clippers vs Golden State

Oklahoma City vs Memphis

San Antonio, OKC, LAC, Portland win round one – Andy

San Antonio, OKC Win round two – Andy

San Antonio will be Western Conference Champion – Andy

San Antonio, Houston, LAC and OKC win round one- Evan

San Antonio, OKC win round two- Evan

San Antonio Western Conference and NBA champions- Evan

San Antonio, Houston, GSW and OKC win round one- Win

San Antonio, OKC win round two- Win

San Antonio Western Conference champions- Win

Eastern Conference First Round:

The 4 series:

Indiana vs Atlanta

Chicago vs Washington

Toronto vs Brooklyn

Miami vs Charlotte

Indiana, Washington, Brooklyn, and Miami win round 1 – Andy

Indiana and Miami win round 2- Andy ———Clearly the two best in the East

Miami wins Eastern Conference finals – Andy

San Antonio will win it all this year – Andy

Indiana, Chicago, Brooklyn and Miami in round one- Evan

Chicago, and Miami in round two- Evan

Miami Eastern Conference Champions- Evan

Indiana, Chicago, Brooklyn and Miami in round one- Win

Indiana and Miami in round two- Win

Miami Eastern Conference Champions, NBA Champions- Win

 

 

The Pick and Pop Diaries: NBA Mock III

Our third mock draft is here! Andy Lipson won the coin toss and got to choose first and will select on the odd numbers while Evan Javel handles the evens.  Our lives are basketball, college and pro, and few people have watched as much this season as we did.  Obviously there is still a lot to shake out before the draft, but here’s a look at how we see it going as of today.  Enjoy and please feel free to comment or send us questions as we enjoy talking basketball.

1. Milwaukee: Andrew Wiggins 6’8″ 200 lbs, SG/SF, Freshman, Kansas

Wiggins’ college career ended with a serious dud as Kansas got bounced from the tourney, but his physical gifts along with his strong fundamental base give him a ceiling that few players can ever hope to achieve.  There is no doubt that Wiggins will be an elite defensive player and wreak havoc in the open court on offense, right away.  While he still has a ways to go in getting his distance shot to where it needs to be, he will knock down his share of jumpers during his rookie campaign. Recent comparisons have likened him to a younger Paul George, and I truly believe he will be just as good if not better than George if his strong work ethic continues.

coming to an NBA team near you…

2. Philadelphia: Jabari Parker 6’8 240 lbs, SF, Freshman, Duke

The 76ers have lost 25 games in a row, so they could use any help they can get. Despite their awful season coach Brett Brown has implemented a system and stuck to it. Regardless of personnel it seems like Brown wants his team to play fast (they currently play at the fastest pace in the league), shoot 3′s (15th in the NBA in 3 point attempts, despite being 29th in 3 point %), and force turnovers (5th in the NBA in % of turnovers forced).

Enter Jabari Parker, the best offensive player in the 2014 draft, a perfect fit for the offensively minded (maybe more like offensively intentioned) Sixers. Parker thrives in transition, shoots the 3 at over 35% (considering that the majority of his 3′s are contested this isn’t bad) and creates turnovers (often to the detriment of their overall defense), in other words he’s a perfect fit for Philly.

Despite his apathy for defense, Jabari has the best defensive rating on his team. When he does get a stop he can really get out on the break and finish

3. Orlando: Joel Embiid 7’0 250 lbs, C, Freshman, Kansas

Embiid has been pegged as the number one pick for most of the college season, but a recent stress fracture in his back has dropped his stock a bit.  Getting him at 3 would be a huge coup for the Magic who could pair this dynamic athlete with their promising PF/C Nikola Vucevic to create an enormous front line that should dominate the glass and protect the rim. Embiid, while still learning the game (he has only been playing the game for 4 years), shows  surprisingly refined foot work on both ends of the floor. He is an incredibly smooth athlete and has the potential to be a franchise player at the center position.  He could easily slide back to the top spot as he shows he is fully healthy during pre-draft workouts.

Just see how he moves at his size

4. Utah: Dante Exum 6’6, 190 lbs, PG/SG, Australian (18 y/o at time of draft)

Utah has all the pieces to be a really good team. If they can re-sign Gordon Hayward they will have good up and coming players at every position. Unfortunately, not all their good young pieces fit together. It is no coincidence that the Jazz played their best ball of the season when they played Marvin Williams as a stretch four and increased their pace. Knowing this, I believe next year they try to play faster and Dante Exum is just the player to help them achieve this goal.

With the ability to play beside Trey Burke at the two or running the point himself Exum would fit nicely with the Jazz. He is one of the quickest players in the draft and would excel getting up and down the court with the pass first Trey Burke. If the Jazz decide to go big having the 6’6 Exum at the point and the 6’8 Hayward at the two would give them elite length in the back court. Dante Exum’s positional versatility would allow the Jazz to play a variety of styles allowing them to maximize the contributions of every play on their roster.

 

5. Boston: Marcus Smart 6’4″ 225 lbs, PG/SG, Sophomore, Oklahoma State

Boston just misses out on the elite prospects in this draft by drafting 5th, but here, in Smart, they manage to pick a combo guard who is an elite defensive player with lighting quick hands.  His plus strength at the guard position should aide him greatly in  creating dribble penetration.  The big concern for me is his inconsistent outside shot, but with a good looking form already in place, the results should eventually come.  He would be an excellent insurance policy in case the Celtics lose Rondo or Bradley, or both.  Smart does everything on the floor including providing a level of toughness that teams crave as they try to build a contender.

DID HE JUST LEAP OVER THE GUY HE BLOCKED?

6. LA Lakers: Julius Randle 6’9″ 250 lbs, PF,  Freshman, Kentucky

Randle is the most underrated player in the draft. With the lofty expectations at Kentucky anything short of consistent dominance hurt his stock. With the NBA trending towards athletic stretch 4′s instead of bruising post scorers Randle’s game is diminished because he doesn’t fit the new power forward archetype.

Instead of focusing on what he is not (which is what caused him to slip since the start of the season), I would rather focus on what he can do. Randle should come into the NBA and rebound at a high level immediately. While it might take a while for him to figure out how to finish at the rim against long NBA defenders (due to his relatively short arms), his current bevy of post moves at such a young age should be an indication that he will be able to find a way. At six for a Lakers team that has always relied on free agency to bring in top talent, Randle is an absolute steal.

7. Sacramento: Aaron Gordon, 6’9 225 lbs, PF/SF. Freshman, Arizona

Sacramento already has scorers, so adding a defensive minded prospect who thrives offensively by crashing to the rim would fit perfectly with the young core of this team.  Gordon wreaked havoc on opponents during the first couple games of the tournament, stuffing the stat sheet.  He has abnormally active hands and feet on defense which allows him to generate steals and blocks as well as keeping his defender in front of him.  Being an elite athlete, some have compared him to a young Blake Griffin, in the way he thrives around the basket offensively as an above the rim finisher.  His jump shot is a bit funky, but given time I think he will be a serviceable shooter.  He is a very poor free throw shooter and this continues to be a big concern for a player you’d like to have out there in close games in the fourth quarter. I don’t think Gordon is a star in the NBA, but he is a winner and a difference maker who, like Smart a couple picks earlier, will do everything for his team.

Are all of his dunks reverse slams?

8. Detroit:  Doug McDermott, 6’8″ 220 lbs, SF/Stretch PF, Senior, Creighton

The Pistons are a front court heavy team that really struggles to space the floor. McDermott is the best floor spacer in the draft, with a deadly shot and a great feel for getting himself open. Due to his subpar athleticism McDermott might not have as high a ceiling as the other lottery prospects but he is far and away the most NBA ready now.

While his lack of athleticism negatively impacts his defense, I believe he can become a passable defender. Having shown such a nuanced understanding of the offensive side of the ball I would be surprised if he couldn’t fit in an NBA system as a very good help defender. Plus how can you not love a guy with the nickname McBuckets!

9. Cleveland: Noah Vonleh 6’10 240 lbs, PF/C, Freshman, Indiana

I love Vonleh.  He is a warrior in the interior, an elite rebounder on both ends and possesses a solid array of back to the basket moves.  Combining his interior dominance with his sweet shooting stroke from outside and I believe there is the makings of a star here.  He is very young and not an elite athlete, but he has an undeniable skill set that I believe makes him the best PF prospect in this draft class. On defense, he isn’t a rim protector but he moves his feet fairly well and makes his opponent shoot over his enormous 7’4″ wingspan and 8’10″ standing reach. He won’t be able to give big minutes right off the bat, but a year of grooming and patience should be rewarded with a player who is a game changer.

future all star

10. Denver (Knicks pick goes to to Den): Tyler Ennis, 6’2 185 lbs, PG, Freshman, Syracuse

From a need perspective, Denver is a hard team to gauge. Having suffered season ending injuries to presumed pre season starters JaVale McGee, Danilo Gallinari, J.J. Hickson and backup point Nate Robinson, all Denver really needs is to get healthy. With their salary cap tied up on a lot of mid level deals the Nuggets need to add players that can help them now, rather than players with the potential to help them 3 years down the road.

Tyler Ennis is by far the most NBA ready player available. He can come in and play a roll similar to Andre Miller before Byron Scott forced his trade by benching him. Ennis will fill out and be able to play next to Ty Lawson, while also playing back up when Lawson needs a breather. Ennis will make great decisions, knock down open shots and give his team a chance to win every game, even if it is at the expense of elite athleticism.

11. Philadelphia (NO pick goes to Phi): Gary Harris, 6’4 210, SG, Sophomore, Michigan State

Philiadelphia, who in the mock selected Jabari Parker second, get’s to add another great scorer in Gary Harris.  Harris, unlike Parker, is also an elite defensive player who should generate two steals a game.  He and Michael Carter-Williams would be the most dangerous backcourt in disrupting passing lanes.  Harris has a solid midrange game and shoots it from deep with a smooth release.  He gets to the rim well offensively, but he doesn’t always finish which he will need to work on at the pro level.  Regardless, a young core of MCW, Harris, Parker, Thaddeus Young, and Nerlens Noel would be on their way to a postseason birth.

12. Orlando (Den picks goes to Orl): Rodney Hood, 6’8″ 200 lbs, SF, Sophomore, Duke

Hood is an excellent shooter and if Orlando is going to play with the twin Towers of Joel Embiid and Nic Vucevic they are going to need shooters to space the floor. Coming in at 24th in the NBA in 3 point shooting percentage and 21st in 3′s attempted the Magic could really use a long range assassin like Hood.

While his defense has not been good in college, his move to the nba position of shooting guard could give him the length advantage that allows him to be competent defensively. If the Magic are able to draft him, sit him behind Arron Afflalo for a year to learn before giving him minutes, Hood could end up in great situation for his long term growth.

13. Minnesota: TJ Warren 6’8 230 lbs, SF, Sophmore, NC State

Minnesota needs to find a way to try and convince Kevin Love to stay.  They need to take some of the offensive pressure off of him and a player like Warren, who can score from absolutely anywhere on the court would accomplish this feat. Warren was the ACC player of the year and was second in the country in points per game at 25 per.  This is Warren’s ceiling for the draft though, as he has struggled from three point range (I know he will find his range eventually, i just know it!!!!) and is just an average athlete at best.  Just in case Love does leave, the Wolves will need someone who can put the ball in the basket.  Tyler Ennis would be their preferred pick as they need a PG, but Warren would accomplish the need of getting a scorer.

14. Phoenix: Clint Capela 6’10″ 215 lbs, PF, Switzerland (20 y/o at time of draft)

He is the standard young foreign player with length athleticism and upside. Which in essence means that he could end up being an athletic freak that every team ends up lamenting having passed on, or he could be a developmental prospect that never gets it, your guess is as good as mine. With four picks in the first round of this draft the Suns can stand to gamble on a high upside prospect and their style could be just the thing Capela needs to realize his vast potential.

15. Atlanta: Jusuf Nurkic 6’11″ 280 lbs, C, Bosnia and Herzegovina (19 y/o at time of draft)

Another huge body to pair with Al Horford.  I’m not sure he will be able to come over right away or whether he is ready for NBA minutes, but his size and physical style of play have NBA center written all over them.  He could be a sleeper or a bust, but I think he is worth the risk for the rebuilding Hawks.

If you aren’t familiar with Jusuf check out this great article comparing him to DeMarcus Cousins.

16. Chicago (Charlotte’s pick goes to Chi): Nik Stauskas 6’6″ 205 lbs, Sophomore, Michigan

The Bulls really struggle to score, ranking 28th in the NBA in offensive rating. Tom Thibodeau has squeezed every once of offense out of good shooters like John Lucas III, Kirk Hinrich, and Marco Belinelli, expect him to do even more with an elite offensive player like Stauskas. If Derrick Rose ever gets healthy, adding Stauskas on the outside will give D-Rose even more room to operate.

17. Phoenix (Washington to Phx): Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, 6’7″ 210 lbs, SF, Freshman, Arizona

If he could shoot threes, we would be talking about a top 7 pick here.  He is an elite athlete with strength, agility and hops.  He finishes at he rim with both power and finesse, has a nice midrange game and is a terrific player.  This is a player I think can be a star a few years down the line, and if Phoenix passes on him, I expect Boston to scoop him up with their second pick.  Look for him to rise on boards as the draft gets closer and teams get a closer look at this outrageous physical specimen.

18. Boston (Brooklyn pick to Bos): Willie Caulie-Stein, 7’0″ 245 lbs, C, Sophomore, Kentucky

This season the Celtics went into the year with exactly one center on their team, the proud owner of two cinderblocks for feet Vitor Faverani! Now, in a shocking development Danny Ainge told season ticket holders that he is going to target a rim protector in this years draft. Cauley-Stein happens to be the best rim protector in this draft so getting him at 18, (even with his offensive shortcoming and potential attitude problems) is an absolute steal. With the addition of WCS and Marcus Smart the Celtics still won’t be able to score, but should have the pieces to eventually field an elite defense.

19. Toronto: Montrezl Harrell, 6’8″ 235 lbs, PF, Sophomore, Louisville

This is late for Harrell, and I think it’s his basement.  He is an all out hustler with elite athleticism.  Think JJ Hickson or Kenneth Faried here.  There is no way he isn’t a productive player, but I don’t think he will be a star.  He is a horrendous free throw shooter but since he is strong enough to finish through contact much of the time, I’m not as worried about him as I am others.  He is a very safe pick for a team missing a few pieces but already has the scorers in place.

20. Chicago: Adreian Payne, 6’10″ 225 lbs, PF, Senior, Michigan State

Payne is a victim of the NBA’s version of ageism. With his lack of upside due to being a college senior Payne is going to get drafted much later than players that don’t even sniff his level of production. Payne is the type of player that will come in and immediately produce, but if only he was 3 or 4 years younger…

Steve (NJ)

Chad if Adrian Panyne was 20 years old where would he go in this draft?

Chad Ford (1:07 PM)

He’d be a Top 10 pick. No question. He’s having a great season. However, at 20 years old, Payne was a borderline second rounder. NBA scouts expect that every year you get better and a 23 year old dominating doesn’t get the same amount of love as a 19 year old. You’re supposed to be better. With that said, Payne is one of the few prospects that can really stretch the floor as a four. Those types of players are in high demand in the NBA and I think he ends up going late lottery to mid first round.

21. OKC (Dallas pick to OKC): PJ Hairston 6’5″ 225 lbs, SG, NBDL (formerly North Carolina)

OKC really doesn’t need much, but adding another deadly shooter and strong defender would only help.  Hairston is both of those and more…I think he is a role player right away in the NBA and should be around for a dozen years.

perfect form

22. Memphis: CleAnthony Early, 6’8″ 220 lbs, PF/SF, Senior, Wichita State

CleAnthony Early ended up having one of the best games of his career in their tournament loss to Kentucky. Before that game he was viewed as an undersized power forward, with limited upside who might struggle to guard his position in the NBA. Then during the game against Kentucky he showed the handle, speed, lift and shooting that indicate he could play the 3 at the next level. Had the Shockers knocked off UK then I suspect Early’s rise in the draft would have been meteoric due to his tournament showing.

23. Utah (GS pick to Utah): Jerami Grant 6’8. 210 lbs, SF, Sophomore, Syracuse

Utah needs wing players and athletes to combine with their huge front line and young PG in Trey Burke.  They will likely retain Gordon Haywood meaning that their biggest need will be at small forward.  Grant is a terrific athlete, rebounder, defensive player and finisher at the rim.  His jump shot has a ways to go, but I believe he is another player who should make an impact on both ends within a couple years.

24. Charlotte (Portland pick to Char): James Young 6’8″ 205 lbs, SG/SF, Freshman, Kentucky

James Young came into college billed as an elite shooter that could take over games. With a good looking 3 point stroke he was going to be difficult to defend. Unfortunately for him, his shots haven’t been falling down with the consistency you want from an elite prospect. The Bobcats traded for Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour because they needed shooting. Young can come in and provide shooting while also providing the high upside that Neal and Ridnour lack.

25. Houston: Elfrid Payton, 6’4″ 170 lbs, PG, Junior, LA Lafayette

It’s a thin point guard class, but Ragin’ Cajun Elfrid Payton is an intersting prospect. He has a suspect outside shot and doesn’t always finish well at the rim, but he is long with quick hands, quicker feet and greeat hops/agility.  His physical tools make him a great defensive player.  On the offensive end he gets into the lane well and is a willing passer.  Maybe his shot will come and he could be something special.  If not, he could still be a nice piece for a team in need of depth at that position, especially one with defensive prowess.

Get to know him by his hair

26. Miami: Zach Lavine 6’5″ 180 lbs, SG/PG, Freshman, UCLA

If LaVine comes out he will be a developmental project with elite athleticism and a great looking jump shot. With the recent success of big point guards like Russell Westbrook, suddenly scouts believe that any shooting guard under 6’6 can learn to play the point and excel by virtue of athleticism. Whoever drafts him needs to realize that he is a skinny combo guard with breathtaking vertical who isn’t ready to run an offense and probably never will be. The Heat can bring him along slowly, play him off the bench and make use of his skills off the ball, without pigeon holing him as a point guard.

27. LA Clippers: KJ McDaniels 6’6″ 200 lbs, SF, Junior, Clemson

The only weak position for the Clippers is SF.  In McDaniels they could add a seriously good athlete to the front line of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, creating a unit that would terrorize opponent rims.  He is a terrific defensive player to boot and while not a good shooter from distance, should be serviceable there given the space he would get paired with a couple of superstars.  This would be a perfect situation for him as he wouldn’t be asked to do too much while making his contributions on the defensive end and easy offensive looks.

28. Phoenix (Indi pick to Phx): Bogdan Bogdanovic 6’6″ 200 lbs, SG, Serbia (21 y/o at draft)

The Suns have four first round draft picks so if they don’t trade this pick expect it to be a draft and stash player with high upside who might come over in a couple years. I’ll give you my opinion on this pick when the player actually makes it to the NBA in 4 years.

29. OKC: Patrick Young 6’9″ 245 lbs, C, Senior Florida

This is a no risk play for OKC.  Young is a monster, as strong as they come and a smart player to boot. He will guard the rim, provide toughness and finish easy looks.  He sets mean screens and rebounds well.  He is NBA ready and will play major minutes next season. He and Steven Adams could hold down that center position for the next decade.

30. San Antonio: CJ Wilcox 6’5″ 190 lbs, SG, Senior, Washington

Wilcox is one of the best shooters in college basketball, can he do much else? Not really. Then again Gary Neal and a long line of Spurs 3 point specialists did just fine without another NBA skill.

NBA Power Rankings Week 21

1. San Antonio (53-16): As the season winds down the Spurs have the top record in the NBA, despite adjusting to many injuries. How do they do it? I’ll let Tony Parker explain it :

“Everybody stepped up,” Parker said. “When somebody’s not playing, it’s just other guys who will do it. And we trust each other.”

It doesn’t seem to matter who plays for the Spurs, they have a system in place and if every player plays their role the system will produce wins.

2. LA Clippers (49-21): The Clips have won 12 of their last 13, with the only blemish coming two games ago against the Nuggets in which the team couldn’t get a shot to fall in a rough fourth quarter.  Blake Griffin was awful in that game, but besides that effort, he has consistently been the third best player in the league this year.  This team is ready for the second season to start and health is the only thing that should get in their way. This week after what should be an easy win against Milwaukee, I’m looking forward to seeing Griffin matchup against Anthony Davis and Dirk in back to backs starting Wednesday.  Should be a fun week.

3. Oklahoma City (51-18): Russell Westbrook went down and Kevin Durant scored 51 pts.  The Thunder have already proven that they can play VERY effectively without Westbrook.  They are two games behind the Spurs and 2 1/2 games above the Clippers.  At this point, I think OKC is best served to avoid Memphis, so they should plan their winning schedule accordingly.  Oh, if you didn’t believe me about Durant:

4. Houston (47-22): The Rockets are 18-5 in their last 23 games. They are scoring at their usual nascar rate and now they are finally defending at a level befitting a contender. This team is united and ready to roll with the players it currently has (Carmelo rumor notwithstanding), nothing shows this more than Chandler Parsons, convincing Dwight Howard and Jeremy Lin to support his Gators.

 

 

 

5. Miami (47-21): If a normal team went 4-7 in their last 11 with less than 15 games remaining on the schedule it would be a cause for concern. However, since the Miami Heat have won back to back titles us fans will give them a break. Chris Bosh for one, seems unwilling to accept the pass that we are giving his team, going on the record to explain what he thinks of the Heat’s recent play

“We don’t talk about it. We’re not expressing ourselves in the locker room or on the court. So I figure I’ll be the first one to say it, ‘We suck.’ ”

“And we need to turn it around. And if we don’t turn it around, we’ll be watching the championship at home ”

6. Indiana (51-19): Something is wrong with Indiana.  Andrew Bynum potentially grifted them, Paul George is getting catfished, Lance Stephenson had a baby and went to the club THAT night, and they aren’t winning games and playing Pacers basketball from the early parts of the season.  Weird to see them in this spot.

7. Golden State (44-27): Honestly, streaky is the word that comes to mind when describing the Warriors.  If they can play at a high level consistently, they are as good as anyone, but it’s not always there.  Their last game, a loss to the Spurs, is nothing to get down about, but with a nice 6 day break before playing Memphis this Friday, the team will be healthy for what should prove to be a playoff like atmosphere.  Only 4 of their remaining opponents are playoff teams, and they need to play well against this top competition to get have some confidence and momentum heading into the playoffs.

8. Portland (45-25): Portland has quietly plummeted down the standings out West.  At one point, the best team in West and now, stuck in the fifth seed.  Thirty point losses to the Bobcats are certainly not a good look heading into the home stretch.  They only have three wins in their last 10 and the steady model of consistency that Portland has built throughout the season isn’t there anymore.  Panic time.

9. Memphis (41-28): The Grizzlies have gone 9-3 in their last 12 allowing them to jump both the Phoenix Suns and the Dallas Mavericks on their way to the 7th seed. While fast pace high octane offenses are en vogue lately the Grizzlies are riding their trademark “Grit and Grind” defense into the playoffs. If you don’t believe that their defense is good enough just ask the Indiana Pacers who Memphis held to a season low 71 points last Saturday.

10. Dallas (42-29): Will the Mavs be able to hold off the late charging Suns? As of now the most intriguing topic in the NBA is which two teams out of Phoenix, Dallas and Memphis will make the playoffs. While I expect Dallas and Memphis to win this race, watch out for the health of Monta Ellis (who has recently missed practice with a thigh ailment) to throw a wrench into Mark Cuban’s plans.

11. Chicago (39-31): Derrick Rose is officially out for the season.  Surprise!  Listen, this team is going to be a problem for any team in the playoffs.  They are literally an obstacle.  A really tough video game boss that you’d rather not face.  Indiana and Miami need to posture themselves correctly so they don’t have to go against this impenetrable force of little-to-no-offensive-production.

12. Phoenix (41-29): Only a half game out of the playoffs, but it feels as if this team is doing all they can and still not getting over the hump.  The guard rotation of Bledsoe, Dragic and Green is a deadly trio for opposing defenses.  They need the Morris Twins, Frye, and the rest of the front line to really bring it in these last three weeks in order for the team to be able to sneak into one of the final seeds. March ends with what should be 4 very winnable games.

13. Toronto (39-30): The Raptors continue to play well and if it weren’t for Kevin Durant dropping 51 on them in a double OT loss, I’d be buying in to this Masai Ujiri built team for a deep playoff run.  I can’t see them going past the first round, but with their excellent guard play and depth, they seem to be able to play up to any opponent.  In truth, they almost never look over-matched, and I continue to be shocked by this team since the Rudy Gay trade. All in All, they look like a good bet to keep home court as their next four games are Cleveland, Boston twice, and Orlando. The face a very difficult start to April next week against three of the NBAs finest, before closing out the season again facing some of the worst teams.

14. Brooklyn (37-31): Like true vets, this team has found their grove post the all-star game going 10-2 in March. Marcus Thornton has given the bench the shot in the arm it needed and all of the rotation players have been putting in quality minutes.  It’s not the same person who steps up every night, but a team with balance can be the most dangerous type.  Now they just need a healthy KG, he is out at least the next three games as they play his injury cautiously heading into the final stretch.

15. Washington (36-34): At two games over .500, Washington is the 6th seed in the East but only 3 games back of the fourth seed and home court advantage in the first round. On the Opposite end of the spectrum, the Wiz are only two games out of the 7th spot and a first round meeting with the Heat. What do I predict will happen? The Wizards will be the same mediocre team they have been all season, hang onto the 7th spot by virtue of winning half of their remaining games then play a spirited yet hardly watched series against the Raptors.

16. Charlotte (34-36) Congratulations Bobcats, you are going to the playoffs! Where you will play against the Heat and promptly get swept. It is possible that Al Jefferson could put the team on his back and win a game or two but in the end this team is not ready for the spotlight. Hopefully the experience will help youngsters Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in their development.

17. Minnesota (34-34): So, they allowed 122, 129, and 127 in their last three games.  I wouldn’t say that’s great by any means, but hey, they’re out of it.  I say more random practice dunk videos:

18. Denver (32-38): Don’t really know what to make of this team.  Post-Melo they haven’t been able to find a late game identity, but they have a lot of depth.  I say this team needs to make a splash and start making everyone available.  They need an injection of life, whether it be a player in the draft or making a trade.  This team is stagnant.

19. New York (29-41): Even after winning 8 straight and throwing out a sad loss to the Cavs, I can’t buy into what the Knicks are doing.  I’m just not impressed and couldn’t see them making noise in the postseason.  Mike Woodson has to go and I just know, that once Phil has put together a solid team, he is going to come down from those executive seats to take over as coach again.  The future is not as bleak anymore, but the present still stinks up the gym.

20. Atlanta (31-37): The Hawks weather the storm and remained in the playoff race while injuries ravaged the team (most notably Paul Millsap) to go 5-2 in their last 7. If the Hawks can pick up their play, expect them to make a late push and climb all the way to the 6th seed in their remaining games. If that news didn’t get you excited maybe you will enjoy this 15 foot tall Millsap statue

21. New Orleans (29-40): Anthony Davis is a top 10 player in the NBA with an MVP upside. Since the Pelicans have been disappointing this year I figured NOLA fans would appreciate a few quotes about their superstar.

 

 

22. Cleveland (27-44): Kyrie Irving got hurt and Jarrett Jack has been ballin’ out a bit.  He was part of an illustrious list of players to score their season/career high against the Knicks when Cleveland snapped NYK’s win streak.  That’s something?  Right?  RIGHT?!

23. Sacramento (25-45): They have been playing just well enough so that they aren’t in contention for a high lottery chance.  This franchise can’t do anything right it seems and a huge off-season awaits for them.  I believe a comeback to prominence is near for the Kings, but it still may be two seasons away, and I’ve been saying that since they drafted Demarcus…

24. Detroit (25-44): Don’t look now, but the Pistons have been sucking just enough to through themselves into Tank-a-Palooza.  Keep everyone from “Pistons drafting Darko Milicic with the number 2 pick” footage.  It could get nasty.

25. LA Lakers (23-46): It’s a mess, but a whole new roster will be in place come next season. If they can buy into what the 76ers have done (lose every game), they may have an outside shot at pairing Embiid or Parker with Kobe for next season.  Does anyone really want to watch tomorrow’s Knicks @ Lakers game?

26. Boston (23-47): I need my team to lose every damn game the rest of the way. I want..nay, I need a top 3 pick come June and with just a little helo from the Lotto gods this can be a reality. I will accept the NBAs 4th worst record and nothing else this year. in terms of recent, Avery Bradley has returned strong from his ankle injury and may be playing himself into getting a quality offer sheet from a team this summer.

27. Orlando (19-52): Since Orlando fans have suffered enough, I’m going to use this space to post GIFS of players they could land with their top 5 pick in the NBA draft.

28. Utah (23-47): Hey look, happy things happened in Utah!

29. Philadelphia (15-55): Terrible, take a lap. 24 losses in a row and counting.

30. Milwaukee (13-57): Read this amazing story about the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo, because he is the only thing worth talking about in Milwaukee.  Dude sold sunglasses and now he’s here.

Top Five Prospects In The South Region

Welcome to the South.  Memphis, Tennessee to be exact.  While they’re not eating BBQ, talking to southern belles, or listening to Three 6 Mafia, these guys have to play basketball.  You know, for a few weeks, before they head off into the NBA.  These 5 guys will be playing on Sunday…on NBA on ABC.

Andrew Wiggins

School: University of Kansas

Position: SG/SF

Vitals: 6’8 200lbs

Draft Range: 1-4

NBA Comparison: Tracy McGrady

Andrew Wiggins, the heir apparent, the savior and the most hyped freshman in recent memory – how will he do this tournament?  I think this is his opportunity to show out.  We don’t know the status of Joel Embiid and, in his absence, Wiggins has increased his production.  The kid can do just about anything out there.  He can shoot, defend, play in the post and cause chaos going to the basket. This tournament will tell us whether or not he will be the #1 overall pick.

Joel Embiid

School: University of Kansas

Position: C

Vitals: 7’0  250lbs

Draft Range: 1-4

NBA Comparison: Serge Ibaka

Joel Embiid has played basketball for as long as a 3 year old has been alive.  I know that was a really convoluted way of expressing how little time Embiid has played the game, but that is truly extraordinary for how advanced his game is.  He is projected as a high pick because of his potential.  He runs fluidly, moves like a gazelle and seems to be willing to learn.  He is a sponge out there.  If he comes back healthy, Kansas might be the favorite to win the whole thing.

Kyle Anderson

School: UCLA

Position: PG/SG/SF

Vitals: 6’9 215lbs

Draft Range: 5-10

NBA Comparison: Shaun Livingston

No one knows what this guy is going to become.  In typical UCLA fashion, Anderson might become one of the best players in the league and redefine the point guard position.  Steve Alford has struggled in the NCAA tournament with his UCLA teams as of late, so this would be a great time for Anderson to step up and take control of this team.

Jerami Grant

School: Syracuse University

Position: SF/PF

Vitals: 6’8 210lbs

Draft Range: 10-20

NBA Comparison: Thaddeus Young

Jerami Grant is raw, exciting and has the basketball pedigree.  These are all the things that scouts salivate over.  He has shown glimpses of dominance and can, at times, be Syracuse’s best player, but he is just not as consistent as he should be.  He would be a great pick in the mid-first round for a good team that just needs to build depth.  He won’t reach his potential for a few more years.

Tyler Ennis

School: Syracuse University

Position: PG

Vitals: 6’0 200lbs

Draft Range: 10-20

NBA Comparison: Tony Parker

Probably one of the safest picks in the draft, in my opinion.  Ennis has the ability to control a game without filling up the basket, yet he is capable of dicing a defense up and getting to the basket at will.  He has to work on his outside jump shot, but the maturity and big game readiness is there.