Thursday, June 28, 2012

NBA Mock Draft v 3.0

I've spent quite some time on this mock draft, especially over the past few days in regards to all of the trades that have gone on. I've seen which teams are high on which players and who's rising and falling. While this mock will not completely represent the decisions I think each team should make, it will show what I expect to happen. And this is, of course, subject to change, because a million trades could happen between the time I click "publish" and the end of tonight's draft. Here we go.

1. New Orleans Hornets: Anthony Davis, PF, Kentucky: Davis is the undisputed top pick here. His defense and versatility is second to none, and "the brow" (now trademarked) will be a force in the NBA.

2. Charlotte Bobcats: Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas: While many think the Bobcats may trade this pick, Robinson would bring toughness, aggressiveness, and rebounding to an awful team.

3. Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal, SG, Florida: Beal has recently shot up draft boards and I've even seen the Thunder trying to trade up to get him. He is a fantastic shooter and can rebound the ball as well.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky: MKG's motor, hard work, and leadership will certainly be welcomed by the Cavs. He gets to pair up with his high school teammate, Kyrie Irving.

5. Sacramento Kings: Andre Drummond, C, Connecticut: Yes, he's a huge risk, but pairing him with DeMarcus Cousins looks tantalizing, and with his physical tools and defense, this gamble just may work out.

6. Portland Trailblazers: Damian Lillard, PG, Weber St.: Lillard will certainly light it up as a pro, and as long as he improves his passing ability, he'll be a starting point guard in the NBA.

7. Golden St. Warriors: Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina: This is a perfect fit for the Dubs as they get the small forward they need. Barnes is raw, but he can score.

8. Toronto Raptors: Dion Waiters, PG/SG, Syracuse: Waiters has been said to be the best one-on-one scorer in this draft. If he can develop his jump shot, he'll be a star, and may take Toronto to new heights.

9. Detroit Pistons: John Henson, PF, North Carolina: Pairing a defensive minded power forward with Greg Monroe is the best way for Detroit to go. Henson is the best shot blocker in this draft besides Davis.

10. New Orleans Hornets: Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois: After ditching Emeka Okafor, the Hornets get the extremely explosive Leonard and have their frontcourt of the future set.

11. Portland Trailblazers: Tyler Zeller, PF/C, North Carolina: These are the centers on Portland's roster last season: Joel Przybilla, Kurt Thomas, Hasheem Thabeet, Greg Oden. Yikes. Where's Kwame?

12. Houston Rockets: Arnett Moultrie, PF, Mississippi St.: Although it's risky, the Rockets are set on acquiring Dwight Howard. Moultrie is an athletic big man to pair next to him.

13. Phoenix Suns: Austin Rivers, SG, Duke: The Suns get a guard who could play both positions and will provide much needed scoring for this depleted squad.

14. Milwaukee Bucks: Perry Jones, SF/PF, Baylor: Jones' versatility is nice, but it's his potential that everyone raves about. He could become one of the best players in this draft.

15. Philadelphia 76ers: Jeremy Lamb, SG, Connecticut: The Sixers get some nice depth behind Evan Turner. Lamb has enough length and shooting ability to possibly one day overtake Turner.

16. Houston Rockets: Terrence Ross, SG, Washington: The days of Kevin Martin are over. Ross gives Houston an NBA ready scorer and another piece to attract Howard.

17. Dallas Mavericks: Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina: The title window is growing smaller for Dirk, so why not pair him up with the best pure point guard in the draft? Marshall will try to do his best Jason Kidd impersonation.

18. Houston Rockets: Moe Harkless, SF, St. John's: The Rockets again? Harkless is a premier talent with an amazing scoring ability and nice size. Once again, he can contribute right away for Dwight Howard's future team (just jinxed it).

19. Orlando Magic: Marquis Teague, PG, Kentucky: With Jameer Nelson gone, and Howard soon to be gone, Teague is the point guard of the future with solid passing skills and the ability to get to the rim.

20. Denver Nuggets: Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio St.: Poor Sully. No one seems to want him, but Denver should. He gives them a post scorer to put down low with the offensively challenged Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee.

21. Boston Celtics: Doron Lamb, SG, Kentucky: Lamb is a big time scorer who can make big time shots-perfect for a team who is losing Ray Allen and gradually trying to rebuild while still make a run for another title.

22. Boston Celtics: Fab Melo, C, Syracuse: Melo's defense and shot blocking will be welcomed in Boston and KG can teach him to be tougher and actually score.

23. Atlanta Hawks: Terrence Jones, SF/PF, Kentucky: Because this draft is so deep, a talent like Jones could drop this low. His versatile scoring gives him the chance to replace the incumbent Marvin Williams.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Nicholson, PF, St. Bonaventure: Yes, the Cavs have Tristan Thompson at the four, but they are supremely lacking offense, especially after picking MKG. Nicholson can stretch the floor and hit long range shots-Thompson will never be able to do that.

25. Memphis Grizzlies: Royce White, SF, Iowa St.: I personally think that White is more reward than risk. If the team can trade Rudy Gay and White lives up to his potential, you've got one of the all time steals right here.

26. Indiana Pacers: Jeffrey Taylor, SF, Vanderbilt: The Pacers get another wing guy who is very skilled on both sides of the ball. He fits into the young and talented team's dimensions.

27. Miami Heat: Festus Ezeli, C, Vanderbilt: Another Commodore is taken, this one by the champs. Miami needs a center and Ezeli can provide physicality and defense down low.

28. Oklahoma City Thunder: Draymond Green, SF/PF, Michigan St.: Green has so many different skills and despite his lack of physical tools, has the heart of a champion. What's wrong with playing him 7-10 minutes a night and developing him behind the OKC talent?

29. Chicago Bulls: Quincy Miller, SF, Baylor: I've heard a lot of talk about Deng being moved, so Miller may be his replacement. His length gives him lock down defensive talent, but he can score too.

30. Goldent St. Warriors: Tony Wroten, PG/SG, Washington: Wroten adds insurance for Stephen Curry. He is one of the best at getting to the basket, but needs to work on his point guard skills.

31. Charlotte Bobcats: Will Barton, SG/SF, Memphis: Barton can score in a variety of ways, while the Bobcats don't have too many players that can score in one way.

32. Washington Wizards: Kevin Jones, PF, West Virginia: Washington gets a high energy guy who can stretch the floor and bang on the boards. Great compliment for Nene.

33. Cleveland Cavaliers: Khris Middleton, SG/SF, Texas A&M: The Cavs get more scoring, this time on the wing. Middleton has injury concerns, but he can shoot from deep and create his own shot.

34. Cleveland Cavaliers: Jared Cunningham, SG/SF, Oregon St.: Back to back wing players. Is this a mistake? Not when you consider how Cunningham's defense (ruled the Pac-12) can make a nice platoon with Middleton's offense.

35. Golden St. Warriors: Furkan Aldemir, PF, Turkey: The Turkish big man can step in and help if David Lee or Andrew Bogut get hurt, hopefully better than Andris Biedrins would.

36. Sacramento Kings: Darius Miller, SF, Kentucky: Miller didn't get too much time at Kentucky with all the big talents in front of him, but he's a sharpshooter who can certainly play in the NBA.

37. Toronto Raptors: John Jenkins, SG, Vanderbilt: The Vanderbilt sharpshooter would slide in nicely next to DeMar DeRozan. Jenkins has the ability to be the next great three point shooter.

38. Denver Nuggets: Scott Machado, PG, Iona: After getting some help down low, the Nuggets look to get a backup point man to replace Andre Miller. Machado has great court vision and should also be able to coexist with Ty Lawson.

39. Detroit Pistons: Evan Fournier, SG, France: The Pistons will be happy to see Fournier drop this far. His ability to get to the basket will make up for the loss of Ben Gordon.

40. Portland Trailblazers: Kim English, SG, Missouri: An explosive player who can shoot the three, English will be a solid backup for Wesley Matthews.

41. Portland Trailblazers: Drew Gordon, PF, New Mexico: Adding some more size down low, Gordon can bang the boards and crash the glass. He's more of a bruiser than LaMarcus Aldridge, who relies on finesse.

42. Milwaukee Bucks: Henry Sims, C, Georgetown: There's no question that the Bucks wanted a center after losing Andrew Bogut, and they now have one with Sims.

43. Atlanta Hawks: Tyshawn Taylor, PG/SG, Kansas: The Hawks have expressed a desire for more guard depth. Jeff Teague is good, but having Taylor behind him will make them feel more comfortable.

44. Detroit Pistons: Orlando Johnson, SF, UCSB: Detroit is crowded at small forward, but compared to Tayshaun Prince, Corey Maggette, and Austin Daye, Johnson may wind up being better than all of them.

45. Philadelphia 76ers: Kyle O'Quin, PF, Norfolk St.: O'Quinn gobbles rebounds for breakfast, and he should help ease the pain of losing Elton Brand.

46. New Orleans Hornets: Kevin Murphy, SG, Tennessee Tech: New Orleans gets a dynamic scorer who will help the offense, especially if Eric Gordon is not resigned.

47. Utah Jazz: Tomas Satoransky, PG/SG, Czech Republic: With a young frontcourt already in the fold, the Jazz get a big point guard who can learn the ropes from Devin Harris.

48. New York Knicks: Mitchell Watt, PF, Buffalo: The Knicks get some depth to their frontline, but also a player who can score, both in the paint and the mid range game.

49. Orlando Magic: Robert Sacre, C, Gonzaga: Knowing that Dwight Howard will eventually need to be traded, the Magic draft a seven footer who has solid back-to-the-basket skills.

50. Denver Nuggets: William Buford, SG, Ohio St.: Buford brings his smooth jumper to the two guard spot, where it will be matched with Aaron Afflalo's defense.

51. Boston Celtics: Kostas Papanikolaou, SF, Greece: Someone's going to have to replace Paul Pierce eventually. Papanikolaou may not be the solution, but he can come off the Boston bench and hit threes.

52. Golden St. Warriors: Jae Crowder, SF, Marquette: Crowder adds toughness, physicality, and rebounding. He may be a bit undersized for his game but can step out and shoot the long ball.

53. Los Angeles Clippers: JaMychal Green, PF, Alabama: Just another player to join Lob City. Green will be battling Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan for Chris Paul alley-oops.

54. Philadelphis 76ers: Tu Holloway, PG, Xavier: Holloway's draft stock dropped when the Musketeers season went into a downward spiral, but he's a wrecking ball point guard with leadership skills. A solid scorer to fill the void of Lou Williams.

55. Dallas Mavericks: Kris Joseph, SF, Syracuse: Joseph is the best player available, and his wingspan and defense will help him out while his offense catches up.

56. Toronto Raptors: Mike Scott, PF, Virginia: He may be a bit undersized for the power forward position, but Scott is crafty down low and can hit the 15-footer.

57. Brooklyn Nets: Herb Pope, PF, Seton Hall: It looks like Deron Williams may stay, so the confident Nets take Pope, a skilled post scorer. The former Pirate will move from Jersey to Brooklyn along with the Nets.

58. Minnesota Timberwolves: Hollis Thompson, SG, Georgetown: The T-Wolves need a shooting guard, and Thompson is lights out from behind the arc. He may be no more than a bench player, but could be a stopgap for Minnesota.

59. San Antonio Spurs: Bernard James, PF, Florida St.: The Spurs have shown that they like the old guys. It doesn't matter than James is already 27, he'll be an enforcer down low.

60. Los Angeles Lakers: Casper Ware, PG, Long Beach St.: L. A. takes a gamble on the little guy from the West Coast. Who knows? He could become a starter in the league one day.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

We Go As He Goes

James is now a champion and can celebrate his accomplishment.
Polarizing. That is what LeBron James is, has been, and always will be. Everyone has an opinion on him. You love him or hate him. He has that ability to draw the attention of the entire nation. Recently, he has become more of a villan. He took his talents to South Beach, struggled in the 2011 NBA Finals, and made everyone believe that he just didn't have what it takes. Then something changed. James flipped a switch. He got it, and now he is a champion. And that will go a long way in changing people's opinions of him.

It's no secret that James is currently the best player in the world. His unique combination of speed, size, strength, athleticism, versatility, etc. is what makes him so different from any player we've ever seen. If there was a one on one tournament that pitted every all-time great in their prime against each other, James would probably win. That's why everyone loved him in Cleveland. He dominated on the floor and carried the team on his back. He turned into an unstoppable force that filled the stat sheet every night. He had the potential to win title after title, but just couldn't seem to get there. But we all rooted for him.

Then the infamous "Decision" came that turned everyone against him. The guarantee of not one, not two, not three, and so on. The boring and sad city of Cleveland being exchanged for the bright lights of Miami. And all of the sudden, we hated James. We rooted for him to fail. We questioned his game (foolishly). We called him out for not being clutch. The boos rained down from nearly every non-Heat fan. LeBron James was the bad guy. Why would anyone like him? He screwed his hometown. He made foolish comments. There were times he seemed more interested in Twitter than in his next game. And when Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks broke his heart in the Finals, America erupted. We cheered the Mavs as if they were our favorite team. Everyone was ecstatic to see the Heat lose. James and his team bulldozed everyone in the East, maybe thinking he would be handed the Larry O'Brien trophy right then and there, but got a rude awakening against Dallas. Shortly after that, LeBron went into a cocoon for a few weeks. And that's when it all changed.

LeBron became a new player once the 2012 playoffs began. He knew that nothing would be presented to him on a silver platter. He knew that even though he was the best, it wasn't going to be easy. He knew that he had to focus on nothing but basketball, and truly make winning a title as important as life or death.

We saw it in the regular season, as he averaged 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 6.2 assists per game. We saw him play and defend every position. Once the playoffs began, we saw him compete like never before.

James swatted away the New York Knicks as if they were a fly buzzing around his head. Injuries derailed the Knicks and the Heat were simply just better. That part was easy.

James overcame many hurdles like Granger and the Pacers.
But when adversity came around, that was where James has always struggled in his career. Sure, he could dominate at will. But what happened when the going got tough? What happened when someone said, "I'm not going to let you beat me tonight, I don't care if you're better." The old LeBron would probably shy from the challenge. The new one is a different story.

Down two games to one and missing Chris Bosh against the Indiana Pacers, LeBron knew his team was in trouble. Dwyane Wade wasn't at 100%. James was forced to cover the Indiana bigs who bruised him night in and night out. And he got that challenge of someone refusing to let him beat them. That was Danny Granger.

Granger played physical defense on James the whole series and didn't hesitate to get in his face. Granger didn't like the way the Heat would get all of the calls and walk around with the swagger they do because they're superstars. He would have none of that. Granger was ready to shut them up once and for all.

"No you're not," said LeBron.

Instead, James went for 40, 18, and 9 in Game 3 in one of his classic performances to tie the series. The Heat would win the next two and the rest was history.

Then there was the old Boston Celtics, a team that beat up on James not just in Miami, but in Cleveland as well. Kevin Garnett got pleasure out of taunting James. The veterans played extra hard against the Heat. When they went ahead in the series 3-2 after being down 2-0, the sky was falling. No one thought the Heat could win Game 6 in Boston and then a Game 7 in Miami.

No one except James.

Faced with adversity again, James was unconscious in Game 6, scoring 45 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. He went into Boston, ripped out the hearts of every single person in the building, and quietly left. Everyone saw the look on his face. He was in the zone. He wouldn't be stopped. Basketball had become a matter of life and death.

Winning close games in OKC showed that James was clutch.
After beating the Celtics, James had one final test in the Oklahoma City Thunder. After losing Game 1, it seemed that there was no way the Heat could beat OKC with the roll they were on. That's why everyone was surprised to see Miami win three close games in a row, the third being one where James gutted it out and played through cramps to help his team to victory.

Game 5 was a microcosm of the whole postseason in one. Everything had finally come together. Everything was clicking. Everyone was playing well. And James had finally gotten it. He became a leader both on and off the floor. He made sure his teammates did what they needed to do. He held himself accountable for mistakes and vowed to improve. He would not go down.

Now after James has won his first ring, he's going to use his polarizing nature to change to mood of the basketball world once again. He finally did it. He won the big one. He gets it. The mental game is over. He has the potential to win many more after this. Not two, not three, not four...

It's kind of beautiful to see everything come together like this. Personally, I was a huge fan of James when he was in Cleveland. He was unlike anything I'd ever seen. I had to love him and what he did on the court. Then he went to Miami and I hated him. I hated him for betraying the Cavs and for his cocky attitude and for joining up with other superstars instead of finishing the job he was doing in Cleveland.

After a while, I became a bit indifferent. I understood that there was noting wrong with going to the Heat and teaming with Wade and Bosh. Jordan had Pippen and Rodman, Magic had Kareem and Worthy, Bird had Parish and McHale. Everyone needs help. However, I still rooted for him to fail.

My opinion has changed yet again of him after winning the NBA championship. We've seen him grow up, lose his immaturity, and take control of his destiny. He's finally playing at the level he's capable of, mentally, physically, and emotionally. He finally has that ring that eluded him for so long. And he has a chance to do something special and win a lot more.

After winning his first title, it looks like there's more to come for James.
So yes, I will root for LeBron James again. No, I'm not going to become a Heat bandwagoner, but I think it would be very cool to see just how great he can be. With he skills, he could go down as one of the best of all time. Will he ever be able to actually be compared with Jordan or Kobe? It depends on how many titles he wins. But could it happen? You never know.

James proved all of his critics wrong. And he did it himself. He's not the same LeBron we used to know. He's grown from a boy to a man. What he does for basketball is something we should cherish.  He turns the court into his canvas and paints beautiful pieces of art with his basketball skills. He should be appreciated, because talents like him are once in a lifetime. As a basketball fan, you couldn't ask for more.

The question used to be this: Why would you like LeBron James? But now, after all he's gone through and what he's accomplished and what he can accomplish, I think the question should now be this: Why not?

How Can I Help You? Los Angeles Lakers

After two rough years, Kobe certainly wants another title.
The final "How Can I Help You?" segment will take a look at one of the most complicated teams in basketball, the Los Angeles Lakers. Despite being criticized and ridiculed all year long, the Lakers put together an impressive season behind Kobe Bryant and grabbed the 3rd seed in the West. However, issues with Andrew Bynum's maturity, Pau Gasol's production, and the team's thin bench were clear, and led to a second round exit to the Thunder. It seems clear that the team wants Gasol out of town. They need to shakeup the roster and try to win Bryant another title. We'll see what they can accomplish with Mr. Irrelevant at pick #60.

A trade may revitalize the team, but L. A. can't worry about that right now unless they make a draft day trade. Therefore, they'll try to add some depth on the bench, something they solely need, and possibly sign a free agent for some extra firepower.

Ramon Sessions is a free agent, but will most likely exercise his player option to stay with the team. The question is whether he can truly be their starting point guard. Sessions was very good during the regular season, but came up lame in the playoffs. As for the other free agents, the Lakers will want to get younger and not spend too much money if they want to get a big free agent. That means Troy Murphy and Matt Barnes are out, but Devin Ebanks and Jordan Hill will stay. Hill especially was a revelation last season, providing great rebounding after Gasol and Bynum. If Gasol was traded, it wouldn't be unfathomable to see Hill starting.

Taking all of that into account, Sessions will remain the starter with Steve Blake being his backup. Blake was a nice spark off the bench this past season and could continue to do this as long as he doesn't age too much. Kobe is, as always, the team's starting shooting guard. Andrew Goudelock is the part of the second unit, and could really develop into a talented scorer learning from Bryant.

Ebanks and Metta World Peace are the two small forwards, but neither are really starting caliber players. The Lakers could use a forward. The frontcourt consists of Gasol, Bynum and Hill. If the team is truly trying to get rid of Gasol, they may draft a big man.

So we're looking at point guard, small forward, and big man, but one that can really contribute right away. The window to win another title with Kobe is getting shorter and shorter. 

I've seen mocks having Los Angeles select Iona's Scott Machado with this pick, but the reality is that there's a fat chance that he's is still around at pick #60. Besides him, two other guards come to mind. J'Covan Brown and Tu Holloway are both very talented scorers who could help out right away. Holloway has more leadership and is less erratic, so he would be preferred, but both could give the team a boost in the scoring department.

If the Lakers are truly looking to find a small forward, I have an interesting option in mind. Robbie Hummel is a senior from Purdue that has torn his ACL too many times to count. He lacks certain physical tools that you need to be successful in the NBA. But he is a leader who can rebound, shoot, and possibly help the L. A. locker room. With a lot of turmoil and chatter surrounding the team, Hummel could step in, settle the team down, and follow Kobe's lead.

If Gasol is out, Watt could be in.
If they look to go big, there are a few power forwards that could still be left who would have the ability to score in the paint, something that would be valued by the Lakers. Herb Pope from Seton Hall's has mastered the post game and knows several scoring moves. Mitchell Watt from Buffalo has decent range on his jump shot and a smooth stroke. Cameron Moore from UAB has great athleticism and his improving his offensive game. He could be a poor man's Trevor Ariza, a former Laker.

Of all those players, Watt and Pope are probably the best. I'll give my mock draft the benefit of the doubt and say the team goes with Watt because I think Pope will already gone. Watt can slide behind Gasol (or Hill) and help improve the Laker bench. That's one of the keys to being champions once again.

Thanks everyone for reading these "How Can I Help You?" articles, I had a lot of fun with them. The 2012 NBA Draft is at 8 on Thursday night, and come back later in the week as I make my final mock draft.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

How Can I Help You? San Antonio Spurs

Who wants another title? TIMMY DOES!
For the past few years, it seemed like the Spurs were done. They won four titles, their core was old, and they just didn't strike you as a team that had amuch left. Despite all those notions, and a first round upset to the eight-seeded Memphis Grizzlies last postseason, Gregg Popovich revamped this team and has kept them going. They had the best record in the West and made it to the conference finals. Now with a new season in the future, the question is posed again: can they keep going?

My belief is that they can. The Spurs got younger last year. Sure, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili are old, but getting production out of players like Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, and Tiago Splitter will make the transition from old to new go much smoother for San Antonio. They changed their philosophy from defensive to offensive and gave Parker the keys to the team. So the answer to that question is yes.

The window is still small, though. The Spurs need to win now if they want to win another one. We'll start off with their key free agent decisions. First things first: Duncan is resigning. That's non negotiable. They should bring back Green too after his three point breakout this season. Also, look for Patty Mills to be get a new deal, as he could be the team's future point guard after Parker. James Anderson and Boris Diaw are likely out.

With Parker and Mills running the point, the team doesn't need to worry about that position. Ginobili and Green are both beneficial scorers for the Spurs and shooting guard and Gary Neal gets some buckets as well. It looks like the backcourt is set.

Leonard was fantastic as a rookie at small forward and will certainly improve. Stephen Jackson will back him up and can help his growth as a player. The Big Fundamental will stand tall at power forward like he always has, and Splitter will be the one to give him rest. Finally, DeJuan Blair and Matt Bonner are a capable tandem at the center position.

So what is San Antonio looking for? I'd be shocked if they think they can get Duncan's successor with the 59th pick. As they are a bit thin at center, they could use some rebounding down low. Oh, and of course, defense.

The Spurs clearly know how to put on a scoring show as they displayed in the playoffs, but once they went to OKC, they couldn't keep up with the young Thunder. Leonard did all he could, but there is not that much youth or defense on this team. Grabbing a player who has both of those qualities is the way to go.

We're not looking at a specific positon, but rather a type of player. Here are you options:

If the Spurs draft O'Quinn, this will be his reaction.
Syracuse's Kris Joseph has the length that the Spurs would love, but he may be gone at this point in the draft. Andrew Albicy from France is a hard nosed defender, but San Antonio doesn't want to wait for him to come from Europe. Larry Anderson from Long Beach St. is a reach, but was a lockdown defender in the Big West. In the end, I think the team will take a blue chipper from Norfolk St. that became a household name in the NCAA tournament, Kyle O'Quinn.

O'Quinn is a force on the glass, averaging 10.3 rebounds last season. He showed the nation what he could do by bullying Missouri and sending them pack in March Madness. O'Quinn is also a solid post defender and a humble player, one who would relish at the opportunity to play behind Duncan. He is a hard worker that has a similar mold to Duncan, so who knows what will happen with his career is he was a Spur?

With O'Quinn, the team would start Parker, Green, Leonard, Duncan, and Blair, and have Mills, Neal, Ginobili, Jackson, Splitter, Bonner, and the former Spartan himself coming off the bench. That squad looks similar to last year's, which is a good thing, except O'Quinn is infusing them with youth, rebounding, and defense as Diaw is shipped out of town. That's a nice upgrade on a team that doesn't need many improvements.

For my final "How Can I Help You?" article, I will discuss who the Los Angeles Lakers will take with the 60th pick (Mr. Irrelevant), and what they need to do to win Kobe Bryant another championship.

Friday, June 22, 2012

How Can I Help You? Brooklyn Nets

Williams will be in a new uniform next season. But will it be a Brooklyn one?
The only thing that's really certain about the Nets' future is that they'll be playing in Brooklyn next season. Best case scenario? Deron Williams and a talented draft pick comes with them and Dwight Howard joins later in the season. Worst case scenario? Neither superstars desire Brooklyn and the Nets' only draft pick is a bust. Sure, Williams and Howard are more important to Brooklyn, but who will be picked by the team at #57???

Williams is obviously the biggest free agent for the Nets. Will he stay or will he go? It's unsure what will happen as of now, but Brooklyn will have to proceed in this draft as if he will not be back with the team. As for the their other two point guards, Jordan Farmar was solid and will likely exercise his player option to stay with the team while Sundiata Gaines, an unrestricted free agent, will find a home elsewhere. DeShawn Stevenson is another Net you can kiss goodbye. I don't think the team will resign Kris Humphris either. He will command too much money, and the team has high hopes to invest it elsewhere. Gerald Wallace has expressed interest in being brought back so I expect him to go to Brooklyn with the team. They should also try and keep Gerald Green who was a beast after being called up from the D-League. Finally, look for Brook Lopez to get a new contract, at least for trade bait.

Here are some solid bets for being on the Brooklyn depth chart when the team opens up in New York:

PG: Jordan Farmar
SG: MarShon Brooks, Anthony Morrow
SF: Gerald Wallace, Gerald Green
PF: Jordan Williams
C: Brook Lopez

Yikes. There's a lot to do here. Obviously, point guard is a huge issue. And center. But who knows? With Williams and Howard, those are suddenly non issues and these team looks like a contender. However, they can't bank on that. The Nets seem solid on the wing, so expect a PG or big man to come at the 57th pick.

J'Covan Brown from Texas would be a nice pickup for this squad. He'd be bringing scoring right away although he's still raw. An ideal situation would be to have him learn under Williams, and maybe, he could one day become a starting point guard. Maalik Wayns and Scoop Jardine are two Big East guards (Villanova and Syracuse) who took a big step forward this past year. Wayns has extreme quickness getting to the basket while Jardine took a break scoring and became more of a facilitator last year. Both are solid options.

Ware would jump from the beach to the Brooklyn bay.
The guy I like here is a sleeper pick: Casper Ware. The Long Beach St. product has often been considered too small to play in the NBA. People said that to Muggsy Bogues and Earl Boykins, but they wound up having successful careers. Aside from size, Ware has all of the tools capable to play the point. He excels at running an offense, can attack the basket or pull up and shoot, and above all, is a leader. If Williams jets from the Nets, Ware could be up for the task for helping their loss.

There's going to be a lack of centers at the end of the draft so unless someone drops, New Jersey should steer away from that position. That's fine with them, especially because they have Lopez, if they trade Lopez it will likely be for Howard, and (Jordan) Williams can play center also.

With that in mind, here's a few power forwards that could intrigue the Brooklyn brass. Quincy Acy and Kyle O'Quinn bring physicality and rebounding on a nightly basis. Mitchell Watt is a versatile scorer who dominated at Buffalo. Herb Pope has a wide array of post moves and would enjoy playing close to home.

Personally, I think Ware is the way to go. A lot of teams will pass on him (they all may ver well pass on him), but if he is taken, he will compete hard to get himself better and his team better. That's a point guard trait that can trump size.

Up next, I discuss if the San Antonio Spurs have one more championship run in them, and what they should do with pick #59.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

How Can I Help You? Los Angeles Clippers

Paul did it all last season for the Clips.
Chris Paul responded to this question this season. He joined the Clippers and helped them to become not only relevant again, but a playoff team. They made it as far in the postseason as the Lakers, their in-city rivals. The big question is, can they become a legitimate contender? Their time may be running out quicker than you think, and they'll need to do some work in the draft.

Paul will be a free agent after next season and Blake Griffin will as well the season after that. Los Angeles needs to put the pieces around them so they'll stay long term and try to bring them a title.

L. A. has four main guards and two main big men who will be FA's this summer. The guards are Chauncey Billups, Randy Foye, Nick Young, and Mo Williams. The most interesting thing about these four is that they all contributed in positive ways for the team and would likely be resigned. So resign all of them! Billups was solid for the team before he got hurt and could still play a backup role. Foye and Williams both excelled at both guard positions. And Young was great offense off the bench, especially in the playoff series against the Grizzles. If they all return, the Clippers' backcourt is set with two young guns in their prime and two talented veterans.

As for the big men, they should vanish. Kenyon Martin is near the end of his career and Reggie Evans just isn't enough of a contributor. You'll likely see them in another uniform next season.

With all that being said, let's take a look at the team's current players. As I said, Williams, Billups, and Foye can play both guard positions. Oh yeah, and there's Eric Bledsoe, who looked like a fantastic backup this past year. Oh, and that guy Chris Paul. Yeah he's there too. The backcourt is looking great. Even with the buildup of guards. If I had to pick one that they wouldn't resign, it would be Billups, due to his age and injury history. But either way, the Clips don't need anymore guards. There's also Travis Leslie from Georgia who was drafted last season.

Although Young is technically a guard, he played small forward behind Caron Butler for the team. The two make a formidable duo at the three. Blake occupies the PF spot and DeAndre Jordan is the team's center. Griffin is an All-Star and Jordan is certainly an NBA starter.

The Clippers were good last year, but they need to find a way to get themselves over the hump. I think the best way they can do that is get a star scorer at the SF spot who is an upgrade over the 32 year old Butler. And even though that job is better suited for free agency, this year is thin on small forwards, so they might take one in the draft anyways.

Besides that, they need big man depth behind Griffin and Jordan. Los Angeles picks at #53. Time to explore the paths they could take.

If the team does decide to take a small forward, I like Orlando Johnson here. I mentioned the UCSB product in my Knicks article. Although he played in the Big West conference, he was a dominant scorer with decent size. I really like he potential, which is why I'm surprised a lot of people have him being undrafted.

Green likes to dunk and Paul likes to pass.
The team will have to dig deep for big men. Here are some power forwards: JaMychal Green from Alabama has great explosiveness like Griffin, and could fit right in catching alley oops from Paul. Mitchell Watt from Buffalo adds even more scoring down low, as does Seton Hall's Herb Pope with his variety of post moves. If they decide to take a better rebounder, Kyle O'Quinn from Norfolk St. is just a bully on the boards and USF's Augustus Gilchrist brings size and an NBA ready frame.

Going the center route, I'm not sure if Henry Sims or Robert Sacre will still be on the board. Instead, why not take a flyer on LSU's Justin Hamilton? The seven-footer runs the floor well and would be a great fit in a Paul-led offense.

In the end, I think Green is the pick. If he drops this far, he would be a steal. Green was a dominant scorer and rebounder for Alabama and could spell Griffin while bringing some of his attributes to the table.

After that, here's what the depth chart would look like.

PG: Chris Paul, Eric Bledsoe, (Chauncey Billups?)
SG: Randy Foye, Mo Williams, Travis Leslie
SF: Caron Butler, Nick Young
PF: Blake Griffin, JaMychal Green
C: DeAndre Jordan

Green has some serious potential to be a great player. If L. A. plays their cards right, he could be a key to a future title run.

Tomorrow, I look at the new Nets from Brooklyn, and see what their best course of action is in what is a sticky situation.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How Can I Help You? New York Knicks

Anthony is looking for another scorer to play with.
The New York Knicks had the most up and down season for any team in recent memory. First, the team struggled immensely to start the season, not living up to expectations. Then, Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire got injured and the Jeremy Lin show took off, reviving the Knickerbockers. After the returns of Anthony and Stoudemire, the team didn't seem to mesh well and started slumping. That led to the resignation of former head coach Mike D'Antoni, the defensive style of new head coach Mike Woodson, and a strong surge of Melo powering them through the final weeks of the season. Finally, the team was manhandled by the Heat and knocked out of the playoffs in five games. Stoudemire has been pointed out as an issue here, as he doesn't seem to fit in the team. Whatever the case, it showed the Knicks have some serious holes. They'll try to address them in the draft.

Being a Knicks fan, I watched the majority of their games this year. By doing so, I feel like I've gotten to know how the team plays and understand what their strengths and weaknesses are. I'm not saying I should be an NBA coach, but its clear to see where the Knicks need help. First let's look at their free agents.

Can "Linsanity" return to the NBA?
All signs point towards Jeremy Lin getting a big payday. Will he live up to it? That remains to be seen. But is he capable of being a starting NBA point guard? I think so. Lin needs to work on taking care of the ball and defense, but his ability to pass the ball and attack the basket makes him a solid PG option for New York. The other point man, Baron Davis, will likely not be brought back. Davis went down with a gruesome knee injury in the playoffs and will be out for quite some time. Landry Fields has been better than expected, but I just don't understand what he brings to the table. He doesn't excel at one specific area. However, I hear that he will likely be back with the team. J. R. Smith is another very interesting situation. His scoring ability is desperately needed by the Knicks, but his off the court issues, inconsistency, and desire to test the free agent market makes me feel like he's a goner. Steve Novak ais another player that shouldn't be resigned. He's a one dimensional three point shooter and he showed that against Miami. Finally, Jared Jeffries should be given a new contract, as he did contribute well for the team when needed.

That being said, let's look at the roster. Lin will start at point guard (barring an outlandish Steve Nash signing), and Mike Bibby will be the backup. With the guard injuries that the Knicks had all season, it would be wise to look for a backup in the draft or free agency. Iman Shumpert's timetable for his return from injury is uncertain, but hopefully he can make it back next season. Fields will start in his place.

At small forward is Carmelo Anthony, who truly needs some backup help. Too often was Anthony the only person who could score on the team. Stoudemire and Jeffries will man the power forward spot and Tyson Chandler will be the center with Josh Harrellson behind him. Big man depth is another need.

So what do the Knicks need? That have a lot of talent, but haven't been able to put it all together. And with only the 48th pick in the draft, they'll need to do work in free agency as well. But their main holes are backup point guard, wing scorer who can create their own shot, and post scorer. In just a season, New York went from all offense to all defense. They need someone after Melo to pick up the slack, even if Amare returns to form.

Finding a veteran point guard or big man who can score down low is something that would better be suited for free agency. Therefore, I'll adress the most persistent need: a wing player who can back up both Fields and Melo and create his own shot.

Crowder has his three goggles on.
Late in the draft, there aren't a ton of options, but there are some. Will Barton from Memphis or Khris Middleton from Texas A&M would both be excellent picks here. Both have the versatility to score in a variety of different ways and play both the two and the three. The only problem is that neither will likely be around once New York is on the clock. Kevin Murphy from Tennessee Tech boasts serious NBA range and a very consistent jumper. He hit 41.6% of his three pointers last season despite shooting just under six a game. Jared Cunningham's scoring relies on his his potential. If the former beaver can live up to it, he can pair attacking the basket with his stellar defense. Hollis Thompson of Georgetown is another shooting specialist, but he doesn't offer much besides that (see Steve Novak). Ohio St.'s William Buford has great shooting mechanics and can be a leader on the floor. Jae Crowder, despite his "tweener" status, has the ability to score a lot of different ways thanks to his shooting and strength. UCSB's Orlando Johnson averaged nearly 20 points per game in his career and has the size and frame to score as a pro.

Phew. Let me take a breather. The deeper we go in the draft, the more room for leeway and less difference between prospects there is. Because I think that the Barton/Middleton/Murphy trio wil be off the board, I say that the Knicks take a flyer on either Crowder or Johnson. Both would add scoring and physicality, just what this team needs.

For argument's sake, Ill look at five prospects in other areas of need.

Iona's Scott Machado is a fantastic point guard prospect who would pair well with Melo thanks to his pass first mentality. Tomas Satoransky from the Czech Republic has great size (6'8"), but also great passing ability and court vision. He could very well be the best European player in this draft. Casper Ware of Long Beach St. can pass, shoot, and attack. He has everything you look for in a PG, but his size (5'10") is a concern. Same goes for Jordan Theodore of Seton Hall. Theodore has already worked out for the Knicks, and is a great on the court leader who brings a talented offensive game with his point guard abilities. Looking at big men, Robert Scare of Gonzaga could give Tyson Chandler a break. He has several back to the basket post moves. Finally, Yancy Gates from Cincinnati has a nice offensive game. Some may wonder about his attitude and lack of toughness, but he has the capability to be a banger down low.

In the end, I'll have to go with Crodwer because I know more about him and I've seen him play before. That would make New York look something like this in the 2012-2013 season:

PG: Jeremy Lin, Mike Bibby
SG: Landry Fields, Jae Crowder
SF: Carmelo Anthony, Jae Crowder
PF: Amare Stoudemire, Jared Jeffries
C: Tyson Chandler, Josh Harrellson

The Knicks still have holes and depth issues, but there's only so much that one draft pick can do. I believe that a bunch of the prospects I've mentioned could help the team in a variety of ways. New York has drafted well recently, especially in the second round.

Next up, I head to Lob City to try and help the Clippers become a true title contender.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How Can I Help You? Utah Jazz

Utah's bigs are their strength and future.
The Utah Jazz are ahead of schedule in terms of their rebuilding process. Last season, they traded away Deron Williams not too long after Carlos Boozer went to the Bulls in free agency, and seemed to have blown up their team. Jerry Sloan was out and Tyrone Corbin was in. Youth was served. This team is looking to follow the pattern of the Thunder by taking over with their young guns. Making the playoffs last season was a huge accomplishment. Next year, they'll want more.

The team will lose some veterans to free agency, such as C. J. Miles and Josh Howard. Jamaal Tinsley should be back with the team through his player option, and he'll add experience to the baby Jazz. Jeremy Evans should also be brought back, as he is a very young player with extreme potential.

With a lot of young talent, Utah's biggest need is veterans. Obviously they're not going to be able to get that through the draft. However, there's no reason not to add to the young talent at a position of need.

At point guard is Devin Harris and Tinsley. Drafting a PG may be the best idea for the Jazz. This is the only position they really don't have youth in. Having someone to sit behind the two vets and learn could benefit Utah in the future. Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks are the two shooting guards for the team. Both are young and show promise. The team will likely steer away from adding another SG.

Evans and DeMarre Carroll are your small forwards. Carroll got a lot better this past season and we'll see if he can develop into a true starting caliber player. Hayward can also play this spot. It wouldn't be a shock to see the team take another forward. However, they're set in the frontcourt. With Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors at power forward and Al Jefferson and Enes Kanter at center, the team has a tremendous amount of athleticism and potential down low.

Look for the Jazz to see if they can sniff out their point guard of the future, but also consider a small forward. They pick at #47.

With the luxury of not needing an immediate contribution from their draft pick, they'll look at some of the point guards with higher potential. I see three main options.

Brown has a lot to learn, but serious potential.
Maalik Wayns from Villanova is a very agressive scorer. He has great speed and makes up for his lack of size in his strength. Wayns has to work on his decision making and overall point guard skills, so they could select him and have Harris teach him the ropes. Scott Machado is another option who is nearly the opposite of Wayns. His passing, court vision, and PG skills are excellent, but he needs to work on his putrid offense. Finally, J'Covan Brown can light up the scoreboard, but he often takes too many shots. Harris could try to help him find a happy medium between shooting and passing.

Brown is my favorite for the pick, but I'll throw some SF prospects out there as well. Kris Joseph or Darius Miller would be great picks here and add instant offense to the team. However, Orlando Johnson from UCSB would probably be the best fit. He has great scoring ability and can overpower other small forwards despite his height (6'5").

Taking Brown would have the team's depth chart looking like this:

PG: Devin Harris, Jamal Tinsley, J'Covan Brown
SG: Gordan Hayward, Alec Burks
SF: DeMarre Carroll, Jeremy Evans
PF: Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors
C: Al Jefferson, Enes Kanter

With another year under their belts, the Jazz could make a huge leap. Expect them to be a mainstay in the postseason for years to come behind the strength of their frontcourt.

Next up is the New York Knicks, who will look to fill a need in the draft and deliberate some of their crucial free agent decisions.

Monday, June 18, 2012

How Can I Help You? Chicago Bulls

Injuries crippled not just Rose, but his whole team.
Injuries to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah exposed the Chicago Bulls in the playoffs this year. Without their go-to guy and their defensive stopper, they lost to a weaker Sixers team and their future looked uncertain. Rose's injury was severe and and his injury history is even scarier. What do you do when your superstar player could snap at any moment and your team could go up in flames? The Bulls need to find a solution to that. They'll start in the draft.

Chicago will be losing three important unrestricted free agents. John Lucas is the third string point guard, but showed promise and played some effective minutes off the bench. However, it was clear that him and C. J. Watson couldn't pick up enough slack after Rose went down (although it's hard to find someone who would), so he may be gone. Look for the Bulls to seek another PG, whether it be in the draft or free agency (Andre Miller or Chauncey Billups come to mind). The team is also losing Omer Asik. The big man's defense will be sorely missed, but it would likely take too much money to retain him. Finally, the heart and soul of the team, Brian Scalabrine, will be a FA. Even if he returns, he wont be doing much on the court.

Now let's go to the depth chart. At the point is Rose and Watson. The two make a great tandem, but because of the previously mentioned injury, the team may want to get some insurance. Shooting guard used to be a week position for the Bulls, but it may now be the strongest in terms of depth. Rip Hamilton started shooting like it was 2004, Ronnie Brewer became a solid defensive stopper, and Jimmy Butler seems to have some promise in him. Chicago should feel proud of how they addressed that position and optimistic for their future team moves, especially the one they'll make at pick #29, which is one pick before they drafted Butler last season.

Deng proved he can compete at an All Star level.
Luol Deng is coming off an All Star season at small forward and Kyle Korver is a sharpshooter off the bench behind him. Power forward is another strong spot. Carlos Boozer had a solid year, although he was inconsistent against Philadelphia in the postseason. Taj Gibson, however, was very consistent and efficient. He was a huge lift off of the bench for the Bulls. Noah mans down the center positon and with the departure of Asik, the team will look to add size and defense in that spot.

Despite a disappointing season, Chicago really doesn't have a lot of holes. They'll look for a point guard (even though I really think they'll go after someone like Miller in free agency), take a big, and if neither of those are available, trade the pick or take the best available player, which is what they may wind up doing.

At #29, there are not a ton of options for the Bulls in a draft lacking point guards and centers. Fab Melo should be taken by then, so we'll count him out. With all that being said, let's take a look.

I'm going to say it's a bit unlikely that Chicago will look for PG help in the draft, but I'll still go over some candidates anyways. Tony Wroten from Washington brings similar scoring ability as Rose to the table. Scott Machado of Iona is a pure point guard who could improve his offense under Rose. Tyshawn Taylor and Tomas Satoransky both have size and strength, but the jury is still out as to whether or not they'll be true point men in the NBA.

A common theme in my last few articles has been Vanderbilt big man Festus Ezeli. Ezeli will be drafted late first round/early second round and bring a defensive presence to the center position to whatever team he goes to. Ezeli may be gone by now (I had the Heat grabbing him), so if the Bulls are overly desperate for the next Asik, Robert Sacre is the way to go. Sacre is very smart on defense and has the potential to get better because of his size. Sacre would be a huge reach, however, so Chicago better trade down if he's their true desire.

Ultimately, I've got a hunch that the Bulls will either trade their selection (over all the teams I've analyzed so far, they're the most likely to trade their pick) or grab the best player available and just add some depth. Here are some guys who could be around.

Khris Middleton and Will Barton seem like two players who could really develop well under Deng. Quincy Miller would bring coveted length and defense to the small forward position. Draymond Green has the intangibles that everyone wants.

Stashing Fournier for the future would be a smart move.
In the end, the best choice here is France's Evan Fournier. Fournier is probably the best international player in the draft. He has a knack for scoring, especially attacking the basket, something Hamilton isn't a wizard at. Best case scenario would be to have him stay another year in Europe, develop more, and then battle Butler to be the starting shooting guard of the future.

Fournier gives the team some European stock, which is always good for a complete squad like the Bulls to have (see the Spurs). As long as they go out and get themselves a seasoned point guard and Rose's recovery goes as planned, they'll be contenders once again.

Tomorrow, I take a look at the Utah Jazz as they look to add to their already young core.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

How Can I Help You? Oklahoma City Thunder

Durant and Westbrook want to win not one, not two, not three...
Like the Heat article I just wrote, the Thunder are still in the middle of their championship quest. A win tonight in Miami would go a long way. But as the playoffs have gone on, it's becoming more and more clear that the team that everyone thinks is perfect actually has some holes. They've made a living off of jump shooting and Kevindurantfourthquartercloseouts (Google it). OKC may want to add some depth to make them feel better about being the next dynasty.

First I'll start off by pointing out that the Thunder are losing two main players to free agency: Derek Fisher and Nazr Mohammed. Mohammed is no more than a backup to add size and he hasn't played much in the playoffs, so he's expendable. But Fisher has been a great leader for this team and has knocked down some clutch shots as Russell Westbrook's backup. The team will certainly miss the former Laker.

So here are the rotation players left for OKC from this current squad: Durant, Westbrook, James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Thabo Sefolosha, and Nick Collison. Teams in the NBA are starting to use 8, 9, and even 10 man rotations. It's clear that the Thunder could use some depth.

After already mentioning the team's contributing players, I'll give a quick rundown of who is where and what they do.

Westbrook is the team's starting point guard and they don't have to draft a backup. Reggie Jackson was a first rounder last year and the team will surely try to get him more involved. Plus, Eric Maynor comes back from injury which will be a huge boost for Oklahoma City. Things look promising for the PG position next year as long as Maynor makes a healthy return and Jackson continues to develop. We already know Maynor can play serious minutes. The team is set at shooting guard too with a defensive specialist in Sefolosha and a high energy scorer in Harden. The Thunder have an incredibly young and talented backcourt That will certainly be a strength for them.

At small forward is Durant, of course. And his backup, Lazar Hayward, of course. Yeah, it's time to find a backup for KD. While he can play major minutes, there's no point in having him go the distance every game. Ibaka and Collison are the power forwards and Perkins is the center. Yes, these three are big bodies and very good on defense, but the scoring down low is almost non-existent (although Ibaka has gotten better on offense). OKC needs to add a big man who can score in the post.

So where are the holes again? Well, as long as everything at the point works out, the Thunder should draft either a backup for Durant or a scoring big man. Let's take a look.

Despite his low ceiling, it's hard not to like Green.
The small forward sweepstakes may be over by the time pick #28 comes around. Terrence Jones, Moe Harkless, Royce White, and Jeffery Taylor should all be gone by this pick. I had them being taken 23-26, but because this draft is so deep, they could go much higher. Khris Middleton from Texas A&M is still available, and at 6'8" he could be a solid scorer to play behind Durant. Then there's Quincy Miller of Baylor who has similar length and skills as Durant. Finally, Draymond Green could be a great piece for this team. In limited minutes, he can use contribute across the board. His leadership and toughness would be a nice addition to the Thunder.

It's going to be hard to find a scoring big man at this point in the draft. Festus Ezeli and Fab Melo have limited offensive abilities. Would the Thunder take a huge reach and draft someone like Virginia's Mike Scott? That's unlikely. If OKC decides to go big, they'll either trade up or trade down.

I think Green is the perfect pick here. He can help the team in a variety of areas. His lack of physical tools will be masked by the fact that he's playing behind Durant. And he's a high character guy who would fit right in with the Thunder. As for their issue of post scoring, they'll have to look in free agency. The team needs veteran leadership anyways, so maybe they can sign someone like Antawn Jamison or Elton Brand (to a smaller contract).

Here's what the Thunder should look like next season before free agency and after the draft:

PG: Westbrook, Maynor, Jackson
SG: Sefolosha, Harden
SF: Durant, Green
PF: Ibaka, Collison
C: Perkins

The depth and youth issues are still there, but there's only so much you can do with one draft pick. This team has a ton of potential, and they are headed in the right direction of winning multiple NBA titles.

Up next is the Chicago Bulls, who want Derrick Rose to get healthy and crash the Thunder-Heat party.

How Can I Help You? Miami Heat

Even if they win a title, the Big 3 need help. 
As I type this, the Miami Heat are currently preparing for Game 3 in the NBA Finals. They have persevered through many obstacles. What they draft for may depend on if they win the title or not, although I highly doubt that they would break up the Big 3. They need depth at nearly every position. Let's take a deeper look.

The Heat have four free agents: Ronny Turiaf, Terrell Harris, Eddy Curry, and Juwan Howard. You can say goodbye to all of them. None of them have played significant minutes for the Heat all season, and they should move on without them. Turiaf probably has the best chance of getting resigned.

Looking at the Heat's "depth" chart, you'd be hard pressed to call it that. They don't have many players that contribute. At point guard are Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole. Many think Chalmers isn't starting material, but he has been solid for Miami. Cole is still very young, completing his rookie season. The Heat do have the option of drafting a PG. At shooting guard is Dwyane Wade and Mike Miller. Wade is obviously still in his prime, although he has been playing hurt in these playoffs. Miller has been pretty bad at times, and he's shown just why the Heat need more bench options. Are two guard to back up Wade is not out of the question here.

At small forward is the best player in the NBA, LeBron James. While he plays many positions on the floor, SF is his natural spot, and the one he does the most damage in. Shane Battier has played this spot, but things would be different if the team had a true center. Playing Chris Bosh at center leads to James playing power forward and Battier at small forward. In fact, the team doesn't have a true center. Joel Anthony is too small and Dexter Pittman sucks. If Miami drafted a C, this would enable them to give James somewhat of a break instead of defending down low for 40 minutes. With James and Battier at SF and Bosh and Udonis Haslem at PF, those positions are set. The team just needs a center.

So where do the Heat need depth? Depth at point guard. And shooting guard. And they need a center. Getting another forward wouldn't be bad, but with one pick, they should look to fill their needs. The team picks 27th overall.

Center truly is the biggest need. The minutes are getting hard on LeBron and if the team is able to get rid of some of his minutes in the post, he'll be able to play longer. Plus, I feel like Bosh would play better in his natural position of power forward.

Ezeli would add much needed size to the Heat.
Many people had originally mocked Fab Melo to the Heat, but due to the shortage of centers, he will likely be gone. That's why they should take Festus Ezeli from Vanderbilt. Ezeli is a big body with great length that brings physicality to the paint. His quickness and footwork are two things that not all big men come with, and he would be greatly needed by the Heat.

If they were to take a point guard, Maquis Teague would already be gone, so I suggest Tony Wroten from Washington. Wroten has the potential to go a lot higher, but he has to work on his passing and shot selection. He excels in getting to the basket with his crossover, but work still needs to be done on his game.

By now, Doron Lamb would be off the board as well, so they would need to find another shooting guard if they decide to go that route. John Jenkins from Vanderbilt is a knock down three point shooter and Evan Fournier from France is a beast attacking the basket. Khris Middleton is another player who can score from anywhere. I'd have to go with Jenkins here, but not before Ezeli.

So by picking the Nigerian big man, the Heat's starting five could now look like this: Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Festus Ezeli. All of the sudden, the team now has a big lineup instead of a small one. Coming off the bench is Norris Cole, Mike Miller, Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem, and Joel Anthony. While that's hardly an impressive squad, they are where they belong-coming off the bench instead of starting.

Can the Heat will a title this year? That remains to be seen. But can Ezeli help them for the future? Absolutely.

Up next is Miami's opponent in these Finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder. As they try to win the title as well, I think you'll see they have more holes than many think, which they will try to address with the 28th pick in the draft.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

How Can I Help You? Indiana Pacers

Granger would like to stand over LeBron permanently. 
The Pacers are evolving rapidly, taking big steps in the playoffs. Last year as an eight seed, Indiana pushed the Bulls more than many expected. This year, they pushed the Heat more than anyone thought they could. Being the #3 seed in these playoffs, the Pacers earned the title of the best in the East besides Miami and Chicago. But they want more than that. They want to be the best. Period.

The team is very young and not short on talent. They're looking to add a piece that will fill up one of the few holes on the team.

They have two key free agents in George Hill and Roy Hibbert who were starters last season. Larry Bird and head coach Frank Vogel have both expressed their extreme interests in resigning the two. Louis Amundson and Dahntay Jones are two other restricted free agents who will probably be brought back. Leandro Barbosa is unrestricted and he'll likely move on elsewhere.

Indiana has a spectacular duo at point guard with Hill and Darren Collison. When Collison was injured last year, Hill stepped up into the starting role. When he excelled, Collison took a bench gig upon his return. Instead of being unhappy and disgruntled, he embraced it and the PG position became one of the biggest strengths for the Pacers. Paul George is an explosive shooting guard who starts alongside Hill. The backcourt is very good for the team.

Danny Granger is the starter at small forward and Jones backs him up. Granger brought defense and attitude to the playoffs against the Heat and proved to be one of Indiana's most valuable players. David West and Hibbert make up the team's impressive frontcourt with Tyler Hansbrough and Amundson backing them up. All together, the team is deep at every position. So what do they need?

The best bet for the Pacers, whose only pick is #26, would be to draft a wing player or defensive center with size and length.

Taylor's explosiveness would fit well with Indiana.
This situation is similar to the one that I just covered with the Grizzlies. Indiana's choice of a SF will likely come down to who's left out of Moe Harkless, Jeffery Taylor, Royce White, and Quincy Miller. I think they go with Taylor, who is the best fit. Taylor plays hard, runs the floor well, and can score in a variety of different ways. His versatility is similar to that of Granger's or George's, and he should be able to improve his game under them.

Once again, Festus Ezeli should be the only man really worth drafting at the center position at this point. His size would be greatly appreciated behind Hibbert, but small forward is the bigger need. If Fab Melo is still available, however, that would give the Pacers a tough call to make. Melo's high level defensive abilities may be what this team needs to get over the hump.

In the end, Taylor would give the team just what they need on the wing and help improve the team as a whole.

Next up is the Miami Heat. They're currently trying to win a title, but this postseason has shown us that they've got a lot of work to do in terms of making their team complete.

How Can I Help You? Memphis Grizzlies

How much longer will Gay be a Grizzly?
After upsetting the San Antonio Spurs as an eight seed and taking the Oklahoma City Thunder to seven games last year, a lot was expected out of the Memphis Grizzlies this season. And after a late season surge followed by a home playoff series, it seemed like they would be able to meet expectations. Then you saw what happened. They blew leads, had issues with Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph, and lost to the Clippers. The team looks to get back on track, starting with the 2012 draft.

The Grizzlies begin the teams that only have one draft pick. From here on out, the rest of the teams will have just their lone pick. All the teams that had multiple picks have been covered already.

Some of the more interesting free agents decisions lie in Memphis. Their time with Gilbert Arenas went better than many had expected, but there doesn't seem to be much reason to bring this nut case back. Hamed Haddadi likely won't return either. He's a nice player off the bench, but isn't vital to the team and can be passed on. The O. J. Mayo decision looms here. Many think Mayo will be let free. His attitude problems have caused the team headaches and he's almost been traded multiple times. Mayo is a very talented scorer and provided the Griz with a lift off the bench, but his days in the state of Tennessee have been numbered for a while now.

Finally, of course, is the Mareese Speights-Darrell Arthur debate. Both are talented and young power forwards who would be more than capable of backing up Randolph. So who do they choose? Speights has a better low post game and is the superior rebounder, but Arthur is the better defender and showed a lot of promise before he went down with an injury last season. My thought is that they'll at least sign one of them, if not both (because you don't know what you'll get with Randolph these days), so we'll call them King Sparthur.

Another storyline to remember is the possible trading of Gay. It seems as though he doesn't fit into the team's makeup, and Memphis could get a nice haul for him. They would be without a small forward, and Gay is one of the best, so keep an eye on that.

Now let's look at the Grizzlies' current team. Mike Conley is the point guard and has developed into one of the best in the league. He is in his prime and is showing no signs of slowing down, which is why I'm confused as to why so many mocks have Memphis selecting Marquis Teague, Kentucky's PG.  Sure, they'll want a backup (although they did draft Josh Selby last year), but why waste your only pick on something that's not a serious need? A veteran guard to come off the bench would be great for this team. It worked with Derek Fisher and the Thunder this year and it actually worked with Arenas on the Grizzlies too. So sorry to be a spoiler, but this squad does not need a point guard and Teague is not the pick. Shooting guard is a completely different story. Presumably without Mayo, all Memphis has is defensive veteran Tony Allen. They will want to add SG who has big time scoring ability, but they need  to be careful not to draft a Mayo clone.

Either Arthur or Speights (Philly) may not be back in Memphis.
At small forward lies Gay and Quincy Pondexter. Although Pondexter was a capable backup last season, the question mark that is Rudy Gay may make this team draft a SF. At power forward is the mess of Randolph and King Sparthur. I don't see the team drafting a PF because they have the ability to figure out that position with the players on their current roster. Finally, Marc Gasol would be the lone center if Haddadi leaves. Memphis may want to find a big to help him out.

So let's see here. We need a big time scorer and shooting guard, a small forward with high potential, or a C to back up Gasol. And they have to be physical. That is the Grizzlies' style and they'll want players who will buy into it. With all that being said, let's explore the options for Memphis' only selection, #25.

There are three tiers of shooting guards that the Grizzlies can choose from here. In the first tier, they would have to move up to grab Dion Waiters or Terrence Ross. Waiters stock is rising fast and Ross will probably already be picked high so unless they make a big move, they may not be able to grab one of them. Oh, and they SHOULD NOT draft Austin Rivers. Remember the Mayo clone reference? Yeah, that's him.

The second tier is a trio of players who should mostly be available around #25. Doron Lamb is probably their best bet. He adds clutch scoring and leadership. He knows what it takes to win and will buy into Memphis' style. John Jenkins from Vanderbilt may be the best shooter of the draft. He's lights out from anywhere and is able to create his own shot with pump fakes. He will struggle in some areas, so whoever drafts him will know what they're getting, but he could be instant offense off the bench. Evan Fournier from France is another prospect who excels at getting to the basket.

Right below these guys is the third tier that consists of Jared Cunningham, Will Barton, and Khris Middleton. Cunningham probably won't be considered because he is a defensive specialist. Both Barton and Middleton have a wide arsenal to score. Middleton's the better shooter, so that could tilt things in his favor.

White will become the NBA's swiss army knife.
If the team looks to go the small forward route, there are a plethora of guys around this spot in the draft, and there certainly should be a few of them left. Terrence Jones and Perry Jones both have the potential that the Grizzlies are looking for, but it would be surprising if they're still on the board. Royce White from Iowa St. is a high risk/high reward kind of guy who could really be special if he masters all of his tools. Vanderbilt's Jeffery Taylor is a versatile player who shoots at a very high percentage and could become a top defender in the NBA. Quincy Miller is similar. The Baylor product's defense is aided by his incredible wingspan (7'3") and he can create his own shot. Finally, Moe Harkless from St. John's could be a very good scorer in this league and although he is still raw, has great potential.

Here's how I would rank the SF's for Memphis: Perry Jones, Terrence Jones, Harkless, White, Taylor, Miller. If they decide to draft at this position, they should follow this chain.

If, by chance, the team does go the center route, there are two options: Fab Melo and Festus Ezeli. There is a chance Melo may be gone by now, but that doesn't matter, because Ezeli fits better with the Grizzlies. Ezeli is strong, has a big frame, and a long wingspan. His quick feet are also a plus. The Nigerian big man would embrace the physical Memphis game.

Who they draft depends on who is left, so let me create a short list of prospects. Excluding Waiters, Ross, and both Jones', they should draft in this order: Lamb, Harkless, White, Jenkins, Taylor, Middleton, Ezeli, Miller, Barton. Ultimately, I think they'll draft White. He has lottery level talent and may already be picked here, but I have a hunch he may drop to this spot. Even if the team doesn't get rid of Gay, White would be a very good backup.

With that, the team's starting lineup would still be Conley, Allen, Gay, Randolph, and Gasol, and the bench would consist of Selby, White, Pondexter, and King Sparthur. This team still has issues at depth and perimeter scoring, but they have options in this draft and free agency could help them even more.

The Indiana Pacers nearly beat the Miami Heat this past season in the playoffs. They're now on the clock. Who do they take? Check back to find out.

Friday, June 15, 2012

How Can I Help You? Atlanta Hawks

Johnson has yet to live up to his massive contract.
It's the same story every year with the Hawks. They have a good core. They make the playoffs. They have talented players. And then they go nowhere. Atlanta has to find a way to change that, and the draft may be the answer.

The guys to build around on this team are Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, and Al Horford. Johnson was the beneficiary of a gluttonous contract not too long ago. Horford is one of the best up and coming centers in the league. And Smith, while he has been the subject of trade talks, is an incredibly talented player, especially on the defensive end.

The team has quite a few free agents. Ivan Johnson is a restricted free agent, and he was a nice find for the Hawks. His rebounding will get him resigned and backing up Smith. Willie Green and Kirk Hinrich were solid guards off the bench. It would not be a shock to see the team resigning either of them. Hinrich can still teach starter Jeff Teague a thing or two. Jannero Pargo and Vladimir Radmanovic are both expendable and won't return. Tracy McGrady and Jerry Stackhouse are much too old, and shouldn't be brought back. Erick Dampier did nothing for Atlanta, averaging 0.1 points per game. He's gone.

With that, the team would bring back its main players, but still need to make some adjustments. Teague has the ability to be a top PG in the NBA, but is still growing. Hinrich backing him up is a good pairing. Then, at shooting guard lies Johnson, who still needs to live up to his major contract. Green will play behind him.

At small forward is the incumbent Marvin Williams. Williams was drafted so high and has yet to live up to his potential. With no one behind him, the team will look to add a SF. At power forward are Smith and Johnson. And then at center are Horford and Zaza Pachulia. It looks like Atlanta has good players and a depth. Every position has capable talent aside from small forward. The issue seems to be that the Hawks talent is just not good enough. They'll look to add that in the draft.

Atlanta picks 23rd and 43rd in the draft. It's important for them to aim high, but not too high and take too big of a risk. Let's take a look at the choices.

Jones would be pumped to be a Hawk.
There are a handful of intriguing forwards in the draft. Iowa St.'s Royce White has several tools that he can use to help his team, but it doesn't seem like his potential puts him at what the Hawks are looking for. Moe Harkless from St. John's has fantastic scoring ability, but he probably won't be ready to help the team right away. If Perry Jones or Terrence Jones are still available, the team should grab one of them immediately. Perry is the better choice because of his massive potential and incredible versatility, but Terrence is safer and has NBA level scoring and rebounding skills. Jeffery Taylor from Vanderbilt is another player who has a lot of different skills, but his ball handling deficiency may steer the team away from him.

In the end, I see Terrence Jones falling a bit and Atlanta happily taking him. It would be a steal if they can get him.

At #43, the Hawks will truly be looking for the best player available. A great find would be if they can pick out a solid defender who can contribute immediately. I'll go over some players like that.

"Atlanta is this way?"
Tyshawn Taylor from Kansas can defend the perimeter well, but also has a nice offensive game to pair with it. Andrew Albicy from France is a hard nosed defender who could come in for Teague and be disruptive. Jared Cunningham has the length and skills to defend most wing players, but he's shooting up draft boards. Kris Joseph from Syracuse has a massive wingspan to help his game. JaMychal Green of Alabama averaged 1.6 blocks per game last season.

I believe that Taylor is the way to go here. If that happens, the team will have a starting lineup of Jeff Teague, Joe Johnson, Terrence Jones, Josh Smith, and Al Horford, and a bench of Tyshawn Taylor, Kirk Hinrich, Willie Green, Marvin Williams, Ivan Johnson, and Zaza Pachulia. Atlanta's problems may not be completely solved, but these moves will certainly help their team.

Up next are the Memphis Grizzlies who look to elevate themselves to contend at the top of the Western Conference.

How Can I Help You? Boston Celtics

Do these guys have what it takes to win another?
Now here, we have a real puzzle. After losing to Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals, is it time to break up the Boston Celtics' core? Or do they have another title run in them? Who do you resign? How do you draft? We'll take a look at all of these scenarios.

Personally, I believe that Boston should keep its team together. Yes, they are old, but also extremely talented. They shocked everyone in the playoffs this year, and I think they have what it takes to do it again. The Celtics just have to be careful with who they resign and how much they resign them for.

There are only five players on the team that won't be free agents: Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Avery Bradley, JaJuan Johnson, and E'Twaun Moore. The first three are well know key cogs to this team, while the two rookies from Purdue may be the future of this team. Let's break down every free agent.

Keyon Dooling was a nice spark off the bench during Boston's playoff run, but it's unlikely that he will be resigned. Ray Allen, of course, is a big question mark. Allen's play declined greatly this year due to injuries. If the Celtics keep their Big 4 together, do they oust Allen and make it a Big 3 again? I have to believe that Allen will be resigned for a smaller contract. Mickael Pietrus was one of the main contributors off the bench, and he should be resigned because of his defense and three point shooting. Marquis Daniels and Sasha Pavlovic will both leave town, and I don't think too many Celtic fans will be crying because of that. Jeff Green should get a new contract after making it through his heart conditions. He'll be a big help off the bench playing both forward spots. Kevin Garnett will almost definitely be given more money. He revived his career this season and he may have a few good years left in him. Brandon Bass had a fantastic season at PF for the team, and he will likely exercise his player option to stay in Boston. Chris Wilcox, Ryan Hollins, and Sean Williams are expendable and will not be missed. The Jermaine O'Neal project will end in Boston. And finally, Greg Stiemsma will probably get brought back for his defense.

Phew. This is just too much. Now that that's all projected (obviously it's subject to change, so the accuracy of all of this is questionable), let's take a look at the Celtics' depth chart.

PG: Rajon Rondo, E'Twaun Moore
SG: Avery Bradley, Ray Allen
SF: Paul Pierce, Mickael Pietrus
PF: Brandon Bass, Jeff Green, JaJuan Johnson
C: Kevin Garnett, Greg Stiemsma

Boston has two picks in the first round (#21 and #22) and one pick in the second round (#51). In my opinion, I think the team should draft a wing scorer (specifically one for if Allen is injured or too old and to be his eventual replacement) and a defensive minded center (to back up KG and learn under him and sorry Stiemer, but your run won't last forever). And with the 51st pick, Boston should really take the best player available. Who knows, maybe they'll find a small forward that will eventually wind up succeeding Pierce? Let's see what we've got to work with.

The reason why I think taking an enforcer in the paint this high is important is because of the Celtics' previous title run. Having Kendrick Perkins down low made a huge difference against the Lakers. And when they didn't have him for Game 7 in 2010, they lost their chance at a title.

Melo will be an enforcer in the NBA.
So who to take? There are two options: Fab Melo from Syracuse and Festus Ezeli from Vanderbilt.  Melo is a defensive nightmare. His shot blocking and shot altering ability is out of this world. Plus, he's also been developing his offensive game a bit. Ezeli's size, bulk, and ability to muscle opponents down low are what makes him attractive. I like Melo here because he's a more dynamic defender.

The shooting guard pick is not as clear cut. There are actually of lot of different ways that Boston can go about this. The most intriguing scenario is having Austin Rivers, Doc Rivers' son, fall to pick #21. I doubt the Celtics would take him because the father-son relationship would complicate a lot of things, but it's some food for the thought.

There are three young men who would fit well in this position: Kevin Murphy, Khris Middleton, and Will Barton. All three have a knack for scoring. Middleton is incredibly dynamic, but injury history is a cause for concern. Barton is a wizard at attacking the basket, but needs more bulk. And Murphy is simply a pure scorer. The only problem with these guys is that selecting them this high in the draft is too much of a reach.

Evan Fournier from France could also be the pick. He has a solid scoring ability and is very clutch. His winning mentality will transfer well over to Boston.

Lamb has scoring that would be welcomed in Boston.
However, with all of these guys aside, I like Doron Lamb from Kentucky. Lamb is a great scorer and an efficient one at that, but his leadership quality cannot be ignored. He led the Wildcat freshmen to a title last year-as a sophomore. The Celtics will find just what they're looking for.

While I did say that "Best player available" is the mindset at pick #51, there's no shame if the Celtics have a SF in mind. Here are some of their options.

At small forward, while unlikely he will still be around, the most ideal selection would be Lamb's Kentucky teammate, Darius Miller. Miller is a very efficient scorer, and the Celtics picked two teammates in last year's draft, so it's not out of the question for them to do it again.

Kostas Papinkoloau from Greece is a hard working, high motor, lengthy defender who can also shoot the three ball. He would be welcomed on Boston. Jae Crowder from Marquette epitomizes hard work. It just remains to be seen if he can play on the perimeter full time in the NBA. Orlando Johnson from UCSB is a fluid athlete with a nice shooting touch. Finally, Tony Mitchell from North Texas has the tools to be a dominant player in the NBA, and he can reach his potential under Rivers and all of the Celtic vets. Out of all them, I say Papinkoloau has the best chance to make an immediate impact, but also be a part of Boston's future.

So now, let's take a look at that updated Boston depth chart.

PG: Rajon Rondo, E'Twaun Moore
SG: Avery Bradley, Ray Allen, Doron Lamb
SF: Paul Pierce, Mickael Pietrus, Kostas Papinkoloau
PF: Brandon Bass, Jeff Green, JaJuan Johnson
C: Kevin Garnett, Fab Melo, Greg Stiemsma

The team has not only improved, but now looks a lot younger. If the new guys mesh well with the Celtic's core and know their roles, Boston may have another title run left in them.

After that concoction in the lab, I'll focus next on the Atlanta Hawks, who also have a lot of figuring out to do.