Video Interview: Indiana Pacers Guard George Hill


Grant Hill: The Prized Free Agent Target For Contenders

Overall, this summer has been a huge disappointment for the NBA. After having one of the best NBA Playoff runs ever that was capped off with the league’s brightest foreign star defeating two of the league’s brightest stars period, the NBA failed to reach an agreement with their players and is currently entrenched in a lockout that won’t be resolved for a long time.1 In the midst of one of the greatest talent influxes in sports history, the league and their 30 owners could not keep up the momentum for mistakes they made during their last session of labor negotiations a few years ago.

So, us, as fans, are paying for those mistakes and David Stern is unlikely to accept any deal that favors the players because this will likely be his last, which will only prolong the process.2 As a result, free agency is postponed until the day the lockout is over because of the rules that prevent teams from contacting players.3 Luckily, I can’t be fined $1 million for mentioning teams and players in the same posts so I’m going to take a look at one of the most intriguing targets on the market this season.

That target it Grant Hill, a 38-year old that is coming off one of his best seasons in the past 10 years. You’ve heard the tale many times about Hill being a “fresh” 38-year old because of the injuries that cost him significant time earlier in his career but the truth his that he’s only played less than 50 games in three of his 16 years. Now, by comparison, he has played in 248 less games than a fellow 16-year veteran Kevin Garnett, but he has still laced them up for 948 career games. I’m not trying to say I don’t think Hill will hold up for another two season or so but he may not be good for another five seasons, which some people think he could manage because of those early season injuries.

That being said, for a team that is going to contend for the title this season, Hill is a nearly perfect option. He is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, willing to take on the opposition’s best player every night. He’s an efficient scorer that has a nice touch from the mid-range and shot 41% from three during his last two seasons in Phoenix and there’s a chance he’s finally developed a consistent stroke from beyond the arc. Additionally, he’s one of the better people around the league (he’s currently campaigning against homophobic slurs) and he’s a fantastic teammate. Here are some of the teams that are in contention and could use a player like Hill:

Boston Celtics

The Celtics have been looking for wing help for a long time. Perhaps adding a 38-year old is exactly the kind of move Danny Ainge is trying to avoid at this point. After all, he did trade away his title chances last season for Jeff Green4 and they absolutely need to get younger sooner rather than later. But should they not re-sign Green this off-season – he’s a restricted free agent – they need a back-up small forward for Paul Pierce and with reduced minutes, Hill could continue to look fresh.

Even if the C’s do re-sign Green, Boston doesn’t really have a back-up for Ray Allen either. When they drafted Marshon Brooks, I thought he was their replacement plan for Allen but they ended up trading him for a power forward prospect. When healthy, Delonte West is the perfect kind of guy to have backing up Allen but he will be a free agent this off-season and there may be some riffs between himself and the rest of the C’s (he was reportedly in a fight with Von Wafer last season). Thus, Hill could spend time backing up Allen and Boston would finally be able to put a line-up on the floor that didn’t force one of their Big Three to play with the second unit. While those line-ups have been productive, especially with Allen, as they continue to age, resting them for the fourth quarter will become increasingly important.

The problem with Boston is that, if they lose Glen Davis, they will desperately need some size. Shaq’s retirement and Nenad Krstic going overseas to play leaves them with only one center on the roster in Jermaine O’Neal. O’Neal was actually effective during the playoffs last season but he’s a huge injury risk and he’s unlikely good enough to hold down the center spot on a contender all by himself. And if Davis leaves, Kevin Garnett will have similar problems. Boston has a lot of holes to fill this off-season but Hill certainly fills one of them and if they have the money left over he would be the perfect fit.

Chicago Bulls

The Bulls could really use a scoring threat rather than a specialist like Hill but after watching Kyle Korver fold against the Heat and Derrick Rose struggle to get his shot off against LeBron, Hill can certainly provide some offensive relief while playing excellent perimeter defense. Korver is certainly a great fit for Rose on the wing with his perimeter shooting – as we saw against the Pacers – but he was attacked defensively by LeBron and Dwyane Wade when he was in against the Heat. On top of that, his shot was off, making him completely useless.

If Hill can continue to knock down three’s at the 40% rate he established in Phoenix over the past two seasons then that makes him a competent Korver replacement in a a few ways and his defensive advantage is vast. Hill doesn’t move the same way as Korver off the ball, so you can’t run your offense around him like they do when Korver is running the baseline using downscreens. That being said, Hill is a bit more versatile offensively and is just as good of a spot-up shooter when he is left open.

Chicago does have a pretty heavy cap number for next season so, depending on the new CBA, they may not have a ton of money to spend. But they absolutely have to make a move this summer in order to get all the way to the Finals and unless they can somehow get Arron Afflalo, a younger wing that can shoot the lights out, defend and get to the basket, Hill seems like a great option. Signing Hill to a two to three year deal will allow Tom Thibodeau to stop playing Luol Deng so many minutes because he’ll finally have a back-up small forward that he can trust on both ends. Also, having Hill on a two or three year deal will give Chicago a viable back-up small forward as they wait for Nikola Mirotic to come over from Serbia, which is expected to be in two to three years.

Los Angeles Lakers

The only chance the Lakers have of signing a guy like Hill is if the new CBA includes an amnesty clause, allowing the Lakers to get rid of World Metta Peace AND they make a deal that involves one of their other bad contracts, such as Lamar Odom and Luke Walton for Andre Iguodala. To be quite honest, that’s not all that far fetched and if they are able to clear up the space to sign Hill, that’s a pretty decent pick-up. But its not a necessity and if the Lakers are getting Iguodala, he’d be a back-up with Matt Barnes and Devin Ebanks playing the same position while on the payroll. And if the Lakers were able to muster up the cap space to sign someone like Hill, that money would be better spent on a point guard. Hill is the kind of player that Kobe Bryant would love to have on his team but he’s a luxury not a necessity.

New York Knicks

The Knicks need a back-up for Carmelo Anthony pretty badly, that is unless you think Shawne Williams is the answer. And if you haven’t taken that test yet, I’ll give you the answer: he isn’t. And the Knicks could most certainly use some players with high basketball IQs that care about playing defense. If you watched them last year, you probably know that those things aren’t their strong points. Hill with the Knicks would finally give them a competent defensive player and would give the Knicks a bench combo of Toney Douglas, Iman Shumpert and Hill. It’s not great but Hill is better than Bill Walker or Roger Mason and he can shoot the three and play defense.

Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder have been without a back-up for Kevin Durant at the small forward position ever since they moved to Oklahoma City5 and one of the key pieces that folks have been saying that they need to take the next step has been a veteran presence. Hill would give the Thunder a veteran mindset, a small and solid defender and a pretty good scoring threat that could get 10 to 12 point a night while Kevin Durant rested. The Thunder could also try out some fun small ball line-ups with Hill at power forward and Durant at center with Eric Maynor, Westbrook and James Harden on the floor. It kind of reminds me of Phoenix going with Nash, Carter, Dudley, Hill and Channing Frye for a few minutes last season. Durant may not be a center but I think he could get by playing the position a few times a night. I’m sure Hill could have his greatest off the court impact on this team by providing wisdom and he could be a great mentor to Durant as he attempts to diversify his game.

Conclusion

I think the best fit for Hill is in Oklahoma City. They have been craving a veteran for awhile and he fills their back-up role at small forward as well. He’s really a perfect fit in that regard. I think Boston could really use him too but the Thunder don’t have many other holes to fill besides back-up small forward and Hill is the top dog on the market. Shane Battier could be a fit as well but his offensive numbers have been slipping lately and I think Hill’s overall game fits better with most of these teams than Battier’s.


Footnotes

1. If you want to get some kind of a handle on the situation, here are some folks that I recommend you follow: @LarryCoon, @KBerg_CBS and @Stein_Line_HQ. And, by the way, I’m writing this article with the assumption that a full 82-game season will be played in 2010-2011. Return

2. The biggest loss for us as fans: Not having a Summer League. Getting our first look at fresh talent like Ricky Rubio, Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knight, etc. is always fun and the entire atmosphere in Las Vegas is great. If there is one NBA event that I can recommend a fan of the game attends it would be Summer League. Eight games a day played in two separate gyms that are no more than 50 feet away from each on UNLV’s campus. One moment you’re watching John Wall and JaVale McGee connect on their first alley-oops, the next you’re witnessing a dunkfest by Toronto’s “Young Gunz” DeMar DeRozan and Sonny Weems.

Head to the concession stand to get a drink, catch Doc Rivers walking by or Wesley Matthews hanging out with C.J. Watson. Its an awesome experience because the players are still humble and they walk the halls just like everyone else after their games. And once the games are done for the day, you have all of Vegas to explore before coming back the next day for eight more games.  Return

3. I’m not a stickler for the rules but I think Mark Cuban should be fined for his tiny conversation with Jason Kidd when they were on stage together during the ESPY’s. Those charities are in need of support after Cuban spent the whole post-season in seclusion.  Return

4. Ainge has done a ton of great things for the Celtics but that was one of the most questionable deals ever. It made no sense to me because Jeff Green is criminally overrated and I think Boston got that same vibe after watching him play on their team during the second half. I just hope Ainge doesn’t let pride take over and sign Jeff Green to an extension just so C’s fans don’t kill him for trading Perkins for nothing. Return

5. Care to guess who is currently listed as the second string small forward for the the Thunder? His last name is similar to that of a Sith Lord. Time’s up. Answer: Robert Vaden. Return

Kobe Bryant May Take His Talents To China

Since the NBA lockout started at 12:01 EST this morning, Brian Scalabrine is the most popular player to publicly consider playing oversees. Scalabrine says that he will sign oversees if the NBA labor situation doesn’t improve over the next 15 days. Even though Scalabrine isn’t a very good player, his move may open up doors for other players to head oversees in order to maintain a steady income now that the owners aren’t responsible for the contracts their players signed.1

While Scalabrine’s move would be a permanent one – he’s looking to sign a deal in Europe – Kobe Bryant may be considering heading to another country as well. The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Bryant and his agent Rob Pelinka are organizing an exhibition tour in China for Bryant and other clients from the Landmark Sports Agency to take part in.

If the barnstorming tour happens, the games are likely to take place at the state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai. Bryant signed a three-year deal with Mercedes-Benz in February to become the brand ambassador for Smart micro cars in China and he has already been featured in a TV commercial for the car.

Bryant has a large following in China and was easily the most popular player in the country back when Bryant led Team USA a gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Some of the other players that could be involved in the tour are Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, O.J. Mayo2, Carlos Boozer, James Harden, Wesley Johnson, rookie Derrick Williams, Gerald Wallace, Channing Frye, Sasha Vujacic3, Andre Iguodala4 and even NBA Players Union President Derek Fisher.

We all know that Bryant has an unmatched desire for the game and now that he’s received some rather unique surgery on his knee in Germany, a tour like this would be a great way for Bryant to test out his body and obviously would stand as a good way for him to work back into game shape in the event that the NBA misses games.


Footnotes

1. Rest assured I will be pouring over the Synergy clips of Scal playing Europe if he ends up signing over there. I want to see how he matches up with the competition over there. If he averages anything more than 10 points and five rebounds I’m going to be skeptical of any foreign product from now until eternity unless they have produced at the college level. Return

2. I used to think Mayo had it in him to be Kobe’s replacement in Los Angeles. He played at USC, has said many times he loves the extra lights that LA brings and once looked like a sure all-star. Though he was an excellent sixth man for the Grizzlies in the playoffs, I think I’m done arguing for Mayo to be the Lakers’ next star on the perimeter after his inability to build off his rookie season. Return

3. I would love to see Bryant yelling at Sasha for the billionth time for missing three’s in exhibition games. I bet Kobe would make Sasha play on the other team to avoid having to play alongside him again. Return

4. I know they won’t be playing against very good competition, even if Vujacic is on the other team, but if Iguodala impresses Bryant enough in workout sessions or practices and the two establish chemistry with each other during the tour, perhaps the Lakers will be a bit more inclined to make a push for Iguodala services. Of course, Khloe Kardashian may have already killed any chance of an Odom-Iguodala. Return

And The Lockout Begins…

Rather than giving you my thoughts on the NBA’s lockout I’m simply going to list the headlines on each team’s site now that they are restricted from showing players.

  • Atlanta Hawks: Cheerleader Tryouts
  • Boston Celtics: Dance Auditions with interviews with some of the finalists
  • Charlotte Bobcats: Meet the 2011-2012 Lady Cats
  • Chicago Bulls: Chicago Luvabulls Auditions, IncrediBulls Auditions, Bulls License Plates, Bulls Fans on Facebook
  • Cleveland Cavaliers: Summer Camps, Are You A CavFanatic?
  • Dallas Mavericks: 2011-2012 Dancer Auditions, 2010-2011 Dancer Camp
  • Denver Nuggets: Nuggets Dancer Auditions, License Plates
  • Detroit Pistons: Automotion Auditions
  • Golden State Warriors: Warrior Girl Auditions
  • Houston Rockets: What’s Hot with RPD?, Yvette’s RPD Blog
  • Indiana Pacers: Pacemates Auditions 2011
  • Los Angeles Clippers: Spirit Auditions
  • Los Angeles Lakers: Laker Girls Auditions
  • Memphis Grizzlies: Grizz Girls
  • Miami Heat: HEAT Dancers
  • Milwaukee Bucks: Energee! Auditions
  • Minnesota Timerwolves: Catching Up With Christian Laettner, Dancer Auditions
  • New Jersey Nets: View Your Future Seats in 3-D!
  • New Orleans Hornets: 2011-12 Honeybees Auditions
  • New York Knicks: Courtside Celebs
  • Oklahoma City Thunder: Thunder Girls
  • Orlando Magic: Magic Fantasy Baseball Camp
  • Philadelphia 76ers: Sixers Dancer Auditions
  • Phoenix Suns: Suns Dancers
  • Portland Trail Blazers: BlazerDancer Auditions
  • Sacramento Kings: Connect with Slamson
  • San Antonio Spurs: Connect with the Spurs
  • Toronto Raptors: Dance Pak Auditions
  • Utah Jazz: Dance team cleans up elephant poop
  • Washington Wizards: G-Man Travels To China

As you can see, we’re in for a pretty depressing summer until this whole thing is resolved.

Cavs Acquire A King To Play Small Forward, Deal Hickson

Just hours before the NBA will enter a lockout period, the Sacramento Kings and Cleveland Cavaliers completed a deal that will send Omri Casspi and a future first round pick (lottery protected only for the first season) to the Cavs for power forward J.J. Hickson.1 This deal seems to work for both sides but not because either player stands to make a huge impact on their new teams next season.

Dealing Casspi clears a logjam at small forward for the Kings after a season of failed attempts to get Donte Greene and Caspi to create an efficient tandem. Sacramento drafted Tyler Honeycutt out of UCLA and because of his passing instincts he figures to be a better fit for the Kings next season because of the many shot-first guards they have compiled.

Speaking of the draft, the Cavaliers felt the need to deal away Hickson because they took a power forward in Tristan Thompson with the fourth overall pick. I was not in favor of the Thompson pick but the Cavs have clearly made a commitment to him and this deal confirms that. Hickson has potential but Cleveland’s front office is done waiting for him to realize it and think that Thompson will be the better player over the next few seasons.2

Even though I think Hickson will be the better player over the next five years Cleveland did acquire a young small forward that competes hard on every player. He’s a good shooter and rebounder and he’s a hard-working defender. He does have his detractors but at least he’s not Jamario Moon, Alonzo Gee or Joey Graham. Cleveland will have a nice, young tandem at small forward with Casspi, who can contribute at a solid rate right now, and Christian Eyenga, who has a chance to be a pretty good player in the near future.

The Kings will have a nice big-man duo of DeMarcus Cousins and Hickson next season and Jason Thompson only adds to their big man depth. It may may not be a terrific group but adding frontcourt players is better than adding another guard that averages two shots a game.

I think both teams did good to clear out clutter at certain positions and even though they didn’t get very good players in return Casspi and Hickson are rotation players and the Mavericks just proved how valuable those players can be. And getting a first round pick from a horrible team in California in a trade worked out for the Cavs in February, right?


Footnotes

1. Please excuse the cheesy headline. Return

2. I disagree. I think Hickson has more upside and is clearly the better player right now. Return

Lakers Hope For Good Luck From Goudelock

Generally, the major college programs around the country dominate the NBA Draft. Stars from big time Division-1 programs are the players most frequently taken in the lottery year in and year out because they were able to produce at one of the best schools in the nation and normally get to make deep tournament runs to showcase their talents under pressure. When it comes to collegiate talent, this year we saw a Duke player go first overall followed by a University of Arizona product, then a Texas forward, then a Kentucky point guard, then the leader of the team that won the NCAA Championship, and then the most recognized first name in the passed 10 years of college basketball rounded out the top 10.

Jimmer Fredette was the only player drafted in the top 10 that did not attend a college that ranks as a factory for pro level but his own star power is what caused that. Point being: In each NBA Draft we see the stars from big-time schools go first, then the secondary players from those big time schools and then the players that carried teams without a lot of national recognition. Obviously, that’s to be expected because the most talented kids choose to go to the big-time schools and most of the time the most talented kids from high school end up being the most talented kids in college.

But every once in a while that kid that averaged 20 a game at a middling program in a weaker conference can match up against those that put up 20 a game on one of the better teams in the country in a powerhouse conference. Now I’m not saying those kids usually go on to be stars – if you look at the top 25 players in the league almost all of them either came out of high school, went to a top flight college in a big conference or was born in Germany – but there are cases when those players from smaller schools weren’t just putting up numbers against comparability weak competition and can actually play at the NBA level.

Most of the time those players go in the late first round or at any point in the second round. Last year we saw the Knicks grab Landry Fields with the 39th pick in the draft. Fields played for four years at Stanford and averaged 22 points per game in his senior year. While the Pac-10 isn’t exactly a weak conference, it’s not as much of a basketball powerhouse as it is in football and Stanford doesn’t have a track record for producing elite NBA talents (though they have produced two sets of twins in the past decade).

This year the Miami Heat selected (or eventually ended up with) Norris Cole a standout from Cleveland State University and a lot of NBA scouts believe that if he had attended a school like Duke or UNC he would have been a lottery pick, making him a good candidate for a player that attended a smaller university but has a chance to make a better pro than someone drafted out of a school like Marquette or Villanova.

The Los Angeles Lakers also got their hands on a player with a sterling track record at a smaller school though he isn’t thought of in the same regard as Cole. Andrew Goudelock was drafted in the second round by Los Angeles out of the College of Charleston, where he set the school record for points scored, recorded the fourth most assists in university history and shot 41% from three in his four-year college career. Goudelock did not play in a well regarded conference but this past season he proved that he could shoot from anywhere and against anyone. Not only did Goudelock continue to hit three’s from anywhere inside half-court but he also single-handedly willed his team to a victory over North Carolina, one of the top programs in the country.

The Lakers haven’t landed themselves an impactful draft pick since 2005 when they picked Andrew Bynum. In fact, the only other player Los Angeles has picked since then to have a consistent role on the team for more than a year was Jordan Farmar who was taken in 2006 and let go last off-season after failing to embrace the Triangle offense. Ironically, the best player the Lakers have drafted since 2005 was Toney Douglas. Douglas was taken with the 29th pick in 2009 but the Lakers traded him to the Knicks so they didn’t have to pay the guaranteed contract any first round pick comes with. Douglas has since become a pretty solid back-up point guard and could even be the starter for the Lakers at this point had they kept him.

Of course, the pick they got in return for Douglas was a second round pick in the 2011 Draft, which they used to take Goudelock. Goudelock dominated the ball in college but he is a bit undersized for the two-guard position, which is the position his skillset is best suited for. A similar description could be applied to Douglas though because he attended Florida State, he wasn’t questioned much coming into the league. To me, Goudelock has the potential to give the Lakers what they missed out on when they dealt Douglas. Douglas is a bit more athletic but Goudelock is a much better pure shooter and his outside touch alone is reason enough for him to make the team.

With Shannon Brown likely to test free agency this off-season and Steve Blake playing so poorly last season, there are minutes to be had at either guard spot for Goudelock and a scoring presence from the outside on the Lakers’ second unit has long been missing. At the least, Goudelock can stand around the perimeter and hit three’s at a solid rate but if Goudelock can work on his handle a bit during the summer, the Lakers may be able to use him as a point guard role behind Derek Fisher. Goudelock showed that he could pass in college but was forced to score as much as he could to keep his team competitive. He may not be a great playmaker but he can distribute and his ability to hit pull-up jumpers from beyond even Jimmer’s range makes him a very potent offensive threat.

Defense will be less of an issue for Goudelock if he plays against other point guards because his size won’t be an issue and if he’s not a liability on that end of the floor then his offensive abilities are more than enough to keep him on the floor for a Lakers team in need of a scoring guard.

There’s always a chance than Goudelock doesn’t make the team either because the Lakers aren’t impressed enough to give him a jersey or because Brown sticks around and fills the final guard spot but I think the Lakers have found something in Goudelock. He may not have attended a major university but every so often someone that carried a smaller university on their shoulders for four years comes along and makes an impact in the NBA and I think Goudelock is capable of doing just that.

And it just so happens that his NBA skill – the three-point shot – has been the Lakers’ Achilles heel on offense for the past few years.

Rockets Make Low Risk, High Reward Move By Acquiring Flynn

Jonny Flynn was drafted into just about the worst situation possible back in 2009 – even Kyrie Irving will be in a better one next season. Not only did his team have a large dearth of talent but the Timberwolves had just hired a coach that insisted on installing the Triangle Offense on a team with Kevin Love as its best player. Lets forget the fact the Triangle has only been successful with two teams (one had Michael Jordan, the other had Kobe Bryant), so team success was a far fetched idea when Kurt Rambis was brought on, but individual success for any point guard that’s forced to run the Triangle is nearly impossible, especially for a young one fresh out of college where he spent the majority of his time making plays with his dribble and scoring on the move.

The Rockets recognized that and with Spanish sensation Ricky Rubio coming over next season to run things in Minnesota, the Timberwolves felt it was right to move Flynn. David Kahn mentioned how Flynn’s trade value was virtually non-existent but I think he missed on that assumption. Flynn is a good young player and I’m sure most scouts and GM’s around the league saw Flynn’s poor numbers as a bi-product of an awful situation rather than Flynn being a failure himself.

Thus, Daryl Morey stole Flynn from Minnesota by dealing Brad Miller and the 23rd overall pick in the draft (later dealt to Chicago) to get Flynn and a first round pick in Donatas Motiejunas. Flynn may be entering into a crowded situation at the point guard spot in Houston with Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic both claiming a stake in the franchise’s future at his position but the Rockets clearly saw something in Flynn and whether they traded for him to make him their third guard or to flip him in the future for more than they had to give Minnesota, this was a great deal for Houston.

Don’t sleep on Motiejunas, either. Attitude issues aside, Motiejunas is compared to Dirk and Andrea Bargnani because of his ability to shoot the ball from outside. Like Dirk and Bargnani he’s seven feet tall and he has range on his jumpshot. The Rockets do a great job of stockpiling talent and that’s what they’ve done with this pick. Luis Scola has a firm grasp on the power forward position for now but Houston’s current starting center is six-foot-six Chuck Hayes. Hayes is a good player but obviously he’s tremendously undersized.

Here’s the situation for the rest of their big men: Hasheem Thabeet (awful, still young, but awful), Yao Ming (not looking good for the gentle giant), Jordan Hill (a raw athlete with little skills outside of hustle at this point), and Patrick Patterson (a skilled big man that I think can carry a second unit). Motiejunas seems to be more talented than any of those guys right now and he’s got a bright future ahead of him if he can bulk up to play center and mature a bit.

Pacers Acquire George Hill From The Spurs

The San Antonio Spurs made an interesting decision on draft night to deal back-up point guard and Gregg Popovich favorite George Hill to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for the draft rights to Kawhi Leonard. Hill had earned a reputation around San Antonio as somewhat of a staple because of the praise Popovich gave him at every chance but after shopping Tony Parker without coming up with any solid offers, they figured Hill was their most tradeable asset and they were able to nab a great young player for Leonard in return.

A lot of folks think that this trade means that San Antonio highly values Leonard but I think that this trade tells us more about what the Spurs think of Gary Neal. They tried to trade Parker to make Neal the primary back-up point guard to Hill but after that failed they traded Hill to make Neal their primary back-up point guard to Parker. I think San Antonio, as great of a franchise as it may be, learned something from watching the Finals and they started to realize that they could build their second unit around Gary Neal in a Jason Terry kind of way.

If you don’t remember, Neal came out of nowhere and set the world on fire last season. I don’t think he got nearly as much attention as he deserved for his play last season, especially scoring wise. Neal shot 42% from three-point range as a rookie, the 10th best percentage in the entire league. Additionally, Neal shot 44% from 16-23 feet, 52% from 10-15 feet and 81% from the free throw line. In Neal I saw a player that was never afraid to take big shots and I’m not just saying that because of the three he hit against the Grizzlies in the first round. Neal maybe 26 years old entering his second year but his shooting stroke is valuable enough to make him the top scorer on San Antonio’s bench for the next few seasons.

Neal had one of the best true shooting percentages in the league amongst point guards. Of course, one of the very few players that posted a higher true shooting percentage was George Hill. Hill was a different scorer, though, and his outside accuracy isn’t as great as Neal’s. Hill will give the Pacers a steady scorer at the point guard spot but also a very willing defender that can check either guard spot. Hill can also play alongside point guards as we saw in San Antonio when he played with Tony Parker. The Pacers were lacking in the back-up point guard department last season and getting a player like Hill gives Frank Vogel a lot of flexibility in the backcourt. As of now I could see either Hill or Darren Collison winning the job but they will definitely combine for one of the better point guard tandems in the league.

The other player in this trade was Kawhi Leonard and he’s someone that I think could easily start over Richard Jefferson at some point next season. The Spurs realized they made a huge mistake in signing Jefferson and they decided to get themselves a terrific defender and rebounder that has a lot of potential offensively because of his size and athleticism. Though he’s not there yet on offensively his other attributes as well as his intangibles make him the ultimate player for a team like San Antonio and I think he has a bright future with the Spurs.

Looking Back At The 2011 NBA Draft

Well, that was fun. Below is my review of every pick in the draft. As far as trades go involving picks, I’ve just listed the team that the players actually ended up with rather than the team that actually picked them. When it comes to some of the foreign players taken in the later rounds, excuse me for analyzing their names instead of their play.

1st Round

1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Kyrie Irving, Point Guard, Duke

I’ve been vocal about my disapproval with this pick ever since the Cavs won the lottery but even though they were reportedly undecided on the pick until the last moment, they stuck with the popular belief and drafted the Duke point guard. It’s become tiresome for me to hear draft analysts tout Irving’s feel for the game, which is the main reason they give for Irving being the number one pick. I just can’t understand how you can say a guy has a great feel for the game when he played 11 games in college, four of which came against Princeton, Miami (Ohio), Colgate and Hampton. I know he had good numbers but he played 11 games! Talk about a small sample size. I’m sure you can find an 11-game stretch that makes half the stars in the NBA look like Michael Jordan.

I don’t think Irving will be a bust because I don’t think he’ll be flat out awful in the NBA. I could see him being Mike Conley or Mo Williams but those two guys aren’t even in the top 15 point guard discussion. You can definitely be a playoff team with Irving your point guard but he’s still not going to be worth the first overall pick in a draft that came in the year right after LeBron James left town.

Another reason I was surprised the Cavs went with Irving other than the lack of proof that he was worthy of the number one overall selection: Irving likes LeBron James and attended his playoff games in Miami during the post-season. You cannot underestimate the fact that Dan Gilbert absolutely hates LeBron James and it goes far beyond a lack of respect. We all saw the letter he wrote to him after he chose the Heat and we’ve seen his tweets after LeBron’s bad games. Irving has not shied away from the fact that he’s a LeBron fan and has denied wanting to take James’ spot as the star in Cleveland. That’s the opposite frame of mind I’d want in my first overall pick if I was the Cavs. Derrick Williams, on the other hand, has been saying for weeks that he would love to fill LeBron’s spot and has never said a good thing about James.

Oh well, the Cavs chose the consensus number one and even though I completely disagree with the choice, I knew it was going to happen. Still, they have the fourth overall pick to further develop their core.

2. Minnesota Timberwolves – Derrick Williams, Small Forward, Arizona

Regardless of the copious amounts of forwards the T’Wolves, passing on Williams was impossible for Minnesota. He’s too talented and his upside is far greater than any of the other forwards Minny has outside of Kevin Love. Williams is hyper athletic, he has a refined stroke that will translate to NBA three-point range, he’s a versatile forward and can play multiple positions. His position is the only question mark for me at this point but in Minnesota you have to figure he’ll start out playing small forward with Love and Darko. That allows Wesley Johnson to move over to the shooting guard and then Minnesota will be putting out a starting five of Ricky Rubio, Johnson, Williams, Love and Darko.

Michael Beasley will have to be dealt with Williams coming into town and this is probably the most they’ll ever be able to get for him. Though generally he is still regarded as a gunner he did have a very good year last season where he refined his mid-range jumpshot, showed some one-on-one skills in crunch time and didn’t cause any problems in the lockerroom with his attitude. At this point he’s seemed to have matured a bit and his scoring can help a team at either forward spot (though he seemed to settle in at the three last season).

It’d be best for Minnesota to look to acquire a center when they shop Beasley – Miller is a nice short term fix but that position is weak for Minnesota looking down the road. If they can find themselves another center, they could take some steps towards being mediocrity next season, which is big for David Kahn. Of course, they just fired their coach, Ricky Rubio is Rajon Rondo without the ability to score the ball or the ability to defend (translation: he can pass and do nothing else) and Kevin Love is not going to sign an extension in Minnesota unless every other team in the league is over the cap so the future still isn’t all that bright, but at least they should win more than 17 games next season.

3. Utah Jazz – Enes Kanter, Center, Turkey

As much as I don’t like going with an unproven player this early in the draft, Kanter has shown enough in workouts to lead me to believe he’ll be a scoring force in the NBA. Kanter did not play in college because of a NCAA ruling that kept him out of Kentucky but his size is valuable and his offensive versatility and smarts make him a strong prospect for the Jazz.  Utah drafted Kanter because of how good he has looked during workouts but workouts aren’t games and its anybody’s guess as to how well he’ll play against NBA competition but his size makes me a little more comfortable with his potential than Irving’s.

Kanter joins a strong, young frontline in Utah that consists of Derrick Favors, who was a lottery pick by the Nets last season before the Jazz acquired him in the Deron Williams trade, Al Jefferson (despite the injuries, he’s still just 26) and Paul Millsap, who filled Carlos Boozer’s shoes quite nicely last season. You have to figure one of those guys will be traded to clear some playing time – most likely Jefferson, depending on what teams offer – but that’s still a pretty darn good big man rotation and one that could easily be the best in the league down the road should Favors mature into the Tim Duncan-esque scouts thought he would be and Kanter turns out to be as good as he was in his workouts.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers – Tristan Thompson, Power Forward, Texas

The Cleveland Cavaliers had themselves a dream scenario, or at least the best you could hope for after losing a player like LeBron James. They had two picks in the top four, including the first overall pick, and even though this was considered a weak draft, there were four to five players available that could contribute at a decent level going forward. I know I’m probably in the minority when it comes to the Irving pick  but to go with Thompson over Jonas Valanciunas, even with the buyout issues? That’s crazy.

Thompson did one thing pretty well in college: he drew fouls. He got to the line over seven times a game in his lone year at Texas, a pretty good mark for a big man in the Big 12. Of course, its not so good when you factor in Thompson’s 48% free throw shooting. So the one thing Thompson is good at plays into his biggest weaknesses. Sure, he can block shots and defend well but that’s not enough to make up for the abysmal free throw shooting or complete lack of an offensive game. Aside from finishing strong at the rim on putbacks or rolls, Thompson didn’t show a post-game as a Freshman and was inconsistent with his jumper. Thompson also rarely passed the ball and wasn’t a great rebounder. He was just a freshman so his potential to be a good defender and develop something on offense would be enough to make him a late lottery pick but to go with him at four over someone like Valanciunas, who many believe was one of the three most talented players in the draft, is just an awful move.

Looking back, the Cavs look even worse for not choosing the Knight/Williams combo with the 1/4 picks because now they have to settle for Irving and Thompson. I had high hopes for Cleveland when they received two top four picks but I can’t say that I’m impressed with the two players they got at the top of this draft.

5. Toronto Raptors – Jonas Valanciunas, Center, Lithuania

The Raptors are a team that needs help now and even though that Valanciunas’ buyout will keep him overseas for at least a year, he is too good to have dropped past this pick. Valanciunas projects to be the perfect complement for Andrea Bargnani, whom the Raptors seem committed to over long haul. Like Bargnani, Valanciunas is a seven footer from outside the United States but that’s where the similarities end. Valanciunas has a refined post-up game, is an energetic and tough defender and will rebound at a good rate in Toronto, making him the anti-Bargnani in many ways.

Valanciunas’ time overseas will not only allow him the chance to expand his game before coming into the NBA but it will also allow the Raptors some time to see what Ed Davis turns into over the next couple of seasons. Davis could mature to the point where he could fetch a quality wing player, he may end up fitting right in as the third big man behind Bargnani and Valanciunas or he may turn out to be an all-star (a longshot but he is talented), making Valanciunas the trade chip. Either way, it seems like the Raptors got themselves a great player at the five spot and his future in the NBA looks bright once his buyout is solved.

6. Washington Wizards – Jan Vesely, Forward, Czech Republic

One of the very few lottery selections I thought should have been made was done by the Wizards, who had an excellent night overall. Vesely is not the typical European forward that shoots the ball extremely well or a finesse post player – he plays an American-style game with Kevin Durant’s measurements and athleticism (but minus the offense, at least right now). Vesely can jump out of the gym and is an exciting player to watch in transition, making his addition to the Wizards even more intriguing. A John Wall-JaVale McGee-Vesely fastbreak is sure to produce more than a few highlights next season.

Vesely is six-foot-11 and his mobility on the perimeter make him seem like an Andre Kirilenko/swiss army knife type defensive weapon that can guard every position on the floor. Like Kirilenko, he’s a limited offensive player but he’s got some time to improve his offensive game and the Wizards could use an impact defender at the small forward spot even if he’s not an impact scorer in his first few years in the league. Almost all prospects that the Wizards were considering at six raved about playing with John Wall and Vesely was no exception. His defensive impact will be immediate for the Wizards and until he finds his niche offensively his alley-oop connections with Wall on the break will be entertaining enough.

7. Charlotte Bobcats – Bismack Biyombo, Center, Congo

The Bobcats coveted Biyombo and thanks to a three-team deal with the Bucks and Kings they were able to move up in front of the Detroit Pistons by getting Sacramento’s first round pick. The Pistons were also high on Biyombo and probably would have taken him at eight, one spot ahead of Charlotte’s own draft spot. Instead, Biyombo will take his defensive prowess to Charlotte, a team that has been committed to defense over the past few seasons.

As much as Michael Jordan likes Kwame Brown, Biyombo will be a fantastic middle man for the Bobcats over the next few season. I’ve said before that I think that he will seriously challenge Dwight Howard for Defensive Player of the Year in a couple of seasons and I think he’ll also acquire at least one or two offensive abilities as he works with an NBA staff. For now, though, he’s one of the league’s brightest defensive stars and will make a living swatting shots for the Bobcats.

8. Detroit Pistons – Brandon Knight, Point Guard, Kentucky

Knight fell much farther down the board than expected and the youngster was visibly frustrated about it. When he walked across the stage to shake hands with David Stern, he didn’t crack a smile, and he was very terse during his interview with ESPN afterwards. This only helps my case in the Knight over Irving argument because there’s no doubt Knight will have a chip on his shoulder after this. That whole idea is overused but in this case, it was very clear that Knight was pissed about teams that passed on him. I can understand frustration from slipping in the draft but when your name is called, that’s normally a time to celebrate, but Knight wasn’t happy at all and I think that will light a fire under him during the off-season, especially since people constantly doubt his ability to play point guard.

Detroit selecting Knight is a pretty sure sign that Rodney Stuckey will not be brought back next season and Knight will have a good chance to start next season. Will Bynum is a good player but he’s been more useful as a bench combo guard for Detroit recently, making Knight the easy choice for the starting point guard spot. Knight will get a chance to lead the Pistons as they attempt to rebuild around himself, Austin Daye and Greg Monroe.

9. Charlotte Bobcats – Kemba Walker, Guard, Connecticut

I thought Walker and the Bobcats were a match when I did my little mock draft and it ended up happening that way. The Bobcats are in desperate need of players that can score the basketball and Walker scores in his sleep. I’m not sure if he’ll be as dominate as he was in college at the NBA level but there’s no question that he can score. He’s got a solid mid-range jumper and can get to the basket despite his smaller frame. Walker plays like he is well above his actual height and his confidence is a big reason he was so successful at UConn. Walker and D.J. Augustin is a very very very small backcourt but the Bobcats could use Walker as their bench sparkplug in the form of a Jason Terry.

10. Sacramento Kings – Jimmer Fredette, Guard, BYU

Fredette didn’t end up going to any of the teams I wanted to see him play on but he should find a role with the Kings. It will be interesting to see how a backcourt rotation of Fredette, Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans works out because they are all score first, score second, score third type players but Fredette has a chance to be the most efficient of the three, that is unless Tyreke has rediscovered the jumpshot he had in high school, and he’s slated to be their starting point guard at this point. Defense is a question with Fredette but its becoming increasingly obvious that you can get away with a poor defender at the guard spot by mixing up your coverages (ala Dallas).

11. Golden State Warriors – Klay Thompson, Shooting Guard, Washington State

Thompson is an interesting choice for the Warriors. He’s not the kind of two-guard that hogs the ball, so saying that picking Thompson is a sign Golden State will move Ellis is short-sighted because he is the kind of player that can play alongside Ellis and will probably thrive off the bench for his first few years in the league. He’s not the kind of player you draft to replace Ellis and he’s not someone that has been talked about as a potential start. Adding a shooter as good as Thompson is not a bad move in any way but it does not really fit in with the defensive sermon that Mark Jackson has been preaching. It was probably dumb to think that the Warriors would make a serious change defensively because a coach said they were going to put more focus on that end and the Warriors will likely end up being the same fast-paced, offense-first team next season. And if that’s the case, Thompson is a solid pick because of the lack of front court help available at this point.

12. Utah Jazz – Alec Burks, Shooting Guard, Colorado

I thought the Jazz should go with Burks in my mock draft and they ended up choosing the six-foot-six scoring guard. With Kanter completing their talented frontline the biggest need for the Jazz was getting someone who can score from the shooting guard position. I’m sure that Jazz fans would prefer Jimmer here but Burks is a guy that can get to the basket off the dribble, has a great handle and draws fouls at a good rate. His jumpshot will need some work but right now he’s a driver that’s very successful at getting into the lane and the Jazz have been looking for that quality in a player at shooting guard for a long time.

13. Phoenix Suns – Markieff Morris, Forward, Kansas

The Suns have a thin frontline for years but they’ve started taking steps in the right direction of late when it comes to bulking up inside. Trading for Marcin Gortat gave them a legit center, Robin Lopez has improved even if his numbers aren’t great and now they’ve added the younger Morris twin to the bunch. The Suns have now drafted two twins in the past three years and Morris gives them a stretch four that can rebound well and is a big body defensively. I’m not sure if you would call Channing Frye a stretch big man because there are few things that he does that earn the “big man” tag but Morris is certainly a big man. He’s going to be a tough rebounder and a strong defender for Phoenix and his ability to stretch the defense will play into their offensive style.

14. Houston Rockets – Marcus Morris, Forward, Kansas

It was pretty funny to see the twins go back-to-back especially after Marcus said he would send his brother flowers now that they’ll be playing for different teams for the first time in their lives. Morris may not end up a Rocket at the beginning of next season depending on how he plays out position wise (he’s in limbo between the two forward spots) but like his brother he can stretch the floor and he’s a tough player that will play hard. He’s not as good of a defender to my eye and that’s one of the reasons he’s undecided on a position going forward.

15. San Antonio Spurs – Kawhi Leonard, Small Forward, San Diego State

Leonard fell a lot further down the board than I thought he would after the Raptors went with Valanciunas but the Spurs clearly saw his defensive potential and traded George Hill to get him from the Pacers. Because Hill has been such a Popavich favorite over the past few years this was a surprising trade but I think it has a little more to do with their infatuation with Gary Neal, who was one of the best shooters in the league last season, than their infatuation with Leonard. Because they couldn’t find a trade for Tony Parker their best option to get Neal more playing time was to trade Hill and they ended up getting a very good intangibles player that will fit in well in San Antonio. In fact, I think he stands a good chance to start at small forward over Richard Jefferson next season given Jefferson’s horrible play last year.

16. Philadelphia 76ers - Nikola Vucevic, Center, USC

Vucevic was the tallest player in this year’s draft and the 76ers were one of the teams in desperate need of size coming into the draft. Their lack of a center was hidden by the fact that they made the playoffs and weren’t destroyed by the Heat but they certainly have a big hole at the center position. In case your forgot, Spencer Hawes was their starting center last year. Needless to say, Vucevic, being one of the few centers in this draft, will fill a need and he has shown some polish in the lowpost on offense. Defensively, he’s no BISMACK but he’s a mobile guy that will block some shots and will do a better job protecting the rim than Hawes.

17. New York Knicks – Iman Shumpert, Guard, Georgia Tech

New York fans reactions to draft picks are often negative and incorrect but when they boo’ed the Knicks’ selection of Shumpert last night they were perfectly within their rights. Shumpert has a reputation as a solid defender, he’s athletic and he played a little point guard at Georgia Tech (though I don’t think that will translate to the NBA). But he’s also got a reputation for being a bit too cocky and if the Knicks passed on two superior wing players to pick him: dynamic scorer MarShon Brooks and…

18. Washington Wizards – Chris Singleton, Small Forward, Florida State

The most puzzling thing about the Knicks taking Shumpert because they liked his defense was that Chris Singleton, the best defender in the draft, was available. Singleton is a Wizard, instead, and now Washington has acquired themselves two excellent, athletic defenders in this draft and I’m starting to like the way that team is coming together. They have dynamic scorers in Wall, Nick Young (assuming he re-signs), Jordan Crawford (always loved his game) and even Andray Blatche on good nights and they have athletic freaks that can defend in Vesely, Singleton and McGee (though he’s really just a highlight shotblocker at this point) and they have a few role players that make the difference between the eighth seed and the 10th seed over the course of a season with Maurice Evans and Trevor Booker. Singleton is going to look good running the break with Wall as well and he’s another defensive stud that will help improve the league’s 23rd worst defense going forward.

19. Milwaukee Bucks – Tobias Harris, Forward, Tennessee

Milwaukee has been looking for a wing scorer to pair with Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut for the next few years and their attempts to make John Salmons and Corey Maggette that guy failed – they traded both of them yesterday. Aside from the fact that they acquired Stephen Jackson in those deals, they still need a young scorer and Harris figures to be that guy. He’s a smart kid, he can play the two, the three or the four and he’s a pretty good ball-handler for a six-foot-eight kid.

20. Houston Rockets – Donatas Motiejunas, Power Forward, Lithuania

Motiejunas is compared to Dirk and Andrea Bargnani because of his ability to shoot the ball from outside. Like Dirk and Bargnani he’s seven feet tall and he has range on his jumpshot. The Rockets do a great job of stockpiling talent and that’s what they’ve done with this pick. Luis Scola has a firm grasp on the power forward position for now but Houston’s current starting center is six-foot-six Chuck Hayes. Hayes is a good player but obviously he’s tremendously undersized. Here’s the situation for the rest of their big men: Hasheem Thabeet (awful, still young, but awful), Brad Miller (traded to Minnesota to get this pick and Jonny Flynn), Yao Ming (not looking good for the gentle giant), Jordan Hill (a raw athlete with little skills outside of hustle at this point), and Patrick Patterson (a skilled big man that I think can carry a second unit). Motiejunas seems to be more talented than any of those guys right now and he’s got a bright future ahead of him if he can bulk up to play center.

21. Portland Trail Blazers – Nolan Smith, Point Guard, Duke

The Blazers surprised a lot of people when they drafted Smith here because most believed he would go in the middle of the second round. Smith can score and he’s a little bit like Kemba Walker in that he can create his own shot. He’s not as quick as Kemba but he can shoot the three ball at a decent clip and he’s a bit taller. Smith is not a true point guard but he’s someone that can come in off the bench and put points on the board.

22. Denver Nuggets – Kenneth Faried, Power Forward, Morehead State

Faried is one of the most likable players in the draft simply because he has an undying passion to rebound the basketball, giving him one elite skill that will keep him in the NBA for a while. The Nuggets could use a hustle player like Faried and I think he’ll be a favorite of George Karl immediately because of his work ethic. Faried may struggle offensively but he’s just so energetic on the glass that he will get some burn with the Nuggets.

23. Chicago Bulls – Nikola Mirotic, Small Forward, Serbia

Mirotic is a project pick but the Bulls are team that can afford to wait until he is done developing and he projects to be exactly what they need down the line. The Bulls need scoring and because there were no scorers available when they picked, they went with a scorer that’s a few years away from playing in the NBA but also one with lottery talent that will relish the time he has oversees to develop into a star. If he fulfills his potential he’ll be a terrific scorer both in the paint and on the perimeter than can replace Carlos Boozer in the starting line-up. If he ends up being more of a small forward the Bulls can still trot out a line-up of Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Mirotic, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah. That’s a pretty darn good unit.

24. Oklahoma City – Reggie Jackson, Point Guard, Boston College

There were rumors before the draft that the Thunder were looking to move Eric Maynor to move into the lottery and the fact that they drafted Jackson makes me wonder about Maynor’s future in OKC. Or do they think that Jackson has the potential to be a starter at point in the NBA (some scouts agree) and think the rift between Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant is real? I’m not sure right not but it is interesting to see the Thunder go with Jackson, their fourth point guard, when they could have added Jordan Hamilton, a small forward that has a sweet stroke and would finally give Durant a back-up.

25. New Jersey Nets – Marshon Brooks, Shooting Guard, Providence

The Nets netted themselves quite the player in Marshon Brooks when they moved up two spots to take him. Brooks is a flat out scorer that has shown some similarities to Kobe Bryant. He’s not a great athlete but he can shoot, he can get to the basket and he’s extremely confident. The Nets haven’t had a good wing scorer since Vince Carter was in town and Brooks figures to be a star in this league because of his ability to score points.

26. Denver Nuggets – Jordan Hamilton, Small Forward, Texas

Hamilton was one of the best shooters in this draft so it was a bit surprising to see him fall all the way to 26. The Nuggets will need a scorer to replace J.R. Smith assuming Denver doesn’t resign him this summer and if Hamilton ends up being more of a two guard than a small forward, this will work out well for the Nuggets, who love to get scorers/shooters when they can. If he’s a small forward, it’s hard to imagine him getting a ton of minutes ahead of Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari.

27. Boston Celtics – JaJuan Johnson, Power Forward, Purdue

Johnson is an explosive leaper at the power forward position that figures to help the Celtics’ exposed second unit, especially with Glen Davis likely to go elsewhere. Johnson didn’t shoot a great percentage as a senior but he did pull down close to nine rebounds a game while blocking two shots a night as well. Additionally, he’s got range on his jumpshot and even experimented from the college three-point range with marginal success. “Soft” is a word a lot of folks use to describe him which means Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O’Neal will have to fight to see who mentors him.

28. Miami Heat – Norris Cole, Point Guard, Cleveland State

Cole was an excellent pick for the Heat that they took with the Bulls’ pick (ironic because I really thought Cole would be good for Chicago). Cole is a very versatile point guard that did everything for his team last season. At a bigger program this kid would probably be a top 10 pick but instead the Heat snuck into the end of the first round and snagged him. Cole is a do-it-all player that can score, pass, rebound (for a point guard) and defend. Being that Miami’s biggest weaknesses were point guard and center, getting Cole was a fantastic pick. Cole is better than Mario Chalmers right now and even though Chalmers will likely start, Cole is lurking and he’s superior to Chalmers in almost every facet of the game. Cole also had the best individual game of the season when he dropped 41 points on 11-of-22 shooting (five-of-10 from three), grabbed 20 rebounds and dished out nine assists.

29. San Antonio Spurs – Cory Joseph, Point Guard, Texas

This pick didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Joseph did not show one elite skill in college and the Spurs opened up a spot at back-up point guard for Gary Neal when they traded George Hill. I’m not sure what kind of role Joseph will play with the Spurs and until that’s determined I’m very confused by this move.

30. Chicago Bulls – Jimmy Butler, Small Forward, Marquette

Butler’s story is an inspirational one and you have to figure the work ethic that got him from homeless to the hardwood with mesh well with the Bulls collective hard-working attitude. Butler is a great defensive player, a versatile athlete and someone that will score without having plays drawn up for him. I know the Bulls need a scorer that can have plays drawn up for him but that player wasn’t available so they added a hard-worker that made himself an NBA player despite a horrible situation in his personal life.

2nd Round

31. New Jersey Nets - Bojan Bogdanovic, Small Forward, Bosnia

We’re at that time with the foreign players. Here’s the template going forward. NBA Skill: Scorer. Staying Overseas?: Yes. Name: The intriguing thing to me about Bojan Bogdanovic is that he has several smaller names hidden inside of his actual name. Bo, Jan, Dan, Vic. Its hard for me to believe that his nickname in the NBA won’t be BoBo and that Nets fans won’t be coo coo for BoBo puffs.

32. Orlando Magic – Justin Harper, Power Forward, Richmond

After pulling off one of the worst contract swaps of all-time when the Magic dealt Rashard Lewis for Gilbert Arenas, the Magic have drafted a player that compares to Lewis. Harper was tagged as the best shooting big man in the draft and he certainly has the potential to score the ball from the outside for Orlando. The Magic lacked that outside game that made them special when they went to the Finals in 2009 and their team three-point percentage dropped from 3rd best in 09/10 to 10th best in 10/11.

33. Detroit Pistons – Kyle Singler, Small Forward, Duke

I’ve never been high on Singler because he’s got a shooter’s body but can shoot. He’s not a strong guy, he’s not a quick guy and he’s not someone that’s going to get to the basket all that often against NBA defenses. Singler did shoot 39% from three back in 09/10 but that number regressed to 32% last year and he took a backseat to Nolan Smith for most of the season when he projected to be a much higher pick after last season. If he can regain his stroke this isn’t a bad find but he reminds me a lot of Andy Rautins from last year who played five games for the Knicks as a rookie.

34. Washington Wizards – Shelvin Mack, Point Guard, Butler

The Wizards capped of their excellent draft night with Shelvin Mack. If there was any glaring hole on their roster after they picked up two excellent defensive minded forwards it would be getting a back-up point guard for John Wall and Mack will fill that role to a tee. Mack is Kemba Walker-like, a winner with an aggressive attitude. He went to back to back Final Fours as the team leader at Butler and he hit big shots for them as well. Mack is a perfect fit for the Wizards because he adds scoring punch, he’s a tough defender and he’s a great leader and leaders on the second unit is a quality coveted around the league.

35. Sacramento Kings – Tyler Honeycutt, Small Forward, UCLA

Honeycutt projects to be a lockdown defender and a point forward for the Kings. Its entirely possible that Honeycutt will be Sacramento’s best passer next season with all of their guards being shot-first guys. Honeycutt can’t score like LeBron but he is a great athlete, a great defender and he has the potential to be a great passer as well so long as the Kings let him handle the ball a fair amount. Look for Honeycutt to take a lot of Donte Greene’s minutes this season after Greene failed to prove himself last season.

36. New Jersey Nets – Jordan Williams, Center, Maryland

Williams is undersized but he’s going to rebound like mad and that’s the appeal with the 36th pick in the draft. You can’t really point out another outstanding strength for Williams but he’s got a decent touch around the rim and can score down low because he uses his physical strength to back down his man, allowing him to get close to the rim. He’s not a great athlete, though, and he’s not a great passer either, which will cause problems for him in the NBA when he gets stuck against more athletic players that don’t give in to his strength. However, if he can add a mid-range jumper he can be a poor man’s Kris Humphries sans Kardashian.

37. Los Angeles Clippers - Trey Thompkins, Power Forward, Georgia

For whatever reason I think every player from Georgia is an underachiever/full of himself/lazy/not committed to their respective sport. Actually, that reason is Matthew Stafford. Unfortunately Thompkins provides fodder for my stereotype as conditioning issues prevented him from being a lottery pick. He’s one of the better scoring big men in this draft but he has to get into better shape and refine his tendency to forego his inside game in favor of lazy jumpers.

38. Houston Rockets – Chandler Parsons, Small Forward, Florida

If you’re like me the second you heard Parsons was going to the Rockets you jumped for joy knowing he will be on the same team as Chase Budinger at least until he’s not on the same team as Chase Budinger, which could be before the season begins because the Rockets already have three small forwards on the roster (Marcus Morris, Budinger, Terrence Williams). But until then I hope Parsons, who is a smart player with passing skills, and Budinger play a game of volleyball against each other at some point this summer.

39. Golden State Warriors – Jeremy Tyler, Power Forward, High School Junior

According to the United States of America Department of Education, I am a smarter man than Jeremy Tyler, who did not complete high school so that he could go Brandon Jennings on the world even though he didn’t prove much of anything overseas. Had Tyler just completed his senior campaign and played one year in college there’s a good chance he would have been a lottery pick in the future but instead he’s a project that has not matured fully as a person. That will need to change and he’ll need to get into better shape before he can find a spot in the NBA.

40. Milwaukee Bucks – Jon Leuer, Power Forward, Wisconsin – I’ll admit that I thought Leuer was the red-headed guy from Wisconsin prior to him getting picked but be actually reminds me a bit of Brook Lopez. He likes to shoot from the perimeter, he’s smart and he’s a pretty bad rebounder for a seven footer. The difference with Leuer is that he has fewer lost post moves but has the ability to step out a few feet further on his jumper. He hit a good number of three’s from college range and if he can adjust to NBA range he’ll be a solid, hometown pick for the Bucks that complements Andrew Bogut’s game.

41. Los Angeles Lakers – Darius Morris, Point Guard, Michigan

A lot of scouts belief that Morris could end up being the steal of the draft at 41 because of his size and natural passing abilities. Miller sees the floor very well and has a little showtime in him when it comes to making his passes look pretty. Morris is six-foot-five and his size gives him great defensive potential. With Mike Brown in town Morris may be able to step up his game as a defender and with Shannon Brown likely leaving town, there will be a spot open for a bigger guard and though Morris has a shaky outside shot, his playmaking and defensive abilities may be enough to warrant a roster spot.

42. San Antonio Spurs – Davis Bertans, Small Forward, Latvia

NBA Skill: Outside shot. Staying Overseas?: Yes. Name: In case you didn’t know, Bertans’ name is synonymous with housewives and he is an expert in square footage and gardening.

43. Minnesota Timberwolves – Malcolm Lee, Shooting Guard, UCLA

Lee is a terrific defender, extremely athletic and can really attack the basket. In a perfect world he turns into the shooting guard version of Russell Westbrook if Russell Westbrook wasn’t really a shooting guard. In an imperfect world, he’s a fantastic defender that scores in transition and rebounds at an above average rate for a shooting guard.

44. Golden State Warriors – Charles Jenkins, Point Guard, Hofstra

Jenkins is a very good scorer that can play either guard positions and projects to be a pretty good scorer at the NBA level. He could be Monta Ellis or he could be Stephen Curry or he could back up both since he can play either guard position. Being Monta Ellis could be a pretty good gig for Jenkins in the event that actual Monta Ellis is traded.

45. New York Knicks – Josh Harrellson, Center, Kentucky

Harrellson is a hard-worker that turned himself into an important player for the Wildcats last season. A lot of people are down on this pick but Harrellson is six-foot-10 and the Knicks need all the size they can get. He may not be a great offensive player but I’m sure what adding a great offensive player at the center spot would do for the Knicks seeing as he’d never get the ball. Harrellson on the other hand will work hard on the glass and will be fine with scoring on putbacks. Additionally, Harrellson made Jared Sullinger work very hard on the NCAA Tournament when Kentucky took down Ohio State and he’s an active defender.

46. Los Angeles Lakers - Andrew Goudelock, Guard, College of Charleston

After taking a bigger guard with great passing skills and a questionable shot five picks earlier the Lakers went with a smaller guard that’s not a true point but was one of the best shooters in the draft with Goudelock. Goudelock, who was also drafted by the Harlem Globetrotters, though I’m pretty sure the Globetrotters were the only team in said draft, won the college three-point shootout last season, is the top scorer in the history of the CoC, made the 11th most three’s in NCAA-D1 history and would give the Lakers a much needed outside shot should he make the team. That’s not a certainty at this point because he’s not a true point but if Derrick Caracter doesn’t return – likely because of his off-the-court incidents – Goudelock may stick around the Lakers even if he’s not active the entire year.

47. Los Angeles Clippers – Travis Leslie, Guard, Georgia

Travis Leslie will add to the copious amounts of impressive dunkers in Clipperland but he’s a suspect shooter and his only way of scoring the ball at this point is getting to the basket which is a lot harder to do in the NBA. He’s also a pretty disinterested defender most of the time.

48. Atlanta Hawks – Keith Benson, Center, Oakland

Benson is an athletic forward with long arms but isn’t a banger and prefers to play the game 18-feet from the basket. He’s really a power forward and he played out of position on college. He’ll have trouble defending other centers in the NBA so a position change is preferred. But if the Hawks drafted him thinking they got a center to play alongside Al Horford they drafted the wrong guy. Benson plays a similar game to Horford and wouldn’t provide the tough inside force they need. He’s (probably) better than Josh Powell so he may stick but he’ll struggle to get any significant time on this team.

49. Memphis Grizzlies – Josh Selby, Guard, Kansas

Almost every connected NBA person believes Selby is a lottery talent but medical issues with his knee, a suspension as a freshman that cost him a chunk of his season and the lack of a position at Kansas really hurt him in this draft. Selby can be great or he be Willie Warren. He can be a light’s out shooter or he could be J.R. Smith. Selby is a mystery right now but to get him at 49, considering his upside, is a steal for the Grizzlies, who have turned into one of the best run teams in the league of late.

50. Philadelphia 76ers – Lavoy Allen, Power Forward, Temple

Allen was a good rebounder and defender in college and those are two things the Sixers value but he’s got work to do offensively. If Allen sticks it will be based on his energy but the Sixers need size so they may be desperate to keep Allen.

51. Portland Trail Blazers – Jon Diebler, Shooting Guard, Ohio State

Diebler can shoot and when he’s open his shots will go in. Diebler’s entire college career was based on that fact and apparently he made enough shots without doing anything else to convince the Blazers that he could make shots in the NBA. I think he can but he may have a little Andy Rautins in him as well.

52. Detroit Pistons – Vernon Macklin, Power Forward, Florida

Macklin is a very tough low post player that has a solid array of post moves. He improved steadily during his college career at Florida and so long as he can work on his focus, he’ll be a great pick-up for the Pistons because he is a big body defensively, can run the floor with Brandon Knight and can score in a pinch.

53. Orlando Magic – DeAndre Liggins, Small Forward, Kentucky

Liggins doesn’t have a whole lot of offense in his game other than finishing on the break thanks to his tremendous athleticism but he sure can defend. His six-foot-seven frame make him a very long defender and the Magic may have found themselves a defensive stopper if Liggins can showcase at least one offensive ability that makes him a viable candidate for a roster spot.

54. Cleveland Cavaliers - Milan Macvan, Power Forward, Serbia

NBA Skill: Strength. Staying Overseas?: Yes. Name: I’m a big fan of alliteration with names and Milan Macvan delivers. He also has the unique combination of a MacIntosh computer and a transportation device for families, normally driven by soccer moms. I believe the Macvan will be Apple’s big seller in 2029.

55. Boston Celtics – E’Twaun Moore, Shooting Guard, Purdue

The Celtics need a shooting guard and Moore plays that position. He also went to the same school as Boston’s first round pick JaJuan Johnson making the Moore/Johnson tandem the second pair of collegiate teammates to get drafted by the same NBA team this year (Thompkins/Leslie from Georgia being the other). Moore is a shooter and he shot above 40% from three in two of his four collegiate seasons so he may find a spot in Boston.

56. Denver Nuggets - Chukwudiebere Maduabum, Power Forward, Nigeria

NBA Skill: Name. Staying Overseas?: Name. Name: Chukwudiebere Maduabum. Read that name again. And again. And again. Now try to say it without laughing or messing up. You can’t. I thought BISMACK Biyombo had best name locked away coming into this draft but Chukwudiebere Maduabum, or Chu Chu as he was affectionately known in the D-League, stole the show.

57. Minnesota Timberwolves - Targuy Ngombo, Small Forward, Serbia

NBA Skill: Athletic scorer. Staying Overseas?: Yes. Name: I like the combination of his gender (guy), his favorite food (gumbo) and his vice (tar pits).

58. Los Angeles Lakers - Ater Majok, Power Forward, Austraila

NBA Skill: Unknown Staying Overseas?: Yes. Name: Ater Major is not a long name but it kind of sounds like “alter my jock” so there’s that.

59. San Antonio Spurs – Adam Hanga, Shooting Guard, Hungary

NBA Skill: Athletic. Staying Overseas?: Yes. Name: Hanga and Hungary kind of sound the same. Not really but kinda.

60. Sacramento Kings – Isaiah Thomas, Point Guard, Washington

For all of the talk about Kahn being obsessed with point guards, take a look at this group of score-first ball hogs that the Kings have assembled: Tyreke Evans, Jimmer Fredette, Marcus Thornton, Pooh Jeter and Isaiah Thomas. Thomas is quick and he had some Kemba-like moments last season but he’s small and his scoring efficiency will be an issue at this level.

My thoughts on the NBA players that were moved around yesterday will be up tomorrow.

My 2011 NBA Mock Draft

The following mock draft is not based on what I think will happen but rather what I think each team should do with their picks during the lottery. Enjoy.

1st Pick, 1st Round – Cleveland Cavaliers – Derrick Williams, Forward, Arizona

I’ve been saying ever since the Cavaliers won the lottery that Derrick Williams should be the pick here. Over the past month, I haven’t seen or heard anything to change my point of view. Here’s the thing: Derrick Williams is six-foot-nine, he shot 60% from three during the regular season last year, he carried his team to Sweet Sixteen victory over Irving and his Blue Devils with a 32 point (11-of-17 shooting) performance while adding five three’s, 13 rebounds and two monster dunks, and he’s the best athletes in the draft. On the other hand, Kyrie Irving played in 11 games.

I know, I know, Irving showed flashes of greatness during his 11-game stretch but its just incredibly hard for me to believe that its safer to go with a player that played 11 games in college and is coming off of a serious toe injury rather than a proven star in Williams that excelled during the NCAA tournament, stroking three’s with ease despite a broken finger as some have suggested. I understand that Irving could be a great point guard but everybody has a chance to BE something. But what is he? Right now, there’s no way to know. Most people figure that he won’t be a bust, no matter what, but I just don’t think he’s got the skills to reach the ceiling of Chris Paul that some have set for him.

Instead, I’d go with Williams, who looked like as much of a for sure thing as you can have last season. The only issue with Williams is his position and whether he will be a small forward or a power forward at the NBA level. Either way, I see him being a more athletic version of David West or Paul Pierce at the NBA level and Cleveland could definitely use a star at small forward to replace LeBron James if he ends up playing that position. If he ends up being a power forward, then perhaps the Cavaliers could put together a package revolving around J.J. Hickson to get Rudy Gay from Memphis to play small forward.

To me, that’s a better scenario than building around Irving, who is completely unproven in my eyes.

2nd Pick, 1st Round – Minnesota Timberwolves – Enes Kanter, Forward/Center, Turkey

Obviously, it’d be a train wreck if Minnesota went with Kyrie Irving, especially with Ricky Rubio coming over from Spain earlier this week. Thus, going with Kanter is the obvious move at this juncture. As much as I don’t like going with an unproven player this early in the draft, Kanter has shown enough in workouts to lead me to believe he’ll be a scoring force in the NBA. Kanter did not play in college because of a NCAA ruling that kept him out of Kentucky but his size is valuable and his offensive versatility and smarts make him a strong prospect for the Timberwolves.

Ironically, the worst case scenario for Kanter would be to turn into current Minnesota center Darko Milicic. It may be unfair to throw that comparison at any foreign player in the NBA draft but because we didn’t get to see him last year its hard to say Kanter is a sure thing. Minnesota would be drafting Kanter because of how good he has looked during workouts but workouts aren’t games and its anybody’s guess as to how well he’ll play against NBA competition.

3rd Pick, 1st Round – Utah Jazz – Kyrie Irving, Point Guard, Duke

This would be a dream scenario for the Jazz, who would love to land a long-term replacement for Deron Williams. Unlike Cleveland, taking a gamble on an unproven talent like Irving isn’t that big of a problem for Utah because if he doesn’t end up working out, they still have Devin Harris under contract until the 2012/13 season. There was a time when Devin Harris looked like an all-star point guard but now he’s simply a good player. I don’t really know why he’s had such a decline or if he’s even declined at all. Harris’ numbers have been largely the same over the course of his career until his all-star campaign in 29 but even then the only difference was his scoring, a bi-product of the most shot attempts per game of his career.

Injuries have certainly played a major factor in his career as well and getting a player like Irving could add some insurance for Harris should he get hurt. Two seasons ago Chris Paul and Darren Collison were able to effectively contribute at the point guard spot on the same team and I’d imagine a similar split between Harris and Irving would be in the Jazz’s plans should they take him. Additionally, with the 12th pick in their back pocket, the Jazz will have a chance to improve their wing positions just a few picks down in the first round.

4th Pick, 1st Round – Cleveland Cavaliers – Brandon Knight, Point Guard, Kentucky

Cleveland ends up getting a point guard after all and I’m really not all that sure that he’s behind Irving in terms of talent or skill. It may seem like I’m dogging Irving a lot but I have doubts about a player that played 11 games being compared to Chris Paul. Knight, on the other hand, played the entire season at Kentucky and was able to put up some good numbers despite playing with other lottery level talent. Knight got better as the season went along and as his understanding of the offense improved. In the NCAA tournament Knight had a couple of game-winning shots that showed he’s unafraid of the moment and one of those shots came after a putrid performance in the first 39 minutes, which tells you a little about his resiliency.

Knight is already a steady shooter and he’s a natural scorer that has decent play making skills. Irving may be more of a pure point guard but Knight is just as good of a player in my mind, if not better, and I think that a core of Knight, Williams, Christian Eyenga, J.J. Hickson and Anderson Varejao is a pretty good start for the Cavaliers in their post-LeBron rebuilding process.

5th Pick, 1st Round – Toronto Raptors – Kawhi Leonard, Small Forward, San Diego State

The Raptors seem to be headed in the right direction. They’ve collected a good amount of talent over the past few years and the hiring of Dwyane Casey earlier this week shows that management is committed to turning the tide on the horrid defense that has prevented them from taking the next step over the past few seasons. A lot of folks think Kemba Walker could go here and I think that’d be a nice pick-up for the Raptors but if they want to take the first step towards turning around their defense, it’d be drafting a defensive specialist like Leonard.

Leonard reminds me a lot of Gerald Wallace (because of the defense, not the cornrows) with a little bit of Rajon Rondo mixed in (because of the freakishly large hands). Leonard could start right away at small forward for the Raptors at small forward, forming a nice offense/defense tandem with DeMar DeRozan at the two. Scouts rave about Leonard’s intangibles and his skillset seems perfect for a team looking for a new defensive attitude like the Raptors.

6th Pick, 1st Round – Washington Wizards - Jan Vesely, Forward, Czech Republic

The Wizards have young prospects at every position except small forward (Maurice Evans is currently listed as their starter though I always slide Jordan Crawford down to small forward when I play with the Wizards in 2K11). Vesely is certainly big for a small forward but that’s the position that he projects to play at the NBA level. Vesely is six-foot-11 and his mobility on the perimeter make him seem like an Andre Kirilenko/swiss army knife type defensive weapon that can guard every position on the floor. Like Kirilenko, he’s a limited offensive player but he’s got some time to improve his offensive game and the Wizards could use an impact defender at the small forward spot even if he’s not an impact scorer in his first few years in the league.

7th Pick, 1st Round – Sacramento Kings – Klay Thompson, Guard, Washington State

There is some chatter around the league that the Kings may end up trading this pick to the San Antonio Spurs in a deal for Tony Parker – which I could not disagree with more – so there’s a chance they won’t be picking here. But if they end up keeping the pick, Klay Thompson is a guy that can come add a shooting dynamic that the Kings could use at the shooting guard or small forward position. Because the Kings have decided to play Tyreke Evans at the two guard Thompson would likely start out as a James Harden-type scorer off the bench but if he shoots well enough he may have a shot to start at small forward for the Kings.

8th Pick, 1st Round – Detroit Pistons – Bismack Biyombo, Center, Congo

Biyombo is Ben Wallace 2.0. A six-foot-nine center with serious Defensive Player of the Year potential with a bulky frame and the ability to block shots at an extremely high rate. Drafting Biyombo will allow Detroit to move Greg Monroe to his natural position of power forward where the Pistons can run offense through him at the high post. Biyombo will also get to play alongside Ben Wallace 1.0 or at least learn from him for two seasons while backing him up. I really think Biyombo can challenge Dwight Howard for DPoY for the next few seasons and being in a Jedi/Padawan relationship with Wallace can do wonders for his career.

9th Pick, 1st Round – Charlotte Bobcats – Kemba Walker, Guard, UConn

The Bobcats are in desperate need of players that can score the basketball and Walker scores in his sleep. I’m not sure if he’ll be as dominate as he was in college at the NBA level but there’s no question that he can score. He’s got a solid mid-range jumper and can get to the basket despite his smaller frame. Walker plays like he is well above his actual height and his confidence is a big reason he was so successful at UConn. Walker and D.J. Augustin is a very very very small backcourt but the Bobcats could use Walker as their bench sparkplug in the form of a Jason Terry.

10th Pick, 1st Round – Milwaukee Bucks - Jonas Valanciunas, Center, Lithuania

According to recent reports, Valanciunas will be unable to play in the NBA next season due to a contract issue with his team in Europe but Yahoo! Sports reports that the Bucks are one of the teams in the lottery that are fine with waiting until he can be bought out from his foreign club. A frontline of Valanciunas and Andrew Bogut is a scary one to ponder and would make the Bucks even tougher to score on than they already are.

11th Pick, 1st Round – Golden State Warriors - Tristan Thompson, Forward, Texas

The Warriors haven’t had all that much success drafting power forwards recently but Thompson is a solid scorer that contribute right away off the bench behind David Lee. Depending on whether or not the Warriors trade Monta Ellis, their starting line-up for next season seems set but getting a player like Thompson to come off the bench and score will help tremendously for a second unit that struggles to put points on the board inside the paint.

12th Pick, 1st Round – Utah Jazz – Alec Burks, Shooting Guard, Colorado

I know, I know, it would be impossible for the Jazz to pass on Jimmer at this point but Burks makes more sense in this mock because they got Irving at three. Burks is a six-foot-six wing player that has shown some ability to play point in a pinch as well as score the ball at a high rate. His three-point shot is shaky but he’s an athletic player that draws fouls well and can get to the basket often. Burks is exactly the kind of slasher that the Jazz need and adding him with Irving a core of Harris, Jefferson and Millsap puts Utah back in playoff contention.

13th Pick, 1st Round – Phoenix Suns – Jimmer Fredette, Guard, BYU

Having Fredette playing alongside Steve Nash is even more enticing to me than Jimmer playing in Utah. Not only would Jimmer have ample opportunities from deep but having Nash as a mentor for a player of Jimmer’s natural abilities could produce an all-star in Fredette. Jimmer has a tiring work ethic and I’m sure that Nash would immediately appreciate that. Fredette may not have the court vision that Nash has but he does have the stroke and his skillset makes him a nice player for Nash to mold into a star as he enters into the final years of his career.

14th Pick, 1st Round – Houston Rockets – Chris Singleton, Forward, Florida State

Since the Rockets traded Shane Battier, they could use an excellent defender at the small forward spot to fill his role and Singleton is just about as good of an individual defender that there is in the draft. Singleton is a tremendous athlete, versatile, mobile and has some range on his jumpshot. He may not be a great all-around scorer but he can catch and shoot and he has the ability to lockdown on the opposition. The Rockets love players like Singleton and even though Houston already has two small forwards in Terrence Williams and Chase Budinger on the roster, neither of them can defender like Singleton.

That’s it for my mock draft. I didn’t want to go further than the lottery because I’m all that familiar with the players outside of the top 15 or so. I’ll be spending the majority of the next 36 hours watching the other guys on Synergy and will have analysis on every pick in the draft come Friday morning.