Wednesday, June 23, 2010

NBA Draft Coverage 2010

Hi all, I'll be making a live blog report of the 2010 NBA Draft at 7.30 am on the 25/6/2010. My comments and analysis of each pick will be below.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Official Omphalos Mock Draft 2010

So in the leadup to the 2010 draft I finally got around to creating a mock draft over on Keep in mind I draft based on team need not the "best player available" system. Honestly, if teams stopped reloading so often and stuck to their guns by trying to build a complete team with their lottery picks rather than grabbing for talent there could be more parity in the league. Oh well. I've only done the first round because the second is just too hazy given how little college I was able to watch. Expand it for comments on each pick.



Monday, June 21, 2010

Greener Pastures

I always thought there was something fishy about Jeff Green when I saw him guarding Kobe Bryant and hocking up 3 balls. Given the lack of airtime OKC got I didn't know too much about him. Just today I was listening on in a discussion about the future of OKC and they said he was a 3 playing the 4 spot. Now, by all means he would be a valuable young 3 for most teams, but with KD finding his groove there, it seems unlikely that Jeff will be getting many minutes at the 3. What OKC need is a scoring PF. Jeff Green isn't going to be that guy, and with KD playing so many minutes he won't be having an impact off the bench if he moved to backup SF.

So then I got thinking, and it occurred to me that Green would be a perfect fit for the T'Wolves. It seems that Minnesota won't be successful without a true C, and Jefferson isn't it. He is undersized and would get eaten alive in the Playoffs in the West at that position. With Kevin Love (another PF) looking to get better and being more of a triangle PF, a trade of Green for Jefferson would be a great fit. It would allow Minnesota options in the draft. With Green and Love locked in at the 3 and 4, Flynn manning the point until Ricky gets over here they have options at the number 4 pick, 16, and 23. With Jefferson traded, they will have a very young core which can develop together and be a threat in years to come.

So let's look at their options at the 4; it comes down to a C or SG. Wesley Johnson or Demarcus Cousins could be a great fit at those positions. However, Cousins has a few red flags, and the culture at the T'Wolves probably won't inspire him to straighten out. Johnson is ready to ball right away, and has already played well with Johnny Flynn at Syracuse in the past. With the 16 pick they can take either a project like Hassan Whiteside or Daniel Orton. Cole Aldrich would be perfect but it is unlikely that he will fall that far. If they draft Cousins with the 4 then someone like Damion James could be the perfect fit for the 2-guard. With his reliance on the mid-range jumper, a highly efficient shooting percentage and a defensive mindset he could be part of an OKC-like turnaround in just a few years.

Either of these lineups would be great to watch in the future, and could easily threaten for a playoff spot in a few years;

PG - Rubio/Flynn
SG - Johnson
SF - Green
PF - Love
C - Whiteside


PG - Flynn
SG - James
SF - Green
PF - Love
C - Cousins.

However, OKC seems committed to keeping its young core together. But of these young picks, Green seems the most likely to be moved.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Combination theory

These days it isn't enough to just have one megawatt star if you want to be successful (see Cleveland Cavaliers); there is a lot of talk about needing a one-two punch. But this isn't just a recent trend, combination theory has been around for decades. So let's take a look at which combinations have been successful in the past and how teams could emulate them in light of this free agent feeding frenzy.

  • PG and C: This combo has worked countless times before, because these are the two hardest positions to fill, and when you have talented players in both positions things get a lot easier for you. Just ask Magic and Kareem. The greatest point guard in the history of the game and the all-time leading scorer knew how to win games and championships. At the moment, there are few combinations like this in the League enjoying any real success, which is mainly because of the dropoff in quality centres. The NBA is in a transition period where a lot of centres are either dinosaurs or children. If the Nets had managed to land John Wall we could have had Magic-Kareem 2.0 but I guess for now we'll have to settle for what we have got. What we have is Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson. While Superman's offensive game is still in its infancy, he and Nelson have built a chemistry that leads to more embarrassing alley-oops than should be legal in the pro ranks. While they have yet to capture a championship, they looked to be the best team in basketball towards the end of the season, and given growth from Howard could be even tougher to beat. A healthy Bogut and a more mature Brandon Jennings are also nothing to sneeze at. With no superstar Cs or PGs on the market this off-season, free agency isn't likely to have an impact.
  • PG and PF: Once again we have a little and a big. PFs are generally more mobile than Cs and are more offensively minded. Given the prevalence of the pick and roll in the NBA today, a scoring PF is becoming increasingly important. However, this combo has had success in the past, and even if Hall of Fame duo Karl Malone and John Stockton could never quite wrest the Larry O'Brien Trophy from MJ, two trips to the Finals are two more than most players get in their careers. The same can be said for Kevin Johnson and Charles Barkley in Phoenix who met Mike in the '93 Finals.There are a number of PG/PF combos thriving in the NBA today; just look at runner-up Western Conference team Phoenix Suns with Nash and Stoudemire, or Tony Parker and Tim Duncan who upset second-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs this year. However, with a foursome of offensively minded PFs on the free agent market in Bosh, Boozer, Stoudemire and Lee and an abundance of young talented PGs on teams with cap space, the right pairing could immediately catapult a team into title contention. Bosh, Stoudemire, Boozer and Lee would all benefit a team immensely in that order but are pretty much interchangeable so I'll just name the point guards looking for running mates; Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall. These three Calipari alumni join Rajon Rondo, CP3 and Deron Williams as the future of the league at the point guard position. Give any of them one of those four PFs and things are looking good for the future. I'm aware that Dirk is also a free agent, but I don't see him as very likely to leave Dallas so I didn't bother mentioning it. It might be too soon to call it, but Baron Davis and Blake Griffin could explode in L.A. too.
  • SG and C: Yes, there is a bit of a pattern here with the little + big = success formula. Having a superstar SG and a dominant C to get boards and offensive rebounds means headaches for other teams. If you double team low then who will stop the SG from killing you? If you want an example of where this has worked in the past I'd point you in the direction of the Black Mamba and Shaq. Three titles and four Finals appearances in four years has to mean something. If they could have got along it could have been a few more. However, like I said above, the glory days of Cs are seemingly gone and in an earlier post I talked about the downfall of the SG position. The best chance of this happening would be if Rudy Gay bolts from Memphis and OJ and Gasol the younger step up. I feel like I should mention Bynum and Kobe here as Andrew is a big part of the Lakers success, but the focus is clearly on Pau at this point in time. If by some miracle the Lakers do what I hope and get their hands on Lance we could have something to look forward to in the future.

  • SG and PF: This one isn't really one for the ages; it is a more recent trend for a SG to team up with a PF and win a title. Take a look at Pau Gasol and Kobe though and tell me it doesn't work. Those two will be around for a few years yet, and if Kobe can be healthy for the playoffs it is likely they'll be getting a ring or two more (if not this year) because the Celtics can't stay healthy and together forever. A certain recently signed Jordan Brand athlete could be the source of another devastating SG/PF combo in Miami. If Wade can convince one of the free agent PFs to come on down then we might just have a winner. Given the amount of cap space the Heat have and the likelihood that at least two will be leaving (Lee and Bosh) this is one of the more likely combinations to actually happen. Lee's blue-collar mentality suits the Heat's rep as hardest working team in the NBA and after toiling away in a useless Knicks team he'll be glad to give Wade the limelight and the ball if it means winning.
  • SG and SF: Spread your wings and fly. It is no coincidence that the centrepiece of the only successful double wing partnership was nicknamed "His Airness". This is it people, MJ and Pippen. 6-0 in Finals they played together, and all without a dominant big man. It was a slashing, shooting, dunking machine that was beautiful to watch. What is so difficult about making this combo work though is that it requires one of two very talented and very similar players to take on a supporting role. MJ and Pippen worked because Scottie let MJ have the reins. It isn't a matter of talent, it is a matter of humility, which is something a lot of players lack - see my post about needing role players. Being the second option on a championship team should be something to aspire to, but most people want to be the star. I'll say it straight up that the SG needs to be the dominant member. It is customary for the guard to handle the ball more and it clearly worked for the Bulls. This is why I wonder if LeBron will win a title. The only other SF to have great success in recent history has been Larry Bird, and he wasn't anywhere near as ball-dominant as James. Frankly, I can't see LeBron taking a back seat to anyone, so unless they move him to the off-guard position I don't see many rings in his future. However, while the best SG in Kobe might be locked in with Pau as his running mate, Dwyane Wade is still looking. Looking at the list of free agents, we might finally have a chance at Jordan-Pippen 2.0. I don't mean Wade-LeBron either. I think Rudy Gay would be the perfect fit for this combo with Wade. He is young, athletic, but considered a second-tier player so won't have any problems giving Wade the reins. However, Wade probably is looking to emulate Kobe of late rather than Jordan, so this isn't particularly likely to happen. However, if Gay sticks around in Memphis he and OJ Mayo might have a chance at something special. If the Grizzlies drop Z-Bo after his recent off-court dramas then the bulk of the scoring will need to come from Mayo and Gay. These guys have superstars in the waiting written all over them and I truly hope this comes about. Seniority is an issue here though, the major roadblock being whether or not Mayo will be given top-dog status by Gay in this partnership. Another combination which could be hugely successful is that of Evan Turner and Andre Iguodala in Philly. The likely number 2 draft pick has a literal running mate in the uptempo Sixers outfit. Iggy is paid like a superstar but has a second option mentality. Perfect for a killer wing player like Turner. I'm drooling at the prospect. Danny Granger is another player begging for a SG to step up and be the man while he just does his thing at SF.
So there you have it. The tw0-man combinations I feel can lead to championship success, or at least title contention. While it appears that we are in a SF-league at the moment, dominant big men are becoming more and more important as the length of the Lakers and dominance of Dwight Howard are a roadblock any team will have to overcome in the future. It is possibilities like these that make me love the sheer intricacy and beauty of the greatest game on the planet.
Now to get some sleep before Game 5.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Why history might just repeat itself (in more ways than one)

I'll start off by saying that I think the Celtics have the stones to win this series and will do it. The game 2 win was indicative of why the Celtics are deadly: depth. Almost every player in their rotation is capable of stepping up and winning a game (barring defensive specialists Tony Allen and Kendrick Perkins). In game 2, Allen and Rondo stepped up to carry them through while Pierce and Garnett floundered. These days, it is rare for the Big Three + Rondo to be firing all at once. Now, I started off with this statement because the winner of the Finals isn't the focus of this post, but is a necessary cog.

While the Celtics winning would be a repeat of both recent history and what seems like ancient history, the focus here is the Finals MVP award. The same strength which makes the Celtics tough to beat over the course of a series, that unselfish play that leads to Ws is much more pronounced in 2010 than in 2008. Rondo has entered into the conversation with best PGs in the game and runs the offense so that whoever is hot gets the ball more often than not, barring predictability. There are so many guys with the hot hand in Beantown it is rare for any of them except Rondo to have the ball in their hands enough over the course of a series to take home Finals MVP.

But let us take a look who might have a chance to take it home in Boston in order of reverse probability (within reason):
  1. Kevin Garnett: KG could still get hot after a subpar first two games, if he gets aggressive with Gasol on the offensive end and shoves that darn lanky European around enough he could be instrumental in winning the games. His defense would need a big boost too, because the only helpside blocks I've seen recently have been goal-tends. Of the potential Beantown winners, the Big Ticket comes in last in terms of likelihood.
  2. Paul Pierce: This might ruffle some feathers, but PP has demonstrated some worrying trends of late; a simple refusal to take risks against big-bodied defenders. He was great against Orlando and Miami, but mediocre against Cleveland and so far this series. The reason? Powerful SF defenders. James and Artest are two defenders you would not want to be battling over 7 games. The Lakers are a different from 08, and if that open baseline jumpshot Pierce missed is any indication, 34 is just out of his rhythm. They do say matchups are all important right?
  3. Ray Allen: Game 1 had me upset, because I had him tipped as a difference maker in the series; Kobe would be either run ragged chasing him, or Fisher would pose a severe mismatch which Ray 'Jesus' Allen could exploit. Then the refs went crazy and Ray Ray never really found his rhythm. But lo and behold, Jesus rose again three days later to perform a miracle. 7 straight made 3-pointers? No worries for arguably the best jump shooter in the history of the L. As the series progresses, if Ray stays out of foul trouble and the Lakers respect Boston's other big guns, Jesus could be crowned king of the Finals.
  4. Rajon Rondo: I have always believed in this guy, he is my second favourite player all-time behind Jordan, and easily my favourite playing right now. I've had his jersey since late 08, and I could sense he was going to explode sooner or later. While he got the Celtics through the regular season with aplomb, he has shown himself capable of stepping up in the post-season, and has done this two years straight now. If anyone on the Cs was to win it, it would have to be Rondo, providing Boston comes away with the series. He is clearly their most valuable player in this series, and while he gets caught up in his own wake on occasion he is always a contributor. Top that off with a matchup to die for in Derek Fisher and he would be a lock against almost any other team.
But Rondo isn't playing any other team. He is playing the Lakers, who have a guy on their roster who might just be the first MVP of a losing team other than - ironically - a star shooting guard for the Lakers in Jerry West. It was the first Finals MVP given, which should give you an idea of how rare such a feat is. But as a devoted Celtics fan, and even with all the faith I have in our vaunted lineup of superstars, seeing number 24 get hot makes me panic just a little. We know that Gasol and Bynum will dominate inside, but Boston will adjust and has the personnel to reduce their impact at least, it is a realistic and attainable goal. However, the only people to keep Bryant under 30 points in the last few rounds have been the officials. Alvin Gentry thought he was relaxing his team when he said at half time "What Kobe just did there, nobody in America can stop that", and maybe he was. But he made me just a little bit terrified. Boston's D stopped LeBron with relative ease, and contained Dwight Howard and Dwyane Wade on the road to the Finals to boot. Kobe blows the others away in the sheer deadliness of his offensive repertoire. He isn't just athletic and skilled, he is crafty. Two of the best players at drawing fouls in the League are playing each other in these Finals, and I've already seen Paul Pierce fall for the same move he has used countless times in his career. If ever there was a series in the modern game where a losing player could be considered the most valuable, it is this one. Most teams aren't even close to the Lakers in overall strength, and were it not for the fact that the Celtics have such a wealth of veteran talent that came together just as Kobe assembled the right supporting cast, Kobe could very easily have been looking at another 3-peat. I have enormous respect for Kobe, and I'm only just starting to realise how close he is to MJ.

So while I love Rondo to pieces and certainly wouldn't be surprised if the Celtics won and Rondo was awarded MVP given the history of the award, I wouldn't be upset if Kobe achieved another of Jerry West's accomplishments. I mean come on, the dude was so cold to Chris Rock courtside he had to get treated for frostbite. He's earned it.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Born Ready to fill some big shoes.

I'm a big believer in tapping potential, and I always seem to think I know how it should be done. Those of you who have read my previous posts will probably have picked up on this. It all started with Jordan. You see, I came too late to the NBA to see him in his prime, and after reading a biography in 10th grade I've felt robbed. Since then, I look at every 6-6 phenom with hungry eyes, longing for the Jordan for my generation. And yeah, they have to be a 6-6 SG. A point guard's first responsibility is getting his team involved, so John Wall isn't going to cut it. But perhaps his SLAM magazine running mate Lance Stephenson could. Now, don't get me wrong, the dude has dropped out of the first round after declaring too soon, but that could be the perfect situation for him.

Now, I'm sure some of you are thinking, what about Kobe? Well, I was too young for him too, but I do love seeing him do ridiculous things with a basketball nonetheless. But his time is fading, and I'm only young so I need something to sustain me! Before I even go into LeBron, the first problem is he doesn't play SG. The second is that he is just a brute. Yes he has the talent to go with his athleticism which separate him from people like Josh Smith, but something about him doesn't sit well with me.

This is where Born Ready comes in. You know how I mentioned Kobe? Well he is a big part of this too. You see, the Lakers aren't getting no lottery picks anytime soon, and Kobe can only survive so long with Shannon Brown as his backup. The Lakers have expectations, and they've pretty much always had a player considered amongst the best in the league on their side. Now, the Lakers won't likely get Stephenson with the pick they have, but they should lie, cheat or steal to get him. Lance has said he needs to work on his game, and what better role for Kobe to play than mentor for a mercurial talent like Born Ready. They've both had off-court dramas so Kobe knows where Lance is coming from with that whole assault charge deal, and if anyone can teach Lance to focus on the game it is Bryant. Sure, Lance wouldn't get many minutes while Kobe is still around, but a few years learning from the Black Mamba would do him a world of good. And if Phil Jackson doesn't jump ship, well, he certainly knows a thing or two about coaching the 2-guard position.

But wait, there is another huge reason why Stephenson would be a fit in L.A. Bynum. Bynum is the true heir to Shaq, whether Dwight likes it or not. Bynum plays like a real centre, with force and dominance on the offensive end, and while he might not be a two-time DPOY, I would argue that he holds his own against opposing centres better than Howard, who does his best work on help defense. If he could just get healthy, Bynum and Lance could emulate Kobe and Shaq circa 2000.

Lance has the sheer hard-nosed aggression to drive at a championship if his four state champs are anything to go by, and now that he has fallen from grace, he won't be concerned with being the "nice guy" like LeBron so he can focus on just playing the damn game, and what's more, people in L.A. don't much care what you do off the court as long as you win. He has handled the pressures of fame better than most in his remarkable HS career.

Despite his upside, he is a gamble. But when the gains are this high, and a second-round pick is the price, why not just roll the dice on the future?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Kyle Korver the answer for Chi City?

I'll start off by saying I'm not a huge Jazz fan; call it a loyalty thing with Mike or just their nature. I don't like them. But occasionally, I'll be forced to watching them play against a team I like, and that's when I started hearing about Korver. Particularly his recently completed record season in accuracy from the arc, a whopping 53.6%! But then I looked at his numbers, and the dude averages just over 8 points a game. For a guy who shoots the ball that well it's pretty weak. However, looking at how much attention he gets from opposition players trying to deny that 3-ball, I can't help but think of Ray Allen.

Now, Korver is a free agent this summer, and while certainly not a franchise changing player, he could be just the right fit for Chicago - who desperately need an outside shooting threat. If you've read my previous post, you'd see that I had Joe Johnson and a PF like Stoudemire or Bosh coming to ol' Chicago in an ideal world. Well, although Joe Johnson has been disappointing in the post-season of late, he will still likely be offered big money from a number of teams who will fail to sign a marquee free agent and settle for a second tier player. Now, Chicago could very well be that team, but I think the Bulls need a scoring post-player like Stoudemire, Bosh or Boozer at PF more than anything, and the Bulls can't really afford two max contract signings.

This is where Korver comes in. He has good size for defending the 2-guard, and with defenders keeping an eye on Rose, and potential double-teams on whichever PF they get their hands on, Korver might just be the perfect role player for this young Bulls team who would be affordable.

That leaves you with a pretty solid rotation in Chi Town.

Free Agent PF


Sounds like a solid short rotation come playoff time. Not only could this put the Bulls into the top four (depending on Miami - Atlanta will bomb out) in the East, but it is possible, reasonable even. I do hope that Korver develops into more than just an answer to a trivia question and uses his shooting touch to make an impact on a championship team. Who knows, maybe he'll get picked up by Orlando. Ironically, J.J. Redick would be perfect for Chicago too, but he is a restricted free agent and given his play in the post-season, the Magic will likely match any offer within reason.

Of course, this depends on the coach they hire, but if Phil ever comes back I'm sure he knows a thing or two about winning championships with ridiculously accurate shooters...