Friday, June 24, 2011

NBA Draft Recap: Winners and Losers

The 2011 NBA draft was one filled with great surprises, multiple trades, happy moms and disappointed fans. Now that the dust has cleared, let's take a look at who came out on top in the draft, and who needs to catch up in the free agency.


Detroit Pistons

No way Brandon Knight should have fallen this far. Selecting 8th overall, the Pistons didn't have to think twice about who to select. Knight was projected to go as highly as third in most mock drafts, yet somehow he landed in Detroit's feeble hands. The Pistons also picked up a polished, fundamental player in Kyle Signler, and had a nice selection in the second round with Vernon Macklin, a fierce rebounder out of Florida.

Charlotte Bobcats

After watching him in the Big East tournament, I thought the kid would be a top ten pick. After watching him in the NCAA Tournament, I figured he'd be the top pick in the draft. How any team could see Kemba Walker's performances in big games and still pass up on him is beyond me. His dazzling scoring ability is unstoppable and his ball handling and quickness are hazardous to all opposing defenses. The Bobcats got a steal in Walker at the 9 spot, and when you add in Tennessee's Tobias Harris in the mix, you've got two players that are going to make an impact on day one.

Boston Celtics

Everyone knows it. Boston is aging. The Celtics are aware of it, and in turn picked up two solid young players who have large amounts of potential to energize Boston off the bench and eventually start for the Celts. Oh, and they already have good chemistry, being that they both went to Purdue. JaJuan Johnson is a lean, skillful forward with shot blocking ability, and E'Twaun Moore is a smart, sharp guard who can score effectively and handle the ball well. Doc Rivers has a good group of guys to work with heading into next season.

Angel Morris

The proudest woman on the planet last night was Angel Morris, whose two sons were drafted back-to-back in the first round of the draft. The only problem she has now is deciding whose games to attend, because this is the first time Markieff and Marcus will be on different teams in their entire lives.


Phoenix Suns

It just doesn't get any better for Phoenix. Not only did they miss out on sharpshooter Jimmer Fredette, but they made absolutely no strides of progress in finding a replacement for aging point guard Steve Nash. Aaron Brooks is not going to cut it. There's no doubt Markieff Morris is a solid player and a good selection, but the Suns could have made efforts to sneak up higher in the draft and possibly steal Jimmer Fredette or even Brandon Knight. Looks like it could be another average year out in Phoenix next season.

Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers had four picks. Good, right? Not if they're all in the second round. Yep, Los Angeles missed out on all of the first rounders, and even with four picks in the second round, I don't see any of those players making a difference in L.A. in the near future. It probably won't be too big of a problem right now -- but with Phil Jackson out, Kobe getting older, and Derek Fisher nearing eligibility to collect social security, the could be the beginning of the end for Los Angeles...

Brandon Knight

Poor fellow. Not only did the point guard out of Kentucky slide to the 8th spot in the draft, the joke of a franchise Detroit Pistons snatched him up, consequently ending all of Knight's hopes of becoming an All-Star. Now, instead of having a chance to develop into a strong player, Brandon Knight will mosey around in the booming economic city of Detroit and count the days until his contract expires. All he can do is hope that management in the Motor City improves, or he'll be driving a Ford right over to the Free Agency.

And that's all for this year's draft. Congrats to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who took big steps forward in drafting Kyrie Irving with the first pick and Tristan Thompson out of Texas just three picks later. This wasn't the strongest draft ever, but I do think that we will see some of these guys have tremendous impacts in their rookie seasons.

Oh, and I'm calling it. Derrick Williams 2011-2012 Rookie of the Year.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Smarter Team

It's pretty obvious that the Miami Heat consisted of the most talented basketball players in the NBA. But time and time again the Dallas Mavericks proved that the game of basketball is won by smart players who know their role and play it well. Miami may have had the upper hand in athleticism and talent, but Dallas had intangibles which Miami could not contain.

All great teams have a great point guard. Jason Kidd was the prototypical floor general which Dallas needed to run an effective, fluent offense. How many times did you count where Jason Kidd passed up a decent shot to give a teammate an excellent shot? Several. There were instances where Kidd would catch a pass from a teammate, and before the ball was in his hands for even half a second, he had already delivered a dime to a different teammate. That's what 17 years of experience does for a team. Smart passes, unselfish play, and using your discretion wisely to make the right play. While many people see a washed up player in a 38 year old guard, I see leadership and poise in the clutch.

J.J. Barea is the prime example of an effective role player. Most people have never heard of the guy before the Finals, but the 6 foot speed demon lit up the Miami defense with excellent slashing skills and nice dishes to open players all series long.

Shawn Marion quietly averaged almost 14 points and 6 rebounds throughout the Finals, and was the key factor in the Mavericks' Game 2 upset in Miami, scoring 20 points and pulling down 8 boards. If the Mavericks didn't have Marion's outstanding efforts in Game 2, they probably would have ended up on the wrong end of the scoreboard, and buried in an 0-2 hole.

Who could forget about the big Tyson Chandler, who was rejected by Oklahoma City because of physical health concerns, nearly averaging a double-double in the series? And what about Jason Terry, who picked up the slack when Dirk struggled in Game 6, dropping 27 points on the defenseless Heat? While Miami's stars gave it their best efforts, the Big 3 just could not come up with an answer for the multiple weapons Dallas threw at them.

Props to Pat Riley, however, for doing his best to create a strong supporting cast for James, Wade, and Bosh. Adding Mike Bibby and Mike Miller were good ideas and helped Miami in doses, but the lack of a strong presence at center and still a void at the starting point guard position, the Heat could not secure a championship in the end. Miami's GM needs to look into adding experience and better role players, just like Dallas, if they want what Dallas finally has.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Heat Won...wait, what?

The same issue Miami's had all season came back to haunt them tonight. The Heat gave up a huge 15 point lead with just over six minutes left to play, looking disoriented offensively and letting up on the defensive end.

Miami can't really blame Dirk. He didn't explode for 36 points like their own Dwyane Wade. No, Nowitzki had an average game at best, with 24 points, 11 rebounds and an ugly five turnovers. He was able to convert on the go-ahead layup with just three seconds left, but other than that, he wasn't necessarily an unstoppable force in tonight's game.

Why did Dallas win? They were poised. Most teams look at a scoreboard down 15 points with 6 minutes left and think about what's being served on the plane ride home. The Mavericks play hard every game, and they are certainly not going to give up in the NBA Finals, no matter how much they are down.

The Heat got complacent. My select basketball coach always told me to always pretend the score is 0-0. That way, you aren't too cocky, but you're also not discouraged. You're playing your hardest when the game is tied. But Miami was acting like it was up three or four hundred, and once Dallas began its comeback, the Heat began panicking.

To Dwyane Wade, Mike Bibby, Joel Anthony and Mario Chalmers: You guys deserved a win. Those four players left it all on the floor, while the rest of the Heat finished the game with a lackadaisical attitude.

Chris Bosh should have been riding the bench. He is the reason Miami struggled in the first half, shooting at an awful percentage and taking irrational shots from out of his range. Bosh was also the guy that got burned by slow, 7 foot Dirk Nowitzki in the closing seconds of the game. Sorry Chris, but you get an F- for today's performance.

The Mavericks should be throwing a party right now. They can close the series without having to go back to Miami once for the rest of the Finals. It's not going to be easy, but the light is gleaming at the end of the tunnel.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

NBA Finals: Game 1 Analysis

Defense wins championships.

It's an adage long embraced by coaches and players in all sports. Football, basketball, soccer - you can't go far without a strong, fine-tuned defense. In this particular series, it's the ONLY way to win. With the offensive firepower that both teams have to offer, the only way to outscore a LeBron James or Dirk Nowitzki is to not let them score at all.

Of course, if you stop LeBron, you still have to worry about Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Which is precisely why Miami is unstoppable when all three play well (see box score of last night).

Although the Big 3 had solid performances, the Mavericks did a pretty good job on the rest of the Heat. Out of Miami's starters, James, Wade and Bosh were the only ones who scored the entire game. Bibby went 0-4 and Joel Anthony was 0-1 with 3 rebounds and a turnover.

The real problem for Dallas was its efficiency on the offensive end. J.J. Barea penetrated the lane well, but was either blocked or just unable to finish in the paint. Jason Terry had a great first half, and apparently decided to take the second half off. Peja Stojakovic was brought on to the team for his sharpshooting abilities, but he went 0-3 from beyond the arc against that swarming Miami defense. Dirk played his game, but he is going to need some help from his teammates if Dallas doesn't want a repeat of the 2006 Finals.

As for Miami, there isn't really much room for improvement on the defensive end. 84 points allowed, holding the Mavs to 37% shooting - the Heat did their job defensively. The only thing I would suggest is more contribution from the rest of Miami's roster. Mike Bibby can't score 0 points again, and I'd like to see Erik Spoelstra give James Jones some minutes - the kid won the 3 point contest for crying out loud. Logic would have Jones in for at least 10 minutes so he can have a chance to knock down a few jumpers for the team. At the minimum, the Heat could use him when they are on a scoring drought, which they experienced for a period last night. Other than that, Miami just needs to keep up the defensive pressure and act like every game is their last.

I expect more out of Jason Terry and J.J. Barea in Game 2, but I don't think Miami will slow down on its defensive pressure. The Heat are too motivated to prove their doubters wrong. I don't think it's physically possible for LeBron, Wade, or Bosh to lower their levels of intensity. Miami should take Game 2 with no problem. Don't count out the Mavericks though, when they're hot they can be extremely tough to beat. Miami can't let Dallas heat up because when Dirk and Terry are locked in, it's a long night for any opponent.