4 Total Updates since June 13, 2011
almost 2 years ago Update 2 comments
A familiar refrain in every NBA Draft is that when you pick No. 1, you are not necessarily picking the best player in the draft. This is completely stupid, because you ought to pick the best player in the draft! Instead, teams err on the side of big men (or now, point guards) and look to minimize risk in making the choice. It's almost completely backwards, actually: general managers are primarily concerned with keeping their jobs, so they almost always take the No. 1 pick all the pundits would take. If it's the wrong choice? Ah well, everyone was wrong. If a GM takes an unpopular pick at No. 1 and it goes wrong? Two steps from the unemployment line (unless his name is Bryan Colangelo).
We have a consensus No. 1 pick: Kyrie Irving. But is he the best player in the 2011 NBA Draft? Will Cleveland Cavaliers GM Chris Grant be like, "Ah well, everyone was wrong" in a couple years as [different player] exceeds and Irving flounders?
Here are the candidates.
You know, most years, the No. 1 pick is the best player. Since 2003 (LeBron James), five of the eight No. 1 picks currently appear to be the best player in their class. The exceptions: Andrew Bogut, Andrea Bargnani and Greg Oden. Kyrie Irving isn't a neocon Aussie, flimsy Italian or 56 years old, so I think he's a safe bet. Unless ...
The presumptive No. 2 pick was one of college basketball's best players. Also, he'd be somewhere around No. 5 or No. 6 or lower if half the All-American team hadn't pulled out of the draft. But he's not being judged against those guys here: just the ducks that stayed in. Can he be better than Irving over the long-term? Can the Minnesota Timberwolves ruin him, too? Will the NBA swallow his selfless scoring game whole and spit out a cartoon fishbone afterward?
No, but no one ever saw Darko Milicic play either. Uh ...
No, but no one ever saw Nikolosz Tskitishvili play either. Erm ...
No, but no one ever saw Pavel Podkolzin play either. Um ...
No, but no one ever saw Saer Sene play either. Derp ...
No, but no one ever saw Robert Swift play either. ... ... ...
Has a 6-foot scoring guard who could certainly win American Idol ever been the best player from this draft? Just Isiah Thomas? OK.
almost 2 years ago Update 2 comments
To watch David Kahn, general manager of the Minnesota Timberwolves, run an NBA Draft is to watch a master at his easel. We have had two years of Kahn, two glorious drafts filled with intrigue, shock and, of course, the LULZ.
A recap for the uninitiated:
The Wolves have the No. 6 pick, and have traded for the No. 5 pick. Back-to-back picks in a draft some have called weak but which will turn out producing the next two Rookies of the Year, including a rare rookie All-Star. Minnesota is desperate for guards; the Wolves' 2008-09 guard play was atrocious, and the time sent its top two perimeter players in Randy Foye and Mike Miller to Washington for No. 5. It's like adding e. coli to Brussels sprouts: the worst gets worse.
So, with the those two picks, the Wolves restock their guard cupboards, taking two point guards: 18-year-old Spaniard Ricky Rubio, who had refused to work out for or visit Minnesota and who had a sticky buy-out that made every team above the Wolves skeptical he'd enter the NBA any sooner than 2011, and Syracuse product Jonny Flynn. Neither can shoot very well. Neither is considered a strong defensive prospect. There is virtually no hope of playing them together.
Kahn immediately states that he plans to play them together.
Later, Kahn takes point guard Ty Lawson, but flips him to the Nuggets for a 2010 pick. (He has more point guards than he can ever use, sheesh!) In the second round, he smartly picks up Nick Calathes, another point guard. But he flips this one to the Mavericks.
To this point, Lawson has vastly outperformed Flynn and Calathes has been much better in Europe than Rubio. This is to say nothing of the other 37 point guards in the 2009 draft that could have helped the Wolves over the past two years.
The Year of the Small Forward.
The Wolves make a (no joke) great trade for recent No. 2 pick Michael Beasley, giving up just a couple second-round picks. Given that Kevin Love is Minnesota's power forward of the future, Beasley will slot in at small forward. The Wolves proceed to pick up another 20 small forwards on draft day.
First up is Wesley Johnson, another Syracuse product, at No. 4, over DeMarcus Cousins and Greg Monroe, two legit centers who'd fill a gaping hole to eventually be manned by Darko Milicic, Nikola Pekovic and Kosta Koufos. Next, the Wolves trade that pick they got from Denver in the Lawson trade plus the unguaranteed contract of Ryan Gomes to Portland for small forward Martell Webster.
Corey Brewer, the team's incumbent small forward, suddenly feels inadequate.
WHAT MASTERY WILL 2011 HOLD?
That remains to be seen. Kahn seems wedded to trading the pick; the Wizards, who have eyes for Derrick Williams, are a sensible partner. (That Kahn and Ernie Grunfeld have collaborated in the past two drafts is not lost on anyone.) Positional doctrine is passé; don't expect a run on centers or two-guards. Maybe the draft pick itself is the new target. Can Kahn acquire all 60 picks? What would it take? What about five of the top 10? (Pack your bags, Kevin Love.)
He's been said to want some veteran help; how many veterans can he pick up this month? Can he increase the average age of his roster three years? Five years? Can he bring Anthony Peeler and Sam Mitchell out of retirement? Can he hire John McCain as head coach? Let your imagination run wild! It's Kahn time!
almost 2 years ago Update 8 comments
Bismack Biyombo is a stunning 2011 NBA Draft prospect, both in his special attributes -- outrageous athleticism and length -- and his story. ESPN's Chad Ford did yeoman's work filling out the entire Biyombo narrative, how the Congolese big man left his family alone at 16 to play pro ball in Yemen (where he knew no one), how he rose from Spain's third division to the top league in just months, how we went from not-remotely-on-the-radar to potential top-5 pick in a matter of weeks. (DraftExpress' Jonathan Givony did a similar excellent story back in early April, right after the Nike Hoop Summit, where Biyombo became as much of a household name as any 18-year-old Congolese basketball player can.)
But there are question marks all over the place. Perhaps the most serious one is about his age. From Ford's story:
When he talks, he sounds like a wise, old traveler ... not the 18-year-old he claims to be.
"I was born on August 28, 1992," he tells me several times. He repeats the date several times in the interview.
But ask NBA scouts -- any NBA scout -- and they'll tell you he's closer to 22 than 18. They have no proof, mind you. He just looks, sounds, acts and plays older, they claim.
So how old is Biyombo, really?
According to: Biyombo, Biyombo's agent
Biyombo claims he is 18 years old; this is good enough for most people in polite society. The only people who typically require proof of age are bartenders, bouncers, Olympic gymnastics officials, conscientious frat guys who suspect high school girls are crashing their parties and, soon, presidential observers who insist Republican candidate Michelle Bachmann can't be a day over 29. (Wink.)
According to: Science
Anticipating questions about the verisimilitude of Biyombo's age claims, his agent Igor Crespo actually had a bone age study done in Spain. DX's Givony detailed the procedure in April. Here's the jist.
Crespo says he took Biyombo to a specialist to conduct a bone age study immediately upon his arrival in Spain (Biyombo was reportedly 16). The study involves taking x-rays of an adolescent's wrist and hand to see if his growth plates are still open. Because the cartilage in Biyombo's hand hadn't fused at that point, the specialist came to the conclusion that he could be 16 or 17 at most, but not 18, when growth plates are expected to be closed.
That was two years ago, making -- according to science, mind you -- Biyombo 18 or 19 years old. Givony has reported that the agent has shared the X-rays with team officials. Howeva!
According to: Anonymous NBA scouts/GMs, Donald Trump
Ford's anonymous scouts peg Biyombo at 22, or thereabouts. In the Hoop Summit aftermath, NBA.com's David Aldridge wrote that "an Eastern Conference GM said he heard rumors that Biyombo was anywhere from 23 to 26." SI's Ian Thomsen claimed that "a half-dozen NBA scouts and executives told [him] they believed Biyombo was older than his listed age of 18."
So a number of anonymous NBA team officials doubt Biyombo's age despite a lack of proof. Produce the long-form birth certificate, Bismack!
What do you think? Is Bismack Biyombo the 18 or 19 years old he claims, or is he somewhere between 22 and 26? Do you believe Bismack and science, or anonymous NBA scouts and GMs?
almost 2 years ago Update 0 comments
Every year, there are one or more "next Dirk Nowitzkis" in the NBA Draft. This is because we are completely uncreative and can only compare tall European shooters to other tall European shooters, and because we can't think of any other good tall European shooters but Nowitzki, although there are plenty. (Who is the next Zarko Cabarkapa?!) Given that Dirk Nowitzki is now an NBA champion and an NBA Finals MVP, the comparisons will reach fever pitch.
But there's only one Dirk Nowitzki, so there can only be one next Dirk Nowitzki. That is a rule I just made up, right now. Let's find the real next Dirk Nowitzki using only prospects from the 2011 NBA Draft!
Bertans is from Latvia, which is not Germany, so there is one strike, buddy. Latvia is in Europe and Bertans is blond, so we are back on track. Davis Bertans as the "next Dirk Nowitzki" is looking good. Now, the most important question after the questions we just asked: can Bertans shoot? He can! I think we may have a ...
Oh, there's another contender? Oh. Hello Mr. Mirotic, a 6'10 Montenegran who starred for Real Madrid this season as a 20-year-old power forward. Pleased to meet you. Are you the next Dirk Nowitzki? You averaged a point for every two minutes in ACB play, shot 43 percent on three-pointers and shot up draft boards? Bully for you! You may indeed be the next ...
Another contender! This Lithuanian, a 7-footer who plays for former Next Dirk Nowitzki Andrea Bargnani's old team Benetton Treviso, actually draws a fair number of Spencer Hawes comparisons, mostly for me, because I do not wish my favorite team to re-draft Spencer Hawes a year after trading him away. But cleanliness to next to godliness, and Dirk Nowitzki is next to cleanliness, and Spencer Hawes is a nautical mile from Dirk Nowitzki, then Donatas Motiejunas could very well be next to godliness, if by next to you mean "pretty far away from."
I don't know how to put this, Jon Leuer, but you were born in Minnesota. You are not eligible to be the next Dirk Nowitzki. Oh, you're a great candidate for Next Dirk Nowitzki, but unfortunately, under current rules, you aren't eligible. I'm sorry. Better luck with your run for Next Jason Smith.
(Speaking of whom ...)
No, Jason Smith is not draft-eligible, on account of having been drafted years ago. But if pro basketball bible Bleacher Report says Jason Smith could be the next Dirk Nowitzki, by golly I'm not ignoring that!
Maybe this is a fool's errand; maybe the next Dirk Nowitzki is already in the NBA and we're wasting our time scouring Europe and the University of Wisconsin for the next Dirk Nowitzki. Heck, maybe Dirk Nowitzki is the next Dirk Nowitzki. Maybe there is only one Dirk Nowitzki. Maybe there are none. Maybe we will never know.
almost 2 years ago Update 3 comments
Jimmer Fredette did, over the past two seasons, what all young men with an inclination toward sport dream of doing at some point in their lives: he had the entire country saying his name. Fredette captured America's minds if not hearts as a Marburian gunner at Brigham Young, a scorer without compare and conscience. Of course, the college game has been relatively stripped of its power; Kevin Durant would have been a senior averaging 74 points per game, after all, if he'd stayed in school. Jimmer had closer to 30 a night, with some truly, uh, Durantian breakouts.
But plenty of mid-major kids score in bunches; you haven't ever heard of Marshon Fever, have you? What made Fredette stand out as an especially bright bauble amid the collection? His every-man stature? His boyish charm in interviews? His skin tone? His religion? No, no, no, no. It's all in the name. Jimmer. Jimmer Fredette. Jimmermania. The Jimmer, if you please.
As an exercise in assessing the impact of this nickname on Fredette's 2011 NBA Draft status, as well as kicking off our NBA Draft 2011 Questions of Consequence series -- we'll feature a question a day, leading up to the June 23 draft -- we shall ask ourselves this: what if Jimmer had a different nickname? Let's find out.
If Jimmer were called Jim, he would have a mustache. Draft Status Impact: Heavy.
Oh my [deity], if Jimmer were called Jimmy, those Jimmy Chitwood comparisons would totally make sense! Because they are both called Jimmy and they like to get buckets! As it stands, the comparison serves to extend the well-established dictate of Racial Profiling In NBA Draft Comparison Creation to fictional players, a real achievement. Draft Status Impact: Outrageous!
If Jimmer were called Jamie, Bill Simmons would add him to his "Athletes Who Have Names That Sound Like Hot Girlz" list. The Big Lead would include Jamie's picture on top of a post about Fran Fraschilla's Skoal endorsement, with the introduction: Jamie Fredette, looking leggy ... Draft Status Impact: Negative, girlz can't play basketball.
If Jimmer went by his given name of James, everyone would totally take him more seriously not just as a basketball player, but as a statesman. Like when we all took "Michael Conley" seriously those three days he insisted his name was Michael. That was both fun and hilarious. Draft Status Impact: Neutral.
If Jimmer went by Jameser, he would piss off dozens of Williamsburg denizens who plan to name their future sons Jameser. Draft Status Impact: Cut your hair.
If Jimmer went by J. Fredette, his rap career would be off to an encouraging start. Draft Status Impact: Warming up.
If Jimmer went by Jay, he would be accused of obfuscation and retroactively kicked out of BYU on Honor Code violations. No one goes by "Jay" by choice. Draft Status Impact: Excommunicated.
If Jimmer went by Jammer, he would have starred in Top Gun, which came out 25 years ago, three years before Fredette was born. Therefore, he may not go by Jammer. It would potentially rip a tear in space and time. Draft Status Impact: OK.
If Jimmer went by Jamz, he would be on the next season of that Flava Flav show on VH1 wait Flava Flav is still alive right? Draft Status Impact: Alright.