June 25, 2013

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NBA Mock Draft

By: Joe Williams

Alright Miami, that’s enough celebrating. It’s time to start getting ready for next season…starting with Thursday’s draft. Many of the league experts are saying that this draft class is pretty weak and there aren’t any franchise altering players available. Maybe not. But some teams will get better. I just hope it’s mine.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers- Alex Len, C, Maryland

The Cavs must improve their defense if they are to make the playoffs next season. At 7-1 and 255lbs, Len will help clog up the middle and improve their rebounding as well. Unless of course the Cavs are able to pull off the trade that has been rumored since they won the lottery.

2. Orlando Magic – Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas

What do you do when you need help at every position? Take whoever you think has the best shot to become a star.

3. Washington Wizards – Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown

Porter fits the biggest hole on the roster and should be a good fit to play with John Wall.

4. Charlotte Bobcats – Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky

After having the most balls in the draft lottery, the Bobcats dropped to the fourth pick but they still get Noel – they guy they would have picked at No. 1.

5. Phoenix Suns – Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana

Oladipo will be a solid all-around player for Phoenix, especially defensively, where the Suns have been awful.

6. New Orleans Pelicans – Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV

I still can’t wrap my head around the switch to the Pelicans. I don’t like it. Maybe Bennett will like it. Pelicans? Really? Really?

7. Sacramento Kings – Trey Burke, PG, Michigan

Burke is probably my favorite player in this draft. The Kings get a steal here.

8. Detroit Pistons – C.J. McCollum, PG, Lehigh

Here’s another guy I really like. Detroit looks to be set inside with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond so they go with a guard who will be able to score.

Will the Pistons get a guard to go along with big men Greg Monroe (pictured) and Andre Drummond?

9. Minnesota Timberwolves – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia

I can’t let the best name in the draft slip out of the top 10 can I? Besides, with Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love returning, the Twolves are going to need someone who can shoot.

10. Portland Trail Blazers – Cody Zeller, PF, Indiana

LaMarcus Aldridge needs some help inside. Aldridge gets what he wants.

11. Philadelphia 76ers – Shabazz Muhammad, SG, UCLA

Why not? Muhammad is one of those guys who could go just about anywhere in this draft. He is a risk/reward pick and the Sixers take a shot.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder – Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse

What the Thunder really need is a fully healed Russell Westbrook, so they take the best player available to give Westbrook some assistance.

13. Dallas Mavericks – $$$$$$$$$$ (Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga)

Everyone knows the Mavs are looking to use this pick to acquire more cap space. We’ll say they draft pick Olynky and ship him somewhere.

14. Utah Jazz – Shane Larkin, PG, Miami

Both of Utah’s starting guards are free agents. Larkin fills one of those holes.

15. Milwaukee Bucks – Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany

Brandon Jennings, Monte Ellis and J.J. Redick are all possibly going to leave town so the Bucks all a guard to the wide open roster.

16. Boston Celtics – Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville

There are countless ways this roster could wind up by the time the season starts. Assuming Kevin Garnett isn’t back, the Celtics will need a big defender.

17. Atlanta Hawks – Giannis Adetokunbo, SF, Greece

I’m not going to pretend like I know much about foreign players, but from what I’ve read it seems like the Hawks are interested.

18. Atlanta Hawks – Allen Crabbe, SG, California

You can never have too many shooters and the Hawks are getting one here.

19. Cleveland Cavaliers – Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh

In a couple years Adams and Len could be a force inside for Cleveland. But the Cavs could use this pick in a trade for a veteran player to help them win now.

20. Chicago Bulls – Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Michigan

The Bulls should have a healthy Derrick Rose back and someone like Hardaway could provide some scoring to make Rose’s life easier.

21. Utah Jazz – Tony Mitchell, PF, North Texas

Utah will need another body if Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson leave town.

22. Brooklyn Nets – Jeff Withey, C, Kansas

Another big man behind Brook Lopez.

23. Indiana Pacers – Rudy Gobert, C, France

After giving the Heat all they wanted in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Pacers should look to add depth to an already strong roster.

24. New York Knicks – Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego St.

With Jason Kidd moving on to the coaching ranks, the Knicks get a lot younger in the backcourt.

25. Los Angeles Clippers – Isaiah Canaan, PG, Murray State

The only thing the Clippers should worry about is getting Chris Paul back. If that doesn’t happen Canaan will take his place.

26. Minnesota Timberwolves – Sergey Karasev, SF, Russia

Andrei Kirilenko may leave so they replace a Russian with a Russian.

27. Denver Nuggets – Lucas Nogueira, C, Brazil

A big man who can run and block shots would fit right in with the high-tempo Nuggets.

28. San Antonio Spurs – Reggie Bullock, SF, North Carolina

This could be the guy to replace Manu Ginobili.

29. Oklahoma City Thunder – Ricky Ledo, SG, Providence

Here’s an inexperienced kid that would be able to develop behind a solid roster.

30. Phoenix Suns – Mike Muscala, C, Bucknell

The Suns walk away from the first round with help in the front and back courts.

January 8, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

NHL labor agreement in sight: The NHL lockout wasn’t officially over as of this weekend, but it’s looking like it could be soon. A tentative agreement has been reached by the players and owners and barring anything crazy, we should have hockey this year. The good news is that assuming this is finalized, the tentative deal is for a reported ten years, according to ESPN. That should mean several years of peace between the two sides without any interruption. Lockouts always hurt any sport and hockey surely has many disgruntled fans as a result of the recent work stoppage. But with the NFL winding down, the NBA will be the only major professional league in season. For non-basketball fans, that leaves few options.

RGIII was more heralded coming into the playoffs, but Russell Wilson and the Seahawks were the ones advancing to the next round of the playoffs.

Russell Wilson outlasts Andrew Luck and RGIII: Russell Wilson was one of three rookie quarterbacks to reach the NFL playoffs this season. But of the trio, he was clearly the least heralded. The ColtsAndrew Luck and the RedskinsRobert Griffin III were the league’s two top picks in last year’s draft and Wilson was a bit of an afterthought. But after the Colts were soundly defeated by the Baltimore Ravens and RGIII’s Redskins went down at the hands of the Seahawks, Wilson is the only one still standing. What’s more is that many will give Seattle a chance to knock off the top-seeded Atlanta Falcons next week. Wilson’s magical season might not be ending right away and the rookie could find himself in the NFC Championship game with another good game.

Timberwolves’ injury woes continue with Kevin Love hand injury: The Minnesota Timberwolves have been crushed with injuries this season. Josh Howard suffered a season-ending injury and was subsequently waived. Star guard Ricky Rubio has missed 20 games. Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger, and Malcolm Lee are all currently out with various injuries. And now, the team’s best player, forward Kevin Love, is out with a hand injury. Love was out for several weeks earlier this year with a broken hand and the injury appears to have resurfaced. Timberwolves’ fans have to be frustrated particularly because it’s easy to see a world of potential with this team. Even with all of the players missing time, Minnesota is still .500 on the year with a 15-15 record. The team is only a ½ game out of a playoff spot and without the injuries, they would arguably be among the conference’s top eight teams.

Syracuse’s Doug Marrone reportedly leaving to coach NFL’s Bills: The Syracuse Orange were dealt a bit of a blow when it was announced over the weekend that their head coach Doug Marrone was likely on his way out to coach the Buffalo Bills. Syracuse’s football program had been struggling mightily since the 1990s, but Marrone seemed to have helped them turn the corner. The team won eight games this season, tied for the most victories they’ve had in the past decade. It was also only the second time during that span when the team has finished over .500. The program can and will go on without Marrone, but heading into the ACC next season having to find a new coach isn’t an ideal situation.

Dontrelle Willis trying to make comeback with Cubs: When a young Dontrelle Willis burst onto the Major League Baseball scene in 2003, he was heralded as one of the league’s brightest stars. But after a few successful seasons with the Marlins, Willis’ flame quickly went out. He was named the National League Rookie of the year and won 44 games over the next three years. But since then, it’s been all downhill for the pitcher. After an ERA of over 5.00 in 2007, Willis was dealt to the Detroit Tigers where he was even worse over the next three seasons. He struggled with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Cincinnati Reds in 2010 and 2011 and has been out of the majors ever since. The deal with the Cubs is reportedly a minor league one and Willis will have to earn a spot if he wants to end up back in the major leagues. At only 31, he could still have some productive seasons if he’s able to turn it around. But having struggled through several seasons, the odds are probably against him.

February 22, 2012

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NBA’s 25 and Under All-Excitement Team

By: Matt Bowen

The NBA’s future is bright because of a handful of young stars that stuff the stat sheets on a nightly basis.  It’s hard to believe but each player on this list is under the age of 25.

Whether it’s dishing the rock, banging the boards or shooting the lights out, these players consistently leave crowds in awe. All of these players will be present at the upcoming NBA All-Star game where their playground-like basketball skills will be on display.

Four of these five kids will make the 2012 USA Olympic Basketball Team as they are now the embodiment of the “Dream Team.”

If a naysayer were to see these guys take the court, their opinion of the modern-day NBA would change in an instant. These players are fun to watch and they make it look easy.

Here is the NBA’s 25 and Under All-Excitement Team:

Derrick Rose: This kid is only 23 years old and has already won an NBA MVP Award.

Being that Rose is a member of the Chicago Bulls, he has the biggest shoes to fill and has done a marvelous job thus far. Right now the Bulls have a 26-8 record and look to make a deep run in the playoffs.

Rose is a master on the court who knows how to handle every situation. He can turn the game upside down in a heartbeat and leave the fans thirsting for more. Knowing that Rose will dominate the game for the next decade leaves NBA die-hards with a smile on their faces.

Derrick Rose is one of the many young players making the NBA "must-see" TV.

Jeremy Lin: Three weeks ago, no one knew who Jeremy Lin was. Now, the 23-year-old is the hottest thing since sliced bread. Lin’s meteoric rise to fame has been justified by his stats. Since becoming a starter on February 4, Lin has scored 20-plus points in 9-of-10 games.

Most importantly, he brought the New York Knicks back from the dead and has made New York City a basketball city. Anyone who can single-handedly make the Knicks relevant again deserves all the credit in the world.

“Linsanity” continues to sweep the nation as we speak. The upcoming All-Star game will only bring more notoriety his way.

Kevin Durant: What’s not to love about this guy? He’s the all-around most exciting player to watch in the NBA night-in and night-out.

Durant is capable of a triple-double at the drop of a hat and his recent 51 point performance is proof that he’s “must-see TV.”

This year he’s averaging 27.7 points per game to go along with 8.2 rebounds. He’s the new-age NBA prototype—6’9” with superior ball-handling skills and deadly range. Wow.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have a future first-ballot Hall of Famer on their hands.

Blake Griffin: Just when sports fans thought the days of the innovative slam-dunk were over, Blake Griffin changed our minds. The Los Angeles Clippers youngster is like nothing the NBA has ever seen before.

His dunks are like violent poetry—so graceful yet so explosive—a true stroke of genius.

What he’s capable of next is almost unfathomable. Fans can only hold their breath as they wait for the rooftop to blow.

Besides his rim-rocking jams Griffin is a great basketball player. This season, like last, he’s averaging a double-double. In today’s game that feat is rarely accomplished.

Expect Griffin’s Fatheads to be plastered on the walls of children and art collectors alike for years to come.

Kevin Love: If anything, he deserves some more love. The Minnesota Timberwolves big man is the most underrated player in the entire NBA.

He’s capable of filling the box score with 20 points and 20 rebounds on any given night. A pure rebounder is hard to come by in today’s NBA and Love’s picture should be in the dictionary under the word “rebound.”

Love gives his team a chance to win on a nightly basis with his 25.5 points/game and 14.2 rebounds. His most ridiculous stat is that he’s only gone two games this season without a double-double.

Make sure to keep your eye on Love this weekend at the All-Star game—he’s worth it.

June 22, 2011

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NBA Draft Day Stories

By: Rick Jarrell

Since Joe already beat me to the mock NBA draft, I’ll take a look at story lines to watch and potential trades that may go down this Thursday. Around this time each year, the rumor mill begins churning full throttle as the draft becomes near and free agency begins. This year, with the NBA lockout looming over our heads, potentially limiting the free agency period, there is even more excitement around the draft.  Excitement despite a widely believed weak draft class, which coincidentally, is attributable to the expected lockout. Is your head spinning? It may spin a little more after reading this.

Cleveland Tries to Replace LeBron

As a lifelong Cavalier fan, I’m willing to realize that we Cleveland fans might be the only people extremely interested in this NBA draft. Not only will we get a building block to revamp the team, but two. But despite Cleveland’s feelings regarding LeBron post-decision, I don’t think anyone believes he can be replaced. Two picks in the top five is a start, though.

Despite the smoke signals being sent out by the front office, I fully expect them to take Kyrie Irving numero uno. He’s the safest bet in a risky draft, and coach Byron Scott needs a strong point guard to build around and run his offensive system. Baron Davis is great when he wants to be, but is on the back end of his career. And Ramon Sessions showed signs of progress at the end of last season, but he’s better suited as a scoring option off of the bench. Irving has to be the pick.

With the fourth pick, they’ll take…? If they keep the pick, they need a stronger front court, leaving it a tossup between Enes Kanter and Jonas Valanciunas. Contradicting reports have surfaced recently regarding who they favor, but now that Valanciunas’s European buyout won’t allow him to join the NBA until the 2012-2013 season, the Cavs will likely pick Kanter. If it was me, I would take the European with higher potential, knowing they’re years away from competing anyways – why not take the risk? But I’m sitting on my couch watching Seinfeld right now, and they’ve been thinking about these picks nonstop since the lottery last month.

There’s also chatter they may trade down/up, but the rumors surrounding that notion are so vast and likely lack substance, until something happens, it’s better assuming they keep the pick.

Timberwolves and the #2 Pick

Minnesota has publicly admitted to shopping the second pick. The team, who’s had trouble rising from the bottom tier of the NBA since trading Kevin Garnett, has enough young talent to potentially make a jump. Kevin Love was an All-Star, and Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph possess high potential. Not to mention the highly touted Ricky Rubio is finally leaving Spain to join the T-Wolves. So the team doesn’t need another young talent, but a few veteran pieces to help them move forward.

Kevin Love

Likely trade partners are those interested in taking Arizona forward Derrick Williams. The list includes Cleveland, the Washington Wizards, and Phoenix Suns, to name a few. But with Minnesota likely waiting till the last minute for an offer to “blow them away,” there’s a chance they hold on to the pick and take Williams, potentially trading his rights after the draft (Note: Lockout likely will begin the next day, so this option is murky at best).

Who Will Exceed Expectations?

Other than Irving, there are a lot of question marks surrounding the 2011 NBA draft class. Even more, after the first few picks, the draft order becomes fluid. Players like Kanter, Valanciunas, Kemba Walker, Jimmer Fredette, Kawhi Leonard, Jan Vesely, and Bismack Biyombo could go from the 5th pick to as low as the 15th. Internal battles inside front offices will weigh the value of potential over need. So who will rise to become NBA studs and all-stars in the next few years?

Predicting this year’s rookie class’s impact on the league in a few years is as easy as deciding between Megan Fox and Brooklyn Decker. But ignoring the impossibility of this task, Vesely will be the best player out of this group. He’s tall at 6’11, but fits the mold of small forward, looking to run in open court and stretch the floor. If he falls to the Wizards, they’ll be ecstatic.

One prospect to keep an eye on is Norris Cole, point guard out of Cleveland State. Draft pundits are raving over his workout performances, and the buzz is if he would have gone to a big time school, would be a top ten pick. Depending on where he lands, if he’s in the right situation, Cole may become the steal of the draft.

April 5, 2011

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Finding Fun in a Lost Season

By: Rick Jarrell

A losing season doesn’t have to be a complete loss for the fans

Being an NBA fan can be a fun and exciting experience, especially if your favorite team has a chance to make a run at a title. Recent draft picks, player acquisitions, or a new coaching regime can turn a team around in the blink of an eye. But sometimes these triumphed moves don’t pay dividends as expected, and the season becomes a long, drawn out exhibition. It doesn’t mean you have to suffer, though! There’s still value to be gained from a lost season if you follow these guidelines.

Take Advantage Early

One of the benefits of professional sports is the new slate every team gets at the outset of each season. No matter the previous season’s outcome, a new season brings optimism that this could be the year. What if all the offseason moves come together like a puzzle and bring the city a title? That rejuvenating feeling, though, is often temporary. Chances are your team’s hopes and dreams of a championship will not come true – but all is not lost!

Take advantage of the new season before it sours. Attend a few games early on. Catch the games on TV while they’re still competitive. Buy merchandise while it doesn’t feel like a waste of money. Support the team while it’s more pleasurable than grueling. Because we all know those waning months of a season going nowhere can be torture to a fan, as well as to the players and organization. Look at the Cleveland Cavaliers this year:  after LeBron James’ departure, experts predicted this season to be abysmal for the Cavs. Those experts were right, but the team had their moment in the sun with a surprising 4-4 record in the first eight games of the season. Enjoy the early blast off before the season is forced down to Earth.

Rebuilding Doesn’t Mean Quitting

When the season does begin to take a turn for the worse, instead jumping ship, try to accept it. The rebuilding phase is an inevitable part of a professional sports organization (unless you’re the Lakers or Celtics, that is). Instead of grading the team on wins and losses, assess the development of the individual players. Pretend you’re part of the front office. Analyze the potential of the current players and make decisions on who should be part of the future, and who should be shipped out. The group assembled may not be great at the moment, but there are pieces on every team that could become superstars or major role players with the right surroundings.

Have you ever spoken to someone who remembers seeing Michael Jordan play as a rookie? And how cool it sounds? And how jealous it makes you (and by you, I mean me)? While there will probably never be another Jordan, a superstar in the making may be developing right in front of your eyes. Don’t miss the opportunity to see players like John Wall, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love mature into their full potential. And if there isn’t a future superstar on the current squad, there could be another Luc Longley, Steve Kerr, or Robert Horry in the making.

Promotions and Giveaways

It’s natural for a fan to lose interest once the losses pile up. The opening game sellout can turn into a comparatively vacant area if the team doesn’t start performing quickly. At the end of the day, however, the NBA is a business. The unsold seats represent lost revenue for a league struggling financially as it is, so they create various promotions and giveaways to re-entice fans.

Check to see what your local team has to offer and put together an outing. This year alone, the Washington Wizards have done ticket giveaways, family fun packs, pregame theme parties inside sections of the Verizon Center, and pregame bar-hops around the arena, to name only a few promotions. And similar promotions exist all around the league. Even if the game doesn’t go as pleased, the surrounding events make it for a solid group outing.

When Stars Comes to Town…

Although your favorite team may be wasting away like rotten vegetables, that doesn’t mean there isn’t good basketball to be seen. Every team in the NBA plays each other at least twice a season. When the schedule comes out, make a note of when the top teams and players are coming to town. Get tickets early or wait for a deal later in the season. Snag some last minute promotional giveaways.

The Wizards have been in rebuilding mode for a few years now, and it hasn’t been the most fun for the fan base, but I’ve been able to see Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Dirk Nowitzki, and Derrick Rose in person without breaking the bank. I’ll admit those three games weren’t exactly competitive, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

There’s Always Next Year

The misery will only last so long. It sounds cliché, but there’s always next year (or the year after that for those teams in serious disarray). Two years ago, the Oklahoma City Thunder were a lowly 23-59 – another lost season for the franchise formerly known as the Seattle Supersonics. But last season, they surprised the NBA by making the Western Conference playoffs and pushing the Los Angeles Lakers, in between their two back to back titles at the time, to the 6th game of the first round – a series widely accepted to be a cakewalk for the best team in the league. The Thunder had a solid young core, not unlike many others around the NBA. Next year your team could make a similar jump.

Plus, the way the NBA is currently arranged, the more losses a team accrues, the higher the odds they’ll earn a top draft pick. A deep playoff run is favorable, but the consolation prize of a potential star isn’t bad.

Transform your anger and frustration from seasons past into excitement for your new draft pick, offseason acquisitions, or coach. Because this could be the year that your “what if?” comes true in the form of a championship – a truly just reward for the years of misery.