Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday Roundtable: Biggest Steals And Surprises From The NBA Draft

 
The surprises started early as Cleveland selected Anthony Bennett with the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. (nba.si.com)


BDD's Friday Roundtable is a weekly discussion among a group of our writers on a trending NBA or college basketball topic.

This week's question: What were the biggest steals and biggest surprises of Thursday's NBA Draft?

Alex:
The first surprise came early as the Cavs took Anthony Bennett No. 1 overall, but the biggest surprise was Philadelphia delving head first into rebuilding mode. Adding a second injured center to their roster in Nerlens Noel, the 76ers all but closed the book on their Andrew Bynum experiment and took things a step further by agreeing to trade Jrue Holiday, fresh off his first All-Star appearance and just starting to hit his stride, to the New Orleans Pelicans (who actually look appealing on paper now) in time to hand the franchise keys to Michael Carter-Williams. While MCW has upside to spare, he'll be learning the ropes on a bottom-feeding team that may be making an early play to get Andrew Wiggins in the 2014 draft.

As for biggest steal, I'd look to Detroit. The Pistons selected Petting Siva in the latter half of the second round, but after his career at Louisville, Siva looks like a player who can will his way into making anything happen. I wrote a piece elsewhere in which I borderline-gushed about him this week, hoping to see him paired with a talented big man and provide energy off the bench, if not as a starter. Brandon Knight should be save atop the Pistons' depth chart at point guard, but watching an undersized, athletic player with the speed of Siva work with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond is going to be a thing of beauty.

Kyle:
If you're looking for surprises, the No. 1 pick is a good place to start. Anthony Bennett was thought to go anywhere from No. 1 to No. 8, and coming off an injury with weight problems seemed to be a concern for teams coming in. Apparently not. Cleveland liked him enough to not only draft him, but also keep the pick, as they had earlier mentioned interest in trading the first pick. And it really shouldn't be a surprise, but Charlotte again drew raised eyebrows by drafting Cody Zeller ahead of Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore and Alex Len.

As for steals, Sacramento has to be thrilled that Ben McLemore, who was in the top three of many people's mock drafts, fell to them at No. 7. McLemore should be an athletic, scoring wing player alongside Isaiah Thomas and Tyreke Evans. I also like Portland getting C.J. McCollum to play alongside Damian Lillard in the backcourt. Finally, (I know Alex will agree with me on this) I like Dallas getting Shane Larkin from Atlanta with the No. 18 pick. Dallas wasn't able to get Deron Williams to come back to his hometown last year, and with Darren Collison about to head into free agency, Larkin could be a good scoring point guard for the Mavericks who will need a point guard of the future, especially while trying to land Dwight Howard.

We knew this would be an unpredictable draft coming in, and that theme was carried out throughout the night.

Zach:
The 2013 NBA Draft went how nobody predicted it to go; haywire.  Not a single person correctly predicted the order in which the top 10, not even the top five, selections in the order of which they left the board.  In a time where players like LeBron James, Carmello Anthony and Kyrie Irving appear in the limelight at age 16, yesterday's draft reminded us that even the most elite members of sports journalism and media could indeed, be wrong. 

To me, the whole draft was shocking and surprising.  I'm not an avid college basketball spectator, so my insight came from the great writers here at BDD and other elite basketball minds' predictions and mock-drafts. Nobody saw Anthony Bennett as the No. 1 pick coming. The Cleveland Cavaliers are playing the odds, selecting the former UNLV Runnin' Rebel No. 1 overall, to everyone's surprise. 

Cody Zeller seems to be the jaw-dropping, "what the hell are you thinking," pick of this years crop. CBSSports Draft Tracker labeled the Charlotte Bobcats fourth overall pick a D+. I don't mind the pick. I believe Zeller will give the Bobcats consistency at the low-post position until Michael Jordan and staff finds the other variables for a winning equation.  Zeller can shoot the ball well from both away from the basket, and at the free-throw stripe.  He can also get up the floor and score in transition, which makes up for some liabilities on the defensive end.  If Zeller can beef up and get back to the fundamentals in the low-post, both scoring and rebounding, his game could eventually look similar to a Kevin Love type stretch four.

Ben McLemore, who according to ESPN's Jay Bilas was the best player available, was selected at No. 7 to the Sacramento Kings.  Sacramento brings in a versatile scoring threat sure to put fans in the seats, which is something the Kings organization must do after fighting so hard to keep the team in the state capital and new owner Vivek Ranadive feels good about the pick. 

"Basketball Never Stops," is the phrase coined by somebody who understands the NBA.  Just shortly after crowning a Champion, fans of the league were truly spoiled with entertainment last night.  The 2013 NBA Draft may not be remembered by the collection of talent, but, it is certainly a draft that I will never forget. 
 


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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Draft Profile: Premier Point Guard Trey Burke

In the run-up to the 2013 NBA Draft on June 27, the BDD staff will be profiling several projected lottery picks and other draft entrants. Next up: Trey Burke.

Trey Burke is projected as the first guard off the board in the NBA Draft. (Associated Press)

Position: Point Guard
College: Michigan
DraftExpress Prediction: No. 6 in the first round, No. 6 overall to the New Orleans Pelicans

Synopsis: Burke led a heavily hyped Michigan squad to the national championship game, officially announcing the Wolverines' return to college basketball's highest level. Several times at the end of the regular season, Burke exhibited an intangible that makes coaches and scouts salivate: the clutch gene. Whether it was a making a late shot to clinch a game or send it to overtime or forcing a turnover that took away an opponent's last hope at winning, Burke repeatedly showed his ability to perform on both ends of the court when the atmosphere is at its most tense. This is perhaps just as important as any of his skills with a basketball, especially considering his short stature (5'11.75" without shoes; 6'1.25" with shoes) and lean 187-pound frame.

Burke's skills speak for themselves. He creates like a traditional point guard (7.7 assists per 40 minutes pace adjusted), especially excelling at finding teammates in transition with a 4.3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio on the fast break, which is good because his transition scoring is not ideal. However, Burke more than makes up for it in half-court sets, in which he executes well off the dribble and creates his own shot, often preferring to efficiently knock down pull-up jumpers rather than finishing at the rim. That would be an issue for most guards, but Burke is at home in the mid-range, as one of the few areas where his game could stand to improve is behind the arc, where he shot a paltry 38.3 percent as a sophomore, up from 34.8 percent as a freshman.

Burke's ability to score in multiple ways, as well as find shots for teammates all over the court, is complemented by the 1.9 steals per 40 minutes pace adjusted he compiled last season. His quick hands — the masters of his crafty ball-handling and fantastic passing — make Burke a capable ball-hawk on defense, but his size could be a problem when it comes to defending point guards of typical NBA size, who will likely stand several inches taller than him and could either work Burke into post-up situations or use their superior length to put the Michigan product on his heels. Teams have done worse than settling for such a good offensive weapon and forsaking some defense, however.

Quote to note: "On the court, in my opinion, it's totally different. Change of speed with the ball and things like that, I feel like that's a natural strength of mine, honestly. If you watch back at Michigan — even though this is another level — a lot of the times when I got to the rim, it was from change of speed, ball-handling and just craftiness. I feel like I am just as athletic as the guys my size. I don't feel like I'm a super-athlete, like Derrick Rose." - Trey Burke on his comparable athleticism after a pre-draft workout with the Sacramento Kings.

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Draft Profile: Potential No. 1 Pick Nerlens Noel

In the run-up to the 2013 NBA Draft on June 27, the BDD staff will be profiling several projected lottery picks and other draft entrants. Next up: Nerlens Noel.

 
Nerlens Noel has the size to be great in the NBA, but how will his recently torn ACL hold up? (sportsillustrated.cnn.com)


Position: Center
College: Kentucky
DraftExpress Prediction: No. 1 in the first round, No. 1 overall to the Cleveland Cavaliers

Synopsis: He was expected to be an Anthony Davis lookalike in performance and in leading Kentucky to possibly a second-straight NCAA Championship. Nerlens Noel wasn't a dominant as Davis and his Wildcats were wildly disappointing, but Noel still made a name for himself last season, especially on the defensive end. His 4.4 blocks per game put him as one of the best in the country, while also grabbing 9.5 rebounds per game and just generally putting fear into any opponent who thinks of himself as brave enough to drive to the paint on Noel. On the offensive side, his game is certainly not terrible, but it has a long way to go. Noel averaged 10.5 points per game on 59 percent shooting from the field, but he only took less than seven shots per game. He is going to have to be more aggressive on the offensive end.

Then there's the knee. The second Noel flew at the basket against Florida you knew it wasn't good. The torn ACL put him out for the rest of the season and we still don't know what kind of shape the knee is in. The team that drafts Noel will know it may take more time for Noel to get back to his former self, which is asking a team with a very high draft pick, who is bad and one would assume wants to improve right away, to be patient. Noel will still be a top three pick, and potentially the No. 1 pick, mostly based on his size and physical attributes. It's hard to pass up a guy who is nearly 7-feet tall with a 7'4" wingspan and has the athletic ability, especially on defense, that Noel possesses. It will take some time, both for the knee and the growth of his offensive game, but the team that takes Noel is thinking about the future, and he could have a solid future in the NBA.

Quote to note: "We're talking about a No. 1 pick who's a defensive savant, but he can't score and is injured. Offensively, he has a long way to go. He scores off activity level, not skill level. And we can't forget he's hurt. We're not talking about a sprained ankle, you'd be drafting a guy who just tore his ACL. No one said, 'I don't think Greg Oden will pan out.' This is more unusual. For a top draft pick, he raises a lot of questions." - Jay Bilas on Noel via USA Today.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Draft Profile: Making Baskets With Otto Porter

In the run-up to the 2013 NBA Draft on June 27, the BDD staff will be profiling several projected lottery picks and other draft entrants. Next up: Otto Porter.

Otto Porter probably scored on this play. (John McDonnell/Washington Post)

Position: Small Forward
College: Georgetown
DraftExpress Prediction: No. 3 in first round, No. 3 overall to the Washington Wizards

Synopsis: Otto Porter can get into the lane at will and succinctly score when he gets there. Remember Georgetown's late surge during the regular season that locked the Hoyas into an NCAA Tournament selection? Credit Porter's activity on both ends. On the offensive side in particular, Porter's enhanced three-point acumen (from 23 percent as a sophomore to 42 percent last season) added a new dimension to his game that made his entry to the paint that much simpler for him and that much more agonizing for onlooking coaches on the opposing bench. His 16.2 points per game (19.1 per 40 minutes pace adjusted) came from an efficient 48 percent shooting while using 21.7 percent of Georgetown's possessions when on the floor.

Thanks to his size, this scoring ability should translate to NBA courts. Porter's ideal height for a small forward (6'9") could stand to fill out (he's currently 198 pounds), but his length makes him a threat on defense, as well. His 7-foot-plus wingspan helped Porter poke away 2.1 steals per game as a senior. The three-man also nabbed 22.6 percent of his team's defensive rebounds, showing he does more than hit the boards for his own put-backs.

A necessary expansion of Porter's game to make him an all-around better scorer, and thus an all-around better threat, would be the addition of creating his own shot off the dribble. This would make him more dangerous in isolation situations and as part of a pick-and-roll tandem, thus allowing Porter to create more space for his teammates and perhaps see a jump in his assist numbers (2.7 per game last season). For the weight and off-the-bounce skills he currently lacks, though, Porter has shown he can make dramatic jumps in just one offseason. There is no sure-shot lottery pick in this draft, but Porter is one of the only players able to make an immediate impact for whichever team drafts him. 

Quote to note: “It has helped. Obviously, you can get better each and every day. Obviously, we didn't play our best game my last game. I wanted to come from that, to learn from that, and get better.” - Porter on Georgetown's NCAA Tournament loss to No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast, via DraftExpress. 

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Draft Profile: High-Flying And Pure-Shooting Ben McLemore

In the run-up to the 2013 NBA Draft on June 27, the BDD staff will be profiling several projected lottery picks and other draft entrants. Next up: Ben McLemore.

Ben McLemore showed off his athletic ability that's led him to a possible No. 2 pick numerous times throughout the college basketball season. (nba.si.com)

Position: Small Forward
College: Kansas
DraftExpress Prediction: No. 2 in first round, No. 2 to the Orlando Magic

Synopsis: The good for Ben McLemore is very good. He broke the KU record for most points in a game as a freshman with 36 against West Virginia and scored 33 against Iowa State in Lawrence, including hitting a 3-pointer at the end of regulation to send the game to overtime. He's a tremendous athlete with quite possibly the smoothest jump shot in college basketball (drawing comparisons to Ray Allen) and can jump out of the gym with a 42-inch vertical. McLemore averaged 15.9 points per game during his freshman season as a Jayhawk, shooting an efficient 49.5 percent from the floor, 42 percent from behind the arc and 87 percent from the free-throw line, while also grabbing 5.2 rebounds and staying out of foul trouble with less than two fouls per game.

There's a lot to like about McLemore, both on the court and his personality and the well-known story of his hardships growing up. That's why he is likely going to be a top-three pick. But even top-three picks in this draft have questions surrounding them, and McLemore is no different. One concern was his lack of scoring consistency last year, especially on the road, and how he would seem to get lost during games while going long stretches without taking a shot. Off the field, McLemore signed with agent Rodney Blackstock, who reportedly payed McLemore's AAU coach to move McLemore in the direction of Blackstock. Still, watching McLemore in college, it was clear he belonged at the next level and should be worth the top-three pick. If he can get anywhere close to the comparisons to Ray Allen, he'll be a very good NBA player.


Quote to note: "I definitely can compare myself to Ray Allen, especially with the shooting ability. I don't know about the athleticism anymore. But I definitely can say I compare myself with him a lot as far as getting myself open, coming off screens and little things like that." - Ben McLemore on the comparison's to Ray Allen via the Orlando Sentinel.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How to survive the NBA offseason

The NBA Offseason

The desolate winter is officially upon us. The NBA season is no more.

That doesn’t mean we have to stop watching and reading about basketball, though! I have compiled a list of things to help NBA fans survive the harsh and lonely offseason.

How much have you actually seen of Wilt Chamberlain? What about of Bill Russell? Oscar Robertson? The following YouTube channels contain hundreds of hours worth of old video footage to keep you occupied. Instead of watching some NBA games everyday, whet your appetite for basketball action by watching one classic game a week. These channels are just a starting point, there are thousands of other videos and channels around YouTube that will help you on your journey. Perhaps tonight you can watch a game featuring Bird’s Celtics, then next week watch the 1972 clash of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain. There is much more footage of old games out there than you think.

YouTube Channels:









I was born in 1992, my growth as a human seemed to coincide with the growth of the internet. I was under the impression that everything that was known about the world was online. My world came shattering down recently when I purchased a few books about the invasion of Mexico. One page seemed to give me more information than my years worth of reading up on it online. Since then, I have purchased many book to help me understand the history of basketball. Some great ones to help you through the summer are:

Books:

  • FreeDarko Presents: The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History. Amazon
I'm currently reading this book right now. I highly recommend it. It takes you from the crazy world of pre-NBA basketball all the way to the current day. Beautifully illustrated with a fun writing style and great graphs. It will definitely give you a very solid foundation of not just NBA history, but basketball history.

  • Cages to Jumpshots: Pro Basketball's Early Years Amazon
A detailed history of basketball from its invention until the 1950’s.

  • Vintage NBA Basketball: The Pioneer Era (1946-56) Amazon
Learn about the guys that really pioneered the league we all love today. Reminder: These players were not and still are not part of the league pension plan.

  • The First Tip Off: The Incredible Story of the Birth of the NBA Amazon
An in-depth look at the 1947 NBA season, the very first in league history

  • The National Basketball League: A History, 1935-1949 Amazon
Two leagues actually make up the NBA. The BAA, the Basketball Association of America, and the NBL, the National Basketball League. They merged in 1950 to created the National Basketball Association. The BAA was formed in 1947, and is officially recognized as NBA history. The NBL, however, is not. However the NBL had superior talent to the BAA. So if the BAA is the father to the NBA, learn about its grandfather, the NBL.

  • Basketball: Its Origin and Development: By Dr James Naismith Amazon
What better way to learn about basketball than by Dr Naismith? Learn about the creation and explore the development of the game from the inventor himself.


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Draft Profile: Greece Forward Giannis Adetokunbo



In the run-up to the 2013 NBA Draft on June 27, the BDD staff will be profiling several projected lottery picks and other draft entrants. Next up: Giannis Adetokunbo.

Position: Small Forward
College: Filathlitikos Academy, Greece
DraftExpress Prediction: No. 17 in the first round, No. 17 overall to the Atlanta Hawks

He's only 18, but Giannis Adetokunbo from Greece is rising up the mock draft charts. (draftexpress.com)

Synopsis: Not many people who aren’t incredibly dedicated basketball fans probably know who Giannis Adetokunbo is. Having come up through the ranks in Europe, he has avoided the spotlight that has highlighted the play of players like Trey Burke, Ben MacLemore and Nerlens Noel. However, his ceiling could be as high as any of them. He is long, athletic, versatile and above all, raw. While his potential seems exponential and analysts seem to be raising his stock and ceiling every day, he has some major development yet to accomplish.

Adetokunbo has been shooting up the predictions in the last month. Originally listed to be picked at 29 in the draft, Draft Express now has him listed 12 spots higher in its latest mock draft. This can be largely attributed to a report that came from Matt Kamalsky of DraftExpress saying Adetokunbo had been impressive in his latest exhibition performances. In his last game in Europe (between Croatia and Greece), Adetokunbo racked up 11 points, six rebounds, and four assists. Not shabby numbers for a raw and unproven talent. He also displayed an ability to bring the ball up the floor, which will surely help his stock, being he’s a 6’9’’ forward. While his stats overall in his time in Europe don’t exactly jump at you, there are some major positives that Adetokunbo can grow on. First, in 20 minutes per game, Adetokunbo averaged five rebounds and showed an ability to hit 3-pointers with some consistency. Given his age (he’s only 18) it is reasonable to think Adetokunbo’s potential has barely been tapped. He’s an exceptional athlete who can play both on the block and the wing. With his athletic ability, he should be able to develop into an above-average defender.

However, the reason projects are projects is because they aren’t a sure thing and need work. While there is potential, Adetokunbo is very raw and needs to develop a lot in order to reach his ceiling. While he showed some offensive ability in Europe, his point totals weren’t outstanding, tallying just more than seven points per game. He will need to fill out at the next level if he is going to continue to play on the block, and while he can hit the open look from three, Kamalsky says Adetokunbo has a long release and takes a lot of time to set up for a shot. This will need to change at the next level. His experience is also a factor to consider. Adetokunbo is only 18 years old and the competition he has played against isn’t going to compare to what he will face in the NBA. The style of play in Europe is also different from what he will experience in the league, so it will be interesting to see how he transitions. All in all, Adetokunbo is a very intriguing prospect with a lot of upside. His career will be a fun one to track at the next level.

Quote to Note: “I’m an all-around player. I can jump, I can shoot, I can pass the ball: I can do everything on the court.” - Adetokunbo on what type of play he is via DraftExpress.com.

Monday, June 24, 2013

LA Clippers Trade For Celtics Coach Doc Rivers

After nine years with Boston, Doc Rivers has been traded to lead the Los Angeles Clippers. (latimes.com)

The Los Angeles Clippers didn't fly as high, despite their "Lob City" nickname, as the organization and fans wanted under Vinny Del Negro. So the Clippers went out and traded for nine-year Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers to lead the charge into what they hope can be NBA-championship team.

It's no secret the Celtics will soon not look anything like what we've come to know from the guys in green. Danny Ainge, Boston's director of basketball operations, had been open with his thoughts on breaking up the Celtics big three (Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen) for several years. Now Ray Allen is gone and with Garnett and Pierce getting into the twilight of their careers (Garnett is 37 and Pierce 35), Boston is in full rebuilding mode. With Rivers gone, Garnett and Pierce's future with the team is uncertain.

Which brings us to Doc Rivers. By trading the coach, the Celtics now get out of the $21 million contract over the next three years it would have had to pay Rivers, while the Clippers will now pay that amount and give the Celtics a first-round pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Talks of a trade involving Rivers had been in talks for the past two weeks and while names like Garnett and DeAndre Jordan were tossed around and it at times seemed like the trade was dead, both teams seemed to get what they needed. ESPN's Jackie MacMullan (link above) hinted in the story that the trade for Rivers could seal a long-term deal with Chris Paul, who is the engine of the Clippers team. LA will also have a coach with a history of playoff success (two NBA Finals appearances, one title) that could take the Clippers to the next level of not just making the playoffs, but being a championship contender.

Then there's Boston. The Celtics know the next few years will be rough. Their stars are old and have been injured, and it will take a couple of drafts to get the new, young talent up to a respectable point. Because of this, they didn't want to pay a coach $7 million a year with a rebuilding team and the team can now use that money in other ways.

There is still more each team can do this offseason to improve, but this is a start for two teams headed in different directions; the Clippers taking another step toward the NBA elite teams and the Celtics taking a few steps back to get younger and rebuild.

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Draft Profile: Workhorse Victor Oladipo

In the run-up to the 2013 NBA Draft on June 27, the BDD staff will be profiling several projected lottery picks and other draft entrants. Next up: Victor Oladipo.

Victor Oladipo was the best player on an Indiana team that spent a lot of time ranked No. 1 in the country last season. (detroitnews.com)

Position: Shooting Guard
College: Indiana
DraftExpress Prediction: No. 5 in first round and No. 5 overall to the Phoenix Suns

Synopsis: Cody Zeller drew all of the attention at Indiana before the season started, but since then junior Victor Oladipo stole the show nationally as a national player of the year candidate for the Hoosiers. The 6'4" guard improved in nearly every statistical category from his sophomore to junior campaign, some of the improvements vast, which gives hope to the potential that he could still reach. Oladipo averaged 13.6 points per game last season while shooting a remarkable 59.9 percent from the floor and 44.1 percent from 3-point range, which is up from the 10.8 ppg, 47.1 percent from the field and 20.8 from behind the arch as a sophomore. He is also a tremendous rebounder, averaging 6.3 boards per game, and watching him last year it felt like he was all over the court on defense, leading to 2.2 steals per game.

Oladipo is an efficient workhorse, but don't let that overlook his athleticism. He is a gifted athlete, with a max vertical at the NBA combine of 42" and a 3/4-court sprint time of 3.25 seconds. Still, teams should take comfort in the fact Oladipo does not look like a guy who will need constant motivation to go all out. The team that drafts him will be getting a guy who will bring high energy and a consistent presence to the court and be able to play strong defense, not to mention an efficient and effective scorer on the offensive end.

Quote to note: 
“His work ethic is unbelievable. When it is the day before a game, the day after a game, he is going to bring the same work ethic, the same energy. He does not approach anything like it is an off day. It made us a better team this year. It becomes something that everyone on the team really picks up on. Whatever team he goes to, whatever team he is on next year, it will make them better, too.” - former Indiana teammate Cody Zeller via Sporting News.

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday Roundtable: Way-Too-Early Predictions for the 2014 NBA FInals

Will we see a rematch of the 2012 NBA Finals in next year's NBA Finals? (mancavesports.org)

BDD's Friday Roundtable is a weekly discussion among a group of our writers on a trending NBA or college basketball topic.

This week's question: The Miami Heat collected a second consecutive title last night, but which teams will appear in the 2014 NBA Finals?

Alex:
The Oklahoma City Thunder are in a good place right now. Kevin Durant and a rehabbed Russell Westbrook will still be the team's principle players, with Serge Ibaka keying the defensive side of things, but OKC is also in a position where it can draft for depth, not immediate need. Recent mock drafts have the Thunder selecting a point guard and a center in next week's draft, both of which are weak positions when the bench is considered. After another season spent maturing and producing at a top rate, the Thunder will make a run past other Western Conference contenders. As for the Eastern representatives? Well, LeBron James doesn't seem to be slowing down any time soon...

Kyle:
It may seem obvious with the age of the teams, but I don't think we'll be seeing a repeat of this year's matchup. The Spurs might have been on their last ride with Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili is not the player he was a few years ago. Memphis needs a bit more offense. The Clippers will depend on what they do this offseason. I like Golden State, but they are still young and inexperienced. That's why I think the Oklahoma City Thunder, with a healthy Russell Westbrook and Kevin Duncan, return to the NBA Finals. Durant will get a ring at some point, and I think he gets a shot next season.

The east would seem to be an easy choice. Do people pick against the two-time defending champs? The Big Three of Miami is no longer a thing. Reason to not pick the Heat? Chris Bosh has not played well enough to earn a "big" status, and Dwyane Wade will need to prove he is healthy.  Reasons to pick Miami? LeBron James. Plain a simple. But I don't think it will be easy. If given another chance next year, Indiana may be good and mature enough to finally knock off the Heat. If Derrick Rose plays for Chicago, the Bulls have to be in contention. Those three seem like the clear favorites, but a Thunder/Heat rematch at some point feels like it is imminent, and I definitely wouldn't hate it.



Shawn:
As long as LeBron James is in the league, he will be a threat for a repeat championship. However, I think his supporting cast with the aging Dwayne Wade and inconsistent Chris Bosh is not enough to provide him with the help any great player needs to get a ring. The Pacers are an intriguing pick with the emergence of Paul George as a star wing-player and the presence of Roy Hibbert in the post, but Indiana is probably still a year or two away from claiming a championship trophy. While he’s still a terrific player, I don’t think Kobe Bryant has the supporting cast to make another run.

The team that is and has been so close to breaking through is the Oklahoma City Thunder, and next year I believe it will do it. Kevin Durant is one of the best players in the NBA, and has the ability to take over a game and carry a team when the rest of its players are struggling. He creates mismatch problems for every team with the combination of his height, athleticism, and his ability to either put the ball on the floor or shoot the three. Russell Westbrook is one of the more dynamic point guards in the NBA and still hasn’t reached his full potential. The Thunder also have a tough duo in the low post with Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins, who provide an aggressive, nasty defensive attitude on the block. The keys for the Thunder to break through are the continued development of both Ibaka and Westbrook, and also the shot selection and decision making of Oklahoma City’s point guard. While he is a great talent, Westbrook sometimes forces the issue and takes wild and poor shots. If those two things come together, Oklahoma City will claim their first title. 

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

BDD Turns One Year Old

Know your roots. (The New York Times)

By Alex Skov and Kyle Davis

It was a year ago today, as Miami was in the process of winning the NBA Finals, that what was a long talked-about idea became a reality. It was kind of like how buddies always say they are going to open a bar, although this was less of an undertaking and, frankly, a better idea.

The first post on Beats, Dimes and Drives went up on one innocuous evening last summer. It was just a small introduction to the blog, why it was being written and what had come before it. As convoluted or self-important as the first post was and probably still is, we came into the blogosphere with a vigor that could have been called "unbridled." Our focus increased and as we developed long-term goals, spent more time writing and coordinated projects of gradually larger scales — hopefully the product's quality improved.

We're not writing this to flaunt the achievements (even though when starting out little things like the first time the blog hit 100 views in a day or when a player like Jerry Stackhouse or Nebraska coach Tim Miles retweeted our content, it made us react like we had won a prize) or tell you how hard it was to start something like this from scratch.

We're writing this to acknowledge anyone who has clicked on a link and given us a chance to entertain and start a conversation about a sport we love. This is definitely a passion project. The love of the game and joy of somehow coherently corralling thoughts into posts you want to read is the reason we started this blog. We both have other full-time jobs, but the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment of watching this grow has meant a lot because it is what we love to do.

We like to think we know what we're doing now. The training wheels are off and we've gotten help from the (very much appreciated) contributing writers who have made the difference in our success. We are now entering our second year with a lot of great ideas and can't wait to see where the second year of the blog takes us. We just hope you are along for the ride.

It is nowhere near enough, but what we're trying to say is this:  thank you.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Draft Profie: Lehigh's C.J. McCollum Is Healthy And Ready To Prove Himself

In the run-up to the 2013 NBA Draft on June 27, the BDD staff will be profiling several projected lottery picks and other draft entrants. Next up: C.J. McCollum.

C.J. McCollum missed all but 12 games of his senior year at Lehigh but is healthy and ready for the NBA. (sbnation.com)

Position: Point guard/shooting guard
College: Lehigh
DraftExpress projection: No. 8, No. 8 to the Detroit Pistons

Synopsis: It's a good sign of a talent when a player is from a mid-major program and only plays in 12 games of his senior season, yet is still a projected top-10 pick. C.J. McCollum became a household name when his Lehigh team defeated Duke in the first round of the 2011-12 NCAA Tournament, in a season in which he averaged 21.9 points per game. Analysts and fans around the country were excited to see if McCollum could continue his excellence through his senior campaign, until a foot injury knocked him out for the season after 12 games. McCollum made the most of those 12 games, averaging a career best 23.9 ppg.

If there were still questions about his foot, the 6'3" McCollum answered those questions by recording a 38.5" max vertical jump at the NBA combine. And while McCollum can jump and attack the rim, he is at his best as a shooter. The 2012-13 season stats are a little misleading (49.5 percent from the field and 51.6 from 3-point range) since it was only 12 games, but even in his last full season McCollum shot 44.3 percent from the field and 34.1 percent from behind the arch. McCollum's passing stats are not great, only averaging 2.9 assists last year and 3.5 the year before, but he is an excellent rebounding guard for his height with 6.5 and five rebounds per game the past two seasons. The Lehigh star is a scoring guard, and more importantly an efficient scoring guard. McCollum was first in the country last season in scoring efficiency at 1.104 points per possession. The amount of games he's played against steep competition is a possible concern (although he scored 30 points in the upset of Duke and 36 in the first game of last season against Baylor), but an NBA team is going to get a player that knows how to score and won't make it at the expense of the team.

Quote to Note: “I would say there are a lot of advantages. I stayed there, I committed myself. Just my character. Just how smart I am. I know my game … I won’t make mistakes off the court. You were a student first, athlete second. That’s how I kind of approach this game, approach life.” - McCollum on staying in college for four years via Valley of the Suns.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Three More Steps For The Celtics And Clippers

Kevin Garnett and DeAndre Jordan are at the center of cross-coast trade talks. (Reuters)

There is plenty standing in the way of a whispered-about deal between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers that would end with Doc Rivers coaching a blue-and-white clad Kevin Garnett and the C's having a little more financial flexibility. In and of itself, such a deal would have a major impact on both the Eastern and Western Conference powers, but it could also act as the lead domino falling in a chain of events causing a larger seismic shake in the NBA landscape. While none of these transactions may happen, here are three things Boston can do post-trade to improve their new look, plus three for the Clippers.

What the Celtics can do

1. Hit the coaching market — hard

There should be many viable candidates left when/if this deal gets done, with the limited number of head coaching jobs still vacant. Lionel Hollins would be a near-perfect fit for a young, aggressive center like DeAndre Jordan (a Celtic, pending the deal) and a point with a nose for the ball like Rajon Rondo. Hollins could even help Avery Bradley return to his 2011-12 form, which looked like one of the NBA's top perimeter defenders. Though Hollins will surely have been snapped up by a needing team by that point, others such as George Karl, Kelvin Sampson, Brian Shaw and Nate McMillan could be available. A storied franchise like Boston's might even have a chance to lure Jerry Sloan away from retirement, if the rebuilding period could be sold as short.

2. Let Rondo pad his stats

Keep the roster as it is. If Boston can keep Paul Pierce or if he requests a trade out of frustration or friendship with Garnett fine. Getting something back for Pierce while he still has market value would be ideal, and giving Jordan a season as the headlining big man would be paramount to his development, but Rondo is still the heart, soul, motor, etc., etc., of the Beantown ballers. Coming back from an injury like an ACL tear, he will require time to get back into the rhythm of the game. The Celtics should allow him that and, when he's returned to the level of competition at which he usually plays, let him take as many touches as he wants. Rondo is a huge fan of performing on big stages, routinely recording triple-doubles in playoff games like he is on a court competing against amateurs. Giving him free reign to do this on a nightly basis could up his production to heights previously only imagined. It would also give Rondo more opportunities to explore the scoring aspect of his game, something Rivers and the Boston coaching staff have been hounding him to do for some time now.

3. Find a gem in the 2014 draft

Shawn mentioned it in a roundtable a while back, striking out and predicting the Celtics would tank 2013-14 to better their chances of snagging the winning ticket in the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes. It seemed like a very long, if still realistic, shot then and has only become a clearer option since. The 2014 draft is deep and Wiggins is far from being the only prize to be had, but he is obviously the biggest gift under the tree. Pairing a prospect like Wiggins with a dominant, willingly deferring guard like Rondo is akin to a blessing from the basketball gods. Having an interior presence like Jordan would ease Wiggins through his rookie season, even if he won't need it.

What the Clippers can do

1. Re-sign Chris Paul

Duh. This is a no-brainer. Paul and Garnett would be nasty for opposing teams not only as a duo, but as a lethal leadership combination rallying their fellow Clippers. The steps following the current proposal between Los Angeles and Boston — dealing Eric Bledsoe for Dwight Howard or Arron Afflalo — could improve the Clippers a great deal more, but if the Clips are to succeed immediately, Paul must be directing traffic.

2. Find some youth.

Particularly at shooting guard. Especially at small forward. Recommended for the bench. Without Jordan (plus Blake Griffin and/or Bledsoe, pending other trades), the Clippers' mean age goes up significantly. Grant Hill may have retired, but Caron Butler and Jamal Crawford aren't doing much for the franchise's future, even if they are of some use presently. The addition of Garnett, and possibly Pierce, indicates win-now, which is fine for a team the caliber of which the LA front office is presently trying to assemble, but there are several reasons as to why a youthful group of role players could help the team. They begin with cultivating talent and giving it early looks at playoff experience and continue with concerns about durability for the older, billboard players.

3.Win the war for Los Angeles

This has nothing to do with Aaron Eckhart nor his terrible 2011 movie. Instead, it means fully emerging from the shadow of the Staples Center's favorite sons, the Lakers. The Clippers were on the verge this season as their dominance made the Lakers' struggles throughout the regular season look worse, but then the Lake Show managed to earn the Western Conference's eighth seed. Not that it mattered for either team, as both experienced first-round exits. Kobe Bryant's torn Achilles tendon and the Lakers' continuing roster woes offer a rebuilt Clippers squad to finally strike out for the throne in Southern California, if not the NBA as a whole.

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Danny Green Is San Antonio's Unlikely MVP

Danny Green has evolved from a benchwarmer to possible NBA Finals MVP. (nba.si.com)

Danny Green and LeBron James were teammates once upon a time, although hardly any time was spent on the floor together.

Green was a rookie drafted by Cleveland, who only saw action in 20 games and averaged 5.8 minutes per game, while James led the Cavaliers to the Eastern Conference Semifinals before losing to the Boston Celtics 4-2 in the series.

It was the 2009-10 season, and it also happened to be both players' final seasons in Cleveland. Green was let go and found a new home in San Antonio while James, well, you know what happened with James. Turns out the change of scenery has worked out pretty well for both players.

Green went from only playing in 28 regular season games his first two seasons (without a start) in the league to this year playing in 80 and starting in them all. Still, Green is considered a role player to support the Spurs big three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

Yet if the Spurs can close out their 3-2 series lead and win the NBA Finals, Green could be the MVP of the series. Green (averaging 18 ppg for the series) hit six 3-pointers as part of his 24 points in game five, putting his name in the NBA record books. Green now has 25 3-pointers during the NBA Finals, three more than Ray Allen's previous record of 22. More impressive is the fact that those 25 makes have come on 38 attempts, giving him a shooting percentage of 65 percent from behind the arc. For the entire postseason, Green has 53 3-pointers for a 51.5 percentage. Green has been a steady 3-point threat the past two seasons, shooting above 40 percent each year, but this is a give-the-man-a-gatorade-bath-because-he's-on-fire type of streak.

The giant stage of the NBA Finals is a great venue for breaking out as a player, but it hasn't been completely out of nowhere. This has been slowing evolving the entire postseason. Green has gotten better each series (except for a small step back in production from the Golden State to Memphis series), going from 23 minutes per game, seven points per game and three 3-point attempts per game in the first round series against the Los Angeles Lakers to now 34 mpg, 18 ppg and 7.6 3-pointers per game in the Finals, with steady rises from the first round to semifinals and conference finals to the NBA Finals.

Green is another great lesson that players don't have to be superstars as rookies. College is a place to get better, but so is the NBA. There is room for improvement upon entering the league and San Antonio should be given credit for giving Green a chance to grow. It's also no coincidence Green grew in the Spurs' system. That's what Gregg Popovich does.

Green didn't get much time to share the court with James as teammates, but now that the two are sharing the court again, this time as opponents, it may be Green who keeps James from earning that second ring.

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