Friday, June 27, 2014

Reviewing The First Round of the 2014 NBA Draft

 Here is pick by pick analysis of then first round of the 2014 NBA Draft:

1. Cleveland Cavaliers - Andrew Wiggins (G/F, Univ of Kansas)
Potential Comparable to: Tracy McGrady
Pick Analysis: Wiggins is phenomenal athlete who is a high level defender and needs to work on developing his offensive game.  Wiggins will fit in well with Cavaliers as a compliment to Kyrie Irving on offense.  Wiggins can guard Point Guard, Shooting Guard and Small Forward positions.  How hard he works at improving his offensive game will determine how great he can be in NBA; he is explosive when attacking the basket.

2. Milwaukee Bucks - Jabari Parker (F, Duke Univ)
Potential Comparable to: Glenn Robinson
Pick Analysis: Parker is the most NBA ready player offensively in this year's draft class.  Parker is underrated as a rebounder and has shown the ability to box out on both ends of the court.  Parker can score in the post or from outside.  He needs to work on being consistent on the defensive side of the ball; when he gets screened he loses track of his man.  He has chance to be the 2014-2015 NBA Rookie of the Year because he can step into Bucks starting lineup and average 15-19 points per game day one.  Parker has high basketball IQ and can be productive within any offensive system.

3. Philadelphia 76ers - Joel Embiid (C, Univ of Kansas)
Potential Comparable to : Emeka Okafor
Pick Analysis: Embiid is coming off foot and back injuries and that is why he dropped to number three selection.  This selection shows that 76ers are confident in their Rookie of The Year PG Michael Carter-Williams and believe Embiid has the highest potential ceiling of available players.  Embiid has potential to be excellent rim protector with his athleticism and excellent footwork.  If he can stay healthy he has opportunity to average double digits in points and rebounds in his NBA career.  The 76ers for second straight year select big man coming off injuries (last year they selected Nerlens Noel).  Great prospect but I worry about his ability to stay healthy in the long run.  He needs to rehab in a way to build his body to be durable not just athletic.

4. Orlando Magic - Aaron Gordon (F, Univ of Arizona)
Potential Comparable to Shawn Marion
Pick Analysis: The best pure athlete in this year's draft class.  Gordon is an excellent defender, can guard shooting guard, small forward and many power forwards.  Great shot blocker and in college did a good job at not committing reach in fouls; does well at staying in front of his man on defense.  Gordon needs to work on his jump shot, lacks consistency with his release point.  He has the potential to be a perennial all-star if he can improve his jump shot and continues to play hard on defense.

5. Utah Jazz - Donte Exum (G, Australia)
Potential Comparable to: Brandon Roy
Pick Analysis: He is still developing as a basketball player but has very good instincts on offense.  Slashing scorer, can get to the rim and score easily.  Not a natural point guard but can handle the ball and pass very well.  Utah is a great landing spot for Exum with a Point Guard already in place with Trey Burke there.  Exum has the potential to be a fluid offensive scorer and with his ball handling skills can play either guard position.  Exum has a nice release on his jump shot but needs to work on his consistency with his mechanics.

6. Boston Celtics - Marcus Smart (G, Oklahoma St)
Potential Comparable to: Russell Westbrook
Pick Analysis: Smart has great all-around basketball skills; he is a great defender, hard worker, and explosive scorer.  Smart is willing to put in the work to get better and win.  One of the toughest guys in this year's draft class, he can start immediately for Celtics with his skills on both sides of the ball.  He can play either guard positon.

7. Los Angeles Lakers - Julius Randle (F, Univ of Kentucky)
Potential Comparable to: Zack Randolph
Pick Analysis: The top rebounder in this draft class, got overlooked because he is not a flashy scorer; has potential to be an all star caliber player who averages a double-double for years.  Randle is great low post scorer and solid post defender.  One of a few players who has an NBA ready physique to handle the long season.  He is hard worker and competitor who wants to get better.  Great selection by the Lakers, Randle can start at Power Forward on day one for Los Angeles.

8. Sacramento Kings - Nik Stauskas (G/F, Univ of Michigan)
Potential Comparable to: Drazen Petrovic
Pick Analysis: Stauskas is a fluid scorer, very good passer, and great jump shot.  He is fearless taking the ball to the basket.  Stauskas needs to work on being more consistent defensively by improving his footwork and lateral movement on defense  He gets on hot streaks where his jump shot seems unstoppable and can carry a team for stretches.

9. Charlotte Hornets - Noah Vonleh (F, Univ of Indiana)
Potential Comparable to: Horace Grant
Pick Analysis: Voleh was a productive college player; very good athlete and great touch on the jump shot.  He is excellent mid range scorer but pump fakes too much; needs to be more decisive when he catches the ball on offense.  Noah has great footwork in the low post.  He needs to work on boxing out for rebounds; many of his rebounds in college were off of angles and using his athleticism.  He cannot get rebounds just because he is very good athlete in NBA.  Vonleh needs to improve on his post defensive skills; in college he did a lot of reaching in when he needed to stay in front of defender.  I worry about his ability to play defense in the low post against bigger body players like LaMarcus Aldridge, David West, Carlos Boozer, and Jared Sullinger.

10. Philadelphia 76ers (traded to Magic) - Elfrid Peyton (G, UL Layfayette)
Potential Comparable to: Rajon Rondo
Pick Analysis: Peyton is an excellent ball handler and passer, slashing scorer who is very athletic and quick.  He needs to work on jump shot and is not consistent offensively as a scorer.  Peyton is a very good defender who with his length and quickness can cause a lot of problems for opposing guards.  He needs to get stronger to be able to consistently get through a full NBA season.

11. Chicago Bulls (via trade with Denver Nuggets) - Doug McDermott (F, Creighton Univ)
Potential Comparable to: Paul Pierce
Pick Analysis: McDermott is one of the most talented scorers in this year’s draft.  He is a great ball handler and passer who can score either inside or outside the paint.  McDermott has a high basketball IQ and he is a competitor who wants to make his team better.  He can back down defenders and is excellent at finding open shooters from post position.  McDermott is also an underrated rebounder; going to the Bulls is a great situation where he will learn to be an effective NBA level defender.

12. Orlando Magic (traded to 76ers) - Dario Saric (F, Croatia)
Potential Comparable to: Boris Diaw
Pick Analysis: Saric will not be coming to NBA immediately, he will play in Europe and develop for a couple of years.  Saric has a very good handle on the ball and his passing skills are great.  He has to work on his over offensive scoring skills as his shooting touch and finishing ability at the basket are inconsistent.  Also, he needs to improve his defensive footwork.

13. Minnesota Timberwolves - Zach LaVine (G, UCLA)
Potential Comparable to: Damian Lillard
Pick Analysis: LaVine is a very good shooter who needs to improve his ball handling and defensive game.  LaVine is a top level athlete who needs more time to grow into his body, get stronger and develop his game.  He has great potential but is nowhere near his potential at this time.  We may not see what he is truly capable of for another 3-4 years but in the near future expect him to be a solid three point threat and explosive on the fast break.

14. Phoenix Suns - T.J. Warren (G/F, NC State)
Potential Comparable to: Danny Granger
Pick Analysis: Warren is an excellent scorer and competitor; he is a natural leader.  Warren can carry a team offensively and leaves his all on the court every game.  He is an average defender and underrated passer.  His work ethic will allow him to develop to become a better player than at least half the players drafted ahead of him.

15. Atlanta Hawks - Adreian Payne (F, Michigan State)
Potential Comparable to: LaMarcus Aldridge
Pick Analysis: Payne has really good all-around offensive skills and is a hard-nosed defender.  He is stylistically a finesse post player with good post moves who can step back and hit the mid-range jump shot.  Payne is a top tier competitor and will play through injuries; his toughness is second to none.  He needs to improve on his offensive rebounding as well as defensive consitency.

16. Denver Nuggets (via trade from Chicago Bulls) - Jusuf Nurkic (C, Bosnia-Herzegovina)
Potential Comparable to: Arvydas Sabonis
Pick Analysis: Nurkic is a very physical and athletic big man who has great footwork.  He will spend time in Europe developing before coming to NBA.  Nurkic needs to work on being a better off-ball defender and not be so "violent" with his shot block attempts; in some games he gets over aggressive with shot block attempts and has fouled players so hard the injuries knock them out of the game.  He has good touch on his jump shot, needs to improve his ability to score off the dribble.

17. Boston Celtics - James Young (G/F, Univ of Kentucky)
Potential Comparable to: Joe Johnson
Pick Analysis: Young is an explosive and streaky scorer with a great jump shot.  He is still learning the game on both sides of the ball but his basketball IQ allows him to assimilate into an offense quickly.  He needs to improve his dribbling skills so he can be more consistent at getting to the rim so defenses do not zone in on him just as a shooter.  Young is a good and willing defender, he shows great lateral quickness.

18. Phoenix Suns - Tyler Ennis (G, Univ of Syracuse)
Potential Comparable to: Tony Parker
Pick Analysis: Ennis is a natural point guard, very quick and smooth in transition.  Ennis is underrated as a shooter and defender; Ennis is a great passer and leader.  He can score in a variety of ways but wants to make his teammates better, very unselfish.  Defensively, Ennis needs to improve his footwork to stay in front of opposing guards.

19. Chicago Bulls (pick traded to Nuggets) - Gary Harris (G, Michigan State)
Potential Comparable to: Ray Allen
Pick Analysis: Harris is great shooter who can score from anywhere on the floor.  He is a tough and active defender who makes smart decisions.  Harris makes his teammates better and is a great competitor.  Harris is a good athlete but needs to get physically stronger to be more durable.

20. Toronto Raptors - Bruno Caboclo (F, Brazil)
Potential Comparable to: Vince Carter/Kevin Durant
Pick Analysis:  Caboclo is an excellent athlete but very raw with his basketball skills; he is still learning the game.  This is an investment for the future by Toronto in a guy who has excellent potential.  A scout told me he projects as a Vince Carter type athlete with Kevin Durant shooting touch.  Caboclo may not see an NBA court for 4-5 years though so lets not get too excited about him.

21. Oklahoma City Thunder - Mitch McGary (F, Univ of Michigan)
Potential Comparable to: Thiago Splitter
Pick Analysis: McGary is physical and athletic big man who is great rebounder and solid post defender.  He needs to improve on his offensive skills like shooting and passing.  He can be an energy guy off the bench in the NBA immediately.  McGary has some low post moves that allow him to not be an offensive liability.

22. Memphis Grizzles - Jordan Adams (G, UCLA)
Potential Comparable to: Mickael Pietrus
Pick Analysis: Adams is a natural scorer who does not need the offense to run through him to have an impact.  He is a baksetball Jack Of All Trades; Adams is excellent on the ball defender but needs to learn to have better off the ball defense decision making.  He needs to become more consistent with his jump shot.

23. Utah Jazz - Rodney Hood (F, Duke)
Potential Comparable to: Chris Mullen
Pick Analysis: Hood has great offensive skills and instincts; he is a very good shooter who is underrated as a passer.  Defensively Hood is solid because of his length and agility but needs to improve footwork. Hood is a solid all-around player who can make an impact day one in the NBA.

24. Charlotte Hornets (traded to Miami Heat) - Shabazz Napier (G, Univ of Conneticut)
Potential Comparable to: Jameer Nelson
Pick Analysis: Napier is a hard-nosed player, a great ball handler who can score.  He is great at setting up his teammates and putting them in position to be succesful.  He is underrated as a defender who competes against the opposing point guard on each possession.  Nappier is a winner and will do whatever it takes to help his team be sucessful.

25. Houston Rockets - Clint Capela (F, Switzerland)
Comparable to: Serge Ibaka
Pick Analysis: Capela has very good footwork and great range on defense.  He is still a raw player who has potential to be a rim protector and great rebounder in the NBA.  He will spend a few years in Europe refining his skills before coming to the NBA.

26. Miami Heat (selection traded to Charlotte) - P.J. Hairston (G, North Carolina)
Potential Comparable to: Jamal Crawford
Pick Analysis: Hairston is listed as a point guard but he is really a scorer who can shoot well and has a good handle.  He has the skills and potential to be an all star guard but needs to become more disciplined.  Hairston is a good passer but once the ball is out of his hands does not move well off the ball.  He needs to work on being a more consistent defender.  Hairston can offensively carry a team for stretches and is great at creating his own shot.

27. Phoenix Suns - Bogdan Bogdanovic (G, Serbia)
Potential Comparable to: Eddie Jones
Pick Analysis: My European basketball source says Bogdanovic has a high basketball IQ; he is very good scorer who is saavy defender.  He is an underrated shooter who can handle the ball if his team needs him to do so.  Bogdanovic biggest weakness is lack of overall strength.  He will likely spend more time in Europe before embarking on the NBA.

28. Los Angeles Clippers - C.J. Wilcox (G, Univ of Washington)
Potential Comparable to: Klay Thompson
Pick Analysis: Wilcox is an excellent shooter with a quick release.  He is an underrated defender and does very good work at staying in front of his man.  He also is good at passing on the move and is a great teammate.  Wilcox is average at taking the ball to the basket and lacks the skills to create his own shot.

29. Oklahoma City Thunder - Josh Huestis (F, Stanford)
Potential Comparable to: Bruce Bowen
Pick Analysis: Huestis is an excellent defender, one of the best defenders in all of college basketball this past season.  He is also a very good shooter and underrated athlete.  He will do whatever it takes to win and is willing to take on the other team's best offensive player.  Huestis can assimilate onto any team and has the potential of a long career with his skill set and work ethic.

30. San Antonio Spurs - Kyle Anderson (F, UCLA)
Comparable to: Rick Fox
Pick Analysis: Anderson has a high basketball IQ, excellent passer, team player who doesn't have a big ego.  He is a solid defender who can nail the open jump shot but is average at creating his own shot.  Anderson is not a great athlete but uses his length to help him be effective on offense and defense.  He needs to get stronger and improve his off the ball defense.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Interview with UFC Lightweight Contender Jim Miller

The following interview was originally broadcast on May 31, 2014 on WIBG 1020AM/101.3FM

Jim Miller will be apart of the Main Event of UFC Fight Night 45 on July 16th in Atlantic City.  The event will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1.  Miller will be facing off with fellow Lightweight contender Donald Cerrone.

Jim Miller (24-4-1) is coming off back to back 1st round submissions.  His opponent, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (23-6-1) is entering the matchup on a 3 fight winning streak. Ironically, two of Cerrone’s most recent wins are against fighters also fighting on the July Card (Edson Barboza versus Evan Dunham). Miller vs. Cerrone is a matchup between two of the top 155 pound fighters in the world; both fighters have combined for 13 UFC fight bonuses in their careers so this fight is expected to be explosive.

Also scheduled for the July UFC Fight Night in AC is a matchup between two welterweights with wrestling background who have power in their hands: Rick “The Horror” Story (16-8) versus John “Doomsday” Howard (22-9). Both men are coming off closely contested losses by judges’ decision.

July will also be the first time Edson Barboza has fought in Atlantic City since 2010, when he won the Ring of Combat Lightweight Championship. Barboza is 7-2 in his UFC career.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

5 Things to Watch for this upcoming NBA offseason

With the NBA Finals starting on Thursday and the NBA Offseason just around the corner, I thought I would share my thoughts on what could happen this 2014 NBA Offseason.  For those who are unfamiliar, the offseason in the NBA begins with their annual Player Draft followed about a week or so later by the opening of Free Agency.  All my scenarios are based of information I have gathered from media reports and personal sources over the last few weeks.

1. Miami Heat Trade Chris Bosh, their 2014 first round pick (26th overall) & 2016 first round pick to Los Angeles Lakers for their 2014 first round pick (7th overall); Miami Heat draft Julius Randle.
Whether or not the Miami Heat win this year’s NBA Finals, they cannot sustain their winning ways with an aging and expensive roster. The Greg Oden “experient” was a bust; Ray Allen and Udonis Haslem are not getting any younger; Shane Battier is expected to retire after this season; and of course LeBron James could opt out of his deal. Either way, there are more questions than answers in the Heat’s future. Pat Riley has to make a move to change this team so they can continue winning. While everyone says Chris Bosh is part of the “Big Three” the reality is he is the third wheel to James and Dwayne Wade. Bosh looks disinterested at times and disappears during games.

 Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Lakers need to replace Pau Gasol, since the expectation is Gasol will leave via free agency. The Lakers have the cap room to easily absorb Bosh’s contract and many project that University of Kentucky superstar Forward Julius Randle will be available at the 7th overall pick. Randle is better defender and rebounder compared to Bosh, two elements the Heat really need.

 By making this deal both franchises show their star players (Kobe Bryant and LeBron James) that they are serious about making the team better while also allowing for flexibility. Trading Bosh and drafting Randle opens up cap space down in Miami to upgrade the roster and still building for the future. On the flip side, the Lakers show Bryant that they want to win now and not make their aging superstar suffer through a rebuilding project.

2. Philadelphia 76ers trade their two 2014 first round picks (3rd and 10th overall) to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the 2014 number one overall pick; 76ers draft Andrew Wiggins
Currenty the Cleveland Cavaliers hold the number one overall pick but they do not have a specific direction to go in. They could draft the top big man prospect University of Kansas Center Joel Embid who has been compared to everyone from Tim Duncan to Hakeem Olajuwon. They could select the top perimeter player in this year’s draft, University of Kansas wing scorer Andrew Wiggins. But what the Cavaliers really need is an infusion of talent. Last year’s number one overall pick Anthony Bennett has been a disappointment thus far and aside from All-Star Kyrie Irving and Prospect Tristan Thompson, the Cavs depth of talent is thin compared to other teams.

 Meanwhile, the 76ers have talent but do not have a great player to play along side their Rookie star Michael Carter-Williams. Wiggins has a very high ceiling and is already a guy who has great ability to finish on offense while playing above average defense in comparison to most of the NBA.

 Wiggins would be a good fit for the 76ers and the deal would also give the Cavaliers the opportunity to stock up on talent in a deep draft class.  Of course, there is word circulating that the Knicks want most, if not all, of the 76ers five 2nd round draft picks and want to make a deal, so that would be an interesting twist as well.

3. Indiana Pacers trade Roy Hibbert to the New York Knicks in exchange for Tyson Chandler; Lance Stephenson joins the Chicago Bulls via Free Agency; Indiana Pacers sign Darren Collison via free agency.
 The Pacers looked stale and lost offensively at times during the 2014 NBA playoffs. The reality is setting in for the Pacers that Hibbert is not worth the money they paid him, Paul George is more like Scottie Pippen than Dwayne Wade, and George Hill is not the same player he was when he was playing for the San Antonio Spurs.

 Change needs to happen and it needs to be direct and purposeful. Hibbert and Chandler are both Centers in need of a fresh start and both are being paid about the same. The swap between the Knicks and Pacers would allow the Knicks a younger starting center who probably is in need of some Phil Jackson Zen-ology. Chandler could be the defensive force in the paint the Pacers need while also having a contract that is coming off the books soon so they are not “stuck” with him for the extended future if things do not work out.

 It appears Lance Stephenson is no longer wanted in Indiana despite he young age and exponential growth as an impact player on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Stephenson needs to go to a team with solid veteran leadership and a defensive minded head coach. The best fit would be the Chicago Bulls with defensive savant Head Coach Tom Thibideau being able to reign in Stephenson’s bizarre behavior while also allowing him to grow as a player. Although I would not be surprised to see Stephenson end up on the Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder, or even the Miami Heat (remember how Ray Allen was a thorn in the side when he played for the Celtics?).

 The Pacers also need a more efficient players on the offensive side of the ball. George Hill has been underwhelming since joining the Pacers. Darren Collison has been an underrated talent in the NBA for years. Collison is a better overall point guard than Hill and would open the opportunity for Hill to come off the bench (a place where he excelled in the past); Collison would also be an offensive upgrade at the position.

4. Minnesota Timberwolves trade Kevin Love and Kevin Martin to the Chicago Bulls for Carlos Boozer, Tony Snell and Ronnie Brewer
 The “word on the street” is that Kevin Love wants out of Minnesota. The All-Star Forward wants to play for “a winner”. No one can blame the guy, especially since the best player in the Timberwolves franchise history (Kevin Garnett) could never get the team very far in the playoffs.

 If the Timberwolves follow through with trading their best player, they will want good compensation for him. Teams like the Lakers and Nets would like to have Love but they don’t have the trade pieces that could appease Minnesota. The Mavericks and Knicks do not have the flexibility under their salary cap for him. The Pacers, Rockets, Spurs, Clippers and Warriors could be destinations but how many people are really sure that those teams would part with any of their current starters to acquire Love?

 This is where the Bulls come into the picture. Boozer is not the player he once was and his contract is not worth what he gives the Bulls each night. Meanwhile, Snell and Brewer are young, talented, and have enough potential to be valuable via trade. In order to balance out the money, the Timberwolves could throw in veteran shooting guard Kevin Martin and the Bulls would be fine with that since they thin at the shooting guard position.

 The best part of this deal for Love is that he would not be expected to do everything for his team. Joakim Noah is already a low post defensive and rebounding machine and the Bulls have a good number of three point shooters. All of this would allow Love to operate on both sides of the ball more freely. Also, Love’s skill set would be a good complement to both Noah and Derrick Rose (whenever he is able to return from his latest knee surgery).

5. Carmelo Anthony signs this offseason with the Chicago Bulls…or Indiana Pacers…or the Los Angeles Lakers…or re-signs with the New York Knicks?
 Carmelo Anthony is the big name free agent this coming offseason. While the New York Knicks will do everything they can (within reason, or atleast Phil Jackson’s version of reason) to keep him in town, the reality is that Anthony has options. Anthony has said on numerous occasions he wants “to win”, he has to question how long it will be until the Knicks are major contenders again.

 Anthony and the Chicago Bulls could be a good fit. The Bulls need a high level scorer who can create his own offense and take away double teams from Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. If the Bulls acquire Kevin Love, a starting lineup with Noah, Love, Anthony, and Rose would be one of the top teams in the NBA. But even if the Bulls bring in either Love or Anthony, both players would be upgrades for a team that at times struggles to put together consistent offense.

 My “dark horse” team to watch out for in the Carmelo Anthony Free Agency Sweepstakes is the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers need to shake up the roster and if they can free up cap space Anthony could team up with Paul George to create one of the top five one-two punches offensively in the NBA. Anthony would give Indiana the type of player they desperately: a player who is always a concern for the other team’s defense. Even in games where Anthony has a poor game for three quarters, he is always capable of getting hot in crunch time. Imagine the Pacers-Heat series if Anthony was in the starting lineup instead of Lance Stephenson?

 Of course, the Lakers are always out there as an option. They can offer Anthony a maximum contract while also giving him the allure of being a star on the NBA’s most star driven franchise and become the “heir apparent” to Kobe Bryant. Bryant and Anthony has talked privately and publicly about the idea of playing together, although I am unsure how that would work since both players want the offense to run through them. There was have to be an active choice by both superstars to work together to win a championship. But I am unsure if Kobe is willing to not be the guy when he signed that massive contract extension recently.

 In the end, the New York Knicks are still a major option. Anthony makes his home in the New York Metro region and went to college at University of Syracuse. Even if he never plays in the NBA Finals, if he can be an All-Star caliber player for another five years Knick fans will adore him and treat him like one of the greats. Only time will tell if Phil Jackson can fix the mess that is the New York Knicks roster. Anthony would have to take less money than he would get from Indiana, Chicago, or LA Lakers in order to stay in NYC while allowing the team to re-tool.

 Where ever Anthony lands while shift the balance of power one way or the other in the NBA. Staying in New York allows the Knicks to always be in the conversation. Going to the Bulls or Pacers would make those teams the major competition to the Lebron James led Miami Heat for Eastern Conference supremacy. Landing in Los Angeles would allow the Lakers to become playoff contenders and give Anthony a chance at building his “legacy”.

Of course, all of this is conjecture, especially if the Dallas Mavericks clear up cap space and offer Anthony a max contract…but I digress.