2008 NBA Draft Musings

Posted by rtmsf on June 27th, 2008

Thanks to N-Bug’s liveblog of the NBA Draft last night, we felt like we were almost in the building sniffing David Stern’s manscent and Darrell Arthur’s ire.  What’s the record for lowest pick of someone in the Green Room?  The best we can muster is Rashard Lewis at #32 ten years ago.  Anyone got a lower pick left stewing in the Green Room all night?

Unfounded Rumors of a Kidney Problem Sunk Arthur’s Stock (photo credit: AP)

Darrell Arthur’s Kidney.  The story of last night’s draft, of course, was the unsubstantiated rumor of a serious undisclosed kidney problem that arose during Darrell Arthur’s medical tests.  Luke Winn details the report much better than we can here, but suffice it to say that it now appears that this kidney issue was a complete red herring, and the Memphis Grizzlies (through two subsequent trades) got an absolute steal at the #27 slot.  Winn suggests that the whispers about Arthur’s health could have cost him in the neighborhood of $1.3M over the course of his rookie contract.  Shouldn’t we just go ahead and put Slim Shady at the top of next year’s ROY contenders (Paul Pierce-style) based upon this slight alone?  He’ll have gobs of additional motivation, that’s for sure. 

One-and-Done Redux.  We’ve written about 1-and-dones until we’re blue in the face, but let’s face it, the Class of 2007 is arguably one of the greatest HS classes of all-time.  Four of the top five picks, seven of the top fourteen, and a record ten of the thirty first-rounders were freshmen.  Throw in the eight sophomores chosen in the first round, and that means 72% of the guaranteed contracts that went to American players were to players with 2 years or less of college experience.  Only five seniors were chosen in the first round, and the first at #12 overall, Jason Thompson from Rider, resulted in a perplexed “who?” from much of the crowd and viewing audience.  Again, there is no question that the NBA rule helped in terms of marketing these players.  Thanks to the Season of the Freshman, every basketball fan in America is now intimately familiar with the games of Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, OJ Mayo, Kevin Love, and so on.  If they’d all gone pro after high school, we’d have little to no clue what those teams were getting.

Mayo Posing as Stringer Bell (photo credit: SI.com) 

Beautiful Disasters.  Two of the one-and-dones who were bound and determined to stay in the draft no matter what anyone told them were DeAndre Jordan and Bill Walker.  (note: we were happy to see that our feelings of overratedness (see: HoopsAddict podcast at 34:30) with Jordan and Anthony Randolph were corroborated on draft night, although not so much with Russell Westbrook, chosen fourth!)  Both got drafted in the second round (#35 and #47 respectively) but last night had to be severely disappointing to both players, as Jordan was being talked about as a lottery pick earlier this draft season, and Walker last year (before blowing out his knee again).  Does Walker with his former #1 player in his class pedigree and seemingly constant knee injuries remind anyone else of Randy Livingston?  But the prize for biggest clowns of the draft go to USC’s Davon Jefferson and Mississippi State’s Jamont Gordon, both of whom were undrafted last night.  As for Jefferson, this one-and-done prospect declared early, signed with an agent (assuring he couldn’t return to USC), and then proceeded to float his way through the pre-draft camp.  He was a possible second-rounder at that point, but his uninspired effort in Orlando ensured that he would be left on the outside looking in.  Gordon’s situation was even worse, as he completely skipped the pre-draft camp (incredulously assuming he was a first-rounder), also signed with an agent, and otherwise did nothing to show that he was a serious candidate for the draft.  Ok, we get it, you reallyreallyreallyreally want to play in the NBA, and you reallyreallyreallyreally think you’re good enough… but you guys really need to start doing some listening when people who make these decisions (scouts, GMs, draftniks) are telling you otherwise.  Good luck in the D-League, guys.   

Katz discusses some of the other early entry disappointments in last night’s draft. 

Sideshow Bob Was Drafted by the Suns Last Night (photo credit: SI.com)

Conference Call.  A year ago Pac-10 coaches were telling us that they had far and away the most talent in the nation, suggesting that there are as many as a dozen first-round picks on their squads in 2007-08.  Well, it turns out they weren’t that far off, as there were seven first rounders last night, including three of the top five (#3 Mayo, #4 Westbrook, #5 Love, #10 Brook Lopez, #11 Jerryd Bayless, #15 Robin Lopez, #21 Ryan Anderson), and twelve players chosen overall.  Also keep in mind that several other probable first rounders from the Pac-10, such as Darren Collison (UCLA), Chase Budinger (Arizona) and Jeff Pendergraph (Arizona St.) elected to stay in college another year.  The Big 12 was next with nine players chosen, including four first rounders and five (!!) players – tying the 2006 UConn Huskies and 2007 Florida Gators – from the National Champs (#13 Brandon Rush, #27 Darrell Arthur, #34 Mario Chalmers, #52 Darnell Jackson, #56 Sasha Kaun).  Throw in former Jayhawk JR Giddens (#30) and an astonishing six players passed through the KU program en route to this draft.  The SEC had six draft picks, and the Big East and ACC had four each.  The usually-pathetic Big 10 once again finished last among the BCS conferences with only three picks.  See table below.

 

Not NBA Material.  We reserve this spot to formally bid adieu to some of the notable collegians who have entertained us for the last four years, but whom the NBA has decided are not worthy to play in their league.  Drew Neitzel (Michigan St.), Demarcus Nelson (Duke), David Padgett (Louisville), Josh Duncan (Xavier), and Pat Calathes (St. Joseph’s) are but a few of the names we’ll probably never see again unless they become coaches someday.  The honor of the biggest undrafted name, though, goes to Tennessee star and cancer survivor Chris Lofton, who holds the all-time mark in the SEC for three-pointers, and ranks third in NCAA history on that measure.  If there’s one guy we’d bank on finding his way to an NBA court near you in the next couple of years (even for a cup of coffee), it would probably be this kid.  He stares toughness and grit directly in the eyes before they walk away in shame. 

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06.27.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on June 27th, 2008

For your consideration while we put our Draft afterthoughts together…

  • Duquesne’s Ron Everhart received a three-year extension after leading the Dukes to their first winning season (17-13) in nearly fifteen years, including a 3-24 abomination two years ago.
  • Oklahoma’s Jeff Capel also received a two-year contract extension (through 2014) and pay raise that puts his annual compensation at $1.05M.  Did anyone see Capel making a million dollars a year at anything ten years ago?
  • Ohio St. assistant coach John Groce will take over the top position at Ohio University, the lone remaining open head coaching position this summer.
  • Iowa St.’s top player, Wesley Johnson (12/8 ) is transferring to Syracuse.  This is a good pickup for the Orange, as Johnson was the second-best freshman in the B12 two years ago (behind a guy named Durant). 
  • Indiana AD Rick Greenspan fails to avoid the axe in the wake of the Kelvin Sampson scandal, as the obliteration of Indiana basketball continues…
  • The always excellent Vegas Watch gives us a bettor’s look at the best and worst values in the Top 10 for next season. 
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2008 NBA Draft Live Blog

Posted by nvr1983 on June 26th, 2008

Well this is sort of unplanned, but rtmsf asked me to do this and I’ve got nothing else to do tonight so I figured I would throw up a live blog of the events.

7:30 PM: Everybody’s favorite commissioner/megalomanic David Stern walks to the stage. Pretty weak response from the crowd. Minimal booing and almost no response to a mention of the WNBA. I think Isiah and Dolan have broken the New York fans.

7:38 PM: Stern announces the Bulls’ selection of Derrick Rose. Kind of anti-climatic, but surprising how quickly the consensus swung from Michael Beasley to Rose in such a short time without anything really big coming out (other than Beasley being shorter than advertised, but the decision was already made at that point).

7:40 PM: ESPN shows some highlights of Rose winning the state championship game 31-29 in OT. Yes, 31-29. I guess the lack of offense in the Big 10 goes all the way down to the high school level.

7:42 PM: Stern comes to the podium with the Miami Heat’s pick. . .Michael Beasley. For all the talk about going with O.J. Mayo I always thought this was a no brainer. I mean they could have dropped down to the #5 pick, but I don’t buy the whole Rudy Gay + #5 for #2 trade. There’s no way Memphis would have done that. Does Pat Riley think Chris Wallace is an idiot? Oh wait. . .

7:45 PM: The interviews have been pretty tame so far. Beasley could have at least pulled the dead rat “joke” on Stephen A. Smith. The Stephen A. Smith guys better have something good planned for the draft because this is pretty weak so far.

7:48 PM: Minnesota is up. Time for Kevin McHale to shine. And the pick is. . . O.J. Mayo! Why do I have flashbacks to KG and Stephon Marbury. Stu Scott fills us in on O.J.’s full name. Thanks for that since we haven’t seen it in every single article written about him (except on RTC). At least O.J.’s time in Hollywood got him prepared for the bright lights of Minnesota. Wait, Minnesota?

7:50 PM: If you’re reading this after the draft and wondering why the writing sucks, blame it on the stupid 5 minutes between picks. There’s no way Bill Simmons live blogs this stuff. It’s impossible. He has to take 3-4 hours after the draft to put something together.

7:53 PM: Wow. Six picks for Seattle. Stu Scott with the quick math (6/60 = 1/10th). I’m not sure why they didn’t do some kind of big package to try and get some help for Kevin Durant.

7:54 PM: Stern with the pick. . .Russell Westbrook! Our first surprise of the night. I had heard Westbrook might be top 5, but never really believed it. The guy’s athletic, but I just don’t see how he’s considered the 4th best prospect in this draft. If you’re just going on athleticism, I’d take Eric Gordon over Westbrook. As for his “great” defense, I don’t remember it against Memphis and Rose. Plus I don’t buy Westbrook as a NBA point guard.

7:58 PM: Commercial break. Weak start to the draft so far. At least we have the comedy of the booing of the Knicks draft pick to look forward to in 2 picks.

8:00 PM: Bilas is pushing for Memphis to take Kevin Love. Stern with the announcement. And it’s Kevin Love. Nice call by Bilas even if Love basically gave it away on PTI earlier this week. I’m pretty sure the first time that anybody has ever had the Color Me Badd facial hair in Memphis.

8:03 PM: Pretty routine breakdown of Love. Good court sense/knowledge of the game, passes well, good range, and can’t run the court. Can we have someone disagree with a pick? I just want to see the player’s reaction (not to mention what their mom will do).

8:05 PM: Waiting for the Love family interview to finish so I can see the Knicks screw up their pick. This is the highlight of the night. . .

8:07 PM: Stern walking to the podium with the Knicks pick. . .(dramatic pause). . .Danilo Gallinari. BOOOOOOOOOOOO! Sorry. Just had to join in the fun. I don’t really buy Gallinari, but hey the YouTube video looks decent and that worked out well for guys like Kwame Brown and Eddy Curry worked out great, right? (Yes, I know that was before YouTube).

8:08 PM: Fran Fraschilla offers the most important piece of news of the night (for those of us who read Deadspin or The Big Lead). “Gallo” is apparently the Italian word for “rooster”. If you’ve read the posts on either site yesterday, you’ll know what that’s important.

8:12 PM:  The Clippers select Eric Gordon. I feel bad for the guy. He goes from the most dysfunctional program in the country to the worst franchise in pro sports. Love the guy’s game, but he’s just too inconsistent at times. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

8:15 PM: Our first horrible suit of the night. Gordon with the combination of white coat and navy blue pants. Not quite Karl Malone level, but you would figure his high school agent could have gotten him something nice.

8:18 PM: Joe Alexander to Milwaukee. At least it won’t be much of a culture shock going from Morgantown to Milwaukee although Joe won’t be seeing as many burning couches.

8:23 PM: MJ and Larry Brown are on the clock. It seems like Brook Lopez is the choice here. The Bobcats certainly have enough college talent on that team being veterans of the lottery process (tip of the hat to the legend Elgin Baylor).

8:24 PM: Jay Bilas and Mark Jackson agree with me.

8:25 PM: But apparently MJ and Larry do not. The Bobcats take D.J. Augustin. Looks like Raymond Felton is going to have some competition. This seems like a good pick for a trade.

8:27 PM: I still don’t get it. Of course, MJ was also the mastermind behind the Kwame Brown selection so maybe I shouldn’t.

8:28 PM: So it looks like Brook Lopez here to New Jersey. They can’t take Jerryd Bayless since they already have Devin Harris. This will be an interesting pick since they just traded away Richard Jefferson for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons.

8:30 PM: Brook Lopez at #10 to New Jersey. Solid pick especially this far down. I’m surprised that he fell down this far. A 7-footer with a mean streak and solid fundamentals. Usually guys like this go too high and typically don’t slip. Not sure what is going on.

8:33 PM: Wow. Looks like our first classic draft moment of 2008. Apparently Jeff Spicoli dressed up as a 7-foot tall guy who went to Stanford. I wish I had been there for Brook’s Stanford interview. What? You mean he didn’t go through the regular admissions process?

8:35 PM: Bayless at #11. I like Bayless at #11, but does Indiana need another guard? Jamaal Tinsley, T.J. Ford, and Bayless. Looks like Tinsley and his gun collection are moving out of Indiana.

8:42 PM: Sacramento takes Jason Thompson. Our first real surprise pick of the draft. I’m actually ashamed to say I have never seen this guy play. Bilas says he’s pretty good so I guess I’ll have to go with that.

8:46 PM: Portland at #13. . .Brandon Rush. Interesting pick. He’ll probably fit in well with this team. He isn’t a star, but they have enough young talent that they don’t need him to be more than a solid role player. He’ll probably back-up Brandon Roy for the next couple of years.

8:50 PM: Golden State is on the clock. This is the part of the draft where teams have a lot of choices. Let’s see what the Warriors do.

8:51 PM: Stern with the pick: Anthony Randolph. 3rd team All-SEC member. Even the LSU blogger doesn’t believe in him. Not sure what else I have to say about this pick.

8:54 PM: Dick Vitale ripping the international. Comparing Gallinari to Darko Milicic. Ouch. Not a surprise since Dickie V loves all things college (as do we, but we don’t rip on the other stuff).

8:56 PM: Phoenix takes Robin Lopez at #15. I’ll admit it. I’m hitting the wall here so I’m probably only going to make it through the first round. I actually like this pick. Robin isn’t an offense force, but is a pretty good defender, which Phoenix is lacking.

9:03 PM: With the 16th pick, Philadelphia selects Maureese Speights. Seems like a talented player. It will be interesting to see how he works with Samuel Dalembert. Wow. Stuart Scott just compared FG% in college to FG% in the NBA as if it’s the same thing. I don’t even know what to say to that.

9:08 PM: Toronto selects Roy Hibbert at #17 for Indiana (part of the Jermaine O’Neal trade). This makes sense. Hibbert will “replace” O’Neal. It’s too bad that Hibbert fell this far. He would have been a top 10 pick last year. He didn’t get injured or play poorly, but because he never exploded like NBA scouts hoped he would he fell far enough down that it probably cost him a few million dollars.

9:12 PM: JaVale McGee at #18 to Washington. Looks like Lebron has another guy to dunk on.

9:15 PM: Pretty interesting trade. Indiana gets Jarrett Jack and Brandon Rush for Ike Diogu and Jerryd Bayless to Portland. Bayless and Roy make a really scary potential backcourt dishing the ball off to Greg Oden and company.

9:19 PM: Cleveland is on the clock. This pick is big for Danny Ferry because it might go a long way to keeping Lebron in Cleveland and out of Brooklyn. Darrell Arthur is still sitting in the Green Room. . .

9:21 PM: The Lebrons select J.J. Hickson and Darrell remains seated.

9:26 PM: Charlotte’s on the clock at #20 and take Alexis Ajinca. I’ll turn to Stuart Scott here, “Who is this guy?”

9:28 PM: Wow. I’m pretty sure that’s the first time the economy ever was mentioned in the NBA Draft. Fran informs us that the fall in the dollar’s value will affect Ajinca’s decision whether to stay in Europe. (Side note: Josh McRoberts is part of the Portland-Indiana deal. He’s not worth his own post.)

9:33 PM: The Nets go with Ryan Anderson at #21. Darrell is still sitting. . .

9:38 PM: Looks like Orlando goes with another guard by taking Courtney Lee. I loved Jeff Van Gundy’s analysis. Basically, Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis are the only two guys he likes on the team–a team that’s coached by his brother. More importantly, what does this do to everybody’s favorite Zima drinker, J.J. Redick?

9:42 PM: Utah takes Kosta Koufos. It will be interesting to see how Koufos fits in with Utah’s bigs (Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur, Andrei Kirilenko, and Paul Millsap). He’s a skilled big guy who was really hyped coming in, but was too inconsistent to stay in the top 10. Playing for Jerry Sloan will either toughen him up or turn him into AK-47 (and cry during the playoffs).

9:49 PM: Seattle takes Serge Ibaka. Fraschilla says he’s good and he’ll be here in 3-4 years. Yeah. . .

9:50 PM: Doris Burke interviewing Darrell Arthur. Pretty tame interview. No tears. Not much to say.

9:55 PM: Houston takes Nicolas Batum. Fraschilla compares him to Rudy Gay, which I guess is good. Fran also says he needs to work on his ball-handling and he’s only 20 years old. Since when do people learn how to dribble after they turn 20?

9:58 PM: Ric Bucher announces that Darrell Arthur has a kidney problem, which he says explains why Arthur hasn’t been selected. Sounds like a HIPAA violation somewhere along the line.

10:00 PM: George Hill from IUPUI? Well apparently he plays great defense and has 3% body fat (thanks for that Stuart).

10:08 PM: New Orleans Portland ends the madness and takes Darrell Arthur. Nice moment as the New York fans clap. Nice pickup here. He should be able to come in and spell the big guys for a few minutes here and there immediately.

10:15 PM: Memphis selects Donte Greene. Seems like he’ll be playing behind Rudy Gay for a while. Well at least they got something for giving away Pau Gasol.

10:22 PM: Detroit selects D.J. White. Nice pickup at this position. Productive player who should be a solid guy off the bench for stretches.

10:31 PM: Mercifully, Boston with the last pick of the first round. J.R. Giddens. Wow. What a long ride it’s been for that guy. The former big-time recruit at Kansas who transferred to New Mexico.

Well it’s been a long first round. We’ll be back tomorrow with a more in-depth (and hopefully shorter) analysis.

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2008 NBA Draft Profiles: Mario Chalmers

Posted by rtmsf on June 25th, 2008

Over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to be rolling out our profiles of several of the top expected prospects in the 2008 NBA Draft. Figuring that we’re not the only ones who’ve thought of this, we decided to enlist some help by asking several of the best school-specific bloggers in the land to give us the up-close-and-personal profile of the players they’ve spent all year watching. For example, we probably watched Mario Chalmers play 15 times this year, but we were limited by his games that were on national television and other competing games at the same time. These bloggers know these players – their strengths, their weaknesses, whether they become Black Mamba or channel C-Webb in the clutch, and what kind of team they would best fit with at the next level.

With that said, this submission is from the most excellent Kansas blog, Kansas Jayhawks – It’s Business Time. You gotta love a blog that references Flight of the Conchords in its title – love the sense of humor. Here is their post on Big Shot Mario Chalmers.

I, for one, have always thought that Chalmers had all of the tools to be a very solid NBA contributor. Apparently the general public did not subscribe to that same school of thought until he made a three pointer. A three pointer that was well guarded and tied the national championship game with 2 seconds left in regulation and sent an entire fan base into euphoria, but a three pointer all the same. Up until this moment, Chalmers was considered an early to mid second round pick, well behind Arthur and Rush and often behind Collins as well. Between that shot and a few weeks of workouts, he has now been projected as high as #12 to Sacramento, ahead of all other Jayhawks. Granted that is only one projection and in nearly every other he is behind both Arthur and Rush, but still…crazy how perception can change.

Despite most of Chalmers’ publicity coming from that one shot, I don’t think this attention is unwarranted. This rings especially true to me after watching Rajon Rondo be an integral part of the recently crowned NBA champion, Boston Celtics. Remember, it wasn’t long ago that Rondo and his Kentucky teammates were humiliated in Allen Fieldhouse by the freshman led team of Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers and Julian Wright. This particular day was Brandon’s, but the point still resonates. When you consider the things that Rondo was drafted for and what he has done well, the primary considerations are defense and his enormous hand size. As far as I know, Mario doesn’t have freakish hands, but he sure does have some long arms and uses them to play some pretty spectacular defense. Given that they’re both listed at roughly 6’1″ and 170 lbs., let’s go ahead and call the size factor a wash. If you want to debate defensive merits, I’d probably say Rondo is better on ball, while Mario is better off the ball. I’d say both have their own level of value and again call this a wash.

But as we all know, as overall players they really aren’t all that similar. Most of what Rondo does offensively is geared around running the offense by getting into the lane with either the intent to finish or distribute. The kindest thing to say about his outside shot is that it’s not his strong suit. Chalmers, on the other hand, has been playing off the ball and has scored a great deal of his points from the three point arc. However, at the pro level, his size will likely move him back to the point, a position he played in high school but moved away from in college, due to sharing the backcourt with Russell Robinson and Sherron Collins. But with that three guard rotation, it’s not exactly like he hasn’t handled the ball since high school. In fact, he actually led the team (and nearly the league) in assist:turnover ratio last year at 2.25. For comparison, Ty Lawson was slightly ahead of him at 2.32, while the lottery-projected DJ Augustin and Derrick Rose were behind him at 2.1 and 1.8, respectively. This certainly isn’t the only indicator of point guard success but it certainly sheds some light on the question; can Chalmers really run the point?

Because if he can, with his scoring ability and defensive prowess he becomes a no-brainer. He can dribble with either hand, he can get into the lane, he’s an extremely gifted passer and along with all of those things, he has a shot defenders will have to respect. He probably won’t be Chris Paul or Deron Williams, but as I alluded to above, there’s no reason to think he can’t immediately be as good as or better than Rondo. I doubt he’s ever a franchise PG or maybe even an all-star, but with adequate minutes, I can see him posting a pretty consistent line of 10(p)-6(a)-4(r)-2(s). And that last sequence really comes to the crux of Mario; he does a little bit of everything. Aside from individual games, his stats are rarely going to jump off the page at you, but he has an innate ability to contribute in nearly every way, especially in the big moments (as you may have heard about lately). His knack for baiting players and even officials, combined with his overall drive and skill set make Mario an ideal player to have on any team. He may not have the physical presence that will allow him to carry a team, but he has every ability to be either an incredible bench player or a solid starter for years to come.

One thing we know for sure, there will never be another Mario Chalmers.

 

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2008 NBA Draft Profiles: Brandon Rush

Posted by rtmsf on June 25th, 2008

Over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to be rolling out our profiles of several of the top expected prospects in the 2008 NBA Draft. Figuring that we’re not the only ones who’ve thought of this, we decided to enlist some help by asking several of the best school-specific bloggers in the land to give us the up-close-and-personal profile of the players they’ve spent all year watching. For example, we probably watched Brandon Rush play 15 times this year, but we were limited by his games that were on national television and other competing games at the same time. These bloggers know these players – their strengths, their weaknesses, whether they become Black Mamba or channel C-Webb in the clutch, and what kind of team they would best fit with at the next level.

With that said, this submission is from the most excellent Kansas blog, Kansas Jayhawks – It’s Business Time. You gotta love a blog that references Flight of the Conchords in its title – love the sense of humor. Here is their post on the gifted Brandon Rush.

As we’ve all heard ad nausea, this isn’t Rush’s first go round in the NBA Draft. He originally declared out of prep school before removing his name and enrolling at Kansas for a presumed one and done campaign. Despite having a great freshman season and leading the Hawks in scoring and rebounding, Rush decided that he needed at least another year in Lawrence before chasing his NBA dreams. As expected, he again led the team in scoring his sophomore season and after a tough defeat to UCLA in the Elite 8 he decided to test the NBA draft waters. Fortunately, for all of us, and even for him, he tore his ACL during a pre-draft workout and subsequently pulled his name out of the draft and began rehabbing for his third season in a Jayhawk uniform. We all know what happened after that…

Rush is a hard case to figure as far as projecting to the NBA. Not whether or not he’ll be successful (he will), but to what extent. On the one hand, I’ve always thought it suited him better than the college game as there is much less zone defense and a typically spread out floor. As someone who has a dead-eye shot, but a little trouble handling in traffic, this seems ideal. Add to that his unreal athletic skill and ability to defend and you have yourself a surefire NBA contributor. To put it simply, even if Rush’s game never improves dramatically; there’s no reason to think he can’t enjoy a career mirroring Raja Bell.

But can he do more? Does he want to? No one who has watched Rush will question either his competitiveness or desire. When the Hawks were struggling, he was often the player who would hit a shot or make a move to the basket to try and get them going again. He gives of a very ho-hum vibe, but if you’ve really watched him, you know that the emotions do come out. I, however, completely disagree when all the “experts” talk about him as a guy who wants the ball in the big moments. Anyone who watched the Hawks over the past three seasons knew that simply wasn’t true for Brandon and that some guy named Chalmers actually fit that bill. My guess is that the rest of the nation now knows this as well. Regardless, Brandon is a great competitor and will do what it takes to win.

Off the court, we never really knew until this off-season. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I saw any improvement from his freshman to his sophomore year. I’m sure Bill Self and better basketball people than I will tell you differently, but from my perspective, he was pretty much the same player. However, between his sophomore and junior years, he showed me all he needed to. In addition to somehow rehabbing from an ACL tear in just five months, he also improved several dimensions of his game. Granted, he still doesn’t drive as much as he should (could), but when he was playing well this year and taking it to the hole, he seemed to have another element to his game; passing. This isn’t to say that Rush wouldn’t or couldn’t pass before his junior campaign, but that he got noticeably better at it this year. During his first two years, if Brandon was taking the ball into the paint he was going to pull up for either a jumper or charge in for a floater. By improving his ball-handling skills and overall court awareness, he has now added the ability to kick out to either side of the court, making him much more difficult to defend when he’s driving the lane. Note to NBA defenders though; if you’re not crowding Rush, you’re playing him all wrong. He’s certainly improved these areas of his game, but shooting is still his strength and he can definitely be frustrated into a bad night, especially if he’s not hitting shots early.

Now I know I called him Raja Bell earlier, but defensively, the jury is still out. I say this only because of his surgery. I’m not sure we ever saw Rush at 100% this year and at times that cost him on the defensive end. Assuming he gets back to full strength, this can and likely will be what keeps him in the league for a long time. With his athleticism, arm length and lateral quickness, he will be able to defend most twos and threes. To go along with this asset, it should be mentioned that Rush has always been a great rebounder from the guard position. I doubt he ever puts up many double figure nights, but with ample playing time, you can expect him to get his share. I’d say anywhere in the 4-6 range seems entirely reasonable.

Much like was the case with Arthur, I’m sure you knew before reading a word that I thought Rush was on his way to a solid pro career. I think I’ve reinforced that opinion with some legitimate arguments though, and I’d love to hear what you think as well. Will Brandon be the next Raja Bell? Will he be better? Worse? No matter what happens in the end game, he leaves college as a national champion, beloved Jayhawk and on the verge of being a very rich man.

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2008 NBA Draft Profiles Summary

Posted by rtmsf on June 25th, 2008

Over the past few weeks, we have rolled out profiles of several of the top prospects in the 2008 NBA Draft. In general, we tried to get the best school-specific bloggers to provide a more in-depth look at the players they’ve spent all year watching. Most schools had bloggers who were up to the challenge, so a big thanks to the blogs listed after each player’s name.  Where we couldn’t find a school blog willing to help us out, we stepped up ourselves.

Here is the list of 2008 NBA Draft Profiles:

Derrick Rose, MemphisRush the Court

Michael Beasley, Kansas St.Bring on the Cats

Anthony Randolph, LSUAnd the Valley Shook

DJ Augustin, TexasBurnt Orange Nation

Mario Chalmers, KansasKansas Jayhawks – It’s Business Time

Russell Westbrook, UCLAGutty Little Bruins

Darrell Arthur, KansasKansas Jayhawks – It’s Business Time

Kevin Love, UCLAGutty Little Bruins

OJ Mayo, USCConquest Chronicles

Brandon Rush, KansasKansas Jayhawks – It’s Business Time

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6.24.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by nvr1983 on June 24th, 2008

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2008 NBA Draft Profiles: Derrick Rose

Posted by nvr1983 on June 24th, 2008

Over the past few weeks, we have rolled out profiles of several of the top prospects in the 2008 NBA Draft. In general, we tried to get the best school-specific bloggers to provide a more in-depth look at the players they’ve spent all year watching. Most schools had bloggers who were up to the challenge. However, a few schools weren’t so you’re going to end up with a few RTC profiles too.

Rtmsf and I split up the duties on the last 2 players to be profiled (Derrick Rose and Jerryd Bayless). I picked Rose because I have seen him more than I have seen Bayless (stupid West Coast late starts). While I haven’t seen Rose as much as the Memphis fans (apparently there are no Tiger bloggers), I have probably seen Rose play almost a dozen times this past season so I feel pretty comfortable critiquing his game. Well that and the fact that pretty much everybody has seen him and knows about him at this point.

The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about Derrick Rose is his freakish athleticism. At the Pre-Draft combine, he was one of the top performers and I think some of those tests underestimated how athletic Rose is. For example, Rose had a good 3/4 court sprint time, but 1/10th of a second off the best. Having watched Rose play against the best PGs in the country, I can guarantee you that there is nobody faster with the ball in the draft (ask Tom Izzo, Rick Barnes, Ben Howland, or Bill Self what they think about Rose’s speed).

The question with Rose isn’t whether he has the athletic tools to become great. Instead the question is whether or not he  will develop the necessary feel for the game to dominate at the next level. The player that I hear Rose compared to the most is Jason Kidd, but I think that is just based on the fact that they are both quick PGs with great strength. However, I think their games are very different.

Along with speed and strength, Jason Kidd brought an extremely high basketball IQ and great feel for the game to the court early in his career (those of you old enough will remember Kidd torching Bobby Hurley and 2-time defending champion Duke in 1993 despite Dale Brown’s bold proclamation that Hurley would dominate Kidd). However, Kidd lacked the ability to score early in his career and never did really develop as a scorer. His inability to hit an outside shot became such a liability that hecklers began referring to him as “Ason” (got no J). On the defensive side of the ball, Kidd was an excellent defender despite the way that Chris Paul undressed him in the playoffs this year.

As for Rose, while he is probably more athletic than Kidd especially when you factor in his 40″ vertical, whenever I watch him I get the sense that I’m watching a great player rather than a great floor general. He just doesn’t seem to possess a great feel for the court and where everyone is. This may be a result of Calipari’s dribble-drive motion offense that Rose only played in for a single season, but his 1.77 assist-to-turnover ratio is pretty mediocre for a PG who will likely be the #1 overall pick. He has the ability to score at will at the college level, but I think some of those lanes are going to close against pro level talent. However, as he develops and matures he should be able to find these holes to get to the rim. The bigger question is whether Rose will be able to run a NBA offense early in his career. I think that eventually he will get it, but it may take a 2-3 years before we see what he can become as a point guard. As for the rest of his game, his jump shot needs a little work but I think it’s good enough that teams can’t leave him open or really drop off him (like they do with Kidd or Rajon Rondo). Defensively, Rose has all the tools he needs to be an elite defender. I never really saw him as a lockdown defender in college but perhaps that is because he’s still young and Memphis was winning most games by such large margins that he really never had to dig in for a stop. With his speed and strength he should be able to cause havoc for most opposing point guards.

Rose showing us the hops

Conclusion:While I don’t think the comparisons to Kidd are appropriate, I think the Bulls would be wise to select Rose with the 1st overall pick. Guys with the potential to be game changers don’t come along that often and you shouldn’t pass on them when they come your way (looking at you Billy King). Rose needs to work on his game some more (shooting and decision-making) before he will be able to compete with the best in the game (Steve Nash, Chris Paul, and Deron Williams), but he will be a major upgrade for Chicago or Miami (if Chicago decides to take Michael Beasley) and should be a quality NBA PG right away.

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A Smidge of Sanity in the Recruiting World?

Posted by rtmsf on June 20th, 2008

We wanted to reflect on this before it got too stale.  Wednesday the NABC strongly recommended that the growing practice of college coaches targeting middle-school kids as prospects unconditionally end.  This is in light of the uproar that ensued in May when uber-recruiter Billy Gillispie at Kentucky received a verbal commitment from Michael Avery, a 6’4 eighth-grader from southern California who had not yet even picked a high school, much less a college.

Will This Kid Be Any Good in Four Years?

Gillispie took the brunt of the criticism in the national media, but he wasn’t the first or only coach who was using this questionable (but legal) strategy to ‘lock up’ young players who arguably have no idea what the concept of going to college means yet.  Anong others, Tim Floyd at USC and Bruce Weber (two mentions in one day!!) at Illinois have also made use of this practice.  The NABC, ironically led by Tubby Smith (the former UK coach who withstood increasingly harsh criticism, some legit, some not, based on his recruiting while in Lexington), asked all college coaches to hold off on offering scholarships or accepting commitments from prospects until mid-June after their sophomore year in high school, stating that younger players:

[They] have not yet displayed sufficient academic credentials or, in the vast majority of cases, basketball maturity to accurately project them as admissible students to the institution or impact players on the basketball team. […] The academic and athletic profiles of these younger students are still very much works in progress. Coaches and athletes need to respect the process and allow development to occur in both areas prior to making commitments.

Already Committed to Maryland

While I often agree with and respect the reasoned discourse made by the esteemed Truzenzuzex at A Sea of Blue, the Kentucky blog of record as far as we’re concerned, we never could quite get over the smell test on this one.  Notwithstanding the arguments of caveat emptor and the lack of any enforceability of such early commitments, this whole situation just had a backroom feel of predatory extortion, an awkward taking advantage of kids (and parents) who may not know any better.  We view it as not dissimilar to the equally distasteful Sonny Vaccaro-bred fast-tracking of certain kids to certain schools based on implicit promises and subsequent shoe company representation.

Luckily, this may be a situation where coaches were doing it because they felt they needed to avoid a competitive disadvantage.  Now that the NABC has effectively disavowed this as a strategy (although it is still legal), coaches appear to be supportive of the line-drawing.  Billy Gillispie stated today:

I fully support anything the coaches’ leadership and governing body thinks is best for college basketball and high school-age basketball players.  It’s not like you’re not going to go out and evaluate young players. They’ve just strongly encouraged us not to seek a commitment, offer a scholarship, those kinds of things, which we definitely will adhere to.

What will be an interesting test of a coach shadiness factor (yeah you, Huggins, and you too, Gary) is to see who obliges the NABC with this directive to avoid recruiting the youngsters.  Nevertheless, we think this is ultimately a move in the right direction.

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Tell Us How You Really Feel, Coach Weber…

Posted by rtmsf on June 20th, 2008

Could it be that Illinois coach Bruce Weber is still a little miffed about Indiana committing grand larceny  ripping a player from his cold dead hands procuring Eric Gordon from his Muppet Show grasp last season?  We’re just wondering, maybe the guy is still a little bitter?  From Boiled Sports today (Bruce Weber speaking):

The league should be wide open and we can be right in the middle of it.  I do know one thing, though.  Indiana will suck. Don’t put that on the Internet.

Weber Seems Exasperated A Lot Lately (photo credit:  Daily Illini)

Of course, he’s absolutely right.  Indiana will suck.  Achieving .500 next season would with the talent they’ll have on hand would be an achievement that would catapult the name Crean into embarrassingly hushed conversations about Wooden, Lombardi and Bryant.  But that won’t happen.  As bad as the Big Ten is, the rest of that conference will mightily enjoy its territorial pissings all over the Hoosiers.

But in a couple more years, who knows?  We’re not sure that Weber really wanted to rile up the Indiana faithful any more than he already does.  Of course, with his recruiting woes in recent years, he’ll be back in the MVC by then anyway.

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06.19.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by nvr1983 on June 19th, 2008

Along with all the news/hype surrounding decisions on whether or not to enter the NBA Draft, there are other college basketball headlines:

  • Title IX rears its ugly head in a different form than we are used to seeing. The NCAA handed down a 2-year probation sentence to Southeast Missouri. The more interesting thing about it is that it seems like more serious violations came from the women’s program. Are teams really cheating in women’s college basketball?
  • Ten cities have submitted their names for the 2012-2016 Final 4. The list seems pretty standard with the exception of Phoenix (never hosted one before) and Arlington-Dallas-Fort Worth (couldn’t they just pick one?).
  • In news that probably falls under the “Who?” category, Tennessee Volunteer reserve Ryan Childress recently underwent successful knee surgery. We wonder how Bruce Pearl will replace his 2.3 PPG and 2.4 RPG if Childress has to miss any time.
  • Apparently, Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt was quite animated during the most recent Knight Commission. While I agree with some of what he said, I think the point about concerns regarding maintaining eligibility as a reason that many athletes don’t take higher level classes is ridiculous. I don’t think anybody who is taking Theoretical Physics is going to be worried about meeting a minimum GPA. My favorite part of the article is Len Elmore blaming the straight to NBA trend as the reason why the Lebron James has “no mid-range game”. Does anybody think Lebron wouldn’t have just bulldozed his way to the basket if he had stayed in college for 4 years?
  • It’s really too bad that Kansas guard Sherron Collins isn’t going pro – next year could be very difficult for him on the road in the Big 12 after he lost a civil lawsuit for allegedly “exposing himself and rubbing against [a woman] despite being told repeatedly to stop.”  Whattayagot Mizzou?
  • Air Force head man Jeff Reynolds earned a five-year extension today after his scintillating 16-14 first season.  To be fair, last year was one of the best first seasons from a new coach in the history of AFA’s program.
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2008 NBA Draft Profiles: Russell Westbrook

Posted by rtmsf on June 18th, 2008

Over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to be rolling out our profiles of several of the top expected prospects in the 2008 NBA Draft. Figuring that we’re not the only ones who’ve thought of this, we decided to enlist some help by asking several of the best school-specific bloggers in the land to give us the up-close-and-personal profile of the players they’ve spent all year watching. For example, we probably watched Russell Westbrook play 15 times this year, but we were limited by his games that were on national television and other competing games at the same time. These bloggers know these players – their strengths, their weaknesses, whether they become Black Mamba or channel C-Webb in the clutch, and what kind of team they would best fit with at the next level.

With that said, our next submission is from the most excellent UCLA blog, Gutty Little Bruins. Andy over there has spent the week maligning the Mbah a Moute decision to stay in the draft, but he found some time to hook us up with some Bruins info . Here is their post on the acrobatic Russell Westbrook.

Last week, I did a Draft Profile on Kevin Love for Rush the Court and here is another one on Russell Westbrook.  Just by looking at these youtube videos, I can tell we’re going to miss him next year. Enjoy!

 

Russell Westbrook could not dunk a basketball until he was 17.

 

 

Yes. That Russell Westbrook.

 

Yet, there was a time, if you can imagine, where he wasn’t always called “Russell Westbrook.”

 

Actually, about two years ago, you were more likely to hear him called “Russell Who?” than Russell Westbrook. Or maybe you’d hear him called “That New Guy.” Or “That Dude Who Got an Offer only Because Jordan Farmar Left for the NBA.”

 

Even in hindsight, you can’t really blame the recruiting services for missing out on Russell Westbrook. When Russell Westbrook was a junior, he was a mere 5’11”.  Fast forward only one year later, and he’s 6’3″. And he can jump through the roof. BAM. He went from hoping to walk-on to a major program to bona-fide high-major elite guard prospect in a flash. I’m sorry to interrupt, but I have to show you Jamal Boykin getting Boykined just once more:

 

 

The fact that Westbrook was nearly forgotten as a prospect is best illustrated by the list of programs, besides UCLA, that offered him a scholarship: Arizona State, San Diego, Wake Forest, Creighton, and Kent State.

 

No Duke, No North Carolina, No Memphis. He came out of nowhere.

 

Yet coming into this year, Ben Howland could not shut up about Westbrook. Back then, Howland touted that Westbrook was the most improved player on the team.  Ask Howland now, and he’ll say that Westbrook is the most improved player he’s ever had. Westbrook went from garnering around 10 minutes a game as Darren Collison’s backup to becoming the starter at shooting guard.  Even at the beginning of his first season you could see that his potential was off the charts…

 

So here is what you need to know about Russell Westbrook:

 

Pros

1. Russell Westbrook is extremely athletic. I could describe how athletic he is but…well…just watch this again:

 

 

And because of his athleticism and length, he’s a pretty damn good rebounder for a guard.

 

2. Russell Westbrook takes defense personally. He is your prototypical lockdown defender and was named the Pac-10’s defensive player of the year. That’s quite the feat in a conference that has begun to swear by defense.

 

3. Westbrook is as quick as a wink and can penetrate the lane. And he does it fearlessly.  To see him on the fast break is quite a sight to be hold.  He knows he’s going to the rim. The announcer knows he’s going to the rim. The three guys trying to guard him know he’s going to the rim. But time and again…he just can’t be stopped.

 

4. Like Kevin Love (and really almost all Ben Howland recruits), Westbrook is a team player and works his butt off. Expect the same work ethic to continue in the NBA.

 

Cons:

 

I see only two potentially serious weaknesses with Westbrook’s game.

 

1. Outside shot.  Westbrook sorely needs to develop a mid range game.  He only shot 33% from 3 at the college level and that number will at least stutter in the NBA.

 

2. Experience. Westbrook is slated to play the point in the NBA…but he’s only played a limited amount of minutes at point guard at UCLA.  Those inquiring about his ability to play point at the next level have every right to pose those questions. I guess everyone’s just going to have to wait this one out.

 

It will be a blast watching him develop.  Hopefully he’ll be able to pull off some of those ridiculous dunks at the next level…

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