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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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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DJ Augustin Has Little Wee Arms

Posted by rtmsf on June 3rd, 2008

Apologies in advance for the small text on the table below.  You can see the entire cache of numbers here on a document we saved at Google Docs (fully sortable).  Alternatively, check the list (also sortable) over at DraftExpress, who we owe our eternal thanks to for providing these initial numbers.   

So what we’ve done here is color code highlight the best five (light green) and worst five (beige) performances in each category.  For basketball purposes, we’re assuming that height, weight and length are good things, body fat is a bad thing, and athletic ability in terms of vertical jump, agility and sprint times are valued.  For example, Brook Lopez was one of the tallest, heaviest and longest players at the camp (as expected), but his lane agility time of 12.77 seconds makes Shaq look like a gazelle (ok, maybe not that bad…). 

Anyway, for now we wanted to throw the numbers up and start digesting them.  We’ll have our thoughts on some of the surprises at the bottom later this afternoon.  Enjoy. 

Draft Combine Numbers


The Lonny Baxter Award.  The biggest surprise that we saw this year was that Michael Beasley stands only 6’7 in socks (6’8 with shoes).  How is this possible?  How can the most dominant big man in the history of freshmen all-time only stand at 6’8 in his Nikes????  Can Beasley play 3 at the next level?  Chicago must be asking itself the same question.


Yes, Baxter Really Is Two Feet Tall

Well, it’s a good thing they’ve got the option of the next Jason Kidd in Derrick Rose then, right?  Oh wait, Rose is only 6’1.5 in socks ( 6’2.5 with shoes), a solid couple of inches shorter than Kidd, and more on par with Isiah Thomas and Chris Paul as comparisons.  The good news is that Rose can fly outta the gym with his 40″ vertical leap and his 3.05 3/4 court time, both third best in the camp this year.

One more player suffering from shrinkage this year is Joey Dorsey (6’6).  The Mouth of the South is lucky that he has such an unbelievable plastic-man wingspan (7’11) for his size, or he wouldn’t even be getting a sniff from the professional ranks. 

Legit BigsBrook Lopez and Javale McGee are legitimately 6’11 in socks, David Padgett isn’t far off (6’10.25), while DeAndre Jordan is just shy of 6’10.  McGee, Lopez and Jordan all have wingspans of 7’6 (Lopez is a half-inch shy) and utterly ridiculous reaches of over 9’5.  The most intriguing big man is John Riek, the postgraduate high school student who certifiably stunk up the camp, but comes in at 6’10.5 with a nearly 7’9 wingspan and a reach reported (but unverified) at 9’10.  Ummm… ok. 

Feeling a Little DoughyKevin Love said that he’s dropped fifteen pounds since the F4, but his body fat percentage (12.9%) belies a ways to go.  His size was a little shorter than expected (nearly 6’8), but his vertical leap was better than expected (35″), so he may end up being ok at the next level, given his already skilled face-up game.  The Tubbiest Player Award goes to Kentrell Gransberry, who clocked in at 17.4% body fat.  It showed in his ups as well, as his at 27.5″ was one of the lowest five of the camp. 

Best All-Around Athlete.  This is a tough call, but we’re going with Eric Gordon.  He has a top five vertical leap of 40″, which is simply eyepopping, he was also in the top five in the 3/4 court sprint (3.1 seconds), and he managed to bench the 185-lb bar fifteen times, which is significantly more than some other young guards (OJ Mayo – 7; DJ Augustin – 2).  Derrick Rose is also a consideration, as he can also get way up and is speedy all over the court.  But We’ll give second place to DeMarcus Nelson, who finished in the top five in both the lane agility drill (10.54 seconds) and the 3/4 court sprint (3.13 seconds), in addition to having a 38.5″ vertical leap and benching the bar nineteen times.  We give the nod, though, to Gordon based on his relative youth and the possibility of those numbers getting significantly better.


E-Giddy Is All Kinds of Athleticized

Other Minutiae.   Jerryd Bayless is a great athlete, but his wingspan is astonishingly short (6’3.5) for a 6’2 guy.  Don’t expect Bayless to ever become a tremendous on-the-ball defender with those arms.  Sonny Weems and Joe Alexander are two more players who tested well athletically, as Weems finished in the top five in the agility and sprint drills, while Alexander finished in the top five in the bench press and sprint drills.   This combine was not good to DJ Augustin – he appeared small and weak based on the numbers.  Shouldn’t a 5’10 sophomore be able to do more than two bench presses at that weight by now?

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NBA Draft Preview Version 1.1

Posted by nvr1983 on May 20th, 2008

As previously mentioned on RTC (and every other decent site that covers basketball), the NBA held its draft lottery last night. Among the luminaries in attendance were the Basketball Jesus himself Larry Bird, Dwayne Wade of “Fall down 7 times, shoot 14 free throws” fame, Jay-Z, Kevin Durant, Mitch Richmond, Fred “The Mayor” Hoiberg, and some lady who has Sacramento Kings season tickets.

As most of you know by now, the Chicago Bulls defied their 1.7% odds to steal the #1 pick. Rounding out the top 3 were the Miami Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves. The losers of the draft were the Seattle Oklahoma City Supersonics who fell from the #2 spot to #4, which I think they deserved after last year (still bitter despite a NBA record 42-win turnaround and a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals).

The top 2 are essentially set in stone although the Bulls lack of an interior scoring presence (not you Joakim) and lack of an elite point guard (sorry, Kirk) means they could go either direction. The Heat will get the “leftovers”. I’m guessing that Pat Riley (still the GM, right?) is hoping that the coachless Bulls take Michael Beasley because it seems like Beasley and Shawn Marion would clash in terms of their inside-outside styles and type of play so he would prefer Derrick Rose, who could be absolutely ridiculous paired with Wade and Marion.

We’ll be putting up draft previews over the next couple of days, but until then we’ll just offer a few thoughts:

(1) If I was the Bulls GM (if Reinsdorf or any one in the organization is reading this, please contact me), I would go with Rose. Even though they lack a great inside scoring threat, I think it’s a lot easier to find a serviceable PF than PG. I also think the impact of a great PG is bigger as Chris Paul and the other great recent vintage PGs have shown everyone the past few years. The Bulls have a lot of talented NBA-quality young guards (Chris Duhon, Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich, Larry Hughes, and Thabo Sefolosha) along with a couple talented unproven youngsters (JamesOn Curry and Shannon Brown). While some analysts may argue that this is a reason to get a big man, I would argue they should take Rose (better than any of the current guards) and make a big package of these young guys to try to get another inside presence to compliment Andre Nocioni, Joakim Noah, Drew Gooden, and Tyrus Thomas along with the team’s only “star” Luol Deng. I’ll have more on this in an upcoming post. . .

(2) I wonder if Mike D’Antoni is starting to think he should have asked the Knicks for more money. He could have had almost the perfect team for his offense if he went to Chicago even before they had the chance to select Rose. I also wonder how D’Antoni is going to handle being on a team that uses its draft pick to select a player instead of selling it for money.

(3) Hoiberg looked like he was going to throw the cancer patient’s teddy bear when the Timberwolves ended up with the #3 pick (falling outside of the Beasley-Rose jackpot). That would have made an even better YouTube moment than it already was (around the 2:20 mark of the clip below).

A couple quick, early links on the NBA Draft:

(1) As always, Chad Ford has a mock draft up with a brief analysis. I swear he must have enough spare time during the year to come up with mock drafts for every possible team draft order combination.

(2) Meanwhile, Jack McCallum chimes in with his own thoughts. Mostly just rambling about what D’Antoni must be thinking along with a brief breakdown of what the top teams in the draft might do.

(3) If you want to hate John Hollinger and his ridiculous unproven stats, check out his Pro Potential analysis (ESPN Insider access required). For those of you without access here are a couple of gems:
– Michael Beasley at #1 followed by. . .Blake Griffin at #2 and Danny Green at #4.
– 11 of the top 25 are freshman, which isn’t surprising, but that does not include several notable freshman who didn’t make the list: Derrick Rose, OJ Mayo, DeAndre Jordan, Donte Green, and Eric Gordon.
– The list of freshman that Hollinger considers to have more pro potential than those five heralded freshman: DeJuan Blair (Pittsburgh), Dar Tucker (DePaul), Robbie Hummel (Purdue), Andrew Ogilvy (Vanderbilt), and Matt Howard (Butler). The fact that I decided to list the schools these guys play at should tell you how far off the radar most of these guys are as NBA prospects. Hollinger offers an impassioned defense of his system, but I don’t buy it.

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NBA Draft Preview Version 1.0

Posted by nvr1983 on May 19th, 2008

Lost in the huge O.J. Mayo scandal and the smaller Darrell Arthur scandal is the upcoming NBA Draft, which is a little over 1 month away. Unlike last year, where there was a ton of hype regarding the Draft Lottery (Note: This may have just been because I live in Boston), the day has snuck up on us. I just noticed that it would be happening on May 20th in contrast to last year where I had the time of the lottery programmed into my Treo by mid-March (thanks to an 18-game losing streak). Teams that failed to make the playoffs have the following odds of winning the #1 pick:

2008 Lottery Odds

Basically the lottery breaks down into a couple key segments:

(1) The top 2 picks: Whoever ends up with the #1 pick will have to decide between Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley. Up until the Sweet 16, it seemed like Beasley was the unanimous choice to be the #1 overall pick regardless of who was drafting at that spot. However, after being the best player on the court the last 4 games of the NCAA tournament including lighting up lottery-type talents like D.J. Augustin and Darren Collison/Russell Westbrook, Rose vaulted himself into contention. Unlike last year when there were only minor rumblings of debate over the #1 pick coming from people like Bill Simmons, I believe there is a legitimate debate over who should go #1 that will only be decided when the NBA announces who has the #1 overall pick. Do you think David Stern has noticed that Derrick Rose would be an excellent PG for Mike D’Antoni’s New York Knicks?

(2) Picks #3-6: The guys in this category are Brook Lopez, Mayo, Eric Gordon, and Jerryd Bayless. The key in this group is Lopez. He will go to whatever team needs an inside presence. I’m not completely sold on his game translating to the NBA (covered in upcoming posts), but Lopez is the only legitimate top 5 inside presence in the draft (Beasley is a combo guy). After that it seems like Mayo is the consensus top combo guard in the group although I suspect that with some good workouts Gordon and Bayless might be able to jump him. Gordon is likely being hurt a little by his precipitous drop-off in production at the end of the year while Bayless is hurt by the fact that he didn’t play in a system that fully utilized his skills in the open-court.

(3) The rest: Honestly, I have no idea on picks 7-14 and it seems like that draft experts don’t either as each one has a completely different order. The key players here are Kevin Love, D.J. Augustin, DeAndre Jordan, Darrell Arthur, Chase Buddinger, Joe Alexander, Anthony Randolph, Russell Westbrook, Kosta Koufos, and JaVale McGee along with all the internationals (Danillo Gallinari and Nicolas Batum). We aren’t even going to touch this group until the order is set because so much of it will depend on team need. The one guy that we think could jump significantly is Buddinger based on his workouts. 

The fate of franchises will be decided

We’ll have more coverage/analysis following the Lottery on Tuesday as we start to break down the players and team needs.

If you’re a fan of one of these unfortunate teams, you may find some solace in ESPN.com’s Lottery Mock Draft Generator. I know I used it quite a bit last year (getting angry every time the Celtics fell out of the top 2). This year, you guys will be playing with it while I wonder why the f- Rajon Rondo disappears on the road (rtmsf wishes Rondo showed up at all in college).

Photo Credit: http://theoldlogo.blogspot.com 

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OJ Mayo’s End of an Era

Posted by rtmsf on April 10th, 2008

Not surprisingly, OJ Mayo today declared that he will be leaving USC after one year, hiring an agent, and entering the NBA Draft.  He is projected to be among the top few selections chosen.  After what seems like an endless biding of time with his ultimate destiny of the NBA, this ends the amateur career of one of the most ballyhooed schoolboy players of the last decade.


Mayo in HS at Rose Hill Christian Academy

How long have we been talking about OJ Mayo?  A simple google search reveals that news reports were already discussing the seventh-grade phenom in the winter of 2001.  On a personal tip, we watched him play live as an eighth grader and started out more impressed with Bill Walker than Mayo at the time (until the 4th quarter, that is, when Mayo took over the game, erasing a 14 point deficit by himself to win against a superb opponent).  We followed his every move, from tiny Rose Hill Christian Academy in Ashland, KY, to North Indian Hills HS in Cincinnati, and back to his hometown of Huntington, WV, again.  We read the countless articles in SLAM magazine telling us that he was the Next Lebron, sifted through the message board character assassinations, and often wondered aloud if his buddy Bill Walker’s tribulations and lack of a true father figure would somehow end up destroying Mayo before he ever made it out of high school.

Turns out he did just fine.  He made it through HS without much of a hiccup (there was that simple possession charge during his senior year), and although the recruitment of Mayo was effectively a non-starter because of his pre-emptive strategy to call Tim Floyd out of the blue and commit to USC, there were lingering questions about his ability to be a good teammate and handle authority.  

We’ve Been Reading About Mayo For Years

Mayo’s only season at USC was marked with some basketball ups and downs, but there was nary a peep about his being a bad teammate or issues relating to his character.  He averaged 21/5/3 assts in just under 37 mpg, which are eye-popping numbers for any player regardless of class.  One of the initial concerns was whether Mayo would turn out to be a human cannon, chucking shots at every opportunity without consideration for the team concept.  While his assist numbers weren’t great, Mayo shot good percentages from the field (44% FG, 41% 3FG, 80% FT) and we watched at least a dozen USC games this year and never once thought he was trying to do too much. 

The ups and downs derive from USC’s team success.  In a normal year for a program like USC, 21-12 overall, 11-7 in the hypercompetitive Pac-10, a win over UCLA, close losses to both Kansas and Memphis, and an NCAA bid amount to a great season.  But in a year when USC brought in one of the top five freshmen in America (and easily the most hyped freshman), you have to wonder if Tim Floyd privately thought he could get more from this team.  As an example of what the public thought, USC was a trendy pick to move several rounds through the Tournament prior to the first day’s games, but they crashed and burned 80-67 to Kansas St. and another super frosh, Michael Beasley (Mayo was 6-16, scoring 20/5/2 assts) in the first round.  Should USC have done more that that with an exceptional talent like OJ Mayo running the show?  

Mayo is by no means alone among his fellow freshmen in this regard.  Eric Gordon’s Indiana team collapsed with the removal of Kelvin Sampson and were easily dismissed in the first round by Arkansas.  The aforementioned Michael Beasley at K-State and Kyle Singler at Duke were both defeated convincingly in the second round.  Only Kevin Love at UCLA and Derrick Rose at Memphis, both of whom were surrounded by oodles of talent, were able to take their teams deep into March Madness as freshman leaders.

It’s a Tough Call Whether Mayo Helped USC or Vice Versa

So now it’s on to the NBA for Mayo, where his size, strength and transcendant hooping abilities should provide a natural fit at the point guard slot for an LA Clippers or Seattle (er, Oklahoma City) over the next ten years.  He’s not the next Lebron (and he was never going to be), but his game is reminiscent of a Jason (Jay) Williams before his injury – perhaps not quite as speedy, but a little longer and equally as effortless in his motions.  Given the rocky life and media crush that Mayo has experienced throughout his amateur career, we truly wish him the best as he moves on to the professional ranks.       

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News & Notes: April 7, 2008

Posted by nvr1983 on April 7th, 2008

Since there is a rather important game tonight and I need to get something done today before that, I will keep this relatively short. As you may or may not be aware, there are other things going on in the college basketball universe today and we’re here to keep you informed.

Oklahoma State preparing to offer Self a job: Somehow Bill Self has managed to keep this brewing media storm to a minimum leading up to tonight’s game. That certainly wasn’t the case the last time a Kansas team was in the Final 4 and its coach was a potential candidate for another position. I don’t think it will play a factor in the game, but it is something to watch for in the early minutes of the game to see if it is affecting the Jayhawks. If you happen to forget, don’t worry because the CBS guys will probably remember you about a hundred times before, during, and after the game tonight.

Oregon State to name Craig Robinson as its new coach: This normally wouldn’t be particularly noteworthy as Corvallis hasn’t exactly been a college basketball hotbed lately although it has some history with two Final 4 appearances (most recently in 1963) and two well-known NBA players (Gary Payton and A.C. Green). However, since this is an election year and because Robinson is the brother of Michelle Obama (wife of probable Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama), we figure this will get a decent amount of ink. Robinson had a mediocre record (30-28) during his 2 seasons at Brown. We think Barack’s brother-in-law is in for a very rude awakening as the Pac-10 is a little different from the Ivy League. Robinson certainly has his work cut out for him as the Beavers went 6-25 last year including earning the distinction of being the first team since 1978 to go winless in Pac-10 competition. Maybe I’m a little weird, but my first thought when I heard the news was if it would be a recruiting violation to use Barack to recruit players.

Xavier’s Lavender arrested: Ok. Let me get this straight. You’re a good college player, who might have a prayer at making a NBA roster if you play well at the Chicago pre-draft camp and things fall right. Getting caught with pot while being “drunk and disorderly” is pretty low on the list, right? Have fun in Europe, Drew. We suspect that his agent will probably try to get him on a team based out of Amsterdam.

Gordon to declare for NBA Draft: This would have been higher up on the list except everybody knew it from the moment the Hoosiers went out in the first round. We enjoyed seeing Eric in Bloomington for the first two-thirds of the season before he went in the tank much like the rest of his team.

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04.06.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on April 6th, 2008

A few news and notes to cover on the penultimate day of the season…

  • Louisville forward Earl Clark parlayed his scintillating NCAA numbers (15/8/7 blks) into a decision to go pro – no word on whether he’ll hire an agent.  He joins teammate Derrick Caracter, who apparently declared his intentions last week.
  • Arizona freshman and surefire lottery pick Jerryd Bayless also declared his intention to go pro.   He averaged 20/4 assts last season, and never got a chance to play for the coach who recruited him, Lute Olson.
  • Another one-and-done, Indiana’s Eric Gordon, is also leaving school for the NBA Draft.   This surprises absolutely nobody, and leaves IU in rough shape for next season (although Armon Basssett reportedly wants to speak with Crean about rejoining the Hoosiers).
  • Not Knight.  Texas assistant coach Ken McDonald will take over as the head man at Western Kentucky next season.  The speculation re: Knight was fun while it lasted.
  • Another HOF induction for Dick Vitale – this time the National Collegiate Basketball HOF.  As much as we rail this guy, we really have no problem with this.  His influence on the sport (both good and bad) has been immeasurable.

Finally, we’re still reeling from that sicknasty dunk that CDR threw on Kevin Love yesterday.  Some enterprising souls have already put it up on Youtube – somehow the foreign announcers makes it even more exciting.

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Introducing the Hoosiers new coach. . .

Posted by nvr1983 on April 1st, 2008

According to reports on ESPN, Indiana is on the verge of signing Tom Crean as their new head coach. I think this is about as good as Indiana can expect since they are losing D.J. White (and most likely Eric Gordon), kicked 2 other starters off the team today (Armon Bassett and Jamarcus Ellis), and face potential NCAA sanctions for the Kelvin Sampson fiasco.

Crean has done an excellent job after taking his first job as head coach at Marquette (previously was an assistant at Michigan State, Western Kentucky, and Pittsburgh). After struggling to stay above .500 his first 2 seasons, Marquette quickly became a national power during the 2001-2002 season going 26-7. Crean’s career at Marquette reached its apex in 2003 when he took his team to the Final 4 (Dwayne Wade may have had a little to do with that too). After that season, Crean’s teams spent 2 years in the NIT before getting back to the NCAA tournament.

Can Crean lead Indiana back to glory?

It appears that Crean will leave Marquette in good shape as they finished 5th in the loaded Big East this year. The Golden Eagles ended their season in the second round with an 82-81 OT loss to Stanford on a Brook Lopez leaner with 1.8 secs left.

I think Crean will be an excellent hire for Indiana. The big question now is what kind of damage control he can do. His first order of business will be to get his new program on the same page. I’m not sure what kind of process he will have to go through with Bassett and Ellis, but I don’t think he can afford to lose them and stay competitive. Keeping Eric Gordon will be a stretch, but Gordon probably dropped at least 5 spots with his awful performance in the last month or two of the season. After that, he will be at the mercy of the NCAA as they decide the programs fate for the next few years.

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East Regional Analysis

Posted by nvr1983 on March 18th, 2008

As I stated earlier during my live blog of the selection show, the East Regional definitely seems likely the toughest of the four regions, which seems a little unfair to #1 overall seed UNC. I also included links to the team’s ESPN pages that includes schedules and rosters.

#1 UNC: Despite all the hype that the analysts are giving UCLA, I still think UNC is the team to beat as they have Hansbrough, the most reliable player in the nation on a team that doesn’t have a #2 guy who lay a 0-for-14 in a big game, a very good if not great yet perimeter player in Ellington, and one of the best PGs in the nation in Lawson (still unsure when he will be back to his prior form). They also have Roy Williams, who despite his record of losing tournament games with superior teams has also won a national title before so at least he knows how it is done. Schedule/Roster.

#2 Tennessee: Out of all the #2 seeds, the Vols definitely got the short end of the stick. For all the talk of Wisconsin being cheated out of a #3 seed, I would almost prefer to be in Wisconsin’s position rather than Tennessee’s. The Vols have one of the most exciting/athletic teams in the country, but sometimes they just don’t show up. I’m still waiting for Chris Lofton to turn into the potential national POY that he was hyped as coming into the season. Even though their first round game should a cakewalk, the second round will be a challenge as they will end up with either Butler (much, much better than its 7th seed) or South Alabama (the game is in Birmingham, AL). This is a pretty rough bracket for the team that most would consider the best #2 seed especially since Wisconsin didn’t even get a #2 seed. Schedule/Roster.

#3 Louisville: Despite their horrendous early-season start, Rick Pitino (and the team recovering from injuries) turned the season around and has Louisville at a very respectable seed. While they lack the star power of some of the top teams, Louisville makes up for it with their depth. Their most explosive scorer (Sosa) comes off the bench and they also have solid (if somewhat anonymous) play out of the backcourt to compliment Padgett, Character, and Palacios, who actually started on their Final 4 team. Normally, I would give this group a good chance to make the Final 4, but with UNC and Tennessee in their bracket they will be hard-pressed to make it to San Antonio. Schedule/Roster.

#4 Washington State: It’s hard to believe that earlier in the season this team was ranked #4 and now they are probably getting the 4th most hype out of the Pac-10 teams in the tournament. With tons of experience and solid play from Kyle Weaver and Derrick Low, the Cougars should be competitive with almost any team in the tournament, but their lack of firepower and depth will probably cost them if they get deep into the tournament. I’m sure that all of you are also looking at Winthrop as a potential Cinderella based on their prior performance so the Cougars also have that to worry about. Schedule/Roster.

#5 Notre Dame: Led by Big East POY candidate Luke Harangody, the Irish were one of the big surprises for us out of the Big East. We didn’t get to see them play much, but when we did they looked very good. Part of their success seems to be related to their home-court winning streak. It’s too bad for the Irish the tournament isn’t played in South Bend. They play the 2006 Cinderella George Mason in the first round, which should be an interesting matchup (we’ll leave the Irish/Cinderella commentary/jokes to someone else). Like Duke, the Irish rely on the 3 although they are not completely lacking an inside presence. This makes them dangerous on a given night, but also subject to an early upset. Schedule/Roster.

#6 Oklahoma: It looks like that whole Kelvin Sampson leaving thing didn’t turn out so bad for the Sooners. Somehow they ended up a higher seed than Sampson’s more recent previous team. The Sooners are led by Blake Griffin who managed to put up big numbers (15.2 PPG and 9.2 RPG) despite injury both knees this season. Jeff Capel has done a good job replacing Sampson on the sideline while staying off the cell phone (we hope). The Sooners aren’t a force offensively so they have to rely on their defense. While that normally is a good thing for a team, we wonder how far this team can go with all the offensive firepower in this region. Schedule/Roster.

#7 Butler: Seriously, this is unbelievable. 29-3. Ranked #10 or 11 depending on which poll you believe. They’re a #7 seed?!?!? Normally with a balanced attack (4 guys average double figures), experience (a Sweet 16 trip last year), and several impressive non-conference victories, we would expect the Bulldogs to outperform their seed, but Committee Chairman Tom O’Connor must think Butler head coach Brad Stevens looks like a bitch because. . .well you know the rest of the line. This is one of the all-time great screwjobs. They play #10 seed South Alabama in the first round in Birmingham, Alabama. If they survive that, the Bulldogs will likely face Tennessee, the best #2 seed in the tournament. Schedule/Roster.

#8 Indiana: Honestly, this is the most surprising seed that I can remember. I wouldn’t have pictured the Hoosiers as anything lower than a 6. It’s amazing that the team with the Big 10 POY (DJ White) and possibly the best freshman in the nation (Eric Gordon) along with a host of other solid players could be a #8 seed. I realize they lost 3 of their last 4, but one was in OT and the other was on a last second miracle shot (I wonder if Tubby got the idea after hearing about it so much while he was at UK). We would pick the Hoosiers to go deep in the tournament, but they have lost to every elite team they played this year (Xavier, UConn, and Wisconsin). Perhaps, Dakich can work some of his magic or Dick Vitale will be calling for the return of Robert Montgomery Knight. Schedule/Roster.

#9 Arkansas: Led by new coach John Pelphrey (look for him in the background of rtmsf’s favorite March moment), the Razorbacks have had an impressive season after a few bad non-conference losses. Much like Nolan Richardson’s teams (although not nearly as good), the Razorbacks like a quick pace. After a nice run to the SEC tournament finals, Arkansas might be a trendy pick to make a run, but they have a killer draw (Indiana then UNC if they want to make the Sweet 16). While this stat won’t help you make your picks, watch for how the Razorbacks start the game for a hint at the outcome. During the regular season, they were 18-0 with a halftime lead and 2-10 when trailing at the half. Schedule/Roster.

#10 South Alabama: After failing to win the Sun Belt tournament, South Alabama was on the edge of not making the tournament. The good news: they’re in and their pod is in Alabama. The bad news: to make it out of the sub-region they will have to be Butler and Tennessee. If they are going to make a run, they will have to feed off the home crowd and need a big performance out of star Demetric Bennett. Schedule/Roster.

#11 Saint Joseph’s: Led by Pat Calathes (older brother of UF star Nick Calathes), the Hawks made the tournament by winning the Atlantic 10 tournament. It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago, St. Joe’s was on the verge of a perfect regular season and almost made the Final 4. It’s also hard to believe that Jameer Nelson and Delonte West played at St. Joe’s at the same time. If Phil Martelli wants to survive the opening weekend, the Hawks will need to step up their defense. Fortunately for them, they start off with Oklahoma, a team that isn’t know for being high-scoring. Schedule/Roster.

#12 George Mason: The Patriots (Final 4 Cinderella in 2006) are back and they start off against Notre Dame. We don’t see the Patriots making a deep run this year, but then again we never would have imagined they could beat a loaded UCONN team back in 2006. Schedule/Roster.

#13 Winthrop: If the Eagles are to pull off another upset, they will need a big night out of Michael Jenkins (14.3 PPG). Before you go out and make the Eagles a Cinderella you should realize this is a different team, which is most noticeable when you see they have a new coach on the sideline.Schedule/Roster.

#14 Boise State: It looks they know one thing at Boise State and we’re not referring to the hideous blue football field that makes you try to adjust your TV every bowl season. Like the football team, the basketball Broncos can light up the scoreboard averaging 81.2 PPG (12th nationally) and shoots 51.5% from the field (2nd nationally). They are led by first team All-WAC Reggie Larry (19.3 PPG and 9.1 RPG) along with 2 other forwards who average double figures. Side note: We loved watching replays of their Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma (didn’t see live because I had to be in the hospital at 4 am for an orthopedic surgery rotation) and would love for them to meet in the 2nd round of the tournament so we can root for that. Schedule/Roster.

#15 American: I’m not going to put much time into this because well they aren’t going to be spending much time in the tournament. They like to slow the game down and they shoot 40.9% as a team from 3. Unfortunately, both of their starting guards are under 6′ tall. The result is that they might hang with the Vols for 10 minutes then it’s over. Schedule/Roster.

#16 Mount Saint Mary’s / Coppin State: Honestly, we don’t know anything about either of these teams except that Coppin State is the first 20-loss team to ever make the tournament. Nothing against either of these teams, but a detailed analysis of these teams isn’t really worth the time since they will likely be gone 5 minutes into their game with UNC. Mount Saint Mary’s Schedule/Roster. Coppin State’s Schedule/Roster.

P.S. Kelvin Sampson must love this region with his two former teams in it. I wonder how much he will be mentioned during their games. We know it’s pretty much impossible, but we would love the possibility of an Indiana-Oklahoma Elite 8 match-up.

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