Duke’s Post Players: Has Reality Caught Up with Perception?

Posted by mpatton on November 14th, 2011

For the last ten years, fairly or unfairly, Duke has had the perception of being all backcourt all the time. Long gone are the days where Christian Laettner, Elton Brand or Carlos Boozer graced the court in Durham. In describing his recruitment decision to attend Michigan last week, Mitch McGary let it all out: “all [Duke’s] big men do is set screens and rebound and that they don’t get a lot of touches.”

Josh McRoberts' Relative Lack of Success at Duke Still Haunts the Blue Devils

Duke Hoop Blog looked at this perception, which moves closer to reality as the memory of its last dominant big man, Shelden Williams, fades out of casual fan memory. The author comes to the conclusion that the Williams/Redick era is the answer, and I see his argument. But I don’t think it’s that simple, or even the biggest factor in Duke’s relative decrease in a post presence over the last ten years. I think the real argument is much more complex and is a combination of four main factors:

  1. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Doc’s Kid to Duke: Austin Rivers Commits

Posted by rtmsf on September 30th, 2010

Big news on the recruiting front today, as the nation’s top player in the Class of 2011 according to Rivals.com has committed to Duke.  Austin Rivers, a 6’4 whirlwhind of a point guard and the son of Boston Celtics head coach Doc, made his decision on Wednesday night and informed coaches Bill Self and Roy Williams at his other two finalists, Kansas and UNC, this morning.  Rivers cancelled on-campus official visits with both schools, as UNC was set to welcome him with open arms this coming weekend and Kansas was scheduled for later in October.  If Rivers’ ranking holds through his senior season, he will be the first top overall recruit that Duke has inked since 2005 (Josh McRoberts) — let’s hope for Rivers’ sake that he turns out a little better in a Blue Devil uniform than McBob did. 

Nobody Should be Surprised at This Decision

It was an open secret that Coach K was considered the favorite to land Rivers, as he regularly was spotted sporting Duke gear in the last year or so (the above photo may or may not be real).  Krzyzewski certainly has plenty of success to hang his hat on, but we wonder if his “coolness” factor has translated better with the younger generation of recruits since he took on the reins as the head coach for the US National Team.  For better or worse, 16- and 17-year old basketball players are going to be more impressed by stories about coaching LeBron James and Kevin Durant in the Olympics than they are about seemingly-ancient tales regarding Christian Laettner and Grant Hill.  Rivers originally committed to home school Florida as a high school freshman when the Gators were still awash in the glow of back-to-back titles, but he re-opened his recruitment a year later and says that he fell in love with Duke during a visit there last fall.

Coach K’s greatest teams always have elite point guards, from Tommy Amaker in the 80s to Bobby Hurley in the early 90s to Jason Williams a decade ago.  While last year’s national champion Blue Devils assuredly had stellar point guard play from senior Jon Scheyer, he wasn’t the caliber of player of the others on this list.  This year’s incoming lead guard, Kyrie Irving, and presumably next year’s (Rivers), most certainly are.  In 1991, Duke won the national title somewhat accidentally; UNLV was far and away the best team (34-0 and defending champs), but the Devils caught the Runnin’ Rebs on the right night and ultimately cut down the nets “a year early.”  Their 1992 team was the dominant one, and it’s entirely possible that we could be looking at a similar situation for Coach K in 2011 and 2012.  So long as the Plumlees and Ryan Kelly can maintain the paint on defense and the boards, the next two years of Duke backcourts with Irving/Rivers, Nolan Smith (2011), Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins looks phenomenal.  Just imagine if Coach K can convince Irving that two seasons in Durham is a good thing — the 2011-12 backcourt of he and Rivers could be one of the most talented the game has ever seen.

Uber-recruiters Thad Matta, John Calipari, Roy Williams, Billy Donovan, Bill Self and others should be on notice — Coach K never really left the recruiting circuit, but with Irving and now Rivers coming to Durham, the 63-year old coach has once again served notice that he will continue to be reckoned with.

Share this story

Morning Five: 08.10.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on August 10th, 2010

  1. A couple of years ago we posted an article about teams taking advantage of a bylaw allowing them to start their season early by playing overseas once every four years. Coming into this season Oregon had planned to go to Europe to get ready for this season, but after the firing of Ernie Kent and a rash of other departures the Ducks are considering cancelling their trip to Europe.
  2. For the past few years the NC ProAm has been one of the feature summer events for college players in particular incoming freshman with the best example being John Wall famously dunking on Jerry Stackhouse last summer. We’ve heard plenty of chatter coming out of the tournament this year about the performance of such notable incoming freshmen as Kyrie Irving and Harrison Barnes, but it was a pair of Duke players (Andre Dawkins and Ryan Kelly) that came away with the title as they scored 18 and 16 points respectively in the championship game. It probably didn’t hurt that they had a few chumps (Raymond Felton, Josh Powell, and tournament MVP Marcus Fisher) rounding out the starting line-up.
  3. Speaking of Blue Devils, Nolan Smith appears to have been stepping up this summer, showing a new explosiveness that we haven’t seen thus far in his college career (at least not to this degree).  He poured in 41 points in a recent NC ProAm game, even drawing praise from former Tar Heel Jawad Williams. Our favorite part of the article is Jawad throwing “praise” at Mason Plumlee saying “Plumlee is very skilled for a guy with his height. He could be a Josh McRoberts-type player.” Uh, thanks. I’m sure every Duke fan just felt like throwing up.
  4. When Tom Izzo announced that Chris Allen would no longer be a part of the Michigan State basketball program, the first thought on many people’s mind was where he would end up. According to his mother “the phones have been blowin’ up” as she cites Notre Dame, UConn, Iowa State, Memphis, and South Florida as some of the many schools that have been actively courting her son. For their part, the UConn staff has denied making any such contact. So now the question is Ms. Allen trying to pull a Drew Rosenhaus on us or is UConn being less than honest about their recruiting again?
  5. Are we tired of talking about Anthony Davis and the alleged $200,000 yet?  As you know, over the weekend Davis’ father told anyone who would listen that the family was planning on suing the Chicago Sun-Times over its allegation that his son was for sale to the highest bidder on the open market.  Echoing our take on the matter (that this is much ado about nothing), Gary Parrish came correct with a witty piece describing how great the theater would be if people like John Calipari and Oliver Purnell were forced to give sworn testimony on the record.  Which is, of course, why there’s a greater chance of this computer turning into Amy Adams and flitting around the RTC offices like a winsome handmaid.
Share this story

RTC Final Four Tidbits: 03.30.10

Posted by rtmsf on March 31st, 2010

Each day this week during the regional rounds of the NCAA Tournament we’re asking some of our top correspondents to put together a collection of notes and interesting tidbits about each region.  If you know of something that we should include in tomorrow’s submission, hit us up at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Butler (Andrew Murawa)

Duke (Patrick Sellars)

  • The Bleacher Report puts their own spin on a preview of the Duke Blue Devils.
  • An article from the Star Tribune discusses how Duke ruined the Final Four because they are the only unlikable team in the mix.
  • Here’s an article from the Miami-Herald on why people despise Duke, and apparently it starts with Coach K. I suppose the rest of the ACC hating on Duke continues into the offseason.
  • Want to know who the best white Duke player of all time was? Well now you can! Thank God Josh McRoberts missed the list.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Kyrie Irving to Duke?

Posted by rtmsf on October 21st, 2009

Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog is reporting tonight that Kyrie Irving, the #9 rated player in the class of 2010 and considered a player with huge upside in the mold of Chris Paul or Deron Williams, has committed to Duke.  The 6’2, 175-lb scoring point guard from Elizabeth (NJ) St. Patrick just returned from a recent weekend at Kentucky for its Big Blue Madness event, but he has reportedly been leaning toward Duke for some time.

Irving tonight denied this report, as he stated below on Twitter:

kyrie irving tweets

We know Zagoria doesn’t go around making things up, though, and he cited three separate confirmations from assistant coaches at rival schools who claim that Irving’s recruitment is over because Duke has locked him up.  We’ll go with Zagoria on this one, as it’s more fun to speculate anyway, but we’ve been saying for a while that if Duke has plans on becoming Duke again, players like Irving and forward Harrison Barnes are must-gets.

Since Luol Deng arrived on campus as the #2 player (Rivals.com) in the class of 2003, the top ten players that Duke has signed are Kyle Singler (#5 in 2007), Josh McRoberts (#2 in 2005) and Shaun Livingston (#2 in 2004, but went NBA), while Greg Paulus (#11 in 2005) and Gerald Henderson (#11 in 2006) were near-misses.  Of that group, none have had the game-changing NBA-quality ability that earlier-era Dookies such as Grant Hill, Elton Brand, Shane Battier and Jason Williams shared, and not coincidentally, Duke hasn’t sniffed the Final Four since Deng left campus.

Assuming Irving has already committed to Coach K and he manages to lure Barnes to Durham as well (Barnes is expected there this weekend), the 2010-11 Blue Devils could be shaping up as a nasty team, with the following starting lineup:

  • PG – Kyrie Irving, Fr.
  • SG – Seth Curry, So.
  • SF – Kyle Singler, Sr.
  • PF – Harrison Barnes, Fr.
  • C – Ryan Kelly, So./Mason or Miles Plumlee, So./Jr.

The weak spot is at the center position, but we’re assuming one of the three-headed monster of Kelly/Plumlee/Plumlee will have stepped up by then.  Still, that’s a very powerful projected lineup, and one that with tonight’s news should be sending shivers up and down the Atlantic seaboard for fear that Duke is one step closer to becoming a powerhouse again.

Share this story

Team of the 2000s: #4 – Duke

Posted by nvr1983 on August 17th, 2009

teamof2000(2)

Ed. Note: Check the category team of the 2000s for our other entries in this feature.

As we mentioned in our earlier “Team of the 2000s” posts, we felt that the top-tier programs fell into a few clear clusters. There was some debate amongst the RTC braintrust about where certain teams fell within those clusters so we can understand if you disagree with where a team is ranked (that’s what the comment section is for). Teams in the top five either have made it to every NCAA tournament this decade (a sign of at least being respectable every season) or have a 2nd championship to bolster their case.

#4 – Duke

team2000sduke

Overview. This will be the most controversial selection on the list because it is Duke. Love them or hate them (and I’m pretty sure that most college basketball fans hate them), the Blue Devils remain the standard that other programs are judged against. That is not to say that they are the best program of the decade (there are still three teams ahead of them), but much like the New York Yankees, who are experiencing a similar title “drought,” every fanbase judges their success against what the guys in Durham are doing. To be completely honest, I ranked Duke lower than any of the other voters, but in the end their consistency (particularly during the regular season) won out and put them ahead of some of the other elite programs. The case for Duke being ranked above the teams below it in our countdown: 82.6% (regular season winning percentage–Gonzaga is the only other team to crack 80% and they don’t play in the ACC); 7 post-season and 4 regular season ACC titles (just an absurd number when you are competing against UNC although UNC’s inconsistency helped inflate this); 10 NCAA tournament trips (look at the above summary to see how often many excellent programs have missed the NCAA tournament this decade); 8 Sweet 16 appearances (maybe Duke hasn’t been that successful during the 2nd weekend, but they have gotten there more than anybody else); and 1 national title (more on this in a bit). The case against the Blue Devils? I alluded to it earlier, as Coach K’s teams have struggled mightily in the NCAA second weekend making it to the Final 4 “just” two out of the eight times they made it to the Sweet 16. In addition, Duke’s absence of a 2nd title prevents it from claiming a spot in the top 3. Out of the team’s below it, Tom Izzo‘s Michigan State Spartans have the best argument, but Duke’s vastly superior winning percentage (82.6% vs. 72.1%) and huge edge in conference titles combined with playing in a better conference (the ACC may be down, but you never see an abomination like this come out of the ACC) and NCAA-best 8 trips to the Sweet 16 (versus 6 for the Spartans) are just enough to make up for Michigan State’s edge in Final 4 appearances (4-2 although both teams were only able to seal the deal once).

battier j-will duhon

Pinnacle. As it is with any team that won a single title this decade, the choice here is simple: the 2001 title. After coming up just short with one of the most talented teams in recent history in 1999, Coach K reloaded with a class featuring Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy Jr., and Carlos Boozer. Although not quite as dominant as the group that left just before they came in (Elton Brand, William Avery, and Corey Maggette – I know he was a year after the other two, but I wasn’t going to include Chris Burgess in there), the former was able to do something the latter failed to do – win a title.  Together with Shane Battier, who led the Blue Devils emotionally and in taking flops, this group made it to the Sweet 16 in 2000 before being upset by Florida. The following year the Blue Devils were able to give Coach K his 3rd title, but not before surviving three marginally tough games (vs. USC in the Elite 8, vs. Maryland in the national semifinals, and vs. Arizona in the championship game) to claim the title. The defining moment of that title game was Dunleavy Jr.’s 3-point barrage (three 3-pointers during an 11-2 run) that re-established Duke’s control of the game. One thing that will stick with Blue Devil fans forever though is their four games against Maryland, which were some of the best college basketball games you will ever see, the most memorable being the 10-point comeback in the last minute at College Park (although we are willing to debate with someone who argues that the 22-point comeback in the national semifinals might be better).

[Warning: Maryland fans may want to avoid this video.]

Tailspin. Other than the two UNC titles? The 2006-07 season. A rather mediocre Duke team went 22-11 in a season that included two separate four-game losing streaks. The latter of those losing streaks came to finish the season with the final insult coming courtesy of Eric Maynor and VCU. Much has been made on this site and others about the lack of elite talent in Durham lately, but fielding a team whose four best players were DeMarcus Nelson (junior),  Josh McRoberts (sophomore), Greg Paulus (sophomore), and Jon Scheyer (freshman)… you are in big trouble. The primary explanation for this was that outside of Shelden Williams and J.J. Redick, the Blue Devils had a long string of McDonald’s All-American busts from 2002 on, with Shavlik Randolph, who left prior to that, being the most famous example.

Outlook for the 2010s: Grade: B+. Duke is still Duke and can land 5-star recruits, but it’s not like it was at the end of the last decade when Duke had its choice of McDonald’s All-Americans. Back then, one of the big controversies was if Coach K made the right choice taking Mike Dunleavy Jr. instead of Casey Jacobsen (for the younger generation of readers trust us when we say they were both actually very good college basketball players). Now it is a big deal when Duke lands the #3 shooting guard in next year’s class instead of John Wall. Duke will still be able to get a couple of top-notch recruits every year because of their tradition (it goes back to before Coach K, youngsters), Notre Dame-like TV deal with ESPN, Coach K’s stature, and the fact that it’s one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the country (mothers like to brag about the Duke degree even if it is for the infamous Sociology major). However, the Blue Devils have fallen a notch below UNC in the hearts and minds of elite recruits and that will only get worse when Coach K retires (gasp!) as their is no clear successor in line for his throne.

Share this story

Coach K to Coach Team USA in the 2012 Olympics

Posted by nvr1983 on July 21st, 2009

We have already laid out our thoughts on the possibility of this occurring earlier, but it’s worth bringing up again because USA Basketball made it official today that Mike Krzyzewski was returning to lead Team USA in the 2012 Olympics in London. For as much hate as he gets as the coach of Duke, we have to say that he has done a great job of rebuilding USA Basketball with Jerry Colangelo although that it can be argued that his best attribute was that he didn’t bench his best player (see George Karl in 2002) or select a squad that was horribly put together/too young and act like an insufferable jerk while coach that team (see Larry Brown in 2004). Perhaps the biggest impact Coach K’s return will have is convincing the team’s stars (LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Dwayne Wade) to return for another run at the gold medal. Team USA version 2012 could potentially field a team that is legitimately as dominant as The Dream Team (none of this ridiculous “Redeem Team” junk from this year) as the  2008 team’s core players will be entering their primes with the exception of Kobe. Here’s a quick look at a potential roster for London:

PG = Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, and Derrick Rose

SG =  Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, and Brandon Roy

SF = LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Durant

PF/C = Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin, Al Jefferson, and Chris Bosh

Obviously that’s more people than could suit up, but they would probably lose at least one guy to age/injuries (candidates: Kobe, Wade, and Jefferson) or might drop one of the potential PGs (likely Rondo or Williams). Griffin is also the other wild-card here since we’re forecasting his success in the NBA, but Team USA’s weakness is inside and it seems like he would be perfect in the international setting with the up-tempo pace that Team USA would likely employ even if Malcolm Gladwell thinks that style of play is a recipe for an upset. In any case, this team would be enormous favorites in London and would highlight a talent–recruiting–that was once considered Coach K’s greatest asset back when he used to simply coach Duke.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Coach K Considering a Return to Team USA Sideline

Posted by nvr1983 on June 10th, 2009

After bringing back the gold from Beijing and watching his Duke teams slide back to the pack, it was widely assumed that Coach K would hand over the reigns to Team USA so he could focus on his Blue Devils. However, Krzyzewski announced late last week that he was interested in coaching Team USA in London in 2012. Although he did not say definitively whether or not he would be pursuing the position, it seems unlikely that he would need to do much campaigning to keep his spot as head coach with the success of the team and the apparent lack of disharmony on the team despite several big names playing sparingly. For us, there are two big questions about the situation:

(1) How will this affect the Duke program?

It will probably hurt them. I don’t really buy the notion that coaching Team USA gets Coach K’s face out there in front of more 5-star guys. I can’t imagine any high school basketball players not knowing about Duke and Coach K. Coaching Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James will certainly give you more street cred than coaching Greg Paulus and Josh McRoberts, but I’m assuming most recruits are aware of the fact that Carmelo and LeBron were really, really, really good before Coach K decided how to tinker with the rotation and their minutes. The bigger impact on Duke will be the absence of Coach K from the recruiting trail. Committing to Team USA will mean that Coach K won’t be on the summer circuit and the guys at ABCD and every other crazy camp out there won’t see him in the stands. While Coach K and the Duke name are still able to land highly touted recruits like Paulus, McRoberts, and Shavlik Randolph (yes, they were all projected to be stars coming out of high school) in recent years he has been unable to land some major targets that he used to land (John Wall comes to mind although it could be argued that it is that he is simply against having one-and-dones).

(2) If Krzyzewski does not seek the position, which coach would be the most likely to replace him on the sideline?

Our top choices would be Tom Izzo, Rick Pitino, Jim Boeheim, John Calipari (no entrance exams required here), Mike D’Antoni and Gregg Popovich. Other than D’Antoni and Popovich, I can’t think of another suitable NBA coach who would be willing to give up his summers to coach a bunch of players that he might be coaching against during the regular season. If Coach K turns down a chance to repeat in London, the question is who Team USA would target as its top choice. Given the standardized test fiasco at Memphis it’s unlikely that Team USA would go with Calipari if other comparable coaches were available. Boeheim is probably the logical choice after serving as an assistant under Coach K, but personally I would like to see Pitino employ a pressing defense with the athletes and depth Team USA could field that would destroy international teams (despite what Malcolm Gladwell thinks).

Share this story

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.

Share this story

Duke: Success or Failure?

Posted by nvr1983 on March 25th, 2008

With several big-name programs going down on the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, we thought it was worthwhile to take a look back at their season and try to evaluate whether it was a success or failure (hence, the name of the post). We’re only going to take a look at the programs that are typically expected to compete for titles. So if you’re looking for a post about Coppin State, you’re out of luck.

To start things off we’ll take a look at Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils.

Where they left off: Coming off an embarrassing 1st round loss to Eric Maynor and Virginia Commonwealth and the early departure of Josh McRoberts, the Blue Devils were not expected to be their typical dominant self this year (preseason AP #13). As noted by resident Duke hater rtmsf, Duke has not had its typical monopolyover top recruits the past few years. Coming into the season, I expected the Blue Devils to go no further than the Sweet 16 as they did not have any low-post presence at all and lacked a true star (DeMarcus Nelson was as close as they came).

Story of the Season: As the season started, Krzyzewski unleashed a startling offensive set essentially playing 5 perimeter players the entire game. Given his numerous talented perimeter players and total absence of talented inside players, it seemed like a reasonable if unusual strategy. Using this offense that Krzyzewski took from Team USA assistant coach (and Phoenix Suns head coach) Mike D’Antoni, the Blue Devils climbed as high as #2 in the AP rankings. However, even as they piled up the wins their lack of an interior game on offense and defense was evident. The Blue Devils showed that they could compete with any team in the country on a given night with wins at then #1 UNC (without Ty Lawson), #5 Wisconsin (82-58), at #23 Davidson, and #24 Marquette. However, they also showed their vulnerability during back-to-back losses at Wake Forest and Miami (FL). In the end, the Blue Devils fell apart again at the end of the seasonlosing 3 of their last 5 with a narrow escape over 15th-seeded Belmont in the 1st round before falling to 7th-seeded West Virginia in the 2nd round.

The Verdict: We are hesitant to consider any season in which a team ranked #2 late in the season then loses 3 of its last 5, barely survives in the first-round against a 15 seed and loses in the 2nd round a success, but given the extremely low expectations for Duke coming into the season and the fact that they had nobody who could play inside (Zoubek? Seriously?) we have to give Coach K and his boys a “success” vote by the narrowest of margins. While they failed to play their best ball at the biggest moment (March), they played well throughout the season and did much better than we expected (not counting the NCAA tournament). Obviously, this is a big exception, but we prefer to look at the season as a whole especially when dealing with a team we never expected to make a serious title run.

Outlook: The Blue Devils certainly had some bright spots this season with the emergence of Kyle Singler and Gerald Henderson as solid players who should contribute for the next few years (as long as they don’t do anything stupid and jump early). However, with the loss of Greg Monroe to Georgetown and no highly touted big men on the way, it looks like Duke will be stuck with their current system for the foreseeable future. The question is whether Coach K can turn it around and start landing some of the studs that he used to now that the NBA is forcing kids to go to college for at least a year. Unless Coach K can do this or land one solid inside player, Duke haters will likely be able to rejoice around this time each March for the next few years.

rtmsf Update:  It should surprise no one that we have a slightly different take than our counterpart with respect to the Devils’ season.  His viewpoint is that this was a successful year for Duke, given low preseason expectations.  But how low were those expectations?  He points out that Duke was preseason #13 in the AP poll, and nearly every preseason mag had the Devils in the Sweet 16.  As usual, Duke came out of the gate with a bang, blowing out Wisconsin and positioning itself securely in the top 10 for the rest of the season (all but two weeks).  There was even the usual mid-February talk of another #1 seed for Coach K’s crew.  So while the preseason expectations were slightly lower than usual, the in-season expectations for Duke were considerably higher.  To that degree, looking at Duke’s March success, we consider a #2 seed barely sneaking by a #15 seed and then getting outmuscled by a Bob Huggins team in Round 2 to be a huge disappointment.  It’s Duke, for Chrissakes, not Villanova!  Anything less than a F4 is a disappointing season, and the last two Marches in Durham have been nothing short of disgraceful.

nvr1983 update to the update: I guess I should probably stop using the royal we when I write articles since there appears to be some dissension within the RTC ranks. As I noted in my original post, I wouldn’t consider this season a huge success, which is why I stated it was a success by “the narrowest of margins”. Perhaps, I should have went with an A-F system where I would have given the Blue Devils a C. As for rtmsf’s argument that the in-season expectations being higher than usual for Duke this year, I would argue that he’s out of his f-ing mind. Everybody who watched them play this year knew it was a vastly flawed team and I don’t know of a single person who picked them to go to the Final 4. He also notes that the expectation was a trip to the Sweet 16. I think coming up 1 round short of the preseason expectation isn’t that big of a failure particularly when the Sweet 16 is close enough to the peak of the NCAA tournament performance Bell curve that losing a round earlier isn’t a huge deviation from the expectation. Stealing a point from Billy Beane, I would also argue that post-season performance isn’t necessarily representative of their overall performance especially with relatively low expectations (that they performed close to) and the one-and-done nature of the NCAA tournament.

Share this story

2007 NBA Draft Musings

Posted by rtmsf on June 29th, 2007

Note:  If you’re looking for the 2008 NBA Draft Musings, look here. 

Some post-apocalyptic draft thoughts for your Friday, as we settle into a long summer of waiting for something to happen…

Oden

Championship or Bust in Portland?

  • One and Dones. These players acquitted themselves quite well in this year’s draft, which means they were getting good information from their schools and representatives. Greg Oden, Kevin Durant, Mike Conley, Jr., Brandan Wright, Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young were six of the top twelve players taken. Not coincidentally, five of those were among the top seven seniors of the Class of 2006, according to Rivals (Chase Budinger of Arizona was the lone holdout returning to school, and Conley was rated #18). Javaris Crittenton and Daequan Cook were also selected in the first round, meaning that every college freshman who declared was taken this year. Although it’s arguable whether the one-and-done system worked for college basketball (Ohio State – yes; Washington – no), we assert from a player perspective that it helped them exponentially in terms of marketability and readiness to perform at the next level. Every sports fan in America now knows who Greg Oden and Kevin Durant are – that wouldn’t have been the case prior the one-and-done rule.
  • Gator Rule. As we alluded to yesterday, the Florida Gators were set to greatly increase its all-time count of draft picks last night, and they did so with a flourish (see Joakim Noah‘s getup below), increasing its total from 10 to 15 overnight. Florida’s five entries into the NBA last night – Al Horford, Corey Brewer (who looked like the happiest man alive), Noah, Chris Richard (we figured he’d get a look), and Taurean Green – ties UConn for the most draft picks in one year. What, no Lee Humphrey?!?! The Huskies also entered five in 2006. One question, though. Where was Billy Donovan during this celebration of Pax Floridana? Maybe Christine hasn’t let him out of the house yet.

Joakim Noah Suit

Love the Seersucker, Jo

  • Conference Breakdown. The BCS conferences accounted for 39 of the 60 picks last night. The ACC (9 total; 6 first rounders) led the way, with the SEC close behind (8/3); the Big 10 (6/4), Pac-10 (6/4) and Big East (6/2) each showed moderate success, while the Big 12 fell behind the others (4/3). Considering that there were thirteen international players selected, that left only eight picks for the mid-majors. The highest mid-major player selected was Rodney Stuckey from Eastern Washington at #15; although Nevada also placed two players in the second round (Nick Fazekas and Ramon Sessions).
  • Dumb Declarations. By our count, only four players from D1 schools who stayed in the draft as an early entry candidate were not selected this year (most notably, Shagari Alleyne, formerly of Kentucky). This shows again that players are improving at determining their real value (vs. perceived inflated value) before making the decision to jump.

“Why Didn’t I Go Pro Last Year????”

  • A Year Late, A Dollar Short. Three players from big-name schools were probably kicking themselves for not leaving school early last year, when their weaknesses weren’t as exposed to the scouts. Duke’s Josh McRoberts (offensive skills), LSU’s Glen “Big Baby” Davis (weight issues) and Arizona’s Marcus Williams (headcase) all would have been much higher picks last year. Now each must battle for scraps as second-round selections this time around.
  • Parlez vous français? We always hate to see guys who put in their four years at college and were pretty good players, only to get passed over in the draft for Pau Gasol’s little brother. So a special shout-out goes to Zabian Dowdell (Virginia Tech), JR Reynolds (Virginia), Curtis Sumpter (Villanova), Mario Boggan (Oklahoma St.), Ekene Ibekwe (Maryland) , Brandon Heath (San Diego St.), Ron Lewis (Ohio St.) and Kyle Visser (Wake Forest) for providing wholesome collegiate entertainment over the last half-decade. We were tempted to also include Mustafa Shakur (Arizona) here, but he seemed to disappoint more than inspire during his tenure in Tucson.

SLAM Oden & Durant

Oden Wins Championships; Durant Wins Scoring Titles.

  • Final Thought. Oden vs. Durant was endlessly debated all season long. While we have to agree that we enjoy watching Durant play far more than Oden, that belies our bias against watching post men in favor of perimeter players in general. Still, Oden is the kind of player that championship teams are built around, and the Durants of history are comparitively light in the hardware department. We saw this played out in this year’s NCAA Tournament, where Oden’s team went to the national finals, and Durant’s squad was out (embarrassingly) in the second round. Either way, we wish the best of luck to both of them, as they made college basketball a more interesting game for the year they spent with us.
Share this story

NBA Predraft Camp Thoughts

Posted by rtmsf on June 5th, 2007

Thanks to the guys over at draftexpress.com, we’re just getting our first look at some of the height/weight and athletic numbers coming out of the NBA Predraft Camp last weekend in Orlando. We don’t put a lot of stock in drafting players based on these measurements – after all, if a guy can play, he can play (tip of the hat to Jonathan Givony for making this very point perfectly on draftexpress.com) – but it’s always fun to see who wins for the “incredible shrinking” award (aka the Lonny Baxter Trophy) as well as who appears to be the top athletes coming out of college this year. Note we said “appears.”

mj-and-jw.jpg

The Logo and MJ discussing the talent in Orlando

Why wasn’t Maryland better this year?

Guard D.J. Strawberry was rated the top overall athlete this year, and Ekene Ibekwe had some of the most eye-popping big man numbers, featuring a 7’6 foot wingspan and a thirty-nine inch veritical leap. This is yet another example of superior basketball skills and IQ (see: Florida Gators) trumping a stable of athletes. Either that, or Gary Williams was too busy resting on his laurels to teach these kids anything the last four years.

Durant needs to beef up

We realize he’s only eighteen and he can score on just about anyone already… but zero bench presses of 185 lbs. is pathetic. That stat, combined with his surprising lack of speed and agility in the drills, may suggest that he’ll face long obstacles in becoming a solid two-way player in the long run. He’s also going to take a beating on drives into the paint the next few years unless he commits himself to a weight training program to improve his strength.

Perhaps not surpisingly, most of the one-and-dones were weaker than their older peers. Durant, Julian Wright (2), Brandan Wright (2) and Daequan Cook (4) combined for a total of just eight bench presses at the 185-lb. weight. Mike Conley, Jr., (13), Javaris Crittenton (11) and Spencer Hawes (9) did better. Greg Oden sat out that event due to his injured wrist.

Lonny Baxter Award

Corey Brewer. Routinely listed at 6’9 at Florida, he came in at just 6’6.75 by the camp measurements. Lucky for him, he’s not a post man, so this won’t likely affect his draft status too much. Another Floridian, Al Thornton, deserves a nod here too. FSU listed him at 6’8, but the measurements put him at a mere 6’5.75. Considering that Thornton logged significant minutes on the interior, this puts him at a major disadvantage going into the draft.

Who Knew?

Aaron Gray is a legitimate seven feet tall, and Joakim Noah is a solid 6’10.5. We would have guessed both were shorter. ACC bigs Brandan Wright and Josh McRoberts are both 6’8.75 tall, but Wright has the slightly longer wingspan and McBob needs to put… the… coffee cupcakes… down (camp high 13.7% body fat).

Guys who’ll get a look based on their measurements alone

SEC big men Major Wingate and Jermareo Davidson. Both measure in the solid 6’9-6’10 range, have extremely long wingspans (7’4) and solid if not spectacular athleticism. Clemson’s James Mays could be a Renaldo Balkman type – a 6’7 jumping jack with a 37″ vertical and long arms (7’1.5″ wingspan).

Major Wingate and Chris Richard

Wingate & Richard battle in the post

Watch for these guys in a future NBA dunk contest near you

  • Al Thornton – 6’6 with a 7’1 wingspan and a 41-inch vertical – wow!
  • Nick Young – 6’5 with a 7’0 wingspan and a 40.5 inch vertical
  • Jeff Green – 6’8 with a 7’1 wingspan and a 38-inch vertical.

Dis-honorable Mention – Jared Jordan, who managed a standing still 14.5-inch vertical (to be fair, he doubled it to 28.5 inches in the running vertical).

jared-jordan.jpg

Can you outjump this JJ?

Quick bigs and slow guards

  • Greg Oden, Ekene Ibekwe and Chris Richard. We covered Oden yesterday and Ibekwe above, but how about super-sub Chris Richard? He never struck us as very fast. At 6’7.5 he’s a classic tweener, but his length (7’4.5 wingspan) and agility might just get him a spot somewhere eventually.
  • Marcelus Kemp and Sammy Mejia. Both of these guards were slower than big-ass Mario Boggan and a host of other big men at the three-quarter court sprint. Kemp in particular may need to think about heading back to Nevada for another season.

Classic Tweeners

Hard-luck Villanova forward Curtis Sumpter and BC forward Jared Dudley. Both are ferocious rebounders in the paint, but both happen to measure at around 6’6. Their only real chance at the next level is to re-invent their games to face the basket, akin to what Corliss Williamson and more recently, Chuck Hayes, have done.

Share this story