NBA Mock Draft

So the NBA season is done and the Draft is a little over a week away. It’s Mock Draft Time.

 

1. Chicago Bulls- Michael Beasley, PF – Kansas State

It’s not the sexy pick, what with Rose being from Chicago and all, but it’s the right pick. The Bulls have a good set of guards with Gordon, Deng and Heinrich, but the lack a legitimate low-post scorer. At 6’10″ Beasley is a guy that can take over a game down-low. He is the perfect fit for CHI.

2. Miami Heat- Derrick Rose, PG- Memphis

Miami wins here. In a big way. A backcourt with Rose and Wade is sick. Just absurdly sick. They still won’t have a big man, which will prevent them from contending, but they’ll be set in the backcourt for almost a decade.

3. Minnesota Timberwolves- O.J. Mayo, SG- USC

Mayo doesn’t fill a big need for Minnesota, but they are a young team that needs playmakers and I think he will be too good to pass up at this point. They could very likely trade down as well.

4. Seattle Supersonics- Jerryd Bayless, PG – Arizona

To me this pick is a lock. Seattle needs a PG and Rose will surely be gone. Bayless is hands down the next best in the draft. Him, Durant and Green give the Sonics a good future; wherever they will be playing.

5. Memphis Grizzlies- Anthony Randolph, PF- LSU

I know a lot of people think Kevin Love will be drafted here, but the Grizzlies aren’t going to win next year and Randolph has much more upside than Love. I think he is the pick here.

6. NY Knicks- DJ Augustin, PG- Texas

The Knicks are brutal. They need help everywhere, but PG is their biggest need. They pretty much have a team full of SGs and they have way too much money wrapped up in Curry and Randolph to think that they are going to draft a big man to replace them. Augustin is a brilliant passer, but who knows if he can feed all the egos on that team.

7. LA Clippers- Danilo Gallinari, PF- Italy

MIke Dunleavy likes to use point forwards, which is exactly what Gallinari is. A lot of the NBA has moved away from taking European prospects high, but the Clippers have never really drafted according to general NBA consensus. I think they go for the risky pick here.

8.  Milwaukee Bucks- Eric Gordon, SG- Indiana

The Bucks really need a SF, but I think Joe Alexander (the best rated one) is too much of a reach and a work in progress. I think the Bucks go with with most talented player and take Gordon, hoping that with him and Redd they can make due at the 2 and 3 positions.

9. Charlotte Bobcats- Brook Lopez, C- Stanford

Lopez could go as high as #3, but I think he is perfect for Charlotte here. They want a Center, so they can slide Okeafor to his natural position at the 4. Lopez is one of the only true centers in the draft and would be an immediate starter for Charlotte and make Okeafor that much better next year.

10. NJ Nets- Kevin Love, PF, UCLA

Love could also go higher, but I think the Nets are happy with him here. They have a solid backcourt with Carter and Devin Harris (and Markus Williams, who I like) but they could use some help in the frontcourt with only Boone and Kristic really helping down low. Love will never be pretty, but he will always get the job done. Especially in the East.

11. Indiana Pacers- Russell Westbrook, PG- UCLA

This one is pretty simple. The Pacers need a PG and Westbrook is full of upside. His defense is ahead of his offense right now, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The kid is going to be special.

12. Sacramento Kings- Joe Alexander, SF- West Virginia

There are rumblings that he could go higher, but if Alexander falls here I think the Kings grab him up. Artest is as good as gone and the Kings rely on Martin a lot for points. Alexander could grow into a great compliment.

13. Portland Trailblazers- Donte Green, SF- Syracuse

Portland is going in the right direction. They have lots of young talent and lots of draft picks this year. Green would fit great into a young rotation that includes Roy at SG and Oden at C.

14.    Golden State Warriors- Marreesse Speights, C- Fla.

Speights has a lot of talent, but his motivation has been questioned. I don’t think that’s a big concern for the Warriors who need a serious low post threat. At 6’11”, 250 pounds, Speights is just that.

15.    Phoenix Suns- Brandon Rush, SG- Kansas

This is the ideal pick for the Suns. They are a veteran team that needs somebody that can help immediately. Rush is a sleeper pick here and I think he becomes an instant contributor.

16.    Philadelphia 76ers- Kosta Koufas, C- Ohio State

I think Kosta should have stayed in school, but…too late. The 76ers need a low post option and they get one here. He is a few years away from being as good as he can be, but he fills a major need.

17.    Toronto Raptors- Alexis Ajinca, C- France

His workouts have him flying up boards and I think he is a great fit here. At 7’1” 240, he slides in at Center, allowing Bosh to play the more natural 4 spot. He adds toughness in the middle to a team in desparate need.

18.    Washington Wizards- Roy Hibbert, C- Georgetown

Brandan Haywood is not the answer. It’s as simple as that. The Wizards might undergo a lot of changes this offseason and having a big man to build around is always a good thing.

19.    Cleveland Cavs- Mario Chalmers, PG- Kansas

I know this is high for Chalmers, but I think it is the right pick. Cleveland needs a true PG who can get Lebron and his teammates the ball and create an offense. Plus, the kid is a proven winner. Something Bron Bron wants to do badly.

20.    Denver Nuggets- Robin Lopez, C- Stanford

Rumors are circling that the Nuggets are looking to trade Camby. If so, they get a replica of him here in Lopez. He’s going to fill up the cylinder, but he will shut down other Centers on D. Something that is crucial in the West.

21.    NJ Nets- DeAndre Jordan, C- Texas A&M

After having just picked Love earlier, the Nets can solidify their interior game with Jordan here. At 7’0” 260, he is a legitimate Center, which allows them to have Love play PF primarily. Kristic is serviceable, but Jordan could be great. With Harris and Carter, they would have the makings of a great core.

22.    Orlando Magic- Courtney Lee, SG- Western Kentucky

The Magic need a 2-guard that can score. I think they should grab CDR here, but rumors say they really like Lee because of his shooting ability. Bottom line is Dwight needs help.

23.    Utah Jazz- Darrell Arthur, PF- Kansas

The Jazz are in need of an inside threat to team with Williams. Arthur was a force at Kansas, both on offense and defense and would work well with Okur, who is more of a face the basket-type of big man

24.    Seattle Supersonics- JaVale McGee, PF- Nevada

After getting Bayless, they turn inside. McGee is 7’0” 240 and a strong interior presence. He teams up with Bayless, Green and Durant to create a very scary team of young talent.

25.    Houston Rockets- Chris Douglas-Roberts, SG- Memphis

McGrady needs help on offense and he gets it here. CDR can step in immediately and push the Rockets even further. He does the little things that help put a team together. He can be the glue for Houston.

26.    San Antonio Spurs- Nicolas Batum, SF- France

The Spurs need guards off the bench, but I think they can’t pass on Batum here. They love international players and they lack a true threat at SF. Batum becomes a great 4th option for that team.

27.    NO Hornets- Bill Walker, SG- Kansas St.

A risky pick here because of the knee injuries, but Walker has tremendous upside. There are a lot of quality big men here, but the Hornets are set with Chandler and West. They could use another scorer and Walker can be just that.

28.    Memphis Grizzlies- Ante Tomic, C- Croatia

After that Gasol trade, its clear the Grizz aren’t thinking about the “right now.” Tomic will take a few years to come over, but he’ll be a huge force in the middle to team with Randolph. We all know Kwame Brown is not in the plans.

29.         Detroit Pistons- Serge Ibaka, PF- Congo

Ibaka is a few years away, but the Pistons have a good enough core to hold out on him for a year or two. When he steps in, he’ll be a force in the middle.

30.         Boston Celtics- Jamont Gordon, SG- Miss. St.

This is a tough pick for me. I really think the Celtics need another option at PG, but there just isn’t one here. Tomic would have been a great pick for them, but the only other potential option at C is Asik. What’s left is a bunch of PFs, a position that the Celtics are set at with Davis and Powe. I think they take Gordon to take Allen’s place when he retires in a few years. He gives them another option off the bench.

 

Intentional Beaning Something You Think, Not Do

I saw this YouTube video earlier today where a HS baseball team intentionally drills an Umpire. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tsFSALrA1o) The clip shows the pitch about 4 times, once in slow motion, so you can really see what is going on. For me, it only took one viewing. As somebody who caught all through HS and one year in college before switching primarily to 1st base, I knew exactly what happened.

There are always umpires that get under your skin as a player. They get on a power trip, or more often than not, they are just so bad at their job that you can’t understand why they are paid to be behind the plate. Granted being an umpire is tough. I’ve done it for Little League games and know that it is no walk in the park, but some of these guys are flat-out brutal. Sometimes they are so bad that you just want to punish them for it.

I can honestly say that anybody who has caught for the majority of their baseball career has thought about doing just what these kids did. The pitcher delivered a high fastball and the catcher, acting as if he thinks a breaking ball is coming, slides to his knees to block the pitch, thus leaving the ump wide open for a beating. Normally the catcher wouldn’t act like he was going to catch the ball, then instantaneously drop to his knees and duck like this kid did, but that’s another story.

The thing is, while I have thought about doing this time and time again, I have never done it, nor even heard of it being done until today. It’s a pipe dream. It’s something you think about in your head and you smile about, like those visions you have about beating the snot out of the school bully. But once its enacted in real life, it becomes more than a dream of retribution. It can be dangerous. 

Umpires have been knocked unconscious time and time again during games and hitting one square in the face with a fastball is a good way to have it happen again. But even if you don’t care about the umpires safety, this play is never carried out because people usually have enough self-preservation instincts to keep the idea in their heads. What happens if you get thrown out of your championship game for it? What happens if your coach knows what’s up and benchs you? Or kicks you off the team? Or, if you’re like this catcher, you lose your spot on the college baseball team you were planning to be a part of?

Bad calls will always exist in sports. Umpires will miss balls and strikes. Refs will miss fouls, or make them up. It just comes with the game. If you want to get retribution, you take the ump out of the game. You make it so he doesn’t have to make calls. You carve batters up. You make them swing and miss; you allow your defense to make plays. When you go head-to-head with an umpire or a ref, you are going to lose. As an athlete there are times to simply swallow your pride and trudge forward. When you don’t, you leave yourself open to punishment. The worst part about that? It takes the focus off how terrible the ump may have been, and puts it squarely on your shoulders.

The Best Baseball is Barely Being Watched

Alliteration aside, I feel very strongly that the best baseball being played right now, isn’t being watched as much as it should be. ESPN2 has been carrying the College World Series from Omaha, Nebraska, but, as usual, not enough people are giving college baseball the love it deserves.

Not only is the sound of the metal bat a refreshing summer noise, but the balls-out effort and non-stop hustle remind you of what athletics is all about. As people watched a team in Purple and Gold get pummeled and pretty much give up a few days ago, 18-23 year old kids who still only dream of making it to the big stage were grinding it out on the field.

So far in this years World Series, I have seen more late-inning, come from behind games that any year I can remember. Just the other day Georgia came back to grab a 4-3 win over Stanford and LSU scored three runs on a double in the bottom of the 9th to eliminate favored Rice. That doesn’t even account for the biggest surprise of the postseason, which is Fresno State. A team that was ranked 4th in their Regional (I’l explain later) and hasn’t lost a game on their way to being in the finals of their bracket in Omaha. They’re the first #4 Regional Seed to make the World Series and now have a legitimate shot of taking home the crown. It’s like last years run by the Rockies, but times four. 

For those who may not know how college baseball’s postseason is set up, here it goes. After the regular season the NCAA gives automatic bids to conference winners and at-large bids (like the NCAA basketball tournament). They set up Regionals, each consisting of four teams, clearly made up by the region of the country they are from. These teams face off in a double elimination tournament, the winner advancing (Fresno State was a #4 seed in their own region, which means they were deemed one of the worst teams to even make the postseason, thats around 60 teams!) The winners from each regional then face off in a best of three series with another team from a nearby region, the winner advancing. That leaves 8 teams who qualify for the World Series, which is another double elimination tournament split into two, four-team brackets.

As it stands right now Georgia, the #8 seed in the country, and Fresno St. are the only teams at 2-0. LSU and North Carolina, both 1-1, will face off today at 7 PM to see who gets to play Fresno St. Now, because Fresno and Georgia are 2-0 and this is a double elimination tournament, the winner of tonights game and Stanford, who is 2-1 and plays Georgia on Friday, will have to win twice to advance to the championship.

With ESPN doing the right thing and covering the games, its time baseball fans do the right thing and tune in. This is baseball at its finest. These kids are playing with pure passion and no desire other than to win the game. I saw Miami’s RF, Raben, make three diving catches and 1 catch into the wall in one game. It’s hustle that you just don’t see on the field in every MLB game. It’s a joy to watch and I felt it my duty to try and get more people to tune in. You won’t be disappointed.

Certain Fans Need to Know When to Close Their Mouths

I’ve kept quiet on the subject for a while now, but recently I heard a series of comments that have just caused me to lose my proverbial fecal matter (my s$%& for those of you that didn’t follow).

I recently just moved back to NYC after living in San Antonio for five years and its sad to say, but one of the things that made me so happy to move back was getting away from Spurs fans. I understand that you love your team. You should. What’s the point of cheering for a team if you aren’t actually devoted to their winning? But there is a line that needs to be drawn.

Spurs fans have always been passionate beyond logic. They think the Spurs are the best team to ever play the game, even if they know nothing else about basketball. That I can forgive, it’s just blind admiration, but two things stood out recently that I can’t forgive. Both from popular radio DJs (I will refrain from being more specific than that).

The first came after the latest NBA scandal in which Tim Donaghy claimed that refs were told to make sure the 2002 Lakers-Kings series went the distance. After hearing this report, a San Antonio radio station Dj started claiming that this scandal proves how good the Spurs really are. He claimed that the NBA tried to fix playoff games in 2003 because the Spurs draw low viewership, but the Spurs are so good they beat an NBA fix. The disturbing part was not that he took these claims of games fixed against the Spurs from thin air, it’s that callers called in voicing their support. Callers supported this DJs claims by saying that the Spurs are better than the NBA, that they are clearly the best team because they are too good to be beat, even when a game is fixed. The gloating is annoying to begin with, but almost unbearable when you realize that they were gloating about overcoming an obstacle that was probably never in front of them to begin with.

The last comment that set me over the top was made by a DJ right after the Lakers were eliminated by the Celtics. My friend happened to have this on tape, so I was able to verify the truth of the statement. A local DJ actually said the finals proved “the Lakers were really the 3rd or 4th best team in the West and it showed.”

Wait, excuse me? The same Lakers team that demolished the Spurs was the 4th best team in the West? Well, hell, the Spurs must have been like the 8th then. It’s one thing to cheer for your team. It’s a completely different thing to be so blind that you start making statements that make no sense. (The same Dj actually said he has happy the Spurs don’t have as many European players as the Lakers because its what hurt them. Parker? Ginobili? Oberto? Ok. Whatever.)

This wouldn’t be as big a deal if it wasn’t a blindness that was shared by the majority of a city. In San Antonio, the Spurs can do no wrong. But it is also a city where nobody else can do anything right. The Lakers aren’t that good. But, the Spurs didn’t play badly, they never do. So how did the Lakers win that series? In San Antonio, questions like that are too logical to be answered.

Celts Dominate, But Lakers Are Better Set for Future

My mom always told me that you can’t be a good person if you don’t admit when you’re wrong. So because my mother is always right, I am going to admit that prior to Game #1, I thought the Lakers would dominate the Celtics. They ran through the Western Conference, which I still believe to be the stronger conference, like a buzzsaw and the Celts were having trouble beating mediocre teams on the road. (The Hawks were really that tough?) I think it was inevitable that the Lakers would leave another team in their wake on the way to another ring. All things aside, I am more than glad to admit I was wrong.

However, looking forward, I think the Lakers franchise is in a much better position. Granted, you’re supposed to give it at least a day before you start thinking about the future, but fans of the losing team know that is never true. (The second the Nets were done I started thinking about the draft.) When you let your mind wander, it becomes obvious that while the Celtics are clearly the better team now, more rings lie in the future of the Lakers than the Celtics.

Age might be the biggest reason for this. The Big Three might only have three more years left, if that. Ray Allen will be 33 next year and has already shown this playoffs that its becoming tougher for him to make his own looks. (But when he is even close to open there is still nobody that can shoot it better). Garnett will also be 33, but his body has taken a pounding playing Center in the West for years. Pierce is the youngest, as he’ll be 31 next season and as a few good years left in him. When you look at the bench, the age doesn’t get much better P.J. Brown and Sam Cassell, who both played their share of minutes these playoffs, will be 39 next year and other role players like Eddie House, 31, and James Posey, 32 are getting up their in age.

Then you have the Lakers. Kobe’s been in the league forever, but he’ll only be 30 next year, which in terms of basketball years, makes him a lot younger than Allen and KG. Gasol may be soft, but he’ll only be 28 and is still a solid player, while Odom will be turning 29. They have a few young guns on the team as well, with Andrew Bynum only turning 21, Sasha Vujacic turning 25 and Jordan Farmar turning 22. The Lakers core of players will be around for a few years longer than the Celts will.

 

Another reason the Lakers are better built for the future is the make-up of their starting line-up. The Celtics played an incredible series, but what people keep forgetting is that the Lakers played the entire postseason without Bynum. Before the injury, Bynum was averaging 13 and 10 and was turning into a legitimate Center. If you slide him back into the 5 and pair him up with Gasol, who can then move to the 4, you have a special front court. Clearly, we saw that Gasol is not at his best when he has to bang down low, but with Bynum back, he can face up to the basket more and use his 7-foot size to take advantage of smaller power forwards. The Lakers then round out their starting line-up with Odom at the 3, Bryant at the 2 and an ever-improving Farmar at the point. it’s a scary starting 5 that leaves Walton, Vujacic, Radmanovic and Turiaf coming off the bench. Add one more capable guard to that set and you’ve got one of the most well-rounded teams that I’ve seen assembled.

The Celts on the other hand, have under-sized forwards in Glen Davis and Leon Powe (who’s game I love, by the way) and no true back-up PG with Cassell likely retiring (and firing up more shots per minute than any other player in the NBA). Perkins continues to get better, but the Celts would feel a lot better with a legitimate center to back-up him up just in case, not 6’9″ Davis. Doc Rivers also learned this post-season that Rondo’s passing skills can sometimes be a detriment. He looks to pass so often that teams would slack off him, forcing him to take shots that he never would, effectively taking himself out of the game. He needs to improve his shooting enough to be taken seriously as a scoring threat. Until then, the Celts need another PG who can both dish and score.

So enjoy it Boston. It was a great season and a dominating final game. I am glad that you proved me wrong and that you made my father very happy. But when the dust settles and smoke clears, there is some work to do for next year. Of course, I could be wrong again.

How To Save Boxing

Over the last few years boxing has been in a battle for fans with the growing number of Mixed Martial arts fight leagues, most notably UFC and now that they hold the rights to Kimbo Slice, EXC (not to mention they house my favorite fighter, Gina Carano). As the fan base for MMA continues to grow and primetime networks decide to air their fights, many pugilists worry that the attention will have a negative affect on the classic combat sport. However, boxing has responded in the last few years, trying to increase its popularity by putting big names into the ring against each other: De La Hoya and Mayweather, Taylor and Pavlik, Mosley and Cotto and Hopkins and Calzaghe. While some of the fights, such as Jermaine Taylor and Kelly Pavlik, have entertained audiences and produced memorable evenings of both vicious tenacity and precision skill, others have simply proven to fans why some of boxing’s “big names” are not anybody worth getting excited over.

 

Now this is not to say that boxing is doomed. The Sweet Science has the blend of power, speed and educated preparation that cannot even be matched by a UFC fight. Boxing is less about brawling then it is about systematically breaking your opponent down until he cannot continue. The boxer has to plan his fight to go 12 rounds. He needs to know what to do to hurt his opponent in ways, big or small, that will make him increasingly less effective as the fight wears on. When the late rounds come, the body punches have slowed down the shifty fighter, or the change in styles has confused the big puncher and thrown him off balance.

 

While there is no doubt skill and entertainment in watching two men pummel each other using their preferred mode of martial arts, it doesn’t hold the same type of draw for me. I watch MMA because there is action almost every second. The men and women that fight MMA have to learn countless different styles and be competent both on their feet and on their backs. However, the fights are not meant to last long. The strategy is more geared towards defeating your opponent in an instant and not dismantling him over time. This difference is one of the reasons why I think it is likely that both sports will be able to thrive simultaneously.

 

There is something almost intoxicating in watching two men navigate the narrow openings in a fight that tests not only strength and speed, but mental fortitude, dedication, adaptability and intelligence. It is the way that nature has always been: I have my tactics, you have yours and in order to survive somebody is going to have to not only impose their will, but take what is being thrown at them and learn from it.

 

But in order for Boxing to become a force again, a few changes need to be made. The most obvious being to get rid of all of the meaningless alphabet titles that it gives to its “champions.” Having four title-holders in one division kills the competitiveness of the bouts and making it almost impossible to create any real rivalries. Champions can duck the most imposing fighters because they have to fight “mandatory challengers” like Pavlik’s recent fight with severely over-matched Gary Lockett.

 

However, possibly the most important thing that boxing can do to save itself is to not simply bank on the “big names” of a previous time. It must create new big names. Boxing needs to focus on the talented fighters in their twenties that combine both the skill and intelligence of old school boxing, with the ferociousness and toughness of the new generation of fighting. There are plenty of guys capable of carrying that burden. Kelly Pavlik has proven that he can deliver more that his fair share of punishment and Miguel Cotto might be the most complete fighter for the new generation. But there are additional young fighters that not enough casual observes know about. Andre Berto. Edison Miranda. Lamont Peterson. Samuel Peter. Juan Manuel Lopez. Paul Williams. David Haye. Chad Dawson. Juan Diaz. These are fighters who would draw in new fans on fresh faces alone. However, they all are skilled fighters who can change the course of a bout miraculously in one instant. Watch Paul Williams destroy Carlos Quintana and you know what I mean. Or Juan Manuel Lopez knock out one of the toughest fighters around in Daniel Ponce de Leon. Or even watch Edison Miranda knock David Banks through the ropes in a knockout of the year candidate. These fighters are boxers to the core, but they pack the ferocity and aggressiveness that has driven MMA to such heights. When these names are brought to the public, and then faced against each other, boxing will rear its head again and prove to be the supreme example of combative entertainment.

 -     –     –     –     –     –     –    -     –     –     –     –     – Edison Miranda

Authors Note: Edison Miranda can be seen this Saturday on Showtime, while Andre Berto can be seen this Saturday on HBO.

 

 

Hopkins is Bad for Boxing

Bernard Hopkins has had a great career, compiling 48 wins and holding championships in the Middleweight and Light Heavyweight divisions, but the future Hall of Famer is bad for boxing’s desire to increase marketability.

 As a boxing fan, I have great respect for Bernard Hopkins as a fighter. “The Executioner” is immensely talented, hard-working and no doubt one of the most skilled counter-punchers of the last few decades. With that said, he is one of the least enjoyable fighters to watch. He embodies the qualities that have made boxing so unappealing to the new breed of fight fans. Hopkins spends the majority of his time in the ring with his back up against the ropes, navigating the mat and waiting for his counter-punching opportunities. He throws one or two punches at a time and then proceeds to clinch and hold his opponent until the referee has to break them up. This was evident in the brutally boring fight he had with Winky Wright in 2007 and now with his recent loss to Joe Calzaghe on April 19th, 2008.

 In the Calzaghe fight, Hopkins backed away the entire bout and grabbed for Calzaghe’s arm so much, he looked like a child being left by his mother at school for the first time. Outside of the first round, he barely initiated any of the action and got more attention for blatantly trying to disrupt the flow of the bout when he milked a soft low blow, then he did for any of his actual skills in the ring. In short, Hopkins is a calculating, scratch-it-out fighter without the punching power to change the course of a bout in one instant. When you stack that up against the power and speed that is offered in a typical UFC fight, it is no wonder that many viewers tend to switch over to SpikeTV or shell out $40 for a UFC Pay-Per-View card.

 If you asked me if I preferred boxing or MMA, I would still say boxing. However, if you asked if I’d rather watch a Kimbo Slice fight, or a Hopkins fight, I’m choosing Slice every single time. That’s more a commentary on the quality of Hopkins’ fights than it is on the spectacle that Slice has become.

 “The Executioner” has had a great career and will undoubtedly win another fight or two before he hangs them up, but I seriously doubt whether anybody would really want to watch. I’ll take a ten count on that one, and you can count me out.

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