[Also known as Confirmation Day in the Church of Bracketology]
photos from Draft Express and the Hoops Report
Years ago I would meet with some friends at one of the larger bars in Manhattan to watch the NBA draft, mostly so I could lose my mind and start cussing into the air, in public, when, say, Marcus Camby was traded (with the rights to Nenê) for Frank Williams and a broken Antonio McDyess (who has, admittedly carved out quite a decent post-injury career for himself). I think my friends just wanted to see what I did when the Knicks did something so very obviously bad for their future and salary cap.
The funny thing is that I have a lot more affection for the Nets, really, but the Knicks are what New Yorkers of my age grew up with – Patrick Ewing, the kind of physicality and slowdown style that facilitates rules changes, the haircut of Anthony Mason, the post-game interview voice of John Starks… so it’s the Knicks I focus on when watching the draft. The Nets under Rod Thorn have made very good picks, from the Richard Jefferson year to Lopez and Anderson last year. They’re not all gangbusters, but they get players who get on the court.
Some of the storylines going into tonight’s NBA draft:
+ The Knicks might be looking to trade Quentin Richardson for Memphis’ Darko Milicic… and may pick Gerald Henderson of Duke tonight. Apparently Coach Krzyzewski convinced Mike D’Antoni to sign free agent Chris Duhon, improving Duhon’s nightlife options immeasurably… possibly to the detriment of the team (no evidence, just conjecture). I kind of would like Darko. He’s not the second coming, but might be better under D’Antoni; he improved slightly in his scoring per 40 minutes last year. What else will the Knicks do to improve?
+ Not a storyline per se, but Free Darko analyzes the model stylings of future draftees Hasheem Thabeet, Pretty Ricky Rubio, Stephen Curry, Tyler Hansbrough, and more.
+ Some guy named Shaquille O’Neal who is very large was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the expiring contracts of Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic. Basketball Prospectus thinks it is a poor trade, since O’Neal is a defensive liability and needs the ball to be effective… and he’s not that effective anymore. And I like Zydrunas Ilgauskas’s game next to LeBron (Z has some range and some post game)… I think the team needs something more impactful at the guard position. Casn they find a steal in the draft to keep Lebron in Cleveland?
+ Speaking of Basketball Prospectus, here are some statistical translations from Euroleague stats for Pretty Ricky Rubio, Brandon Jennings, Omri Casspi, and Sergio Llull, who I have not heard of. And while we’re at it, here are translations for stateside players, ranking the guards in terms of WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player). Will these projections be correct? Is Nick Calathes a future NBA star?
+ And then there’s the Brandon Jennings thing. Ball in Europe talks about how Jennings’ season was a net negative, a bust, and those numbers bear it out. Rough season for the youngster, even though Lottomatica Roma teammate Ibrahim Jabber likes his game in a long-winded post on True Hoop.
And he might be bitter now, but the benefits may be greater than simply showing that he can play and score. Lisa Olson writes on Jennings’ study abroad year:
People who study these things for a living say he is certainly a top three talent, but then they add words like “mystery” and “enigma” and “bad attitude” to his dossier, and nobody knows quite where Jennings will land….
“It was tough,” he says. “But I made a decision and I stuck with it. I like to think I matured as a man and as a player.”
Thing is? Jennings is still talented, but he has to improve some parts of his game, according to scouting reports (the outside shot, the decision-making). And he’s probably going to be drafted in the lottery. His experience will inform players like Jeremy Tyler that it is possible to go to Europe for basketball and come back, but it won’t be like going to State U and playing 38 minutes a game, with Dick Vitale yammering how they are awesome-baby. And maybe that’s a better fortune.
+ The last few days have been trade-crazy, with teams trying to get into position to get the impact players in what many feel is a weak (but possibly deep with role players?) draft. Richard Jefferson is happy to be “relevant again,” and I am happy he is as well; part of that deal means forward Amir Johnson will go to Milwaukee; the Timberwolves got the #5 pick in the draft, along with some large bodies who hold down the chairs; 76ers are looking to the old school logo; and Tracy McGrady might find himself traded for a draft pick. Those Rockets played pretty well without him…
+ Who are going to be the sleepers and the busts? SI’s Luke Winn looks at efficiency numbers in different scenarios… James Harden might have some work to do on his game in the faster-paced (than his Arizona State offense) NBA.
While the Chicago Sun Times files for bankruptcy…and as you wait for Google’s yearly April Fools’ joke… remember that some man was arrested for drunk driving on a bar stool… and you HAVE to check out this modernized telling of the Passover story… in Facebook form.
Jonathan Vilma’s apartment on Long Island was raided in connection to some drug beef that looks like it came out of a TV show (the reverse of “ripped from the headlines”): a Liberian immigrant with a suitcase filled with stolen cocaine or fake money, a body dumped in Paerdegat Basin, a person shot execution-style… how that ties in to the former Jets middle linebacker is unknown, but they were supposedly killed in his condo.
Ray Floriani, writing for College Chalk Talk, writes on Richmond’s run in the CBI, where they lost to UTEP (Texas El-Paso) in the semifinal game. He notes the ridiculously bad (30% of their possessions) turnover rate for St. John’s being the difference in the game… along with the inability to stop Richmond from hitting threes. Floriani also expresses hope that playing in the game helps St. John’s coach Norm Roberts, “one of the good guys,” as he calls him.
Haters to the front! with this Louisville Courier-Journal article about how some question John Calipari’s recruiting and temper. I touched on this in the coaching candidates post, about how his players have not been class acts, even if (by some metrics) they do well in school. I thought Kentucky fetishized clean cut players… maybe not as much as winning. If someone in Wildcat country has a problem with the look of the kids – and even the occasional problem with graduating – they should get over it. Kids have tattoos, kids have swagger, and these kids win games. They’re not all going to be crew cut Adolph Rupp kids, and I’m sure those guys weren’t saints by any means. Though memory does have a way of sanctifying folks.
Memphis boosters are working hard on getting Calipari to stay. Of course they are. Can they touch the reported 8 year, 35 million dollar offer? If Cal goes, will Roburt Sallie, Wes Witherspoon, and Angel Garcia leave? Inquiring recruiters want to know… and if Calipari leaves, the Memphis Commercial Appeal has some candidates to replace him… though Cal wants Tony Barbee, his former assistant coach now at UTEP, to replace him. Unofficially, a Kentucky TV station says Calipari is taking the Kentucky job.
The University of Virginia has hired Washington State coach Tony Bennett to pilot the Cavaliers’ men’s basketball team. Kind of a surprise – no runs at Jeff Capel or other prominent candidates, and a pretty quick, no-muss no-fuss hire. Bennett has not been a head coach for long, but has brought some talent to the talent-barren Wash State Cougar team. They play very, very slow, but they are crisp and NEVER turn the ball over. Sylven Landesberg could be an ace in this system… Is Portland State’s Ken Bone the man to keep the Cougars growling? Roaring? Do Cougars roar?
And interestingly, from ESPN’s Andy Katz:
Siena’s Fran McCaffery hasn’t heard from any of the high-profile jobs but did get an e-mail from a search firm on the Boston University job…. McCaffery has no issues if he stays put. He said he should have a really good team again next season after the Saints won consecutive first-round NCAA tournament games, beating Vanderbilt and Ohio State in back-to-back tournaments.
There has to be a job opening that has Fran McCaffery’s name on it. Then again, the coaches who have moved have either been assistants (like Shaka Smart to Virginia Commonwealth) or have been major conference-level head coaches. So it’s not time for the mid-major guys who move up, yet.
Hey, where’s the AIG facade? They’re changing the company name… The Onion on the Morning After Burrito, the contraceptimelt… Open up borders to skilled immigrants – opinion pieces in the Wall Street Journal and from the NY Times’ Thomas Friedman… some completely bizarre “perks” in Josh Freeze’s "pay what you will" pricing, especially compared to Radiohead – including lunch, a day at Disneyland, his Volvo, and the opportunity to have a song written about you… China’s central bank is talking about a new reserve currency…
And now… sports.
+ Eric Devendorf – punk or not? Read the take on Rumors and Rants, and the take on Ballin’ Is a Habit (which is sensible). And a defense here. Personally, I just think his mind thinks of plays his body can’t finish; he’s gotten better at matching his actual talent with his imagined talent, but watching some of his drives, truer words were never spoken than Sean McDonough’s "Devendorf’s the kind of player that keeps both teams in the game."
+ Jonny Flynn’s going to return for his junior year, supposedly.
+ Pitt Blather will be hosting a roundtable discussion on Big East domination of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
+ Patty Mills gets the best of Stephen Curry and the Davidson Wildcats in their matchup at St. Mary’s, which was the best NIT game I have seen since St. John’s beat Georgetown in 2003. And that wasn’t actually a good game. Mills has a far better supporting cast, and doesn’t turn the ball over 6 times in a game with a questionable dribble and ill-fated passes.
+ Is Steph Curry going pro? Is that the last we see of him?
+ The Big Lead rips on Gonzaga’s Austin Daye and his disappearing act on the court.
+ Missouri’s Mike Anderson’s trying to stay focused on the upcoming game against Memphis, and not on the talk of him possibly going to Alabama to coach the basketball team. He’s high on my list of coaches who might be switching jobs. CBS Sports reminds us that it would be much worse if he lied, instead of saying that he doesn’t want to talk about the future.
+ Alex Rodriguez. More high-end blonde hookers. Making fun of him is just boring at this point. At least he went to one of Eliot Spitzer’s trim suppliers.
+ The new women’s soccer league is confident despite the recession. I’ll be checking it out; women’s soccer in the US has to be better than the men’s pro league, MLS.
As you might know, top guard prospect Brandon Jennings decided to make the bold move, skipping college and going to play a year in Europe. For those interested in the works of college basketball recruiting, and for those concerned about the restricted options for those boys who want to play basketball professionally straight out of high school, this is a landmark case.
The Brown vs. Board of Ed of recruiting? If the trip is successful, that bit hyperbole may not be so outlandish.
The New York Times has been keeping close tabs on Brandon Jennings. Some excerpts from today’s article:
“I’ve gotten paid on time once this year,” Jennings said in an e-mail message. “They treat me like I’m a little kid. They don’t see me as a man. If you get on a good team, you might not play a lot. Some nights you’ll play a lot; some nights you won’t play at all. That’s just how it is.”
“I don’t see too many kids doing it,” his e-mail message said. “It’s tough man, I’ll tell you that. It can break you.”…
Jennings does not resemble the pioneer some envisioned when he left for Europe as a dynamic player who could create his own shots and score 20 points or more a game. In Italy, he said, he has been stifled offensively. He is averaging 8 points a game.
“My role is to play D and take open shots — that’s it,” he said. “And I’ve accepted that role.”
He acknowledged that the journey had helped him mature, and he said the rigors of playing in Europe may benefit others.
An N.B.A. assistant coach who has been to Europe and has watched Jennings play said his potential draft standing had not been harmed. The coach requested anonymity because he was discussing a player currently ineligible for the draft.
“I think it is good for him,” he said. “He was getting a defensive component that he needed. If I was a scout and I needed a point guard, I would be extremely impressed with what he has done over there.”
I comment on this because I saw the first quotes from Jennings – about not being paid on time and about him being treated like a kid – on ESPN’s bottom line during the Wisconsin Illinois game I’m watching. And those are portrayed as the terrible things. Certainly, it is nice to be paid on time, but it’s a well-known issue that European teams are scattered with the timely payroll.
Jennings is, essentially, a little kid! He is not the man, and perhaps more players need to fit the team concept and realize how very much they have to learn. Jennings admits that the journey has helped him mature. And for a fanbase that chides NBA players for being immature, for coaches who often have a hard time handling the immaturity of NBA players, this could be a fantastic, though unintended, outcome for Brandon.
Playing defense – especially if he has improved with his existing athleticism – is a great, underrated skill. Rajon Rondo and his unoffensive game has really made a name for himself simply with good defense.
It may not be what Brandon Jennings envisioned. But he’s making money and hasn’t hurt his draft stock. Perhaps more players should consider going to Europe and getting schooled a little, building some mental toughness, and gaining experience and worldliness.
An update on top high school basketball player Brandon Jennings, who was committed to Arizona but now… will go across the Atlantic.
Adam Zagoria wonders if other top players (Lance Stephenson, perhaps) will follow suit in a year’s time and go to Europe instead of playing on a college campus. And of course, it will be interesting to see:
+ What level of team Jennings latches onto;
+ How much playing time he gets;
+ How well he does, statistically and culturally;
+ What kind of exposure he gets stateside;
+ What his draft position is (I’m sure he doesn’t intend to play in Europe for a long time);
+ Whether he understands the rookie hazing in Spain or Russia or France.
And it’s not Candace Parker.
(H/T to Girls Dig Sports)
I missed last night’s NBA Draft but am catching up on the happenings:
The Nets traded Richard Jefferson to Milwaukee for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons. Simmons, who was a one year wonder, and Yi who… well… he’s a better marketing chip (to reach out to the Chinese market) than he is a baller. But both can play a little. I mean, a very little. And it’s a step away from the numerous attempts to “reload” and get to the bottom half of the NBA Playoffs, while dropping the 3 years and 42 mil that Jefferson has on his contract:
That contract, which has three years and $42.4 million to go on it, was another reason the Nets made this deal.
Yi is still on his rookie contract, and Simmons’ deal has only two years to run at salaries of $9.9 million and $10.5 million. That means prior to last night’s draft, the Nets technically had only $26.6 million earmarked for player salaries after the 2009-10 season, which gives them a virtual clean slate with which to rebuild a team that won only 33 games last year.
And while Thorn is loathe to admit it, he has sought to keep the payroll low for the summer of 2010, when — at least theoretically — players such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carlos Boozer become free agents, while others such as Amare Stoudemire and Chris Bosh could opt-out of their contracts.
RJ was my favorite Net, sad to see him go. Maybe I’ll catch a game in Milwaukee.
They also drafted Stanford center Brook Lopez, who dropped to 10. He’s tall. But any talk of him starting is crazy – over Krstic’s offense? Over Josh Boone’s rebounding? Over Sean Williams’ shot blocking (okay, he’s probably as good and doesn’t make Coach Lawrence Frank lose his hair)? Coupled with Brook’s stiffness – he plays hard, but doesn’t look fluid:
Brook’s measurements in Orlando revealed a massive 7-foot, 5.5-inch wingspan. Combine that with his frame and ability to add weight, and there’s no doubt he can play center in the NBA. (He was mostly a power forward at Stanford, with Robin rooted in the middle.)
Heck, Brook might not have a choice in terms of his position. I say that because his lane-agility time (12.77 seconds) in Orlando was the worst of all the prospects.
I don’t think he’s anything more than a rotation player.
Additionally: the Nets drafted Ryan Anderson and Chris Douglas Roberts. I love Anderson’s ability to shoot the ball. Chris Douglas-Roberts has some ability as a slashing scorer, but he’s not NBA quick, and he never struck me as that strong. But he’s gotten it done on one of the best teams in the country, so he gets a second round look.
The Knicks draft the Italian, the New York crowd boos, same as it ever was. Gallinari says he will earn the applause; (from the Italian media). His shooting impressed the Knicks.
David Lee, the most coveted Knick, will remain a potential chip, and there was talk that the Bobcats had offered point guard Raymond Felton for Lee. But a person with knowledge of the situation said there was nothing to that. Portland has shown an interest in Lee, and the Knicks would want Steve Blake to run the offense.
The 6-9 Gallinari’s arrival likely means farewell to Lee, a fan favorite who emerged as a solid rebounder and intangibles player the past two seasons. Walsh and coach Mike D’Antoni envision Gallinari as a power forward. Lee is headed into the final year of his rookie contract and is seeking a long-term extension, and Walsh realizes he is his only tradable commodity.
Darrell Arthur was the last guy in the Green Room (article by Luke Winn); he was eventually traded twice, to the Rockets and then to the Memphis Grizzlies for… Donte Greene. Snicker away, please. Houston’s GM is supposed to be a statistics guy, but I can’t see anything, besides Greene’s block rate and ability to run agility drills, that endears him to an NBA team.
And then, Minnesota’s GM Kevin McHale trades OJ Mayo for Kevin Love, and Antoine Walker, Marko Jaric, + Greg Buckner (three players who should think about other forms of employment besides the NBA) for Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal, and Jason Collins (the latter two should consider other employment).
The Minnesota media (Pioneer Press) (Star Tribune) know that McHale has most likely screwed up again, passing on a potential superstar who is better than the guards the Timberwolves have for a forward who seems redundant with the star they have in Al Jefferson. The lower part of this Basketball Prospectus post has some insight:
My initial reaction was incredulity. Talent for talent, this move doesn’t make any sense.
Minnesota now pairs Love with Al Jefferson. The Knicks proved how difficult it is in today’s game to operate a double-post. The middle gets clogged and the offense loses its rhythm. Jefferson will still be the main man in the low-post and, yes, Love can probably develop a face-up game, but what sense does it make to do that? …The Timberwolves also add Miller, who can provide some of what Mayo can at the two-guard, but the difference in upside is monumental. Instead of a dynamic young backcourt of Foye and Mayo to combine with a go-to big man in Jefferson, you end up with a maybe above-average backcourt in Foye and Miller, with Love trying to share space with Jefferson and a prayer that Corey Brewer can turn things around from his terrible rookie campaign….