Monday, June 29, 2015

2015 NBA Draft Week Recap

Now that the NBA draft is complete with details of moves more available, it seems like the right time to recap what happened. I shared my views on some of the players and team fits in my mock draft, and here's how my predictions played out, with the right picks highlighted:

Mock
Actual
1. Towns
1. Towns
2. Okafor
2. Russell
3. Russell
3. Okafor
4. Porzingis
4. Porzingis
5. Winslow
5. Hezonja
6. Hezonja
6. Cauley-Stein
7. Mudiay
7. Mudiay
8. Johnson
8. Johnson
9. Kaminsky
9. Kaminsky
10. Booker
10. Winslow
11. Cauley-Stein
11. Turner
12. Lyles
12. Lyles
13. Turner
13. Booker
14. Oubre
14. Payne
15. N/A 
15. Oubre

In a lottery that surprisingly lacked trades, I finished with only 6 players at the right pick, but 4 others were within one spot of where they ended up going. The other surprises, at least in my opinion, were the notable undrafted players such as Florida guard Michael Frazier or big men like UNLV's Christian Wood, UCSB's Alan Williams, Kansas' Cliff Alexander, Washington's Robert Upshaw, and Texas' Jonathan Holmes. I think that each of them, in that order, could eventually become contributors to teams, and a lot of people will be watching them during summer league.

In any case, there's plenty to talk about with all 30 teams, so I'll go through each of them in order of when they're spot was up. As always, DraftExpress.com, BasketballInsiders.com, Shamsports.com, and RealGM.com were invaluable resources for information.
Towns was the guy all along.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

2015 NBA Lottery Mock Draft

Can you believe it's already draft time? We're just coming off an excellent Finals that saw the Warriors claim their 4th NBA title, and the energy here in the Bay Area has been so great that I'm not even bummed that I ended up being one game off in my series prediction. Now, the draft can take so many twists and turns after a surprise move or a trade or two, so it's nearly impossible to predict.

Thus, I'm only going to attempt a projection of the lottery selections, and this is an expectation of what will happen as opposed to what the picks should be, in my opinion. I touched a bit on how certain players might fit each team during my post trade deadline power rankings, and I'm going to continue to look at the big picture for each team.

1. Minnesota: Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky PF/C

The decision at the top reminds me of the situation last year, with a player who has played internationally possessing more two-way potential competing with a similarly positioned Duke player who is more offensively polished. And like Andrew Wiggins last year, I've been a fan of Towns since the 2013 Nike Hoop Summit when he only went by "Karl," and I view him as a bigger version of his teammate on the Dominican national team: Al Horford. He's the rare total package as a good athlete who can defend, score in the post, shoot, and pass, and he's a good fit on a young, talented Timberwolves roster, either as a 4 next to Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng or as a 5 next to Kevin Garnett and the Euro-stashed Nemanja Bjelica. Either way, Wiggins and Towns can be a dynamic pairing that have been on track to star together.
These two might mess around and save a franchise.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Roster Analysis: How the Cavs Went From Max Cap Space to a Tax Paying Finals Team

Seeing LeBron James about to enter his astonishing 5th straight NBA Finals with the aide of both young players still trying to earn their second contract like Tristan Thompson and Matthew Dellavedova and veterans who were brought in to fill specific roles like Tomofey Mozgov and J.R. Smith, I realized something: this roster has come a long way from having the #1 pick and a bunch of cap space just last summer.

It was just over a year ago when the randomness of chance gave the 9th slotted Cavaliers the #1 pick in the lottery for the third time out of four years, and at that time, there were hardly any indications that Ohio's prodigal son that was in yet another deep playoff run in Miami was about to come home. Head coach David Blatt was brought in after his illustrious overseas career to bring together a young team on the rise, yet here he is now, watching the best player in the world dribble the air out of the ball instead of running his Princeton-style, movement offense. How did they get here?

Let's take a look at the Cavs' roster and assets going into last June's draft compared to where it stands now in the playoffs and examine how GM David Griffin shot right past the the salary cap of just over $67 million and settled past the luxury tax line of a little under $77 million.


(Note: When making these spreadsheets, I used estimates of $67.1M/$81.6M for the 2016-2017 season salary cap/luxury tax and $89M/$108M for 2017-2018. Qualifying Offers are not included since it cannot be guaranteed that they will be extended and cap holds will be addressed when applicable with discussing actual cap space. As always, cbafaq.com, ShamSports.com, BasketballInsiders.com, NBA.com, and basketballreference.com were invaluable resources for the various data used.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Game 82 Implications

The Clippers and Suns wrapped up their last game of the regular season last night, with LA giving themselves a chance at the #2 seed and guaranteeing at least #3, but the other 28 teams finish tonight. There are subplots aplenty with almost all of the games affecting either playoff seeding or the lottery order, so I decided to run through them, game by game. The good folks at tankathon.com have some great information to confirm what I thought about the lottery odds, and the playoff tiebreakers are courtesy of SBNation.com. All times are Pacific.

4:00 PM: Hornets (33-48) at Raptors (48-33): Charlotte has been ravaged by injuries to close the year, having lost 5 straight and is locked in at the 9th worst record, giving them a 6.1% chance of jumping into the top 3 and a 1.7% chance of winning the lottery. Toronto, meanwhile, suffered a heartbreaking loss last night, so they need to win AND hope for Chicago to lose in order to claim the #3 seed in the East and face Milwaukee. Otherwise, they'll open against Washington in the 4-5 series.

5:00 PM Hawks (60-21) at Bulls (49-32): Atlanta has long since wrapped up the top Eastern seed, so this only matters to them if they want to affect their side of the playoff bracket since they might view Chicago as a bigger or lesser threat in a potential second round matchup. If Chicago wins, they secure the #3 seed.

5:00 PM Spurs (55-26) at Pelicans (44-37): Arguably the most important game of the night, San Antonio can secure the #2 seed with a win by virtue of being division winners, and they could potentially drop to #6 with a loss. Memphis is the only team they lose the tiebreaker to. New Orleans would still have a chance if they lost, but if they win, they're in and don't have to worry about the OKC-'Sota result. They lose their first round pick to Houston whether it is the 14th or 18th pick.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

2015 NBA Post Trade Deadline Power Rankings

So much for a quiet Trade Deadline. Despite so many early season trades, this year's chaos trumped anything from the past few years, so I had to share some thoughts on each team after not writing anything NBA related for a while due to work and grad school. Below is my ranking of where each franchise stands with an eye towards the future along with their current record, and the offense and defensive ranks are based on Points Per Possession (per ESPN.com as of today) since that is the truest efficiency rating. Pure points per game or shooting percentages don't encompass everything since they can be affected by the pace of the game, turnovers, fouls, and the type of shot taken. Lastly, if there was a deadline deal, I included a summary, along with the players' salary information from BasketballInsiders.com, and the draft pick details from RealGM.com.

30. New York Knicks: 10-44. Offense: 98.7 (28th). Defense: 107.6 (28th)

Traded: Pablo Prigioni ($1,662,961 this season, $290,000 of $1,734,572 guaranteed next season)

Received: Alexey Shved ($3,282,057 this season, RFA this summer) and the Rockets' 2017 and 2019 2nd round picks

I'm surprised that New York actually added salary after Phil Jackson nearly got them under the Luxury Tax, but this is good trade for the Knickerbockers. They add some much needed draft picks (even if they are so far into the future), shed the modest amount due to Prigioni this summer, and get a look at the much younger Shved, who actually fits Phil's preference in the triangle offense for a big PG with some shooting ability. It is ridiculous that Carmelo Anthony played in the All-Star game before shutting it down for the season -- if  his knee was in enough pain to require surgery, why play in an exhibition? -- but they've secured cap space and are on the right track to secure the best lottery odds for the post player they desperately need in this system, Jahlil Okafor...even if those odds are still just a 25% chance at the #1 pick.

29. Los Angeles Lakers: 13-41. Offense: 101.3 (23rd). Defense: 108.6 (29th)

With the fourth worst record in the league right now, L.A. has an 82.8% chance at keeping their top-5 protected pick, but whenever that pick ends up being conveyed to complete the Steve Nash deal, they'll still owe another first round pick to Orlando two years later thanks to the Dwight Howard trade. While they were wise to pick up Houston's first round pick by taking Jeremy Lin off their hands, second round pick Jordan Clarkson has some nice potential, and Ed Davis was an incredible steal at the minimum for this season, this roster is still barren of talent overall, with no foundation player at any position. Seventh overall pick Julius Randle breaking his leg in the first game was one of the biggest tragedies of the year, and Kobe Bryant ending up injured for the third straight year makes his ridiculous contract extension look even worse. It will be interesting to see how they navigate their cap space in free agency this summer with the last year of Kobe's contract coming off the books in the summer of 2016 when the massive TV contract will jump up the salary cap.
Andrew Wiggins has soared above his peers.

28. Minnesota Timberwolves: 12-42. Offense: 99.5 (T-25th). Defense: 109.2 (30th)

Traded: Thaddeus Young ($9,660,869 this season, $10,221,739 early termination option this summer)

Received: Kevin Garnett ($12,000,000 this season)

The Big Ticket returning to where it all started 20 years ago is a great story, but trading 26 year old Thad Young wasn't the best use of assets considering that he cost them Miami's first round pick from Cleveland in the Kevin Love trade. Maybe there weren't any future values better than KG's influence if Young indicated that he was going to opt for free agency this summer, but the mere fact that this was a possibility made the choice to trade for him instead of simply keeping top 10-protected pick a questionable one. President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders has had an uneven performance so far (which is still better than what Head Coach Flip Saunders has done), with this trade capping off a trade season that included dumping Corey Brewer for Troy Daniels and two second round picks, including a valuable one from Sacramento this year; flipping Daniels and cheap free agent signing Mo Williams for Gary Neal's expiring contract and a possibly valuable 2019 Miami second round pick via Charlotte; and trading a heavily protected 2017 first round pick for Adreian Payne, who was the 15th pick in last year's draft but hasn't been overly impressive in the D-League.

Of course, the most important move of all was trading for Andrew Wiggins, the #1 prospect of his class and next great NBA star, last summer as the key piece of the Love trade. He's had some ups and downs as you'd expect from a 19 year old, but things appeared to have clicked since the end of December. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what caused this change (it occurred not long after Shabazz Muhammad joined the starting lineup, allowing Wiggins to have the ball in his hands more and have a size advantage against opposing shooting guards, but it has continued with Muhammad injured and Kevin Martin back healthy), but since December 23rd, when he went off against the Cavaliers team that traded him, he has averaged 18.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.5 assists with 47.1% shooting overall in 14.7 attempts, 34.9% from three in 2.3 attempts, and 76.9% from the line in 4.8 attempts in 28 games, all the while defending the opponents' top perimeter threats. This kind of two way versatility provides a foundation piece for a franchise that has Ricky Rubio locked up along with Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng, Anthony Bennett (the other piece of the love Trade), Zach LaVine, and now Payne all on their rookie scale contracts. They could all become solid rotation players down the line to go with Wiggins, Rubio, and their high lottery pick this summer-- I hope they end up with Karl Towns as their elite big to be mentored by Garnett compared to the others they already have.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX

New England +1 versus Seattle: There are so many story lines that have been talked about already that I'm going to just focus on the matchups with the following exception: the line shift is fascinating. After opening with the Seahawks favored by 1, the public overreacted to the Conference Championship Games so much that the line moved about 4 points in the Patriots' favor in the ensuing week, but there must have been heavy money over the last few days to shift it all the way back to Seattle -1. Going against the Wise Guys' big money is cause for concern, but I still feel that New England has the best team.
Beast Mode will be New England's focus since as he goes, so does Seattle.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Championship Sunday 2015

Green Bay +8 at Seattle: I understand that the Packers have had their struggles in Seattle recently and that Aaron Rodgers is essentially playing on one leg, but this is still too many points to be laying against the likely MVP. His lack of current mobility and the crowd noise will make like difficult for him against the Seahawks pass rushers, but if they can establish the running game early with Eddie Lacy, they are so good at heavy play action. None of that might matter if they can't tackle Marshawn Lynch, so it is imperative that they play with a lead early and establish a ball-control type offense to limit his rushing attempts. Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, and Casey Heyward are good enough in man coverage that they can play with a safety in the box to stop the run, especially with Seattle's best deep threat, the raw yet speedy second rounder Paul Richardson, suffering a torn ACL last week.

Indianapolis +7 at New England: I'm sticking to my guns and not opposing Andrew Luck with this high of a spread, but I do expect the Patriots to win. There's no one that can cover Rob Gronkowski, and New England has dominated Indy with a power run game in the past. Maybe Jonas Gray will see the light of day after landing in Bill Belichick's doghouse for sleeping through his alarm after his 200 yard primetime performance against these Colts, or maybe LeGarratte Blount will tie the franchise playoff record of 166 yards like these teams' playoff meeting last year. Either way, the Colts' biggest strength on defense is their corners' man coverage, and Tom Brady doesn't need to consistently use his outside receivers to be effective. Besides catching a dime of a TD from Brady, Brandon LaFell's biggest impact was blocking for Amendola's first score, and Julian Edelman's big play was the double pass we've all been waiting for since he came into the league as a college QB. Especially with Indy's offensive line's surprising performance last week, I wouldn't put anything past Luck's heroics and T.Y. Hilton's speed, but this secondary is a tough matchup for them.