The NBA Draft is one of my favorite events of the entire calendar year, and although it is still about two months away, I am more excited than ever. A few weeks back I posted up my thoughts on the first lottery picks in the draft with their recent averages from several sites. This week, using what I have learned from other major sites, I will make my first-ever lottery mock draft. I hope you enjoy!
Note: I apologize but this is an incorrect and out-dated draft order from April 1, 2008 when I made my first look at the draft. I hope to do another mock draft just before the lottery sometime next month, and I apologize for the inconvenience.
#1 Sacramento – Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma: The Kings need a little bit of everything right now. The only two pieces of their future they have locked up are Kevin Martin and Spencer Hawes, and Griffin is the most sure-thing to come to the NBA in a couple of years. He will be an immediate force, and a perennial All-Star. Jason Thompson was not a smart pick at their spot last season, but Griffin should compensate for that selection by bringing in a dominant presence in the paint. He is smart, humble, and a fierce competitor, and I have a good feeling that with his help, the Kings will not win the Lottery next year.
#2 Washington – Jordan Hill, PF, Arizona: Washington is bringing Flip Saunders to coach up this team in 2009, fresh off a miserable past 2008 season. Gilbert Arenas is still the future, and their goal this off-season should be to develop the youngsters they have, and find a long-term replacement for Antawn Jamison. Hill fits the bill, and although Rubio will be better in the end, he is a solid pick here. With Jamison, Butler, Arenas and Hill, along with healthy contribution from Brendan Haywood, I think Washington should be in the giant mix of competitive Eastern Conference teams next season. Their prime winning seasons are over, but anything less than 30 wins next season should be considered yet another disappointment.
#3 LA Clippers – Ricky Rubio, PG, Spain: Rubio will not fall past the third pick in the Draft no matter what, and could possibly be the first pick if Sacramento does not feel comfortable with Beno Udrih for the next couple years. The Clippers need a go-to player and Rubio should help to make Baron Davis feel a little more pressured next season. A great position for the young Spaniard, as he will be surrounded by a solid supporting cast. Davis struggled this past season with injuries and because of a lack of team focus. Al Thornton and Chris Kaman are the two other strong players for the future, but Rubio, just like Griffin, gives the Clippers a face of the franchise for many years to come.
For more information on this post, please visit http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=10237 to see the explanation behind the numbers. This post serves as a explanation for my conclusion and my entire argument over at WFNY.
These numbers are broken down into four sections, diving into the strength of schedule of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Section 1 breaks down the win-loss record among simple win distribution, and also includes the average differential. Section 2 then goes a step further, breaking down the types of teams that lost to the Lakers, Cavs, both or neither, and analyzing what that shows about the two squads. Next, Section 3 is a new process I created of standardizing the schedules where I looked to show what their win-loss records would be if they only played every single team in the NBA at home one, and on the road once. To top it all off, Section 4 breaks down the win-loss records and differentials of the two teams against playoff and lottery teams in the two conferences.
Section 1: Win-Loss Records
Against common teams with 50+ wins
Lakers 16-6 with diff of +5.77, Cavaliers 12-5 with diff of +5.94
Those people who know me personally understand that the NBA Draft is one of my absolute favorite moments of the entire calendar year. While the Draft is still about two and a half months away, the NCAA Tournament got me thinking about the different players who have helped or hurt their status in terms of the NBA Draft. Along with profiles of these players and detailed descriptions of their statistical strengths and weakness, I also include their current projection for the 2009 and/or the 2010 draft.
Boot Up: Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins, Kansas – It is a very logical argument as to why these two youngsters are suddenly shooting up draft boards: in 2008 Kansas won the national championship, then six players were drafted, and these two were entrusted with the reign of the program under Coach Bill Self. Kansas won the Big 12 regular season title again this season, and advanced to the Sweet 16 where they lost to the eventual Final 4 representative in Michigan State. Aldrich became the first person since Shaquille O’Neal to put up a triple double with blocks in an NCAA Tournament game, while Collins drew dozens of comparisons to former Chicago native point guard Tim Hardaway. Both will probably wait one more year until they jump to the pros, but at the rate they are progressing, will be guaranteed locks for the lottery when things are all said and done: Aldrich (Top 10 pick in 2010) and Collins (Mid-to-late first rounder in 2010.)
Boot Up: Toney Douglas, Florida State – One of the best players you have never heard of in the country, as Douglas, a senior, won the ACC Defensive Player of the Year award and was a first-team all conference selection. He was the point guard for the improved Seminoles in 2008-2009, but would be under-skilled point guard in the NBA, and at 6-5 could be an ideal shooting guard and perimeter defender in the mold of Delonte West for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Led the ACC in scoring this year as well at 21.46 points per game, and is an above average three-pointer shooter at 37.2% over the last two seasons. The scouts might not be too high on him, but I have a good feeling about his future success in the pros, and think that he could be a real difference maker on a team like Utah, New Orleans or Phoenix if they give him a chance in the second round: Second round to undrafted in 2009.
Boot Up: Connecticut Huskies – The Connecticut Huskies came into this year’s NCAA Tournament as the least likely #1 seed to win the national championship at only 7.07%. Through two games in the tournament, the Huskies without starting junior guard Jerome Dyson and even without Coach Jim Calhoun for one game, managed to erase many of those previous doubts. In the regular season, the Huskies were clearly dominant and one of the best teams in the country, but disappointing big game losses at home against Georgetown and Pittsburgh, in Pittsburgh and in the Big East conference tournament against Syracuse gave Louisville the #1 overall seed in the tournament and in the conference overall. These disappointing affairs and the recent injury of Dyson combined to give the Huskies an only 61.48% chance of even making the Sweet 16.
What a difference a week makes, however, and with their two dominant wins over Chattanooga and Texas A&M, the Huskies are playing some of the best basketball in the nation. Their 36-point margin of victory over the #9 seeded Aggies in the second round was by far and away the biggest margin of victory on either Saturday or Sunday, with Villanova’s 20-point win over UCLA coming in second place. In addition, in their victory over the #16 seed Southern Conference champion Chattanooga Mocs, the Huskies went on a mind-blowing fourteen and a half minute, 46-5 run after a relatively slow start to the game. In post-season play, including their loss to Syracuse, they are averaging a victory of the margin of 84.67 to 64.00 per forty minutes of play.
One huge reason why Connecticut is doing so much better recently is the improved all-around play of junior forward Stanley Robinson since the loss of Dyson. Before Dyson’s injury, for the entire season the 6-9 Robinson was averaging 13.40 points and 9.16 rebounds per 40 minutes of play and received 19.63 minutes of playing time per game. In his last nine games, Robinson is now average 16.00 points and 10.71 rebounds per 40 minutes of play and received 31.11 minutes of playing time per game. The Huskies already have three potential NBA players in 7-3 junior center Hasheem Thabeet, 6-7 senior forward Jeff Adrien and 6-2 senior guard A.J. Price, and the emergence of Robinson has made them a very, very dangerous team. Their odds of winning the championship are now 10.34%, making them a more likely national champion than the much more popular picks of Pittsburgh and North Carolina.
Boot Up: Cleveland Cavaliers in the East - Do you remember Christmas Day 2008? Hard to imagine that it was already three months ago already, but this day will go down in history for a very special reason in the NBA. With a constant year and a half stranglehold on the entire NBA, the 27-2 Boston Celtics came into the Staples Center in Los Angeles to take on the 23-5 Lakers. Meanwhile in Cleveland, the 24-4 Cavaliers had the extreme pleasure of hosting their former rivals, the 4-22 Washington Wizards. As the story goes, the Lakers hold on to beat the Celtics by nine, the Cavaliers survive an incredibly ugly game to win by four, and the season continues unsuspectingly. Shockingly and pretty much without warning, the Boston Celtics began their downfall on this very day, and including this loss in Los Angeles are now an unimpressive 27-16 in their last 43 games.
Boot Up: Here comes Joe Smith – After weeks upon weeks of rumors, it appears that forward Joe Smith is finally coming to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The 6-foot-10 former first round pick out of the University of Maryland signed with the Cavaliers Wednesday morning, and will be able to play in the big game in Boston on Friday night. While many different blogs and reporters across the Northeast Ohio area have praised the return of Smith, a steady 33-year-old veteran presence in the locker room, I warn them of thinking too much about the fourteen-year NBA pro.
Sure, the Cavaliers have had problems defending the paint against teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat this season, but they are still #7 in the NBA in points in the paint allowed per game. The Cavaliers are only #23 in the league in points scored in the paint per game, according to TeamRankings.com, but that sort of happens when you have two top perimeter guards starting every single game. An odd fact, however, is that the Cavaliers have the #13 best points in the paint differential at home, while they are #20 on the road. This relates to an article I wrote recently on how LeBron James tends to be more productive at home, as he usually looks to drive it to the basket more often than not.
Joe Smith will continue to be a decent player, as he has averaged at least 17.36 points and 9.65 rebounds per 48 minutes in every single season of his career. Last season, in which he spent his final 27 regular season games with the Cavaliers, was one of his finest of his career on a per-minute basis. He averaged 21.64 points and 11.15 rebounds per 48 minutes, and advanced past the first round of the playoffs for the first time in his career. He is not by any means a legitimate starting post presence for one of the best teams in the NBA, but he is a very good fit for the team for the remainder of this season. I will certainly cheer for him to do well in Cleveland, but I do not think this automatically makes us the favorites, nor does it make us a very different ball club.
This all started when I returned to campus on Sunday evening, and over-heard an argument with my friends Dave and Vishnu from across the hall about who is the best scorer in NBA history. Vishnu, our resident Lakers/Blazers/Western Conference fan, argued that Kobe Bryant is the best scorer in NBA history because of his current ability to score whenever he wants to from any position on the basketball court. One example of Bryant’s work is that sick (no pun intended) fade-away jump shot he hit over LeBron James in the Lakers versus Cavaliers game two weeks ago. However, as many of you loyal readers know, I have never been a huge fan of Kobe Bryant’s, and I argued that any answer other than Michael Jordan is simply ludicrous. Now here are the numbers to back that statement up:
Let me begin with Kobe Bryant’s career numbers. He is currently in his thirteenth season in the NBA, and over these thirteen seasons Mr. 24 (formerly Mr. 8) has averaged 25.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists in 36.5 minutes a night. He has now appeared in eleven All-Star Games (including one his sophomore season when he averaged only 15.4 points in 26.0 minutes off the bench) and has been on the first or second team All-NBA eight times in his career. Assuming he continues his recent play over the next few years, he is a sure-fire Hall of Famer, who finally won the Most Valuable Player award for the very first time last season:
Kobe Bryant = 918 Games Played and he turned 18 in August just before rookie season (1996-1997)
Over 60+ = 5 (0.54%)
Over 50+ = 24 (2.61%)
Over 40+ = 95 (10.35%)
Over 30+ = 298 (32.46%)
Over 25+ = 474 (51.63%)
Over 20+ = 633 (68.95%)
Boot Up: The Phenomenon of Lamar Odom – I am sorry to bring up this sore subject fellow Cleveland fans, but I was actually planning on writing an article about the 30-year-old Odom days and even weeks before he blew up for 28-points and 17-rebounds in the Lakers victory in Cleveland on Sunday. The main reason for this potential article was that I saw a mention on ESPN recently, that Odom is a free agent and it seems like the Los Angeles Lakers are already thinking about moving on without him. Here are the exact words from Chad Ford:
“Odom will be one of the most coveted free agents on the open market. Phil Jackson likes him, but with Kobe, Bynum and Pau Gasol on the roster, the Lakers don’t need him and might explore trades for him in the coming months. Odom’s penchant for disappearing in big moments (see: 2008 NBA Finals) hasn’t helped his rep in L.A. But he is a great team guy, he can rebound the ball, he can initiate the offense and he doesn’t need the ball to be effective. If he doesn’t stick in L.A., there will be a line of teams waiting to snatch him up.”
Sure, this article is from September and there have been several more ESPN articles about the free agent class of 2009 since that date, it is interesting to ponder the possibilities. Now with Andrew Bynum theoretically out for the rest of the regular season, it seems like the Lakers will probably hold on to Odom for at least the rest of this year, yet Bynum is a big reason why he might not be back next year. In this past off-season, Andrew Bynum signed a massive contract extension with the team that just comes into effect next season. This means that while the Lakers do indeed have over $17 million in expiring contracts, they will still be well over the expected salary cap of about $61 million. Thus the only logical way for the Lakers to re-sign Odom, even though he is their own free agent, is to give him their mid-level-exception, something I would expect Odom to pass down.
Now on to the exact reasons why this article caught my eye, and why, especially after Sunday’s performance, I believe Lamar Odom could still be an All-Star in the NBA. As evidenced on Sunday, Lamar Odom is one of the best scoring threats next to the basket in the NBA. Below this article, I point out how LeBron James shot about 65% from the basket from 2004-2008, and Lamar Odom was pretty close to him last season shooting about 62.2% at that spot on the court. This year his paint numbers down a little bit because of the health of Andrew Bynum (up until recently that is). In addition, in Odom’s career he has never averaged less than 8.46 rebounds and 17.57 points per 48 minutes. In the past five years in Los Angeles, he has averaged about 18.54 points, 5.39 assists, 12.31 rebounds and an efficiency shooting percentage of 1.039 despite never being the premier scoring option on the court behind Bryant, Gasol and recently Bynum.
Indians Hitters on the 25-Man Roster (and more): The Indians have added a pair of solid Major League talents this off-season, which will only lead to more chaos as the front office looks to trim down the final roster to 25-men for the start of the season in April. Here is a breakdown of the most capable hitters within the entire system that will start the year, or will contend to start the year playing for the Tribe:
Catcher Victor Martinez (turned 30 in December)
Catcher Kelly Shoppach (turns 29 in April)
Designated Hitter Travis Hafner (turns 32 in June)
First Baseman Ryan Garko (turned 28 earlier this month)
Second Baseman Asdrubal Cabrera (turned 23 in November)
Shortstop Jhonny Peralta (turns 27 in May)
Third Baseman Mark DeRosa (turns 34 in February)
Utility Infielder Jamey Carroll (turns 35 in February)
Left Fielder Ben Francisco (turned 27 in October)
Left Fielder David Dellucci (turned 35 in October)
Center Fielder Grady Sizemore (turns 27 this coming August)
Right Fielder Shin Soo-Choo (turns 27 this coming July)
Do not expect these hitters below to have a spot on the team this April, but these are the top prospects and performers in the rest of the organization:
There have been many rumors over the last week or so about the Cleveland Cavaliers possibly acquiring an extra forward for Wally Szczerbiak and his expiring contract. One name that has come up in the internet discussions is Los Angeles Clippers F/C Marcus Camby, the winner of the 2006-2007 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award. Camby, who is 35 years old, has a much smaller salary cap burden than other names mentioned such as Antawn Jamison or Brad Miller, as he is making $8 million this year, and then $7.65 million in the final year of his contract next season. In an effort to see what the impact of this addition would mean to the Cavaliers, I took a little visit to the Web site http://www.82games.com.
On this website, I saw as not much of a surprise, that LeBron James has gradually been playing substantially more minutes at the PF position over the last three seasons. This is not a surprise, because when you think about the personnel changes in the last three seasons, the Cavaliers have needed LeBron and his massive size in the post more often while the front office has surrounded him with under sized sharp shooters. This season, LeBron is playing 22% of his 75% of the Cavaliers minutes on the court at the 4 according to this Web site, but what I was very surprised to see out of this limited sample size, is that he is actually producing more efficiently at that position.
Here is a quick summary of his net efficiency marks per 48 minutes at the two different positions over the last three seasons:
Boot Up: Why the Cleveland Cavaliers are #1 – The Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the defending NBA champions from Boston on Friday night at the Quicken Loans Arena by the convincing final score of 98-83. The game was never really that close, as the Celtics never had the lead, and the Cavaliers were up by 11 at the end of the first quarter. LeBron James had arguably the most impressive all-around performance of his career, posting 38 points, seven rebounds, six assists, four steals, and three blocks, shooting 9-9 from the free throw line, all while holding Paul Pierce to only 11 points on 4-15 shooting from the field. In fact, however, those numbers from Pierce are somewhat deceiving as Pierce scored 4 points in a matter of 2:37 to start the fourth quarter against Wally Szczerbiak while LeBron James sat on the bench. LeBron was as good as he has ever been last night, and he could do seemingly anything he wanted on both sides of the ball. The loss also was the seventh in nine games for the struggling Celtics, who fell to 29-9 and behind both the Cavaliers and the rising Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference standings.
Away from last night’s phenomenal performance, I am here to investigate why exactly the Cavaliers have taken such a jump this season from last year’s mediocre regular season. Of course, the Cavaliers had a lot of chemistry, injury and all-around issues last year when they stumbled to a 45-37 finish and the #4 seed in the East. This past off-season, everyone remained healthy and the Cavaliers added Maurice Williams in a trade with the Milwaukee Bucks, along with rookie forward J.J. Hickson out of North Carolina State. Still, I was not too optimistic on the Cavaliers in 2008-2009 (exhibit A and exhibit B), and neither were the supposed experts over at ESPN. Currently however, the Cavaliers are 29-6, and on pace for somewhere around 63-68 wins by the end of the season (John Hollinger of ESPN predicts 64). Why are the Cavaliers on pace for such a historic season? The answer may surprise you, as it is not just the addition of guard Mo Williams.
Sorry about the brief hiatus there, it always gets a little hectic around exams and then the holiday season. I hope to be back on track with a lot of things in the coming weeks here on The Sports Report. Here is a list of things to expect very shortly:
1. The most important thing on my list right now is coming out with an Atlantic-10 season preview. Back around Thanksgiving I created a spreadsheet analyzing the conference strength of schedule based on last year’s numbers. I updated that information for the statistics for all fourteen teams thus far this season, and I came up with some surprising results. This will be a must-read for all Dayton Flyers fans out there!!
2. I hope to come out with a few Boots about the recent acquisitions for the Cleveland Indians. I hate that I have gone so long without commenting on the Tribe, and the recent additions of Carl Pavano, Kerry Wood and Mark DeRosa should be a significant boost to the current roster. I feel really good about our chances for next season, even though I wouldn’t mind another free agent signing or two.
3. Another look at what is going on in the NBA thus far this season. Every basketball fan out there is looking forward to the Friday, January 9th match-up between the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers, and I will be here right afterward, recapping the recent mayhem at the top of the league standings. I also will look at what surprising rookies (*cough* *cough* Rob Kurz) have quite the story behind them, as well as some other interesting observations from my statistics.
4. A final recap of the college football season and a summary of my past economic analysis of the Bowl Championship Series. My entire Sports Report began with my passion for the BCS, and I did a pretty in-depth report on the economic benefits of the current bowl system about two years back. I will look back to my work in the near future, and recap what has gone wrong this season as 13-0 Utah was left out of any chance for a National Championship.
Boot Up: Cleveland Cavaliers – Since it is already mid-December, it clearly means that I have not been dreaming for the last month and a half of the NBA season. Yes, the Cleveland Cavaliers are currently 20-3 and are a half-game back of the Boston Celtics for the best record in the Eastern Conference , and are a half game ahead of the LA Lakers in the West. The Cavaliers have made the the NBA a clear race between the top three in 2009, and are currently riding a franchise best eleven-game winning streak. This winning streak has already made history in several different ways (blowouts, Z and LeBron) and there are only four more months left in the regular season for the Cavaliers as they look to set all-time franchise records in wins and points (currently fourth in points scored and first in defense and “DIFF” per game according to ESPN).
I read a fantastic article recently by Dave Berri about the reason for the Cavaliers success recently. He pointed out that it is not really the acquisition of Maurice Williams, or the more inspired play of LeBron James that is leading to such blow-out victories. He argues that it is the more efficient rotation and healthy bench, resulting in more minutes for productive players like Anderson Varejao and Delonte West. He notes that using the rotation we have used thus far this season, and the production that is established for all of our personnel, we could have easily expected about 62 wins from this team in 2008-2009. 62 WINS! Who would have guessed earlier this year that this team ever would have been capable of winning this many games??? Not anyone, or at least certainly not anyone from pessimistic ol’ Northeast Ohio.
I had the Cavaliers down for about 48 wins in my mid-summer NBA predictions and they have exceeded all of my wildest expectations through 23 games this season. I can only hope and pray, as someone born and raised in the Northeast Ohio area, that this team does not let us down from here. Right now, the team must make the Eastern Conference finals this season or possibly face dire consequences from LeBron himself in the summer of 2010. From there, the Cavaliers desperately need to compete with the Boston Celtics like they did in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals last season. Last year, however, I never truly imagined the Cavs could possibly beat the Celtics in that series, while in a similar matchup this season who knows who will have the edge. I just hope that April comes soon, and that in those first few days of the playoffs I still feel optimistic about the great potential for this team.