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.
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.
Most Likely Sub-10 Seeds to win in the first round: On average over the 24-year history of the 64-team NCAA Tournament, there have been 4.17 teams with a seed of 11-16 in the second round. Just last year, #12 seeds Villanova and Western Kentucky advanced to the Sweet 16, while #13’s Siena and San Diego along with #11 Kansas State all moved to the second round. Looking at the tournament this season, who are the most likely teams to pull off a significant upset?
East #12 Wisconsin versus #5 Florida State – It might be hard to bet against ACC Defensive Player of the Year Toney Douglas, but according to the numbers, this game is actually a toss-up. Neither team really has a significant advantage in any regard thus Wisconsin should be able to effectively slow down the pace of the game (they have the 334 fastest pace with 59.9 possessions per 40 minutes. CHANCE OF UPSET: 49.02%
Midwest #12 Arizona versus #5 Utah – Arizona may have been the last team into the field of 65, but it certainly looks like they have a decent chance of upsetting the Mountain West champions out in Miami. Arizona has the #7 offensive efficiency in the nation, according to Ken Pomeroy, and when future lottery picks Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger are both on the court they are a dangerous team. CHANCE OF UPSET: 42.97%
West #11 Utah State versus #6 Marquette – CHANCE OF UPSET: 42.75%
South #11 Temple versus #6 Arizona State – CHANCE OF UPSET: 36.62%
West #13 Mississippi State versus #4 Washington – CHANCE OF UPSET: 33.05%
East #11 Virginia Commonwealth versus #6 UCLA – CHANCE OF UPSET: 31.62%
Midwest #13 Cleveland State versus #4 Wake Forest – CHANCE OF UPSET: 31.15%
Midwest #11 Dayton versus #6 West Virginia – CHANCE OF UPSET: 29.25%
West #12 Northern Iowa versus #5 Purdue – CHANCE OF UPSET: 29.20%
Midwest #14 North Dakota State versus #3 Kansas – CHANCE OF UPSET: 28.06%
The definite locks for the Sweet 16: Last season, for the first time in NCAA Tournament history, all four #1 seeds advanced to the Final 4 (National Semifinals). This season, every single bracket projection agreed upon a consensus top eight teams in the country, and all time on average, only six of the top eight seeds advance to the Sweet 16 every year. In addition, approximately 9.7 of the top 16 seeds advance to the Regional Semifinals, while last season 6 of the top 8 seeds and 11 of the top 16 advanced to the Sweet 16. Which are the most likely top seeds to advance past the first weekend?
Midwest #1 Louisville – The overall #1 seed in the entire tournament is the regular season and tournament champion from the Big East. Louisville averaged a scoring margin of 12.6 throughout the season, a very impressive feat considering they played the #11 strength of schedule according to the RPI, and the #19 according to Ken Pomeroy. The Cardinals still have to be careful however, as five times in the last nine years the Big East tournament champion has failed to make it past the first weekend. CHANCE OF MAKING SWEET SIXTEEN: 67.46%
Here is my final listing of teams that have already punched their ticket to the NCAA tournaments, along with possible at-large selections on today, Selection Sunday. To find my definition of the “lower” and “upper” mid-major conferences, check out my article from last week breaking down the possible teams that could make the tournament:
Big Games to watch on Selection Sunday, March 15:
Lower Mid-Majors (semifinals or championship)
Southland Championship @ Katy, TX – #6 Texas San Antonio vs. #1 Stephen F. Austin
Game 7: No. 6 Texas San Antonio vs. No. 1 Stephen F. Austin, ESPN2, 1 p.m.
Majors (all games)
ACC Championship @ Atlanta, GA – #4 Florida State vs. #3 Duke
Game 11: No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 3 Duke, ESPN, 1 p.m.
Big Ten Championship @ Indianapolis, IN – #5 Ohio State vs. #3 Purdue
Game 10: No. 5 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Purdue, 3:30 p.m.
SEC Championship @ Tampa, FL – West #3 Mississippi State vs. East #1 Tennessee
Game 11: W3 Mississippi State vs. E1 Tennessee, 1 p.m.
Disclaimer: The rankings used in this report are the same as my most recent report on Dayton’s chances in making the NCAA Tournament. In addition, the mid-major rankings highlighted here in the beginning are a more recent update of the same ranking formula I used in last week’s post. If you have any questions at all regarding my analysis or rankings, please feel free to e-mail me back. All statistics, records and rankings are current as of the games played on Sunday, March 1, 2009.
There were a few things left unsaid in my post last week about the relation between the Dayton Flyers and the rest of the mid-major at-large possibilities. Thus, here is an updated and vamped up rendition of an e-mail reply I sent to my father the day after my Dayton report:
As much as Dayton can control their own destiny with their important games coming up, I did not mention how much luck will factor in to this. For example, if UAB pulls off the upset of Memphis in the C-USA tournament, or a team other than Utah, BYU or San Diego State wins the Mountain West tournament, then Dayton could find themselves outside of the at-large field no matter what. Here is a list of the mid-major conferences in order of likelihood for producing a mid-major at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament:
#1 M-West: 3 Brigham Young (21-6 overall, 10-4), 4 Utah (20-7, 11-3), 9 San Diego State (17-8, 9-5), 11 UNLV (20-8, 8-6) and 12 New Mexico (19-10, 10-4)
Disclaimer: In my information about past mid-major at-large teams, I include their record and RPI ranking in the week before Selection Sunday. As a guide for my readers, here is a list of the college basketball rating Web sites that I use in this article:
With only four games remaining in the Atlantic-10 schedule for the Dayton Flyers, I thought it was about time that I wrote a detailed description of how they can possibly advance to the NCAA Tournament in just a few weeks here. Dayton currently sits at #30 in the AP rankings, with a 23-4 overall record, 9-3 in conference play. They had been #25 in this ranking last week, before a surprising loss at Saint Louis brought them back to the “receiving extra votes” category. They have been a good team throughout the season thus far, but these losses to Creighton, Massachusetts, Charlotte and now Saint Louis in the first 27 games could be the main reasons why the NCAA Selection Committee chooses not to include Dayton.
Dayton faces the toughest remaining schedule of any team in the Atlantic-10. They schedule includes a road date with Rhode Island on Wednesday night, a visit from Temple on Saturday, before finishing up with a road trip to Xavier next Thursday and the season finale at UD Arena against Duquesne. In order to understand how difficult these last four games will be, here is a look at the current A-10 standings:
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:
Note: Charlotte lost to Duquesne and Fordham lost to St. Bonaventure in the first night of Atlantic-10 conference play on Wednesday, January 7. Please forgive me for getting this analysis in a day late, but all of my statistics are as of games on Tuesday, January 6. This means that games such as the Dayton .vs. Miami-OH non-conference match-up are included, but not those from Wednesday night.
The Atlantic-10 is one of the top tier Mid-Major conferences in college basketball. The conference has had exactly two teams in the NCAA Tournament in each of the last three years, and in the 24-year history of the 64-team style tournament, the Atlantic-10 has had 60 teams included.
Looking to the 2008-2009 season, the entire conversation must start with Sean Miller’s Xavier University basketball team. Xavier is clearly one of the top teams in college basketball today, as they finished last season ranked #8 in the Coaches Poll, and were as high as #7 in both the Coaches Poll and Associated Press Poll earlier this season. Dayton has been in the top 30 in the Coaches Poll for each of the last six weeks, and at one point last season were #14 according to the Associated Press. The Atlantic-10 has had a lot of historical success as a conference, and these two teams from Ohio are surely the cream of the crop again this season.
Dayton Flyers (8-1) 59
Creighton Blue Jays (6-2) 77
Wednesday, December 10
QWEST Center, Omaha, NE
It was bound to happen eventually, and this one was not pretty at all. The Dayton Flyers’ eight game winning streak came to a crashing halt Wednesday night in Omaha, Nebraska, where the preseason favorites for the Missouri Valley manhandled the Flyers by the score of 77 to 59. It was not as close as the final score indicated, as for the first time since the disappointing opener against Wofford, the Flyers lost the rebounding battle, and never were within 12 points in the second half. It was really bad, and in these incredibly tough road games it is important to keep perspective. Not too many teams beat Akron on the road, and certainly not too many beat Creighton in Omaha, and the Flyers learned that on this two-game road swing.
I am still convinced through these first nine games, that the Flyers have the potential to be the second or third best team in the Atlantic 10. I know that is contrary to what I said before the Chicago Invitational, when I guaranteed that if they pulled off the sweep in Chicago I would consider them solid competition for Xavier, but I think the Dayton Flyers just aren’t that great this year. Remember, they only have senior in Charles Little, and it remains unlikely for Chris Wright to leave for the pros this season as a sophomore. Next year will be the high watermark of recent Flyers history, as Rob Lowery, Mickey Perry, London Warren, Kurt Huelsman, and Marcus Johnson will all be seniors. That is the one year where I can definitely see us being extremely competitive with Xavier, but until then we will take a back seat in the currently ranked 9th best conference in the nation.
Official Dayton Recap: “FLYERS’ EIGHT-GAME WINNING STREAK SNAPPED WITH 77-59 LOSS AT CREIGHTON“
Official Creighton recap: “Basketball Knocks Dayton From Unbeaten Ranks, 77-59″
Official ESPN recap: “Creighton 77, Dayton 59″
Dayton Flyers (8-0) 54
Akron Zips (4-3 versus Division 1 opponents) 50
Saturday, December 4
James A. Rhodes Arena, Akron, OH
It was ugly, almost as ugly as the opener against Wofford, but the Flyers came away maintaining their perfect 8-0 record. A win at Akron has been very tough for anybody in the last five years, as I highlighted in my pre-game notes, and thus despite the score it is a very impressive first true road game of the season. There are so many things I could point about the bad stats on both sides of the court in this one, but most importantly I feel that there is a horrible trend occurring with the starting lineup that I must point out first.
In the last five games, the starting lineup has averaged 52.8 minutes in the first half. Due to foul trouble, typically by London Warren who has averaged only 7.6 minutes per first half in this stretch, the Flyers are hardly ever at full strength in the first 20 minutes of the game. I arrived at this game in Akron about 4 minutes into the first half, and I did not see Warren for the rest of the second half. I was texted friends to see what was going on, but it didn’t take me too long to just realize that he had obviously gotten two quick fouls and was on the bench for the rest of the half. If the Flyers do not improve these marks soon, it will definitely come back to hurt them soon.
Official ESPN recap: “Dayton 54, Akron 50″