Friday, June 26, 2009

NBA Draft grades: Eastern Conference

Atlanta Hawks: 1st round: Jeff Teague-PG, 2nd round: Sergiy Gladyr-SG

The Hawks did a good job upgrading their back court with this draft. I think Teague has some real upside, and can be a starter by his second year. Teague should fit in well with th Hawks athletic big men. Gladyr isn't going to help any time soon, but could be a contributor down the road.

Grade: B

Boston Celtics: 2nd round: Lester Hudson-SG

Hudson isn't a bad pick for the end of the 2nd round. He's an advanced player that can be a solid guy off the bench, if he makes the team. Overall there's some solid potential there for the Celtics, but they didn't really improve their team.

Grade: C+

Charlotte Bobcats: 1st round: Gerald Henderson-SG, 2nd round: Derrick Brown-PF

In my opinion the Bobcats had a really good draft. Henderson is a very good shooting guard and will give the Bobcats a great option on the wing. He will start by backing up Raja Bell, but should be a starter within two years. Brown is a great pick up in the 2nd round. He will help their front court depth, and has the upside to be a 6th man in a couple of years.

Grade: A-

Chicago Bulls: 1st round: James Johnson-PF, 1st round: Taj Gibson-PF

It was a little bit odd that the Bulls took two power forwards with their two picks, but I think they got solid value with them. Johnson has a ton of upside and should develop into a pretty good starter. Gibson doesn't have as much upside as Johnson, but should provide solid depth.

Grade: B

Cleveland Cavaliers: 1st round: Christian Eyenga-SF, 2nd round: Danny Green-SF, 2nd round: Emir Preldzic-F

This was a bit of a surprising draft for the Cavs. While i love the Danny Green pick, does Eyenga make sense with Blair, Young and others still on the board? Taking either Sam Young or DeJuan Blair would have been a coup at the end of the 1st round. Both players could have come in and contributed from day one. Blair especially would have made sense, given Varejeo's free agent status. I think Green was a great value pick and could be a steal. But for a team that is ready to win now, I don't understand drafting a player who won't be even in the country for a couple of years.

Grade: C

Detroit Pistons: 1st round: Austin Daye, 2nd round: DeJuan Summers, 2nd round: Jonas Jerebko

This could be a very good draft for the Pistons. There is a ton of upside with these three picks. Daye has the potential to become a top SF in the NBA. Summers and Jerebko both had first round potential, and are great value in the second round. The one issue with the Pistons draft is consistency. None of these players have been consistent in their careers. Both Daye and Summers would disappear in games in college. Overall though the talent is there so I do like what the Pistons did with this class.

Grade: B+

Indiana Pacers: 1st round: Tyler Hansbrough-PF, 2nd round: A.J. Price-PG

The Pacers added a pair of four year college players, who will need little or no development time. I like the Price pick a lot, I think he has a lot of upside. Price should be a good addition to the Pacers back court. I really question Hansbrough here, drafting him in the lottery is a big mistake. With Earl Clark, Johnson and Blair on the board Hansbrough was a big overdraft. I have a hard time imagining this draft four or five years from now, and considering Hansbrough one of the Top-15 players.

Grade: C

Miami Heat: 2nd round: Patrick Beverley-G, 2nd round: Robert Dozier-F

The Heat were without a 1st round pick but that didn't stop them from drafting some intriguing players. Beverley in particular can help the Heat down the road. He could back up either of the guard spots, and give the Heat a high energy guy off the bench. Dozier has a longer road towards making the Heat, but he does have some NBA tools.

Grade: B-

Milwaukee Bucks: 1st round: Brandon Jennings-PG, 2nd round: Jodie Meeks-SG

The Bucks did a great job filling their needs here and adding offensive upside. Jennings has the talent to be a great NBA point guard. He can do just about everything with a basketball, but he does have one thing standing in his way - himself. Jennings needs to worry less about whether the cameras are rolling, and more about refining his game. I'm higher on Meeks than most draftniks were. I don't think he'll ever be a starter, but he should be a good guy off the bench. I like his toughness and work ethic.

Grade: B+

New Jersey Nets: 1st round: Terrence Williams-SG

The Nets made a big move earlier in the day trading away Vince Carter for Courtney Lee and Rafer Alston. New Jersey followed that up by drafting Carter's replacement in Williams. Williams has a lot of upside, and should develop into a pretty good starter. Williams is one of the most athletic players in this entire class, but still needs to work on his offensive game to become a complete player.

Grade: B

New York Knicks: 1st round: Jordan Hill-PF, 1st round: Toney Douglas-G

The Knicks paid a hefty price for their 2nd first round pick ($3 million), but got a pretty good player in Douglas. Douglas and Hill fill the Knicks two biggest needs. They can both be pretty good complimentary players. Hill still needs to work on his offensive game, but he should be a good rebounder.

Grade: B+

Orlando Magic: No picks

The Magic went the trade route and did pretty well adding Vince Carter. Unfortunately they didn't have any picks to grade.

Grade: N/A

Philadelphia 76ers: 1st round: Jrue Holiday-PG

Holiday was a great pick for the 76ers. He fills a big need for Philly, and has some of the biggest upside in the entire draft. Holiday will probably need a year or two, to become a front line starter. When he does though, the 76ers will be happy with the wait. Holiday has limitless athletic ability and offensive potential.

Grade: B+

Toronto Raptors: 1st round DeMar DeRozen-G

The Raptors went with upside with their selection of DeRozen. DeRozen is a pretty raw player, but has plenty of potential. I think he will need at least two years, and might not even be a solid back-up next season. While the talent is there its definitely a risk to take DeRozen so early, on a team in transition. I would have liked it better if a team with multiple picks, or had playoff talent had grabbed DeRozen.

Grade: C+

Washington Wizards: Traded 1st round pick for Randy Foye and Mike Miller, traded 2nd round pick (Jermaine Taylor) to the Rockets for cash.

I think Wizards really blew this draft. They jumped the gun on the Foye trade, they could have kept the pick and taken Ricky Rubio. Even if they had still wanted to trade the pick, the value would have been higher with Rubio sitting there. I just don't feel they got enough out of the T-wolves in the trade. The 2nd round was an even bigger disaster. The Wizards were in desperate need of front court help and at the top of the 2nd round, DeJuan Blair, Sam Young and Derrick Brown were available. Instead of taking one of them, the Wizards drafted a guard and sold him to the Rockets for $2.5 million. Any one of those players would have been a significant upgrade to the Wizards. Blair in particular was a lottery talent that fell due to injury concerns. Adding him to the front line, would have been a major boost to the Wizard's inside game. I think the Wizards will regret their draft decisions for years to come.

Grade: D

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Trade Center: NBA

The Phoenix Suns trade Shaquille O'Neal to the Cleveland Cavailers for Sasha Pavlovic, Ben Wallace, and the 46th pick in the draft.

Cavaliers: This is a great move by the Cavs all around. Shaq gives them a true force in the middle. He compliments Ilguaskas pretty well, giving Cleveland two quality centers. Shaq may no longer be the most dominate player in the game, but he still creates match-up problems for opposing teams. This move was a direct response to the Magic and Dwight Howard. The Cavs won't lose a series again because they can't match-up inside. Now it will be Howard having trouble handling Cleveland's front court. The Cavs only had to give up two bad contracts and a 2nd round pick, to fill their need inside. Also, with Shaq being a free agent after this season, Cleveland still has plenty of Cap room for the banner 2010 free agent class.

Suns: This move was just about money for the Suns. They will save over $5 million dollars on the deal against their cap, and also will avoid having to pay the luxury tax. Both Pavlovic and Wallace will be off the books after next season (if not before by cutting them), so the Suns will maintain their cap room next year as well. Phoenix really didn't get anything in terms of talent in this deal. With a little luck they can find a role player with the 2nd round pick, to give them some value. Though they still have a strong core, it wouldn't be too surprising to see the Suns start rebuilding. Stoudemire can become a free agent at season's end, and is likely the next to go.

Winner: The Cavs are the hands down winner here. This deal was a no brainer for them. Shaq is still a good center, and they didn't give up any major pieces to acquire him. The Suns sent a bad message to their fan base with this deal. One that will likely signal a rebuilding year in Phoenix.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Trade Center: NBA

A couple of big NBA trades were made yesterday. Both could have playoff implications for next season, and one shakes up tomorrow's draft. Here's a quick recap on the deals, and the future impact.

The Deal: The Milwaukee Bucks send Richard Jefferson to the San Antonio Spurs for Bruce Bowen, and Kurt Thomas. The Spurs also sent Fabrico Oberto to the Pistons for Amir Johnson, who was then moved to the Bucks.

Bucks: Milwaukee mainly made this deal for salary cap relief. They now have the money to re-sign restricted free agent Charlie Villanuvea and perhaps another moderate free agent. The Bucks will also have some money to play with in 2010 when Johnson's, and Thomas's deals are up (Bowen may get waived to save additional money now).

Pistons: Detroit's reason for this deal was similar to Milwaukee's - money. The Pistons can save almost $2 million by waiving Oberto, since his contract isn't fully guaranteed. Detroit is looking to build up as much cap space as possible to make a run at a couple of top free agents.

Spurs: The Spurs are the big winner in this deal. They get a top flight SF, who gives them an electric scorer on the perimeter. He gives them a third scoring option behind Parker and Duncan and moves Michael Finley to a better suited reserve role (if he resigns). Making this deal even more impressive is the fact that all the Spurs had to give up was cap relief. Bowen and Thomas were solid role players, but their games were on the downside. The Spurs have reloaded and are now one of the top 3 contenders in the Western Conference.

Winner: Its got to be the Spurs, they gave up nothing and received a real scoring threat. They will make a strong title push next season. The Bucks and Pistons get some cap relief, but they aren't any better teams for making this deal.

The Deal: The Minnesota Timberwolves send G Randy Foye and G/F Mike Miller to the Washington Wizards for the 5th overall pick, C Etan Thomas, PF Darius Songaila, C/F Oleksiy Pecherov.

Timberwolves: The real prize for Minnesota is the 5th pick. Already owning the 6th, 18th and 28 picks in the first round, the T-wolves now hold the keys to the draft. They will likely try to trade up to the 2nd or 3rd spot to select Ricky Rubio (Hasheem Thabeet is an option at 3 if Rubio is off the board), giving up the 5th pick, 18th and maybe another player or draft pick. If Minnesota can't move up they will hope that they can snag, James Harden and Stephen Curry at the 5 and 6. Other players likely in the mix at 5 or 6 are Tyreke Evans and DeMar DeRozan. Things could get tricky for the T-Wolves, as they will likely have to reach for front court help with their latter picks. Though Minnesota will miss the scoring of Foye and Miller in their back court, they should have no trouble replacing them with their lottery picks. Thomas, Songaila and Pecherov are really just roster filler, but could give the Wolves some solid minutes in their weak front court.

Wizards: Washington is going for broke here. They showed that they are not in a rebuilding mode and feel that they feel their 19 win season was a fluke. The Wizards added two perimeter scorers, that can be excellent complimentary players to Washington's big three (Arenas, Butler, and Jamison). Also if Arenas and Butler miss any significant time, like they have in recent years, Foye and Miller can be solid starters. Foye could be the real prize in this deal. He's a restricted free agent in 2010 so he gives Washington some options. Overall I think he's an underrated player and could be a breakout candidate. If he does take his game to the next level then this could be a big win for the Wizards. If not, then I question the move somewhat. The Wizards could have added a prolific scorer in Harden or Curry to help their front court. One that is under team control for longer and with the potential to be a star. Washington also had deals on the table to potentially trade back and add a veteran, which may have made more sense. I think not prying either the 18th or 28th picks away from Minnesota was a mistake. No, you weren't likely to add a star player in that spot, but you could have added someone with upside. I think if the Wizards would have waited until tomorrow's draft they would have been able to get a better deal.

As it stands now The Wizards are 'all in' in 2009. While this deal puts them back in the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference, Washington will need a lot of luck to be a serious contender. They will need Arenas and Butler to stay healthy, and continue to play at an all-star level. Also, Brendan Haywood, the Wizards only true center, will need to get healthy and step up his game. They will need the rest of their young front court to develop fast (McGuire, Blatche, McGee). The Wizards will need to trade some of their front court depth to add another big man. Until they do though they are very thin in the paint.

Winner: I think the Timberwolves are a small winner here. By keeping all four draft picks Minnesota has practically limitless options in tomorrow's draft. The T-wolves can now add some pieces to a young core that includes Al Jefferson and Kevin Love. The Wizards did get rid of some bad contracts which, should give them some flexibility in the future, but they paid a high price.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

NBA Draft: Mock Draft 11-30

11. New Jersey Nets: Jrue Holiday-PG

The Nets could use a big man but probably won't reach for Blair, Johnson, or Mullens. I think they will take the top PG on the board here. Holiday will make a lot of sense here, as Harris can move too the 2 guard position.

12. Charlotte Bobcats: Terrence Williams-G/F

Williams would be a good pick for the Bobcats here. He can start at SG and fill in some at SF as well. He has a lot of upside if he reaches his full potential. With the Bobcats though he won't be forced to be an offensive focal point, which should help his development.

13. Indiana Pacers: Ty Lawson-PG

The Pacers need a solid point guard and Lawson is a good fit here. I think he's been underrated all along so this is actually a good spot for him, and not a reach.

14. Phoenix Suns: DeJuan Blair-PF

Johnson or Mullens should be in the mix here as well, but I think Blair is the best Big man available. With Shaq out the door, and Amare likely to follow, the Suns need to add some talent to their front court. Blair could fit in nicely with Phoenix's fast paced offense.

15. Detroit Piston: Austin Daye-SF

Daye has been rumored to Detroit for awhile and he seems like a pretty solid fit for the team. There is some upside in Daye, especially if he can get tougher.

16. Chicago Bulls: Gerald Henderson-SG

With Ben Gordon likely leaving in free agency the Bulls could use another option on the wing. Henderson has a lot of upside, and is athletic enough to get the ball to the basket.

17. Philadelphia 76ers: Eric Maynor-PG

The 76ers need a new point guard with Miller being a free agent. They will find a good one in Maynor. He should be able to step in and lead the offense from day one.

18. Minnesota Timberwolves: Earl Clark-SF

A lot depends on what they do with their top two picks (this pick may also be traded to move up in the draft), but I don't think the T-wolves could pass up on Clark if he's here at 18. They could use a big like Mullens for depth, but Clark is too good to pass up here. He does so many things well that he will be a great fit for Minnesota, a team that is still looking for an identity.

19. Atlanta Hawks: Jeff Teague-PG

Teague has exceptional speed, and would be a great fit in Atlanta. He can be a good solid back-up to Crawford. A back-up power forward like Johnson or Hansbrough are an option here as well. Teague is the last of the top level of point guards, so I don't see Atlanta passing on him if he's here.

20. Utah Jazz: James Johnson-PF

With Boozer on his way out, the Jazz need to add some talent to their front court. Johnson is a bit of a steal here, he's got a lot of upside and should fit well in Utah. Hansbrough and Sam Young are definite options as well.

21. New Orleans Hornets: B. J. Mullens-C

Tyson Chandler hasn't been the answer at the 5, leaving New Orleans desperate for help in the paint. So getting one of the two legitimate centers in this draft would be a coup for the Hornets. Mullens is a project but won't have to be a star player in New Orleans.

22. Portland Trail Blazers: Sam Young-SF

Young might not have been the player they were targeting when the traded up two spots in the draft, but there is no way they let him slide any further. The Blazers will love his maturity, work ethic and toughness. He also is an excellent rebounder and defender. Young is also one of the most NBA ready players in this draft and should contribute from day one.

23. Sacramento Kings: DeMarre Carroll-PF

Kings could go a number of ways with this pick, Casspi is an option on the International front, and Hansbrough would be a big name to bring in. Hansbrough would also make sense since he balance's Evans youth. In the end I think the Kings take Carroll. They need a big man to play next to Hawes, and I feel like Carroll may be the best fit.

24. Dallas Mavericks: Chase Budinger-SG

The Mavericks love their shooters and Budinger fits the bill here at 24. He can step in and help right away. He will need to become more of a defender to be anything more than a role player. Darren Collison is an option here as well.

25. Oklahoma City Thunder: Danny Green-G/F

Green is the perfect fit for the Thunder here. He can back up both Harden at the 2 and Durant at the 3, and become a great 6th man. He ability on offense and defense makes him the right pick here over some other players with more upside.

26. Chicago Bulls: Omri Casspi-SF

Casspi is a great pick for the Bulls if he falls this far. They could try waiting a year before bringing him to the U.S., or he could be a solid forward for them off the bench. He's tough and by all reports a quality rebounder.

27. Memphis Grizzlies: Toney Douglas-G

Douglas is a good fit here as he can back up both of the guard positions. If Memphis takes Thabeet 2nd, then depth in the back court is their biggest weakness. Douglas should fill that need pretty well. He's an underrated player and should be a steal here.

28. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jonas Jerebko-F

This might be hard to do with PF's like Hansbrough and Derrick Brown still on the board, but it seems likely that the T-wolves will take an international player with this pick. They likely won't want to have 4 rookies on their roster, and will keep whomever they take abroad.

29. New York Knicks: Darren Collison-PG

This could change if the Knicks get a PG with their top pick as PF will be their biggest need (Hansbrough anyone). Either way the Knicks traded back into the first round to get a player who can come in and play right away. Collison seems like the likely pick here. He can run the point and has always made everyone around him better. The Knicks would get a heck of a player here at 29.

30. Cleveland Cavaliers: Tyler Hansbrough-PF

Hansbrough could easily go 10 spots higher, but I think the concerns about his game will lead him to slide. He fits best on a playoff team where he's the 7th to 9th guy off the bench. In Cleveland he can fill a role, and not have to be the top offensive threat on the team. Playing next to Shaq and Big-Z should help him as well. This is a great insurance policy if the Cavs can't resign Varejo. And if they do resign him then the Cavs got that much deeper.

NBA Draft: Mock Draft Top 10

1. Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin-PF

This pick is about the only sure thing in the draft this year. It doesn't look like the Clippers are even listening to offers at this point for the top pick. Griffin will fit in well in L.A. and give the Clippers another piece to a young core that features Al Thorton and Eric Gordon.

2. Memphis Grizzlies: Haseem Thabeet-C

This pick could very well end up with another team like Minnesota or New York, but for the purposes of this mock draft we will say they keep the pick. If they keep it Thabeet should be their pick. While Thabeet isn't the second best player in this draft, he is the best center, and can give some solid minutes from day one. Thabeet will be a good compliment to Marc Gasol, and allow the Grizzlies to have two 7 footers on the floor at the same time.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder: James Harden-SG

Rubio or a trade are options here, but in the end I think the Thunder go with Harden. Westbrook can run the point and Durant and Green have the forward spots handled. The Thunder need a true center and a shooting guard. With Thabeet off the board grabbing a guy like Harden makes the most sense. Harden is a good fit, with a refined offensive game and a good work ethic.

4. Sacramento Kings: Tyreke Evans-G

Rubio is the better fit as the Kings could use a true point guard but I think Sacramento goes with the upside of Evans. Evans is a combo guard at best, and will probably end up being more of a shooting guard. The Kings don't really need another shooting guard but have seemingly fallen in love with Evans.

5. Washington Wizards: Ricky Rubio-PG

The Wizards are probably trading this pick one way or another, but wouldn't mind adding Rubio if he falls to them. Rubio would be a good fit for the Wizards as he'd let Arenas play the 2. The Wizards are a good fit for Rubio as well. They already have established scorers, allowing Rubio to do what he does best; set up the offense.

6. Minnesota Timberwolves: Stephen Curry-PG

The T-wolves will be looking to move up to get either Thabeet or Rubio, but will be quite happy with Curry if they can't move up. Curry will give Minnesota a very mature player, who can be a top offensive threat. He's not the most athletic point guard in this draft, but he's probably the most advanced.

7. Golden State Warriors: Jonny Flynn-PG

Jordan Hill is an option here, but Flynn makes plenty of sense for the Warriors. He fits their fast paced, high powered offense. Flynn's quickness will be a major asset for the Warriors, and give a perfect back court compliment to Ellis. A true point guard will allow Ellis to become a bigger scoring threat.

8. New York Knicks: Jordan Hill-PF

The Knicks will look to trade up to get either Curry or Rubio, if they can't make a deal Hill will be their pick. Hill can fill a size deficit in New York. Hill is a bit unrefined but he has plenty of upside. He should help the Knicks on the boards from day one, though he will need to work on his offensive game.

9. Toronto Raptors: DeMar DeRozan-SG

DeRozan is a bit of a project, but he has NBA size and athleticism. He has plenty of upside and that is what the Raptors will be banking on here. Toronto has a need at guard so DeRozan does fill a need as well.

10. Milwaukee Bucks: Brandon Jennings-PG

Jennings or Holiday seem like the most likely picks here. Both are young with plenty of upside. I think Jennings might be the better fit here. His speed and quickness give him the edge on Holiday right now for a number of teams. I'm not super high on Jennings but I don't think he falls any further than 10.

Check back tomorrow for the rest of the first round.