Monthly Archives: June 2011

First Name Last, Last Name First

Photo taken by Pelle Rink

 

The Indiana/Chicago first round in last season’s playoffs gave us plenty to love about the Pacers. In four out of five games, Indiana stood its ground against the best team in the NBA at that point. Suddenly, despite incredibly awful shooting displays, the Pacers became a buzz-worthy team. And someone who garnered quite a bit on his own was Paul George. Yet for someone known as a scorer in college, George’s field goal numbers were terrible. He isn’t yet comfortable putting the ball on the floor/shooting off the dribble, so his offensive game was quickly stymied by the best defense in the league — and there’s no shame in that, especially for a rookie as raw as George is.

Curiously, George unveiled himself a potentially great defender, something that few would’ve been able to predict during his days at Fresno St.  In Game 3, George had an awful shooting night (1-9 FG), but managed to bring in a game-high 12 rebounds, along with two assists, two steals, and two blocks, all the while being a big contributor to Derrick Rose’s worst shooting performance of the season (including an unbelievable recovery block on what was supposed to be a blow-by layup off a high screen). Rose had 96 other games to shoot worse than the 22% he managed in Game 3. He didn’t.

(…The Pacers lost that game.)

That first round series was at once a solid effort from a young team and a cry for help. The Pacers allowed for late-game surges by the Bulls in each of the first four games as they paralyzed themselves with a lapses in offensive execution down the stretch. Of course, that was then. Things have changed a bit since then.

The Pacers and San Antonio Spurs struck one of those rare deals wherein both teams get exactly what they need while giving up something just outside the scope of necessity. Acquiring George Hill means patching up a few glaring holes on the team while reinforcing their greatest strength. Hill is as steady as they come in terms of combo guards, perfectly capable of running the offense while Darren Collison rests. His dramatic improvement as a shooter bodes well for the team with George and Brandon Rush equally inconsistent shooters, and with Mike Dunleavy Jr. unable to keep himself on the floor. Having a steady hand is imperative for the late-game situations, and that might be the most important skill Hill brings back to his hometown. The Spurs built, from the ground up, a soldier understanding his role in the collective and never superseding it. Of course, the Pacers would love to unlock Hill’s prior incarnation — because adding another potent decision-maker sounds much more appealing than allowing more Danny Granger isolation plays.

Defensively, Hill will jump right into being a high-functioning cog in Indiana’s stellar team defense. Hill is one of the best pick and roll defenders in the league, which is probably worth double for the Pacers. Being in the same division as the Bulls means needing several wrenches to throw into the Derrick Rose fight for all four rounds. With Paul George proving to be a successful Rose deterrent, adding Hill into the mix should only improve an already solid defensive scheme.

Adding Hill puts Indiana in an interesting (and most likely beneficial) position. When the Pacers eschewed Dunleavy for George late in the regular season, it was clear that defense was being held as the premium. But as SI’s Zach Lowe explained prior to the start of the playoffs, maybe that wasn’t the best idea:

The Pacers have played much better with Dunleavy on the floor this season than they have with either George or Brandon Rush at shooting guard, and it’s not close. Indiana’s current starting lineup — Darren Collison/George/Danny Granger/Tyler Hansbrough/Roy Hibbert — has been outscored by about 10 points per 100 possessions, according to Basketball Value. The margin stays just as bad if you substitute Rush for George. But in 152 minutes with Dunleavy at the 2-guard spot, that lineup is +4 per 100 possessions.

- Pair of playoff teams face rotation decisions | The Point Forward

Dunleavy was the only shooting guard on the roster consistently capable of creating offense, which Lowe explains could mean more to the Pacers than defense (which makes a bunch of sense when you consider just how awful this team was on offense). Hill is a reliable shooter and passer – replacing Dunleavy — and his length and smarts allows him to guard multiple positions — replacing George — making him the likely choice for starting 2. This means moving George back to the bench. And while the guy has superstar ambitions (and who can blame him with the skill set he has?), Hill’s acquisition allows Indiana to be patient in George’s development. As Paul George refines his offensive game, he could very easily settle into a Trevor Ariza-esque defensive stopper role off the bench without the idiotic shooting displays. After Game 3, he clearly took pride in his defensive effort. As he should. Holding a force like Rose to underwhelming performances should be enough to make anyone consider defense as a specialty.

George is someone who could possess star potential. Adding Hill doesn’t necessarily inhibit that. It does, however, make sure that the organization is patient in George’s development. It makes sure bad habits don’t derail what could be the beginning of a promising career. Indiana got what they needed on draft night –a big fix and a little breathing room as the next few years play out. The Pacers aren’t rushing the future, but they aren’t stalling the present either.

A Series Of Brilliant Decisions, Or “How Not To Be David Kahn”

Photo by purplemattfish on Flickr

So Hill goes now, before the Spurs have any drama over whether to extend him or risk losing him in restricted free agency next summer. San Antonio keeps its cap situation somewhat under control, and can plug James Anderson, Gary Neal, rookie Cory Joseph and whatever veteran backup point guard they sign into Hill’s former minutes without losing much in the backcourt. 

Meanwhile, Leonard fills a more glaring need — a combo forward who can help them match up when opponents go small. This has been an Achilles heel of the Spurs for years, and presuming Leonard can play, he solves the problem. While he’s not the classic San Antonio corner-3 shooting small forward of yore, the Spurs needed a young energizer like him.

via Hollinger: Spurs pull smart deal for Leonard – ESPN.

First thing out of my mouth when the deal broke: “Sonofabitch, Buford did it again.”

Just so we’re clear on this.

Jimmer Fredette has arguably the fourth least athleticism of any player taken in the first round. Kemba Walker can’t get on Space Mountain. Jonas Valanciunas isn’t available until 2012 and compared himself to Chris Bosh. Bismack Biyombo might be 24 and needs an instruction manual to figure out a layup.

And Kawhi Leonard falls to 15, then gets traded to the team with the best record in the West last season, and he somehow lost in the draft.

Weirdest. Draft. Ever.

I’m not really interested in looking at the Hill element in all this. He fits a need in Indiana far more than he did in San Antonio, and the Spurs couldn’t afford a luxury with actual needs on the table. This was not a hard decision from a basketball or business standpoint. You hate to lose a guy you like, but that’s how it goes. Ask Danny Ainge, who threw himself out a window trying to prove that it’s a business and you have to treat it that way. (Unfortunately, Danny treated it like one of Montgomery Brewster’s businesses.)

But Leonard is such a perfect fit in San Antonio. Keeps Manu in the shooting guard slot. Gives them a legitimate small forward, and best of all, he’s a defender. A real, legitimate, get out and create havoc, fill up the stat sheet like Gerald Wallace defender. The Spurs’ offense will take a step backwards, but the defense takes a step forward. In case you forgot, when they Spurs started focusing on offense and ignoring defense, they got blasted out of the first round by the Zach-Randolph-led Memphis Grizzlies and when they did the opposite thy won four championships in ten years.

Leonard should never have slipped that far. But he did, because people are morons. R.C. Buford is not a moron, and he wins. Again. I want to hire him to make all my decisions for me.

“No, Matt. Don’t eat that tub of Cool Whip. Instead, go for a three-mile run and have some grapes. Trust me.”

“No, Matt. Don’t order a Zima. I’m not even sure those are made anymore. Order a Viognier.”

See, it’s working already.

I was more interested in what one scout said when he noted that Leonard is a player who seems to be innately aware of the fact that, despite the effort he puts into developing his offensive game, his greatest opportunity for success in the NBA are the strengths he possess on defense and in rebounding the ball. The player that was named when that observation was brought up: Dennis Rodman.

via Kawhi Leonard Analysis and Nickname Unveiling – Pounding The Rock.

We should probably note there that any time Dennis Rodman thinks something is a good idea, it becomes one half bad idea.

But the Worm’s point is surprisingly well tuned here. Self-awareness of your limitations is hard to find in the league and pretty crucial for development. So Buford spent George Hill to get a player who understands his role and does what they need him to do. He’s like the anti-Blair.

Preying Mongoose, Hidden Wolverine

Photo by Tambako the Jaguar on Flickr

The bottom line with Vesely, though, is this: he’s not like most Europeans.  Whereas Kanter hasn’t played in a year and Valanciunas and Biyombo play limited minutes for their club teams, Vesely was a main player on one of the best teams in Europe in Partizan.  He’s tough, he wins and he plays big in big spots, which the Wizards witnessed when he scored 18 points in the Serbian League title game.  He’s not a star in Europe, but he’s a key role player and a big part of their team.  He’s also kind of cocky, and he won’t back down from anything or anyone.  The Wizards, I believe, feel that they need that attitude more than they need his skills.  Or, they think the skills will come around to match the attitude. 

I’m less convinced than them, but it certainly could happen.  We’ll have to wait and see.

via Washington Wizards NBA Draft Grades: A Good Draft, Maybe Great – Bullets Forever.

So while Bobcats fans were raising the flag of victory over drafting a guy whose floor-ceiling is Thabeet-Mutumbo and another whose floor-ceiling is … Kemba Walker/Kemba Walker, and Kings fans are feeling confident about pulling in a no-conscience shooter from BYU, Wizards fans from what I can see on BulletsForver’s comment section largely hate their pick.

Now, I’ve got a blindside for guys with killer instinct. It’s a cliche, but there are a number of guys in the league who have the mentality of trying to destroy you every time they get on the floor. It’s that latent aggression that really sells me on a guy mentally. Because typically, those are the guys who don’t get lazy or complacent. Baron Davis does not have that, and as a result, he spends most of his time on fashion and making movies (or now doing whatever you do in Cleveland). But Jerryd Bayless, for all the faults in his game, will continue to come at you 100% every single game because he hates you and everything you stand for. Nothing personal, he hates everyone. Kendrick Perkins bounced back from knee surgery about six months ahead of when Andrew Bynum recovered  from his because Perkins hates you and he wants to get back out there and crush you into nothingness.

Vesely’s got a little bit of that in him. That mean streak is evident both in his play and in his comments. Like saying Blake Griffin is the American Jan Vesely. Jugular.

It’s very much less about the dunks for me with Vesely as it is about this:

Vesely is a player who offensively is very comfortable posting up with his back to the basket.  In the 92 post up possessions that Vesely had over the course of the season, he posted a PPP of 1.022 (good for a top 14% finish among international basketball players) on 65.4% shooting.

One of the biggest reasons for his success in the post is his ability to establish very good position down low.

Jan Vesely does a fantastic job of using his body and his butt as a tool that lets him be physical with his defender and get his body on the block.  Position is so important when posting up, if you start too far away, you aren’t going to be efficient as a post player.  When Vesely gets the ball so deep in the post, it makes all of his moves so much easier.

What I really like about Vesely is that he is very active and smart when establishing position.

via NBA Playbook » Overseas Scouting Report: Jan Vesely.

That was the first thing I took away from watching Vesely on Synergy, was how aggressive he was in the post. He goes right at the opponent. Will be he defended by bigger opponents in the NBA? Sure. But then there will be chances for Andray Blatche and McGee until the Wizards replace them with better players.

Most bizarre from my viewpoint on Vesely has been this. “He can’t shoot! We’re screwed!”

What does everyone scream at the athletic forwards in the NBA for?

TAKING MID-RANGE JUMPERS. “GO TO THE HOLE, LEBRON/JOSH SMITH/ANTHONY RANDOLPH/MICHAEL BEASLEY!”

If you have a true power forward? That’s the guy you want taking the 18 footer. That’s actually usually a huge part of a  power forward’s offense in the NBA according to a HoopData study. But small forwards should stay away from there. If you don’t have a shot, you’re less likely to go to it.

The turnovers? Young guys turn the ball over and it won’t be as much of a problem for Vesely as it will for Wall.

You have to have a thick skin in this league. Vesely has it. He’s got aggressiveness, he’s got a mean streak, he’s got an impossibly hot girlfriend.

The 2011 NBA Draft: Where everyone slept on the wrong guys and hyped up the NCAA Tournament.

But perhaps most importantly, Vesely brings effort, intensity, and toughness to the Wizards roster—three things that have been sorely lacking over the past couple of years.

“I like defense, you know,” said Vesely during a conference call with the media in the Wizards pressroom. “Of course, I like to block shots. I like to stop the player with the ball. I can play defense at all positions.”

Vesely likes to play defense. How many Wizards can honestly say that? I can count them on one hand with fingers left to spare. Saunders even went as far as to compare Vesely to Kevin Garnett on the defensive end, in terms of his quickness and the amount of ground he can cover, potentially.

The fire and tenacity that Saunders referenced, coupled with his versatility on both ends of the floor, were reason enough to fall in love with this Euro—it doesn’t hurt that he was one of the biggest players in the draft, standing 6’11” and weighing in at 240 pounds.

via Truth About It » Euro Legend Delivered, Sealed With A Kiss.

Choose Your Own Idol

Photo by What What on Flickr

4. There are 96 minutes at the PG and SG spots.  The Kings have the following players who look to see minutes at those spots: Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton (it’s likely he’ll re-sign), Jimmer Fredette, Francisco Garcia, and John Salmons (who is more of a two than a three really).  Where does Aaron Brooks playing time come in?  The Kings also may have Pooh Jeter and/or Isaiah Thomas for spot minutes or as injury insurance (it remains to be seen whether Jeter’s team option will be picked up or if Thomas makes the team) 

via Sactown Royalty – For Sacramento Kings Fans.

Through the lens of a possible Aaron Brooks acquisition in restricted free agency, Aykis touches on the Kings’ current situation. Oh, hey, I found a digital representation.

 

It’s key to note here that I was the guy who said the Bulls should pass on Rose because they already had Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon. It’s also important to note Jimmer Fredette isn’t Kirk Hinrich (KURT!).

When the Salmons trade went down, Internet 911 was actually called to STR to try and contain the riots that broke out. They get it. But since they’re stuck with him, and there’s no way that Jimmer’s as bad as people like me think he is (nor as good as people like, well, you know, the Jimmer people think he is), we might as well take a look at what’s going on there.

The more I’ve thought about it, the more this draft means one of two things. Either this draft was about Reke, or it was about Reke. Let me explain.

1. The Kings may believe that Reke will never fulfill the promise of his rookie season, and want him to be the utility 2-3 slasher, finishing at the rim with that explosiveness and in need of a star creator. Under this paradigm the belief is that Jimmer can become that player more easily than Evans can. It’s partially built on doubts about Evans, which the Kings have slowly gathered more and more on (as seen in how they’ve modified his role throughout his two seasons, injuries not withstanding). It’s a stupid idea but if it works out, they look like freaking geniuses. Additionally, it puts Reke in a position to focus more on defending whoever the bigger, faster, more athletic of the opponents’ point guard, shooting guard, or small forward. With fewer responsibilities on offense, Evans can use his athletic talents in complimentary functions, as weird as that sounds. He’s going to need to be able to guard the best perimeter player because Fredette has to be placed on the single worst guy to step outside the arc for the other team. Salmons can cover the other, or Thornton can.

The actual most interesting lineup here is one of Jimmer-Thornton-Salmons in a small-ball lineup. Because any lineup with Evans not at point with any combination of the other two will just be frustrating. “Why is Evans not running point when the defense has so many fewer matchups on him than Jimmer?” “Why isn’t Reke creating for Thornton instead of watching Jimmer dribble around and shoot long 3s?” Maybe Fredette becomes a great passer, and you could see that happening in the small-ball lineup.

The best way to use these four would actually be in the triangle with Cousins. Have Jimmer bring the ball up the floor, regal, proud, hopefully mustachioed, then have his ass go sit in the corner and wait for the kick out like a good spot-up shooter. Run the triangle with Evans and Thornton/Salmons with DMC and you’ve got a nasty bit of balance with an offensive set that I think is one big fabrication built to make Phil Jackson seem like more of an X’s and O’s genius than he is.

2. This really is about saying “We know Reke can be the playmaker and creator on offense. We drafted Fredette to give him someone to throw to who isn’t Beno Udrih on the perimeter.” It’s kind of a weird reaction considering Buckets is sitting there, probably pissed off beyond all reason about having his FGA’s sliced in half during the course of 12 hours, but at least it maximizes the star player and the No.10 pick in the draft. Under this guise, Evans becomes more in the model of what James has done in Miami, kind of like if Iguodala ran point. He’s still going to need to be that defensive presence, still going to need to fill in the holes offensively, but this time he starts with the ball versus having to find it or give Jimmer the chance to find him. Fredette gets to focus on slipping screens and taking advantage of whatever mismatches he gets (if he can find one, I’m still not sold this magical shot-creation ability is going to translate as well when you’ve got Ty Lawson’s closing speed or Rondo’s creepy long hands bearing down on him).

Of course all this ignores the real reason Fredette was brought in, ticket sales. Which isn’t bad. He’s a good player, with his floor an Adam Morrison bomb-out but his likely spot a J.J. Redick 3-point specialist who busts his ass for three years to get good at defense.

Oh, yeah, I’m aware that I’m not supposed to compare him to Morrison and Redick because they’re white. Sadly:

Morrison was a weirdly shaped gunner who shot a lot of bad shots in college and made a bunch of them, was considered a “special” player for a non-big-name school and was supposed to defy all the odds.

Redick was a pure shooter who had a deceptive amount of athleticism and a work ethic that should translate to the NBA level and he could knock down shots from damn near anywhere.

So let’s just settle down on the bristling just because those guys were white. I’m not using racial basketball stereotypes. I’m using goofy-looking motherf*cker basketball stereotypes.

“There’s tons of critics out there,” Jimmer said.  ”There’s always been, my entire career and there’s some people that really like me and some that hate me.  There’s both ends of the spectrum and it’s my job to go out there and hopefully make them all love me and I think I can do that.”

Jimmer politely answered every question thrown at him today.  An unfamiliar media group hounded him with the mundane.  They hit him with everything from what will be his signature dance move to whether he’s the next Steve Kerr.  He smiled, he laughed, and through it all, he was a seasoned pro.  Late in the process, he slipped out this tidbit slip.

“It’s a team game and I’m not going to just be the star right away going into this league,” he said.  ”I realize that and I’m fine with that.  It’s a building process.”

I’m not going to just be a star right away?  Interesting line.  Seems like this kid enjoys the pressure and I think Kings fans are going to like him just fine.

via Cowbell Kingdom.com – A Sacramento Kings Blog.

That’s probably the area where I underestimate Jimmer the most. If he doesn’t try and come in and destroy everyone with those 40-foot gunners, if he doesn’t try and come in and save the day, if he just accepts he’s going to be a role player and goes to work every day? Honestly, if he takes the same approach J.J. Redick has taken in his career? The kid’s going to work out and could be the James Harden to this team’s Thunder.

Yeah, they’ll be a lot like that, with Evans as Durant, Thornton as Westbrook, and Salmons and DMC as the versions of Thabo and Perkins, only they want to shoot 20 times a game.

This should be entertaining if nothing else.

The Greatest Trick The Devil Ever Pulled Was Convincing The World He Actually Had A Good Draft

Photo by istolethetv on Flickr

And then, inexplicably, Kemba Walker dropped all the way to 9 (sparked by the Cleveland Cavaliers selecting Tristan Thompson at 4), and the Bobcats were smart enough to snatch him up.

via Rufus on Fire – For Charlotte Bobcats Fans.

Based off this, I have some other uses for the word “inexplicably.”

“Following the eruption of Pompei, the surrounding villagers were inexplicably covered in fiery ash.”

“Then, inexplicably, Tom Green’s career took a downturn.”

“In the early 2000′s, Smashing Pumpkins inexplicably broke up.”

“Inexplicably, ‘Skyline’ did not do well with the critics or at the box-office.”

That’s what happens when a Goddamn volcano suddenly explodes, when your claim to fame is “The Bum Bum Song,” Billy Corgan runs your band, your movie looks like ‘Independence Day’ if it sucked and none of the characters look like people you want to survive, and a 5-11 point guard (WITH REALLY BIG SHOES!) and limited upside is available in a draft based on potential in the face of a lockout.

Stunning.

Here’s what’s great about this draft and next. Next year, there’s so much talent it’s not going to be so devastating if you get a pick wrong. But this one is like Russian Roulette, only instead of bullets, the revolver holds overhyped college players whose games MAY or may not translate to the NBA. It’s polarizing. Even better, most of the people who believe in Kemba believe in Biyombo, too, AND CHARLOTTE GOT BOTH OF THEM.

The Charlotte Bobcats are the new face of hope. Put that in your overpriced cigar and smoke it.

Also, I really want D.J. Augustin and Tyrus Thomas to form a two-man band before training camp just so they can play this song to Biyombo and Kemba. Because basically, Kemba and Biyombo are worse versions of themselves who people think will immediately be better.

When a player with as much athleticism and “potential” as Biyombo is drafted in the lottery, many worry about his “potential” never becoming reality. In Biyombo’s case, these worries should hold very little substance, because Biyombo’s talent does not rest solely on his raw athleticism. When watching footage of Biyombo, it is clear that he attempts to position himself well for offensive rebounds, and seems to have a clear ability to time his block attempts. Additionally to this, Biyombo is by all accounts extremely intelligent and a hard worker. The coupling of his impressive athleticism (and ability) with his dedication to polishing his game lead me to believe that his skill set gives him the chance to become a defensive anchor for a rebuilding franchise and a top center in the future. In this draft, few players possess the potential that Biyombo does while also possessing the skills that can translate into that potential.

via Trade Analysis: The Charlotte Bobcats Move Into The Lottery And Draft Bismack Biyombo – Rufus on Fire.

Take the word Biyombo out of the above paragraph and fill in whatever hyper-athletic “raw” player who “needs polish” from the last several years you prefer. Particularly that bit about knowing position and timing blocks? Yeah, heard that about Thabeet. This is Hardwood Paroxysm, we’re a temple to the virtue of athletic potential hopefully translated. But there have been enough cases of rot in such picks that this newfound attitude about Biyombo being a lock (which is not what fair Connor said, though if you asked him if Biyombo could create a unicorn spontaneously, he’d say “I’m not going to say he  CAN’T do it because we don’t know yet”)  is perplexing. There’s not a lock in this draft, not even Irving, though he’s about as close as it gets.

Meanwhile, the Cats could have taken Kawhi Leonard, who has a great attitude, significantly more polish than Biyombo, great athleticism, and a nasty attitude as he’s currently plotting to destroy every team that passed on him. He and Singleton better not wind up on the same team together. Not enough vengeance to go around.

I share the above from Rufus on Fire not to mock them, I only tend to share things which are worth reading. It’s an opposing viewpoint, and it shows the polarizing nature of this draft, with on the one side, Biyombo’s unknown, unrecognizable potential paired with Kemba’s unnameable … whatever it is he’s supposed to do while Augustin plots to trip and fall into his knees during practice on one side and players like Vesely (a super-long, athletic, aggressive small forward without a jumper, the shot you don’t want players taking anyway, the horror!) and Brandon Knight (how dare he turn the ball over as a point guard like Derrick Rose, Tryeke Evans, and John Wall all did their first years) on the other.

The NBA like most other things is becoming more and more polarized. James. Kobe. This draft. The Dougie. It’s a tense world our there.

“What Just Happened?”

Well, I’m glad everyone made it out alive, and I hope everyone realizes what they witnessed.

The 2011 NBA Draft became nothing more than a platform for the Minnesota Timberwolves and their endless volley of draft picks that flew in every direction possible. Confusing doesn’t begin to describe the situation as picks, rights, names, and faces were all shuffled, leaving most of us in a thick cloud of dust not knowing what the hell just happened. But something did happen. Something improbable. Minnesota got better. (Maybe.)

Of course, the bulk of their improvement is due to their uncontroversial selection of Derrick Williams. He was the safe pick, and very well could be the right one. I’ve never been too enamored with his game, and if there’s one thing that defines my perception of him, it’s doubt.

I doubt his position, kind of. I was weary of his ability to play at the small forward spot, but the problem is not nearly as glaring as the situation Marcus Morris put himself in. There are still questions to be answered though. He’s talked about being more comfortable in the perimeter, but does that take away from one of his best qualities (drawing fouls) as a player? Can he be an effective slasher without exceptional footspeed at the NBA level? As a prospect, Blake Griffin was a power forward who could spend time at center. Physically, compared to Griffin, they are remarkably similar. An inch in height and three pounds separate their combine measurements, and both players play with about the same maximum vertical height (taking into consideration height, max vertical, and standing reach).

Both are fantastic athletes, but what sets Griffin apart is the hyper-fluidity of his movements, the extent of which Williams can’t quite match. Williams’ dunks with a running start off two feet are positively Blake-esque, but not so exceptional elsewhere. Granted, his offensive repertoire is more well-rounded at this point in their respective careers, but Williams lacks Griffin’s creativity and prodigy. It’s an unfair comparison, but one to keep in mind. Griffin has maximized his gifts to become a true power forward. With distinct similarities, shouldn’t Williams be doing the same?

Defensively, Griffin hasn’t yet become a plus defender either. However, unlike Williams next season, he has very good weakside help. But he hasn’t spelled out his doom just yet. Williams doesn’t have a freakish wingspan, but it’s above average and when combined with his strength, it should be enough to guard most small forwards in the league. If he proves to be adequate, everything is rosy. His offensive prowess would surely lessen the blow of lackluster defense. But things tend to go wrong in Minnesota. And if Derrick Williams wakes up and sees Michael Beasley staring back at him in the mirror, the Wolves are back to where they started.

For the last few months, I haven’t been able to type his name without checking Google to make sure I didn’t get his last name wrong. It’s a name that just sounds too familiar — the first name shares likeness with one of the biggest superstars in the league today in Derrick Rose, and the last name with Deron Williams, which happens to sound nearly identical to Derrick Williams. What’s in a name? Nothing and everything. But it’s what people hear before they see the skills. It’s the carrier of adoring praise and overwhelming burdens. And I fear that if Derrick Williams isn’t a very good player, I’ll be looking at his name on a statsheet one day wishing he was someone else.

Of course, that was only in the first 20 minutes of the draft. Then over the course of three hours, the Wolves made sure to take as many steps as possible to acquire three future draft picks.  It started with trading formerly coveted guard Jonny Flynn, which came off as a startling admission from GM David Kahn that he is indeed aware of his errors, and not just a man far removed from reality. And that’s a start. It really is.

So Flynn and the No. 20 pick were traded to the Houston Rockets and became Brad Miller, No. 23 and No. 38. Then No. 23 became No. 28 and No. 43. Then No. 28 became No. 31.  No. 31 became cash, and remember No. 38? It changed its mind and limped its way back to Houston.

If that’s too convoluted — and it’s it is entirely too convoluted — the tangible additions to next season’s Wolves are Brad Miller and the No. 43. Brad Miller recently had microfracture surgery and he’s old. As for the No. 43? Well…

After three years of toil in Ben Howland’s system, the chains and shackles are off for Malcolm Lee. In three years at UCLA, Lee watched as the hype turned to scrutiny, which ultimately turned to ambivalence. He went from being a high-flying act in high school to a no-frills off-guard at UCLA. There was nothing spectacular about his college campaign, but what he developed should show immediately during training camp. At 6’5″ and a lean 200 pounds, Lee has enough size to guard both backcourt positions, a noteworthy skill he possessed back in high school that only got better by his junior year. He is an NBA-caliber defender right now with long arms and quick feet. Strength has always been an issue with Lee, but he’s taken a lot of time to tone and build muscle in his upper body, evidenced by his 17 reps in the bench pressing portion of the Pre-Draft Combine — only two less than fellow rookie teammate Derrick Williams, who recorded the highest number of reps in the combine, and easily outweighs Lee by at least 50 pounds.

Offensively at UCLA, Lee scored off the ball on dribble handoffs and diving into the paint. While he still needs to work on his strength to finish near the rim at the NBA level, Lee is extremely athletic and has great body control, which should help with the learning curve. In workout interviews, Lee specifically mentioned his desire to learn the ins and outs of the pick and roll, seeing himself as a point guard. With Ricky Rubio and Luke Ridnour perfectly capable at the 1, that might not be imperative, but Lee can create for himself and others, something that’s been missing on the roster for years. Most importantly, Lee finds himself transplanted from a slow and methodical UCLA team to one of the fastest teams in the league. But if UCLA teaches anything to its NBA prospects, it’s how to adapt. Though it’s not hard to adapt to an environment that was once your domain.

Is Lee a perfect fit? No, but how many players on the team are? Outside of Rubio and Kevin Love who are the pure in their positions, the Wolves are a band of players who would probably be better off playing a different position.

“I can assure you it won’t fit perfectly.”

- David Kahn saying obvious things during the post-draft press conference

Damn right it won’t. Kahn is heavily banking on the power of versatility, but at some point, some semblance of a hierarchy has to be established. But I guess that’s for another time. There’s no room for negativity killing this post-draft euphoria, and no room for projecting the likelihood of Kahn trading Lee for a veteran just for the sake of getting older. Because as it stands right now, the Minnesota Timberwolves got better after the draft. Of course, on draft night it felt like watching a million torpedoes launching in different directions threatening to destroy everything, but somehow they didn’t. Somehow, in the end, the Timberwolves were unscathed.

…An improvement as only David Kahn could produce.

(Just so it’s clear, I’ve taken the liberty of ignoring the whole ‘Ta(n/r)guy Ngombo is actually a really old dude’ situation. He was never going to step on the court, so I thought of it as an entertaining sideshow/non-event.)

2011 TrueHoop Network Mock Draft: Chicago Bulls Select Darius Morris

“A GUAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARD!” – Gar Forman

Morris is actually going to get buried a little bit in Chicago since they have the MVP point guard who plays a zillion minutes per game regardless of what the score is (seriously, Thibs, tone it down). Morris was the best isolation guard in the country last season and the kid can get buckets. Being put into Thibs’ system early is the best thing that could happen to him. If he works out, they can tone down the reliance on C.J. Watson or use him more at the two-guard spot. That would mean they don’t have to go out and get that vaunted shooting guard. Bulls fans will still scream they have to, because otherwise they’ll have to face the fact Derrick Rose can’t do everything. And that would be terrible. Good spot for Morris here.

2011 TrueHoop Network Mock Draft: World Champion Dallas Mavericks Select Justin Harper

What do you have when you have everything? Justin Harper.

Harper’s going to fit in well with the Mavericks as a versatile big. With Roddy Beaubois and Nique Jones, they don’t need backcourt help, and once Caron Butler gets back they have enough wings. Harper is positioned as a solid prospect that could turn into something special. He’s got good size, length, and frame, a nice elbow turnaround and a solid drop-step off-glass down low. He’ll get lost for a few years while this current core finishes its run, but he could also be part of the rebuilding plan for Dallas. He’ll likely spend time with the Legends.

 

2011 TrueHoop Network Mock Draft: Houston Rockets Select Charles Jenkins

With the 23rd pick in the 2011 TrueHoop Network Mock Draft, the Houston Rockets select Charles Jenkins, SG, Hofstra.

Dragic is going to be around a while, and Courtney Lee’s going to spend a lot of time at the 2. But Jenkins is worth a pick at this spot. In this draft, the Rockets still have not selected a true big after Vesely surprisingly fell to them. But their options here are what? Mirotic? Vucevic is off the board. Justin Harper? Jeremy Tyler? Tyler might be an option, with him spending 2-3 years in Rio Grande Valley. But with no real impact option, Jenkins makes for a fine pick. Jenkins was in the 97th percentile in pick and roll offense produced (factoring passes), according to Synergy Sports, and has great quickness around the basket.

Also, come on, he’s from Hofstra. Smarty-pants. Morey loves kids like this.

And now, a selection from Hofstra’s a capella group.