Author Archives: Connor Huchton

Shot Fiction: Mark Jackson, Across The Sea

David Moyes enjoyed his new office.

He liked the carefully ordered bookshelves and the sense of expectations that resided within every page. He loved the old wooden desk and the ancient laptop that rested on its oaken frame. And of course, the Wi-Fi was a great deal better than the dial-up service that he had grown so used to at Goodison Park.

As he listened to various team officials describe the club’s various to-do’s and exchanged terse text messages with Wayne Rooney, his mind remained untroubled. He responded promptly to Robin Van Persie’s Snapchat and read stories about his arrival with the careful eyes of a man who knows only alertness.

Moyes had already begun to shake off some old habits learned and fiercely memorized at Everton. He no longer began his day with finances. Now he ended with them, as a kind of vague treat to his long-suffering brow.

It was with a certain rush that Moyes opened that particular spreadsheet. For a moment, he could not allow his eyes to spoil the wonderful surprise and he forced himself to look anywhere else. When his gaze finally twisted its way back to the bright screen, he no longer suppressed his smile. Moyes swiftly folded his hands and laughed just a bit too hysterically.

————————————————————————————————————————-

Across the Atlantic, Mark Jackson unfolded his hands and stared across the Bay towards San Francisco. Like many men of his generation he yearned for everything on the horizon to be his. He knew that soon would it be. Lacob had guaranteed as much.

His hands comfortably returned to his suit pockets as he stood and all was at peace again. It was then that an uneven knock disturbed Mark Jackson’s concerns. He returned to his seat and called for whoever waited outside to please enter his office.

It was David Lee. Jackson asked him to sit and talk, and Lee obliged.

“So what’s going on, David?”

“Just wanted to talk about a couple of things, Coach.”

“Of course, anything!” Jackson belted back.

Lee glanced around the dark room and fiddled with the bobblehead of Andrew Bogut that rested on the edge of Jackson’s desk. Jackson pretended not to notice and waited for Lee to speak.

“I’ve been a little worried, Coach.”

“What’s troubling you, David?”

“Nothing, nothing.” David sighed and picked at his elbow. He was always picking at his elbow.

“I know you better than that.”

“Well, it’s just that, I’m worried I might not make it back this playoffs and I want to be part of this run—-“

Jackson held his hand up, palm open.

“David, you are a part of this team. Everybody feels you backing us and uses that energy, whether or not you play.”

“I’m just worried I won’t contribute. Worried I’m not doing enough.”

“You’re doing plenty. We all know you’re doing everything you can.”

Jackson put his hand on the bend of Lee’s shoulder.

“We’re doing this for you.”

Jackson rose and his hands drifted back to his pockets as he strode in circles. He hardly blinked as he spoke.

“You just worry about getting healthy, David. Maybe if we stay in this long enough, you can come back and help us out.”

“Like I did when I came back last series?” Lee laughed.

Jackson chuckled along with him.

“Well maybe more than that, David. Maybe more than that.”

A few minutes later when Lee had gone and left his fear behind, it settled into Jackson and he got to thinking about the curious case whispering itself into his striking ears.

Mark Jackson thought for quite a long time. He thought of David Lee’s resiliency, of his harsh rebounding and firm jumper, of how strongly he returned from a near death by elbow bite.  And finally, he thought of Monta Ellis.

Oh, Monta Ellis. Few names in this godly universe could inspire as much in the steady heart of Mark Jackson. He spoke it aloud now. He could not repeat the name without a rush of memories from his earlier days on the job accompanying its sound.

He thought of Monta’s jumper, his unblinking willingness to consume. A great consumer of possessions. That is what Mark Jackson thought of when he thought of Mont Ellis. He could not be counted on for everything, yes, but he could be counted to score. The only thing that ever changed was how many shots it would take to get there.

In the spring of 2012, Jackson and the rest of the Warriors’ management team made a choice when it came to the team and Ellis. It was a choice of extrication and painful amputation. Ellis had to leave for the body of the Warriors to grow and survive. And so Bob Myers and Joe Lacob and Mark Jackson and the rest made the grim choice to grow. Monta Ellis was traded to the Bucks for Andrew Bogut and Jackson had accepted the results with proper aplomb and quiet excitement. Something new was afoot, he felt.

And Jackson felt correctly. The course of the season and the burgeoning Warriors proved as much. The team ascended in new form and evolved into something greater with Coach Mark Jackson at the helm. Vibrancy ran in stride with Klay Thompson and Steph Curry as they changed the face of possibility with every dribble and shot.

He thought of all this only to circle the conclusion already existent somewhere within his furrowed brow. He had cut off a limb to save the Warriors’ body before and now he believed he must raise the dagger again.

He wrung his hands once more and wondered how many limbs the fates must decree to fall before the body may survive in a single form.

Jackson no longer contemplated David Lee. Now, he thought of the San Antonio Spurs and folded his hands again.

——————————————————————————————————————————————-

Somewhere far across the sea, David Moyes thought of all that could be his and unfolded his hands across the back of his neck. He leaned back and considered everything at the center of Old Trafford and the vast oblivion surrounding it. How things might change. How things might evolve.

Outside, it rained. And for now, Moyes was home.

Roy

Image: _Fidelio_:  Flickr

Roy didn’t watch the end of it, really. One never does. His eyes turned towards the basket as tragedy unfolded, of course, but none of what he saw breached the gap between sight and mind. The noise of the crowd struck into his heart all the same. And when the court and its inhabitants celebrated, the part of his soul invested in the last three hours of his life experienced a horrible death of realization.

He whispered something and Ian Mahinmi turned to him, their sweat meeting between chairs like shared tears.

“Well, fuck.” said Ian.

Roy turned away and shook his hand. His eyes rolled and he thought of all the other possibilities that could have occurred and never could now. In a million other alternative universes Roy was on the court and no one wondered why he remained sitting. The arena shook and cried and thousands of Heat fans left in the throes of mild depression. But no other world could exist for Roy now.

In the locker room he met with eager reporters and did his best to answer the same question with all the flavor of a hundred prepared answers.

“Why weren’t you out there on the last play?”

I don’t know.

“What did Coach Vogel say to you?”

He said I wouldn’t be out there.

“What did you think when he took you out?”

Well, I thought a lot of things. But I understood.

After the repetition of every thought said and unsaid, they allowed Roy’s departure. That night he gratefully slept with the television off and the clock ticking louder and more often than any standard clock ever should.

When he arrived at the Pacers’ facility the next morning, Frank smiled as he approached and took Roy aside, with a light back pat and particular strides.

“So how are you this morning?” Frank asked.

“Fine, just ready to get back at it. Had some pancakes this morning. That helped.”

Frank laughed a bit too loudly and continued.

“You get any sleep?””

“Enough. You?”

“Not much, Roy. Not much.” Frank scratched his head.

“We’ll get the next one.”

“We will.”

Both of the men believed their words and so Roy began to drift away.

“You’ll be in there next time, Roy.” Frank’s voice called firmly behind him.

Roy smiled and assured him that his trust remained in any case.

“I’ll make whatever play you need me to make, Coach.”

“I know you will,” Frank said.

And both men knew these things were true.

Soon the team reviewed the tape. Together resolves were made to save a season and all the rest of it. They were very much alive in this series, they said. They were very much alive.

Roy left at 6 and exited into the Miami wind. He felt the breeze belonged to him as he moved and his spirit calmed. In the distance a Florida state flag waved, and Roy’s mind waved back in rebellion. He spotted the bus that would take him back to the hotel in the distance.

He believed in this moment that he could glide through the world with a strength no other human possessed. A neutral observer might have agreed.

But in another day and another night, the world would change again. And that, well, that was the trouble.

Paroxysm At Gametime: The Talents Of Jae Crowder

Now three games into their Summer League journey, the Mavericks’ fledgling Summer League team has impressed and competed at every turn. Perhaps the biggest contributor to the team’s success has been the presence of second-round pick Jae Crowder. With Mavericks’ first-round pick Jared Cunningham injured, Crowder and fellow second-round pick Bernard James have come into primary focus. While James has displayed rebounding ability, Crowder has impressed with unrelenting defense and rapid lateral and vertical movement on the court.

But Crowder hasn’t solely contributed speed and energy. He’s also given the Mavericks a sense of defensive leadership and focus.

“That’s how I am every day. I’m even like that in practice, because I feel like that’s the way you get over good offensive players, like what we matched up against at this level. So you have to talk, you have to communicate on the defensive end,” Crowder said.

Crowder’s impact has begun on the defensive end for the Mavericks here at Summer League, and the same will likely be true when Crowder steps on the floor for the Mavericks this season. Crowder is one of the rare players who sees defense as something that isn’t only necessary, but igniting and paramount. Defensive impact is not something he has to attempt; it’s something he demands, something he seeks out and builds upon with enthusiasm. Crowder provides a shifting defensive force with the athletic ability and intimate knowledge to turn his will into effectiveness.

Crowder isn’t content to simply succeed on his own defensively. He wants to bring his team with him, and that begins with energy.

“That’s huge, because once you get guys to buy in on the defensive end, the offensive end is all natural. It’s about execution, but the defensive end has to be a mentality. You have to want to stop the other team, so once all the guys on the court are locked in like that, it’s tough to score on,” remarked Crowder.

Though few young players do a better job of energizing their teammates, Jae Crowder’s game is not without its limits. Crowder is undersized, and lacks for a clear NBA position. After officially signing a contract with the Mavericks today, it seems likely that Crowder will fit into this Mavericks’ team as a small forward, the position he’s primarily played during Summer League. Though it’s expected Shawn Marion will lead the depth chart and Vince Carter will also see minutes at small forward, Crowder should have a chance to carve out a niche role as someone who defends several positions and provides untapped energy for about ten minutes per game. Crowder may be slightly undersized for the position in terms of height, but he certainly doesn’t lack for the strength to fulfill any opportunity.

Another attribute Crowder brings to the Mavericks is the ability to make the correct basketball play quite often, especially in transition. But for Crowder, even passing begins with a defensive focus.

“It comes off defense. It’s all instinct, and it’s all about execution. So once we see we have an advantage on the offensive end, we try to take advantage of it in the best way possible. And that’s making the extra pass, or knocking down that shot,” Crowder told me.

The opportunities for a second-round pick are often limited, but Crowder has proven himself worthy of breaking into the Mavericks’ extended rotation. It’s a chance he’ll have this fall as the franchise attempts to bridge eras and integrate vastly new personnel into a temporary roster. With his own roster spot now appearing secured, Crowder stands to be part of that instrumental change.

Summer League Notebook, Day 2: Talking With Festus Ezeli, Jordan Hamilton, And Terrence Jones

Scott Leedy and I attended Day 2 of Las Vegas Summer League and talked with some of the day’s notable players. We decided to combine our three interviews to form a single ‘incredible’ post.

 

The first interview is by Connor Huchton

 

Festus Ezeli

Connor Huchton: You were matched up with Faried a few times out there – a lot of the time, actually – especially towards the end of the game. What’s your approach when you cover someone who’s a proven NBA player like that, someone who’s had a lot of success early on?

Festus Ezeli: “What’s my approach?”

CH: Yeah, what’s your approach?

Ezeli: “Well, I know he’s a very high energy player, and I just try to match his energy. I’m a high-motor player as well, and that’s just what it is – [he’s] a high-energy player, and I try to match it. He’s a terrific player. We’re happy, we played together as a team today and we got the win. We’re happy about that.”

CH: You talked about energy – (the Warriors) bench, every time anything happens, I think it’s the most excited bench I’ve seen out here.

Ezeli: “Yessir!”

CH: Why do you think that is?

Ezeli: “We are together. We had like, I would say it was a ‘hell week’ of practice, and I think we got closer during that period, because we just fought hard and competed. We all know how bad each other wants it, you know? And when we come out, we just try to support each other, whatever way you can help. If you’re on the bench, the way you can support is by clapping for your teammates, yelling, all that stuff to get them hyped and to get them to play the best. So, we just try to do the best to help each other out. That’s what we’re doing right now.”

CH: I think you surprised your defender a couple of times with the quickness you had getting to the basket….[Here I repeated “uh” about ten times.]

Ezeli: “You all right? [laughs]”

CH: Do you think your offensive game surprises people sometimes, how quick you are?

Ezeli: “Oh, my offense. Well yeah, I mean, I’ve been working on it a lot, so, it’s getting better. But that’s not what I’m here for. I’m here for defense, so I think people will get surprised to see that I have a little bit of an offensive game as well, but that’s not what I’m here for. I’m here to play defense.”

 

The following two interviews are by Scott Leedy

 

Jordan Hamilton

Scott Leedy: First game is over. How’d you feel about how you guys played?

Jordan Hamilton: Uh, I think we played alright in the first half, second half guys got a little fatigued. That’s something we’ve gotta fight through. The Warriors had their [first] game out the way. They had a pretty good one yesterday and I think they were rolling off of that. I think tomorrow it will be a much better game.

Leedy: Coming out of Texas you were obviously coveted for your shooting, what are some specific things you are focusing on to expand your game?

Hamilton: Just everything. Once I get in the lane making good decisions. [Hitting] small gaps, doing good things. Watching film on that. [Also] Keeping my emotions in check, not getting too excited out there, whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. Just playing the game.

Leedy: Coach Karl is pretty tough on rookies, what kinds of things is he looking for from you? What things does he want you to work on?

Hamilton: Just watch the older guys. Obviously we have a lot of veterans on our team, and guys that were good at that. That’s why I was in the position I was in. But this summer I’m gonna work hard and do everything I can to get on the court next year.

Leedy: What’s it like playing in an uptempo style with a great point guard like Ty Lawson?

Hamilton: He’s one of the fastest guards in the league, he pushes the tempo. He plays hard. Playing with a guy like that, he’s gonna definitely get you open shots. Playing off a guy like that is a great thing.

 

Terrence Jones

Scott Leedy: Playing for Kentucky teams that were so talented, you were often asked to sacrifice some personal success in order to help the team. How has that prepared you to contribute as a rookie right away?

Terrence Jones: I’m just trying to take my opportunities when I can. Jeremy had it going so we were going through him to try and bring us back. I just want to try to do all the little things to try and help us come back. We did a pretty good job, but it’s hard to win missing so many free throws, and having so many turnovers.

Leedy: Obviously you have a very versatile game, playing both inside and out. What are you focusing on specifically in summer league?

Jones: Try to get better and learn. This is a new experience for me, so I’m really just trying to improve.

Leedy: [Jones on playing with Terrence Ross growing up, and entering the league together.]

Jones: We’ve been playing together since 6th grade. That’s my brother. Just to go through this together is a great experience, and I’m always rooting for him.

A Brief Conversation With Draymond Green

The Warriors sailed to an easy victory on Friday night in Las Vegas, as the overmatched Lakers were thoroughly defeated by a score of 90-50.  An integral part of the Warriors’ overwhelming victory was the performance of the 35th pick in this year’s draft, Draymond Green. Green, a versatile player known for his ability to score, rebound, and pass with impressive skill and confidence, recorded nine points (4-8 FG), nine rebounds, and two assists in less than 23 minutes. Green’s primary focus appeared to be the creation of opportune chances for teammates, and after the game, I asked him about his unselfish play, his developing lefty hook, and more.

 

Connor Huchton: Early on in the game, you had a few passes to Harrison Barnes, a couple passes for assists, how did that help open up the rest of your game?

Draymond Green: It helped a lot. You know, I’m a guy who’d rather have an assist than score anyway. So to get that going, it kind of helped me open myself up as well and just start playing my game. The first few times I had open shots, I didn’t shoot them, and I came to the sideline, and coach was telling me to shoot the ball. But those passes definitely help open me up and help get him going a little more as well.

CH: You guys came out from the start and were dominating on offense and defense. Why do you think that is?

Green: Well one thing we really put emphasis on is defense, and our defense turned into offense. And to get seven straight stops at the beginning of the game, that kind of sets the tone, and along with that to be able to hit shots like we were hitting them as well. I think that kind of helped us build a lead and we had to maintain it, but we maintained our defensive intensity, and that’s what helped us get the lead we did and get the victory.

CH: Playing with scorers like Thompson and Barnes and all of those guys – How does that affect the way you play?

Green: Well it definitely affects the way I play, because I don’t have to score. I can do everything, and if I score, I score. You know, that definitely helps me out a lot, and that’s their job. That’s what they’re here for, to score the ball, so you know, if I got the ball, it’s my job to get it to them unless I got an open shot. And that’s what I want to do if that’s going to help our team win, and I always want to win, so that’s what I’m going to do.

CH: You hit that lefty hook in the fourth quarter. Is that something you’ve always had or is it something you’ve been working on?

Green: No, that’s something I’ve definitely worked on. I didn’t have it at all – it was awful.

CH: (laugh) It’s a tough shot.

Green: Going into pre-draft workouts, I knew I’d have to shoot some, so I’ve been working on it, working on it, and it’s getting better. It’s still not where I want it, but it’s getting there.

CH: How do you feel about the level of competition?

Green: It’s the NBA, regardless if it’s Summer League or not, it’s the NBA, so the level of competition is definitely there, and we’re just trying to get better each and every day.

 

Draymond Green’s Summer League journey will continue tomorrow at 3 P.M. PT, as the Warriors take on the Denver Nuggets. 

On The Deron Williams Saga

Fan and belief are two words so entwined that it’s often impossible to separate the former from the latter without completely losing a sense of reality. To be a fan is to believe or entrust in something, some idea or team or player or concept that grasps your attention and holds you long enough that running away becomes impossible.

NBA free agency is cyclically one of the greatest testaments to the notion and engrossing nature of belief and the fan, drifting through a gauntlet of disappointment and occasional triumph. The power of the name and the power of the star athlete are often at their greatest in the NBA, where few players possess the talent and determination to transcend and those few are presented so clearly and accessibly to any viewer. That accessibility and understanding provides a certain inflation of belief, belief that one of these athletically transcendent beings could choose my or our team, and fill legions of fans with a sense of hope that no longer emanates from a place of hollowness, that instead comes from someone tangible and impressive.

Two franchises entered the summer of 2012 facing the latest iteration of that annual grand sports opera. One was a franchise in odd limbo, having experienced massive success not long ago but still fresh off the bitter taste of a forgettable, confused season. The other franchise was one of desperation and movement, one whose recent past lacked credibility but whose pure force of will and boldness had pushed itself to a place of chance, boldness, and confident desperation. Both franchises locked in both fear and future concerns, determined to sign the prize of free agency and assuage any temporary fears.

And the player seemingly existed somewhere in the nebulous middle between the two conflicting powers, trying to make a choice likely frozen in his mind long ago.

The desperate, bold franchise, now known as the Brooklyn Nets and led by daring, oft-questioned GM Billy King, exuded nothing but a keen sense of necessity. The move that first brought the player, point guard Deron Williams, to Brooklyn was one that mortgaged the team’s future for a chance at an established star. After a year and a half of Williams toiling to sparse crowds in New Jersey, the team faced a high-profile move to Brooklyn and a star who could easily leave without hesitation. Change and addition were desperately needed, and so the Nets’ disparate journey for improvement at any cost began.

Here are the seemingly overpriced deals the Nets haphazardly soon made: Gerald Wallace for four years and $40 million and a trade that brought in Joe Johnson, a player famous for an excessive six-year contract totaling over $120 million. Both moves are quite flawed and bring aging (and likely declining) but very good players to the team. They’re additions that bring questions but also something concrete: The new Brooklyn Nets will be markedly better than the cellar-dwelling Nets that Deron Williams came to know in the past.

The other pursuer, a Mavericks’ franchise with significantly less cap space and far more patience, did not reciprocate the Nets’ push. The Mavericks did the same thing they have since the 2011 offseason: They waited for Deron Williams to make a choice. “Flexibility” has been the modus operandi of the franchise since the new CBA went into effect, and thus far, they’ve stuck to their intentions. The team’s new strategy likely means there won’t be many newfound Brendan Haywoods in the team’s future, but it also means there might not be any more Jason Terrys. Patience is typically wise, but assets often come at a steep price, especially in the NBA.

After much posturing and waiting, the team that made the questionable (but demonstrably shifting) moves carried the day, and the team with the best player involved in the saga (Dirk Nowitzki) but little else, lost. Deron Williams chose the Nets, and the tone of the future for both teams was set. Billy King, maligned for so long by many writers and fans, achieved perhaps his greatest success: Making the Nets relevant immediately upon their arrival in Brooklyn.

It’s almost difficult to make the argument that the Mavericks lost out in free agency when high-profile free agency is already such a losing game. The chances of signing Williams always appeared low and very much in the suit of the modern day media climate, filled with hype and chance but devoid of substantive optimism. The Mavericks had a chance to sign Deron Williams, but the aging franchise also understood the fickle nature of free agency. Sometimes having a concrete, successful organization and a star isn’t the most effective lure. The team now falls back to a host of plans dependent on other franchises and other players’ competing and occasionally assimilating plans. It’s a system often grounded in luck, no matter how much intelligence radiates from a given strategy.

The Mavericks move on to smaller, more temporary solutions, and the Nets will attempt larger, more grandiose improvement in the form of Dwight Howard or others. Reality has a way of changing ambition. Both franchises aimed to grow quickly, their strategies different but their goals the same. One worked, and one didn’t. Which strategy can claim superiority is impossible to judge, when chaos and predetermined factors play such sizable roles.

In An Alternate Universe, Scouts Break Down Each Team’s Free Agency: Part 1

I called some scouts from an alternate universe to get their impressions on this year’s busy free agency from a team-by-team perspective. Here are their thoughts, unedited (except by me), in Part 1 of 2 in the series.

 

The New Jersey Nets

“I don’t like what they did at all. After the plan to move to Brooklyn falls through because of the reappearance of the Cloverfield monster and the Deron signing doesn’t happen, they sign that kid Ilyasova to a max contract? Seemed like a reach to me, but who knows what that crazy Canadian owner of theirs is up to.”

The Los Angeles Lakers

“I don’t know, does the clone of Derek Fisher have anything left?”

The Charlotte Bobcats 

“They already won this offseason when they signed the man famous for his third eyebrow, Anthony Devis. But I also like the re-signing of Monta Ellis – just wish he would take more jumpers.”

Washington Wizards 

“You say team “on the rise”, I say, “possible destructive machine”. But we’ll see if Kwame Brown and Scottie Pippen can coexist.”

Toronto Raptors

“I don’t think signing Jamaal Magloire to a max deal is going to invigorate Canadian basketball to the extent the team seems to, but we’ll see. And you can’t be upset with the 3-year, $19 million contract for James Johnson.”

The New York Knicks 

“It’s been all downhill since the first Tracy McGrady championship. That doesn’t look like it’s about to change.”

Orlando Magic 

“Emeka Okafor can’t do it all on his own forever.”

Phoenix Suns

“Year after year, I can’t believe how much they’re willing to spend, and so efficiently. Kidd isn’t leaving anytime soon.”

Houston Rockets

“It bothers me how inactive they are when trading time comes around. They always have to end up signing everyone in free agency, except power forwards. Is Gas0l going to shift over? Because Thabeet is ready to claim the starting job.”

Milwaukee Bucks

“How they’re going to let Dirk Nowitzki, their constant low-post force, walk is beyond me. Sure, his shot is a little inconsistent and he shoots free throws like Steve Nash, but he has value.”

Los Angeles Clippers 

“Not surprised they still seem shell-shocked by the questionably enacted Lakers trade for Chris Paul. They still haven’t made any moves. Heck, maybe they’re still waiting for that one to go through the league office.”

New Orleans Hornets 

I love the pick of MKG in this draft, but I have to question a little bit how he fits on this team. How did signing Trevor Ariza to that big contract turn out? Terrific, is the answer I’m pretty sure we’d all agree on! That’s why confining MKG to a likely backup role gives me pause.

Dallas Mavericks 

“Hard to say any team did better than them. You get Williams, Howard, and Wallace, all in one year? Unbelievable, just unbelievable.”

Minnesota Timberwolves

“I don’t think anyone expected Rubio to become the efficient scorer he instantly was when he made the NBA leap. Just mind-boggling, but his passing still needs a lot of work. Think he plays a little too much like Russell Westbrook for my liking, but hey, that style is also working out pretty well for O.J. Mayo in Oklahoma City.

Portland Trail Blazers

The face of the franchise was re-signed. It’s difficult to find a Blazer fan who isn’t overjoyed about the prospect of a Raymond Felton-led decade.”

 

Podcast Paroxysm: Saying Goodbye To Heat-Celtics And Looking Forward To Heat-Thunder

In this edition of Podcast Paroxysm, I’m joined by Matt Moore, Jared Dubin, Sean Highkin, and Conrad Kaczmarek to discuss the conclusion of a thrilling Eastern Conference Finals and what to expect when a monumental NBA Finals’ series begins on Tuesday between the Thunder and the Heat. Click on the podcast player below to listen.

The Unofficial Official Hardwood Paroxysm 2012 Mock Draft: Part 1

This is Part 1 of a three-part series in which Jared Dubin, Conrad Kaczmarek, and I discuss each pick in the 2012 draft and which players each team should consider. Today, we debate the first ten picks of the draft, and try to convince you that we know what we’re talking about anymore than anyone else. 

 

1. Anthony Davis, PF, Kentucky – New Orleans Hornets

Connor Huchton: Ok, let’s get this rolling. I think the Hornets should draft Anthony Davis with the first pick and never look back. Any objections?

Conrad Kaczmarek: Trade the pick to Cleveland for Semih Erden.

Jared Dubin: Trade the pick to the Knicks for Toney Douglas.

Connor: Trade the pick to the Charlotte Bobcats for a guest appearance in a Hanes commercial. There, that settles it.

 

2. Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas – Charlotte Bobcats

Jared: Second pick: The Bobcats should draft Thomas Robinson. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist isn’t the kind of player you take if you’re in the Bobcats’ position. He’s not a great shooter or offensive player other than in transition, and his real contributions will come through defense, rebounding and leadership. He’s a good player, but he’s not right for Charlotte. With Robinson, you stick him in the post, let him draw double teams and go from there. He’ll improve their rebounding and by all accounts he’s a great kid.

Conrad: I can agree with this. I also think it’s the most likely thing to happen.

Jared: I think Jordan might fall in love with Brad Beal. A smooth-shooting, efficient two-guard who can rebound and take it to the basket? You’d have to think Michael would be intrigued. I can really see them going either way. I can also see them taking a risk on Andre Drummond, though the Adam Morrison debacle may scare them away from that.

Conrad: Isn’t Rich Cho the GM?

Connor: I’d like to disagree with you, Jared, but I can’t. My instinct right now is to say the the Bobcats should draft Robinson, because after Davis, I don’t think there’s a more ‘sure’ good player in this draft. Robinson is an incredible defensive rebounder (he had a better rate than Kevin Love did in college), a skill that almost always translates to the NBA. He’s also capable of being an outstanding defender in the NBA, and proved himself time and time again in that area in college. His offensive game is limited, and will likely never be elite in the NBA, but he has enough fundamentals to become a decent to very good offensive player. His ceiling might be lower than someone like Andre Drummond, but he’s far more likely to reach “good starter” status than Drummond is. The Bobcats need a player who can make a big impact but also has low ‘bust potential’, and Robinson fits that bill better than any other player (that’s not Anthony Davis) in this draft.

The fit is the only issue, as the Bobcats already drafted the still-young, still-learning Bismack Biyombo in the lottery last year. Biyombo equipped himself perfectly admirably as the youngest player in the NBA on an historically terrible team, showing frequent flashes of help defense greatness, blocking shots at one of the highest rates in the league and displaying good footwork, and was even better than I expected on offense (though he was still below-average in that area, and he certainly has a lot of room to grow when posting up). Biyombo was perhaps the sole bright spot on the Bobcats, but some question exists as to whether he’s a power forward or center. Paul Silas thought the latter was the case, but I’m more inclined to think Biyombo will be a center if he manages to gain strength. He’s much better offensively when playing center, and while he’s worse in isolation defense there (again: needs to add strength), he’s also able to make much more of an impact in help defense as a center, putting his considerable athleticism to use.

Of course, the Bobcats might very well not choose to select Robinson. I doubt they take Drummond, who certainly isn’t a sure thing and mirrors Biyombo in some ways. But they could choose Beal, a decent fit given his offensive prowess and variety of scoring skills (the Bobcats’ offense needs help, first and foremost), and they could even select Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, though he’s probably the worst fit of the players listed due to his unrefined offensive game and need to be in a very fast-paced attack. (See: John Wall’s Wizards)

Conrad: Who are we deciding on? I think it’s either Robinson, Drummond, or Beal. In that order.

Jared: It seems like we all think Robinson should be the pick but allow for the possibility that the Bobcats do something else because they’re the Bobcats. So… Robinson?

Conrad: Yeah, Robinson.

 

3. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky – Washington Wizards

Conrad: Now…Wizards? My first thought is Beal, but MKG is right there as well. Ultimately, Beal probably makes more sense because the Wizards have Singleton and Vesely at SF. Beal stretches the floor well with Wall. It makes too much sense.

Jared: JOHN WALL BRAD BEAL JOHN WALL BRAD BEAL JOHN WALL BRAD BEAL JOHN WALL BRAD BEAL

Connor: I suppose we can agree on Beal and move on, though I think MKG is a possibility. He might make sense in transition with John Wall.

Jared: MKG does makes a lot of sense in Washington, but they badly need someone to draw defenders out of the lane and away from their Wall-Nene P&Rs. MKG is a good fit. Beal is a great fit.

Conrad: Okay, so Beal or MKG. Who we got?

Connor: Hmm. I think they ultimately take MKG. It just seems like a Wizards-y pick, and it makes just enough sense, fit-wise, to justify going with the BPA (best player available), which is presumably MKG.

Conrad: I think he’s probably BPA, but not by much. Which means the better fit is enough to push them to Beal. But I honestly don’t know.

Connor: So I say they’ll take MKG and Conrad says toss-up. Jared, it’s up to you to sort-of decide.

Jared: I want them to take Brad Beal, but I agree that MKG is probably the superior player even if the fit isn’t as perfect, so we’re giving them MKG.

 

4. Bradley Beal, SG, Florida – Cleveland Cavaliers

Conrad: Beal to the Cavs and they don’t think twice about it.

Connor: Yep, this one is definitely Beal to the Cavs. Best fit, and he’s easily the best choice available at this point. I feel like these four guys are the clear top tier and then there’s everyone else.

Jared: It does seem that way, but depending on who the Bobcats take at 2 I think Drummond or Barnes could sneak into the top 4. If Charlotte takes MKG or Beal, one of them may not be there for the Cavs, who can really use a wing, and we don’t know who they’ll take.

Connor: Good point. Barnes to the Cavs is a real possibility if Beal and MKG go second and third

Conrad:  We’re all gonna be shocked (kind of?) when Charlotte takes Drummond at #2.

 

5. Andre Drummond, Center, Connecticut – Sacramento Kings 

Connor: So, the Kings?

Conrad: Here it’s either Drummond or Barnes to the Kings. I’m leaning towards Drummond.

Jared: I’m there with you on the Kings probably taking Drummond. Seems to be a good fit next to Boogie Cousins because he doesn’t have to worry about offense and can just try to rebound and defend. Though maybe the Kings are sold on the Cousins-Jason Thompson front court and they take Barnes?

Conrad:  Yeah, there are reasons for them to take either. But we’ve gotta decide on one. My vote is Drummond, I guess.

Jared: I’ll say Drummond because I don’t think he’s going to fulfill all that promise he has and that means the Kings probably do.

Connor: Jason Thompson was really great down the stretch for the Kings last year, so them passing on taking a big is definitely a possibility. But what Kings’ fans will tell you is that Cousins was more of a center as time progressed. That’s one thing that could throw a wrench in the Drummond pick.

Jared: So….are we settled on Drummond or Barnes here? Seems like we all think it could go either way, that Barnes is better and Drummond may crowd up their front court, but that they’re the Kings and they’ll fall in love with Drummond’s potential?

Connor: Yeah. They’ll probably choose Drummond and hope size conquers all. It would help if we knew what position Tyreke Evans should play.

Conrad: Okay, Andre the Giant it is.

 

6. Damian Lillard, PG, Weber State – Portland Trail Blazers

Jared: If Drummond is gone, Portland is in a weird position here. Their biggest needs are PG and C, but it’s probably too early for Damian Lillard, Kendall Marshall, Tyler Zeller or Meyers Leonard at this spot. Maybe they take Barnes and try to parlay Nic Batum (who they really seem to like but might not want to pay $7-8 million a year) into a PG or C – whichever they don’t get at 11? Or maybe they do take one of those 4 guys at 6. I’m not sure.

Conrad: I think we’ll see our first “whoa” moment of the draft here. I think Portland pulls the trigger on Lillard.

Jared: I think Lillard is probably more likely than Marshall who makes a staggering leap up from his projected position on draft day, but I’m not sure Marshall isn’t a better fit for Portland. It’s not like they badly need another scorer; they need someone who can organize their offense and find LaMarcus Aldridge, Wes Mathews and Nic Batum in the right spots, don’t they? Or am I being blinded by my “Kendall Marshall, Future Point God” stance? Either way, if Drummond is gone, this will be the pick where there’s either a trade or everyone is confused as to why the guy who went just got picked so high.

Connor: I could see them trading up, which would change the whole thing, but for now, I’ll say Lillard is the pick. He has a more diverse game, which makes taking him easier to justify with the sixth pick.

 

 7. Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina – Golden State Warriors

Conrad: Warriors at 7. I think it’s PJ3 or Sullinger here. Then again, Barnes is still here.

Jared: I know they’re supposedly into Sullinger, but I like Barnes here. The Warriors will probably be losing one or two of their shooters to free agency this off-season, and Barnes can take some of the scoring pressure off Stephen Curry. Plus, a shooter like Barnes getting catch-and-shoot opportunities off Andrew Bogut post-ups sounds pretty ideal.

Connor: I think it’s Barnes. They need a small forward scorer, especially given Dorell Wright’s struggles last season, and he could be a nice complement. Stephen Curry is a good enough creator and shooter-finder to help Barnes succeed. A Curry-Thompson-Barnes-Lee-Bogut lineup could be pretty devastating in a year or two. 

 

8. Jeremy Lamb, SG, Connecticut – Toronto Raptors

Jared: The Raptors are at 8. I have no idea who this pick is.

Connor: I think they need a wing. Thoughts?

Jared: Is Perry Jones III a fit? Or is he more of a PF in the NBA? Maybe they still take him and look to trade Bargnani. Or maybe they go with someone like Austin Rivers or Jeremy Lamb. Terrence Jones, even. I have NO idea.

Connor: Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones III seem like the main possibilities. I think Lamb makes more sense for them; they can play him next to DeRozan pretty easily and also create a nice balance of skills as well. And Lamb seems to be rising up boards a little bit.

Conrad: Yeah, Jeremy Lamb is the pick here.

 

9. John Henson, PF, North Carolina – Detroit Pistons

Conrad: Henson at 9 to Detroit.

Jared: I like Henson for Detroit.

Connor: Agreed. A Monroe-Henson pairing makes too much sense not to happen.

 

10. Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina – New Orleans Hornets

Conrad: PJ3 (Perry Jones III) to New Orleans?

Jared: I think New Orleans goes with a PG though. Marshall could really make Davis’ transition easier on offense.

Conrad: I think Jarrett Jack is plenty good, no reason to reach for Marshall. Sullinger is also an option here if they want to try to replace David West. Davis also lets them cover up most of Sullinger’s defensive shortcomings.

Jared: Yeah, they can go a lot of different directions here. If they’re going PF, I like Jones over Sully. If its a guard, Marshall. Jack is solid, but he’s not a long-term solution.

Conrad: I don’t think PJ3 is a PF in the NBA, truthfully.

Jared: I can see NOH going with any of those three that we’ve mentioned in this spot. They’ve been connected to a PG so far, but if they think they can get by with Jack, they’ll go PF.

Connor: I think they’ll take Marshall to pair with Davis, but I really have no idea. Jarrett Jack probably isn’t the long-term plan, so I think they’ll take Marshall to groom behind Jack.

Jared: I like Marshall. Jack’s fine, but he’s not a long-term solution. And Marshall’s a safer bet than PJ3, who you mat not want around Davis… get the hard worker and consummate professional, and the guy who will help AD so much on offense.

 

Part 2, with picks 11-20, will arrive in this blog space soon. 

The Lottery And The Bobcats: Powerful, Seismic Luck

Few things numb a fan more quickly than the acceptance of failure. When repetition takes its hold and the reality of inability sets in, the 30-point deficits and crushing losses to the Nets start to lose any value, even in the form of pain or sadness. They just happen, and the waiting begins. The waiting for something better, something that might mean hope or at least the return of proximity and fan anguish. That’s better than the alternative of nothingness. Bobcats’ fans have absorbed this numbness over the last eight months to an excessive level. They’ve faced the challenges of numbness, and for the most part, they’ve waited for tonight.

Unfortunately, tonight is not guaranteed to be a triumph for the Bobcats’ organization anymore than the preceding months. The Bobcats have a measly 25% likelihood of getting the first pick and a chance at the only expected superstar in this draft, Anthony Davis. The Bobcats have the same chance of earning the right to draft Anthony Davis as a coin does of landing on heads twice consecutively. Those aren’t great odds at righting the course of the franchise and pushing the team back in the right direction towards 2015/2016 contention, but the Bobcats have a plan. They’ve shed bad contracts (though Tyrus Thomas and  Corey Maggette remain) and focused on building around young players, beginning with Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo, and are poised to be in position to add players that fit with the younger, still learning core the team has assembled. Logic and hope dictate that things can only get better for a team coming off the worst season in basketball history, especially one with a savvy GM like Rich Cho at the helm.

So what Bobcats’ fans remain will watch and hope on Wednesday night, as ping pong balls determine the future of the fallen franchise. All is not lost if the Bobcats don’t get the first pick, of course. This draft contains strong talents from Bradley Beal to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist that could certainly serve as acceptable, franchise-improving alternatives to Davis. But while few draftees wouldn’t make the Bobcats a better team, only one would likely offer them the chance to truly build towards something greater. That player is Anthony Davis, a player who has been compared to everyone from Marcus Camby to Kevin Garnett. If the Bobcats are the last team called on Wednesday night, they’ll get the chance to find out if Davis can live up to his prescribed billing. If not, well, there’s always next year. That 25% chance doesn’t leave easily.