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Tom Blaz – FantasySP Blog

NBA Mock: Its a wrap

 

 

Did anyone else watch the NBA combine? I caught what I could on Thursday and Friday, then watched over the weekend to catch up what  I had misssed. We know the names at the top, only await the order they are ultimately selected. With many top players opting out of Chicago, we had a chance to focus on mid first and second round talent. While the draft lacks elite depth at the top, quality role players will be available well into round two.

We wrap up our first mock with picks 21 through 30.

21. The Portland Trail Blazers managed to steal Gerald Wallace from Charlotte and parlay payment until the 2013 draft. Injuries stand in the way of the Blazers taking the next step. They found gold in Wes Matthews, which allows Brandon Roy to contribute on a part time basis. The acquisition of Wallace and the arrival of LeMarcus Aldridge as an elite post, gives Portland as good a forward tandem as any in the Association. Solid at the two, three and four allows the Blazers to run with Andre Miller and youngsters at the point. Center is where the problem exists and doesn’t appear to be getting any better. Does Portland pony up again for Greg Oden? It seems unfair that one franchise is having to suffer through a repeat of one of the worst draft decisions in NBA hisory. Similarities of Oden/Durant and Bowie/Jordan are unsettling. Blazers go with a big body in Maryland’s Jordan Williams. Williams total package is a project, but rebounding can translate quickly to the next level. If Oden is healthy, Williams could learn with Marcus Camby as part of rotation.

22. The Denver Nuggets will receive draft pick compensation from the New York Knicks in 2012 and 2013 drafts as partial payment in the Carmelo Anthony deal. Denver already added a handful of young role players in the Carmelo deal and arguably are the deepest team in the West outside of Dallas. The Nuggets needs depend on status of JR Smith, Kenyon Martin and Nene, all of whom have been mentioned in trade talks. Perimeter appears to be the greatest area of strength, with Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler and Dino Gallinari providing healthy depth. Denver has some big bodies, including another piece of the Melo trade, Russian center Timofey Mozgov.  Tennessee combo forward Tobias Harris would be a nice piece to add to existing personnel and help cover any potential departures. Harris will need to improve defense and rebounding, but should create some akward matchups for opponents.

23. The Houston Rockets have the luxury of a pair of selections in the first round.  The second of two 1st rounders comes from Orlando via Phoenix in the Aaron Brooks trade. The Rockets appear to be moving towards a Kevin McHale hire in advance of next month’s draft. McHale’s magic may be needed to get Yao Ming back on the court and help with the development of draft deadline acquisition Hasheem Thabeet. Kyle Lowry’s continued emergence and ability to co-exist with super shooter Kevin Martin, made the trade of Brooks more palatable. The Rockets have loaded up with a variety of effective role players on the perimeter in Courtney Lee, Terrence Williams and Chase Budinger. Young power forwards Patrick Patterson and Jordan Hill have the potential, its still believed they will develop. What direction will Houston go? Brooks departure might necessitate the addition of a point guard like Michigan’s Darius Morris. The 6’4″ Morris saw his game really develop in his sophomore season, increasing his scoring average by more than ten points per game. Morris could  push Goran Dragic as Lowrey’s backup.

24. The Oklahoma City Thunder have been the poster child of patience in building through the draft. Slowly, pieces like Durant, Westbrook, Harden and Ibaka have been added while sticking with the plan. Eric Maynor is as solid a backup as there is in the West, while the addition of Kendrick Perkins has fortified the post in a big way. If any weakness has been exposed this post season, its scoring options off the bench on the perimeter. Harden comes off the bench for now, but he figures to be pushing to start by next season. The Thunder would be well served with a regional selection like Texas swingman Jordan Hamilton. Very versatile, with an NBA ready body, Hamilton possesses a big upside.  Adding Hamilton to the rotation of Harden, Durant and Thabo Sefolosha would prove to be a nightmare for opponents.

25. Where do the Boston Celtics begin? Do they have another run left? Danny Ainge has begun the process by retaining head coach Doc Rivers long term, certainly through the transition, whenever  that begins. Outside of Rajon Rondo, the Celts traded their most marketable piece, when Perkins was shipped to Oklahoma City. The Big Three figure to remain with the Celtics until retirement, they make too much to trade and probably prefer to go down fighting in Boston green. Delonte West, Jermaine O’Neal, Jeff Green and Nenad Kristic figure to be the main parts in support of one more run. What is there to build on? Green and Rondo for starters, Rondo securing a place in Boston lore by battling through painful injury in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Many critics have pointed to the Perkins departure as the Celtics downfall, while this certianly had an impact, Green is a big piece now and in the future. Guard Avery Bradley is the other key to the next generation. Bradley was rated the #1 player coming out of high school (USA Today) two years ago, yes, ahead of John Wall. The new big three (Green, Rondo and Bradley) are going to need scoring help and we like UCLA swingman Tyler Honeycutt. Honeycutt developed an excellent mid range game during his second season in Westwood and is also a capable defender.

26. The Dallas Mavericks have a lethal combination of experience and considerable depth. With the exception of 38 year old point guard Jason Kidd, the nucleus appears poised for several more runs. Kansas guard Josh Shelby might be a nice fit as an eventual successor to Kidd. Shelby is more of a combo guard, like Jason Terry, but could benefit from learning from one of the all time great points. Mark Cuban loves Jose Barea and Rodrigue Beaubois off the bench, so Shelby would not be rushed into action and could learn getting beat up in practice. Shelby was thought by some to be the equivalent of Kyrie Irving coming out of high school, so at #26 the gamble is well worth  it. Dallas has incredible depth in the front court. The return of Caron Butler from injury will be huge, but retaining free agent to be Tyson Chandler is a must.

27. Was the New Jersey Nets trade for Deron Williams worth it? Derrick Favors is going to be an NBA superstar some day soon and now the draft pick traded to Utah along with Favors to get Williams is #3 overall, thanks to the lottery. Its an understatement to say that re-signing Williams is the biggest priority in franchise history. The Nets do have a number one pick, courtesy of a salary dump by the Lakers as part of a three team deal. What direction does New Jersey go? I am not kidding when I say ask Deron who he wants. Devin Harris (and Golden State’s #1 next year) accompanied Favors to Denver in the trade. Harris’ loss in minimal when Williams re-signs. Replacing Favors and the #3 overall pick with the #27 selection is going to be a challenge. The roster is bare, with only center Brook Lopez considered a “star” player. New Jersey is going to need a wing who can score, such as Florida’s Chandler Parsons. Reviews of Parsons vary, I see him potentially with a game much like Danilo Galinari. Fortunately for the Nets, they have a new arena soon, and cap room to explore free agency.

29. The San Antonio Spurs situation is much like that of the Boston Celtics. The difference? I believe San Antonio has already reached the point of no return (no return to the championship). Manu Ginobili and  especially Tim Duncan are quickly approaching the end. As we saw with this year’s edition of the Spurs, its must easier to win in the regular season than it is in a focused, high pressure playoff series. The Spurs need to rebuild now, with their only high market chip guard Tony Parker. Parker has gone as far to say the Spurs are done as we used to know them. Duncan will probably retire a Spur while Ginobili’s market value is negligible, due to age. Parker might be well suited for a team that is a solid point guard away, like Portland. Bottom line, Parker needs to be traded soon, preferably before the draft. At the end of the 2011 first round, the Spurs need to take the best player available. Richmond big man Justin Harper may be good value at this spot. A tall (6’10”) forward, Harper has great range and has flexibility, but is probably best suited for the three, at least early on in his career.

The Chicago Bulls have a pair of picks at the end of the 1st round (#28 and #30) so we are grouping them together. The second choice comes from Toronto in the James Johnson trade. It was originally owned by Miami, but was sent to Canada as part of the payment for Chris Bosh. We suggest that Chicago take guards with each of the selections. Chicago is a bully up front, led by Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson. Omer Asik, an extremely active seven footer has emerged giving the Bulls of myriad of options in the paint. Every team has a weakness and Chicago is no exception. The Bulls need a scorer to take some pressure off Derek Rose and additional talent on the perimeter. CJ Watson is a capable backup when Rose needs an occasional breather, but an upgrade is in order for Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer. We like a pair of combo guards, Duke’s Nolan Smith and Butler’s Shelvin Mack. Smith has the obvious Duke pedigree and has stepped in as a starter at both point and shooting guard as needed. Mack has been tested on the biggest of stages and would provide the instant scoring the Bulls desperately need.

The NBA draft will take place June 23rd at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

NBA Mock Draft (11-20)

 

 

We continue our NBA mock draft with a look at picks eleven through twenty.

11. The Golden State Warriors are well equiptted to score the basketball, that’s not in question. Last year, Golden State addresseda huge need signing super rebounder David Lee in free agency. Texas post man Trista Thompson would ease some of the responsibilities Lee has taken on tthe boards. Thompson is 6’9″ 225, but plays big, due in large part to his 7’0″+ wing span. Strictly a center for the Longhorns, Thompson will be limited  to the four or five spot at the next level. Thompson lacks a face up game and has very limited range. Ideally, the Warriors will hire a head coach before the draft.

12. If there is a perfect fit in the 2011 NBA draft, it has to be the Utah Jazz and Brigham Young point guard Jimmer Fredette. The twelve spot seems on target and the Jazz have a big need for a scoring guard with range. What better drawing card for Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City than “Jimmer”. Utah was extremely lucky to jump up to tthe third spot with the pick they acquired from New Jersey in the Deron Williams trade. We projected one time Kentucky big man Enes Kanter with that selection, to run alongside super young forwards Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors. Point Devin Harris lends experience to orchestra the youngsters, if, he can stay healthy.

13. The Phoenix Suns never recovered from the loss of inside presence Amare Stoudamire last season. Phoenix failed miserably with an experiment with Hedu Torkoglu at power forward. The Suns did salvage things, moving Hedu back to Orlando in a package deal that included center Marcin Gortat. Point guard Aaron Brooks arrived in a deal at the deadline to spell Steve Nash. Jared Dudley emerged among a group of servicable wing players. While he’ll never have Amare’s offensive game, Bismark Biyombo, brings back the athleticism and then some. The super athletic big man from the Congo checks in at 6’9″ 250 with a shocking 7’7″ wingspan! Biyombo’s build and explosivemess reminds me of Shawn Kemp. The Suns need big time help and this gamble could pay off.

14. In the first of two first round selections, the Houston Rockets need to go big. In the middle, two major question marks exist in Yao Ming and Hasheem Thabeet. Kyle Lowry and Goran Drajic can handle the point. Houston has a nice combination of players on the wing in Kevin Martin, Courtney Lee, Terrence Williams and Chase Budinger. Jordan Hill and Patrick Patterson, two recent number one picks appear to be more role player than impact in nature. The Rockets choose from Kansas combo forward Marcus Morris. Morris has a nice all-around balanced game, akin to a poor mans Derrick Williams.

15. The Indiana Pacers are in dire need off a shooting guard, preferably one with the shooting range of General Manager Larry Bird. Washington State guard Klay Thompson could be that man. Thompson has two-guard prototype size, 6’6″ 200, and is the best pure shooter in the draft. Thompson works hard off the ball and could be utilized much like Ray Allen off picks and screens. The Pacers have settled in with Darren Collison at the point, spelled by  TJ Ford. Danny Granger, the most underrated player in the NBA mans the three, with Paul George and Mike Dunleavy excellent options. Indiana really made strides in the paint, with center Roy Hibbert along with power forwards Tyler Hansbrough and Josh McRoberts taking their games to the next level.

16. The Philadelphia 76ers have assembled some of the most athletic, exciting perimeter players in the Association. Philly is well stocked at the point with Jrue Holiday and Louis Williams. Andre Iguodola, Thaddues Young and Evan Turner are the most explosive wings in the Eastern Conference north of Miami. While the Sixers win battles on the perimeter, its inside the pain where they are losing the war. Philly needs someone to defend the paint and more importantly rebound. How about Morehead State power man Kenneth Faried? Faried plays bigger than his size, 6’8″ 225, impressively leading the Ohio Valley Conference in rebounding, blocks and steals. Elton Brand is doing his best, but a catastrophic injury and a nightmarish contract have been a negative. Head Coach Doug Collins believes center Spencer Hawes has room to go and wants to bring him back next season.

17. No team in the Association has more roster spots to fill than the New York Knicks. In order to land Carmelo Anthony, New York had to send all its young quality depth to the mile high city. The Knicks remain a work in progress, Melo is on board, joining  Amare Stoudamire and both sides want Chauncey Billups to re-up in the big apple. Amare needs help in the paint ASAP and New York would be best served taking a power player like Markeiff Morris of Kansas. Markieff is a more powerful, athletic player than twin brother Marcus, but his offensive skill set is not ready for prime time. Retaining Billups is a must, as shooting guard Landry Fields and sixth man Toney Douglas are more effective in support roles.

18. The Washington Wizards have a second 1st round pick, courtesy of the Atlanta Hawks as part of the Kirk Hinrich trade. With the number six pick, we projected San Diego State forward Kawhi Leonard. The  need is such that another forward, Florida State’s Chris Singleton, also makes sense for the Wiz. A 6’9″ defensive specialist, Singleton projects as a shutdown combo forward at the next level.  If Washington retains Nick Young, they will maintain a nice rotation with John Wall and Jordan Crawford. The Wizards have five recent first round picks in the post, but look for them to move Aundray Blatche. Rumors persist he may be  headed to Minnesota with picks for the #2 overall pick.

19. The Charlotte Hornets also have a second 1st round pick, partial payment for the inexplicable trade of small forward Gerald Wallace to  Portland. Over the course of six months, General Manager Michael Jordan parted ways with a pair of defensive specialists, center Tyson Chandler, and Wallace without getting anything substantial  in return. With their own pick earlier, we projected Euro big man Donatas Motiejunas. Charlotte needs to build inside out and draft Georgia forward Trey Thompkins at number 19. MJ has shown an interest in drafting local talent in the past, like Duke guard Gerald Henderson. Thompkins is limited to power forward, lacking the mobility to play the three and too small to man the middle

20. The Minnesota Timberwolves have an extra selection as part of a three team trade sending Al Jefferson to Utah.  The T-Wolves are making alot of trade noise and either first round pick may be involved in a deal. The latest rumor with Indiana small forward Danny Granger heading North. Should Minnesota retain the pick, a big man is in order. We like Purdue power forward JaJuan Johnson. Johnson is 6’10” and athletic enough to play either forward slot. Johnson is a rare four year college star, while mature, probably has a limited upside.

Tomorrow, we wrap up our first round mock, with a look at picks 21-30.

NBA Mock Draft top 10

 

 

The focus of the NBA world will be on Chicago this week, not just because of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Bulls and the Miami Heat, but the combine as well. The best of the best will be showing their stuff for scouts and front office execs over the next three days in the windy city.

Did you watch the NBA draft lottery last night? It’s must-see TV in my household.

I had high hopes that my hometown Washington Wizards would strike in back to back years, but unfortunately, they fell back (two spots) in the pecking order. Dreams of Derrick Williams and John Wall becoming the next Westbrook/Durant combo, gone…..

Of note, two of the top three picks coming via trade deadline deals. Cleveland’s acquisition of Baron Davis also brought with it the #1 overall pick from the Clippers. New Jersey landed Deron Williams, but Utah was rewarded with the #3 overall selection. Was it a fix? Minnesota’s front office certainly thinks so.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been identifying some of the top prospects, now we project landing spots with our first mock.  We begin with picks one through ten.

1. Cleveland (from L.A. Clippers) Derek Williams SF Arizona 6’9″ 240

Most if not all mocks project Kyrie Irving here, not so fast my friend! Williams will emerge the best of the class and do so right away. The Cavaliers need a small forward to help fans forget you know who and can get a guard at #4. Williams can play either the three or four and would provide a nice rotation with Michael Beasley and Kevin Love.
2. Minnesota Kyrie Irving PG Duke 6’2″ 180

Will the Timberwolves every find their point guard? Minnesota selected THREE of them in the first round of the 2009 draft, but only one is on the T-Wolves roster. Syracuse point Jonny Flynn was taken #6 overall, immediately following Ricky Rubio who remains in Europe. Don’t feel sorry for them as they absolutely stole that pick from the Wizards for a one year rental of Mike Miller and Randy Foye. UNC’s Ty Lawson was taken #18, but immediately traded to Denver.  Forward Martell Webster ended up the eventual payment for Lawson.
3. Utah (from New Jersey) Enes Kanter C Kentucky 6’11” 260

The Jazz could go several directions here. Point guard Devin Harris turns 29 next season, but its too early to take local favorite Jimmer Fredette. Utah is set for years to come at forward with Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors. Little trivia for you, the Hayward pick (#9 overall/2010) came to the Jazz along with Tom Gugliotta from Phoenix way back in 2004. Kanter is the top center in the draft and according to scouts, would have been #1 overall had he played for Kentucky this season.
4. Cleveland Brandon Knight G Kentucky 6’3″ 185

If I am Cleveland’s GM, I am much happier with Williams and Knight, than I would be with Irving and whoever. When in doubt take a John Calipari point guard. The last two weren’t too bad (Derek Rose and John Wall). Are the Clippers going to pretend that they are still happy giving up this pick (and Baron Davis) for Mo Williams. Sure the Clippers wanted to clear Baron from their books, but the price steeper than they hoped and expected. Knight and Williams will sell tickets and may develop into Oklahoma City east.
5. Toronto Jonas Valanciunas C Lithiuania 6’11” 240

What would an NBA draft be without the Raptors taking a Euro? Toronto has its highlight reel slasher in DeMar DeRozan and a couple of nice finesse bigs in Ed Davis and Andrea Bargnani. There is still hope that Jerryd Bayless can develop into a serviceable starting point guard. So the Raptors go big, again. Valanciunas is only 19 years old and is expected to eventually be a 7+ footer. Similar to Bargnani, without the shooting range, but oustide of Dirk, what 7 footer does?
6. Washington Kawhi Leonard F San Diego State 6’7″ 225

Williams would have been the perfect fit in Washington, but the Wizards lottery luck from a year ago didn’t continue. Lottery rep John Wall made it be known that fellow Wildcat Kanter was his choice. The Wiz were fortunate to land Wall a year ago, helping fans forget the abortion known as the 2009 draft. In addition to Wall, the backcourt has depth, Jordan Crawford surprised after the deadline deal and restricted free agent Nick Young has developed into a fine scorer. Five recent first round picks man the post which remains unsettled, but not a disaster area of need. Small forward is that disaster area. Rashard Lewis will be a nice expiring contract at some point, but there is a definite need, now, and we like Leonard. Perimeter shooting is his lone weakness, but Kawhi has made strides, shooting him up draft boards, including ours.
7. Sacramento Kemba Walker G Connecticut 6’0″ 170

The Kings have made no secret their love affair for Walker. Point guard turned Mayor Kevin Johnson knows a draw like Kemba could go a long way towards building the new arena necessary to keep the franchise in the state capital.  Sacamento address inside in a big way a year ago with DeMarcus Cousins. Overachieving Ben Udrih has manned the point alongside  mercurial Tyreke Evans, but help is needed immediately in the backcourt. Walker would take some of the heat off of Evans and would create a nice mix as both can handle, create and score.
8. Detroit Jan Vesely F Czech Republic 6’11” 240

Rodney Stuckey is the face of the Pistons and orchestrates a blend of veterans on the perimeter. Tayshaun Prince may have played his last game in the motor city, but Ben Gordon, Richard Hamilton and surprisingly Tracy McGrady remain, for now… The Pistons are pleased with ’10 first rounder Greg Monroe, but another young front court stud is priority number one. Vesley is one of the more intriguing talents in the draft, an extremely long small forward. Only 20 years old, Vesely may need time to develop and add bulk to his thin frame. Of note, Vesely is signed with his Belgrade team for several more seasons.
9. Charlotte Donatas Motiejunas C Lithiuania 7’0″ 230

Where do we begin? The Hornets may have more roster needs than any team in the Association. The Mavericks can thank Michael Jordan for his cost cutting trade of Tyson Chandler for spare parts. The starting backcourt of D.J. Augustin and Stephen Jackson will be pressed for minutes with the severe injury to backup Gerald Henderson. Up front, Tyrus Thomas is the future, nothing else with future impact on board the Charlotte roster.  Motiejunas may be a bit of a reach, but the Hornets are desperate for a difference maker inside. Motiejunas may have the biggest upside of the European talent, but may not contribute immediately.
10. Milwaukee Alec Burks G Colorado 6’6″ 190

The Bucks hit paydirt with the selection of Brandon Jennings at #10 in the ’09 draft. Jennings has proven to be a floor leader that can also score in bunches. John Salmons is a capable backcourt mate, but Burks would be a younger option with a much bigger upside. Burks has prototype size for a two-guard and displayed elite scoring ability in college. More of a scorer than pure shooter, Burks is also a capable ball handler and could share duties with Jennings. Led by center Andrew Bogut and the potential of last year’s mid 1st rounder Larry Sanders, Milwaukee’s draft priority definitely lies at the wing.

Tomorrow we will take a look at picks 11-20.

The 2011 NBA draft will be held on Tuesday, June 23rd at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.

NBA Draft Lottery

 

 

Three, maybe four teams will head into the offseason with hope, following tonight’s NBA draft lottery.

A surprising number of talented underclassman opting to return to college for another season, leaving the draft thin at the top. It’s a bit of an unknown why so many opted out of the draft, most point to uncertainty in NBA labor relations.

Even though the talent level drops off after an elite few, the draft remains deep overall. Mock drafts indicate some solid talent into the second round, not franchise changing, but certainly  effective role players.

Draft Lottery participants (with % chances of 1st pick)

Minnesota Timberwolves 25.0%

Cleveland Cavaliers 19.9%

Toronto Raptors 15.6%

Washington Wizards 11.9%

Sacramento Kings 7.6%

Utah Jazz (from New Jersey Nets) 7.5%

Detroit Pistons 4.3%

Cleveland Cavaliers (from LA Clippers) 2.8%

Charlotte Hornets 1.7%

Milwaukee Bucks 1.1%

Golden State Warriors 0.8%

Utah Jazz 0.7%

Phoenix Suns 0.6%

Houston Rockets 0.5%

With fourteen teams taking part in the lottery, we thought we would give you a look at players that are likely atop draft boards.

G Kyrie Irving– Could be the #1 overall pick no matter which team wins the lottery

F Derrick Williams– NBA ready player would be perfect fit for Washington Wizards

C Enes Kanter– Best low post anchor, spent time in Europe after delcared ineligible at Kentucky

G Brandon Knight– Next in line of Calipari point guard after Derek Rose and John Wall

F Jan Vesely– Towering small forward, nearly 7’0″ with good shooting range

G Kemba Walker– Exciting point for a guard driven league coming off national title

F Jonas Valanciunas– Lithiuanian big man thought to have biggest upside of all Euros

F Kawhi Leonard– True small forward has increased value by improving his perimeter game

G Jimmer Fredette– LONG range shooter will be a fan favorite no matter where he lands

G Alec Burks– Best shooting guard in the field, more of a creator/scorer than shooter

F Tristan Thompson– Only 6’8, projects at power forward with 7’2″ wingspan and athleticism

F Jordan Hamilton– Swing man is big time scorer, much better catch and shoot than off dribble

C Donatas Motiejunas– Seven footer has adept post game but needs work on rebounding and defense

F Kenneth Faried– Top rebounder in the draft exploded on the scene in the 2011 tournament

The lottery will take place during halftime of game one of the Western Conference finals tonight between the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder. The 2011 NBA draft will be held on Tuesday, June 23rd at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.

NBA Final Four

 

 

We’ve finally reached the NBA’s Final Four as the marathon also known as the Association’s second season continues.

With the possible exception of Boston’s absence, the Eastern Conference Finals pitting the Miami Heat against the  Chicago Bulls, probably comes as no surprise.

We got a peak a night early (thanks  to Oprah) and the Bulls look like they are going to be a real handful. Chicago remains a shooting guard (that can create his own shot) away from being unbeatable. Defensively, Chicago stifled Dwayne Wade and Lebron James with Charles Barkley going as far to call them the finest defensive team he has ever seen. How about Taj Gibson? NBA Insiders are well aware of the value the Bulls received landing the former USC star late in the first round several seasons ago. His dunk over Wade and the put back slam now have him a You Tube sensation as well.

http://www.fantasysp.com/news/nba/629217/video-taj-gibson-returns-the-favor-to-dwyane-wade

For now, Luol Deng has stepped up as a scoring option to Derek Rose, and his emergence has tempered Lebron’s impact. Its going to be a long series and Miami still needs only steal one at the United Center to gain home court advantage.

The Western Conference without the Lakers is a shocker. Losing Los Angeles as a media market is a crushing blow to advertisers as the ratings are certain to suffer, expecially if Oklahoma City outlasts Dallas.

The Lakers loss was shocking. Dallas had the depth, but the sweep was the biggest surprise in recent NBA playoff memory. What was the difference for the Mavericks? Tyson Chandler, pure and simple. Chandler, in a contract year, provided the rebounding, shot blocking, interior defense and overall toughness and enthusiasm the Mavs were lacking. The Mavs are on a mission. Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry are out to win the title that was so close several years ago with an eventual finals loss to Miami. Head Coach Rick Carlisle and Jason Kidd have both come close but seeking their first titles.

The Thunder are the media darling and the new fan favorite nationwide. The exciting combination of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook is excting and promises to keep Oklahoma City a player in the West for many years to come. The addition of Kendrick Perkins in the trade with Boston at the deadline gave the Thunder the interior physicality that they lacked. Shooting guard James Harden is getting close to giving Durant and Westbrook a full third option, their own version of  the Big Three.

The NBA finals don’t begin for two more weeks, over which time we will enjoy what should a pair of very exciting conference finals matchups.