NBA Draft: Early Entrants, Combine and Lottery


Sunday night was the deadline for college basketball stars to submit their names to be considered for the NBA draft. Some have already withdrawn, opting to  return to school, others may as well by the June 13th deadline. With uncertainty due to potential NBA labor strife, a surprising number of top players decided to forgo the draft. At the same time, others that will go undrafted, opted to hire agents, giving up their college eligibility.

In advance of the draft, a combine will be held in Chicago next week. 54 players will undergo physicals and interviews with prospective teams. Players will also have the option to participate in drills if they so choose. Historically, those invited to the combine are drafted, so the list is a fairly good peak.

Notable players withdrawing from draft (over weekend):

Ashton Gibbs- Pittsburgh

Reggie Johnson- Miami

Terrence Jones- Kentucky

Here are the top early entrants: (in no particular order)


Enes Kanter- Kentucky


Tobias Harris- Tennessee

Jordan Williams- Maryland

Derrick Williams- Arizona

Trey Thompkins- Georgia

Tyler Honeycutt- UCLA

Scotty Hopson- Tennessee

Kawhi Leonard- San Diego State

Tristan Thompson- Texas

Markieff Morris- Kansas

Marcus Morris- Kansas

Chris Singleton- Florida State


Kyrie Irving- Duke

Brandon Knight- Kentucky

Alec Burks- Colorado

Kemba Walker- Connecticut

Josh Shelby- Kansas

Travis Leslie- Georgia

Shelvin Mack- Butler

Jordan Hamilton- Texas

Klay Thompson- Washington State

Darius Morris- Michigan

Note: 20 international players have also filed eligibility paperwork

With no natural centers leaving early, expect international bigs to get attention early.

7’0″ Donatas Motiejunas (Italy)

6’11” Jonas Valanciunas (Lithuania)

6’11” Jan Vesely (Serbia)

The NBA Draft Lottery will be held on Tuesday night at halftime of the Western Conference finals. In order, Minnesota, Cleveland, Toronto, Washington, Sacramento and Utah (from New Jersey) have the greatest chance of picking first. Seven teams will have two selections in the first round. Cleveland, Utah, Washington, Charlotte, Minnesota, Houston and Chicago have an extra pick due to trades.

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

NBA: Best in the West?


While the matchups in the Eastern Conference are set in stone, the Western Conference won’t be finalized until the regular season wraps up tomorrow (Wednesday) night.

Home court advantage is a big deal in the NBA playoffs and bigger to none than the Los Angeles Lakers.  The Lakers are looking to three-peat, but are a year older and Thunder can be heard louder and louder in the distance. A year ago, on their way a second consecutive NBA title, Showtime was put to a test against Oklahoma City.

Here is what we do know, San Antonio is the top dog, and holds home court through the Western Conference playoffs. It’s not yet clear whom the Spurs will open up with, but it will be either Portland, Memphis or New Orleans. We also know that Denver will enter the post season as the fifth seed, with Dallas, Oklahoma City or even the Lakers their opening round opponent.

Despite being best in the west (record wise) the Spurs aren’t getting much post season respect. San Antonio is a three-headed monster, with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker all a year grayer. A Spurs win tonight in Los Angeles might even bump the Lakers down to fourth. Why is that significant? It would mean a potential 2nd round rematch should both win their opening round series. Probably not what San Antonio is wishing for, but certainly a possibility should they win tonight.

Oklahoma City is the opposite of San Antonio when it comes to hype. The Thunder are the sexy pick with young stars, led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Oklahoma City strengthened its only weakness, acquiring bruiser Kendrick Perkins from Boston in a trade deadline deal. Nobody wants to play the Thunder, at least not early on in the post season.

Denver has been the surprise of the west. Since the blockbuster Carmelo trade, the Nuggets have been one of the hottest teams in the NBA. Head Coach George Karl has gone as far to say its his best and most favorite team in his years in the Mile High City. While the Nuggets lost the star power in Anthony, they acquired incredible depth and substantial talent as well in the deal.

Dallas has high hopes and their is not a deeper team in the Association. Dirk Nowitzki is having a huge season and the Mavericks go ten deep on the bench. The loss of Caron Butler hurt, but the addition of Corey Brewer has helped off set that. Make no mistake, the difference in the Mavs this season, is the rebounding and physical defensive presence of Tyson Chandler.

Portland is the only other team in the west that may make some noise. The Blazers improved their lot with the trading deadline acquisition of mercurial forward Gerald Wallace. LeMarcus Aldridge and Wes Matthews should both receive consideration for most improved honors, while injuries have become synonymous with Brandon Roy and Greg Oden.

How important are these end of regular season games? I’ll give you my favorite answer, it depends. It didn’t matter for Boston as they were locked in to their slot in the East and rested the old boys in the loss to Washington on Monday night. Other teams have indicated that they will rest players, in hopes of a quick rest of bumps and bruises. Playoff matchups do matter and they will be impacted by these last few games, meaning they matter as well.

The Second Season


What is more entertaining? March Madness or the NBA playoffs? The main difference?  No one and done upsets. The favorite is far more likely to win a best of five or best of seven series than the single elimination NCAA format. I don’t think a “best of” would work in the college game, but that’s an argument for another time.

The NBA playoffs, often referred to as the Second Season, begin in less than a week. This is one of the most anticipated post season’s in recent memory. We have showtime looking for a three-peat, the South Beach trio, the Hall of Fame Boston vets and much more. Lets take a look at what we have to look forward to, who has helped themselves and how.

We know more detail in the Eastern Conference, as the first round matchups are close to final. The Western Conference is another story, with San Antonio, the top dog, the only certainty among the seedings. More on the West in our next edition, lets focus on the East….

Chicago and Indiana may be the biggest mismatch of the post season. The Bulls are on a roll and Derek Rose is on a MVP mission. Rose will get plenty of help from a deep and talented front court. Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng are a complete group and fueled by solid bench play from Taj Gibson. The Bulls achilles heel may be deep shooting (or lack thereof), but that’s why they got Kyle Korver, right? If I’m up against Chicago, I try and make them beat me from the perimeter. The Pacers are also buyoued by an emerging front court with Roy Hibbert, Tyler Hansbrough and Josh McRoberts all taking a big step forward this season. I’ll tune in just to see Danny Granger, Indiana’s small forward may be the most underrated star in the game.

I am really looking forward to Miami and Philadelphia. The Sixers have some of the most athletic, talented young players in the Association. Philly continues to stockpile lottery caliber talent like Jrue Holiday, Thadues Young and Evan Turner. Sixers coach Doug Collins has done an excellent job with the raw talent, meshing it with superstar Andre Iguodala and the oft injured Elton Brand. Turner, the 2nd overall pick in the 2010 draft hasn’t had the impact some expected (yet) and I am certain much more was expected when they traded for center Spencer Hawes. What can you say about the Heat? Philly is just the kind of opponent that Miami beats up on. Do not expect the unexpected from  Leron and company. With three of the most aggressive slashers in the league, the Heat identified perimeter shooting as a major need. Mike Miller was the first target, he has been hurt and shooting has been off target. Most recently, Mike Bibby was addded. Another shooter to spread the floor, another Miami player that can’t/won’t play defense. Well documented, and surprising has been Miami’s inability to score with the game on the line.

You want a Garden party? How about Boston and New York in the first round. Talk about some great opening round television ratings. The Knicks bouunce back into prime time with Amare Stoudamire and more recently Carmelo Anthony putting Big back in the Apple. The problem with the Knicks are the other guys. Those other guys were all sent packing to Denver to get Melo and Chauncey Billups. In a way, New York is a mini Miami, the Knicks sacraficing depth for the star power. The burning question… is the concentrated star power what it takes to win a series, or will a lack of depth be the pitfal. The Celtics may have pulled the biggest surprise at the trade deadline. Boston giving up their enforcer Kendrick Perkins for the versatility of Jeff Green. Boston did add some nice pieces in Nenad Kristic and Troy Murphy who will both play large roles in the playoffs. Will we see O’Neal’s Shaquille and Jermaine? They appear to be a luxury needed only come playoff time.

Orlando and Atlanta round out the first round matchups in the East.  The Magic have been aggressively adding pieces all season long, just not certain if the pieces are from the same puzzle. The Magic made a huge move early, taking a chance of guard Gilbert Arenas,formerly of Washington. The possibilities seemed exciting, but Gilbert isn’t close to the player many remember. Rashard Lewis was the price to get Arenas, more a balancing act of cap room, that (former) talent on the court. Orlando followed that up with a blockbuster, reacquiring point forward Hedo Turkoglu from Phoenix. Hedo was magical during the  ’09 playoffs, before taking his talents to Canada. Jason Richardson came along with Torkoglu from the Valley of the Sun, providing yet another player that has to have the ball to be effective. The good news is Vince Carter was given a one way ticket to the desert from the Magic Kingdom. As for Atlanta, a 32 point loss the other night to  a CBA team known as the Wizards says it all. The Hawks have some incredible raw talent, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and Al Horford could hold their own in a three on  three  tournament on the playground against anyone.  Seems par for the course in the ATL, which brought us Pistol Pete and  Dominique the Human Highlight Film. Atlanta did make a valiant effort to bring coherence to it all, but not even Kirk Hinrich can get it done.

Next time, we’ll try to make some sense of the Western Conference matchups.

What city has the worst pro sports teams?

I am sure many folks would love to  recommend their own city for this honor, but the choice is clear.

My own hometown of Washington DC has the worst pro franchises in the country. For the sake of argument, we will leave the NHL out. There are two reasons for this; its the least popular of the big four and Washington’s hockey team is quite good.

Don’t get me wrong, I wish the District had solid pro franchises, but as we sit, right now, they do not. Looking at the current NBA season, the upcoming NFL (maybe) and MLB seasons, winning is not, nor will be a regular occurrence.

Where should we start? Lets start with the Washington Wizards since they are currently engaged in regular season play. We start at the top with the owner Ted Leonsis. Leonsis assumed  ownership of the team less than a year ago. I will give Leonsis credit, he is biting the bullet as the club is undergoing a total rebuild. Gone are the contracts of Brendan Hawyood, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and most recently Gilbert Arenas. The team’s PR efforts have been lauding the “Six first round picks” from the 2010 and upcoming 2011 drafts. John Wall and this year’s high lottery pick are legit, but lets face it, late round selections are far from a certainty.  The Wizards rebuild stalled in 2009 when the team traded the 5th pick overall to Minnesota for Randy Foy and Mike Miller. A steep price for a one year rental of both. With that pick, the team could have added names like Brandon Jennings or Stephen Curry to name two. If Washington is fortunate enough to land Arizona forward Derek Williams or North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes this summer they will be on their way. With lots of cap room the future looks bright, but its going to be a while. Back to back to back high lottery picks says it all.

Baseball spring training is winding down and everyone has hope, right?  No. Any hope of a Cinderella season went out the window when pitcher Stephen Strasburg underwent Tommy John reconstructive surgery on his billion dollar arm. What did the Nationals do in the off-season? They signed a 31 year outfielder to a 126-million, seven year contract. Hey, a nice gesture and certainly a golden parachute for the Werth family, but wow!  There is no salary cap in baseball, so I guess its not that bad.  The team is owned by the Lerner family, real estate tycoons for generations in the DC area. The ExposNationals were owned by Major League Baseball from 2002 to 2006 until the Lerner’s took full control. Are we on a five year plan? If so, this is the year! Seriously, the current owners took over a disastrous situation and a very long term plan continues. Outfielder Bryce Harper is at least a year away and brings hope not unlike Strasburg. Kudos for efforts to bring in Zac Greinke in the off season, but puzzling the reluctance to resign the very popular and productive Adam Dunn. After back to back years having the #1 overall pick in the Amateur draft, the Nats will be picking sixth in June. I guess that’s progress.

Last, the beloved Washington Redskins. Most want to point the finger at owner Dan Snyder. Horror stories are well documented, but its not all his fault. I am sure franchises with cheap owners would love to  have a free spending billionaire ala Steinbrenner controlling the team’s budget. What I do not understand is the total disregard for the NFL draft. I realize it worked under the legendary George Allen, I watched it myself as a kid. But free agency has changed the game, and the Skins have been the #1 customer. Lets talk about the now. We start at quarterback, where the team gave away Jason Campbell for a quickly aging  Donovan McNabb (34). The Skins also gave up even more premiere draft picks to acquire a 30 year old right  tackle (Jamaal Brown) who was coming off a injury filled season. Now, the Redskins enter the 2011 draft like a donut (nothing in the middle). The team has no quarterback, needs running backs, receivers and interior lineman. The defense you ask?  Well, 31st in the NFL last season led by Albert Haynesworth. Well, not really as he doesn’t like the coach, the scheme, only the pay checks.  Fortunately, Brian Orakpo fell in their lap two years ago and Laron Landry is a quality strong safety. DeAngelo Hall had a fine season, but London Fletcher will soon hit the wall and there are plenty of holes to  fill.  First in War, First in Peace, last in the NFC East… again.

March Madness: NBA prospects

What does your favorite NBA team need in the draft this Summer? What rookies will fly under the radar and come cheap or with a late pick in your fantasy draft? Plenty of future NBA talent is on display during March Madness, scouts are paying close attention and so should you!

Several weeks remain in the NBA regular season, and the order isn’t finalized until the lottery, which is historically held during the NBA conference finals.  The fourteen teams that don’t qualify for the playoffs take part in the lottery, which is weighted so that the teams with the worst records have the best chance for top picks. The process determines the top three picks, with the remainder of the draft sorted by record, worst to best. For those too young to remember, this was put in to keep teams from tanking to get the top overall pick.

Trades have already impacted the 2011 NBA draft. Your favorite team may be without, or have additional selections. Two major deals will effect this year’s lottery selections.

-Utah receives New Jersey’s #1 as part of the Deron Williams trade

-Cleveland with the Clippers #1 as part of the Baron Davis trade

Here is a look at the lottery order if the season ended today. We also project where teams are in need of immediate help, or to continue their rebuilding process.

#1 Cleveland– J.J. Hickson is the only solid building block on the Cavaliers roster. The process will be a long and painful one, but having the #1 overall pick is a great way to start. Point guards are the rage, the Cavs need one.

#2 Washington – The Wizards started the rebuild last season by dumping contracts, it continue this year with Gilbert Arenas sent packing. John Wall is a great start, Washington could use a big time scorer at forward for the next piece.

#3 Sacramento– A major big man and point guard are the hardest positions to fill and the most important on an NBA rosters. The Kings have both in Demarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans. Sacramento can go two guard or add another big.

#4 Minnesota – The T-Wolves are hopeful Ricky Rubio will someday join them. They shouldn’t complain as they absolutely stole the lottery pick they chose him with by dumping Mike Miller and Randy Foye on the Bullets Wizards. Minnesota needs a center to relieve some of the pressure off Kevin Love.

#5 Toronto– DeMar DeRozan, Ed Davis and Andrea Bargnani are the core of the Raptors. Jerryd Bayless may not be the long term answer at the point, so Toronto may look there, or a swing man to complement the mercurial DeRozan.

#6Utah (from  New Jersey) – If I were running the Jazz war room, I would go guard with both lottery picks. Devin Harris can maintain the point for awhile, but Utah is in dire need of a two guard. The front court has youth with Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors. Paul Milsap and Gordon Hayward.

#7 Detroit– Rodney Stuckey is money for the Pistons in the back court, now he needs a mate. The front court has some nice pieces in Austin Daye and Greg Monroe but another big man could also be an option.

#8 Milwaukee– The Bucks are set at point guard for years to come with Brandon Jennings, but off guard is another story.  Chris Douglas-Roberts could be an option but is more of a three. In the paint, Andrew Bogut is solid if he can stay healthy and Larry Sanders could develop.

#9 Cleveland (from LA Clippers) – The Cavs really need to make this pick count. Its hard to fail with the #1 overall, but mid-lottery is another story. If Cleveland goes point early, then scoring swing man or another big to go with Dickson could be  the option here.

#10 Charlotte– The Bobcats created another hole with the trade of Gerald Wallace to Portland. DJ Augustin seems serviceable at the point and Steven Jackson and Gerald Henderson are OK on the wing. Tyrus Thomas has the most upside up front, but bigs are a high  priority.

#11 Golden State– The Warriors are loaded on the perimeter with Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis, but could use a physical player on the wing. David Lee was a perfect fit and Ekpe Udoh should eventually supplant Andris Biedrins.

#12 Phoenix– Suns a team at the crossroads. Steve Nash on the decline and Amare Stoudamire was not replaced. I didn’t really understand either the Orlando or Houston trades. Aaron Brooks is solid and Hakim Warrick is emerging but Robin Lopez’ lack of development is concerning. Best player available for Phoenix.

#13 Houston– Former college teammates Chase Budinger and  Jordan Hill could develop into a nice front court. Terrence Williams and Patrick Patterson also have potential. Will Yao Ming ever play again and will Hasheem Thabeet develop? Kevin Martin & Courtney Lee are a nice combo at the two, Houston could take a point to push Goran Dragic.

#14 Utah– See pick #6. Guard and Guard for the Jazz in the draft. A true ball handling point and a pure shooter (Jimmer?) to learn and work with Harris would be ideal. A strengthened back court would help young bigs develop.

As you watch March Madness, you will be seeing many of the players that will be selected in the June draft. For your viewing pleasure, here are some of the players competing in the tournament, that may end up a lottery selection.

Post (C/PF)

Derrick Williams, Arizona;  Jared Sullinger, Ohio State;  Marcus Morris, Kansas;  Markeiff Morris, Kansas;  Tristan Thompson, Texas;  Kenneth Faried, Moorehead State

Wings (SG/SF)

Harrison Barnes, North Carolina;  Terrence Jones, Kentucky;  Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State;  Chris Singleton, Florida State; Tyler Honeycutt, UCLA;  Kyle Singler, Duke

Guards (PG/SG)

Kyrie Irving, Duke;  Jimmer Fredette, Brigham Young;  Brandon Knight, Kentucky; Kemba Walker, Connecticut;  Nolan Smith, Kentucky