Friday, May 23, 2014

I'm REALLY Warming Up To NBA Draft Wheel

Cleveland again?  Ahhh yeah!  Again and again!
The Cleveland Cavaliers get the No. 1 overall pick.


Yes.  For the 3rd time in 4 seasons, the Cleveland Cavaliers will have the top pick in the NBA Draft.  That is amazing on so many levels.  It is their 4th top pick since 2003 and their 5th top pick since 1986.

This isn't the NFL where being the worst grants you the top pick.  In fact, there were 8 teams worse than the Cavaliers this past season but Cleveland won the all important draft lottery.  Cleveland finished the season just five games back of the final playoff team in the Eastern Conference, the Atlanta Hawks, and now begin the offseason with the top pick.

There has been a lot said about whether the draft lottery is a good thing.  If it even works.  If it is fair.  In the NFL, the worst team gets the top pick ... but there rarely is any talk of tanking.  In the NBA, that is certainly true.  In fact, there was a running storyline of who was and wasn't involved in tanking this season.  From massive salary dumps in Boston to Philadelphia's 26-game losing streak to Milwaukee's complete lack of talent to the Lakers fielding a D-League team every night.  You can even speculate that the Utah Jazz were trying to be bad so they could draft Duke's Jabari Parker, who also happens to be Mormon and a certain superstar in that market.

This all started talk of possibly having a NBA Draft Wheel down the road.  The concept is that the wheel is a 30-year rotation of picks.  Everyone at some point would get the No. 1 pick.  Everyone at some point would get the No. 30 pick.  And everyone would once get every pick in between.  It is an interesting concept because it would already set the draft order and there would be no need for tanking.

At the time it was thrown out there, I had some concerns.  First, it could hurt the smaller markets.  If you were LeBron James coming out of high school and you knew the Sacramento Kings were set to have the No. 1 pick this year but the New York Knicks were set to have the No. 1 draft pick next year ... would you go to college or overseas for a season to keep from going to Sacto?  Would trades be harder to come by due to the fact that dealing draft picks would be more of a certainty?  You may not want to trade a player for future draft picks if you know those draft picks aren't very high.  Plus could the wheel spin where an elite team ... say the Miami Heat this season ... happens to get the No. 1 pick and would have an embarrassing amount of talent?

Sure.  But that's the nature of the beast.  After all, is it fair that the Cavaliers get to have the No. 1 pick three times in four years?

Think about the draft lottery, which began in 1985.  Here is the list of teams that won the draft lottery:

3-Clippers, Magic*
2-Spurs, Sixers*, Nets, Hornets/Pelicans, Bucks, Bulls, Wizards
1-Knicks, Kings, Warriors*, Rockets, Raptors, Trail Blazers

*Sixers traded their pick (1986) to the Cavaliers prior to the draft
*Magic traded Chris Webber (1993) to the Warriors and he never played in Orlando.

That is 30 drafts and only 16 different franchises got the top overall pick.  Thinning that out means that the Lakers, Celtics, Heat, Pistons, Mavericks, Sonics/Thunder, Pacers, Jazz, Suns, Hawks, Nuggets, Grizzlies, Wolves and Bobcats/Hornets haven't had the No. 1 overall pick in the lottery era.  Of this group, only the Lakers, Celtics, Pistons and Hawks even had a No. 1 overall draft pick prior to the lottery era.  The other 10 teams have NEVER had a top overall pick.

Of the 30 teams who had top overall picks in the lottery era, they have won a combined FOUR NBA Championships in seasons after they acquired their top pick.  All of those four belong to the San Antonio Spurs who drafted both David Robinson (1987) and Tim Duncan (1997) and then won four titles.  The Bulls six titles happened prior to them drafting Elton Brand (1999) and Derrick Rose (2008); the Rockets two titles happened before drafting Yao Ming (2002).

Of course, top overall picks did mean a lot to five of the Lakers seven titles (Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Shaquille O'Neal), the Rockets two titles (Hakeem Olajawon) and two of the Heat's three titles (LeBron James) and two of the three Pistons titles (Mark Aguirre).  All were either drafted prior to the lottery system or were drafted by other teams.

So it is hard to say if the lottery works or not.  Only four times did the team with the worst record win the lottery and the top overall pick.  Those picks were Danny Manning (1988), Derrick Coleman (1990), LeBron James (2003) and Dwight Howard (2004).  None won a title with the team that drafted them, though James and Howard did take those teams to the NBA Finals.

Let's look a little deeper.  Here is who the team with the worst record drafted each year:

1985-Wayman Tisdale (Pacers)
1986-Kenny Walker (Knicks)
1987-Reggie Williams (Clippers)
1988-Danny Manning (Clippers)
1989-Glen Rice (Heat)
1990-Derrick Coleman (Nets)
1991-Dikembe Mutombo (Nuggets)
1992-Christian Laettner (Wolves)
1993-Jamal Mashburn (Mavericks)
1994-Jason Kidd (Mavericks)
1995-Antonio McDyess (Clippers)
1996-Shareef Abdur-Rahim (Grizzlies)
1997-Antonio Daniels (Grizzlies)
1998-Raef LaFrentz (Nuggets)
1999-Steve Francis (Grizzlies)
2000-Darrius Miles (Clippers)
2001-Eddy Curry (Bulls)
2002-Mike Dunleavy Jr (Warriors)
2003-LeBron James (Cavaliers)
2004-Dwight Howard (Magic)
2005-Marvin Williams (Hawks)
2006-Tyrus Thomas (Blazers)
2007-Mike Conley (Grizzlies)
2008-Michael Beasley (Heat)
2009-Tyreke Evans (Kings)
2010-Derrick Favors (Nets)
2011-Derrick Williams (Wolves)
2012-Michael Kidd Gilchrist (Bobcats)
2013-Victor Oladipo (Magic)

Some years it actually worked out.  The Heat did better with Glen Rice than the Bullets did with 1989 top pick Pervis Ellison.  Jason Kidd had a more significant career than Glen Robinson (1994).  You can certainly argue that the "worst team" made out better with Michael Conley, Steve Francis and Dikembe Mutombo.  Or course, you have to feel for the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1992 who missed out of Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning and got stuck with Christian Laettner.  The Sacramento Kings sure would have loved to see Blake Griffin in a purple and black uniform.  Imagine Derrick Rose in a Miami Heat uniform.  The Bobcats would rather have seen John Calipari hand over Anthony Davis to them than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.  Chris Webber in Dallas?  David Robinson a Clipper?  Patrick Ewing a Pacer?

You think Yao Ming in Houston was huge?  How big do you think he would have been had he been a Golden State Warrior?  That would have happened had there been no lottery system.

Maybe the Grizzlies would still be in Vancouver if they had Tim Duncan?  They may not have even gotten a chance to draft him had they been able to draft Allen Iverson the prior season.

When you look at it that way, the lottery seems rather unfair.  But it is what it is.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Clippers-Thunder Late Game Call Shows Where Replay Actually Hurts

There has been a lot of "thunder" about the above play towards the end of the Oklahoma City-Los Angeles playoff game last night.  A quick recap: Reggie Jackson was driving to the basket, Matt Barnes slapped the ball out of Jackson's hand by actually slapping Jackson's hand, the ball goes out of bounds.  The refs didn't call a foul but instead gave the ball to the Thunder out of bounds.

That's when the replay system kicks in.

Looking at the replay, Jackson was the last to touch the ball before it went out of bounds.  However, the refs ... citing lack of indisputable evidence ... didn't reverse the call of the court and kept it Thunder ball.

Everyone was shocked and Clippers head coach Doc Rivers was livid.  It was the Clippers, remember, that had a very similar call go against them in their first round series with Golden State.

That's where the replay gets a bit too correct for me.  Like it or not, the NBA does have makeup calls.  For pretty much ever, a ref is more likely to let a play like that be called an out-of-bounds play instead of calling a foul.  While technically a foul, it was a bit of a close one and refs would rather you just take the ball out.  That's the way anyone who has really watched the NBA knows it works.  The players knows that's the way it works, hence not the complete outrage by guys like Chris Paul.  Diehard fans have accepted it.

But with replay hooked into it, it makes it tougher for these make-up calls to happen.  The only way to fix this would be to allow the refs to retroactively call a foul after viewing the replay (like they could have done in the Chris Paul-Draymond Green play in the earlier round), but that too could become a slippery slope.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Ranking The No. 2 Overall NBA Draft Picks Of The 2000s

Kevin Durant is by far the best No. 2 overall
pick in the 2000s
The 2000s were an interesting time for the NBA Draft.  It was the time when we saw the first (and as of now only) set of high schoolers selected with the top overall pick.  We also saw several foreign only players taken with the first overall selection.  We saw the one-and-done implemented as well as the D-League created.

There have been some solid top overall selections like LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Yao Ming, Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose.  The No. 2 picks in the drafts of the 2000s have certainly left something to be desired.  Only two would be certified super stars and only one is staring at a certain Hall Of Fame status.  That's a far cry from the 1990s where guys like Alonzo Mourning, Jason Kidd, Kenny Anderson, Gary Payton, Antonio McDyess, Marcus Camby and Steve Francis were selected with the second pick.

Here is the rankings of the No. 2 picks in the NBA Drafts of the 2000s decade:

#10  2002-Jay Williams (Bulls):  Picked directly after Yao Ming, Williams was supposed to be the man in the post-Jordan era for the Bulls.  Williams had a promising rookie campaign averaging 9.5 pts and 4.7 asts but shooting just below 40% from the field.  In the offseason, Williams was severely injured in a motorcycle accident and never played an NBA game again.  You can debate if he was a bust or not, but he netted the Bulls just one less than mediocre season.  Career: 9.5 ppg, 4.7 apg

#9  2009-Hasheem Thabeet (Grizzlies): Thabeet's best season was his rookie season.  That year he averaged 3.1 pts and 3.6 rbs so that should tell you how his career has gone.  The only reason he isn't last on this list is the fact that he is actually functional for more that one season.  Career: 2.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg

#8  2003-Darko Milicic (Pistons):  This may be the worst pick of the entire list.  It wasn't just that Milicic was selected 2nd by the Pistons (who would go on to win the NBA Championship that season) it was who Detroit didn't pick instead.  Milicic was selected instead of Carmelo Anthony (#3), Chris Bosh (#4) and Dwyane Wade (#5) and after LeBron James.  Milicic certainly is nowhere close to the level of those guys and has become a punchline.  He fashioned out a niche career as a decent defensive center but nothing more.  Career:  6.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg.

#7  2000-Stromile Swift (Grizzlies):  The sophomore forward from LSU had a rather pedestrian career in the NBA.  Drafted by the Vancouver Grizzlies in one of the worst drafts in recent memory, Stro Swift's best season was in his 2nd year when the Grizzlies moved to Memphis where he had career highs in points and rebounds.  His NBA career fizzled out in 2009.  Career:  8.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg

#6  2005-Marvin Williams (Hawks):  Williams was coming off a freshman season at North Carolina where he won a National Championship.  Williams has had a decent career, but hasn't developed into much more than a tweener forward who pretty much sticks to his career average.  He has since been traded to the Utah Jazz and hasn't shown much improvement there.  Considered a bust since the Hawks passed up on selecting Deron Williams and Chris Paul, who were picked directly after him.  Career: 10.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg.

#5  2008-Michael Beasley (Heat):  Beasley was supposed to be a guy to help Dwyane Wade get the Heat back to the Finals but it didn't turn out that way.  Some off court troubles as well as some on court issues made it easy for the Heat to deal Beasley to the Wolves to clear cap space to sign LeBron James and Chris Bosh.  Beasley performed admirably in Minnesota but injuries kept him from reaching his potential.  More off-court problems marred his time in Phoenix before him resigning with the Heat in a very limited role.  Career: 13.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg.

#4  2004-Emeka Okafor (Bobcats):  The first ever Charlotte Bobcats pick, Okafor did win the Rookie of the Year award.  His best scoring season was that first one but he was always near the top of the league in rebounds with the Bobcats.  Since being dealt to the Hornets in 2009, Okafor has been a solid defensive player (sound familiar?) who can get you double digit scoring.  Career: 12.3 ppg, 9.9 rpg.

#3  2001-Tyson Chandler (Bulls):  Chandler was selected right out of high school and right between Kwame Brown and Pau Gasol by the Clippers but was traded immediately to the Bulls.  Chandler didn't do a lot with Chicago outside of being a solid defensive player.  Once he got to New Orleans, he became an elite rebounder and his scoring went up.  Chandler's biggest moments were winning an NBA title with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 and winning the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year award in 2012 with the Knicks.  He hasn't been dominant, but he's been a solid defensive player for his career.  Career: 8.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.3 blk.

#2  2006-LaMarcus Aldridge (Trail Blazers): If the 2006 Draft was done again, Aldridge would be the No. 1 pick.  While getting off to a solid rookie campaign, Aldridge quickly turned into one of the elite scoring forwards in the NBA.  He's been an All-Star for three straight seasons and had career highs in scoring and rebounding this season.  Career: 18.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg.  

#1  2007-Kevin Durant (SuperSonics):  Kevin Durant won the 2014 NBA MVP award and a four-time scoring champion.  He, along with LeBron James, are the best players in the NBA and will carry the league into the next decade.  If there was an entire draft for the 2000s, Durant may be the No. 2 pick of that draft.  Career: 27.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg

ACC Would Be Wise To Stay At 8-Game Season

The bigwigs of the ACC are meeting to discuss several things, but one main item will drive the talks.  Should the ACC keep their 8-game conference football slate or should they go to 9 games?  Seems simple but it is quite complicated.  There are a couple of sticking points to making a decision.

For a while, it seemed as if the ACC pretty much had to go to a 9-game season.  After all, everyone else has or is doing so.  Well ... that was until the SEC decided to stay with their 8-game season.  That bit of news through the college conference structure for a loop.  The SEC decided that it was hurting their shot at having one or even two teams in the brand spanking new College Football Playoff if it was to subject their teams to an extra game.

The ACC knows they aren't as strong a conference as the SEC is and it may be harder for them to get just one team in the playoff.  Why have Florida State play an extra game when it doesn't have to?

If the ACC decides to stay put like the SEC did, it could cause other conferences to scoff.  After all, they will feel at a disadvantage since the ACC will have one less conference game.  And ... ?  The ACC, like the SEC, is in some pretty prime real estate.  If you decide to boycott the ACC or SEC, then you've boycotted the southern and eastern United States and those football recruits.  It ain't happening.

The ACC also must consider two other issues involving their scheduling already.  One is the fact that Clemson, Florida State, Louisville and Georgia Tech already have a rivalry game with an SEC opponent (something that the SEC factored in with their side of the rivalries with South Carolina, Florida, Kentucky and Georgia).  Also, Notre Dame is now scheduled to play at least five ACC games each season meaning there really is no room for an extra conference game.

If you are Florida State, you right now have an 8-game ACC slate that always sees you face Clemson and Louisville.  You have a 9th game against Florida at the end of the season.  The year that Notre Dame rotates to your schedule sees your 10th game already set.  If the ACC expanded to a 9-game regular season then Florida State would only have ONE game they could schedule on their own and that would most likely be against a low tier school.

You can see that there is a lot to think about.  That doesn't even take into account the ACC's other big talking point of the viability of a new ACC Network where a 9th conference game increases inventory.  Or the fact that the ACC may ditch divisions altogether and just have the top two teams face off in the ACC Championship game.

Or maybe not.

Sportz Note:  The ACC decided to stay at the 8-game format but will demand each school play at least one non-conference game against a power conference foe (SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12) if they aren't due to play Notre Dame that season.  That stipulation is similar to what the SEC agreed to.  

Monday, May 5, 2014

Sportz' Second Round NBA Predictions

Miami needed just four games to move to the
second round while five teams needed the full
seven games to do so.
That was one wild first round, wasn't it?  We saw FIVE Game 7s ... including both No. 1 seeds going the distance.  We saw just one sweep and 13 teams win at least three playoff games last round.  Amazing.

However, when you look at the aftermath ... not much is shocking.  The Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, Pacers and Heat are still alive.  The Nets and Blazers certainly weren't shockers to advance to the second round.  Neither was the Wizards, aside from the ease in which they discarded the Bulls.

So if that first round with some perceived fodder was epic, what will a second round with five teams with legit NBA title aspirations and three teams who could make a deeper run look like?


1-INDIANA PACERS vs 5-WASHINGTON WIZARDS:  The Pacers were very close from being knocked right out of the playoffs quickly.  Atlanta had them.  But Game 7 had that look like they were ready to get back to dominating.  Washington certainly looked the part of a team that could make a deep run into the playoffs.  I like the Pacers experience in this one.  Pacers in 6

2-MIAMI HEAT vs 6-BROOKLYN NETS:  The Heat were the only team to sweep their first round opponent.  While that isn't saying much against a Charlotte Bobcats team that had their best player limping along all week, both No. 1 seeds had to go the distance to oust their opponents.  The Nets swept the Heat during the season which may or may not mean anything.  I think Miami has bee ready for this all year long and have their eyes on a threepeat.  The fact that the Heat have rested for an entire week while the Nets are coming off a 7-game series with the Raptors will hurt the older BK squad.  Heat in 5


1-SAN ANTONIO SPURS vs 5-PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS:  The Spurs were the best team in the league all season long, but their series against Dallas may have done some damage.  The Spurs still may win the title, but this thing will get tough.  Portland stood toe-to-toe with the Houston Rockets and showed some real playoff swagger.  LaMarcus Aldridge is showing why he needs to be placed among the elite players in this league.  This should be a great series, but the Spurs again will come out on top.  Spurs in 7

3-LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS vs 2-OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER:  I can't place my finger on it, but the Thunder are just missing something.  Their series against the Grizzlies was much closer than you would've thought.  Durant and Westbrook don't seem to be completely on the same page.  The Clippers have had their own problems but seemed to really rally after the Donald Sterling saga reached a tentative conclusion with his banishment from the NBA.  That's why I'm going with them.  They seem to have a huge chip on their shoulder and, like we've seen at other points, they seem to be totally together.  Clippers in 6

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Today Is My 10-Year Blogging Anniversary

Today is the 10-year anniversary of the beginning of my blog, The Sportz Assassin.  What started as an AOL Journal, turned into AOL's FanHouse and then part of the Yardbarker network has really been quite a ride.

Ten years ago, I was recruited to join this thing called AOL Journals.  From there, I got involved with various others who had their own Journals, including Jamie Mottram.  Mottram also hosted an internet sports radio show Sports Bloggers Live which he graciously allowed me to guest on.  He even pimped my blog (and my offshoots like Pigskin Assassin) on ESPN's Cold Pizza, the precursor to First Take.  Mottram then headed up AOL's big leap of created a mega blog called FanHouse and invited me to blog fantasy football, NFL and college hoops for the site.  After the site got big and decided to hire professional writers, I moved on with my former boss Alana Nguyen at Yardbarker, where I currently work.

Let me just say that the fact that any of that happened is beyond me.  All I've ever tried to do on this site is give my take on what's going on in the sports world, break down what is happening and give a little insight into my love of sports.  I don't rely on snark, though you'll probably find some if you look hard enough.  I don't really care who is screwing who or any of that pop culture nonsense.  I love sports and I love talking about them.  Don't you?  When I found out that even one person read what I wrote just blew me out of the water.

Back in 2004, there weren't many sports bloggers so there was a nice community.  Now, there are thousands of sports blogs and the lines between them and mainstream media are extremely blurred.  We used to be nerds who blogged in our parent's basement and now moguls blog.   Progress is good.

I honestly don't care about being famous for it.  I'm not and never was.  It's just cool to see someone -- anyone -- take an interest about what you're saying.

In these past ten years, I've watched my Tar Heels win two NCAA Tournaments.  I watched my Lakers win two NBA titles.  I watched my Redskins ... well ... I watched them on TV.  I've seen amazing Super Bowls, amazing players, sad stories, steroids ruin sports and inspirations everywhere.  From LeBron James to Tim Tebow, there's been a lot to talk about.  Not just those big stories, but writing a post about the sports knowledge my dad gave me growing up ... and having my mom tell me how happy he was when he read that is one of my favorite moments in blogging.  My dad passed away nearly three years ago.

I don't post as much as I did before.  I don't feel the need to give my take on every single thing that happens in sports and in a lot of cases, I did already.  I do get excited for my two main annual blogging posts of my "Stops To Super Bowl", my NCAA tournament Bubble Watch as well as my preseason picks in nearly every sport.  I've seen my posts on SportsCenter, in publications as a reference and been called an idiot by a commentor.  Hey, it is all awesome.

Ten years ago, I was 28 years old and had that all out love for sports.  I still own that love, but as a 38 year old I've seen a lot of stuff and understand that sometimes what we see in sports is just as simple as what we actually see.  No breakdown needed.

Thank you for reading this now or if you ever read this before.