BSB’s 2015 Sixers Draft Guide

I started this last year with a list of the players I liked or didn’t like in the draft, and it seemed to turn out pretty well. But, I must give the caveat that I am a MUCH bigger fan of the college game than the pro game, and the two games are very different. So, all of these opinions are based upon what I saw in college and what I have read since. So, all of these takes will be seen through the prism of the college game (or what I have heard in the case of the international players). While I cannot claim an extensive track record on predicting who can make the jump, I did pretty well last year – picking out sleepers like K.J. McDaniels and Jordan Clarkson and calling for the struggles of Doug McDermott, Gary Harris, and Tyler Ennis. And, since the Sixers own basically the entire second round, it should be really interesting to see how they play it. Anyway, here goes my takes on the potential draft choices tonight.

POSSIBLY IN PLAY FOR THE SIXERS AT #3

Karl-Anthony Towns
I have to admit, I was an Okafor guy for a very long time. I thought that Towns was terrific, but Okafor was better. I was WRONG. Towns is a TOTAL stud and well worth the #1 pick – which he will be tonight. He can do everything you need. He has no weaknesses and plenty of strengths. All that said, I do not see him being a top-10 NBA player, but he is well worth the #1 pick because he is 6’11” with a good handle, a great shooting touch (including almost 80% from the line), excellent passing ability, and elite rebounding and shotblocking instincts. Just writing this paragraph makes me depressed that the Sixers didn’t get the #1 pick. He’s that good.

Jahlil Okafor
People have really soured on Okafor recently, and I get it. He is not a great rebounder; he is pretty bad from the free throw line; and, he could be scary bad defensively at times. But, is all of that enough to completely discount the fact that this is – arguably – the best low-post scorer to enter the league, maybe since Hakeem? He is agile and quick. He has terrific hands and a very soft touch around the basket. And, at 19 years old, he already has a full arsenal of low-post moves. He is also an excellent passer, a smart player, and seemingly a really good guy. Yes, there are some things to be scared of about him, but I would take the over on 22 for his career scoring average. And, the other argument about how the NBA is going small and quick may have some validity, but let’s pump the brakes on that for a second. People say that Golden State forced Cleveland to “go small.” What does that mean – they were forced to take Timofey Mozgov off the floor? Wow – really forced their hands on that one. If Cleveland had Okafor, the narrative would have been about how the Cavs “forced Golden State to go big.”

D’Angelo Russell
I have to be honest here – I watched a TON of D’Angelo Russell at Ohio State, and I have question marks about his game translating to quite the level some think it might. That does not mean that I do not want him in a Sixers uniform (if Towns isn’t there, I think he’s the one I want them to draft). And, it does not mean that I do not think he has a chance to really, really good. I am just saying that everyone out there who is saying that Russell is a sure-fire superstar at the next level is choosing to ignore some of the legitimate question marks about his game. First and foremost, he is not – by any stretch – an elite athlete. Now, that is clearly not a deal-breaker, and I usually hate when that torpedos someone’s draft stock because we have recently seen several examples of marginal athletes becoming superstars on the wing (James Harden, Steph Curry, Chris Paul, etc.), but lacking elite athleticism certainly lowers your floor. Guys like Russell Westbrook, John Wall, and Derrick Rose have a lot more margin for error and can still be great despite lacking some seemingly requisite skills. I also – and this is partially-related to a lack of elite athleticism – have always had some serious question marks about Russell’s ability on the defensive end, and I think this is being overlooked at every turn (and why I believe the reports that Hinkie is not sold on Russell at #3). And, one more question mark – as good as he was at Ohio State (and he was AWESOME), he never seemed to have that “killer instinct” to me. And, maybe I am just looking at his smoothness and relatively quiet demeanor as an indication of inconsistency (which is what I hated that people did to Wiggins last year), and if so, then forgive me. Now, on to the good things (I guess this has to be the longest paragraph, since he’s most likely going to be our new favorite Sixer). Only a freshman (and a relatively lightly-recruited one at that) and yet this dude had some of the best court vision, poise, and on-court leadership that I have seen in all my years of basketball fandom. It honestly looked, at times, like the game was in slow motion for Russell. He saw plays happening before anyone else on the court and, combined with a natural passing ability, was an incredible playmaker. He also has a really good jumpshot. I have heard several people, including the great Fran Fraschilla, compare his jumper to that of Steph Curry. That seems like a ridiculous comparison to me, but Franny has forgotten more basketball than I will ever know, so maybe it is true. Either way, the dude can shoot. And, that isn’t his only way to score the ball. He is an excellent driver with a solid mid-range game of runners and floaters. He is also a willing and able rebounder with good size. People say he might translate as a 2-guard at the NBA, but I completely disagree. I think he is a point guard through and through, and I would love to hitch my wagon to his offensive game. I just worry about the other end of the floor a little bit. Alright, now I know I have to shorten the rest of these…sorry, folks.

Emmanuel Mudiay
The point guard battle at the top of this draft is fascinating because they are both so incredibly different (caveat: I have not seen a lot of Mudiay, as he went overseas to play this year, but I have seen him some and have a pretty good sense of who he is). Also at 6’5″, think of Mudiay as the polar opposite of Russell in just about every other way. While Russell is a bit slight and not remarkably athletic, Mudiay is big, strong, and insanely athletic. Russell may struggle to guard on the perimeter, but Mudiay will get up in people’s faces and lock them down. Both are decent in the open court, but Russell as more of a heady playmaker, while Mudiay is a jet. He goes to the basket hard, jumps through the roof, and finishes well around the hoop. However, he is nowhere near the shooter Russell is and is nowhere near as secure with the ball. That said, he is, by all accounts, a terrific kid with a strong work ethic. Both are good rebounders, but for different reasons. Russell seems to know where to be, while Mudiay just seems to go up and over people. If Russell has the ceiling of James Harden, Mudiay has the ceiling of Russell Westbrook. I think I have come around in the Russell vs. Mudiay debate to actually favor Russell for the Sixers at this point, I am still holding firm to my love of Mudiay and think he is going to be very good in the Association.

Kristaps Porzingis
Man, I wish the Sixers were able to get that #6 pick in this draft because I am salivating over what they could have done with two top-6 picks this year. Oh well, I guess we have to settle for #3 this year and FOUR first-rounders next year. Anyway, the Porzingis rumors are coming hot and heavy, and for good reason. The upside on this guy is incredible. They just don’t make humans like Kristaps Porzingis very often. He is quick and agile with a good handle and jumpshot. Oh, and by the way, he is 7’2″. Yep…SEVEN-TWO. He blocks shots on one end and hits threes on the other. I have never seen the dude play, but the scouting reports are absolutely sensational. On offense, he is great in transition and off the dribble with the potential to be an elite outside shooter. And, on defense, he can guard multiple positions with the potential to be an elite shotblocker. Really the only question is – can we really believe any of this?!? And, then the additional question for the Sixers is – do you believe that he does not want to play in Philly? And, if not, to what lengths is he willing to go to avoid it? Will he simply stay overseas if the Sixers draft him? That is quite a risk…

Mario Hezonja
I think it is incredibly unlikely – even for the unpredictable Hinkie – that he reaches for Hezonja, but he does have an affinity for internationals, so there is a chance. I know very little about Hezonja, but he sounds like he could be really good. Apparently, he’s a very good athlete with legitmate range on his jumpshot. He also sounds like he is insanely cocky and just a bad dude. I hope they don’t get cute and take him.

Justise Winslow
Like Hezonja, it is hard to imagine Hinkie reaching for Winslow at #3, but I do think there is a very outside chance that he is in play here. No one else is in play at all. Winslow is a do-it-all kind of player, who is going to make some NBA fanbase VERY happy. And, even though his stock is skyrocketing right now, I might still be higher on him than most. People talk about Okafor and Tyus Jones (for good reason) as carrying Duke to the title, but Winslow had just as much an impact on that team – if not more – than either of the other two more celebrated freshmen. His jumper is a little shaky, but still solid, and he can get to the basket. He also is a willing passer and a strong rebounder. But, his real strength is on the defensive end. If you forced me to pick who, from this draft, would be the NBA defender in five years not named Willie Cauley-Stein, I would say Justise Winslow.

NOT REALLY IN PLAY UNLESS THE SIXERS TRADE WAY UP (or down…ugh)

Stanley Johnson
I am shocked that Stanley Johnson is not in play for the Sixers, but it is pretty clear that Johnson may be slipping out of the Top 10. Now, to be fair, there is no way that he is one of the three best players in the draft, so he should not be in play for the Sixers at #3, but I really don’t understand all the criticism of Johnson. Everything I saw from him at Arizona tells me that he will be a really solid player at the next level. He plays incredibly hard and is easily one of the best all-around defenders in this draft. He isn’t a great athlete, but all the criticisms of his athleticism seem to go way overboard to me. He looked like a pretty good athlete to me in the Pac-12. He is not a great shooter, but not a terrible one either. He will likely never be an NBA All-Star, but it would not surprise me in the least to see Johnson as a major contributor to a very good NBA team. Someone will be happy with this pick tonight.

Myles Turner
The NBA is littered with the carcasses of the careers of guys like Myles Turner. He has such tantalizing size and skills that it is hard for anyone to look at him and not see a superstar. But, then you look at his production and, other than the 2.6 blocks per game, nothing jumps off the page. And, even further, you look and you see injury concerns. I think this guy could be special, but doubts about heart or health should raise serious concerns, and I have doubts about both of them for Turner.

Willie Cauley-Stein
I love Cauley-Stein and think he is going to make a pretty solid pro. He’s a weird dude with almost no offensive game, but he might be, literally, the best defensive player I have ever seen on the college level. Literally. He is an elite shotblocker right now, and he can go out and guard the perimeter or run the floor. He is fun to watch, and I am gonna miss him at the college level.

Devin Booker
Talk about a quick-riser up the charts, Devin Booker arrived in the NBA draft at the perfect time. Watching the Warriors shoot their way to 67 wins and an NBA title did wonders for guys like Booker, who are basically pure jumpshooters. He is also a smart player (son of one of my all-time favorite college players, Melvin Booker from Missouri), who is a pretty solid defender. As the best shooter in the draft, he only needed to show adequate athleticism to be considered a mid-first rounder, but he tested a lot better than you would think in watching him, so I think he’s a bonafied lottery pick. I am rooting for him – he is a fun player to watch.

Trey Lyles
Might as well continue with that RIDICULOUS Kentucky team that, somehow, did not win the national championship. And, what is interesting is that I knew I was a fan of that UK team (normally, I am NOT), but I didn’t know why. Now, in looking at each individual player, I realize why. They had a bunch of likeable guys, who were really fun to watch. Lyles is another one. All year, as I watched that team, I kept thinking that Lyles was the one whose “stock” was most affected by the lack of playing time and exposure. If Lyles had gone to Louisville (his second choice) or Indiana (his home school), he would have been a featured part of the team – possibly either team’s best player – and could be looking at some sort of national awards or top-5 lottery status. Maybe not, but he certainly has that ability. He is 6’10” with really strong perimeter skills, including a solid jumpshot, smart passing skills, and good handle. I think he has the ability to really guard on the other end, though the scouts seem to disagree with that assessment. I like Lyles a lot and think he’s a bit of a sleeper (if that’s possible for the lottery pick).

Kelly Oubre
I am not in love with Oubre, but if he falls to the mid-teens, he should be scooped up pretty quickly and that team should be happy with the upside that he has. He is a scorer, who is a capable defender, though could use a few more pounds on his frame. The only real concern – and it’s a big one – is just how INCREDIBLY bad he was for about a month or so at Kansas. Like, really, really bad. Like couldn’t-stay-on-the-court bad. That makes me very concerned about him between the ears, but the physical ability it there.

Sam Dekker
I feel like I am liking a lot more guys than I did last year, but I think that just goes to the depth of this draft. Well, here is someone that I do NOT love, at all. Everyone seems to be falling in love with Dekker, and I have no idea why. I have watched a LOT of Dekker over the past three years, and I just don’t see why everyone is in love with this kid. Yes, he is incredibly athletic and plays hard, but was somehow still a pretty poor defender both on the perimeter and on the block and a below-average rebounder. How is that possible when a guy with elite athleticism plays hard? I also think that people saw him hit like 87 threes against Kentucky and think that he was this great shooter. Well, that is not true. He was a streaky shooter – at best. While he has decent ball skills, he is not all that great of a passer. And, then there is the issue of position – what is he? A three, I guess, but is he guarding threes in the NBA? Is he scoring on threes in the NBA? I am just at a loss as to what Dekker actually can do.

Frank Kaminsky
As much as I dislike Dekker, I do not feel at all the same about his Badger teammate, Frank Kaminsky. I think Kaminsky does have transferrable skills to the next level, and I think he will make a decent NBA player. First of all, he is 7 feet tall. Second of all, he is a decent outside shooter who can also create his own shot off the dribble. And, everyone just thinks he was this 7-foot shooter. That is so untrue. He lived in the paint and developed a wide array of post moves that are highly successful (and transferrable) because of his great footwork and soft touch. He will really struggle to guard in the NBA, which might limit his playing time (and career longevity), but he can score at any level of basketball.

LATE FIRST ROUND POSSIBILITIES IF THE SIXERS TRADE UP
The Sixers actually have 5 second-round picks – 1/6 of the entire round. They are #35, 37, 47, 58, and 60. I can’t imagine that they will bring in 6 players to the roster this year. Some of these second-rounders could be trade chips or international stashes. But, there is some talent down here in the second round

Cameron Payne
My biggest sleeper in this draft is not really a sleeper any more because the word is getting out that Cam Payne can flat-out play. A couple months ago, I actually advocated that my perfect situation would be for the Sixers to take the best player available in the first even if it was a big man and then grab Payne in the second. But, that dream is over because (a) the Sixers have the 3rd pick and the two bigs will likely be gone and (b) the league has found out about Payne. But, this skinny, baby-faced point guard from the Ohio Valley Conference can do it all. And, my favorite part is that he combines an incredible basketball intelligence with the heart of a lion. He is my favorite player in this draft, and it’s a shame that he won’t be a Sixer.

Montrezl Harrell
While the stock of Payne and Portis are is rising, Harrell’s is slipping a bit. Earlier, I would have said that there is no way he slips into the second round, but his lack of size for a big and skill for a wing seems to be turning NBA GMs away. I still think he has a lot to offer. He is built like a tank with incredible athletic ability, and he plays insanely hard on every possession, but there are legitimate questions as to where he fits at the next level. 6’8″ power forwards without much of a perimeter game are an endangered species these days.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
It is hard for me to judge RHJ objectively because he spurned Temple in recruiting, but it is hard to fault him for going to Arizona. He is a sensational athlete, who could be an elite defender at the next leve. He won’t be a go-to scorer at any point, but the Sixers should run, not walk, to the podium if he is still there at 35 (which is HIGHLY unlikely).

POSSIBLE CHANCE OF BEING AVAILABLE EARLY IN THE 2ND

Bobby Portis
Maybe my second-favorite player in this draft, after Cam Payne, Portis was sensational at Arkansas. He is fun to watch with his size and skill and absolutely incredible energy with which he plays. If you believe in college play having any translation, then you believe that Bobby Portis is going to be a solid NBA rotation player. I don’t think he’s going to slip, but if the Sixers could somehow grab him for a relatively affordable price, I would be a very, VERY happy man.

Terry Rozier
No thanks. I know that he is an elite athlete and a solid defender, but I don’t like guards who aren’t “smart.” The same reason I didn’t like Elfrid Payton last year (though, I look wrong about that, so take it for what it’s worth) is why I don’t like Rozier this year. He turns the ball over a LOT and commits silly fouls on the defensive end. He is just not the kind of guy I want on my team.

R.J. Hunter
Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE mid- and low-major college basketball, so you would think that I would be in love Georgia State’s R.J. Hunter. And, I do like him, but I don’t love him. People will just look at his numbers and see him in the NCAA Tournament (he had “The Shot” of the tournament this year when his dad fell off his stool) and think he’s a total stud. Then they will see that he’s 6’6″ with a 6″11″ wingspan and think that he can totally translate to the next level like another small-school shooter that happened to win the NBA MVP this year. But, as someone who actually watched some of his regular season Sun Belt games over the past three years, let me tell you that I am not sure about him. He was pretty much everything for GA State, but also disappeared at times. He didn’t look like a guy who was just so much better than everyone else in that league. He looked like a guy how took a LOT OF SHOTS. I mean he is 6’6″ and plays on the perimeter. Do you know how many Sun Belt guards are even bigger than 6’2″? Not many. Which means he was facing a smaller guy every single night and still shot 39% from the floor and 30% from three-point range. He also committed 77 turnovers this year and was not the primary ballhandler (the point position was held down by former Kentucky starter Ryan Harrow and former Louisville 6th-man, Kevin Ware). So, while I think Hunter may be a decent shooter, I saw a lot more of his warts than the people who just look at the numbers and watched the NCAA Tournament. He was a bit of an underwhelming superstar.

Tyus Jones
You should probably just skip my evaluation of Tyus Jones because I am a college hoops junkie, and this guy was the perfect college point guard. He was smart and poised. He always made the right pass and would drain jumpers if left alone. He was lights-out from the free throw line and completely bought-in on defense. And, he is that proverbial “winner,” which has become a cliche, but I don’t care, I still think it is a good way to describe someone when it applies. I really hope that there is a place for a guy that in the NBA, but he also appears to be the exact spot where the divide between the college game and NBA game hits the hardest, so I will withhold any more praise for a great college point guard.

Jerian Grant
I am not a huge fan of Grant’s potential at the next level. If the Sixers land a PG at #3, then I would look elsewhere from Grant even if he happens to slip all the way to #35. As the older brother of the Sixers Jerami Grant, Jerian is essentially a finished product – and that product looks like a borderline NBA player, at best.

Delon Wright
Grant and Wright are pretty much connected in a lot of ways. They both have NBA bloodlines. They are both seniors (though Wright played two years at a Junior College) and fully-developed 23-year olds. They both were the heart and souls of really good college teams this year. But, to me, I like one a LOT better than the other. As you can read above, I am only lukewarm on Grant, but I LOVE Delon Wright’s game. He is a pretty poor shooter and only a so-so athlete, which will probably make my praise for him look silly in a couple years, but anyone who has played the game or just enjoys the nuances of basketball, will love the way he goes about his business. He is quick, smart, and has incredible court awareness. While he did look to score at Utah (and succeed), he is an incredible passer. And, what I love about his offensive game is that he draws a TON of fouls and makes his free throws. He made 303 free throws in two years at Utah. That is incredible. He is also a really solid and aggressive defender who loves to pressure the ball. I know the NBA needs shooters – and Wright isn’t one – but I do love the rest of his game.

Kevon Looney
I see the NBA’s fascination with the very raw big man from UCLA, but I have some serious questions. The talent is there, for sure, but he is so raw and appeared to me to be rather meek at UCLA. Apparently, he has been showing scouts a really versatile game in workouts (outside shooting, ballhandling, and passing), but to be honest, I saw him play quite a bit in college and never really saw any of that. It’s certainly possible that I missed it, and if so, he’s a better prospect than I give him credit for, but I can only say what I saw. I did see a VERY instictual rebounder with clear physical traits. Another year in college probably would have done wonders for his readiness for the next level, but right now, he seems to me to be a rather risky gamble for only moderate reward potential. In other words, there is a greater chance of him being out of the league in five years than ever making an All-Star team.

Rashad Vaughn
Like Looney, Vaughn is another freshman who could have VERY MUCH benefitted from another year in school. And, like Looney, he is immensely gifted from a physical standpoint. But, again like Looney, he is a pretty big gamble, from what I can tell. But, completely unlike Looney, no one has probably ever described Vaughn as “meek.” The dude is a flat-out volume scorer. He is quick and aggressive and fearless. And, at 6’5″ with elite quickness and athleticism, he is a handful to guard. The problem is that I saw a TON of turnovers, poor defensive effort, and not exactly those intangible “leadership” qualities. He was on a UNLV team that wasn’t supposed to be that bad, but were terrible, and he didn’t seem to care all that much. Personally, I would pass on Vaughn unless he slipped to the Sixers and a lot of these other nice pieces were off the board.

Justin Anderson
I like Anderson and think that he has pretty much everything you might want in a basketball player. He has size, strength, leaping ability, and is a really smart dude who knows the game. He also has a decent jumpshot (when open) and good footwork in the paint. He is a strong rebounder and defender. He’s quicker than he looks, which isn’t saying much because he doesn’t look quick at all. But, for some reason he never really “popped” at UVA. Maybe it was the slowwwwww offensive pace. Maybe it was the total focus on defense. Maybe it was his constant array of injuries (which is a concern, by the way). But, Anderson just never seemed like a star in college, and while you aren’t looking for an NBA star in the late-first, early-second, I am a little concerned about him even producing all that much. That said, he certainly has a TON of ability and could be really good, so it wouldn’t be the worst roll of the dice.

COULD DEFINITELY BE IN PLAY WITH ONE OF THE SIXERS 97 EARLY SECOND-ROUND PICKS
Chris McCullough
McCullough SCREAMS Sam Hinkie. Not only has our man taken Syracuse players in each of his first two drafts (MCW two years ago and Jerami Grant last year), but he also is not afraid at all of risking a total waste of a pick (particularly those with injury concerns) for a potential franchise-changer. And, we ALL know that he is not clearly not afraid of picking a guy who might miss a whole year due to injury. Well, that is the likely story with McCullough. He tore his ACL in January is likely won’t play at all this year. BUT…he has lottery talent, for sure. I have serious concerns about his “want-to,” but I have absolutely NO concerns about his “can.” The dude is a flat-out stud. He moves like a guard, but is comfortable in the post on either end of the floor. He stands at 6’9″ with a 7’3″ wingspan and is incredibly athletic. From what we saw in 3 months of college ball, he looked like an incredible shotblocker from the PF position as well as a plus-rebounder. I would LOVE it if the Sixers were able to nab him at some point tonight because there’s a chance he is a total bust, but a chance that he is a legit starting PF in the NBA. And, you rarely get those as late as he is going to go.

Joseph Young
Young is one of those already-finished-products. He was the Player of the Year in the Pac-12 last year and completely deserved it. While I have some questions about his ability on the defensive end, there is no question that the dude can flat-out score. He has decent size (listed at 6’2″, but I swear he seems to play bigger than that) and a lights-out shooting stroke. He can also beat you off the dribble. I am not sure he will ever do enough other things to warrant starter’s minutes in the NBA, but there’s no doubt that he can be a double-digit scorer tomorrow.

Jarell Martin
Stay in school, big boy. I am not going to pretend to know everyone’s personal situations and the reasons for which they make these major life decisions, but simply in a basketball sense, Jarell Martin would have been MUCH better suited with another year in the SEC. He is a beast on the defensive end and on the glass, but he is so incredibly raw offensively (with a TON of potential) that could have been refined at the college level. Now, he’s probably destined to be a bit of a liability offensively for his career because why would anyone give him chances to score in the NBA. He could have been a go-to guy at LSU again this year (even with a strong returning frontcourt and next year’s #1 pick coming in). He has the ability to be a good inside/outside offensive player, but he needs to work at it. But, in the end, he will be paid by some NBA team next year because he is a ridiculous athlete who is really fun to watch and salivating from a development standpoint. I doubt he’ll slip to the Sixers in the second round, and I’m not sure I would trade up for him, but if he’s still sitting there at #35, I wouldn’t mind taking a shot at all on him. He does have serious upside.

Anthony Brown
I’m gonna be honest here, I’m not gonna say I watched a ton of Stanford this year, but I did see them maybe a half-dozen times, and I know I watched them a lot over the past 4 years. And, yet, I am not sure I ever remember thinking – man, that Anthony Brown is good. I sure remember Chasson Randle, who was CLEARLY the best player on that team, but apparently, he’s nowhere to be found in any of these mock drafts. So, I don’t really know what to say about Anthony Brown here. If the scouts like him, then maybe he was just overshadowed. But, I can tell you, as a college hoops fan, there is only one player on Stanford that I would even think had a shot at the NBA, and it ain’t Brown.

Christian Wood
I have seen mock drafts with him in the mid-first round, and I have NO IDEA why. I mean he is a ridiculously good shotblocker, but is that all we need to be to make an NBA roster any more? The answer is probably yes, and if the Sixers get him at #35 or later, I guess it’s a good pick, but coming from a fan of the college game, this guy was not really a very good college player.

WILL LIKELY BE AVAILABLE WHENEVER…

Olivier Hanlon
Now, he WAS a very good college player. I was surprised when he declared for the draft, but he was pretty awesome for 3 years at BC. He doesn’t seem like he would have a very translatable game (and a pretty poor defender), but the dude can FLAT-OUT score.

Dakari Johnson
Who knows? We didn’t get to see all that much of Johnson against first-line opponents or for extended periods because of the limited minutes of the Kentucky roster. But, he’s pretty talented and a complete LOAD in the middle at both ends. He’s a solid defender and decent rebounder with agile feet and good hands. Sounds like an NBA player to me, but what do I know?

Rakeem Christmas
Another Syracuse player, so Hinkie might be eyeing him up. He’s got great size and athletic ability. He’s a very good low-post defender, so there’s probably a place for him in the NBA. But, honestly, as a fan of the college game, he was remarkably unremarkable at the ‘Cuse, so I don’t know…

Cliff Alexander
A total bust at Kansas, as he was supposed to do for Kansas what Okafor and Towns did at Duke and Kentucky this year. But, he just never got it going and was then shutdown due to eligibility issues. He may have stayed at Kansas another year if everything was on the up and up (which could have REALLY helped him), but now he’s just a huge, stud athlete with a very raw game (and seemingly very little desire to get better). This situation kind of reminds me of when they first started opening the floodgates for high schoolers to enter the draft and teams had to draft the Kwame Browns just in case they were passing on Dwight Howard. But, while Kwame Brown at #1 is terrible, Dwight Howard at #37 isn’t. So, I guess he’s worth a shot in the second, right?

J.P. Tokoto
I am very surprised that he left early because he never seemed all that good at UNC. But, he certainly has some transferrable traits – particularly, the ability to guard multiple positions at a very high level. But, his offensive game wasn’t even good in the ACC, so he’s going to be a career liability on the offensive end.

The Harrison Twins
They suck.

GUYS WHOM I REALLY LIKE AND SHOULD BE AVAILABLE WHENEVER

Vince Hunter
Chad Ford has Hunter going to the Sixers at #37, which made me incredibly excited. This dude was a total STUD at UTEP. He’s one of those guys that is going to leave me scratching my head when he never makes it. I know he’s probably simply too small to play PF in the NBA and not skilled enough to play SF. I get that, but seriously, this dude was incredible in Conference USA. I guess it just shows how big of a jump it really is.

Jordan Mickey
Another guy whom I just LOVED at the college level. This dude was so dominant that it is hard to understand how he’s a second-round draft prospect. Again, I get it. I know that all these dudes that shock me are the same – they are just too small to dominant underneath like they did in college, but this was the SEC! He is an absolute animal on the glass and as a shotblocker. He’s not a great offensive player, but he’s not terrible either. He’s just a monster around the rim – and those guys are fun to watch.

Norman Powell
Looked like a professional basketball player at UCLA. Did all the little things, stepped up when you needed a basket, defended whomever you needed him to defend. A real “glue guy” and I think he can be that at the next level, too. The problem is that he’s not really all that good at anything in particular, so he might not be long for the league if he can’t develop something to hang his hat on.

Tyler Harvey
When you lead the nation in scoring, you’re doing something right. Yes, that Eastern Washington team ran a ridiculously fast (and fun) tempo, but Harvey was a lights-out bomber who runs the floor really well. I honestly don’t see his game translating (he plays no defense, doesn’t rebound at all, and is a mediocre passer, at best). But, I hope he makes it because he’s fun to watch.

BSB’s Sixers Draft Guide

The Sixers have like 8,752 picks in tonight’s NBA draft, but only two of them are in the first round.  And, since the lottery is the only thing that anyone in the mass media seems to care about, I thought it might be a good idea to

Chad Ford may be the guru of all things NBA draft, but what the hell does he know?  Okay, a lot.  But, there are few “normal” people in this world that watch as much college hoops as your resident BSB’ers, so I thought it made sense to throw together some thoughts about these guys strictly from a “how were they in college?” perspective.  This won’t be a mock draft because I won’t pretend to know the thoughts or needs of each NBA roster, as they currently stand, it will be more of an assessment on how I see this guy’s skills and college performance translates to the next level.  Oh, and if you doubt my credibility about this, just know that I am the guy that predicted Lou Roe would be a better pro than Marcus Camby.  I would like to think I have evolved since then (I was 11 years old), but I guess that remains to be seen…

Think of this as kind of a quick cheat sheet on each guy, as I see it.

SUPERSTARS

Andrew Wiggins
A ridiculous athlete that is getting unneccesarily ripped for his “motor.”  Don’t get me wrong, I think motor (or whatever cliche you want to use for how consistently hard a guy plays) is INCREDIBLY important and almost always undervalued.  I just think that we incorrectly associate “quiet” with lacking motor.  That is NOT the case, and Wiggins has it.  The dude scored 41 points in a game.  Grabbed 18 rebounds in another.  And, blocked 6 shots in yet another one.  And, he’s a freaking wing player who is better on the defensive end than the offensive one.  I think that he will either be the best or second-best player in this draft, depending solely on the health of Joel Embiid.

Jabari Parker
I love Parker’s offensive game.  He will easily be the best offensive player from this draft.  If you told me that he would average 20 ppg for his career, including a stretch of seasons at 25+, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least.  And, by all accounts,  he’s a great guy.  But, I watched him all year at Duke, and, honestly, the dude is going to get abused on the defensive end at the next level.  Can he get better?  Sure.  Will he ever be a serviceable NBA defender?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  What he will give you, though, is points, points, and more points.  Which are always nice.

POTENTIAL STARS WITH QUESTION MARKS

Joel Embiid
If you told me that everyone in this draft was going to be healthy for their entire careers, then Joel Embiid would be as much a no-brainer #1 as we have seen since Lebron.  When healthy at Kansas, the dude was ridiculous – and, not just athletically, but skillfully, as well.  And, this is a guy who hadn’t picked up a basketball until about three years ago.  If his body holds up, he’s got what it takes to be legendary.  But, wow, is that a big “if.”  Honestly, if I’m the Sixers at #3, I roll the dice.

Dante Exum
Who knows?  By all accounts, he’s an incredibly smart, heady player who is mature beyond his 18 years, but the question marks are there, particularly the lack of competition.  But, he is 6’6″ and the son of an NBA player, so it’s hard not to fall in love with him.  Plus, people do discount how good that AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) is.  They are REALLY serious about their sports Down Under and that academy is ridiculous.

Aaron Gordon
I LOVE Aaron Gordon.  Part of me wishes the Sixers had the 5th or 6th pick instead of the 3rd because then they could stop this infatuation with Wiggins or temptation of Embiid and just snatch up Aaron Gordon and be happy.  He will never be a big time scorer (don’t get swayed by the “Shawn Marion learned to score” because there is and always will be only one Shawn Marion), but the dude gets after it.  He can defend and rebound on an elite level right now, and he’s only 19.  Throw in the fact that he’s a total gym rat, and I think he will continue to develop into a ridiculously valuable NBA asset.  I can’t imagine him falling past Brad Stevens at #6, but if he does get to the Sixers at #10, it will be a GREAT draft.

Julius Randle
I also LOVE Julius Randle.  Another guy who probably won’t be there at #10, but if he is – GO GET HIM.  I heard someone say that guys who have NBA physicality and play hard are never busts.  And, this guy has it.  He is a grown man with who plays with his hair on fire.  And, I don’t think we have seen his array of skills because Kentucky needed him under the basket, so he never got to show us his perimeter game, which, apparently, is rather refined.  You could see his handle, though, and that was awesome.  God, I love this guy.  I don’t know if I would even have a problem taking him at #3.  He’s awesome.

Noah Vonleh
This stock has risen considerably since the college season ended and, frankly, I am not sure why.  But, then again, the easiest way to tell an NBA fan from a college fan right now is to ask them the following question:  “Randle or Vonleh.”  Anyone with any fandom of the college game will quickly tell you that Randle is a beast and Vonleh is unimpressive.  NBA fans or draftniks will be slower to answer and probably will say Vonleh because of his “skill set.”  Well, all I can go on is what I saw at Indiana, and that was remarkably UNremarkable.  I think the Sixers would be ecstatic to get him at #10 (of which, there is NO chance, from what I hear), but I really hope they don’t take him at #3.

Marcus Smart
I should let Doogan write this one, as he is as big a Marcus Smart fan as I know.  And, for good reason.  The issue with him is a slew of non-issues.  All of the things you hear (particularly the Texas Tech incident) are certainly blown out of proportion.  This guy has be lauded by everyone who has ever coached or played with him as an incredible leader and an incredible person.  But, all of these “isolated” incidents in one INCREDIBLY disappointing sophomore season would be non-issues, independently, but put them together and you start to question his makeup.  Well, you do.  I don’t.  I think the only two things that will keep him from being AT LEAST a decent NBA point guard are his abilities to shoot the ball and defend quicker NBA point guards.  Not his makeup.  Trust me.

MOST LIKELY SIXERS PICKS AT #10

Dario Saric
I know nothing about this guy other than the fact that he could be REALLY good…after at least a year or two stashed overseas.  I think he fits the Sixers at #10 pretty perfectly if they don’t luck into Randle or Gordon.  I want this Saric guy – sight unseen – A LOT more than any of the other guys in this grouping, whom I think are all a little shaky.

Gary Harris
I don’t know why, but I am not sold on Harris at the next level.  I know that he is a good kid, who has a good all-around game, but I don’t like NBA players that don’t have anything that they do at an above-average level.  He’s got average size and is an okay athlete.  He shoots it well, but not spectacularly.  He doesn’t have the handle to play regularly at the point.  He is a good perimeter defender, but not a shut-down kind of a guy.  He rebounds decently for a guard, but doesn’t strike me as someone who will make any difference on the glass in an NBA game.

Nik Stauskas
I was pretty luke-warm – somewhat cold, actually – on Stauskas until I found out that he measured at 6’7″ and crushed the athleticism tests at the combine.  Normally, I put almost no stock into those, but if you tell me that Stauskas is 6’7″ with borderline elite measurables in athleticism, I start to get intrigued.  We have seen his shooting ability from the day he stepped on to the court in Ann Arbor.  He is an elite jumpshooter.  Then, this year, with Trey Burke off to the NBA, we got to saw some elite playmaking ability, as well.  He also showed off an offensive game that was much more than just the shooter that he appeared to be as a freshman.  We also got to see a real spark in him, personally.  The dude has an attitude.  I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, but it is something.  If I had to, I think I could really talk myself into Stauskas at the next level.  I still have my concerns, but I think I would take him ahead of both Harris and McDermott.

Doug McDermott
There is almost nothing funnier than listening to how media “experts” talk about guys like McDermott.  Inevitably, the expert either LOVES him and thinks he’s the next Larry Bird or HATES him and thinks he’s the next Adam Morrison.  Occasionally, you will get the “measured” assessment of calling him the next Kyle Korver.  I guess there really are no other possibilities for 6’9″ white guys who can shoot.  Either they’re a white all-time great (“Come on, the guy scored 3,000 points and was basically unstoppable) or they’re a white total bust (“Come on, the guy wasn’t even good enough to be recruited in the Missouri Valley Conference – he only went to Creighton because his dad was the coach”).  The reality is that other than his apparently distinct skin tone, his game doesn’t really resemble Bird or Morrison at all (and, don’t get me started on the LAZY white, Creighton alum Kyle Korver comparisons, because his game is NOTHING like Korver’s).  Anyone who actually watched him play can see that the guy has a style that is pretty unique.  People think he just roams the perimeter waiting for open jumpshots to take over guys 5 inches shorter.  That’s NOT true.  He actually spent most of his time with his back to the basket.  Yes, he is a lights-out shooter from the outside, but he also has a really nice, refined low post game.  All that being said, the dude couldn’t guard anyone in the Missouri Valley.  We all loved Jimmer (oh god, another white guy to compare him to…but, bare with me).  And, trust me, his game is NOTHING like Jimmer’s.  But, remember when we said that there will always be a place in the league for a guy that can routinely score 20 a night?  Well, Jimmer can score 20 a night in the NBA…and there ain’t no place for him because he gives up 40.  I am scared that McDermott might have the same thing going against him here.

USEFUL ROTATION PLAYERS

James Young
I actually really like Young and think he will be a solid NBA player.  I don’t think he’s even close to being worth the 10th pick and sure as hell won’t be there when the Sixers pick again at #32, so it’s a moot point from the Sixers perspective, but I think Young has a solid game that could transition well to the next level.  What he needs is a little meat on his bones.

Tyler Ennis
I’m not a huge fan of Ennis’s game at the next level from the perspective of a starting point guard, but I think he’s certainly capable of being a solid backup point guard, who can defend (we think, though we only saw him in the zone at the ‘Cuse) and distribute.  He also has length and is a good character guy.  Just don’t pick him thinking you’ve solved your point guard concerns.  On second thought, I may have said the same thing about MCW a year ago…and, oh by the way, I might still say that today about the reigning rookie of the year.

ROLLS OF THE DICE

Elfrid Payton
There are very few people who LOVE small-conference basketball more than I do.  And, if you have ever talked to me about college hoops, you probably first heard the names Damian Lillard, C.J. McConnell, and Norris Cole from me.  I LOVED all three of those guys and thought that they would all be really solid NBA players.  (For the record, I also thought that guys like Tony Mitchell, Isaiah Canaan, and Eric Maynor would be solid NBA players…)  Well, Payton should be right up my alley, but I really just don’t get the hype about him right now.  Is he a solid perimeter defender?  Yes.  Is he the next Gary Payton?  I seriously doubt it.  And, even if he was a true lock-down NBA defender on the perimeter, his offensive game is just not very good.  Trust me, I watched a decent amount of Ragin’ Cajun basketball this year.  The dude can’t shoot and is a turnover MACHINE.  He was a liability on the offensive end in the SUN BELT CONFERENCE.  Do we really think he will ever be serviceable in the EASTERN or WESTERN CONFERENCE?  As a late-first, early-second round flyer, he sounds like a GREAT pick.  As a lottery pick (I have seen him going as high as #7 to the Lakers), even this lover of small-school basketball says NO THANKS.

Jusuf Nurkic
I know literally nothing about this guy other than that he’s a legit big man.  If you still think that those are important in today’s NBA, then he might be a nice late-first round pick.

P.J. Hairston
The dude can flat-out score and might be the best pure shooter in the draft (with all due respect to Nick Stauskas).  But, he was kicked out of UNC (not exactly the easiest place to get kicked out of…) and is apparently a pretty terrible person.  If he had even an average head on his shoulders, he might be a legit lottery pick.  But, I wouldn’t go anywhere near him if I were the Sixers, even as an apparent steal at #32.

Kyle Anderson
One of the more bizarre players you will ever watch on a basketball court.  First of all, he’s a 6’9″ point guard who looks like he’s playing in slow motion.  But, he might be the best pure passer that I have seen at the college game in a really long time, and he has an INCREDIBLE basketball IQ.  He is always at the right place at the right time, is a willing rebounder and can shoot a little bit.  He kind of reminds me of a Pepe Sanchez a little bit on the offensive end.  On the defensive end, well, he kind of reminds me of a guy who can’t guard anyone ever at all.

Rodney Hood
I really have no idea what to think of Hood at the next level.  He is a decent shooter with size and is an adequate perimeter defender.  He is also aggressive to the basket.  But, I just don’t see any uniqueness about his game that makes me think that he will really make any impact.  I’d take a shot on him at #32, though I don’t think there’s any chance he gets there.  I think he is very similar to James Young, whom I think is a MUCH better prospect.

Mitch McGary
Don’t let one NCAA Tournament run fool you.  McGary had an up-and-down college career with more downs than ups.  Oh, and he missed his whole sophomore season because of a recurring back injury.  His skills are enticing (mainly because he’s got that Kevin Love big man passing ability), but he’s really not worth taking a flyer because even at his best, he barely looks like a reliable rotation guy to me.

DOES COLLEGE TRANSLATE?

Adreian Payne
I don’t think I have ever seen anyone improve over their college career as much as Adreian Payne did.  He turned himself into an elite college player by his senior year.  And – one of the most amazing things I have heard – he played his whole senior year with mono.  There is no doubt that Payne is a stellar guy with a great work ethic who has maximized his ability.  But, that’s kind of the problem.  Just like guys like DeJuan Blair and Jared Sullinger were, Payne is pretty much a finished product.  Is that product good enough to get decent minutes in the NBA?  Yes, I think so.  But, there is no star potential here.  He is what he is – which is a pretty good ballplayer.

Shabazz Napier
We all saw the Shabazz on display in the NCAA Tournament.  But, beware of over-hyping someone because of 6 games.  Was Napier one of the better on-court leaders in recent collegiate memory?  Absolutely.  Did he play incredibly well on both ends of the floor?  Without a doubt.  Is that going to make him a superstar at the next level?  Who knows.  I know everyone loves leadership, and generally, it is for good reason.  But, when it comes to jumping to the next level, not only do I think it’s overstated, but I think it might actually be dangerous.  Shabazz Napier is a tremendous leader for a team where he is The Man.  When everyone looks at him and says “you are our best player, we will follow you.”  Is Napier going to walk into an NBA locker room and be the best player?  Not even close (particularly in Miami, where he seems most coveted).  Will he be the same kind of person playing 15-20 minutes, mostly without the ball in his hands, guarding the other team’s weaker perimeter player?  I don’t know.  And, neither does anyone else.  I am not saying that he won’t be phenomenal as a role player, but are we really to believe that the character that it takes to lead is the exact same character that it takes to follow?

Jordan Adams
Adams is a terrific basketball player.  Period.  You are going to hear all sorts of things about his lack of athleticism and quickness.  But, the fact of the matter is that if you’re trying to round out a roster of the best basketball players, I find it hard to believe that Adams won’t be useful.  Will a 6’5″ shooting guard that can’t dunk be a superstar?  Absolutely not.  Can Jordan Adams be a useful 9th or 10th man?  I think so.

MY SLEEPERS

T.J. Warren
He may have climbed too high to be called a “sleeper,” but the kid can flat out play.  And, it is not like he should be an unknown, he was the 2014 ACC Player of the Year.  And, the dude can flat-out score.  He has deficiencies elsewhere in his game that makes it completely feasible that he is never even a regular starter in the league, but there is always room for a guy that is a decent ballhandler and defender, but can absolutely light up the scoresheet.  8 points and 2 assists in 15-18 minutes every night with at least serviceable perimeter defense?  There are a lot of guys in the league that give you less.  If he flips to #32, the Sixers should be elated to snap him up.

K.J. McDaniels
Now, this guy probably will constitute a “sleeper.”  I love McDaniels.  He’s a freak athlete, but also showed a surprisingly refined game this year at Clemson.  Very few people know anything about him because the Tigers were bad (and run a crazy slow offense), but I actually thought he was more deserving of ACC POY than Warren.  He is one of those guys that can do it all and probably play any of three positions (1,2,3) at both ends.  Someone is going to be really happy with their late-first, early-second round pick here.

Jarnell Stokes
I admit it.  Stokes is probably one of the many “big” men that are plenty big for even the biggest of college conferences and just not “big” enough for the NBA.  That being said, as the league goes smaller, it is not out of the question that you can sneak Stokes into your lineup as an undersized 5-man.  And, while he’s not really athletic enough to guard on the perimeter, he does have a decent 15-18 foot jumpshot.  I think, given the minutes, I could see him scoring 8-12 points a night.  And, we haven’t even talked about what makes him great (and will give him a place in this league) – he is one of the best pure rebounders that I have seen in a long time.  He is one of those guys that just has a knack for rebounding.  And, that plays on any level.  I would not be surprised if Stokes is still getting decent minutes in the 2020-21 NBA season for someone.  And, that’s value in the second round.

Jordan Clarkson
I like Clarkson a lot, actually.  He is big and almost freakishly athletic, and he’s a better scorer than he seems to be getting credit for.  I also think that people are underestimating his playmaking ability.  This is another guy that the Sixers should RUN to the podium to draft if he’s still on the board at #32.

Nick Johnson
I have no idea if his game translates to the pros, but he was quietly AWESOME at Arizona.  He was a quiet leader who can do just about anything you ask of him.  While his offensive game is lacking all-around, he may grow into a killer on defense.  I have heard nothing more than mid-second for Johnson, and I think someone may get a STEAL if they use a 2nd-rounder on him.  I hope it’s the Sixers (don’t they have the whole second round?)

Spencer Dinwiddie
While I’m not sure if there’s a place for Johnson, I am sure that – if healthy – there is a place in the league for Dinwiddie.  He’s a legitimate combo guard that can score from mid-range and beyond.  A big guard with a supreme shooting touch and great court awareness should be in the NBA somewhere.

C.J. Wilcox
There is always room for a guy who can flat-out shoot.  He’s not Klay Thompson, but he could be a poor man’s version.  Maybe…

Jahii Carson
I love this kis and realize that he’s TINY.  But, I think there’s a place in the league for a guy who distributes and scores the way he does.  Will he get abused on the defensive end?  Probably.  I still like him.

EHHH…

Jerami Grant
I’ve seen him everywhere from lottery to backend of the second round.  Either way, he should have stayed in school.  He’s got bust written all over him as a first-rounder, and intrigure written all over him as a second.

Glenn Robinson III
I was just never impressed.  He has all the physical tools (and obviously the bloodlines).  And, I guess at #32, I’d be okay with it, but ehhh…

LaQuinton Ross
No thanks.  Never liked him at OSU, and I have no reason to believe he’ll be any good at the next level.

INTERNATIONAL MYSTERIES

Clint Capela
I have no idea who this guy is.  It sounds like he is a LONG way from playing here anyway.

Damien Inglis
Apparently, this guy has an NBA-ready body at 19.  He’s raw, but promising.  Sounds like he’d be a nice lottery ticket to own.

Nikola Jokic
A skilled big man?  That’s so European…

INTRIGUING

Cleanthony Early
Here’s another one where I really have no idea.  My instincts say he’s just too small to really make it in the league, but he has a fascinating versatile game that is fun to watch.  I’m rooting for him, that’s for sure.

Johnny O’Bryant
O’Bryant is a beast inside that should have stayed at LSU.  He’s a project, but has a TON of ability.  Take a flyer here; you may be glad you did.

DeAndre Daniels
Looked great in the tournament.  Has tantalizing skills.  Needed another year at UConn.

Deonte Burton
The dude can flat-out play.  Not an incredible shooter, but a great athlete with good court vision and really knows the game.

Russ Smith
After all, he is Russ-diculous.

Dwight Powell
Very cerebral player who has a versatile game that would probably translate somewhat.  I wonder about his drive, though.

Keith Appling
Hey, we haven’t really seen him healthy in two years.  I don’t think he’s good enough, but it wouldn’t shock me.

Cory Jefferson
Just a freak of an athlete at his size.  I guarantee he’ll get a shot.  And, he’ll probably screw it up because, well, that’s what he does.

Deandre Kane
Kane might just be one of those guys that is so good in college and just doesn’t have “it” – whatever “it” is – to stick in the NBA.  But, trust me, this guy wasn’t just good his senior year at Iowa State, he was DOMINANT for three years are Marshall before that.  He is almost the definition of a “do-it-all” point guard.  He scores, he creates, he rebounds, he defends, and he leads.  I would give him a shot on my team any day.

C.J. Fair
Here’s another guy who probably won’t make the league, and I won’t know why.  What I do know is that someone, somewhere on this planet, will be paying C.J. Fair to play basketball for their team.  But, it’ll probably be in Greece or Spain.

Melvin Ejim
Kane’s teammate at Iowa State, Ejim is very intriguing to me.  He’s big with a great scoring touch (he went for 40 one night this year).  He’s probably too small to play inside and too slow to play outside, but he really can do both rather well.  It’s a shame that he probably can’t do either well enough.

OTHERS

Semaj Christon
Crazy athlete with a dynamic game.  He could use a couple more inches, but I wouldn’t be surprised (or upset if it were the Sixers) to see him taken in the mid-second.

James Michael McAdoo
Stay away.  The dude stinks.  And, the worst part about it is that he doesn’t care that he stinks.

Roy Devyn Marble
Probably simply not good enough to play in the league, but he’s got a great game and will score a TON of points overseas.

Jordan McRae
If he only played defense…  McRae can shoot more than his bruising frame suggests.  He could use a little more focus on his floorgame and a lot more attention to the defensive end.  But, the kid might be worth a flyer because he has skills that very few human beings in this world possess.

Khem Birch
Intriguing athlete with a crazy long wingspan.  All you hear about these days is “rim protector” this or “rim protector” that.  Well, he is a rim protector.  He doesn’t really do ANYTHING else, but he does protect the rim.

Bryce Cotton
This is another one that makes me sad to know that there is no room for Bryce Cotton in the pros.  If Cotton can’t score 15 a night in the NBA (and, he probably can’t), then those pros are SCARY good because this kid is a scoring machine – who can also distribute rather well, when he wants to.  He’s not a good defender and probably won’t make a roster, but I’ll miss watching him fill it up at Providence.

Joe Harris
“Joe College Player” will be missed in the college game and almost assuredly won’t be missed from the professional game.  Harris is one of those guys that I wish had like 8 years of college eligibility.

The 76ers and the 2013 NBA Draft

For the first time in recent memory, the Sixers were among the biggest stories in the NBA this week, thanks to their bold trade of Jrue Holiday, a young All-Star and the clear best player on the team, for the draft rights of Nerlens Noel and a 1st-Round pick in 2014.

Bold trades and headlines are nice, but not necessarily a good thing for the future of the franchise.  Did the Sixers help themselves on Thursday night?

Sam Hinkie started his rebuild on Thursday

The NBA is unlike the NFL or MLB because, in any given year, there are far less teams that a have a legit chance of winning a championship than in the other leagues.  We’ve seen 6-seeds make runs to Super Bowl wins and an 83-win Cardinals team win a World Series.  But in the NBA, it’s considered a shocking upset when a team like the 2011 Mavs wins a title, even though they tied for the 4th-best record in the NBA that year, winning just under 70% of their games in the regular season.

My point is that, while there’s plenty of logic in trying to keep your team “afloat” and stay reasonably competitive in the other leagues (much like a current baseball team in the City of Brotherly Love), there’s not much point in being “decent” in the NBA.  You have no chance of achieving the ultimate goal (a title) and not much chance of getting over the hump because you can’t get top draft picks or find the cap room to sign top free agents if you already have middling players taking up payroll.

New Sixers GM Sam Hinkie could’ve come in, looked at a Jrue Holiday and said, “Here’s a really good young player that will be a piece of the puzzle down the road.  Now, I can make a run at re-signing Andrew Bynum and we have two major pieces to becoming a contender.”

I’m glad he didn’t make that choice.  There were too many question marks with that plan, and if you got the wrong answers, there would be no way out.  We know all too well how much a question there is surrounding Bynum, on multiple levels.  And even if he’s able to play, with him and Holiday, the Sixers would probably be a 44-win team next year, finish 6th in the conference and be very lucky to sneak into the 2nd Round of the playoffs.

In the 12 seasons since the run to the Finals in 2001, the Sixers have a .471 win percentage.  Since 2003, their best regular season finish was 6th in the conference.  They’ve been the epitome of a team “stuck in the middle,” and heading into the next few years with Holiday and Bynum would’ve kept them there.

So, now where are they?

They’ll be bad next season.  Probably REALLY bad.  But that will net them, if all goes well with the Pelicans, two top 10 picks in a “loaded” draft.

And what of their two top picks in this year’s draft?  There’s reason to worry about Noel, but let’s remember that he was, arguably, the top-rated player in his class out of high school and a guy that everyone had pegged as the #1 overall pick in this draft for basically the entire regular season and then up to the final week before the draft.

He’s an intriguing talent.  He’ll probably never average more than 12-13 points a game but, ideally, he’ll become a Joakim Noah-type player.  He’ll need to add a lot of muscle, but he has the potential to be a game-changer defensively and a really strong presence on the glass.

Michael Carter-Williams will also have a steep learning curve, with basically only one year of college ball under his belt, as well.  Like Noel, he’ll probably never score a ton, but he has great size, length, and quickness, and he was an assist machine at Syracuse last year.

Neither one is a sure thing, but they both have the potential to be key pieces down the road.  I don’t know if Hinkie has Evan Turner in his long range plans or not, but if you’re going to have Noel, Carter-Williams, and Turner in your starting line-up, the other two guys better be able to score, and hopefully both shoot it.  The big piece, the superstar, is still missing, of course.

It should make the college basketball season that much more intriguing next year, because the Sixers will almost certainly be picking at the top of the draft, maybe twice, so Sixers fans will be scouting the top talents all season long.

Other thoughts on the draft:

  • In all the college hoops I watched last year, there were two players that just looked like NBA players.  Not like they had the potential to get there, but guys that, because of their body and skill-set, looked like current NBA players jumping into a college game.  Those two were Anthony Bennett and Otto Porter.  So, no surprise to see them go 1st and 3rd in the draft.
  • I’m very often wrong about projecting college players to the NBA, but I cannot figure out how San Diego St.’s Jamaal Franklin fell all the way to the 41st pick.  I get that he’s a shooting guard that can’t shoot but, last I checked, so was Dwyane Wade, and he just won his third ring.  Franklin has prototypical size and off-the-charts athleticism.  He’s an incredible defensive player and averaged 9.5 rebounds from his guard spot last year!  I’m not saying he’s gonna be Wade or anything, but I can’t understand why an Archie Goodwin goes in the first round and Franklin doesn’t even get close.  I mean, he can do this.
  • Along the same lines, it’s hard to believe that C.J. Leslie wasn’t drafted at all.  Again, the concerns are pretty obvious (mainly that he seemed to disappear from games way too often), but he was often mentioned as a lottery pick at one time.  There just aren’t many 6-9 guys that can move and jump like him.
  • One more that slipped:  Ohio St.’s Deshaun Thomas.  I guess the fact that the Spurs took him at 58 tells you right away: he should’ve gone higher.  He’s a tweener and I really doubt he’ll ever be a starter, but he can flat-out score and he’ll come off the bench for teams and throw up 10 points in 4 minutes.

Breaking: Sixers Acquire Andrew Bynum

This is kind of out of nowhere, right?  But, as reported by intrepid BSB reporter, J, the Sixers have indeed acquired 24-year old enigmatic, yet other-worldly talented center, Andrew Bynum from the Lakers for Andre Iguodala, Nicola Vucevic, and Mo Harkless.  Wow!

Here are my immediate reactions, without hearing anything but the players involved:

You Gotta Love it! 
Any time you can get a top 3 center, you kind of have to do it.  Oh, and did I mention that he’s only 24?  Plus, in an era, where it’s increasingly difficult, yet increasingly important to acquire a true superstar, you have to take a chance sometimes to get one.  And, being the 8-seed in the Eastern Conference every year would make it next to impossible to get a star.

Will Bynum Stay?
This deal becomes REALLY bad, REALLY fast if Andrew Bynum becomes Philly’s version of Dwight Howard (who, by the way, was a part of this deal, in case you haven’t heard…)

Iggy Will Be Missed More than People Realize, But Could Open the Door For Development Elsewhere
The dude is good.  But, as has been said many, many times, he’s not irreplaceable, and the Sixers have about a thousand swingmen on the team, so this might actually be good for guys like Evan Turner, newly-acquired Nick Young, and even Thaddeus Young.

How Good is Mo Harkless Going to Be?
Not that there is ANY reason to hold up the acquisition of a 24-year old stud center for a guy who played 1 decent year at St. John’s, but there are a lot of people very high on Harkless.  That being said, to get something big, you have to be willing to part with something big.  Let’s just not think that Bynum is the only risk the Sixers took here.  They also took a risk by unloading a guy with tremendous upside.

Top 15 2nd Round NBA Draft Picks of the Last 20 Years

This is a totally random list inspired by nothing, but hopefully just a tiny bit interesting to just a few people.  Why 15?  No reason.  Why the last 20 years?  Mainly just because that’s about as far back as my first-hand NBA knowledge goes.  As most people know, the NBA draft has just two rounds, and 2nd Round picks aren’t guaranteed any sort of contract, and are often cut before ever appearing in a game.  It’s really the rare player that ends up having a long, productive career.  Guys that clearly should’ve been 1st Rounders fall through the cracks for a bunch of reasons: they played at a mid-major college, they skipped college altogether, they had an injury history, or they didn’t have an “NBA body.”  Some guys fall for almost no reason at all.  But what they all have in common is that they weren’t expected to make it in the NBA, but all of these guys listed below did anyway, for whatever that’s worth.   

Two quick fun facts about 2nd Rounders in the NBA this year:  there is a current rookie having a surprisingly excellent season, and the team with the best record in the league has started two of them in every game this season, with one of them leading the team in scoring.  All three appear on the list below.  As a final note, it was a little difficult comparing guys who have played 13 years in the league to ones that have played just one or two, but I gave it my best shot.

15. Landry Fields (39th Overall Pick, Knicks, 2010):  So we start things right off with the above-mentioned rookie.  Impossible to say where he fits just 47 games into his career, but he really looks the part of a solid small forward.  He’s started every game and averaged 10 points for the resurgent Knicks, while shooting 52% from the field and 38% on 3’s.  He’s also been a suprisingly good rebounder for a guy that’s a slender 6-7, averaging 7 boards.  It goes to show how down the Pac-10 (and Stanford) has been, because I had NEVER heard of this guy that averaged 22 points for the Cardinal last year.

13 (TIE). DeJuan Blair (37th Pick, Spurs, 2009) and Paul Millsap (47th Pick, Jazz, 2006):  This is the first of three pairs of players that are ranked together, not just because they are similar in quality, but also because they’re similar players.  Blair fell because he was an undersized PF witha history of knee injuries, but he’s a high character guy with a natural talent for pulling down rebounds.  So, it’s no huge surprise that he’s started every game for the 40-7 Spurs in just his second season.  He’s playing just 21 minutes a game though, but averaing 8 points/7 boards.  Millsap played at a small school (Louisiana Tech), where he was a rebounding machine, averaging just under 13 for his career.  Most teams didn’t see that translating to the pros, but he’s developed nicely and is averaging 17 points/8 rebounds this year for Utah.  Those are numbers that Blair might be matching in a few seasons.

11 (TIE). Mo Williams (47th Pick, Jazz, 2003) and Nick Van Exel (37th Pick, Lakers, 1993):  Two solid NBA point guards who each made one All-Star appearance.  It’s actually a little surprising that they weren’t 1st Rounders.  They both were good in college at major conference schools, both pretty athletic and quick, good distributors, and underrated long-range shooters.  Though Williams probably never would’ve made an All-Star team if he hadn’t been lucky enough to play with LeBron.

10. P.J. Brown (29th Pick, Nets, 1992[there were only 27 teams at that point]):  Unlike the above two, he never came close to making an All-Star team, but there’s a lot to be said for being a winner and doing it over a long period of time.  He played 15 years and was a key part of some very good Heat teams in the late-90’s, some solid Hornets teams in the middle-00’s, and he made some clutch plays in the playoffs for the Celtics in their ’08 title run.  He averaged 8 points/7 rebounds for his career and was named to the 2nd Team All-Defensive Team three times.

8 (TIE). Mehmet Okur (37th Pick, Pistons, 2001) and Marc Gasol(48th Pick, Lakers, 2007):  Two Europeans that turned out to be legitimate NBA centers.  Okur played a key supporting role for the ’04 Pistons championship team, averaging 10 points/6 boards, before moving on and making an All-Star team with the Jazz in ’07, when he averaged 19/8.  Not many 6-11 guys can shoot if from deep like Okur.  Since being traded to Memphis for his brother, Gasol has been solid, especially last year when he averaged 15 points/9 boards.  He’s taken a step back this year, but the future still looks bright.

7. Rashard Lewis  (32nd Pick, SuperSonics, 1998):  As one of just three players on this list to make multiple All-Star teams, you might think Lewis would be higher than #7, but I put him here partly just because I don’t like him and think he’s overrated.  He’s 6-10 with a ton of talent, but he’s too often content to just jack up 3 after 3, rarely setting foot inside the arc for a drive or even to rebound.  Still, he had a 3-year run with Seattle of averaging over 20 points a game before making his second All-Star appearance as a Magic in ’09.  He’s averaged 16.5 points for his career, while shooting 39% from 3.  He came straight from his Texas high school to the pros.

6. Michael Redd (43rd Pick, Bucks, 2000):  Redd was one of the premier long-distance shooters of the past decade, with a 20 point per game career average, an All-Star appearance in ’04, and a 27 point per game average in ’06-’07, but he gets knocked down a peg or two because the teams he’s led have never been good and he’s missed a lot of time with injuries. 

5. Stephen Jackson (42nd Pick, Suns, 1997):  Anyone who’s followed Jackson’s tumultuos NBA career is probably not surprised to learn that, even though he was a McDonald’s All-American at powerhouse Oak Hill Academy, he was unable to get eligible for D-I basketball, and ended up at a junior college for a year before entering the draft.  That partly explains why a 6-8 wing player with his skill ended up in the 2nd Round, but the Suns actually cut him, and he didn’t make it to the league until three years later.  Two years after that, he was starting and averaging 12 points for the ’03 Spurs championship team.  In the 8 seasons since then, he’s averaged 18.5 points, posting his best season in ’08-’09 with Golden State, when he averaged 21 points/6.5 assists/5 rebounds.

4. Gilbert Arenas (30th Pick, Warriors, 2001):  For two years (’05-’06, ’06-’07), Arenas was one of the top scorers in the league, averaging close to 29 points a game those two seasons combined.  He added 6 assists, over 4 rebounds, and 2 steals a game as well.  But since then, his career has been derailed by injuries and off-the-court mishaps.  Not sure why NBA scouts missed on him.  Watching him at Arizona, I thought he looked like an NBA player with his combination of quickness, strength, and shooting touch.  I’m usually wrong about those things though, so I guess that doesn’t mean much.

3. Monta Ellis(40th Pick, Warriors, 2005):  Ellis snuck into the draft in the last year that high schoolers were allowed to go pro, and just a few years later he was averaging 20 points a game.  Over the past two seasons, the lightning-quick guard is averaging 25.3 points/5.5 assists/2.3 steals.  Granted, he’s doing it for a not-very-good team that plays an uptempo style, but he’s also still only 25 years old.  He gets the nod ahead of Arenas because he hasn’t self-destructed like Gilbert has. 

2. Carlos Boozer (34th Pick, Cavs, 2002):  This name appearing as a 2nd Rounder was the biggest surprise to me.  Boozer is a 6-9 behemoth of a man who played at the premier college basketball program of the last 20 years (Duke), won a title there as a starting sophomore, then averaged 18 points/9 boards as a junior.  Just a few of the players chosen ahead of him were Vincent Yarbrough, Robert Archibald, and Ryan Humphrey.  Seems like the scouts out-smarted themselves just a little bit.  Boozer was averaging a double/double (15.5/11) by his second season, and he’s been nearly a 20/10 guy over the past 5 seasons combined, while making the playoffs every one of those years.

1. Manu Ginobili (57th Pick, Spurs, 1999):  Looking at the stats and the number of All-Star games alone, it would seem like Ginobili doesn’t belong at #1 on this list.  He’s actually only started about half the games of his career.  But if I could take the whole career of any guy on this list, I’ll take Manu’s.  He’s the epitome of a “do-it-all” guard, with career averages of 15 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, and 1.5 steals.  He’s also great on the defensive end and one of the most sneaky, unorthodox offensive players, but can also knock down a long-range shot.  He’s no Tim Duncan, but he’s a HUGE reason why the Spurs have won 3 titles in his time there, and he could possibly make it #4 this year, and this time as their leading scorer, at 18.8 per game right now.  The Spurs laid the foundation for those titles when they took Duncan with the 1st overall pick in ’97, but they may have sealed the deal when they took this Argentinean with the second-to-last-pick of the draft two years later.

Honorable Mentions: Trevor Ariza, Anderson Varejao, Ryan Gomes, Carl Landry, Kyle Korver, Lou Williams, Rasual Butler, Chris Duhon

A Sixers Interview with Jared Bilski

Our coverage of the Sixers has always been lacking here at BSB, and to help remedy that problem we’re going to bring in a friend of BSB, Jared Bilski, for an interview about the team’s season so far, and where they might be headed in the future (you know, besides the bottom of the standings and the top of the lottery).

Jared is the biggest Sixers fan I know, which doesn’t necessarily put him on par with the biggest Eagles or Phillies fan I know in terms of overall craziness, but suffice it to say that he has an Aaron McKie jersey, he watches the majority of their games every year, and he once spray-painted his mom’s basement in celebration of a mid-season overtime win.

When not watching Sixers games, Jared can often be found performing at comedy clubs all around the Philadelphia region, and beyond.  He’s currently involved in a Comedy Competition, of sorts, sponsored by Magner’s.  Click on this link, watch his clip (he’s “Jared B.”) and if you think he’s funny, give him “3 Pints.”  If you don’t think it’s funny, just accept the fact that you don’t have a very good sense of humor and vote for him anyway, cause he’s a good guy.  You can vote once a day up until December 17th.

Finally, Jared has upcoming shows in Baltimore (Jan. 7-8), Lancaster (Jan. 14-15), and State College (Feb. 11-12).  For details, find him on Facebook.

(Editor’s Note: We started this interview about two weeks ago, which explains the 3-10 record mentioned for the Sixers, and perhaps Jared’s enthusiasm for Evan Turner.) 

BSB:  So Jared, expectations were definitely pretty low for the Sixers this year, but a 3-10 start is even worse than most expected.  You seem to have an infinite amount of optimism when it comes to this team, so let’s try to start with the positives.  There seems to be a hope and belief within the Sixer organization, and in the fan base, that the young backcourt of Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner could eventually be the backcourt for a good team, maybe even a contending team.  Do you think that’s true?  Have you been happy with Holiday’s progress this season, and what have you seen from Turner?

Jared:  Believe it or not, there are definitely some positives. The abysmal 3-10 start is a little misleading because the Sixers were very close in most of those games — save for an embarrassing road loss to the Spurs. I mean this Sixer team could (and should) have 6 or 7 wins at this point. True, a loss is a loss, but the fact that the Sixers are able to compete for four quarters gives fans a reason to hope Collins can get this group to close out the tough games down the stretch and significantly improve upon last year’s record.

Another positive: Elton Brand. Ok, he’s cooled off a bit in the last few games, and he’ll probably never live up to that $80 million contract, but he’s averaging around 16 points and 8 boards, as well as close to 2 steals a game. More importantly, he’s playing like he’s got something to prove. He knows he’s not the same guy that he used to be, so every game he’s fighting for boards, hustling for loose balls, and taking hard fouls to earn his points on the foul line. Considering how young this Sixer team is, it’s good that Brand’s stepping up and providing a strong veteran presence.

Ok, since that wasn’t even close to answering your specific questions about Holiday and Turner, I’ll move on. Do I think Holiday and Turner could eventually be the backcourt for a “good team”? Absolutely. Watching these guys has been the most exciting thing for me this year. Even though they don’t completely gel when they’re on the court together, Holiday and Turner seem to be getting better each game — both in terms of their numbers and their assertiveness.

Holiday seems to be picking up where he left off at the end of last year. With a number of double-digit assist games, Jrue’s passing has really impressed me so far. And he’s already dropped a career-high 29 points, as well. Most importantly, he’s a solid defensive player (most of the time), which the Sixers desperately need more of. Holiday definitely needs to make better decisions at the end of the game though.

After a disappointing Summer League performance, Turner has been steadily improving. At the start of the season, he seemed very hesitant whenever he got the ball. Now he’s much more aggressive. He looks like he wants the ball — and looks to score whenever he has it. On top of that, he can rebound. Turner averages around six and a half boards a game, which is really impressive for a guard. Doug Collins said the challenge with Turner is getting him to feel like he belongs with the team. According to Collins, once he feels like he belongs, it shows in his play. It’s starting to look like Turner belongs. Of course, he still has a lot of room to improve. For one thing, he can’t shoot very well. His FG percentage is pretty bad, and his 3-pt. percentage is downright shitty. But hopefully that’ll improve with experience.

Despite the positives, there’s a ton of negatives when it comes to this Sixers team. Instead of touching on the myriad of negatives, I’ll just talk about the one thing that pisses me off the most. That thing is Spencer Hawes. What a piece of shit that guy is, right? I never thought I’d miss Dalembert so much. Sure, the guy didn’t understand the basic rules of the game (3-seconds, goaltending, etc.), and he got into foul trouble 30 seconds into most games, but at least he had talent — and made the occasional big play. Hawes has no inside presence whatsoever. He can’t score; he can’t defend; he can’t rebound or block shots; he can’t do shit. I can’t remember who said it, but this statement sums up the major problem with this Sixer team: “You can’t expect much from any team that has Spencer Hawes in the starting lineup.”

BSB:  You try to hide your love of Sammy Dalembert, but I know you never wanted them to get rid of him, if only for the unintentional humor factor. This isn’t defending Hawes at all, but how many good centers are there in the NBA right now? Dwight Howard’s a monster, Joakim Noah’s becoming a pretty good one. That’s about all I can come up with.

Anyway, it’s a bleak time for Sixers fans, it’s been bleak for a while, and we won’t really pretend that there’s much light at the end of the tunnel. But, we have two promising young guards in Holiday and Turner and we have Brand playing hard. Give us one or two more reasons the Sixers are worth watching this year.

Jared: Yeah, you’ve got a point. I will always have a soft spot for Sammy. Before I got kicked out of my mom’s house, we used to watch the Sixers’ games together, and my mom had a huge thing for Mr. Dalembert. A part of me always hoped that the stars would align and they’d end up together. Can you imagine how amazing it would be to introduce Sam to my old-school Italian family around the holidays?  “Hey, Uncle Carmen, there’s someone I want you to meet. This is my stepfather, Sam Dalembert. He’s from Haiti, and he plays center for the Philadelphia 76ers. I’ll leave you two alone; I’m sure you have a lot to talk about.”

I’d have to disagree with you about the center thing. On top of Noah and Howard, there’s at least another handful of dominant centers out there: Al Horford, Andrew Byum (when he’s healthy), Lopez from the Nets can be dominant and Andrew Bogut is constantly improving. Oh, and for right now anyway, Gasol is handling the Center duties pretty nicely for the Lakers. It’s not that I expect anything great out of Hawes, it’s just that I expect something. Despite my low, low, low expectations for Hawes going into the season, he’s still managed to let me down. Anyway, to wrap this up, here are two more reasons why the Sixers are worth watching this year:

1. To see just how good of a coach Doug Collins actually is. Collins knew what he was getting into when he took this job, and I don’t think he would come onboard if he didn’t believe he could actually improve this team. I don’t think Collins has any delusions about bringing this Sixer team deep into the playoffs, but I do think they’ll be a better team than they were last year (granted that’s not very hard). One positive sign: One quarter of the way into the season, Collins is still very optimistic about this team. I remember watching some of the previous Sixer coaches showing subtle signs at press conferences this early in the year that the Sixers were a hopeless bunch. That’s not the case with Collins.

2. To see some of the most creative and mind-boggling ways an NBA team can lose basketball games. Up three with 8.7 seconds to go, a win against the Wizards seems an absolute certainty here. But what do the Sixers do? Foul John Wall in the act of shooting … FROM HALF COURT!!! Result: Sixers lose in OT. This is the team we’re dealing with right now. A team that, against all odds, with everything in their favor, some how, some way, finds a way to lose at the last possible second. Why watch the Sixers this year? Because you have to see with your own eyes how these losses occur to actually believe it.

BSB:  Who do you see winning each conference and the title this year?

Jared:  I think the Magic will come out on top in the East, and San Antonio will win the West — probably the last time for a while. In the end, I think the Magic will end up winning the NBA Championship over the Spurs.

BSB:  Thanks for taking the time, Jared.  Readers, remember to check out his clip, vote for him, and go catch a show some time!

(Very) Quick Hits

-The Braves sent Yunel Escobar to Toronto for Alex Gonzalez, in a swap of starting SS’s (there were also some prospects involved, they sound insignificant).  I’m not sure this was a good move by Atlanta.  Escobar is a promising young player who is having a down year but has definitely been a better hitter than the veteran Gonzalez.  I know there’s been some questions about Escobar’s make-up, but this seems like a bit of a panic move to just dump him after half a season of poor production.

-The Nets hired Billy King as their new GM.  Wow.

LeBron’s Not Perfect, But Is He a Villain?

Anyone else that has a space to write about sports on the internet is surely waying in on “The Decision”, so I guess we should as well.lebron

  • I watched the ESPN spectacle at my favorite sports bar in Manhattan.  It was easy to grab a couple seats at the bar at about 8:25, then the place steadily filled up as 9PM approached.  When the show started, the small bar was completely packed.  It was a strange atmosphere.  What were we all hanging around in a sports bar to watch?  Weren’t we all being really stupid for caring about this so much?  Yes, yes we were.  But I’ll say this, even though I’m somewhat ashamed to say it, it was gripping television.
  • Most of the TVs in the bar were tuned to ESPN, I was definitely the only person trying to also keep an eye on the one TV showing the Phils-Reds game that was heading into the late innings of a tight game.
  • I agree with just about everyone else in the world that announcing this decision in a one-hour special was a mistake by LeBron.  Had he announced that he was staying in Cleveland, it would have been great, but to go on national TV and use his decision to leave Cleveland behind, using this situation to self-promote, was not just narcissistic, it was dumb.  The old adage of “any press is good press” does not apply here.  He has all the press he needs and more right now, no matter how he made this announcement.  This was bad press, and it didn’t help his “global icon” mission.
  • One of the people I watched with, though not a Cavs fan per se, lived in Cleveland for five years.  He’s very aware of the relationship the fans there have to LeBron.  After LeBron made the announcement and started explaining the decision, the guy I was with kept saying, “It doesn’t have to be like this.  He’s saying the wrong things.  He should take some time to say how much Cleveland means to him and that he’ll always be a part of the community.”  I agree with him.  LeBron could have salvaged this televised debacle, somewhat, by saying to Jim Gray, “Before I take any more of your questions, I just want to take a minute to say how hard this decision was for me, and how much I hate leaving Cleveland without having brought them the title that I tried so hard to win, yadda yadda yadda, I love Cleveland and I’m sorry for leaving.”  I think that would have counted for a lot.  There still would have been plenty of LeBron jersey burning in Ohio, but at least he would have given a lot of Cavs fans reason not to completely hate his guts.  He hinted at things like this in the interview, but he should have said it more explicitly.
  • All that being said, I’m not ready to call LeBron a villain.  The way he announced the decision was a mistake, but I can’t blame him for the decision he made.  A lot of people, most notably Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, have thrown around terms like “traitor” and “shocking disloyalty” and “betrayal.”  I think that’s way off-base.  LeBron’s closest friends are still his friends from Akron, that he grew up with.  He’s going to Miami to play with two guys, Wade and Bosh, that he’s become really good friends with.  His friends and family from Akron are going to go with him to Miami, I’m sure.  I’m also sure they want to see him win championships almost as much as he wants to win them.  Who should he be loyal to?  His friends (both from Akron and Wade and Bosh) or the “city of Cleveland” and the Cavs organization?  He didn’t ask them to draft him, and if they hadn’t had the #1 pick, whoever else did would’ve taken him 1st overall, as well.  So how does he “owe” anything to the team, or the city?  I feel bad for the Cleveland fans, but it’s not LeBron James’s job to bring them a title.  We always rip athletes today for not caring enough about winning.  Here’s a guy who made a decision based on mainly two things: winning and playing with his friends.  We should hate him for that?  Sure, there are fringe benefits to winning those titles (like more endorsement money), but I just don’t think that’s why he made this decision.
  • Finally, not to defend the TV special, but would Cavs fans have reacted much differently had this free-agent signing been announced like any other?  A “news break” scrawls across the ESPN bottom line, declaring “LeBron Headed to Heat,” followed by an announcement that the Heat are holding a press conference for the following morning to announce the signing.  Would that have ripped their hearts out any less?  Isn’t it possible that this one-hour special, as atrocious and offensive as it was, is being used as a sort of scapegoat so they can feel justified in burning his jersey and declaring him Public Enemy #1?  Let me reiterate, I don’t blame Cavs fans for their anger and frustration.  I know what it’s like to not have a championship.  I’m just pointing out that it’s asking a lot of a 25-year-old, raised in poverty and without any college education, who happens to be the best athlete on the planet, to also have the life-experience needed to see the exact way he needed to handle this signing.  And that exact way was to go to the Cavs first, tell them he was leaving, and then hold a press conference aired live on all the Cleveland local affiliates, in which he announced to the city that he was leaving, etc.  That’s what he should have done.  The fact that he didn’t was a huge mistake, a disaster.  But is this athlete, who’s never done anything close  to killing a dog, raping a girl, cheating on a wife, using performance-enhancing drugs, being anywhere near a shooting, taking cars and money illegally from college boosters, or even shop-lifting, is he the athlete we should all hate now?  Just so we’re clear, the guy who chose winning and friends over money and loyalty to a franchise that couldn’t provide him with the roster he needed to win, and a city filled with millions of fans dying for a title, but the only people he truly cares about in Northeast Ohio are the ones he personally knows and loves.  He is no hero, he’s far from perfect.  He’s flawed, and he’s pretty damn fascinating, and I think he’s done pretty well for himself, all things considered.     

Utterly Fascinating

There are a lot of ways one could describe the last 10 days in the NBA.

  • Overblown – Rafa Nadal just won another Wimbledon title, giving him 8 Grand Slams (3 more than Federer at this point in his career).  Major League Baseball just hit its halway point with interesting races all over the place and a whole lot of trade deadline fodder.   Oh, and the world’s largest sporting event which only takes place every four years is going to crown a first-time champion on Sunday, as undoubtably the two greatest footballing countries to never win the World Cup will play for it all.  And, the NBA?  They haven’t played a single game (unless you count the meaningless one-on-one Summer League battles between Gerald Henderson and Gordon Hayward), yet they have completely dominated every national sports medium in the United States.  So, yes, you could call it overblown.
  • New School – We are now two decades into the Real World World.  Everything is instantaneous.  This is just the most recent, largest example of the changing landscape of the world, as seen through the media.
  • Narcissistic – LeBron James has a one-hour special on ESPN tonight to announce his “decision.”  Chris Bosh is producing a documentary of his life over the past month.
  • Intrusive – Somehow Dwyane Wade’s custody battle over his children has been the driving factor in the rumor mill’s most recent opinions on where he will sign.
  • Irresponsible – From a journalistic standpoint, have you ever seen less responsibility?  ESPN.com has basically become TMZ.  What even distinguishes a “story” from a “rumor,” at this point?  Chris Broussard (who I like very much, as a journalist, and I don’t fault him in the least) is basically that popular girl in middle school who finds out who likes who and is then telling everyone she knows.
  • Embarrassing – I heard Mike Francesca make a good point.  Other than Barack Obama, is there anyone in the world that could demand one hour of prime time television in 24 hours?  Anyone?  And, what does that say about our culture that it is the President of the United States and a 25-year old athlete?  I’m not saying, I’m just saying…
  • Ridiculous – It’s kind of a circus.  There are a handful of players making personnel decisions that are going to dictate the NBA landscape for the next 15 years.  The National Basketball Association has become a schoolyard pick-up game, with everyone choosing sides.  They might as well shoot for teams, at this point.

But, with all of these very descriptive, apt adjectives, there is one that stands above it all, for me:  fascinating.

Yes, I have been utterly fascinated with how this whole thing is playing out.  I read the gossip/I mean NBA page on ESPN.com every hour or so.  I have played with that little free agent slot machine thing endlessly for the better part of a week now.  And, yes, however absurd it may be (though, I found it a little less so considering the charitable spin put on it), I plan to watch The Decision tonight on ESPN to find out where LeBron James is going to sign.  And, yes, right now, I’m that guy that makes fun of the middle school gossip queens, but secretly cannot get enough of what they have to say about whom.

A Couple Random Thoughts About James’s Decision

  • How awful would it be if he went on national TV for an hour only to tell Cleveland he was leaving?  That’s why I have to put Cleveland at the top right now.
  • And, I honestly think it’s probably down to a three-team race.  ESPN is reporting that it’s probably going to be Miami to join Bosh and Wade, so I guess they are in play.
  • And, the only other team that I can possibly see him announcing on ESPN is the Knicks, especially considering Bosh is signed, sealed, and delivered to Miami.  If he was going to the Nets or Bulls, he would have taken Bosh with him.

But, then again, who knows?  Personally, I am rooting for him to stay in Cleveland.  Well, that is unless he wants to go to the Clippers and take LA away from that fraud named Kobe.