3Double Mock Draft: Version 1.5

In case you missed it, here is the lottery portion of the mock draft. 

15. Washington Wizards – Robert Williams: John Wall said that the Wizards could use some athletic big men, and Robert Williams fits that bill. He’s an exceptional athlete who will dazzle with his dunking ability, but he is a little undersized. RobertWilliams.jpg

16. Phoenix Suns – Keita Bates-Diop: After selecting Luka Doncic first overall, the go for the Big 10 Player of the Year with KDP. KDP will bring good defense and a strong shot to the Suns.

17. Milwaukee Bucks – Lonnie Walker IV: After a disappointing season, the Bucks are rebooting with Mike Budenholzer as coach. Walker is an athletic guard who can serve as a needed scorer for the Bucks.

18. San Antonio Spurs – Chandler Hutchinson: Hutchinson pulled out of the NBA combine, apparently because a team promised they would draft him. Could that team be the Spurs? Hutchinson is a forward who is a strong scorer who carried the offense in college.

19. Atlanta Hawks – Anfernee Simons: Simons is an interesting prospect, he did not play college basketball and he sat out parts of the combine. The Hawks take a swing at a boom or bust type of prospect who will need several years to develop.

20. Minnesota Timberwolves – Khyri Thomas: The Wolves have some fantastic options at pick 20, but Thomas is a no-brainer. Thomas is my highest ranked available player, and his skillset seems built for the Wolves. Thomas is a guy who can knock down threes at a high percentage, and bring some much needed defense to a bad defensive team.

21. Utah Jazz – Troy Brown: This seems like a perfect fit. Brown is a versatile defender who can be a playmaker on offense. He should be able to contribute as a rotational player right away. Troy-Brown.jpg

22. Chicago Bulls – Jontay Porter: Michael Porter Jr.’s younger brother is also good enough to be drafted in the first round. Porter did poorly at the combine, he had the highest body fat percentage of anyone at the combine. However, Porter can be a major offensive contributor, and perhaps getting his weight down will help his movement defensively.

23. Indiana Pacers – Aaron Holiday: Darren Collison is the starting PG for the Pacers, and will be 31 and entering the last year of his contract when the season starts. Holiday isn’t an explosive athlete, but he’s a good scorer. He is the younger brother of Jrue and Justin Holiday.

24. Portland Trailblazers – Mitchell Robinson: The Blazers might not bring back Jusuf Nurkic next season, leaving a hole at the center position. Robinson is a shot blocker who can defend the rim. It should be noted that some suggested that Robinson is hard to work with (he had an interesting saga at Western Kentucky University).

25. Los Angeles Lakers – Jacob Evans: Evans is not a player with star potential, but he is a prospect who should contribute on both ends of the court right away. He’s a solid 3&D wing who should produce in any environment.

26. Philadelphia 76ers – Dzanan Musa: The second highest rated prospect from overseas this year, Musa is a young scorer with a lot of potential. He probably isn’t ready yet to contribute in the NBA, and the 6ers could opt to let him play overseas for a while/

27. Boston Celtics – Jalen Bruson: The Celtics might lose Marcus Smart in free agency, and Terry Rozier is also a free agent after this coming season. Grabbing a guard makes sense for the Celtics, and Brunson projects as a role player who can run the offense when Kyrie Irving is off the court.

28. Golden State Warriors – Donte DiVincenzo: The Warriors are always looking for young players that can come in and contribute on cheap contracts. Right now, the Warriors rely a lot on Nick Young off the bench, but he is a free agent after this season. DiVincenzo can play the wing for the Warriors can hit jump shots and force turnovers on defense.

29. Brooklyn Nets – Gary Trent Jr.: Trent is a good shooter, but can he contribute more than that? He has defensive potential, but right now shooting is his main skill coming into the NBA.

30. Atlanta Hawks – De’Anthony Melton: Melton sat out his sophomore season at USC, but he still has a shot at being a first round draft pick. He has long arms and should be a force defensively. If he can improve his jump shot, he will be well worth a first round selection.

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3Double Mock Draft: Version 1

With the NBA draft order being set, lets take a look at how the draft might go. This mock will only cover the 14 lottery picks, other versions of the mock draft will include all 30 picks.

 

  1. Phoenix Suns – Luka Doncic: The Suns have a tough choice to start the draft: do they go for DeAndre Ayton, the massive center with a unique set of skills and local ties, or do they take Doncic, the Slovenian sensation who has played for their new coach? Ultimately, I think they opt for Doncic because new head coach Igor Kokoskov coached Doncic to a championship for Slovenia in EuroBasket 2017. Doncic is an elite playmaker to pair with Devin Booker. Despite being about 6’8″, Doncic can be the Suns’ primary ballhandler and playmaker. Doncic.jpg
  2. Sacramento Kings – DeAndre Ayton: The Kings moved up five spots and now have the luxury of getting one of the best two players in the draft. Ayton is my number one prospect, and he fits the Kings’ existing roster. Drafting Ayton gives the Kings a chance to pair a lot of their solid young players (Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, De’Aaron Fox) with a franchise player. Ayton
  3. Atlanta Hawks – Jaren Jackson Jr.: The Hawks moved up a spot in the lottery and are now in an interesting position. The Hawks could go in a lot of directions, but I’m mocking Jackson to them. The prospect out of Michigan State is the ideal modern big man: he can shoot, he can play tough inside, and he can play good defense and protect the rim. New head coach Lloyd Pierce said he wants to instill a defensive culture in Atlanta, and that’s why I gave Jackson the nod.
  4. Memphis Grizzlies – Marvin Bagley: The poor Grizzlies. After a season of awful injury luck, the Grizzlies fell two spots in the draft. On the brightside, Bagley is a good fit for the Grizzlies. Bagley is a springy power forward/center who has an opprotunity to be the team’s leading scorer. Pairing Bagley with veterans Mike Conley and Marc Gasol might make the Grizzlies a contender for a playoff spot.
  5. Dallas Mavericks – Mo Bamba: While the Suns resisted the temptation of grabbing a guy with local ties, the Mavericks are happy to select Mo Bamba out of the University of Texas. Bamba has the height and wingspan (7’0″ and 7’10” respectively) to make a huge impact on defense. Bamba projects to be an elite rim protector, and he is working on developing an outside shot. If Bamba puts it all together, he might wind up being the best player in the draft.
  6. Orlando Magic – Trae Young: Young is my third favorite prospect, and the Magic desperately need a point guard. It’s a match made in heaven. Young has the potential to be the next Steph Curry. He is undersized and his defense will never be great, but Young can shoot from anywhere on the floor and is a great fit for the Magic. Young
  7. Chicago Bulls – Michael Porter Jr.: The Bulls could go in a lot of different directions here, but Porter has the most upside of the players left. ESPN ranked Porter second in the 2017 high school class, citing his scoring ability as a primary factor. Porter missed most of the college season with a back injury, and his draft stock has taken a dive as a result. Despite a disappointing college career, Porter is still a high upside play who has potential to be a franchise player if he puts it all together.
  8. Cleveland Cavaliers – Collin Sexton: This is perhaps the biggest wildcard spot in the draft. The Cavaliers will not know if LeBron James will be returning by the time the draft rolls around, so their selection will certainly be interesting. It would not be surprising if the Cavaliers ultimately trade this pick for a veteran player to try to help LeBron. However, for now I have them selecting Sexton, an explosive point guard out of Alabama. Sexton isn’t my favorite prospect here, but the Cavaliers could use a point guard as George Hill is not in their future plans.
  9. New York Knicks – Mikal Bridges: Bridges’ draft stock has risen a lot this past college season. He’s 21 years old, and will be 22 before the start of the NBA season. It’s rare to see a junior be selected in the top 10 picks, but Bridges has proven shooting ability and is a good defender.
  10. Philadelphia 76ers – Wendell Carter Jr.: The 76ers would love to see Mikal Bridges fall to their pick, but with him off the board they select the best player available. Carter is often compared to Al Horford. He isn’t the most athletic guy, but he can shoot from outside pretty well and is a good rebounder.
  11. Charlotte Hornets – Miles Bridges: The Hornets could use help in all areas. It seems doubtful that Kemba Walker is on the team by the start of the season. It appears that it is time for the Hornets to blow it up and start fresh. Given that, they pick Bridges, who can be a small-ball power forward. Bridges played his sophomore season out of position at Michigan State. Being able to play his natural position along with better spacing should make Bridges the best prospect available at this point. I expect him to be a better NBA player than a college player.
  12. Los Angeles Clippers – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: The Clippers have back to back draft picks which puts them in good position to trade up. However, if the Clippers do make this pick, SGA should be their guy. SGA is a defensive minded guard who can play on or off ball. Milos Teodosic came over from Europe last year to play point, but he’s already 31 and could be traded.
  13. Los Angeles Clippers – Kevin Knox: With back to back picks, the Clippers select two Kentucky teammates. Knox was not efficient in college, he’s a raw scorer with a lot of potential. With SGA being a bit of a safe pick at 12, why not swing for the fences with Knox with the next pick?
  14. Denver Nuggets – Zhaire Smith: The Nuggets narrowly missed the playoffs this past season, but at least they have a lottery pick. Smith is uber athletic, but he is a project. It’s hard to imagine him getting much run with the Nuggets next season, but he could develop in the G-League. Smith is another “potential” guy, and if you watch his highlights you will see why he is an intriguing prospect.

 

LeBron and Who?

In the Cleveland Cavaliers’ blowout loss in game one of the Eastern Conference Finals, they played all 13 players on their active roster. Some of these guys only got in because of the nature of the game, it was 25 point blowout in Boston’s favor. Still, the majority of the Cavs’ roster were ineffective against Boston’s stout defense. It begs to question: who should be in the Cavs’ rotation going forward?

The Obvious: LeBron James and Kevin Love

These guys are no brainers. LeBron should see the court as much as he wants, and Love is undoubtedly the second best player on the team. Right now, Love is starting at center and LeBron at power forward, but going forward it might make sense for both of them to slide down a position and play more minutes at the 4 and 3, respectively.

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Other Should-Be Starters: George Hill, Kyle Korver, and Tristan Thompson

Hill needs to start at the point because who else are the Cavaliers going to play? Jordan Clarkson? Hill can be a shooting threat and is definitely the Cavaliers’ best defender at point guard. The decision to start Korver over JR Smith comes down to consistency. Korver has shot better these playoffs than Smith. To be most effective, LeBron needs knock down shooters around him. As for the decision to move Thompson from the bench to the starting lineup, playing the two bigs (Thompson and Love) could force Boston to counter with two bigs (Horford and Baynes) which would be to Cleveland’s advantage.

Bench Contributors: JR Smith, Jordan Clarkson, Jeff Green, and Larry Nance Jr.

JR Smith and Jordan Clarkson are instant offense off the bench. Both of those two have the potential to be sparkplugs for the Cavaliers’ offense. Clarkson will need to shoot well to see meaningful minutes. As for Jeff Green, he has a higher free throw rate than anyone else that should be getting minutes for the Cavaliers. Oddly enough, Green also has third highest win share total on the Cavs’ roster, behind LeBron and Love. That’s enough reason for him to get some run off the bench. Finally, there is Nance. Nance has been disappointing these playoffs, but he has the athleticism and size to match up well with Boston’s lineups. Maybe Nance will remind the Cavaliers why they traded for him in the first place.

A Quick Analysis of the Minnesota Vikings’ 2018 Schedule

The schedules for all NFL teams have been unveiled. Even though we’re in the middle of the NBA playoffs, lets take a quick break from basketball and have a quick look at the 2018 schedule for the Minnesota Vikings.

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So, despite the rumors, the Vikings will not open the season against the defending Super Bowl Champion Eagles but instead play at home against the 49ers. The Vikings have four primetime games this season, a Thursday game at Los Angeles (Rams), two Sunday night games against the Saints and Packers, and a Monday night game at the Seahawks. Four primetime games show that expectations for this year’s Vikings are high, even from a national perspective.

The Vikings take on five playoff teams from last season (the Bills, Rams, Eagles, Saints, and Patriots), but several other teams on the schedule could prove to be a tough test. The Packers have Aaron Rodgers back from injury, so you can expect a bounceback season from them. The 49ers started last season 0-10, but after making the move for Jimmy Garoopolo and inserting him into the starting lineup they went 5-0 to end the season. The Lions narrowly missed the playoffs last season, and now they have a new coaching staff. And then there is the Seahawks, who look like they are starting to rebuild, but do not underestimate Russell Wilson.

From a home-road perspective, the Vikings definitely face harder teams on the road. In back to back weeks, they play in Los Angeles and in Philadelphia, a brutual stetch. Their non-division home schedule consists of the 49ers, Bills, Cardinals, Saints, and Dolphins. It would have been nice if one (or a couple) of the tough road games against the Rams, Eagles, or Patriots was a home matchup. On the plus side, the Vikings never have more than two straight games on the road. In other good news, the Vikings also have a week 10 bye. After nine straight weeks of games, the week 10 bye will be a nice opprotunity for banged up players to rest and get healthy.

Overall, the Vikings’ schedule is looking tough, but this is a good team we’re talking about. None of these games look like automatic losses to me, at least not as it sits now in April. My way too early prediction for the Vikings’ record is 12-4.

Tennessee Titans Unveil New Jerseys

After months of hype, the Tennessee Titans have unveiled their new uniforms. And guess what? They look pretty similar to the last ones. The home jersey is navy blue, the away is white, and the alternate is the Titan’s baby “Columbia” blue. The amount of  that light blue color, a color that in the NFL is pretty unique, has been scaled back in favor of more navy for the most part. The white helmet has been changed for the first time in 20 years to the team’s navy color. On the shoulders, there is a streak of color that contrasts with the main color of the uniforms. Those color blasts give the uniforms some much needed character. The numbers have an interesting font with sharp points

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I like that the Titans have toned down the two-tone blue look. I don’t like the idea of two blue colors together, so scaling it back is a step in the right direction. The new uniforms may not be quite as unique as before, but overall they look better.

Titans needed a makeover, the old jerseys were stale and some of the worst in the league. These changes don’t put them in the upper echelon of NFL jerseys, but it’s a definite improvement over their old style.

Tom Thibodeau: Should He Stay or Should He Thibo-Go?

The Minnesota Timberwolves have their 40 win season since the 2004-2005 season. The team is in a heavily contested battle for a playoff spot, which would break a 13 year drought for the team. Despite this, some are calling for coach Tom Thibodeau to be fired.

During his coaching stints in Boston and Chicago, Thibodeau earned himself the reputation of a defensive genius. Before his hire, the Wolves finished the 2015-2016 season at 28 of 30 teams in defensive rating. Thibodeau was brought in to help the team grow defensively. During Thibodeau’s first season, the Wolves moved up a whopping one spot in defensive rating. So far this season, the Wolves are still 27. This is not the improvement that everyone expected with a supposed defensive mastermind taking over.

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Before coming to the Wolves, Thibodeau was also known for playing his players a lot of minutes. Many hoped that would change. It hasn’t. Jimmy Butler averages the most minutes in the NBA, Andrew Wiggins is 10, and Karl-Anthony Towns is 14. There are serious concerns that Thibodeau runs his players into the ground, making injury more likely. There are also concerns that the team will run out of gas if they make the playoffs. On top of that, there are quality players on the bench like Tyus Jones who deserve more playing time.

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It’s worth mentioning that Thibodeau was hired not only to coach, but to make personnel decisions as president of basketball operations. Very few coaches have this kind of power, Gregg Popovich and Stan Van Gundy are the only two coaches besides Thibodeau that have both titles. Striking a good balance between both jobs has proved difficult, Doc Rivers and Mike Budenholzer both had the title of president of basketball operations stripped from them. Really, this should be two separate jobs. The coach should focus on coaching, and the president of basketball operations should decide personnel moves. However, for all of the fair criticisms of  Thibodeau, it appears he has made some good moves as president of basketball operations. He traded for Butler, and signed Jeff Teague and Taj Gibsons, all of whom have been good additions. The way Thibodeau has filled out the end of the bench has been questionable (Aaron Brooks, Derrick Rose, and an empty roster spot are the most puzzling), but overall his personnel moves have made sense.

The Wolves haven’t gotten the boost defensively they thought Thibodeau would bring, and it appears he is overworking his players. However, he still brought in Jimmy Butler, and without Thibodeau, it’s possible Butler will leave in free agency in 2019. The Wolves are in a tough situation, but the franchise is finally having some success. Thibodeau has his downfalls, but it’s too early to give up on him.

Reinventing SportsCenter

I used to love SportsCenter. I would watch it everyday, using it as a tool to catch up on the highlights of games I missed, seeing the very best plays that sports had to offer. Sure, I had to sit through a segment of baseball highlights I didn’t really care for, but what other choice did I have? I wanted to see what was coming next, highlights from games that interested me. There weren’t a whole lot of options as far as sports highlights go, SportsCenter was the definitive place to get caught up on the world of sports. And then it wasn’t.

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Now, you can get the latest highlights just minutes after they happen on platforms like Twitter and Instagram. Podcasts contain a much more detailed analysis than anything you can find on SportsCenter because of time constraints. The downfall of SporsCenter has been much discussed over the past few years, and ESPN has seemingly acknowledged it by tinkering with the format and offering a more condensed show on Snapchat.

The problem is, there really is not a point to tuning into SportsCenter right now. When you can find any highlight you want, minutes after it happens, without sitting through segments of other stuff you don’t really care about, the whole purpose of SportsCenter has been defeated. The shortened edition on Snapchat is a move in the right direction, but there are other things that can be done.

Right now, one of the biggest mobile apps is HQ, a live trivia game. HQ goes live twice a day, at 3 pm EST, and at 9 pm EST. The latter game gets over one million users playing against each other live. It is one big communal event, and you have to be there to experience it.

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Riffing off of the idea, why can’t SportsCenter do something similar? Get people engaged with the content and have one time a day where thousands stop what they are doing and tune into SportsCenter. That’s a lot easier said than done. Here’s my proposal: SportsCenter: Fan Edition. This program airs (both on television and via an ESPN app) once a day and features highlights that are narrated by fans.  Fans submit their own clips, and the best ones are played live on the show. Think of the young kids, aspiring broadcasters, YouTube personalities, and just overall huge sports fans that would love to narrate a sports clip on television. People would definitely tune in to see if their clip made the show. For people not interested in submitting their own content, they are still treated to a very diverse and different cast of voices. While Scott Van Pelt, Steve Levy, and Linda Cohn are all SportsCenter staples, SportsCenter: Fan Edition would be a drastically different show everyday because of the thousands of different fan submissions that can be used.

SportsCenter: Fan Edition may not have the broad appeal of something like HQ, but it encourages fan engagement. It also offers a unique experience from the traditional highlight show and a reason to tune in live. It isn’t perfect, but it’s a SportsCenter for a new generation.