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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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.

Making Sense of the Wild, Wild, West

With 17 games left in their regular season, the Minnesota Timberwolves find themselves in third place in the brutal Western Conference. The Wolves are just three games ahead of the Nuggets who currently hold the eighth seed, and a whopping 11.5 game behind the Warriors for the second seed. Positions three through 10 are incredibly close. Right now, the Utah Jazz who find themselves in 10th are only five games back from the three seed. The end of the regular season is in sight, so who will claim playoff spots three-eight?

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Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder haven’t been very impressive this year. With Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony, you’d expect this team to be better. Still, I can’t imagine the Thunder falling out of the player, Westbrook and George are just too good. The Thunder just signed Corey Brewer, who should fill some of the injured Andre Roberson’s role. The Thunder are very thin, but because of their star players, they make the playoffs.

Portland Trail Blazers: In the last ten games, Damian Lillard has averaged just under 32 points per game. The Blazers have won five straight, and are clicking at the right time. The Blazers don’t have the easiest schedule left, they play 14 games against teams solidly in the playoff race. It won’t be easy, but I expect Damian Lillard, the most underrated player in the NBA, to carry the Blazers to the playoffs.

San Antonio Spurs: Things haven’t going well for the Spurs recently. The team went 2-7 in February, and there have been reports that Kwahi Leonard is frustrated with the organization. The good news for the Spurs is that it seems like Leonard might be nearing a return. The fact that the Spurs have played as well as they have (minus the month of February), without Leonard playing is pretty impressive. The Spurs need to start winning games now, and I have faith that the most reliable team in all of sports will make the playoffs once again.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Jimmy Butler might miss the rest of the regular season, but the Wolves still find a way to make the playoffs. The Wolves have played the most games in the NBA, and own the tiebreaker over several teams in the playoff race. On top of that, they have a three game cushion on the number eight seed. They have a brutal stretch in front of them, their next six games are against playoff teams, and the game after that they play the Clippers who are just outside the playoffs. After that though, the schedule lightens up and the Wolves will play a lot of tanking teams. Wolves end their playoff drought despite Butler’s injury.

New Orleans Pelicans: Anthony Davis is playing out of his mind, he’s averaging 34 points over the last 10 games. A month ago, I would have predicted the Pelicans to miss the playoffs, but how can you pick against them right now? Davis is putting up MVP-like numbers, and willing the Pelicans to victory on a nightly basis. The Pelicans are probably the least talented team of the teams in the Western Conference playoff race, but they still make the playoffs.

Utah Jazz: The Jazz have some ground to make up, but have won 12 of 14. Rookie Donovan Mitchell is making his case for Rookie of the Year, and Joe Ingels, Ricky Rubio, and Rudy Gobert are all playing great basketball. The Jazz only play three playoff teams in the next 11 games, and if they can go 10-1 or 9-2, they’ll be looking really good. Coach Quin Snyder has a serious case for Coach of the Year with how the team is playing after losing their best player in Gordon Hayward in the offseason.

With the Thunder, Blazers, Spurs, Wolves, Pelicans, and Jazz making the playoffs, that means the Clippers and Nuggets miss the cut. The Western Conference is as wild as ever, and as the season winds down, there should be meaningful basketball being played every night. Let’s enjoy the wild and unpredictable ride.

Four Predictions for NBA All Star Weekend

NBA All Star Weekend is here, and this year’s edition looks a little different than past years. A couple of weeks ago, LeBron James and Steph Curry took turns drafting their teams. Sunday, we get to see the first NBA All Star game that isn’t simply Eastern Conference versus Western Conference. Here are some quick predictions for All Star weekend.

Caleb McLaughlin wins MVP of the Celebrity Game: Four time MVP Kevin Hart won’t be playing this time, he’s still trying to get onto the Super Bowl podium. With Hart out, there are three former MVPs playing: Win Butler, Brandon Armstrong, and Justin Bieber. That said, it’s time for some new blood. Caleb McLauhlin, better known as Lucas Sinclair from Stranger Things, will win MVP. McLaughlin is 16 years old, the same age as Justin Bieber when he won MVP. McLaughlin might only be 5’5″, but short players have won MVP before (looking at you, Kevin Hart). On Twitter, McLaughlin posted a video of him hitting a three point shot. On top of that, the celebrity game will have a four point shot this year, and McLaughlin has the range to make it from there.  If McLaughlin’s jump shot is falling, I like his chances.

Donovan Mitchell wins the Slam Dunk Contest: This year’s dunk contest is stacked. Three guards (Donovan Mitchell, Dennis Smith Jr., Victor Oladipo), and  one forward (Larry Nance Jr.) make up the field. Nance is the son of the first NBA dunk contest winner, so that’s a cool bit of history. Oladipo and Mitchell are 6’4″ and 6’3″ respectively, and both have a 7’0″ wingspan. Oladipo and Mitchell are very athletic, but their long arms make them especially good dunkers. Mitchell’s insanely long wingspan doing a windmill is mesmerizing, he just makes it look easy. And then there’s Dennis Smith Jr., who is the shortest contestant at 6’2″, but he is insanely athletic. I have extremely high hopes for this year’s contest. While I think all four contestants have a chance to win (especially the guards), I’ll take Mitchell to win it.

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Team LeBron wins in a close game: LeBron and Curry took turns picking their teams weeks ago at this point. Why? I have no clue. Since the draft took place, four of LeBron’s players have gotten hurt and needed to be replaced. Team LeBron’s depth is lacking compared to Team Steph, but Team LeBron still has LeBron, Kevin Durant, and Anthony Davis. That’s a pretty good trio. On top of that, they also have Russell Westbrook, and you know he’s going to be giving it 100%, even if no one else is. My prediction is that Team LeBron wins in a close game, with LeBron himself winning MVP.

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The All Star Game will get more tweaks next year: Look, letting players pick the teams is a cool idea, and this year’s All Star Game should be better than the last few. But this is not the final iteration of the All Star game. I expect that captains will get to choose the teams, but the draft will be moved closer to the actual game because of the injury issue. I also expect a total elimination of voting for All Stars based on conferences. With the elimination of Eastern Conference versus Western Conference, the best players should be selected to the All Star Game, regardless of what conference they come from. So, the basic concept of the All Star Game will stay the same, but there will be some tweaking to the new format.

Quick Predictions for the 2017 NBA Season

The NBA season is upon us. After a whirlwind of an offseason that featured a lot of all-stars moving teams, it will be interesting to see how the season shakes out. Here are some quick predictions.

1. East Playoff Teams: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards, Milwaukee Bucks, Detroit Pistons, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers

Boston wins the East again, mostly because Cleveland is without Isaiah Thomas for a few months. Despite trading Paul George, the Pacers manage to make the playoffs.

2. West Playoff Teams:  Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Minnesota Timberwolves, Denver Nuggets, Portland Trailblazers, Utah Jazz

The Northwest division manages to get four of five teams into the playoffs. The Warriors run away with first place while the Rockets, Thunder, and Spurs all fight for spots 2-4.

     3. Kevin Durant wins MVP.

The Warriors are the best team in the NBA, and after a full year to mesh with Kevin Durant, they should be firing on all cylinders. I expect the Warriors to win around 70 games, and if they hit that mark it is hard to imagine Adam Silver not handing a Warriors player the MVP trophy.

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    4. Avery Bradley makes the all-star game.

Avery Bradley has long been one of the best defenders in the NBA. Bradley will help the Pistons make the playoffs, and he will get the recognition he deserves. Oh, and he’s going to get paid a lot of money this offseason.

    5. The Pelicans trade DeMarcus Cousins.

The Pelicans are aiming for a playoff spot, but in the ridiculously tough Western Conference, it seems like a bit of a long shot. Instead of potentially letting Cousins walk for nothing in the offseason, the Pelicans trade him away for pieces that better fit their team.

     6. The Warriors play the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. Again.

This match up will occur for the fourth consecutive year. Some might be fatigued from the past three Finals with these two teams, but at least the Cavaliers have shaken things up.

Unprecedented: the Cavs-Celtics Mega-Trade

Unprecedented. That’s the word that comes to mind in regards to the blockbuster trade that sent Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics, and Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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Stunning, shocking, flabbergasting. Those are other words that could describe what occurred. But after the initial shock, unprecedented is the word I keep coming back to.

The Celtics and Cavaliers finished the 2016-2017 season number one and number two in the Eastern Conference standings. Later, they met in the Eastern Conference Finals with the Cavs winning in five games. This is the first trade in the history of the NBA in which players who met in the Conference Finals were swapped. A trade between two top teams like this is unheard of. Not only that, but this is the first time in NBA history a trade has swapped two players who averaged 25 points a game (in this case, Irving and Thomas). Yes, unprecedented is the word to describe this trade.

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For the Cavaliers, they get rid of a disgruntled star and get an all-star point guard in Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder who provides good defense on an amazingly cheap contract, a 20 year old center with potential in Ante Zizic, and the 2018 Brooklyn pick that is likely to be in the top five. This trade might make the Cavaliers better this year, and provides them more flexibility for the future. On top of that, it reunites Kevin Love with his AAU pal (Thomas and Love better recreate this picture).

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Rumors have been swirling for months that LeBron James will leave the Cavaliers after the 2017-2018 season. Perhaps this reshuffling of the deck makes LeBron more likely to stay. However, if LeBron does walk away the Cavaliers now have some pieces to build around. The Brooklyn pick should be in the top five, so they can get a good young player, and a lot of people are excited about the player Zizic can potentially be. The pick and Zizic can also be used as trade chips to get an established star. On top of that, Thomas is on a one year deal, if LeBron leaves the Cavs can let Thomas walk and not break the bank, or they can bring Thomas back and still be a playoff team. The trade provides the Cavaliers with a lot of flexibility.

For Boston, they now don’t have to worry about giving the 5’9″ Thomas, who is coming off of a serious hip injury, a max contract. The Celtics have a big three of Irving-Hayward-Horford, which is pretty good. Plus, they also have young guys like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum who can grow and contribute. Do not underestimate Kyrie Irving in Brad Steven’s offense. In Vegas, Irving’s MVP odds went from 50-1 to 25-1, and for good reason. Point guards put up big numbers in Boston. If Irving scored around 30 points a game, would you be that surprised? He averaged 25 points a game in an offense that was centered around LeBron. Irving is going to put up huge numbers.

Perhaps the most shocking part of this trade is that it makes sense for both teams. You could argue that both the Cavaliers and Celtics improved. It seems like a win-win. Between the two top teams in the Eastern Conference. Unprecedented.

Did CNET Just Leak the New Timberwolves Jerseys?

A screenshot of NBA 2K18 has surfaced with what looks like a peak of the Minnesota Timberwolves new home uniforms. The picture came from a tweet from CNET’s Twitter account promoting a story about the graphics in NBA 2K18. The tweet has since been deleted.

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The uniform is fairly unique as it contains stripes of navy, white, and royal blue on the upper portion of the jersey. Other than that, it appears to be very basic. The shorts are white with some navy and royal blue as well. This also matches with a picture of a lime green uniform that came out last weekend that many expect will be the team’s alternate uniform.

The Timberwolves have not confirmed that this is the new jersey. The Wolves are expected to unveil the new uniforms on August 10.