Back in late June, I created the first version of my 2010 NBA Mock Draft. It has been almost six months since my last mock and I felt that, fresh off a John Wall monster performance at Madison Square Garden, now would be the perfect time to put out another draft. Draft order is based on current records.
1. New Jersey Nets (2-20): John Wall, PG, Kentucky
While it’s true the Nets’ best player is also a point guard in Devin Harris, Wall is way too good of a prospect to pass on here. Kentucky head coach John Calipari dubbed John Wall the real deal, saying he was farther along in his progression than Derrick Rose or Tyreke Evans were when he coached them at Memphis. Simply put, Wall is the total package. His jump shot is above average and his speed and athleticism combination remind me a lot of Ty Lawson. Throw on the five inches that Wall has over Lawson and you have a perfect pro prospect. Wall is a future All Star.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves (3-19): Wesley Johnson, SG/SF, Syracuse
Just as Wall performed outstanding at MSG, Johnson had a coming out party of his own in New York, scoring 25 points against North Carolina in the 2K Sports Coaches Classic. A transfer from Iowa State, Johnson has the Orange out to an 8-0 start and a top ten ranking. If you look above the rim, there’s a good chance you will find Johnson there. He already has an NBA body and his athleticism screams top five pick. His all-around game is still a work in progress but you wouldn’t know it based on his numbers this season as he is shooting 59 percent from the field and 53 percent from downtown. The Timberwolves are set in the front court and drafted Johnny Flynn to manage the point guard duties for the future. The versatile, lockdown defender in Johnson seems like a good fit here.
3. Philadelphia 76ers (5-17): Derrick Favors, PF, Georgia Tech
Elton Brand’s time in Philadelphia is all but over and the Sixers could use a new post man on the inside. Marreese Speights has proved that he will be a solid frontline player, but they need a presence in the lane that they thought Brand would be. Favors has the most raw talent of any big man in the draft and, while the Sixers could use a shooting guard, Favors is too good of talent to pass on here.
4. Utah Jazz (from New York): Greg Monroe, PF, Georgetown
Carlos Boozer is more than likely out of Utah next season and the power forward position will need to be addressed. Paul Millsap should be a fine replacement in the mean time, but Monroe can add another dimension to the Jazz’s offense. Much like Mehmet Okur, Monroe has range that extends out to the three point line and should work well with Deron Williams in Jerry Sloan’s offense. The dubbed “project” from last season, Monroe has started to show some of that potential, averaging 15 points and 11 rebounds thus far with the Hoyas.
5. Golden State Warriors (7-14): Ed Davis, PF, North Carolina
Anthony Randolph is proving to be a solid contributor for the Warriors but they still need a post player outside of center Andris Biedrins. At 6’10″, Davis runs the floor exceptionally well and is building an NBA frame that should make him a top five pick next season. His impressive wingspan also makes him a solid defender, something the Warriors could use. He is just tapping into his potential and could be a very impressive player for the Warriors.
6. Indiana Pacers (6-13): Evan Turner, SF, Ohio State
The Pacers are in dire need of a shooting guard/small forward outside of Danny Granger and Dahntay Jones, and Turner certainly fits the bill. A broken back will keep him out for the next two months but that should not affect his draft status. Much like Granger, he fills the box score on a nightly basis (two triple-doubles this season) and can play multiple positions. The status of Mike Dunleavy is in question and Granger plays more of a forward role than anything, so Turner should be able to start at shooting guard right away.
7. Washington Wizards (7-13): Willie Warren, G, Oklahoma
The Wizards are closing in on a state of rebuilding with injuries and age plaguing them, so taking the best player available would be in their best interest. Warren burst on to the scene last season as a freshman but was overshadowed by some guy named Blake Griffin. Now in the spotlight, Warren has not disappointed for the Sooners, averaging over 18 points and five assists per game. The best part of Warren’s game is his ability to shoot the ball and has the potential to play both guard positions. His size could be an issue but he does an excellent job creating his own shot, so it shouldn’t be an issue.
8. Chicago Bulls (7-13): Xavier Henry, SG, Kansas
The season from hell can only get better for the Bulls in the Draft (assuming they fire Vinny Del Negro), and Henry should help ease the pain. It should be a very interesting off-season for the Bulls, but assuming they can not land Dwyane Wade, Henry would be a great fit in Chicago. The lefty freshman has played outstanding for Kansas thus far and would add a pure shooter to the Bulls lineup. He needs to work on creating his own shot but all the talent is there for Henry to succeed at the next level.
9. Memphis Grizzles (9-12): Devin Ebanks, SF, West Virginia
The status of Rudy Gay going forward is in question and if he decides to leave town, the Grizzlies have very little depth at small forward. Ebanks has literally been a mystery this season, playing in just three games this season, but has boatloads of potential. He has a long ways to go, but many compare him to Atlanta Hawks small forward Josh Smith. He’ll need to gain some weight and become more of a basketball player than an athlete, but his skill set sets him up nicely for the future.
10. Sacramento Kings (9-12): Cole Aldrich, C, Kansas
The Kings seem to have a nice core in Tyreke Evans, Kevin Martin, and Jason Thompson, but outside of those three the depth of the team is really lacking. Aldrich is the second Jayhawk to come off the board, and rightfully so. An outstanding sophomore season put him into the national spotlight and he has all the tools to succeed in the NBA. He is a great passing big man and shows soft touch in the paint. Spencer Hawes and Thompson give the Kings a different, more finesse look and Aldrich would compliment them well.
11. Los Angeles Clippers (9-12): Donatas Motiejunas, C, Lithuania
Based solely on scouting reports, Motiejunas’s game is much like Toronto’s Andrea Bargnani. He needs to add some weight and strength, but his speed and aggressiveness make him a very intriguing prospect that the Clippers could take a chance on. Marcus Camby is a free agent next season and the Clips will have to replace him somehow.
12. Toronto Raptors (10-14): Patrick Patterson, PF, Kentucky
Chris Bosh’s performance over the last two seasons has all but written his ticket out of Toronto next year when he becomes a free agent. Taking his place will be Patrick Patterson, who is sure to garner some major looks as he takes Kentucky deep into the NCAA Tournament this season. Alongside John Wall, the 6’8″ power forward has showed great potential and has been on NBA scout’s radar since he joined Wildcats. He is undersized but his long wingspan and tough play will allow him to have success on the defensive end.
13. New Orleans Hornets (10-11): Solomon Alibi, C, Florida State
Don’t be surprised to see the Hornets in the playoffs by year’s end, but as it stands they are on the outside looking in. They have plenty of money invested for the next couple of years so they might trade this pick, but for now Alibi looks like a fine fit. Past Emeka Okafor, the Hornets have little at center as Hilton Armstrong has failed to live up to expectations. Alibi is a polished post man with excellent size that can make contributions right away.
14. San Antonio Spurs (10-9): Avery Bradley, SG, Texas
As weird as it may seem to see the Spurs picking in the lottery, they currently sit a half a game out of the playoffs. If they do end up picking here, Bradley could be the answer to free agent Manu Ginobili. While there’s still a chance Ginobili re-signs, Aminu would be the best pick in this spot to replace him and great value as well. With budding star George Hill ready to take over the shooting guard role, Aminu could learn behind the best as he becomes more of an all-around player. He plays outstanding defense and could shoot up the draft board as the season goes along.
Yahoo! Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski reported tonight that there are “serious” talks happening between the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks that would send Tyrus Thomas and Jerome James to the Knicks in exchange for Al Harrington. As trade talks begin to heat up around the NBA, the first real proposal of the season seems to make sense for both parties.
Thomas is currently recovering from a broken forearm that has kept him out of action for the last month and a half. Since he was drafted by the Bulls in 2006, Thomas has been somewhat of a project that has improved every year, increasing his statistical performances in just about every category. At just 23 years old he still has plenty of gas left in the tank but his high energy, athletic game could surely improve if he was put into a higher tempo offense. His 6’10″, 225-pound body slots him at the power forward position, but in the Bulls half court offense he is undersized and can not be a full-time post player.
On the other hand, Harrington has done well for the Knicks, averaging over 20 points per game since he arrived in New York. The 12-year veteran has exploded for two 40-point games this season and would surely add instant offense to a Bulls team that ranks 28th in the NBA, scoring just 91.4 points per game. The bigger Harrington would take over the Bulls power forward spot and give Derrick Rose another offensive weapon to go along with Luol Deng and Joakim Noah.
From a money perspective, the Bulls would be wise to make this move as Harrington’s contract expires after this season. General Manager John Paxson is clearly looking to the 2010 “Free Agent Sweepstakes”, where he and the Bulls are expected to make plays for free agents Chris Bosh and hometown hero Dwyane Wade. With Harrington’s contract going off the books after the season, more cap space will be available for the Bulls to go after those free agents. Letting go of Thomas would save the Bulls approximately $13 million.
The Knicks currently have the most cap space allotted for 2010 of any NBA team with players like Larry Hughes ($13.65 million), Darko Milicic ($7.5 million), Cuttino Mobley ($9.5 million), David Lee ($7 million), Chris Duhon ($6 million), and Nate Robinson ($4 million) all coming off the books after this season. The Knicks have made it all but public that they will pursue LeBron James next summer, the clear prized possession of the free agent class.
However, one issue that has been talked about is that the Knicks will have to show James that they still have a foundation and that they will not sacrifice the rest of the team just so they have the money to offer him a maximum contract. Adding Thomas to the Knicks, who is under contract until 2011, along with up-and-coming second year forward Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, and rookies Jordan Hill and Toney Douglas would be a start in showing James that a young core of players are ready to succeed under the leadership of James if he comes to New York.
As it goes for the 2009 season, Harrington would improve the Bulls’ front court immediately alongside the fully improved Joakim Noah. Last June, the Bulls drafted Wake Forest’s James Johnson and Taj Gibson from USC. While Johnson is more of a project, just as Thomas was coming out of college, Gibson has established himself as a contributor and has the potential to start for the Bulls in 2010. Despite being a fan favorite, the early emergence of Gibson makes Thomas expendable and also frees up the power forward position for Chris Bosh in 2010, presuming he decides on Chicago next summer.
1. Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma
2. Memphis Grizzlies: Hasheem Thabeet, C, Connecticut
3. Oklahoma City Thunder: Ricky Rubio, PG, DKV Joventut
4. Sacramento Kings: Jrue Holiday, PG, UCLA
5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Tyreke Evans, PG, Memphis
6. Minnesota Timberwolves: James Harden, SG, Arizona State
7. Golden State Warriors: Jordan Hill, PF, Arizona
8. New York Knicks: Stephen Curry, G, Davidson
9. Toronto Raptors: DeMar DeRozan, SG, USC
10. Milwaukee Bucks: Brandon Jennings, PG, Italy
11. New Jersey Nets: Tyler Hansbrough, PF, North Carolina
12. Charlotte Bobcats: Gerald Henderson, SG, Duke
13. Indiana Pacers: Johnny Flynn, PG, Syracuse
14. Phoenix Suns: Earl Clark, SF, Louisville
15. Detroit Pistons: Austin Daye, SF, Gonzaga
16. Chicago Bulls: Terrence Williams, SG, Louisville
17. Philadelphia 76′ers: Eric Maynor, PG, Virginia Commonwealth
18. Minnesota Timberwolves: B.J. Mullens, C, Ohio State
19. Atlanta Hawks: Jeff Teague, PG, Wake Forest
20. Utah Jazz: DeJuan Blair, PF, Pittsburgh
21. New Orleans Hornets: Sam Young, SG, Pittsburgh
22. Portland Trailblazers: Omri Casspi, SF, Israel
23. Sacramento Kings: James Johnson, PF, Wake Forest
24. Dallas Mavericks: Ty Lawson, PG, North Carolina
25. Oklahoma City Thunder: Chase Budinger, SF, Arizona
26. Chicago Bulls: Wayne Ellington, SG, North Carolina
27. Memphis Grizzlies: Derrick Brown, PF, Xavier
28. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jonas Jerebko, SF, Italy
29. New York Knicks: Toney Douglas, PG, Florida State
30. Cleveland Cavaliers: Demarre Carroll, PF, Missouri
31. Sacramento Kings: Darren Collison, PG, UCLA
32. Washington Wizards: DaJuan Summers, PF, Georgetown
33. Portland Trailblazers: Victor Claver, PF, Spain
34. Denver Nuggets: Taj Gibson, PF, USC
35. Detroit Pistons: Jeff Pendergraph, PF, Arizona State
36. Memphis Grizzlies: Patty Mills, PG, St. Mary’s
37. San Antonio Spurs: Jerel McNeal, G, Marquette
38. Portland Trailblazers: Josh Heytvelt, PF, Gonzaga
39. Detroit Pistons: Jack McClinton, PG, Miami
40. Charlotte Bobcats: Danny Green, G/F, North Carolina
41. Milwaukee Bucks: John Brockman, PF, Washington
42. Los Angeles Lakers: Rodrgiue Beaubois, PG, France
43. Miami Heat: Jermaine Taylor, SG, Central Florida
44. Detroit Pistons: Ahmad Nivins, PF, St. Joseph’s
45. Minnesota Timberwolves: Christian Eyenga, SG, Congo
46. Phoenix Suns: A.J. Price, PG, Connecticut
47. Minnesota Timberwolves: Sergio Llull, PG, Spain
48. Phoenix Suns: Dante Cunningham, SF, Villanova
49. Atlanta Hawks: Vyacheslav Kravtsov, C, Ukraine
50. Utah Jazz: Leo Lyons, PF, Missouri
51. San Antonio Spurs: Wesley Matthews, SG, Marquette
52. Indiana Pacers: Jodie Meeks, SG, Kentucky
53. San Antonio Spurs: Goran Suton, C, Michigan State
54. Charlotte Bobcats: Patrick Beverly, PG, Ukraine
55. Portland Trailblazers: Dionte Christmas, SG, Temple
56. Dallas Mavericks: Tony Gaffney, PF, UMass
57. Phoenix Suns: Paul Harris, SF, Syracuse
58. Boston Celtics: Nando De Colo, SG, France
59. Los Angeles Lakers: Bryan Mullins, PG, So. Illinois
60. Miami Heat: Jeff Adrien, PF, Connecticut
As I read Scoop Jackson’s latest article on ESPN Chicago regarding how the Bulls could be sitting as the frontrunners for a championship, I couldn’t help but think he is way off on these presumptions. You can read the article here, but let’s break down each of these steps.
1. Draft DeJuan Blair with the 16th pick.
It’s funny that the first step for the Bulls is the one I agree with the most. Being a Big East guy myself, I have had the pleasure (minus the Marquette-Pitt game) of watching Blair for the last two years and have seen enough to know he is going to be a heck of a pro.
When I watch him play, I automatically think David Lee. True, Lee is more athletic and taller than Blair. However, the 6’7″ sophomore has a huge wingspan and is one of the strongest players in the draft. He will make room for himself in the paint and should be a double digit rebounder in the pros.
The one thing I disagree with Scoop on is when he says “together, [Joakim Noah, Tyrus Thomas, and Blair] could create the best young, three-headed monster in the NBA.” That’s a nice thought and to be honest, those three together are like earth, wind, and fire. You’ve got the scrappy Noah, the athletic Thomas, and the brusier Blair.
However, having three guys who only do one thing well is not going to get you far. Teams (Boston, anyone?) will continue to go inside on Thomas, bring Noah and Blair out to the elbow, and drive aggresively. Blair would be a great start but like I said, he doesn’t make automatically make them contenders.
2. Hire Charles Oakley as a special assistant to player development.
Once again, a nice thought if Blair is brought in, but how much good will it do? Oakley was a pretty good pro who has a storied past in Chicago. Knowing for being hot-headed at times, Oakley might make Blair into a legitimate enforcer and improve his game somewhat, but that’s about it.
My good friend Brian Bakal pointed out that this is not the equivelant to Kareem coming back to coach Andrew Bynum or Patrick Ewing making Dwight Howard into the next Shaquille O’Neal.
Blair will be a nice player in the league and has the potential to start in the future, but due to his lack of height and athleticism, his ceiling isn’t all that high.
Bringing in Oakley may prove to be a good decision, but I doubt it is in the blueprints for a championship.
3. Use the 26th pick in one of these three options:
Option One: Package No. 26 in a Ben Gordon sign-and-trade deal to be announced July 2.
Option Two: Package the pick in a Luol Deng deal that will be finalized by night’s end.
Option Three: Simply select Wayne Ellington with the 26th pick.
Options one and two come into play later, so let’s assume that they go with option number three. Ellington may follow the long list of Tar Heel shooting guards to come into the league and do well, but it sure isn’t going to happen this year. Most players picked at number 26 are not NBA-ready and Ellington is no exception.
He has a great jump shot with NBA range and his athleticism should allow for him to grow as a player. However, he plays shaky defense and doesn’t do a whole lot other than shoot. If he is going to be a good player, it isn’t going to happen this year. Scoop’s article is based on the Bulls taking the crown in 2010, but if Ellington is the pick, he won’t be a contributor this year.
4. Make an agreement with Gordon before Thursday to remain a Bull.
Numbers four and five for Scoop’s article go together and this is the one I disagree with. In an earlier post, I talked about what the Bulls needed to do next year and Gordon was not in those plans. It’s time to move away from Gordon and his one-dimensional game. Especially if that includes getting into a bidding war with the Pistons and (supposedly) the Knicks. Scoop mentions that the Bulls need to do this to have a “sense of stability about their starting lineup”, but I think they can afford to look elsewhere to find that.
5. Or make an arrangement with Gordon before draft day so that he agrees to a future sign-and-trade with Houston to get Tracy McGrady to replace him.
NOOOOOO!!!!!! If Scoop is saying that the Bulls should swap out Gordon for McGrady, I’d buy a Gordon jersey to keep him in Chicago. I started to compare Gordon to McGrady, all things considered, and decided that Gordon is still the better option to have.
First things first, McGrady is expected to miss the first month of the season with lingering knee issues, and once he is back who knows what the future holds. Sure, McGrady brings the veteran leadership and the All-Star talent and the blah blah blah. I’m not buying it and am one person who thinks the fact that McGrady has never gone past the first round in the playoffs is more on him than his teammates.
Great players make it happen and he just isn’t one of them. Combine that with the past injury history, 30 years of age, and swapping out a better, younger Gordon (while saving no money), this looks like the wrong deal.
6. At 10:20 p.m. ET, John Paxson needs to put in a call to Steve Kerr.
I’ll save you the dialouge, but basically Scoop’s next move was to trade Luol Deng, Tim Thomas, and $3.5 million in cash to the Phoenix Suns for Shaquille O’Neal.
And the Suns are going to do this why….?
With teams that are potentially one piece away from being a title contender, the Bulls would have to really up their offer if they want the Suns to pull the trigger on this deal.
Deng is a fine player and has really rounded out his game over the last couple of years, crashing the boards and being more of a team player. But as many league sources have explained, the Suns are not trying to get rid of Shaq to save money.
In this deal, Thomas is a nothing that would most likely be waived, meaning the deal is pretty much Shaq for Deng. O’Neal still has a ton left in the tank and the Suns should expect a lot more in return for him.
I guess what that means is technically I agree with Scoop that if the Bulls can make this deal, they should.
7. Get everyone’s ring size if you can make this the Bulls’ 2009-10 roster:
PG: Derrick Rose
SG: Tracy McGrady/Ben Gordon
SF: John Salmons
PF: Tyrus Thomas
C: Shaquille O’Neal
Bench: Kirk Hinrich, Joakim Noah, DeJuan Blair, Wayne Ellington, Brad Miller, Anthony Roberson, DeMarcus Nelson
Rose, Blair, Thomas, and Noah is an outstanding base to start building the franchise around. The “Baby Bulls” title has to be lifted off some time, but they are still very young with a lot of talent close to blossoming.
To me, it is a question of whether that talent is ready to bloom or whether McGrady and O’Neal will just set the Bulls back two or three years.
Two things still stand out to me as big red flags on the team: Injuries and the lack of defense.
Blair’s knees have caused him to drop down some team’s big boards while others will avoid him completely. McGrady will miss the first month and his knees have been a question mark for a long time now. O’Neal is up there in age and has to take games off at times in the season.
Defensively, the Bulls would be better off with McGrady, but still not good. Last year, guards torched the Bulls all season due to the lack of defense shown by the frontcourt.
If Chicago wants to really improve things, go find a defensive stopper that will play on both ends, not just offensively. Two guys that jump out right away are Terrence Williams or trading both picks for Gerald Henderson.
I applaud Scoop for the article and liked a lot of things that he had to say. It definitely will get people thinking what the Bulls can do to get back to elite status.
However, some of the thinking is inconsistent as Blair and Ellington are more projects while McGrady and O’Neal would suggest a “win-now” mentality.
This year’s draft class is one of the weaker in recent memory, but a lot of teams are one piece away and there are great role players in this year’s draft who have the experience to come in right away and see minutes. Round two will be up tomorrow but for now, enjoy my 2009 NBA Mock Draft 2.0!
1. Sacramento Kings: Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma
Unlike the NFL, when you have the first overall seed in the draft you go with the best player nine out of ten times. Count this one as one of those nine times as the Kings grab the best player in the draft in Griffin to tag-team with Spencer Hawes in the front court. NBA Comparison: Amare Stoudemire
2. Washington Wizards: Ricky Rubio, PG, DKV Joventut
Ever since his Olympics performance against the United States, scouts have been drooling waiting for Rubio to declare for the draft. Now that he has entered his name, the Wizards can start building around him to get back to the playoffs. Moving Gilbert Arenas to a Dwyane Wade-type shooting guard role will help both players out and make the Wizards that much better. NBA Comparison: Rafer Alston
3. Los Angeles Clippers: Jordan Hill, PF, Arizona
Hill was one of the most improved players in the NCAA this year and will be rewarded for it in the draft. Hill is an outstanding scorer and and even better shot blocker. Hopefully Los Angeles can reverse their Lottery luck and start to build a core around Hill, Eric Gordon, and Deandre Jordan. NBA Comparison: Al Jefferson
4. Oklahoma City Thunder: Hasheem Thabeet, C, Connecticut
The Thunder are growing excellent young talent right now with Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and Russell Westbrook, but there appears to be a gaping hole at the center position. Thabeet was the best defensive player in the NCAA last year and if he can add a some muscle to his frame, he will be the next big shot blocker in the league. NBA Comparison: Sam Dalembert
5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Brandon Jennings, PG, Italy
A lot of people are underrating Jennings because of his decision to play internationally instead of going to Arizona, but do not deny Jennings’ talent for one second. He excels on his jump shot and getting to the hoop, where he finishes with great power. Minnesota can move Randy Foye to shooting guard to make room for Jennings. NBA Comparison: Allen Iverson
6. Memphis Grizzlies: James Harden, SG, Arizona State
I am not a huge fan of Harden as I wonder how good he can be without having top end speed. Still, you can not overlook his outstanding ability on jump shots. He needs to work on creating more offensively and he plays pretty good defense for his size. His potential is huge and despite having O.J. Mayo, the Grizzlies believe in Mike Conley and will build on more depth in getting Harden. NBA Comparison: Ben Gordon
7. Golden State Warriors: Tyreke Evans, PG, Memphis
Evans was one of my favorite players to watch this year, and for good reason. He has great size for a point guard and uses it very well getting to the hoop. He is also able to guard bigger players on the defenders, something Golden State has been known to give up on most nights. Evans also improved his jump shot as the year went on and will develop it even further in Don Nelson’s system. NBA Comparison: Dwyane Wade
8. New York Knicks: Jeff Teague, PG, Wake Forest
Teague is the definition of a combo guard as he has a knack for scoring baskets but also handles the point very well. He should thrive in Mike D’Antoni’s run-n-gun offense because of it, and with the uncertainty of Nate Robinson and Chris Duhon next year, Teague makes a lot of sense here. NBA Comparison: Gilbert Arenas
9. Toronto Raptors: Gerald Henderson, SG, Duke
Toronto really struggled to find a steady and consistent shooting guard this year, but Henderson should solve all thier problems. Henderson is unbelievably athletic and a smart player who will benefit greatly from an up-tempo style that he was not able to see while playing for coach K. NBA Comparison: Joe Johnson
10. Milwaukee Bucks: Johnny Flynn, PG, Syracuse
I don’t know if Flynn will end up going over Ty Lawson in the draft come June, but he should. Not only did Flynn have a better statistical season (by a hair), but I believe that he is the next big thing to come and has more potential than Lawson. Flynn plays much bigger than he really is and the Bucks could use a starting point guard on a team full of back-ups in Luke Ridnour and Ramon Sessions. NBA Comparison: Tony Parker
11. New Jersey Nets: Earl Clark, SF, Louisville
Clark is one of the most intriguing prospects in this year’s draft and one of my favorites. I got to watch him quite a bit as he played in the Big East, and from what I can tell he has all the tools. His size matched up with his athleticism is unlike any other player in the draft. If he can focus on becoming a true forward (settles for too many jump shots), his outstanding defense and versatility will carry him far in the league. NBA Comparison: Josh Smith
12. Charlotte Bobcats: Wayne Ellington, SG, North Carolina
Ellington’s permiter game is outstanding and he has pretty good size for a shooting guard. Charlotte lacked a true two guard after the Jason Richardson trade, and it never hurts to have a little home-grown talent to bring some people to the stadium. NBA Comparison: Richard Hamilton
13. Indiana Pacers: Stephen Curry, PG, Davidson
The value that Curry brings falling to number 13 is too hard to pass up. Curry formed himself into a combo guard this year, taking over point guard responsbilities. This will be a key asset for NBA scouts to see as last year he was more of a pure shooter that did not do anything else very well. NBA Comparison: Mike Bibby
14. Phoenix Suns: Ty Lawson, PG, North Carolina
Lawson will become the heir apparent to Steve Nash and he should thrive in the Suns up-tempo system, somewhat similar to what he played in at Chapel Hill. Lawson lacks ideal size for a point guard but his combination of speed and strength should make him a very good player in the league. NBA Comparison: Deron Williams
15. Detroit Pistons: Demar DeRozan, SF, Southern Cal
DeRozan has filled up many a Youtube videos with his athleticsm and speed to go with it, but the question is whether or not he can translate that into a solid basketball player. At Southern Cal, DeRozan had an efficient year and, with so much potential on his side, Detroit should be able to turn him into a stud. NBA Comparison: Josh Howard
16. Chicago Bulls: Terrance Williams, SG, Louisville
I do not expect the Bulls to re-sign Ben Gordon this off-season, leaving somewhat of a hole at the position. Williams has the best intangibles and leadership qualities of anyone in the draft and plays excellent defense, which is something the Bulls could use more out of their guards. If Gordon is re-signed by the time of the draft, this pick could easily be Patrick Patterson. NBA Comparison: Andre Iguodala
17. Philadelphia 76ers: Chase Budinger, SF, Arizona
Budinger has significantly increased his stock since coming out of high school with Greg Oden and Kevin Durant, and has become a much better all around player because of it. Philadelphia could use depth at the position but would also consider Flynn or Lawson if either of them were to fall this far. NBA Comparison: Luol Deng
18. Minneosta Timberwolves:James Johnson, PF, Wake Forest
While Minnesota has entrenched their front court with Al Jefferson and Kevin Love, Johnson is a project that can sit and wait in the wings for a few years becoming a full time player. He flew under the radar all of last year because of Jeff Teague and Al-Farouq Aminu but his athleticism and strength are two great traits that could make him a stellar defender in the NBA. NBA Comparison: Al Thornton
19. Atlanta Hawks: B.J. Mullens, C, Ohio State
Mullens was the top prospect coming out of high school but did not have an unbelievable year at Ohio State. Still, he has a ton of potential that could very easily translate to the NBA game. He is very raw but has good size and is fluid in the paint and is one of the few true centers that could go in the first round this year. Atlanta could use some depth behind Zaza Pachulia and keep Al Horford at the power forward position. NBA Comparison: Sam Dalembert
20. Utah Jazz: DeJuan Blair, PF, Pittsburgh
If Carlos Boozer is not back for the Jazz, which I do not expect him to be, depth at power forward will be a major concern. Paul Millsap proved that he is more than capable of starting, but behind him there is little talent on a team that runs on having depth. NBA Comparison: Paul Millsap
21. New Orleans Hornets: Marcus Thornton, SG, LSU
The Hornets are really lacking at the shooting guard position and Thornton is a project that could stem into something very positive if he continues to work on his game. He does a great job coming off of screens in offensive sets and even has a decent post game that he can use in the NBA. NBA Comparison: Ray Allen
22. Dallas Mavericks: Patrick Patterson, PF, Kentucky
Other than Brandon Bass, the Mavs do not have very man post-up forwards, and that is exactly what Patterson is. Injuries plagued him but when he is playing good basketball, he is a top-10 pick. He averages close to three offensive rebounds per game and works very hard in the post to fight for rebounds despite still being a very raw player. He could easily be the steal of this draft. NBA Comparison: Al Horford
23. Sacarmento Kings: Jrue Holiday, PG, UCLA
After addressing the power forward position, the Kings pick up a big-time project in Holiday. He has the potential to be a starting point guard in the Association but will really need to polish up. He struggled late in the season but gives good versatility as a combo guard. I would not be surprised at all to see Holiday come back to the Bruins for another year of work in college. NBA Comparison: Rodney Stuckey
24. Portland Trailblazers: Sam Young, SF, Pittsburgh
Young is one of the most polished players in the draft that can come in right away and get minutes. He will be coming to a team in the Blazers that has some of the best young talent in the league, so player that can see the floor from day one will be important. Young plays great defense and really improved his jump shot this year. NBA Comparison: Brandon Rush
25. Oklahoma City Thunder: Eric Maynor, PG, VCU
Despite having standout rookie Russell Westbrook, the Thunder have shaky depth at the point guard position. Maynor benefited greatly from the NCAA Tournament and was one of the most well-recognized names in March. He is a veteran player and a great leader that can translate to the young Thunder team. NBA Comparison: Nate Robinson
26. Chicago Bulls: Austin Daye, PF, Gonzaga
Daye is a very interesting prospect that, like most Bulls forwards, will be a project in the making. The one difference is that Daye is an outstanding defender and very strong in the post. Too many times this year the Bulls were “out-physicaled” and it cost them points in the paint. Daye also has a nice mid-range game on offense. NBA Comparison: Jared Jeffries
27. Memphis Grizzlies: Patrick Mills, PG, Saint Mary’s
Mike Conley showed flashes of starting capability, but just in case he is not the answer for the Grizzles, Mills will be a very good pickup with good value. Mills takes too many outside shots right now and will need to work on that, especially if he keeps missing them, but over time could prove to be a solid option at the point. NBA Comparison: Rafer Alston
28. Minnesota Timberwolves: Gani Lawal, PF, Georgia Tech
With three selections in the first round, Minnesota will likely not have three huge needs to address, so they will either go with the player with the most potential or simply the best player on the draft board. Lawal’s potential is through the roof as he plays above the rim on most possessions and has thunderous dunks in most games he plays in. While he is still raw and not mechanically sound, he could be a star. NBA Comparison: Jason Maxiell
29. Los Angeles Lakers: Darren Collison, PG, UCLA
Just like they did with Jordan Farmar, the Lakers go back to a UCLA point guard and get a great floor leader in Collison. Staying for his senior year hurt his draft stock but he still produces at a high level and had three Final Four appearances, showing he knows how to win. Derek Fisher will be 36 and has stopped producing for the Lakers, while Farmar is strictly a backup. NBA Comparison: Chris Duhon
30. Cleveland Cavaliers: Tyler Smith, SF, Tennessee
The Cavs are in good hands with LeBron James, but injuries to Wally Szczerbiak and J.J. Hickson this year really exposed the Cavs lack of a bench at the forward position. Smith is definitely a project and there is a good chance he will return for his senior year, but regardless of when he comes out, he has the athleticism to make it in the pros, if only as a great defender. NBA Comparison: Tyrus Thomas
In one of the most exciting and entertaining first-round matchups that the NBA has seen in quite some time, the Chicago Bulls showed poise, maturity, and an extremely high ceiling for improvement in their series against the Boston Celtics that they will build on heading into next year.
The Bulls were one of the more consistent teams in the East and hovered around the six through eight seed the whole year.
That’s not to say at all that it was an easy road, even in the much less competitive Eastern Conference.
Breaking down each player on the Bulls has to go past looking at the seven game series with the Celtics, as hard as that may be.
They faced ups and downs all year, acquired and lost players, and in the end finished the year with a very impressive showing, which leads me to believe they will be in the hunt for the Eastern Conference Championship come this time next year.
Derrick Rose proved this year that he is more than capable of becoming the leader of the Bulls for years to come. Nothing stands in the way of Rose joining the next great wave of point guards in the NBA maybe except himself.
As most rookies that are thrown into the setting Rose was of starting from day one, he played a little out of control at times and made a few costly mistakes.
Still, down the stretch, Rose was the reason the Bulls were back in Boston for a game seven. Ben Gordon and John Salmons were fine but the constant of Rose, as it was all year in the regular season, kept the Bulls in the series.
In my post on Rajan Rondo during the series, I took quite a bit of heat for supposedly hating on Derrick Rose and, while the article was more meant to praise Rondo, because of the criticisms I’ll explain how I feel on Rose.
He played better than any rookie has the last two years, culminating in his Rookie of the Year Award. He was a very consistent guard but not the all star that a few people were making him out to be.
After game one, I was talking to someone who wanted to put Rose in the argument for top three point guards in the NBA.
This pre-mature worship of Rose is fine if you take it with a grain of salt, with that grain being that he is 20 years old and is only going to get better.
It remains to be seen, but Rose could easily be the best point guard in the league in five years. But for now, he is JUST one of the up-and-coming stars in the league, and there is no shame in that.
Next year, Rose will progress even more as the Bulls should be at least one of the top four teams to come out of the East after Cleveland, Orlando, and potentially Boston or Miami.
One of the biggest off-season decisions for head coach John Paxson will be what to do with free agent Ben Gordon.
Remember that Gordon played more than the seven games in the playoffs when I say that the Bulls should let Gordon go off to another team and here’s why.
Every year a big name comes out of the playoffs in basketball who is playing in his contract year and goes bonkers in the second season. Last year it was James Posey and this year it is Gordon.
When that certain player enters free agency, there is usually a team that is willing to throw the bank at him and make him grossly overpaid.
Posey was signed to a four year, $25 million contract which to give you an idea, is more than John Salmons. The Celtics wanted no part of Posey if he was going to cost that much and are doing just fine without him.
The reason Gordon does not need to come back is that, while he excels from the outside, he is pretty one-dimensional and brings nothing to the table defensively.
He is more of a No. 3 option on offense and with the Bulls has been the number two behind Rose.
John Salmons will likely be on his last year with the Bulls in 2009-2010 as they continue to clear cap space for the “2010 Sweepstakes” with the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Vince Carter, and Steve Nash just to name a few.
However, Salmons absolutely dominated with the Bulls after coming over in the Andres Nocioni deal and, despite the inconsistencies and injuries, really helped the Bulls make it to the playoffs to battle the Celtics.
There is an outside chance that if John Paxson decides not to pursue one of the big prizes in the 2010 free agency pool combined with another solid year from Salmons, that he might stay on with the Bulls for a few more years.
The young guns in the front court in Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas really came on late in the year and gave promise to the future.
While Noah is not going to be able to play the Kevin Garnett-less Celtics every game next year, his strength and will to fight in the post was evident in the playoffs.
Noah averaged 7.6 rebounds per game in the regular season in just over 24 minutes and will more than likely see those minutes increase big time next year.
While Thomas is more of an athlete and a project, Noah’s game is still very raw but his improvement over the course of the year is a great start.
Thomas made even bigger strides this year as he became much more of a basketball player rather than an athletic freak that could swat shots into the third row.
His jump shot improved somewhat but still needs some polishing and his all-around defense could as well. His strength is still an issue and he does not have much of a post game, but remember, he is still just 22 years old.
The outlook is bright for the Bulls and can only improve this off-season with the draft. The Bulls are slated to pick in the No. 16 spot and they must improve their defense with that choice.
Potential draftees are James Johnson, a 6-foot-9 Ron Artest-type player who is like a more ready Tyrus Thomas.
If Louisville small forward Earl Clark were to drop to 16, the Bulls could get a guard-forward that is destined to do great things in the Association.
Other names include shutdown defender Marcus Thornton from LSU who plays the shooting guard position and North Carolina shooting guard Wayne Ellington.
Whatever happens in the off-season, one thing is sure: the Chicago Bulls took great strides this year, matured greatly, and are still one of the youngest teams with the brightest futures in the league.
Finals have killed me these last couple days and for the next week, if I am able to blog, they are going to be short and sweet. So here’s my little rant on why John Salmons will be the reason that the Bulls lose game seven. I realize the game is still going on and, as I look at my TV, the score is 89-83 with 5 minutes and 44 seconds remaining in the game. Here’s my question: How is John Salmons NOT taking over this basketball game?
His line tonight stands at 12 points on 3-10 shooting from the field and 5-6 from the free throw line, but I am amazed that he has not played better. With Ray Allen and Glen Davis in foul trouble tonight, Brian Scalibrine and Eddie House have taken up the task of guarding Salmons. When Vinny Del Negro goes to the “small lineup”, Salmons becomes the power forward and Scalibrine guards him one-on-one. He drives by Scalibrine every time and simply can not finish and has thrown the ball away a couple of times. He has three assists which is fine and dandy, but there is NO reason that Salmons should not have 20 points in this basketball game. He is also faster than Paul Pierce but has had no success on him either.
The story of this series has been the no-names stepping up and becoming stars, but Salmons seemingly failed to get that message before game seven. It is not a knock on Scalibrine at all as he has stepped up in a big role for the Celtics this series, getting minutes that were taken by Kevin Garnett in the regular season. Yes, Gordon and Rose are thier go-to guys and Kirk Hinrich is getting hot in the second half. But the fact remains that Salmons has not done anything on offense when he should be taking this game over. Defensively, he just started to pick up Paul Pierce but like most Bulls defenders, they are not playing fast enough.
Maybe it’s just me, but I am amazed that John Salmons has disappeared in this game when he should be the one stepping up. I hope that in 4 minutes and 32 seconds (91-86 Celtics now), I can say something different.
…Salmons just missed a layup after beating Paul Pierce off the dribble, missed a wide open three, and dribbled the ball off his foot in three straight possessions for the Bulls. I rest my case.
1. Keep the ball out of Rajon Rondo’s Hands
This is an interesting one to look at because technically Rondo did not do as much driving as he did in games one through five. I stressed making the Celtics take jump shots and beat you from far out, and that is what Rondo had to do.
The 19 assists came partially from Ray Allen being absolutely on fire, but it still showed that Rondo was not able to beat the Bulls from the standpoint of getting his average of points in the series (averaged 24 coming into the game, finished with eight points on 4-17 shooting.
The defense definitely stepped up in this one on Rondo and it paid off mightily.
2. Reduce the minutes of Tyrus Thomas
This stat was a little bit distorted by the three overtimes in game six but Thomas ended up playing, on average, more minutes then he had in the series. Coming in to the game, Thomas averaged 28.1 minutes per game and with the overtimes taken into consideration, Thomas played 53.4 percent of available minutes.
In game six, Thomas played 37 minutes out of a potential 63, which comes out to 58.7 percent of available minutes. Once again, Thomas did not let me down, ending with a less than stellar statline that included just three rebounds and two blocks. His +/- for the game was -14, while Brad Miller’s was +26.
It’s a trend that is starting to scare me and I can only hope that Thomas is not in the game for much longer than 23-24 minutes in game seven. The Bulls definitely did not complete this goal.
3. More Isolations for Derrick Rose
While the Bulls did not necessarily run set isolations for Derrick Rose, the Bulls pass this test because Rose was once again driving to the hole on multiple occasions, drawing fouls, and finding open teammates. Rose was 5-11 inside the paint and looked in command when he was there.
The 11 shots in the paint tied a series high for Rose, as he also took 11 in game one of the series when he had his best game. Rose’s jump shot was also falling yesterday which made the isolation that much better.
Rajon Rondo HAD to account for Rose’s ability to drive, and the result was an extra inch of room for Rose to get off jump shots. Easy pass here to the Bulls.
4. Keep the fast pace and outrun the Celtics
The Bulls were outstanding on the fast break last night and, had it not been for Ray Allen, this game would have been a blowout because of it. The Bulls had two of the biggest plays on the night off of fast breaks that included Derrick Rose’s breakaway and Joakim Noah’s thunderous steal and slam over Paul Pierce.
For the game, the Bulls had 18 fast break points compared to the Celtics three. This will be just as important in game seven as the Bulls look to take advantage of an extremely tired Celtics team.
5. Keep the Celtics out of the paint
I am very torn on whether or not I should pass the Bulls on this one. On one hand, they did an excellent job keeping the Celtics out of the paint as the Celtics had just 40 points in the paint, which was six under their average even with an extra 15 minutes to play with.
Kendrick Perkins finished with 12 points and Glen Davis, who took the majority of his shots from outside, finished with 23 points.
They did not made Perkins shoot outside shots, where he went just 0-1, but they did a nice job forcing Glen Davis out as he shot 5-10 from outside the paint. However, there was really no need for the Celtics to get paint points because of Ray Allen’s dominance.
The Celtics were able to grab 16 offensive rebounds in the game, but considering that they did force Davis out I will give them a pass on this one.
In one of the best playoff series I have seen in quite some time, the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics have matched up in a series that is almost bound to go to seven games. It has to, right?
It would only be fair for this seesaw battle to go as long as it could with a couple more overtimes thrown in, a few more Kevin Garnett F-bombs to the Chicago bench, a few more Derrick Rose unbelievable drives, and a couple more clutch shots from Paul Pierce.
In a crucial game five, Boston won a crazy game with a contoversial ending, with a non-flagrant foul call on Brad Miller. Say what you will, whether you believed Miller should have recieved two shots and the ball or not, but the fact of the matter is that the Bulls need to win game six or they will watch the Celtics celebrate on the United Center floor.
After watching all five of these games, I have come up with the five most important keys for the Bulls to complete in order to win the next game and then the series itself.
1. Keep the ball out of Rajan Rondo’s hands
Ever since Kevin Garnett went down, Rajan Rondo has been the new floor leader for the Celtics, and has done an outstanding job in the series thus far, averaging a triple double.
The fact of the matter is this key could have been titled “PLAY DEFENSE” and I would not have needed an explanation. Boston has been able to get off any shot they have wanted with ease, with Chicago’s defense nowhere to be found.
Chicago’s rebounds stats have been fantastic but I am starting to think it is because they are crashing the boards too much. Back to Rondo, he is the only guard that Boston has capable of running the point.
Stephon Marbury still looks lost on the court and has not meshed well and Tony Allen does not deserve to be on the court at all. Eddie House is a great role player and has taken the role of “James Posey-lite”, but will not run the offense in any positive way.
The fact is that Derrick Rose needs to clamp down on defense and, off of screens, the Bulls must double Rondo and let Glen Davis or Kendrick Perkins beat them from 17 feet out.
Rondo has penetrated the Bulls defense way too much and it needs to be cut down or the Celtics will continue to get shots at will.
2. Reduce the Minutes of Tyrus Thomas
-41. That is Tyrus Thomas’s +/- in the five games against the Celtics in the playoffs.
I am not saying that Thomas needs to be benched all the way and see no minutes, but other than blocks he is not contributing much to the team and is being overmatched by Perkins and Davis.
Thomas gives up way too much in the post and, while he is averaging over three blocks per game, gives up easy baskets too many times. Offensively, with the exception of overtime of game one, he has been average and really has not added anything more than Joakim Noah or Brad Miller could not on second chance points.
He is averaging 28.1 minutes per game and this number needs to go down to about 19 or 20. Brad Miller should receive these extra eight or nine minutes as I think he gives the Bulls a veteran presence on the court nowhere to be found in the starting lineup.
3. More Isolations for Derrick Rose
In this series, Derrick Rose has played his best basketball, A) on the fast break and B) from the top of the key on an isolation.
As quick as Rajan Rondo is in the passing lanes and on pickpockets, his man-t0-man defense is not as good and Rose is as quick as they come. In the series, Rose’s outside shooting has struggled and his shots inside the paint have decreased in attempts.
Getting Rose to drive more will also free up more opportunites for Noah and Thomas to crash the boards and get second chance points, something that has also been key in the series.
4. Keep the fast pace game and outrun the Celtics
At the beginning of the series, I was absolutely befuddled that the Bulls were trying to outrun such a good defensive team in the Celtics. I figured that these low percentage, outside shots would lead to blowout wins for Boston, but I was wrong.
With young, athletic, big men Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah, the Bulls seem to tire less than the Celtics do in games. While the Bulls really only go seven deep, they have a nice rotation going and are able to run the break.
In the Bulls wins this series, the teams have averaged just under 112 points per team per game. When the Bulls lose, teams are averaging 106 points per team per game. With the Bulls lack of a post presence and inability to shake the pesky Celtics defenders, shots off the break have made this series close and they must continue to do so to win it all.
Chicago has averaged 16.2 fast break points in the series as compared to Boston’s 13.
5. Keep the Celtics Out of the Paint
In a way, this key sums up a couple different ones, but I will give this its own due. Boston has averaged 46.4 points in the paint in the series, and those points have come way too easy.
I liked what the Bulls did on a few possessions by bringing a guard around the back side to swipe the ball out of Kendrick Perkins’ hand, which led to steals and those all too important fast break points.
They must continue to do so because Glen Davis thinks he has a better jump shot than he really does and Rondo does not have much confidence in that shot. Rondo has gone to the hoop way too easy in the series, so making him take jump shots will lead to less points and less confidence for the Celtics’ PG.
Other than Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, there are not a lot of good jump shooters on the Celtics roster.
Before game three at the United Center, staff littered the stadium with roses in a play on words for Derrick Rose, just one day after receiving word that he had won the Rookie of the Year award.
Rose became the third Bull to win the award, joining Elton Brand and Michael Jordan in some pretty stellar company. Before the game, he was given his trophy by David Stern and raised is above his head to a standing ovation from the home crowd, all dressed in red.
48 minutes later, Rajon Rondo had given Rose a lesson in how to play the point in a playoff game.
In game one, Rose was stunning as he matched Wilt Chamberlain’s rookie debut record with 36 points, and also added 11 assists in a 108-105 win over the Boston Celtics. Facebook statuses and Chicago newspapers alike were booming with praises for Rose and calling for his Rookie of the Year award to be replaced with an MVP award.
Two games later, I am left wondering if he is even the best point guard in the series.
Seemingly going unnoticed, Rondo has led the Celtics back from the game one defecit to retake home court and a 2-1 lead with one more game at the United Center. For the series, Rondo is averaging 22.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, 9.7 assists, 4.0 steals, 2.0 turnovers, and shooting 50 percent from the field. Every one of those stats lead the Celtics in the playoffs. Tell me again why we are talking about Rose?
Yes, I am in the Midwest and am going to hear the praises of Rose, but even the ESPN outlets are giving the praise to Rose for being the rookie that is going to take the Bulls past the defending champs for the second time in three years (the Bulls knocked off Miami in 2007).
But where is the love for Rondo, the other point guard that has completely taken his game to a new level and become the leader of the Celtics with Garnett on the side?
I realize he is not KG, cussing out the Bulls bench any time TNT shows him. He isn’t sharpshooter Ray Allen despite being two for four from downtown in the series, and he isn’t the veteran Paul Pierce who seemingly gets it done every night. No, he is the outsider looking in on the Boston Three Party, but make no mistake: he is the engine that makes it run.
Meanwhile, you have Derrick Rose who is just getting taken to school by the Celtics defense now that they know what kind of player Rose is trying to be. In game one, Rose was 12-19 from the field, with 13 of those attempts coming in the paint primarily on drives.
In games two and three, Rose has taken a combined 12 shots in the lane and has had to rely on his jump shot, which he clearly does not have down. Anyone that watched game one knows the potential Rose has and he was unstoppable that game.
But he isn’t there just yet and the last two games have showed it. Whether Rose got a little too cocky or the Celtics put the clamp down, Rose has looked awful in the last two games and tried to do way too much on offense. Rose is averaging 4.7 turnovers for the playoffs and a lot of those turnovers have come from Rondo defense.
Speaking of which, aren’t these two guarding each other? Rondo is down two inches in height on Rose but has proved that is hardly a problem, leading the league in steals for the first three games of the playoffs. He has been quicker than Rose, more physical than Rose, and definitely more in control.
Rose, like every other guard for the Bulls, has not wanted it on defense. Rose has just one steal in three games and has let Rondo get most any shot he wants. The Bulls have failed to switch on screens and have overall been lazy. Joakim Noah needs to sit down with Ben Gordon and Rose and let them know that the defending champs can do more than clamp down on defense: they can score, too.
Yes, Rondo has been in the league for three years. He has played and won an NBA Finals game and has a championship under his belt. He is playing with two of the best outside shooters in the league on his team and a couple of great inside players.
But he has become the leader of this team and, if the series were to end today, he would be the MVP. Rose is a rookie that was thrown into a leadership role and has done an unbelievable job dealing with the stress, pressure, and emotions that come with it.
He also has not come close to matching what Rondo has done this series. It’s true that Rondo has not won a game by himself in this series like Rose did in game one, but don’t think for one second that if Stephon Marbury was running the show in game two the result would have been the same.
In three years, I hope that Derrick Rose is lighting it up and putting on a show at the United Center in the NBA Finals. As for tomorrow and the rest of the series, let’s focus on the point guard that is single-handedly showing Rose up and getting no credit for it: Rajon Rondo.
As it always seems as we get closer towards the end of the year, the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference is up for grabs and will be given to a team that, in all reality, does not deserve to be there. This year’s lucky contestants include the Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls, Charlotte Bobcats, and Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana Pacers. For the sake of argument, I am throwing the Bucks and Pacers out of the argument as they are both three and a half games out with seven games to play in the season. As for the other three teams, the Pistons currently stand at 36-38, a game up on the Bulls and two games ahead of the Bobcats. Let’s go ahead and break down all three teams and see who will come out on top in the East standings, and get those coveted first round matchups against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Orlando Magic.
Detroit Pistons, 36-38, 7th in East
My oh my, what a season it has been for the Detroit Pistons. Expected by many to compete for the Eastern Conference crown, Michael Curry has had this team under-achieving all year and are fighting just to stay alive in the playoff hunt. The big news came when they traded for Allen Iverson on November 3rd, a move made to give the Pistons that “star” player that could carry them in the playoffs. What they lost in the deal has turned out to be a much bigger deal in Chauncey Billups. The Nuggets have Billups running the show in Denver and currently stand at 48-26, good for 3rd place in the Western Conference. Iverson has not meshed well with the team all year and have survived on Rip Hamilton’s outstanding season and Rodney Stuckey’s breakout year. The Pistons have eight games left on their schedule with just two games against teams with a winning percentage over .500, along with crucial games against the Bulls and Bobcats. Five of their games are on the road, where the Pistons are just 17-19, but when this team is on they play the best basketball of the three teams in discussion. Here is a breakdown of how I see the rest of their games playing out:
@ New Jersey- W
@ Philadelphia- L
@ New York- W
New Jersey- W
@ Indiana- L
@ Miami- L
Final Record (projected): 41-41
Chicago Bulls, 36-40, 8th Place in East
The Bulls have been an interesting team all year that have been led by the presence of rookie Derrick Rose and the great play of Ben Gordon and the emergence of Tyrus Thomas. Trade deadline transactions of John Salmons and Brad Miller have also helped the team in March. Chicago won seven of eight starting on March 14th but have dropped two straight to Toronto and Indiana and now find themselves in a tight race to end the year. To finish their year, five of their last six games are at home and they play just one team with a winning record. On paper, it seems as though the Bulls will take the final playoff spot, but I’m not so sure that it’s a given this team will find its stride going into the playoffs. Key games include at home versus Charlotte and at Detroit that could decide if they play in the second season. Their great home record of 24-12 should help secure a spot, but it will be close and the game against Charlotte will be important.
New Jersey- W
NY Knicks- W
@ Detroit- L
Final Record (projected): 39-43
Charlotte Bobcats, 34-40, 9th in East
The Bobcats are a very interesting team that also have really had two different seasons. In early December, Jason Richardson was traded in return for Raja Bell and Boris Diaw. Bell has been alright, but the story has been Diaw, who has been outstanding and brought the Bobcats back into the playoff race. The Bobcats have gone 27-23 since the arrival of Bell and Diaw but probably have the hardest road to the playoffs of the three teams mentioned. They play six road games to just two home games and play four teams with a winning record. Still, winning three in a row including wins over Philadelphia and the Lakers has this team rolling at the right time and will stay in the hunt until the finals game.
@ Boston- L
@ Detroit- L
@ Oklahoma City- W
@ Chicago- W
@ New Jersey- W
@ Orlando- L
Final Record (projected): 39-43
Looking at the standings, it will take an excellent performance from the Charlotte Bobcats to sneak in the playoffs but it isn’t out of the question. They are playing very well right now and the Bulls are in a bit of a lull. Winning on the road is never easy but it is something they will need to do if they want to get into the playoffs. Detroit should be in and it makes sense as they are the best team out of these three. Time will tell.