NBA Mock Draft version 2: Sixers get some energy


NBA Mock Draft version 2: Sixers get some energy

Monday, June 20, 2011
Posted: 12:11 p.m.
By Sean Contributor

With the NBA draft just three days away, here is our updated mock draft:
1. Cleveland Cavaliers - Kyrie Irving (6-2, 180, PG, Duke)
The Cavs reportedly haven't made up their mind on who they'll take with the first pick. They could go the conventional route and take Irving, or they could select Arizona forward Derrick Williams or Turkish big man Enes Kanter and get their point guard with the fourth pick by taking Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker.

We think they'll make the safe play and take Irving. The one strong point of this draft is the point guard position, and Irving is the surest bet of the bunch. The biggest knock on the 19-year-old Irving is he played just 11 games during his career at Duke because of a toe injury. Had he not gotten hurt, he likely would have been the national player of the year and even more of a lock to go No. 1 in the draft. He showed enough when he was healthy the ability to score and control the game without scoring to prove he'll be successful at the next level. Irving is a capable shooter and while he may not have Derrick Rose or John Wall type explosiveness going to the basket, he has no trouble getting where he wants to go on the court.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves - Derrick Williams (6-9, 240, SF, Arizona)
Williams and Irving are on a level of their own when it comes to this year's draft. They are considered the two elite prospects, then there's everyone else. Williams went from a little-heralded recruit at Arizona to top draft prospect in just two years. His body and game are NBA ready he is the best athlete in this draft, and is a surprisingly good shooter for a player his size (he shot close to 57 percent from three-point range as a sophomore at Arizona).

He doesn't necessarily fill a need for Minnesota, so don't be surprised if the Timberwolves trade out of this spot. If they don't, they'll go with the best player available and there's no question that's Williams. 3. Utah Jazz - Enes Kanter (6-11, 260, PF, Kentucky)
The Jazz have a choice to make here. Do they take a point guard and play him in combo sets with Devin Harris? Or do they bolster an already strong frontline featuring Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson? We say they go big, and the best post player available is Enes Kanter. Unless you've followed Turkish basketball closely, chances are you haven't seen Kanter play. He spent last season sitting on the Kentucky bench after being ruled ineligible by the NCAA. He did practice everyday with the Wildcats, but practicing and game action are far different animals. Kanter is billed as an extremely polished and athletic post player, a rare combination of size and skill. 4. Cleveland Cavaliers - Jonas Valanciunas (6-11, 240, C, Lithuania)
After getting their point guard at the top of the draft, the Cavs go big at No. 4. Valanciunas might be the top international prospect in this draft. In the mold of most foreign big men, Valanciunas is able to get out and run the floor and is very skilled with the ball in his hands. Taking Valanciunas here is a gamble, he just turned 20 last month and has a long way to go in developing into a reliable NBA post player. Cleveland can only hope he pans out as well as the last Lithuanian big man they drafted Zydrunas Ilgauskas in 1996.
5. Toronto Raptors - Brandon Knight (6-3, 185, PG, Kentucky)
If Knight gets past the Jazz at No. 3, he would be a great value pick for the Raptors here. Toronto's point guard situation is hardly stellar Jose Calderon turns 30 in September and Jerryd Bayless has yet to fulfill his potential as a lottery pick in 2008 (though Bayless did produce when given big minutes in the last month of the season). Knight was the driving force behind Kentucky's Final Four run as a freshman, taking and making all the big shots for the Wildcats. He is polished beyond his years offensively, and his size gives him the edge over Kemba Walker, another point guard who will be on the board here.
6. Washington Wizards - Jan Vesely (6-11, 240, PF, Czech Republic)
Vesely has been soaring up draft boards the past few months. He isn't your typical big man. He is an extremely gifted athlete who can excel on the offensive end right away. Vesely is a high-energy guy who would be a great fit running the floor with John Wall in DC. Consistency is the question mark with Vesely, who can be a bit of a tweener in terms of the small and power forward positions.
7. Sacramento Kings - Kemba Walker (6-1, 180, PG, Connecticut)
The Kings finally realized that Tyreke Evans is a lot of things, but a point guard isn't one of them. Sacramento could also use a high-character leader in its locker room. Enter Walker, who singlehandedly willed UConn to the national championship last season. He is a shoot-first point guard, so the challenge will be finding enough shots for him and Evans. But Walker is an NBA-ready talent with box office draw, which is big for a Kings team on the brink of leaving Sacramento.
8. Detroit Pistons - Bismack Biyombo (6-9, 240, PF, Spain)
Biyombo is an unknown quantity, with the only certainties being his defense and rebounding. He is an elite level shot blocker and rebounder, with a NBA-ready body. His offensive game needs big-time work, but the Pistons will take his defense and wait for his offense. Detroit gave up more than 100 points per game last season, and they will see shades of Ben Wallace in Biyombo.
9. Charlotte Bobcats - Tristan Thompson (6-9, 225, PF, Texas)
The Bobcats' frontline needs help, and Thompson has a ton of potential here. He averaged 13 points and eight rebounds as a freshman at Texas. Thompson's frame has all the makings of a terrific rebounder and shot blocker. He made great strides offensively during his time in Austin, as a lefty who is a handful to defend on the low block. 10. Milwaukee Bucks - Kawhi Leonard (6-7, 225, SF, San Diego St.)
Leonard is a good fit for the Bucks here. His specialties are rebounding and defense, and Milwaukee emphasized both last season (although scoring was an issue they were dead last in the NBA in scoring at 91.9 ppg). Leonard can help in that area too; he averaged 15.5 points and 10.5 rebounds as a sophomore for a 34-win San Diego St. team.
11. Golden State Warriors - Klay Thompson (6-6, 200, PGSG, Washington St.)
Thompson is an interesting pick here. The Warriors already have a high-scoring backcourt with Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry. But with Ellis on the market, Jerry West and company can look to the future by taking Thompson. He's a big guard who can defend both backcourt positions, which would suit him well playing with Curry. Thompson is also considered one of the best shooters in this draft. 12. Utah Jazz - Jimmer Fredette (6-2, 195, SG, BYU)
With their second lottery pick, the Jazz get a local boy and scoring machine in Fredette. The long range marksman became the darling of college basketball as a senior at BYU. Fredette led the nation with just under 29 points per game, and shot 40 percent from three-point territory. But he's not just a one trick pony. Fredette demonstrated the ability to get to the basket in college, which complements his shooting stroke perfectly. He'll also create quite a buzz playing in the same state where he starred collegiately. All this will help the Jazz look past Fredette's defensive shortcomings.
13. Phoenix Suns - Marcus Morris (6-9, 220, SF, Kansas)
The Suns add an NBA-ready prospect in Morris with this pick. Phoenix has plenty of guys that like to score and not much else. Morris has the ability to score when needed, but more importantly at this pick can rebound, defend and share the ball. The Philadelphia product improved every year at Kansas. He knows the game and made countless winning plays in college. Morris doesn't need the ball to contribute, a welcomed attribute in Phoenix.
14. Houston Rockets - Chris Singleton (6-9, 225, SF, Florida St.)
Singleton is considered the best perimeter defender in this draft, and that's music to the Rockets' ears. Houston gave up the ninth-most points in the NBA last season. Taking Singleton here gives them an immediate boost defensively, but they'll have to be patient for his offensive skills to evolve. 15. Indiana Pacers - Markieff Morris (6-10, 245, PF, Kansas)
The Pacers are in the market for an athletic big man who can protect the rim and run the floor. Morris fits that need perfectly. He was the less heralded Morris twin during his time at Kansas, but he thrived on doing the dirty work defensively and on the glass. Morris is an excellent interior defender who averaged 8.3 rebounds last season as a junior.
16. Philadelphia 76ers - Kenneth Faried (6-8, 225, PF, Morehead State)
The 76ers have plenty of young building blocks for Doug Collins to work with, particularly on the perimeter. But they're in need of a big man, an energy guy that will help them improve on their rebounding they were the eighth-worst rebounding team in the NBA last season. That was the biggest difference when the 76ers went toe-to-toe with Eastern Conference heavyweights like Orlando and Miami (in the four games they lost to the Heat in the postseason, they were beat on the glass by an average of 8.5 rebounds per game).

No one in college basketball rebounded the ball better than Faried last season he led the nation with 14.3 rebounds per game. But his skills aren't limited to the boards alone. He blocked close to 2.5 shots per game last season and scored 17.3 points per game. He broke onto the national radar in Morehead State's first round upset of Louisville in the NCAA tournament, grabbing 17 rebounds and blocking the potential game-winning shot at the buzzer. With four years of college experience, Faried will be ready to contribute immediately for the 76ers' thin frontline. He won't need the ball to be a factor in the NBA, he's content protecting the rim and rebounding.

17. New York Knicks - Donatas Motiejunas (7-0, 225, PF, Lithuania)
18. Washington Wizards - Alec Burks (6-6, 190, SG, Colorado)
19. Charlotte Bobcats - Jordan Hamilton (6-7, 225, SG, Texas)
20. Minnesota Timberwolves - Nikola Vucevic (7-0, 260, C, USC)
21. Portland Trailblazers - Reggie Jackson (6-3, 210, PG, Boston College)
22. Denver Nuggets - Tobias Harris (6-8, 225, SF, Tennessee)
23. Houston Rockers - Marshon Brooks (6-5, 200, SG, Providence)
24. Oklahoma City Thunder - Justin Harper (6-10, 225, PF, Richmond)
25. Boston Celtics - Tyler Honeycutt (6-8, 190, SF, UCLA)
26. Dallas Mavericks - Darius Morris (6-5, 190, PG, Michigan)
27. New Jersey Nets - Josh Selby (6-2, 180, PG, Kansas)
28. Chicago Bulls - Shelvin Mack (6-2, 215, PG, Butler)
29. San Antonio Spurs - Nolan Smith (6-3, 190, PG, Duke)
30. Chicago Bulls - Davis Bertans (6-9, 210, SF, Latvia)
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NBA Playoffs: Cavs respond to destroy Raptors in Game 5


NBA Playoffs: Cavs respond to destroy Raptors in Game 5


CLEVELAND -- Back home, the Cavaliers were not hospitable.

They rudely roughed up the Raptors again.

LeBron James scored 23 points then sat the fourth quarter, Kevin Love scored 25, and Cleveland unleashed tenacious defense on Toronto to regain control of the Eastern Conference finals with a 116-78 rout of the Raptors in Game 5 on Wednesday night.

On their court in front of 20,000-plus screaming fans following two straight losses in Canada, the Cavs opened a 34-point lead in the first half and never slowed while taking a 3-2 series lead.

They can clinch their second straight conference title and trip to the NBA Finals with a win in Game 6 on Friday night in Toronto.

"We ought to be able to transfer that on Friday," James said. "Playing in that beast of an arena that we're going to we got to be composed, we got to be tough and we got to be sharp."

The Raptors, who came in with momentum and confidence after winning Games 3 and 4, left Quicken Loans Arena shaken and one loss from having their deepest playoff run stopped.

"They kicked our butts, bottom line," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "That's been all three ballgames."

James had eight assists and six rebounds in 31 minutes before checking out late in the third quarter with the Cavs up 37. He spent the fourth quarter resting on the bench while Cleveland's reserves finished the romp.

Kyrie Irving added 23 points and he, James and Love outscored the Raptors 43-34 in the first half. Cleveland has won its three games in the series by a combined 88 points.

"They are a different team here," Casey said. "We came in here with a chance to do something special and we didn't get it done. They pushed us around and took what they wanted."

DeMar DeRozan scored 14 points and Kyle Lowry had 13 for the Raptors, who were overwhelmed from the start. Bismack Biyombo had just four rebounds after getting 40 the past two games. The only positive for Toronto was center Jonas Valanciunas, who returned after missing eight straight games with a sprained right ankle. He scored nine points in 18 minutes.

Playing defense as if every possession was the game's last, Cleveland held Toronto to 34 points in the opening half while building a 31-point halftime lead -- the largest in conference finals history. Since their expansion arrival in 1993, the Raptors had never been down by 30 before in any game -- regular or postseason -- at halftime but they have rarely seen a defense like this either.

The Cavs were all over the court, swarming and stifling DeRozan and Lowry, who combined for 67 points in Game 4.

A courtside doctor might have stopped this one in the first half.

Love found his shooting touch after it went missing during the lost weekend in Toronto, where he went just 5 of 23 and was benched for the fourth quarter of Game 4. He finished 8 of 10 from the field, a confidence-boosting performance that should temporarily quiet his critics.

"Kevin Love being Kevin Love," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "He had two bad shooting games and we made a big deal out of it. Nothing he does amazes me. We gotta keep him aggressive all the time."

The Cavs made a point of getting Love the ball right away and he responded by making all four field goal attempts, dropping a 3 late in the first quarter that pushed the Cavs to a 37-19 lead.

"He was just locked in," James said. "We saw that and just wanted to keep giving him the ball. The easiest one he had tonight, he missed."

Cleveland's onslaught continued in the second quarter, and when James got free for an easy two-handed dunk, Cavs fans could relax and begin making TV viewing plans for Friday.

These looked more like the Cavaliers who opened the postseason with 10 straight wins, obliterated the Raptors by a combined 50 points in Games 1 and 2 and given a chance to beat whomever survived in the West.

Center of attention
Valanciunas hadn't played since May 7. He scored two quick baskets in the first quarter when the Raptors were still close.

Raptors: Dropped to 2-7 on the road in this postseason. ... Played a game every other day since April 29, going 7-7. . Biyombo and Valanciunas are the only teammates with at least 120 rebounds this postseason.

Cavaliers: Trumped their 31-point win in Game 1, which was the previous most lopsided playoff victory in team history. ... James played in his 191st career postseason game, moving him ahead of Magic Johnson for 12th place on the all-time list. ... James (1,320) is tied with Kobe Bryant (1,320) for the second-most free throws in postseason history. Michael Jordan made 1,463. ... Improved to 7-0 at home in these playoffs.

Up next
Game 6 is Friday night in Toronto.

NBA draft profile: F Ben Simmons


NBA draft profile: F Ben Simmons

Ben Simmons

Position: Forward

Height/Weight: 6-foot-10/239 pounds

School: LSU

The 19-year-old Australia native was the favorite to be the top pick in the 2016 NBA draft before he ever took the court for LSU. Here we are less than a month from the draft and that still may very well be the case.

It's hard to ignore Simmons' production in his only season with the Tigers: 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and two steals per game. The 6-foot-10 forward with guard skills was named SEC Freshman of the Year and was named to the conference's first team. But for all his personal accolades, Simmons' team failed to make the NCAA Tournament after taking a 71-38 whooping at the hands of Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament. He's been criticized from everything to his lack of maturity to his inability to shoot consistently from the outside.

It's so rare to see a player of Simmons' stature with the ability to handle and see the court so well. Watching Simmons grab the ball off the rim and then go the length of the floor to either finish or find the open man is a thing of beauty. I love how smooth he is. It looks effortless for him. You almost forget he's 6-foot-10. His basketball IQ is excellent. He forces contact down low with his big body and draws fouls. His rebounding ability should translate very well to the next level.

He has the ability to guard multiple positions with his length and athleticism... if he's motivated. His size is going to be a matchup nightmare for opposing teams. A traditional four will struggle with his quickness. He'll be able to take a lot of wings down low and punish them in the post.

The biggest thing is his shot. It's been well-documented. His three-point output in college: 33 percent. As much as that number reflects a weakness, he's at least self-aware. He knows his weaknesses. His free-throw percentage (67 percent) is just OK. The good news is, if you actually watched him shoot, this isn't a total rebuild.

Are the maturity and competitiveness concerns legitimate? I don't know. It's a 19-year-old kid we're talking about. The Sixers will have to decide if those concerns are something he'll outgrow or a serious red flag going forward. Playing under Brett Brown, who coached Simmons' father in Australia, would hopefully mitigate some of the concern.

How he'd fit with the Sixers
This is a really interesting question that I'm not sure anyone has the answer to yet. At 6-foot-10, he almost has to play the four, but where does that leave Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, and possibly Joel Embiid and Dario Saric? There could be nights where Brown could get away with playing Simmons on the wing given his ball skills. But it might be a struggle for Simmons defensively depending on the matchup. In any case, Simmons will need a shooter/scorer or two in the lineup to complement his skill set.

NBA comparison
This is next to impossible. How many players have there been that are built like power forwards but handle like point guards? Magic Johnson is a lofty comparison, but Lamar Odom may not be quite strong enough. Much like Simmons, Magic was not a shooter (19 percent from three in his first nine years in the NBA), but at 6-foot-9, Johnson was one of the greatest facilitators in league history. If Simmons is somewhere between Johnson and Odom, the Sixers will be just fine.

Draft projection
I'd be shocked if the Sixers don't take Simmons at No. 1. It's the right call.

NBA Playoffs: Westbrook, Thunder push Warriors to brink of elimination


NBA Playoffs: Westbrook, Thunder push Warriors to brink of elimination


OKLAHOMA CITY -- Suddenly, these Golden State Warriors who have been compared all season to the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s are on the brink of elimination.

Russell Westbrook had 36 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists, and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Warriors 118-94 on Tuesday night to take a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals. Golden State, which won a league record 73 games in the regular season, lost consecutive games for the first time this season.

The Warriors must win Game 5 on Thursday in Oakland to keep their season alive.

"We all have to bounce back," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "The good news is, we go home. Obviously we play well at home. The idea now is to go home and get one win. Do that, and we put some pressure on them and we'll see what happens."

Klay Thompson led Golden State with 26 points, but two-time league MVP Stephen Curry was limited to 19 points on 6-for-20 shooting. Curry's shooting performance was so uncharacteristic that reporters asked if he was hurt.

"He's not injured," Kerr said. "He's coming back from the knee, but he's not injured. He just had a lousy night. It happens, even to the best players in the world."

The Warriors lost consecutive playoff games by at least 20 points for the first time since Games 2 and 3 of the 1972 Western Conference semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks. Golden State's Draymond Green, who was fined for kicking Steven Adams in the groin in Game 3, finished with six points, 11 rebounds and six turnovers.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma City got a boost from an unlikely source. Andre Roberson, a player the Warriors have ignored at times during the series, scored a career-high 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.

Kevin Durant added 26 points and 11 rebounds and Serge Ibaka added 17 points and seven rebounds.

As for Westbrook, it was his first triple-double of the playoffs after posting 18 in the regular season. It was his fifth career playoff triple-double.

"I play every game like it's my last, regardless of who's in front of me," he said. "That's my job, and my job is to worry about my team, and that's all I do."

The Thunder know they have to close. Nine teams have rallied from 3-1 deficits to win.

"I think we're in a good place, but like I said, this game is over," Westbrook said. "We've got to move on to the next game. Every game is different."

The Thunder led 30-26 at the end of the first quarter, then gained control in the second. In the most unlikely of connections, Adams threw a bullet pass to Roberson near the basket for a dunk that gave the Thunder a 56-43 lead with just over four minutes left in the first half.

Oklahoma City finished with a flurry and led 72-53 at halftime. The Thunder matched the most points they have scored in a first half in franchise playoff history, a mark they set the previous game against the Warriors. It also matched the most points Golden State has allowed in a half this season for the second straight game.

Westbrook had 21 points, nine assists and five rebounds in the first half, and Durant had 18 points and six boards.

Thompson tried to keep the Warriors in it, scoring 19 points in just over seven minutes to start the third quarter. But the Thunder maintained their composure, led 94-82 at the end of the period and remained in control in the fourth.

"This is a tough situation to be in, but the series isn't over," Curry said.

Kerr, on the pressure of trying to win a title after setting the regular-season wins record: "We had a tremendous regular season, our guys competed every single night and did something no one has ever done and they're proud of that. But in the playoffs, everybody starts 0-0. So there's no extra pressure, whether you're talking about defending our title or trying to back up the regular season."

Stat lines
According to Thunder Public Relations, the last team to score 72 or more points in the first half of two straight playoff games was the 1987 Los Angeles Lakers.

Warriors: Curry went 1 for 7 in the first quarter, and made just 1 of 4 3-point attempts. ... Thompson committed his third foul with 7:55 left in the second quarter, and C Andrew Bogut committed his third about two minutes later. ... Curry made a 3-pointer for his 48th consecutive playoff game, extending his NBA record. ... The Warriors were 12-0 this season the game after a loss.

Thunder: Westbrook had five points, six assists and three rebounds in the first quarter. ... Oklahoma City forced 13 turnovers in the first half. ... The Thunder improved to 19-0 this season when Westbrook gets a triple-double. ... The Thunder outrebounded the Warriors 56-40 and outscored them 31-19 from the free throw line.