TrueHoop: 2012 Draft

Re-ranking the 2012 draft

November, 25, 2013
11/25/13
6:39
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
David Thorpe says Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond and Damian Lillard are in a class by themselves at the top. The rest of his top 20 includes several lower-drafted and even some undrafted players. Missing: high picks like Dion Waiters and Austin Rivers.

TrueHoop TV: Rookie lessons

July, 16, 2013
7/16/13
8:57
AM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive
Kendall Marshall tells Kevin Arnovitz some of the things he learned in his first NBA season.video

Friday Bullets

September, 7, 2012
9/07/12
2:28
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Another story of some macho college basketball coach allegedly crossing the line in heinous ways. (Via J.A. Adande's Twitter feed.) That it happens sometimes does not shock me. It's an industry with little oversight and huge stakes that attracts and rewards power-tripping alpha males. (All these various alleged transgressions, with players, staff and women, are about power, and showing who has more.) What really shocks me, though, and scares me, frankly, are some of the comments. Some minority of commenters on the story at that link above strongly believe that tolerating the kind of abuse this coach allegedly dished out is simply what it takes to be a man, or a basketball player, or a winner. Some minority of commenters believe nine-hour practices, long practices while injured, being locked in bathroom stalls, being humiliated time and again in front of peers and others ... is just the price of success. That's a total crock. Groveling at the feet of a tyrant is part of how some people get ahead, but not most. Tolerating abuse is, sadly, a daily reality for many sad children, but it ought not be. (Has everybody read "My Losing Season?") We'd be a stronger and tougher people if we didn't tyrannize each other. Calling it education makes it no less ridiculous.
  • Kevin Garnett sends telegrams.
  • Digging into the idea that a player can make his teammates better, looking at the Lakers when Sedale Threatt replaced Magic Johnson. Tricky stuff, but interesting that it's so tough to find teammates who became less productive in Johnson's absence.
  • This post was created in a laboratory specifically to anger Knick fans, Laker fans, and LeBron-haters.
  • There have been several articles through the years about the Silnas, the former owners of the Spirits of St. Louis who folded their team with the ABA but only after negotiating themselves a perpetual hunk of NBA revenues which has already totaled close to $300 million. What I wonder is: Who's the guy from the NBA who gave them such a sweet deal?
  • Corruption, gambling and manipulation in sports ... the panel discussion.
  • Basketball fights are generally greeted with hysteria and a lot of talk about how they must be prevented. By all means preventing them is great and I'm glad the NBA has been effective in that regard. But what's with the fans? Check out the comments after a recent baseball fight. Overwhelmingly -- almost unanimously -- fans are in favor of the precise kind of fighting that makes people crazy in basketball. Hard not to think race plays a role.
  • The Mavericks have 11 players on the roster who play guard or small forward. I hope Jae Crowder doesn't get lost in the chowder.
  • How ESPN the Magazine came up with the franchise rankings that chose the Thunder first overall. It turns out sports fans did most of the prioritizing. So, even though on Twitter NBA fans seem to think the Lakers are THE franchise, yet in this poll they came in 89th (84 spots after the Grizzlies) in no small part because fans said affordability and bang for the buck were huge concerns.

"Too real" sex talk connects with rookies

August, 22, 2012
8/22/12
1:13
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
Tony Gaskins is a former college football player and current Christian motivational speaker who preaches, among other things, about the perils of pre-marital sex. He stood before a room of 60-or-so players at the NBA Rookie Transition Program on Sunday.

By lore, these young men are about to enter perhaps the most sexually active niche of modern society.

And he told them in no uncertain terms to either be monogamous, or abstinent.

It's the kind of talk he has given many times, to many groups. (He also spoke to NBA rookies in 2010.) He is accustomed to a mix of reactions.

Here's what may surprise you about the NBA class of 2012: They loved it.

Gaskins says nearly half the group had questions, approached him after the talk, got his phone number, followed him on Twitter and more.

But don't take his word for it. Listen to the players themselves, who told their own version of events on Twitter after Gaskins spoke.

Young Sun Kendall Marshall said "I'm turnin my playa card in."

Blazer top pick Damian Lillard declared: "This man @TonyGaskins is too real. Y'all need to get up on him. He just changed my life. #realrap"

Harrison Barnes, Darius Johnson-Odom, Draymond Green, Jared Sullinger, Andre Drummond and Quincy Acy all tweeted similarly.

Gaskins says he has certain advantages connecting to athletes. For one, he's young and African-American, with a life story that is, in his words, more or less out of the rap music that influences so many players. He once dealt drugs and cheated on his girlfriend. He can speak with a voice that grabs attention.

And then there's the subject matter. "I keep it," Gaskins told me by phone, "really real."

He writes and speaks frequently about relationships, and "embracing manhood." A recent book is called "Mrs. Right." His 140,000-plus Twitter followers are mostly women, and he is a life coach to many of them.

Those Twitter followers often make it so that young athletes know Gaskins' name before he takes the stage. NBA players have retweeted him, as have any number of strippers and porn stars -- many of whom are followed by NBA players -- who are among his clients, book purchasers and a non-trivial part of his audience.

Gaskins knows from his own life, and from his clients, all about the unhealthy dynamic between male athletes and the women who hang around stadiums and hotel lobbies. And he had stories, thick with sexually transmitted diseases, women who cheat more than men, and clever schemes to get their hands on players' money and more.

"The mindset with a lot of guys," Gaskins says, "is I'm the man, I make all the money, she knows I'm going to cheat and that's that."

What that scheme ignores, Gaskins says, is that things inevitably get complicated: "If she's letting you cheat, nine times out of ten she's cheating too. You're out of town and she's spending your money on another man, who is scheming to take her from you."

Gaskins knows this story, because it happened to him in college.

Gaskins has many memorable turns of phrase, like "take your mess, add some age, and make it your message." One that applies to the women whose men cheat is: "Hurt people hurt people."

"Scaring them straight" is part of what Gaskins says he's trying to do. And a surprising number of young players are eager to hear it.

"They see how the world is going," he says. "They're searching for something new. They don't want to see their girl on 'Basketball Wives' running their name into the ground."

What he preaches instead is that a player focus all his romantic effort on his high-school sweetheart, the woman he has always trusted most, taking the much more difficult, but ultimately more rewarding path of building a real marriage.

Wednesday Mini-Bullets

August, 22, 2012
8/22/12
12:04
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Some very interesting research suggests race does not appear to play a role in draft position. Also at the same link, with capsule descriptions of papers from the Western Economic Association: Evidence that NBA stars play huge minutes right up until the All-Stars are announced, and then instantly cut back to prepare for the playoffs. Seems like making the All-Star team is a bigger deal than most would let on.
  • Your phone knows where you're going to be even if you don't. Not sure what this has to do with basketball.
  • Jose Calderon does something that ought to be in the Guinness Book. Holy cow. Tough trick. But is it real? Trey Kerby, unquestioned master of physics, says it's physically impossible.
  • What can Caron Butler do this year? Charlie Widdoes of ClipperBlog with insight: "If it occurred to you that Butler had a disproportionate amount of success early in games, you were right. We all know that Chris Paul starts games with the intent to get his teammates going, and Butler was often the beneficiary. He took 40 percent of his shots this past season in the first quarter, and converted 45 percent of them. Like many NBA starters, Butler typically took his rest during the 2nd quarter, but for the rest of the game, he shot only 38 percent from the floor. This became his thing. If Paul is the Clippers’ closer and Blake Griffin is their middle-of-the-order power hitter, 32-year old Caron Butler established himself as their dependable, veteran starting pitcher."
  • Stat geek Andres Alvarez assesses ESPN's Western Conference summer predictions, and says the Mavericks do not belong in the top eight, while the Timberwolves are missing. "Losing Kidd hurts. Dirk has been wearing down. Chris Kaman was a terrible pickup. This team as constructed will not compete out west." He also says the West is "OKC and then everyone else."
  • All this hubbub over expensive basketball shoes reminds of some comedian talking about gay marriage. He said he was a little nervous about it, until he found out it was optional. You know what I mean? Some product out there you don't want? Cool. The cost of not getting it is zero, and life goes on.

Rookie tricks

August, 21, 2012
8/21/12
1:35
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
Perry Jones
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
The Thunder's Perry Jones with a rare moment of rookie trickery.

Tuesday the rookies are all in the gym of the Knicks' practice facility in Tarrytown, New York having their photos taken for their first trading cards.

We brought Jade Hoye and the TrueHoop TV crew along to make a video or two. One will be with Austin Rivers. The other we had planned seemed like a no-brainer. A few years ago at this very event, Kevin Love unleashed an eye-popping series of trick shots. My thought: There are dozens of rookies here today. Surely it would be a cinch to get several of them to show us some trick or another on camera.

There are some hoops for players to shoot around on, and when players have free time they tend to congregate in an impromptu shootaround. I found Bulls rookie Marquis Teague there, and shared my idea with him. How about showing us a trick or two?

His response: "I don't know any tricks."

Is that possible? It may be. But it's surprising, from a guy who has spent his entire life in the gym. Never mind. There are 38 other rookies here. We only need four or five good tricks to make a video.

To make a long story short ... it's as if "I don't know any tricks" is a new NBA mantra. Oh sure, we got to see Meyers Leonard shoot a leftie college 3 (he hit it) and dunk over Draymond Green. But when it came time to show off some skill or another for the cameras, the list of those with not one trick to share was long. Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, Austin Rivers ... nada.

Damian Lillard said he couldn't even spin the ball on his finger. Fab Melo laughed at the idea a big man could help with a trick, saying "all we do is elbow people." I said the way things were headed, we might ask him to show that to us.

Andre Drummond did a word-perfect job lip-synching along with Lil Wayne and Jay-Z. Cool, for sure, but nothing to build a trick shot video around.

There was one last hope. The rumor spread that Tony Wroten, Jr. was the guy. The livewire Grizzlies rookie was showing off dribbling skills between photo shoots. Three or four players had insisted that in this draft class, Wroten was the guy.

This was a sure thing. I approached and explained the project. Wroten smiled.

And do you know what he said? Verbatim: "I don't know any tricks."

Rookies, in transition

August, 21, 2012
8/21/12
9:00
AM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
Austin Rivers, Anthony Davis
NBAE/Getty ImagesNBA rookies Austin Rivers, left, and Anthony Davis, second from left, at the Rookie Transition Program in New Jersey.

The road from being a young boy with a hoops dream to an NBA player takes many twists and turns.

For the 2012 draft class, the most recent step, which concluded Monday, was four days in an aggressively business casual suburban hotel conference center. It was khakis and league-issued polo shirts all around for the annual pro athlete crash course known as the Rookie Transition Program (RTP).

As designed by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association, the program is heavy on avoiding tricks: financial advisors with an eye on raiding the nest egg, gamblers eager to rope players into conspiracies and women scheming to entrap husbands are all on the agenda.

But after spending a day roaming the conference center halls with the generally delightful, upstanding and promising 60 players of the Class of 2012, it's clear that one of the dirtiest tricks facing young players today is the persistent racially tinged accusation that NBA players are "thugs."

When people ask what I do for a living, a substantial portion of them respond that they do not watch the NBA -- not because they are bored by it or need that time to catch up on "Dancing with the Stars," but as punishment of a kind for NBA players of which they do not approve. Perhaps because they're too spoiled, too violent, too scary or too ... something. I hear this again and again.

And here the NBA has a tangled history. The era of furs and Bentleys didn't play well with a lot of fans but has passed. Various fights, including the Auburn Hills incident, made for intense visuals.

But by any objective measure, other sports have far more fights, and NBA players are hardly criminals. Between 10 and 20 percent of NBA-age adults are arrested in the U.S. each year. The percentage of NBA players arrested -- a handful in a busy year -- is a minuscule fraction of that.

Whatever is assumed to be wrong with NBA players, I'd challenge their accusers to find evidence of it at this suburban New Jersey meeting facility.

"We're finally feeling like this stuff is working," said retired player Antonio Davis, who is a key part of the proceedings in his role for the NBPA's player programs department. "We're finally feeling like, 'Man, we say things, and we don't know if they're getting it, until we see them doing the things we have told them to do.'"

Rory Sparrow, who works for the NBA's player programs department, said he sees the same thing. "What we have now are guys who understand what the ultimate prize is about," he explained. "Guys come into the business knowing, 'OK, I'm going to get paid, and I really do want that compensation. And I'm going to enjoy the benefits thereof. But I also know that ultimately you're not really judged as a great player until you win something.'"

And winning a championship means being far more than a good player, but also a good teammate, a good citizen, a good representative of the NBA and a lot more. For players on bad teams, it generally also means taking on the tough task of becoming a vocal leader to help inspire a winning culture.

"It took LeBron [James] a while to find his voice," Sparrow said, "to where he can now make statements, on and off the court, to inspire his team to win."

Having spent four straight days, around the clock, with the rookies, Sparrow said he sees kernels of leadership. "Draymond Green has been outstanding," he said of the Warriors' second-round pick. "Austin Rivers has a pedigree and has been very good in leading guys. Anthony Davis is quiet and unassuming, but when he gets in his little group, in his element, he makes really positive statements. It's refreshing to see the guys we picked as high draft picks have these qualities as well. It bodes well for our future. These players who can do well on the court can also do well off the court, as leaders, among their peers."

Green laughed when I told him, with a wink, he had been named "MVP of RTP." But he did not sound surprised and raved about the experience. "It's the beginning of a journey. We're all getting started," he said. "We haven't even received our first paycheck yet. I think this is a great event just to help us out with situations that we're going to face. Everybody has experience to share. No matter what, you are not going to handle everything the perfect way. No matter what they tell you. But at the end of the day, they give you ways to handle things, so you don't go completely wrong."

He also confirmed the notion that by and large this draft class has a far more promising future off the court than you'd expect based on reputation. "The truth of it is, a lot of knuckleheads used to be drafted," he explained. "Now that's a huge process of drafting good guys. You can just tell from the way all of us get along here, everybody is great guys as far as that background assessment. I think that's very important. It's a lot of great guys in the draft class."

"Sometimes fans complain about our league getting younger," Antonio Davis said, "but they're getting more mature, really quick. That's the key."

Dress is a major topic. A decade ago players spent lavishly on furs and jewelry, but the fashion is more sedated now -- in no small part because of the NBA's dress code for players, which has gone a long way to improving how a lot of fans see players. "If you want to wear a big blue chinchilla with big chains, if you want to do that and that's how you want people to see you, let us tell you what that looks like," Antonio Davis said. "Sit here in this chair, put that on, and let us tell you what we're thinking. Let us tell you what corporate America is thinking. That's what we're trying to get you to see. That's your choice."

Green, for one, accepts the dress code, saying, "I'm fine with it. It's a business. You are a business. Dress as if you're going to a Fortune 500 company meeting. I like to dress nicely, to give guys a reason to dress nice. That's the rules you have to follow. I'm fine with it. I have a few suits. Four or five suits. I'll add more in time, but that's a part of this too -- you don't want to dive in too fast. Got to watch those finances."

That's music to the ears of Sparrow and Antonio Davis, on both counts.

This year's session opened with talk from Chris Herren, who -- in a descent chronicled memorably in books and an ESPN "30 for 30" documentary -- lost a very promising basketball career to drugs. Four days later, rookies were still talking about Herren's dramatic talk. "It touched me," Green said. "It touched a lot of people."

Antonio Davis said Herren set the tone perfectly, shocking the rookie class into realizing nothing is set in stone and everything must be earned day in and day out. "There's a lot of experience in this room," Davis said. "There's a lot of dads in this room. And there's a lot of things we don't want you to go through. And every year we see guys going through it, and get our hearts broken. Every year we come to RTP just hoping this next class don't go through that same thing."

Wednesday Bullets

July, 11, 2012
7/11/12
4:46
PM ET
Mason By Beckley Mason
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Larry Coon investigates whether the Big Three formula can survive under the NBA's new Collective Bargaining Agreement (Insider): "Though the NBA announced late Tuesday night that the salary cap will remain the same as it was in 2011-12, the luxury tax will become much more punitive beginning in 2012-13. Under previous collective bargaining agreements, teams paid $1 for each dollar they went over the tax line. Those salad days are just about over. Starting next season, the rate goes up to $1.50 for each dollar, and that's just for the first $5 million. The rate goes up to $1.75 per dollar for the $5 million after that, and increases again with each $5 million -- to $2.50, $3.25, and beyond. For repeat taxpayers -- teams paying the tax in at least three of the four previous seasons -- the tax rate will double beginning in 2015. The potential effects are staggering. For example, the Orlando Magic were $20.1 million over the tax line in 2010-11, consequently paying $20.1 million in tax. But in 2013-14, being $20.1 million over the tax line will lead to a tax bill of more than $65 million, on top of a potential revenue-sharing payment if the team is in a big market. If such a team is a repeat taxpayer, then the tax bill doubles to $130 million. That's enough to give even the richest teams pause."
  • James Harden's beard, moments before it becomes self-aware.
  • When surrounded by two wing shooters like Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, Miami's Big 3 has absolutely crushed the opposition. Related: An excellent illustration of just how Ray Allen opens up space for his teammates with those sprints along the baseline.
  • Ray Allen hasn't spoken to Rajon Rondo since deciding to play for Miami.
  • Raphael Uehara for The Basketball Post with a primer on the Timberwolves new Russian shooting guard, Aleksey Shved: "He’s a terrific playmaker off the pick-and-roll, featuring great court vision and awareness to identify passing lanes and tremendous skill to deliver passes on target. He should be just as a great a fit with Pekovic (who shot 69.7% and averaged 1.33 points per possession on pick-and-rolls, per Synergy Sports) as Rubio was. Shved is athletic and in the EuroLeague Final Four, he did show the ability to play above the rim but there are doubts of his ability to finish inside at the NBA level as he shot 59.6% in the lane in EuroLeague play."
  • What is Ryan Anderson, who plays the same position as Anthony Davis, going to bring to New Orleans?
  • Oklahoma City's Reggie Jackson, talking about what it means to have his Thunder teammates watching the Summer League squad in Orlando: "I believe that’s a tradition they’ve built here in Oklahoma City. I think you come back, you watch, you want to see what the young players are doing, if you can help once you sit down and talk at dinners, in the hotel rooms. Guys are trying to help me when I was coming to the bench. That’s the kind of teammates we are. It’s a college atmosphere. We all enjoy each other’s presence and being around each other. We’re always trying to help each other get better. I think that is what makes us kind of a unique team and helped us get where we were last year. I think we’re all trying to improve. As one person improves, the whole team improves. You’re only as good as your worst guys, so that’s why I believe they come back and try to help us learn quickly."
  • Andrew Han explores a very interesting question regarding the Lamar Odom deal on ClipperBlog: "If the Clippers are in a position of power with Dallas AND facilitating the entire transaction, how is it they give up more than any team and only have Odom to show for it?"
  • Ricky Rubio flashing that smile on his road to recovery from knee surgery.
  • On HoopSpeak, Ian Levy digs into Phoenix rookie Kendall Marshall's unique college career: "Marshall had more assists than turnovers this past season, not surprising for a top-flight collegiate point guard. He also had more assists than rebounds. And steals. And blocks. And personal fouls. And field goal attempts, three-point attempts, free throw attempts and points. Of all the basketball statistics which are counted, Kendall Marshall did nothing quite so often as pass the ball to a teammate who scored. Marshall averaged 10.7 assists per 40 minutes, pace adjusted this past season. In the last 11 seasons no collegiate player has entered the NBA with a higher assist average. Marshall averaged 1.56 assists for every field goal attempt this past season, a number that is also unmatched over the past 11 years of brand new NBA players."
  • If there's one thing Pacers rookie Miles Plumlee can do, it's catch on the baseline and finish with authority.
  • The Spurs have re-signed pretty much everyone from last year's team, which won 20 straight games but couldn't get past the Oklahoma City Thunder. Not satisfied? Andrew McNeill of 48 Minutes of Hell offers solace: "If that rotation leaves you wanting (I know you want the Spurs to get rid of Matt Bonner), look at it this way. By bringing back these players, the Spurs have given themselves arguably the most flexible roster in terms of trade pieces. The Spurs can offer nearly every type of contract and player for a team looking to trade. San Antonio can offer a team any size of contract in a deal whether it’s large (Stephen Jackson, $10 million next season), medium (Tiago Splitter, $3.9 or Matt Bonner, $3.4) or small (Blair, $1 million or Neal, $850K). They’ve also got expiring contracts (Manu Ginobili, Jackson, Blair, Neal) and unguaranteed ones (Blair, Neal) that could be appealing to a team looking to shed salary at the trade deadline in February."
  • Enjoy the last three seasons of Tim Duncan's brilliant career.

Tuesday Bullets

July, 10, 2012
7/10/12
3:36
PM ET
Mason By Beckley Mason
ESPN.com
Archive
  • How much is the skill of shot-blocking worth in the NBA? How about scoring 25 points per game? Ryan Weisert of Valley of the Suns provides a buyers guide, priced per skill, for the 2012 free agent frenzy.
  • Players can officially sign contracts with new teams starting Wednesday at midnight eastern time. Might want to bookmark this page to help you keep who's coming and going.
  • Our Brian Windhorst on Perry Jones III, who impressed in a big way in his first Summer League game: "Jones had 16 points and eight rebounds, and showed off a wide-ranging display of ability: step-back jumpers, long-range shooting, hard defensive rotations, running the floor and a deft passing touch. If you'd never seen him before and didn't know what the general scouting report was, you'd never scribble down 'poor motor' in your notes. According to his teammates, he's been that way since the team started practicing last week. 'That whole talk about his motor, I don't know who started that but that was a bad rumor,' Thunder point guard Reggie Jackson said. 'The guy loves playing hard.' In fairness, let's see how he goes through a full season before making such judgments. But no matter the qualifiers, there just aren't many 6-foot-11 players who move as freely as Jones. He forgot where he was defensively at times, a classic young player mistake, and he had some trouble finishing in traffic against the other big bodies at the rim. He also shined as the most talented player on the floor, and that's something you don't often hear about the 28th pick."
  • SI's Seth Davis tweets: "NBA scout told me today his team’s docs believe Perry Jones’s knees will only hold up for 3-4 years in the league. Explains why he dropped."
  • Blake Griffin's "power layup" is mighty powerful.
  • Undrafted point guard Maalik Wayns (Villanova) also played well, and could be a smart investment for a team looking to develop a backup point guard.
  • Older players are getting paid in a big way.
  • As Steve Nash heads to Los Angeles and Ray Allen to Miami, Ethan Sherwood Strauss writes on HoopSpeak about loyalty from the athlete's perspective: "Many of these guys have been dealing with the wants since sentience. It doesn’t take a boy genius to figure that your AAU coach might have an angle, especially if he has a gleaming Mercedes. The college coach comes next. He’s all sweater vests and sanctimony, but perhaps he’ll pay your AAU coach via an NCAA sanctioned 'scrimmage.' He’ll do it just for a shot at you, because you’re the goods. It’s a cynicizing life, spent playing a beautiful game. And on to the fans of pro sports teams, the ones who only care about you insofar as what you can do for them. Quite a few South Florida citizens seamlessly transitioned from celebrating Mike Miller’s incredible Finals three point barrage to openly investigating how he could be replaced going forward. What would an amnesty accomplish? Can Riley convince the broken toy to retire? The love is so conditional, and conditions can easily cause the affection to ferment into a hatred dark and addled. When Miami’s LeBron first returned to Cleveland, he appeared before a large 'Like father, like son' sign, because some idiot wanted to mock and hurt James over growing up without a dad. Such ugly displays are indivisible from the love that precedes them. It’s a lot of misplaced emotion, funneled towards someone the fan recognizes as human in the most shallow of senses."
  • Almost every player on this list of the best corner 3-pointer shooters in the NBA played on good teams. Coincidence? I think not.
  • A nice roundup of what's been going on at Summer League in Orlando.
  • Some trepidation about the fat contract Ersan Ilyasova is about to sign in Milwaukee.
  • Some well-considered suggestions for how to amend the charge rule.
  • Andrew McNeill of 48 Minutes of Hell on the Spurs savvy offseason moves, which now include signing Boris Diaw to a 2-year, $9 million contract: "STOP THE SANITY! The Spurs can’t just keep signing good deals for both themselves and their players, can they?"
  • My review of long time SI writer Jack McCallum's new book Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever. Rob Mahoney chats with McCallum about the book on Pro Basketball Talk.
  • Clipper guard Eric Bledsoe played well in the playoffs, but he may once again start next season stuck behind Chauncey Billups and an aging combo guard.
  • Tomas Satoransky, a Czech rookie who will suit up for Washington next year, shows off his range at Wizards mini-camp.

Monday Bullets

July, 2, 2012
7/02/12
5:25
PM ET
Mason By Beckley Mason
ESPN.com
Archive
  • The Heat won the title, but Miami's owner, Micky Arison, says the team still lost money.
  • One reason Eric Gordon is likely to receive a max contract: Louis Williams might be the second-best available shooting guard.
  • John Hollinger handicaps the Steve Nash sweepstakes (Insider), with this fascinating point: "By all rights, the Pacers should be the favorites to land Nash. At the moment, they aren't even on the radar. The Pacers will have about $12 million in cap space this summer, including the cap holds on restricted free agents Roy Hibbert and George Hill. Indiana could offer Darren Collison in a sign-and-trade with Phoenix and give Nash a three-year deal worth about $45 million, which would put the Pacers on equal or near-equal footing with every other suitor for his services. Meanwhile, basketball-wise this is by far the best team for which Nash could sign up and still be paid market value. The Pacers would just need to re-sign Hibbert and Hill and fill in the gaps on the wings with exception money, and Indy would give itself a three-year run at winning a championship. Could you imagine this offense with Nash at the controls, all that outside shooting at spots 2 through 4 and Hibbert in the paint?"
  • Hollinger also designates Houston, a team with six first-round picks from the past three seasons to trade, as front runners to nab Dwight Howard (Insider).
  • Some great Joe Dumars quotes. Vince Goodwill of the Detroit News quotes Dumars sounding a bit like Hillary Clinton and talking about Andre Drummond and player development: "I know as a parent, raising a child, it takes a village. You have to have that child, or that player, surrounded by good people. It should never fall on one person. It's the environment, the culture." Brendan Savage of Michigan Live quotes Dumars saying this about how his front office has changed since drafting Darko Milicic: "After I drafted Darko, from that point on, the amount of background we do on every single player that you see us draft is ridiculous. We do as much or more background than any other team in the NBA because of that. The background on (Milicic) was about 20 percent of what we do now. I look back on it now and realize you didn't know half of the stuff you needed to know." And one last Joe Dumars story, in which he was apparently ready to literally fight for second-round pick Kim English.
  • A guide to San Antonio's free agency options.
  • Royce Young of Daily Thunder explains why the Thunder are unlikely to retain all four of their outstanding young players: "So let’s speculate, and realize I’m probably horribly underpaying Harden and Ibaka, but bear with me for the sake of the illustration. Add up Harden (roughly $11.5 per year) and Ibaka (roughly $9.5 million per year), Perry Jones III (roughly $1 million per year) and the whatever pick next season (let’s say $1 million again) and a D-Leaguer or something, which fills out a 13-man roster. (KD, Westbrook, Thabo, Perk, Ibaka, Harden, Collison, Aldrich, Reggie Jackson, Lazar Hayward, Minimum D-Leaguer, Perry Jones and 2013 Rookie.) That brings the Thunder to about $79 million. That’s about $9 million over the tax line. Which means, the Thunder would be paying $1.75 for every dollar over (because they’re paying over $5 million the tax threshold, but less than $10 million), bringing the tax payment to $15,750,000.
  • Five big name free agents that just aren't worth pursuing (Insider). All have had bright moments in the league but are now older than 30, except for Brandon Roy, whose knees are collecting Social Security.
  • Paul Flannery of WEEI in Boston quotes agent David Falk speaking about his client, Celtics rookie Jared Sullinger: "I told him I hope he doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder, I hope he has a boulder,” Falk said. “It’s his nature. There are inherent biases in the NBA against players with his body type. There’s a bias against them in favor of players like Tyrus Thomas, Anthony Randolph, Michael Beasley, none of them who were qualified yesterday. The GMs always love the high flyers." For the record, Randolph and Beasley weren’t extended qualifying offers, but all three have been professional disappointments. Falk continued, "That’s why 50 percent of the players drafted in the top 10 fail and why only nine teams in 32 years have won an NBA championship. Because teams make the same mistakes year after year in evaluating players. They only look at their upside as opposed to worrying whether they have a downside.”
  • Omer Asik, who has reportedly been offered $25.1 million over three years by the Houston Rockets, played much better in 2012 when he was alongside fellow defensive presence Taj Gibson. It's unlikely he'll pair with similarly awesome defender in Houston.
  • Steve Toll, on Philadunkia, writes optimistically about Maurice Harkless, though he also notes: "It’s likely that Philadelphia is one of the five worst teams in the NBA for Maurice Harkless to be a rookie on."

Who said that? Rookie edition

July, 2, 2012
7/02/12
9:57
AM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
As selections were made in Thursday's NBA draft, rookies met the media, and had a lot to say. Here are ten quotes from ten top NBA rookies. See if you can figure out who said each one.

Answers at @TrueHoop on Twitter.
  1. "All the talk about my not playing hard is going to be put to rest immediately." Answer.
  2. "Grew up with my mom and by brother and I, and not a lot of money sometimes. Some hardship. It was tough. But it also make me grow into a young man at an earlier age." Answer.
  3. "I'm comfortable in those situations. I don't play to fail. I just play to win." Answer.
  4. "I'm excited to play alongside my brother. I've known him for six or seven years, and we have been texting and talking forever. He was the first person that greeted me off the stage." Answer.
  5. "I'm not the type to go curse my teammates out. I'm the type to pull them aside." Answer.
  6. "I tried to sleep. Couldn't sleep. Couldn't eat lunch. We had lunch with the commissioner. Couldn't eat lunch. I was just anxious. Just ready. I kept looking at my suit, putting it on. Had it on one time before that and took it back off." Answer.
  7. "I'm ready to lead the team. I'm ready to lead the team." Answer.
  8. "I'm not letting nobody relax. It's not cool to lose." Answer.
  9. "That was one of the reasons I competed in Chicago [at pre-draft camp] both days. I think competing in Chicago and showing teams that I will go against whoever, and I played well." Answer.
  10. "Honestly, this is my first job." Answer.

Why MKG doesn't make sense for Bobcats

June, 29, 2012
6/29/12
9:07
PM ET
By Ryan Feldman, ESPN Stats & Info
ESPN.com
The most popular post-draft topic is always determining who were the winners and losers. But nobody can predict immediately which players will succeed and who will be busts.

However, we know which teams best addressed their statistical weaknesses and which teams made picks that didn’t address those needs.

CHARLOTTE BOBCATS: MICHAEL KIDD-GILCHRIST

The Bobcats needed offense. They ranked last in the NBA this season in field-goal percentage (41.4) and 3-point percentage (29.5). They also ranked last in points per play on jump shots, catch-and-shoot jumpers, spot-up plays and overall offense.

Kidd-Gilchrist doesn’t seem to fit those needs. He shot 25 percent this season on catch-and-shoot jumpers and 20 percent on jumpers off the dribble. Of the 501 college players with at least 100 spot-up plays (includes jumpers and drives to the basket that aren’t isolation or pick-and-roll), Kidd-Gilchrist ranked 491st in points per play.

WASHINGTON WIZARDS: BRADLEY BEAL

The Wizards had an inefficient starting backcourt last season. Of the 40 players with at least 1,000 plays, John Wall ranked last and Jordan Crawford ranked 38th in points per play.

In order to upgrade their backcourt, they drafted Beal to possibly take some pressure off Wall and take minutes from Crawford.

Beal wasn’t incredibly efficient during the regular season, averaging 0.96 points per play. He shot 51.6 percent on 2-point attempts and 32.9 percent on 3-point attempts.

But Beal improved during the NCAA tournament. He averaged 1.15 points per play, which would have ranked among the top-3 percentile during the regular season. He shot 78.9 percent on 2-point attempts and 42.1 percent on 3-point attempts. His 71.1 adjusted field-goal percentage would have ranked best in the country during the regular season.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: DION WAITERS

The one area in which Waiters will help the Cavaliers is their transition game. The Cavs ranked 23rd in points per transition play this season. Waiters averaged 1.43 points per transition play, which led all draft-eligible players with at least 100 transition plays.

TORONTO RAPTORS: TERRENCE ROSS

The Raptors scored the third-fewest points this past season. Offense was a priority and they addressed that with Ross. Only two players drafted after Ross averaged more points per play and shot a higher field-goal percentage this season with at least 350 plays against man defense: Andrew Nicholson and Mike Scott.

Ross also could help at the defensive end. The Raptors allowed the second-most points per isolation play. Ross held opponents to 22 percent shooting on those plays. Among players who defended at least 35 isolation plays, Tyshawn Taylor was the only draftee who was better than Ross.

BOSTON CELTICS: JARED SULLINGER

The Celtics had the third-lowest rebounding percentage this past season and the lowest offensive rebounding percentage. Not a single player drafted in either round had a higher offensive and defensive rebounding percentage than Sullinger.

Statistical support for this story from NBA.com.

How Terrence Ross became a Raptor

June, 29, 2012
6/29/12
5:22
PM ET
Mason By Beckley Mason
ESPN.com
Archive
The Toronto Raptors used the eighth overall pick to select Washington's Terrence Ross, a decision that inspired much confused glancing about from the media members assembled in laptop covered rows just to the left of the stage where Ross was shaking hands with David Stern. Ross is a sinewy 6-7 shooter with a promising defensive profile, but Chad Ford had him listed as the 11th-best available player on his Big Board and John Hollinger ranked him the 27th-best prospect.

Did the Raptors reach for Ross?

No way, says Toronto's statistical consultant Alex Rucker, who believes Ross was the seventh-best player in the draft. In an interview with Tom Liston of Raptors Republic, Rucker explains how Toronto's analytics team informs their choices on draft night:
We had him ranked as the 7th best prospect – and one of the guys ahead of him slid down the board due to medical concerns. When we got to our actual pick, we took the best player available. I agree with the general sentiment that he does a lot of things reasonably well – and that’s precisely one of the reasons he projected well in our in-house analytic tools. Unless you’re looking at a guy who can provide elite production in a key area, you’re often better served taking a player who can contribute positive value in multiple key phases of the game. I’d much rather have a guy who’s a slight positive in 6 areas at the pro level than a positive in 1-2 areas and a negative in the others. Bottom line: athletic wings who can hit the 3, play defense and get after it on the boards have positive value on nearly any team, regardless of how it’s constructed. We’re a team that’s building and improving, and based on the data we’d accumulated on him, Ross was a guy we assess will very quickly become a player who can contribute on both ends of the court.


Read the whole post for an enlightening look at how teams gather, analyze and synthesize mountains of data from wildly different sources to come up with their player rankings. Teams invest a ton of time, money and faith in their draft process. Which, Rucker explains, it shouldn't be a surprise when a team with all that information makes a decision few see coming.
I’d also offer that the media’s perspective of player values is interesting, but it doesn’t always align with pro team’s perspectives – and one of those two enjoys a significant information advantage by virtue of the resources invested into the draft process.

If you look back historically, I think you’ll find that the real decisions (actual drafts) fare better in terms of assessing player value than the media projections (mock drafts). Neither is perfect, but one has less error than the other.

Friday Bullets

June, 29, 2012
6/29/12
3:03
PM ET
Mason By Beckley Mason
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Dion Waiters didn't work out for Cleveland, who drafted him fourth overall. But that doesn't mean they didn't do their due diligence says Brian Windhorst, who was with the Cavaliers brass on draft night and describes their decision making process: "Trent Redden, the Cavs' director of college personnel, had been to Syracuse's campus several times to see and gather information on Waiters. Grant spent three days there watching Waiters practice and play and attended a couple of the Orange's NCAA tournament games. Several of the team's other decision-makers had watched Waiters extensively as well. In addition, the Cavs had talked at great length with Syracuse's coaching staff. Grant has known Syracuse assistant coach Mike Hopkins since they were both in high school." Also: Advanced stats played big roles in both the Cavs' affection for both Waiters and Tyler Zeller. In short: They both scored well on the kinds of shots the Cavs thought would be available in the NBA.
  • Jeff "The Toolman" Taylor and the rest of Trey Kerby's essential list of nicknames for each player in this year's draft.
  • Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak on what could be a busy summer for the Lakers.
  • Jay Bilas plays the "wingspan" game.
  • On The Two Man Game, Rob Mahoney explains how the Mavericks' draft impacts the rest of their offseason: "Dallas has opened up approximately $1.4 million in cap space for the free agent cause (depending on Cunningham’s exact salary), and obtained the rights to two players without adding any cap holds for this summer. Even if James and Crowder don’t make the team this season, they won’t even bear the slightest financial limitation to the Mavs, making them precisely the kind of assets that Dallas needs at this particular point in time. The spotlight is rightfully on free agency, and by the time we clear July’s mayhem, the Mavericks may very well be in need of affordable players to fill out the roster." For what it's worth, I'm a big fan of Crowder. Think of him as the Paul Millsap of small forwards -- unconventional package but terrific results. Kevin Pelton's statistical model suggests he's one of the top prospects in the draft, and his story -- he had to take a massive course load at the junior college he lead to a national title just to get into Marquette -- is fantastic.
  • Why Pistons fans should be ecstatic about drafting "probable bust" Andre Drummond. Worth noting: the Pistons haven't had the best history of player development over the last 10 years.
  • Kings coach Keith Smart looks pretty excited about snagging Thomas Robinson with the fifth pick.
  • Optimism out of Philadelphia after the 76ers pried Arnett Moultrie from the Miami Heat. It seemed like a strange decision for the Heat, a team that despite just winning a title, could still very much use a talented, athletic big man.
  • Drafting point guard Kendall Marshall impacts how the Suns will handle Sebastian Telfair way more than whether they will re-sign Steve Nash.
  • This quote from Doc Rivers on Celtics Hub includes both my favorite synonym for "long" and a peek into why the Celtics were willing to take a risk on Fab Melo: "Obviously he has size, he’s extensive. We have to teach him the Celtics way, we have to teach him how to work. If he has great character, then we have a chance, and that’s what we’re going to have to make sure [of]."
  • I wonder if Austin Rivers would have held back on his Anthony Davis impersonation if he had known they would soon become teammates. Probably not.
  • Bradley Beal's football family.
  • Zach Lowe with the 10 best power forwards in this summer's free agent class. It strikes me that only one of these players, Kris Humphries, doesn't have a reliable jumpshot.
  • Seems like Oklahoma City is the perfect place for Perry Jones to grow his game.

NBA Today: David Thorpe, Warren LeGarie

June, 29, 2012
6/29/12
2:40
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
LISTEN TO THE NBA TODAY PODCAST WITH DAVID THORPE AND WARREN LEGARIE.

David Thorpe has strong feelings about how the draft went down. He is unsettled by the Rockets moves. Shocked Harrison Barnes didn't go higher. Shocked Dion Waiters went fourth. Thinks the Celtics and Thunder did well. Austin Rivers, Bradley Beal, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist ... And on and on. You will be glad you listened.

Also, one of the NBA's true powerbrokers, and a man who seldom grants interviews, Warren LeGarie. He's the agent to the likes of Rick Carlisle, Scott Brooks, Mike Brown, George Karl, Neil Olshey, Lionel Hollins, Kevin Pritchard and many others. He also owns or co-owns all kinds of interesting stuff, including zip lines through a nature preserve in Costa Rica, a Bay Area Italian restaurant and -- this is relevant -- summer league. That's right, in partnership with the NBA, LeGarie owns the summer league in Las Vegas that starts in two weeks and this year will feature 24 teams.

LeGarie talks about all that, who might be the next head coach of the Blazers, and more.

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