Rebuilding The Highlight Factory
Seven Hawks banners hang in the rafters of Philips Arena. Three retired numbers, three division championships and one for the team's second and longest-serving owner, Ted Turner. Bob Pettit's No. 9 is retired. (Pettit never played in Atlanta.) Lou Hudson's No. 23 is retired. (Hudson played his last game in Atlanta on April 2, 1977.) Dominique Wilkins' No. 21 is retired. ('Nique's Hawks playing career ended a little more than 20 years ago with a bold, misguided and unsuccessful midseason trade for free-agent-to-be Danny Manning, which managed to turn a 57-win season into another second-round playoff loss.)
There are some on the opposite end of the arena, too. Two for the Atlanta Dream (heads nod in approval of anything expanding the city's basketball culture), one commemorating the designation as the world's first LEED-certified NBA arena, another commemorating 20 sold-out shows played there by Widespread Panic.
Anything resembling a Hawks heyday is long gone. Those fans that grew up on 'Nique, some have children now. They can tell their kids about 'Nique, point him out on the sideline as he fulfills his duties as VP of basketball and TV color commentator, pull up YouTube clips to demonstrate his greatness. But it's harder to appreciate the past with every year away from the old Omni.
Wilkins Tweets Strong Words On LeBron
How to Train Your Dragic
If you review the thousands of forgotten "NBA preview" articles now buried beneath five months of newer content, it's hard to find many kind words about the Phoenix Suns. Most writers agreed they were supposed to suck. On purpose. Back then, the Suns narrative was formed around intentional failure, dumping veteran salary, accruing draft picks, and "rebuilding" - whatever that means. Phoenix was supposed to be very bad this season, but its wheeling and dealing just might help it construct a winning roster down the road.
A funny thing happened on the way to the 2014 NBA lottery: 60 games into the season, the Suns are 10 games over .500 and just 1.5 games behind Golden State for sixth place in the mighty Western Conference. Night in and night out, the Suns' roster of relatively anonymous players is tormenting guys with bloated Q scores and giant shoe contracts. In a sense, they are the breakthrough indie act of the NBA. (Hi, Axl! Where's Axl?)
Phoenix's best player is Goran Dragic, a 27-year-old point guard from Ljubljana, Slovenia. He's a six-year veteran who has spent his career bouncing back and forth between Phoenix and Houston. He didn't exactly impress NBA analysts during his first few years in the league; in fact, John Hollinger once claimed Dragic was "arguably the worst player in the NBA."
2014 NBA Mock Draft 3.0
Our last Mock Draft, version 2.0, debuted a little more than a month ago.
Trying to project players (who had played just half a season) to teams (which were still in the middle of the season) is challenging.
But as we move into the home stretch of both the college basketball and NBA seasons, the Big Board and the NBA standings are starting to give us a clearer picture of the draft.
There is still plenty of basketball to be played, both in college and the pros. This mock will continue to shift as players and teams evolve or regress. Our Lottery Mock Draft machine allows you to play out different scenarios with odds updated nightly.
But our third full Mock Draft of the year gives you a fuller view of the draft.
GM For A Day: Dallas Mavericks
The 2013-14 season has gone more or less according to plan for the Dallas Mavericks. After a .500 season in 2012-13 resulted in Dallas missing the postseason for the first time since 2000, the Mavericks turned their roster over more than any other team in the league last summer. While the addition of players like Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, DeJuan Blair and Wayne Ellington didn't excite mainstream observers, analytical systems saw the Mavericks returning to playoff-caliber.
Dallas has indeed taken a step forward this season, but the postseason is not guaranteed, as the Mavericks are locked in a five-team battle for the last three playoff spots in the powerful Western Conference. If Dallas is to make its postseason return, it will have to survive a treacherous slate to finish the season. The Mavericks' remaining opponents have a collective winning percentage of .549, and 11 of their 23 games are against teams ranking in the league's top 10 in scoring margin.
Regardless of whether Dallas makes the playoffs, its plan to build one more title-contending roster around Dirk Nowitzki remains in place. However, the Mavericks will have to do some fancy maneuvering after the season, as Nowitzki, Vince Carter and Shawn Marion all become unrestricted free agents. The challenge will be immense: How can Dallas get better without getting worse when its chief sources of financial flexibility are the same players propping up the win total this season?