Friday, June 24, 2011

06/24 (Draft Hangover) Quickie

Had a fascinating experience last night watching/following/covering the Draft for Quickish:

As a Wizards fan, I was VERY down on Jan Vesely as the draft pick heading into the draft. He can dunk and... that's about it. Can't shoot (neither jumpers nor free throws), which won't get much better. Can't play D, which won't get much better. In other words: Can't contribute meaningfully on a (distant) future playoff team, which relies on non-star players who can knock down shots and play D.

As the picks went by, I was resigned to the team taking Vesely, and then...


Vesely's name was called, and he gets up, grabs his 6-foot-5 hoopster girlfriend and gives her a smooch unprecedented in NBA Draft history. I leapt off the couch and cheered. The guy may never be any good, but he is interesting. And if you're not winning titles, being interesting -- in a good way, hopefully -- is the next-best thing. And so Jan Vesely and his girlfriend (and thus my Wiz) were a big winner of the draft. (Aside from superstars like John Wall falling into your lap, you cannot understand how rare it is for the Wizards/Bullets to "win" on draft night, which includes the steal of Chris Singleton at 18 and a solid pick of Butler's Shelvin Mack at 34.)

Other big winners:

*Bobcats (Michael Jordan??): I love Biyombo, so I love Biyombo + Kemba Walker (who I actually had slotted to the Bobcats in my mock draft).

*Kings taking Jimmer: See above "as long as you're not winning, be interesting" theory.

*Kenneth Faried: A double-dip. Not only did the hometown-Newark kid get to walk down from the peanut gallery to the stage, but the Nuggets are a great fit for him.

*Jimmy Butler: Nice story, 1st-round money/guaranteed contract, good fit on a great team.

*Heat: Love Norris Cole.

*Morris Twins: Back-to-back Lottery picks. (HOWEVER! I honestly question whether they will be able to function without the other in their life. A friend last night mentioned the otherwise crippling co-dependency of tennis' Bryan twins, and it seems like an apt analogy. I presume teams did psychological testing on each to make sure they could deal with being split up from their brother, but I'm not sure that would dissuade me.)

And the losers....

*Knicks: Took Iman Shumpert over Chris Singleton (much to the delight of Wiz fans). Appreciate that Shumpert might turn into a defensive stopper, but he's not nearly as much of a sure-thing as a defensive force as Singleton. Spike Lee looked so deflated.

*Cavs: Kyrie Irving? OK, solid. Tristan Thompson? Reach. They would have been better off with Derrick Williams and Brandon Knight.

*Blazers: I loved Nolan Smith... as an early 2nd-round pick. In the early 20s? Yikes.

All in all, a fun night. Catch up at Quickish on the best analysis of each pick as it was made, plus post-draft analysis.

Otherwise, no matter how bad things might seem this morning for you or your team, at least you're not Jim Riggleman.

-- D.S.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

06/23 (Mock Draft) Quickie

I said I wouldn't be doing a mock draft. And yet I couldn't help myself. Each pick earns a single word of analysis that (barely) covers the rationale:

1. Cavs: Kyrie Irving. Safe.
2. T'wolves: Derrick Williams. Trade?
3. Jazz: Enes Kanter. Redundant.
4. Cavs: Tristan Thompson. Surprise!
5. Raptors: Brandon Knight. Lucky.
6. Wizards: Jan Vesely. Sigh.
7. Kings: Jimmer Fredette. Popular!
8. Pistons: Bismack Biyombo. Steal.
9. Bobcats: Kemba Walker. Name.
10. Bucks: Jonas Valanciunas. Promise?
11. Warriors: Klay Thompson. Shooter.
12. Jazz: Kawhi Leonard. Steal.
13. Suns: Marcus Morris. Size.
14. Rockets: Chris Singleton. Defense.
15. Pacers: Marshon Brooks. Sizzle.
16. 76ers: Nikola Vucevic. 6-11.
17. Knicks: Alec Burks. Available.
18. Wizards: Donatas Motiejunas. Sigh.
19. Bobcats: Markieff Morris. Safe.
20. T'wolves: Kenneth Faried. Kahn!
21. Blazers: Kyle Singler. Local.
22. Nuggets: Jordan Hamilton. Backup.
23. Rockets: Tobias Harris. Versatile.
24: Thunder: Justin Harper. Surplus.
25: Celtics: Reggie Jackson. Depth.
26: Mavs: Jeremy Tyler. Riskless.
27: Nets: Jimmy Butler. Solid.
28: Bulls: Iman Shumpert. Backup.
29: Spurs: Davis Bertans. Promise?
30: Bulls: Malcolm Lee. Defense.

(My mock was influenced by the phenomenal Jonathan Givony of the essential, whose network and insights are superlative. Here's his latest mock.)

If you are on Twitter, I recommend following Givony (@draftexpress), ESPN's Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider), SI's Sam Amick (@samamick) and SBNation's Tom Ziller (@teamziller).

Have a few fun NBA Draft-related things planned for Quickish today. We'll promote them on Twitter and on the site. For a terrific "Quickish LIVE!" experience to accompany watching the draft on TV, pop by tonight during the draft.

Here are a few of the biggest storylines to watch:

*Trades near the top? The T'wolves don't necessarily want to draft Derrick Williams; they would be thrilled to trade out. If the Jazz go for need (Brandon Knight) over "best player available" (Enes Kanter), watch for a potential deal involving Kanter and the Cavs at the No. 4 spot. (If Kanter is gone, I like the late-breaking momentum that the Cavs take Texas PF Tristan Thompson -- even if he overlaps with JJ Hickson -- over Euro prospect Jonas Valanciunas.)

*Jimmer! The biggest name in the draft could go as early as No. 7 to the Kings, but things get really interesting if the Jazz go big at No. 3, and Jimmer is available at No. 12. They would almost assuredly take him in that case; I think they will never get the chance.

*Kemba Walker sliding? The best player on the best team is also no better than the 3rd-ranked point guard in the draft. I think he'll have a fine NBA career, and he should have a sizable chip on his shoulder if he slips from the Top 5, past the Kings at 7 and Bobcats at 9. Kemba Walker in the double-digits? It could happen, but I think Michael Jordan goes for unexpectedly available glitz at 9.

*Bismack Biyombo: He has the most potential of anyone in the draft. In a relatively weak draft, where there will be plenty of busts and mediocrities, where's the risk if you take him and he is a bust? At a minimum, he can be a terrific rebounder and shot-blocker off the bench. On the other hand, his ceiling is higher than anyone else in the group. If you are calculating the expected value of awesomeness, Biyombo gets the highest grade. Whoever drafts him will be one of the night's biggest winners.

*Draft fashion and tears from moms (and players): It's a universally appealing part of the NBA draft night -- the players trying to look good. But the most drama is always when the moms of the players cry when their sons' names are called. Forget what happens on the court down the road; this is a moment of realized potential.

Enjoy the draft. We'll have "just enough" coverage throughout the day on Quickish, complete with any well-sourced rumor-mongering to keep things spicy. Then be sure to drop by Quickish tonight throughout the draft -- whether you are watching it on TV and want a sidebar or whether you are skipping it on TV and just want to get the best of real-time commentary from Twitter. Quickish is here to help.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

06/22 (Pre-Draft) Quickie

Some fun NBA draft speculation today: Spurs shopping Tony Parker to the Raptors or Kings? Nuggets shopping Raymond Felton to the Kings? Suns shopping Nash to the T'wolves?

But here is my favorite annual draft speculation: Projecting which players will thrive and which players will fizzle. Obviously, "fit" matters a lot. So do expectations: If Kyrie Irving is closer to the next Mike Conley than the next Derrick Rose, is that good enough? (Spoiler: Irving will be better than Conley but not nearly as good as Rose.)

I think Irving is solid, if not spectacular. I think Derrick Williams certainly looked the part of star last March, but I worry about his willingness (and fit) to be a full-time power forward. But he is obviously loaded with potential.

My favorite player in the draft is Bismack Biyombo, for a lot of reasons: I think he has the most potential, mostly owing to his insane physical measurements, but also due to his Garnett-level motor and willingness to work to get better. He played in a league last year that is so much better than college basketball that national champ UConn wouldn't win a single game, and he led that league in blocks despite limited minutes.

His offense is also very limited, yes, but the NBA is becoming a league where a player can be Top 5 in rebounds and blocks -- as Biyombo aspires to (and has the talent to) -- with limited offense and still be a huge contributor. (His offense will only get better, btw.) I think we'll look back and people will wonder how any team passed on him. (He is also a fascinating, thoughtful guy -- see this Q&A.)

I think the draftniks are totally underestimating where Biyombo might go, and I think he ends up in Toronto with the No. 5 pick. (I'm not going to mock the entire draft, don't worry.)

More players I like (Early- to mid-1st round): Chris Singleton, Tristan Thompson, Marshon Brooks, Nikola Vucevic, Kenneth Faried. Late-1st to 2nd-round steals/sleepers: Jimmy Butler, Charles Jenkins, Nolan Smith, Jeremy Tyler, Malcolm Lee, Norris Cole.

1st-round players I don't like: Jan Vesely (he can't shoot -- like, at all -- and he can't play D; what's not to love? undoubtedly, he will end up with my Wizards), Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker, the Morris twins, Klay Thompson, Alec Burks, Iman Shumpert, Jordan Hamilton.

Five players I want to like but fear they won't end up being particularly good: Enes Kanter, Jimmer Fredette, Kawhi Leonard, Jonas Valanciunas, Tobias Harris.

More tomorrow -- maybe a few more draft predictions. In the meantime...

*NFL Lockout: Is there a glimmer of hope coming out of the owners' meeting yesterday? What we DID see was a nice little bit of p.r. judo by the league -- now, if the players balk, they will look like the ones who are getting in the way of a deal being done.

*CFB: UNC scandal-ish. How can anyone at the NCAA office buy that an assistant coach and a tutor with close ties to the head coach were acting as rogue agents within the program? What a joke.

*CWS: Heading for a Florida-South Carolina final? Both teams are undefeated in Omaha.

Pop by Quickish today for the latest NBA Draft scuttlebutt, the top analysis on the day's biggest stories and recommendations for great things to read.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

06/21 (Midweek-ish) Quickie

I am a huge NBA Draft junkie, so the next 72 hours or so are a bit antsy for me. Tomorrow, I'll have a list of prospects I'm high on and prospects who I think will be a bust.


Albert Pujols: Him being out 4-6 weeks isn't enough to derail the Cards' playoff chances, but they might just be enough for him and the team to come to a deal. All for that development.

Oregon football: I like the way Spencer Hall put it -- they are either cheating or impossibly stupid, for paying $25,000 for an out-dated scouting report from a "recruiting expert" who happened to have a close connection to a top-ranked RB who ended up in Eugene.

Wimbledon: Love the Isner-Mahut rematch today, but while you're waiting for that, Grantland has a fabulous read from Run Of Play's Brian Phillips about Roger Federer. You'd think we were all tapped out of great writing about Federer, but Phillips delivers.

NFL Lockout: Big meeting today with owners evaluating the latest CBA proposal -- there will be no vote, but there will certainly be a temperature taken about whether there are enough naysayers to scuttle a potential deal.

(Big NBA lockout meeting, too, but it feels like this doesn't have nearly the urgency yet.)

Dodgers mess: Good for MLB for rejecting the team's cynical TV deal with Fox. Keep squeezing McCourt right out of the team. Among Bud Selig's other legacies, this one would be a pretty good one (only sort of making up for selling the team to McCourt to begin with).

Lots of great reads at Quickish today. Check 'em out all day long!

-- D.S.

Monday, June 20, 2011

06/20 (Rory) Quickie

There is the Big thing about Rory McIlroy and there is the Bigger thing.

The Big thing is the storyline of Rory -- and he claimed "first-name-only" sports-star status this past weekend -- coming back from the Masters collapse to obliterate the field in Bethesda. That, on its own, is a fairly huge sports story in 2011; I'd rank it in the Top 5.

The Bigger thing is the void in golf left behind by Tiger's implosion and subsequent on-course mediocrity (let alone his absence at the US Open) that Rory has filled up, with a vibe that is fairly labeled "anti-Tiger" on a lot of levels:

Rory is young (Tiger is old). Rory is healthy (Tiger is not). Rory is fresh-faced (Tiger sexts a half-dozen women other than his ex-wife). Rory has that "easy" swing without a ton of childhood pressure (Tiger comes across as mechanical in his swing-adjustment strategies). Rory seems like a good guy (Tiger seems like kind of a jerk). Rory is a champion (Tiger is a distant former champ).

Golf fans and sports fans needed a "new Tiger" and Rory is a perfect candidate. He may or may not fulfill his potential -- Tiger's 20s represent the greatest stretch by any golfer ever, including Nicklaus -- but for now, he is more than enough: Rory isn't the next Tiger; he is the anti-Tiger.


MLB: How can you not love octogenarian Jack McKeon coming back to the Marlins? If Florida wasn't going to contend -- and they aren't -- being interesting isn't a bad alternative.

Pujols injured: Ack! I'm scheduled to see the Cards play the Rays in Tampa during July 4 weekend; I sure hope Pujols can play. I'm not holding my breath.

NBA Draft: I'm not sold on Kyrie Irving as an elite NBA PG -- he's no Rose or Wall, and I'm not even sure he's that much better than Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker.

And so I totally buy the idea of the Cavs using their No. 1 pick on the draft's best player available -- Derrick Williams -- then their No. 4 pick on Knight or Walker.

Father's Day: Spent most of the day with Mrs. Quickish's extended family, then the late-afternoon in an airplane row with my two kids, the 5-year-old asleep leaning on my shoulder and the 2-year-old clenching my hand for a little in-air security to go with his blankie. All in all, not a bad way to spend the last few hours of Father's Day.

-- D.S.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

RIP Len Bias, 25 Years Ago Today

Len Bias died 25 years ago today.

On that day, I was 13, growing up in suburban DC and just figuring things out as a sports fan. Len Bias was my favorite player. His death was shocking to me in a profound way.

He -- what he was and what he could have been -- is missed to this day. I didn't want the day to go by without saying something.

Here is Bias' finest moment as a basketball player, one of the most sublime sequences in college hoops' history: