After the conclusion of the Conference Finals the contest has become a two participant race. Even if you're pretty sure you're not one of those two (you know who you are) check out how you did.

Miami Heat over Indiana Pacers 4-2

My train of thought was that the Indiana Pacers were going to get right beating up crappy teams on their way to the Conference Finals and give the Heat, who I think is very vulnerable, everything they could handle. My cogitation proved pitifully inaccurate. After Indiana stole game one the Heat took control by closing out game two in the fourth quarter en route to opening up a 3-1 series lead.

Indiana's vaunted pathetic defense allowed Miami to shoot .510 from the field and .408 from three point range during the series. Don't let the point totals fool you, Indiana managed to slow the game down to skew those numbers. Miami absolutely torched them with an offensive rating of 118 points per 100 possessions. Roy Hibbert really failed to duplicate his impressive playoff performance from the previous season. After averaging 17 points and 9.9 rebounds a game in the 2012-13 postseason he only managed 9.3 and 5.5 this year. Lance Stephenson, meanwhile, is venturing into Ron Artest/Dennis Rodman territory with his bizarre tactics intended to fluster LeBron James. I was really hoping for a wet willy.

Even though the Heat seemed to float through this series and flip the switch when needed, especially when the games were close late, I don't think this incarnation is on the same level as previous years. If they played in the Western Conference I really doubt they make it to the Finals. The current playoff format sucks.

San Antonio Spurs over Oklahoma City Thunder 4-2

This was kind of a weird series. At first it looked like the Spurs were headed to a sweep as they dominated the Thunder with it's All-NBA defensive star Serge Ibaka supposedly sidelined for the rest of the playoffs.  Then Ibaka returned for game three, playing miraculously well, and Oklahoma City was right back in the mix. After perplexingly being boat raced in game five the Thunder very nearly forced a game seven. That would have been great tv, even though the Spurs would have (nearly) undoubtedly won.

It turns out the Spurs are just a better team. They play a great system and move the ball around with beauty. Meanwhile the Thunder just run a two man (or one man at times) game with Durant and Westbrook. The "plan" is for them to be forced to create offense with very limited options surrounding them. Basically super hero ball. Just give the ball to those two and expect their talent to overwhelm the opponent. The Spurs really exposed that Oklahoma City needs a tertiary scorer (I don't count Ibaka) in their starting lineup. Some kind of legitimate three point threat would be great (imagine Gerald Green on the Thunder).

What was truly awesome was that Boris Diaw was the MVP of the series (if I'm voting). Once he confidently accepted his role the series was over. Diaw has really frustrated me for most of his career. He has stretches where he plays like this and then others where he, well, doesn't. I really thought after his Most Improved Player award back in 2005-06 he was going to be a force in this league, but he's never been able to duplicate that consistency. I, for one, am happy he has a chance to play a prominent role on a championship contender... even if it is the Spurs.

I begrudgingly accept the Spurs dominance and longevity, and even admire the grace of the excellent team basketball they play, but won't everyone be really happy when if they finally fall off their perch and give everyone else a chance? The Spurs and Lakers have combined for 9 of the last fifteen championships and have gone to 12 of the NBA Finals. At least the Lakers fell off the edge of the earth last season, but I've grown tired of thinking about the Suns trying to get past them every year (Phoenix hasn't had much luck)...

NBA Finals Prediction

Oh well.  I've got the Spurs in five. Everybody leave your predictions and thoughts below.

Current Standings


Like the caption referenced, it's down to two.

If the Spurs win jack's complete lack of surprise will take the crown. If the Heat win it goes to jomerfrancicso. Kris picked the Thunder to win it all, which obviously takes him out of the picture. Meanwhile, TheAlexSkinner picked the Heat in six just like jomerfrancisco, so there's no way for him to make up the extra point.

So there you have it, our champion will be determined when the NBA Champion is determined.

Closing Dig


Bosh - absurd or foolish talk; nonsense.

He also looks like an ostrich.

Also, it appears that Lionel Mandrake has changed his user name to Rollin J. Mason in an attempt to avoid the infamy associated with his putrid performance.

P.S. That wasn't really the reason (I don't think), but I've been having fun deriding him.

Dario Saric has been coveted by the NBA since he was 15. Now he is closer than ever to being an NBA player, and no prospect has a higher offensive ceiling than Saric in this draft.

Croatian Dario Saric has been a wanted man for the last five seasons - wanted in the NBA as a sweet-shooting and scoring big man in the mold of Dirk Nowitzki and Toni Kukoc.

It's a big question of when he will join the NBA. He is 20 years old now, but still has hinted he wants more seasoning in Europe before playing with the big boys in the US. At the moment, Saric is a little light for traditional power forward and just a bit slow for small forward in terms of defense.

But on offense, Saric is a load that very few can stop. He has a high motor and scores very well in transition, passing as well as scoring himself. He also rebounds at a high rate at the other end. If a team can hide his man-on defensive issues, he could be a really great NBA player.

The basics

  • Height: 6'10"
  • Wingspan: 6'10"
  • Weight: 223 pounds
  • 15.4 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game in Adriatic League (5th in PER)
  • Strengths: Very high basketball IQ, shooting, passing, scoring creativity from anywhere, transition, rebounding
  • Weaknesses: not strong in post defense of PFs, might be too slow to defend SFs, might be too slow to defend the pick-and-roll
  • Been a closely watched prospect since he was 15, and still may not come over to the NBA this season without a big buyout


For years, scouts have been trying to compare Saric to another Euro who came over to the NBA to dominate. There are legitimate comparisons to Toni Kukoc, except that Kukoc was much more skilled as a passer/facilitator and had a much longer pedigree when he joined the NBA. Kukoc was drafted in 1990 by the Bulls, but did not come to the NBA until 1993 after the Bulls had won their first three NBA championships. Throughout the 90s, Kukoc won several European Basketball Player of the Year awards.

There are also comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki but the German was much more of a scorer for Wurzburg, putting up 19 and 28 ppg in his last two years (as a 17 and 18 year old). In 1998, Nowitzki scored 33 points on 6-of-12 shooting, pulled down 14 rebounds and had 3 steals for the internationals.

So, Saric does not have the track record of either Nowitzki or Kukoc, but he does have many of the same skills - passing, shooting, scoring and very high basketball IQ. Another comp could be Boris Diaw.

Scouting Reports

  • DraftExpress: Despite showing excellent fluidity and coordination for a player his size, its Saric's skill-level, creativity and feel that makes him unique, and not amazing athleticism. His basketball IQ is simply off the charts, as his knowledge and understanding of the game is extraordinary relative to his age. The place where that's most visible is in his passing ability, as he does a great job of seeing the floor and making teammates better, aided greatly by the outstanding vantage point he enjoys at his size. He played almost exclusively at power forward the past two seasons, and even if he's gotten stronger, it will be difficult for him to match up inside the paint with some of the stronger players he'll encounter at that position in the NBA. Opposing players shot 49% from the field against Saric in post-up situations this season according to Synergy Sports Technology.Role and fit are arguably as important for Saric as any player in this draft. Having a coach that is willing to put the ball in his hands and utilize his many strengths will be a huge key, as its unlikely that he'll be happy playing exclusively off the ball, where his shortcomings as a perimeter defender and shooter will become even more glaring. A fiery competitor, Saric's body language already leaves something to be desired at times (he's quick to point fingers at teammates or complain), so there's always the risk that he could simply get up and go back to Europe if he isn't happy with his situation.
  • At 6'10 it is very hard to find anyone in the world with the skills he possesses to play with or without the ball anywhere on the court. Saric would have a much better NBA outlook if not for his lack of foot speed and athleticism ... His quickness and elevation might be enough to finish in Europe, but without the ability to finish above the rim, things will likely prove more difficult for him in the NBA.
  • Physically Saric has the size to play either the three or the four at 6-10 223 lbs. He needs to add considerable strength to play the four consistently at the next level. With his deceptive speed, ball-handling, and shooting he creates match-up difficulties for traditional fours that play more in the paint with strength and size.

Suns Draft Potential

Could Saric be a guy the Suns target to play combo forward? His ceiling is higher than Marcus Morris, and he could be an unstoppable facilitator from the small forward position.

But Saric is not a pure two-way player, even though he rebounds well. GM McDonough likes two-way players, though he was part of the front office that drafted Jared Sullinger in 2012. Sullinger was also known as a scorer and rebounder without the quick feet to defend at a high level.

Maybe Saric's incredible scoring and facilitating ability will far outweigh his deficiencies on D.

Video Profile - DraftExpress

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Today's Suns workout was headlined by power forward Jarnell Stokes from Tennessee, along with point guard Aaron Craft, a four-year started from Ohio State.

Today, the Phoenix Suns worked out a group of mostly free-agent hopefuls, headlined by Jarnell Stokes (PF, Tennessee) who has the potential to be a late first round to early second round pick.

Stokes is a powerful, rebounding machine from Tennessee.  He averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds per game this past season.  He is also a respectable shot blocker with an ability to bang down low on offense and challenge the opponent in the low post on both ends of the floor.  He already possesses an NBA body and the strength to go with it, and has also proven himself to be an underrated passer for a big man as well.  His combine performance was also a bonus, as he measured in with a 7'1" wingspan and a 36" vertical...which is impressive for a guy with his size.  His lateral agility was not as impressive, but it will have limited effect on his defensive ability in the low post where he is at his best.

The other notable name on the list is Aaron Craft, a four-year starting point guard for Ohio St., who has been listed anywhere from the second round to undrafted in various mocks.  Craft is known for his defensive ability and also his high b-ball I.Q.. He averaged approximately 10 points and 5 assists per game his senior year, and was named Big-Ten defensive player of the year.  The obvious knock on Craft is his lack of ability as a shooter, and his average athleticism.  But before you start getting flash-backs of Kendall Marshall, know that Craft is a very adept and craft-y (pun intended) scorer near the basket, and is able to use his quickness and agility to beat his man of the dribble.

One of the lesser known prospects that I personally like a lot is Casey Prather, a super-athletic, explosive small forward who progressed each season at Florida.  His senior year, he averaged nearly 14 points along with 5 rebounds per game.  Although he's undersized at only 6'5", he has a 6'9" wingspan  and a 37.5" vertical to help make up for it. He isn't a great shooter, shooting only 33% from the college three, but he has the ability to score from inside the arc and loves to get to the rim.  Prather has also shown the ability to be a very good defender, using his length and athleticism to shut the opponents down on the perimeter.  Although he probably won't be drafted, he could be a very solid pick up for the right team.

Here's a breakdown of the full list of prospects in attendance today, below:

Prospect Profiles:

As for the workout portion, once again the three-minute full-court sprint drill was all the media was able to see.  For what it's worth, Aaron Craft showed off his tremendous condition by easily beating the other prospects in the drill, and although I lost count, the coaches reported that he tied the record for the number of laps so far...I'm not sure if that includes Archie Goodwin or not.

Speaking of Archie, during the media session interviews, Goodwin was once again working on his three-point shooting and having fun with the staff while he was at it.  After competing against Coach Hornacek yesterday, Goodwin was feeling even more confident this afternoon exclaiming "I'll beat anybody today!  Who else wants some?  Where's Steph Curry at?  Bring him out!"

Goodwin was clearly joking around and just having fun...but you can also see his confidence growing, and he has certainly built a great relationship with the staff.  Good stuff.


Ryan McDonough

On Jarnell Stokes

"Jarnell Stokes is an interesting player...He's a physical specimen, maybe the strongest guy we've had in here.  He weighed 270 today.  He has very good hands and feet for his size.  Very productive rebounder.  I think there's a lot of room for growth there.  He's a junior, but really by his age he's a sophomore even a freshman...he just turned 20 earlier this year.  He showed  pretty good touch from the mid-range...He had a good work out for us today."

On Aaron Craft

"He's excelled at pretty much everything his whole life...on the court off the court, he's a winner.  His defense stands out, his ability to run a team and get guys in the right spots stands out.  He's in terrific shape, I think he tied our high in the conditioning drill.  It looked like he could have kept going another three minutes if he wanted to.  We place a value on winning...and that's what he's done his whole life."

Jeff Hornacek

On relating to the less-heralded players

"I think every coach kind of looks at guys maybe how they were as a player.  I hear a lot of times they're saying this guy isn’t that fast or he isn’t that quick, and then I think that was kind of like me, and I made it.  You try to look past some of those things...and look at their determination."

On Aaron Craft as a winner

"You have to give a lot credit and look at that part of the game.  Certain guys, it’s like what is he going to do when he comes into the league? A lot of guys they get their NBA status and their money, and then they just play basketball. A kid like him, it’s not going to matter how much money he makes, he’s going to compete. He’s going to do the little things to try and help a team win. Again, you can’t have enough of those guys."

Aaron Craft

On his strengths and characteristics

"I think I'm one of the more competitive guys out there...I'm going to do what it takes to win, offensively, defensively, whatever it takes.  I think there's a lot of stuff behind the scenes too that people don't get to see, stuff in the offseason, before and after practice, those types of things that I know I do...that's just who I am"

On whether or not his game translates to the NBA

"I think so, absolutely.  A lot of guys that come before me have done similar things, and I think I can do the same"

On four-year college experience

"I think it helps.  I think any type of experience, like at Ohio St. playing with some of the best players in the country, playing in big games, and big atmospheres, I think that helps a lot."

Jarnell Stokes

On conditioning and performance

"I'm a little behind right now...I had to take a week off running after I got in a car accident on the way to the airport.  I'm just trying to work my way back into shape.  I think I did ok (in the three-minute drill), I heard my number was 24 (laps), but compared to guys like Aaron craft it didn't look that good.  I think I shot the ball pretty well, I gave all I could give, but it was a pretty tough workout."

On being a traditional vs. stretch four

"I'm just a basketball player, whatever the coach wants me to do.  I shot the ball very well, so I feel I can extend my range out to the three-point line in due time.  But right now I'm more of a (traditional) power forward."

On shooting range

"Right now I'm very confident from the college three.  I'm shooting the ball very well at the college three.  I think the biggest thing will be from the (NBA) three point line, being able to hit that shot.  But as of right now I'm not too worried about it."

Another workout coming tomorrow...stay tuned.

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