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Chad Ford's most recent Mock Draft 4.0 released just today has some interesting changes from his prior picks. While the entire article can only be seen by those who have access to ESPN insider, the top three picks are freely listed along with an explanation for each of them. Here is a look at his latest picks.

Ford still has Nerlens Noel going #1 overall to Cleveland. This is no surprise, although Otto Porter and Ben McLemore have both had their names tossed around recently as potential first picks as well. Ford has this to say about why he believes Noel will remain the top player in the draft:

Until we hear otherwise, Noel is the default pick here. General manager Chris Grant has been a fan of Noel's all year and even recommended his doctor. Assuming the rehab is going well (his doctor, James Andrews, insists Noel is ahead of schedule while other NBA team doctors are wringing their hands a little), Noel should come out on top.

While this isn't exactly a convincing point, it does make sense that Noel will remain the top candidate by default unless someone else proves otherwise. Porter and McLemore will no doubt have their opportunities to win over the front office and coaching staff, but I can't see Cleveland passing up on a player like Noel with so much potential as long as no red flags arise in his rehab process.

So no surprises there, but the second pick is where things start to get a little interesting. In Chad Ford's previous mock draft, he had Trey Burke as the 2nd pick to the Orlando Magic. Although the Magic certainly need help at the point guard position, Ford's most recent mock draft now suggests the Magic will select none other than Victor Oladipo with the #2 pick. Here is some of what he had to say about it:

According to sources, the Magic are still wide open. They say they have nine (gulp) players who they are considering. Michigan's Trey Burke was in this slot in Mock 3.0, but I'm hearing the Magic aren't sold on him as the second-best player in the draft.

and

The Magic are eyeing other young point guards such as Eric Bledsoe. If they make a trade, starting 2-guard Arron Afflalo will be the bait...If Afflalo goes, the 2-guard position opens up. Both Oladipo and McLemore would be upgrades long-term anyway. While McLemore is a better shooter, Oladipo's toughness, defense and leadership might be more appealing to a rebuilding team.

So it seems this has less to do with Oladipo's rise as it does Burke's potential fall along with Orlando looking to make a trade. The Magic are no doubt in need of a point guard, but they may not feel comfortable reaching for Burke who is clearly not one of the top three consensus players in the draft. And while Oladipo has been mocked going later in prior drafts, he stock has been rising like crazy lately, and at least in Ford's opinion, has eclipsed Ben McLemore as the best wing player overall.

The third pick in Ford's mock draft remains consistent with his previous mock. Ford has Otto Porter as the #3 pick to the Washington Wizards. This isn't a surprise by any means, as it certainly makes sense based on team needs and hometown college status at Georgetown. Here's what Ford had to say about Porter:

The Wizards are sitting pretty at No. 3. The two players they really like -- Porter and UNLV's Anthony Bennett -- are both on the board here. The need help at both the 3 and the 4, and sources say their front office is split between them. Porter's versatility and his ability to affect the game without shooting the ball are major pluses on a team that already has several starters who like to score the ball.

This seems like the most likely pick in my opinion as well. While the Wizards may like Bennett, I believe they are more inclined to go with Porter as not only a more versatile player overall, but as a potential draw to the same fanbase who cheered him on in college. If Porter does indeed make it to the 3rd pick, it just makes sense that the Wizards will take him.

While the rest of the first round picks aren't given for free on the ESPN website, I can tell you that Ford has the Suns taking Ben McLemore with the 5th pick. If the first three picks shape up the way Ford predicts then I agree that this will also be the most likely outcome, as the Charlotte Bobcats will likely select Anthony Bennett or Alex Len at #4.

If this happens, the Suns will get tremendous value by selecting McLemore with the fifth pick, and while he may not be a fan favorite like Oladipo, he has proven to be a very proficient scorer/shooter in college and still has loads of potential on top of his proven abilities.

The second and fourth picks will be the ones to watch if you're a Suns' fan. Noel and Porter may be out of reach, but if Phoenix wants Oladipo or McLemore at #5, they will need Burke, Bennett, or Len to crack the top five.

Poll
Who Do You Think The Suns Will End Up Drafting With The Fifth Pick?

  774 votes | Results

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What is a team to do? Do they go for the quick solution that might bring some mediocre short-term success or do they suck it up and take the long road.

The Suns have been criticized for trying to shortcut the rebuilding process by hanging on to Steve Nash and signing the likes of Michael Beasley. While I happen to think there's independent justification for both of those decisions, there's no denying that the Suns considered themselves a playoff team at the beginning of each of the last three lottery-bound seasons.

Most distressing about that mindset was the knowledge that "being a playoff team" was a desirable goal even if it came with a low ceiling. I think this phrase used in another context applies to that thinking: The tyranny of low expectations.

Well, those days appear to be officially over. The final nail put in the coffin by carpenter-in-chief, Robert Sarver via an interview in the Arizona Republic.

Phoenix Suns' Robert Sarver says drafting game changer unlikely but rebuilding on ‘small successes’ key
"From a business standpoint, it’s more painful to rebuild slower. It costs more money than to rebuild quickly. Many franchises try to remain in the playoffs for financial purposes. It’s not a path we’ve taken. We’re prepared to absorb the hits we have to take in the short term to get us into position so that when we do get good, we are at a high level."

Patience will be required from all involved. There will be some minor successes but they will come slow and won't be measured in ways we are used to. There will also be setbacks. But if the balance of decisions from the glass offices at the US Airways Center remain positive, Phoenix will rise again.

Oh, and how can you not love this quote from Sarver firing back at Charles Barkley who likened the Suns franchise to the Titanic.

"I've got a seat for him on the Titanic," Sarver said. "I've got an open bar. I've got a blackjack table with a lot of big-dollar chips. I've got a low-calorie chef and a stationary bike in his room. So he's welcome any time."

Drinking! Gambling! Food!

Way to take some shots at Chuck's soft underbelly, Bob!

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Grading Scola based on his main competition:

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Morris was given a chance to supplant Scola from the starting lineup last season and was an abject failure in his quest disinterested attempt. Scola beat the second year player, who showed no improvement from his rookie campaign, soundly. Upon Scola's acquisition he was the de facto starter at PF even if the role hadn't been officially bestowed upon him. He earned that role when given the opportunity.

Luis Scola vs. power forwards playing at least 25 minutes a game:

  • 14th in FG%
  • 13th in rebounds per game
  • 10th in points per game
  • 9th in FT%
  • 9th in turnovers (fewest) per game
  • 7th in assists per game

So not only did Scola raze his counterparts on the Suns, he also was a productive starting power forward relative to his competition across the league.

Grade: B+

Judging Scola based on his 2012-13 season compared to 2011-12:

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When Scola showed a significant drop off in the 2011-12 season it was easy to extrapolate that his production would continue to decline since he entered the season 32 years old. That conjecture, however, turned out to be misconstrued. Scola shook off a bad season and nearly returned to his previous production from his 30 and under years. On a team where nearly nobody exceeded expectations, Scola was on that short list.

While it's improbable Luis will be able to improve on this season's numbers as a 33 year old, it isn't a stretch to wager he'll still be an effective player next season.

Grade: A-

Judging Scola based on hustle, heart and equanimity:

As the season trudged along it would have been easy for a veteran like Scola to disassociate himself from what was a disappointing season laced with savage beatings. He could have sulked from being stuck in a bad situation at this stage of his career. Scola, however, is not that type of player or person. Despite being visually disturbed at times off the court talking to the media in perplexed and critical fashion (on occasion), Luis was always accountable for his part in the underwhelming results. Luis is also not the type of person to let these kinds of issues affect his demeanor on the court, either. Luis gave a consistent effort when many of his teammates struggled to do so. He was a leader by example. Unfortunately, a majority of the Suns chose not to follow suit.

Grade: A

Overall Grade: A-

Scola was claimed on waivers after being amnestied by the Houston Rockets and stepped into a team with an identity crisis possessed of the insane misplaced mindset that they could actually compete for a postseason berth. Things didn't work out that way.

Scola acquitted himself as a true professional in these circumstances.

I didn't like the acquisition of Scola last summer. I thought he would be a good fit as a backup for a contending team, but he didn't make sense for one going through a massive overhaul. I still don't like the move, but as it turns out he was a bright spot in a mostly somber season (even if he may have cost us a better draft pick). I never really cared for Scola as a player, either. I thought he was kind of soft and wasn't enamored with his whiny savvy play. He changed my mind this season and I respect the way he navigated the tribulations of the season.

I hope the Suns can find a deal this summer that is mutually beneficial for both Scola and the team. I think there will be interest, and if the Suns can send him to a playoff team while picking up a young player with upside or a 2014 pick, it would probably be the best thing for both parties.

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Not every workout is going to draw in the top level talent for the Phoenix Suns as they continue to prepare for the 2013 NBA Draft later this month. Today, for example, the team was looking at six prospects that could be options for their late second round pick this year.

The Suns have two picks in the first round (5 and 30) as well as one in the second round (57) to work with.

All six of the prospects brought in are more realistic as late second round picks. The big names were Grant Jerrett (former Arizona forward) and Vander Blue (Marquette). Both have the potential to be quality NBA players, but are coming from very different situations. Last year, as a freshman, Jerrett was not utilized like he could have been in a deep Arizona front-court. He had to share time which led to a reduced role and a decision to leave early for the NBA Draft. On the other hand Blue is a junior that saw his stock soar after a very quality showing in the NCAA Tournament.

Jerrett played ball here in Tucson, but former Hamilton High School star Ryan Evans was also in this workout creating a very hometown feel. He played four years for the Wisconsin Badgers on an unassuming team with an unassuming role. Working out for his hometown team for a spot in the NBA Draft had to be a dream fulfilled.

The rest of the group included Kenny Kadji, Durand Scott, and Scott Woods. Here is a quick breakdown of the workout participants from a scouting perspective:

  • Grant Jerrett -- Arizona -- Freshman power forward: A good shooter and translates immediately as a stretch-four. Jerrett has the talent to be a very good prospect, but didn't show it consistently at Arizona this year and looked out of shape in Chicago for the Combine.
  • Vander Blue -- Marquette -- Junior shooting guard: Not a scorer, but when forced into that role proved to be resourceful. Has the physical tools to be a great defender on the perimeter with a terrific athletic profile.
  • Kenny Kadji -- Miami -- Senior forward/center: He can stretch the floor as a shooter, but with his size Kadji can forget that he belongs in the paint. Not a great athlete, but solid. Today, Kadji is 25 years old.
  • Ryan Evans -- Wisconsin -- Senior wing: The best athlete in a long time for the Badgers, but the last player with that distinction was former Sun Alando Tucker. Evans is a better basketball player with the ability to be an impact defender and has improved each year on the offensive end, as a ball-handler, and as a shooter.
  • Durand Scott -- Miami -- Senior combo guard: Another undersized two guard that plays the one. More of a scorer that had his most efficient year as a senior scoring and shooting the ball.
  • Scott Wood -- N.C. State -- Senior wing: Great shooter, but other than that Wood is not an NBA level athlete. He is very smart and played his role well for the Wolfpack, but he is not an NBA athlete, lacks strength, and ball-skills to play on the perimeter. For his career Wood shot 809 threes (41.3%) and 256 twos (45.3%).

Next workout is scheduled for Wednesday.

Strengths Above all, Ohio State Buckeyes forward Deshaun Thomas is a scorer by breed and by trade. He put up 15.6 shots per game as a junior in 2012-13 and 5.6 of those were from three-point range....

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