The Celtics hope they can do what the Thunder did and steal a game at home against a superior opponent. It will be a tall task since Boston couldn't win a game in which Rajon Rondo scored 44 points. Who else is going to give the Celtics consistent scoring? Maybe Brandon Bass is due for another big game.
Here's the remaining schedule for the 2012 NBA Playoff Eastern Conference Finals Series (all times in ET):
Game 4: Sunday, June 3 at Boston, 8:30 p.m. Game 5: Tuesday, June 5 at Miami, 8:30 p.m.* Game 6: Thursday, June 7 at Boston, 8:30 p.m.* Game 7: Saturday, June 9 at Miami, 8:30 p.m.*
With the NCAA's "one and done" rule, selecting players in the NBA draft involves a good amount of tea leaf reading and broad projections. The most talented players generally declare themselves eligible for the draft after their freshman seasons at the tender age of 19 or 20, with thin lists of accomplishments gathered facing similarly young, unproven players.
This is why the words "potential" and "upside" are so prevalent in scouting reports. Can the guy be an effective NBA player? There's a lot of educated guessing involved in answering that question about unfinished products.
A more extreme example of this is Baylor forward Perry Jones III, one of the top 10 prospects coming out of high school and now, after two years of college ball, more enigmatic than when he arrived on campus. In the current wall to wall sports news and opinion environment, Jones is already viewed as an underachiever at only 20 years of age.
What NBA scouts see is a supremely talented athlete who is still finding his way as a player and a young man, a jack of all trades who has yet to discover his niche on the court, and has been perceived as somewhat of a disappointment for his less than stellar production at Baylor.
Jones carries a high degree of risk as one of the bigger boom or bust players among the elite prospects. Should the Suns roll the dice and select Jones if he's available at #13 in June 28th's draft?
Tale of the tape:
Perry James Jones III, Baylor, played two years of college basketball
6'11", 220 lbs, 7'3" wingspan
20 years old, will be 21 when 2012-13 NBA season starts
2011 All-Big 12 Second Team, 2012 All-Big 12 Third Team
Arriving at Baylor to much fanfare and a bit of controversy, as Baylor didn't normally land high end recruits like the McDonalds HS All-American, Jones earned All-Big 12 honors in his freshman season and would likely have been a lottery pick had he entered last year's NBA draft. Instead, he opted to stay another year at Baylor because Jones realized he needed additional maturity; unfortunately, it was a season that provided more ammunition for his critics and did little to bolster his draft stock.
Despite showing flashes of his elite abilities, including athleticism and a game that features a little bit of everything, he also displayed inconsistency and uneven performance, vanishing completely for long stretches of play, and not carrying his team the way a player of his caliber is expected to do.
Closing his college career in the 2012 NCAA tournament, Jones scored only 2 points in the first round vs. South Dakota St. in a win, and then went for 17 points and 8 rebounds in an Elite Eight loss to eventual champion Kentucky. More of the inconsistency and apparent underachievement for a player with such potential led to charges of softness and a low basketball IQ.
These highlights show the wide range of skills he possesses:
In body type, Jones looks a bit like Kevin Garnett, except that he needs to bulk up and toughen up to be anything close to KG, who was an early bloomer of historic proportions. Jones will need more time to develop, and the team drafting him will be best served by taking a patient approach, working to develop him with strong coaching and veteran mentoring.
As we can see from Jones' productivity at Baylor, he's not close to a finished product and, most troubling, didn't show marked progress last year.
Jonathan Givony of Draft Express had this to say about Jones' game at Baylor:
He sees the biggest share of his possessions in the post, either with his back to the basket, or facing up from the mid-post. He doesn't really have the strength or toughness to be overly effective backing opponents down, but his excellent size, length and quickness allows him to get shots off here with relative ease. He shows nice potential with his smooth footwork and soft touch around the basket, particularly with his jump-hook, but will have to improve on his ability to draw fouls and finish through contact if he's to maximize this part of his game.
Where Jones seems to be more effective at the moment is facing up from 12-18 feet in isolation settings. His incredibly quick first step and long strides allow him to blow by opponents, and he can finish strong at the rim thanks to his terrific leaping ability or with a floater inside the paint.
These are skills in short supply on the current Suns roster and, with patient development, Jones could become a major contributor. Head coach Alvin Gentry is known as a players' coach, but the Suns' recent track record at developing young players hasn't been impressive: Goran Dragic, Robin Lopez and Earl Clark all struggled in Phoenix, with the team giving up on Dragic and Clark. It's too soon to tell on Markieff Morris, who just completed a decent but unspectacular rookie season.
Of course, patient development might be hard to come by if Steve Nash returns and the Suns will have only a 2 or 3 year window with Nash left to compete. The flip side is that having the veteran leadership and role models of work ethic and team building exemplified by Nash and Grant Hill should aid the youngster's development, as Suns President Lon Babby maintains is happening with Morris.
It's hard for me to imagine a player of Jones' uncommon gifts will be available when the Suns pick at #13. A few teams will pass on him due to questions of toughness and work ethic, but it only takes one team ahead of the Suns to fall in love with his potential and upside for him to be selected, and I'm expecting that to happen.
Should he be available at #13, it's a no-brainer: the Suns have to take him. He might not contribute much right away, but has the chance to be a star in a few years. And what would be the cost if he busts? Solid role players such as Morris or Lopez are about the best that can be expected at that slot, so it's not a bad place to take a risk for a team in need of young talent. It's easy to find solid role players, much more difficult to find potential stars.
The 2012 NBA Draft Lottery left the Phoenix Suns with the 13th pick, which was no surprise, but the Hornets winning the Anthony Davis ball was. Or was it? We also look at the remaining conference finals playoff series.
Hosted by Bryan Gibberman and Seth Pollack and presented by Arizona Sports 620 and SB Nation Arizona.
As we all know, this summer is a big one for the Suns' front office. We have not seen a major, roster-changing transaction since the Gortat/Turkoglu trade in December of 2010 - a full 18 months ago.
We fans have been patient all this time (some more patient than others), waiting for something, anything to happen that would show us the Suns' clear vision for the future. All this hogwash about "competing while transitioning" and "preserving cap space to have flexibility" tastes like dirt in our mouths.
And now, 18 months later, it's all coming to a head. Just 6 players are under fully guaranteed contracts for the 2012-13 season. Only one of those would be a starter on a majority of NBA teams. Aging luminaries are free agents. Not one player on the team is untouchable.
The time has come! We are thirsty! We want action!
Beginning July 1, 2012, the Suns have that flexibility they've been promising us. More than $25 million is available to spend. At least 4 of the 6 contracts are eminently tradeable: reasonable prices for reasonable rotation players with great attitudes and at least one strong NBA skill. The amnesty clause is still available to add another $4-7 million to the coffers, if needed.
But the Suns have almost too much flexibility. Where will they go first?
It's not like they just need to plug one or two holes. They need an upgrade at EVERY position on the court.
Their draft pick will remain a mystery until the final days, the tipping point simply being who the front office falls in love with. And judging by last year's draft, this front office doesn't like to be a jilted lover. They will likely hone in on a player under the radar, one not coveted by teams above them, unlikely to be snatched up right before their pick.
Remember that Morris was not a sexy pick, despite being slotted right around where the Suns were drafting and earning the Suns a solid grade by the pundits. He was under the radar, for sure.
And then there was Iman Shumpert, who may have been a better rookie and long-term player, as a second player the Suns fell in love with. They reportedly had plans to buy a pick in the 20s to draft him, even as late as mid-draft. I remember Blanks gushing over Morris right after the pick and hinting "we're not done yet". But Shumpert's blip started to shine on other radars in the final week before the draft, and he was snatched up by the Knicks at #17. Once that happened, the Suns lost interest in adding another rookie even though several good ones were still available.
This Suns front office falls in love, all right. They love C Marcin Gortat, PG Steve Nash and SF Grant Hill. They love PG Sebastian Telfair, and I'm pretty sure they like SG/SF Jared Dudley a whole lot. And they continue to love PF Markieff Morris. No wonder early draft mocks have the Suns picking a shooting guard. That's the only position where the FO doesn't have someone they love.
So where will the Suns at least try to invest some of their cap space this summer?
On day one of free agency, the Suns front office will stay committed to re-signing Steve Nash and Grant Hill. And they won't make a knee-jerk trade of any loved, or even well-liked, rotation players unless something magical falls into their laps.
Although they love Grant Hill and want him back, they know he's not a bigtime player any more who can go more than 20 minutes in a game for more than 3/4 of a season.
Assuming they don't want to bring huge competition to their favorites Morris and Gortat on the front line starting roles, you'd have to scratch 3 starting positions off the free agent/draft list on day one: C, PF and PG.
That leaves shooting guard (SG) and small forward (SF). Neither Hill nor Dudley are sure-fire starters, so both starting positions are up for grabs.
Bank on the Suns adding two wing players by July 3, 2012. One will be added via the 13th pick in the draft, with the other being a day-one free agent signing or another bought draft pick. Both will be more talented than Shannon Brown and Michael Redd. After that, the shopping list is based completely on trade opportunities and defections.
That's my analysis anyway. Trades are completely unpredictable, as are defections.
The Suns COULD make a blockbuster trade or two with everyone on the roster. But will they? Probably not. At least not during the draft or the initial days of free agency.
Steve Nash COULD say next week that he's done with the Suns, which would shift the Suns draft and free agency focus to PG. But will he? Probably not.
The Suns COULD decide to make Deron Williams a max offer on July 1 to make him the PG of the future. But will they? Probably not. Why burn bridges with Nash by clearly making him their #2 target?
A lot of things could happen.
But the likeliest moves are the acquisition of two wing scorer/defenders through the draft and initial free agency. After the initial days of free agency, then the whole team is up for grabs. But the Suns have to shore up the wing first.