The 2013 NBA Draft is still just over four weeks away. While NCAA games have been over for two months and the annual Draft Combine is in the books, we just figured out the draft order.
Now the NBA's worst teams can start honing in on single players at their pick with full knowledge of who's ahead of and behind them. While there's plenty of talk of trading away picks and moving up and down a few spots to get the right value, the likelihood is that the top 5 picks will go to the teams who currently hold the top 5 picks.
Because this is the NBA, and individual talent is king. Only five guys play at one time, and a single player can mean the difference between winning and losing. Talent trumps all. You can't win with marginal players. So why would a team drafting in the top 5 trade away their pick?
It's happened, but almost never to the benefit of the team that gave away that top pick. Boston traded the #5 overall pick in 2008 to acquire Ray Allen. Memphis and Minnesota swapped the 3rd and 5th picks a few years ago. Minnesota traded the #5 overall pick to Washington for a couple of role players. Sacramento traded it's #5 pick seven months later to the Rockets for a bag of beans and a lint ball.
There's a couple more examples, I'm sure, but the point is that teams keep their top-5 picks almost all the time.
So let's look at the team needs at the Top 5 of the Draft. I am going primarily with the adage that with a top-5 pick you don't draft a position where you're already boasting a young up-and-coming player who projects to be just as good.
The Cavs have gotten lucky with the ping pong balls lately, but that has yet to turn into wins. Drafting #1, let's only look at the best 6 players in the draft: C Nerlens Noel, SG Ben McLemore, SF Otto Porter, SG Victor Oladipo, PF Anthony Bennett, PG Trey Burke.
Really, for the #1 pick you have to narrow down to Noel, McLemore and Porter. Maybe Burke, but probably not.
With former #1 overall Kyrie Irving at PG, former #4 overall Dion Waiters at SG and former #4 overall Tristan Thompson at PF, I am guessing that the Cavs will not draft at those positions when they pick #1. This rules out SG Ben McLemore and PG Trey Burke.
I assume the choice is down to two players: Noel and Porter.
Noel is the better top-end talent, but he's injury-prone.
Porter is healthier and appears to be a great fit with big-time scorers already on the wings in Irving and Waiters.
My pick: Nerlens Noel
The Magic did a huge tear-down last summer and brought in a number of young player who performed well last season, showing promise that will continue to flourish in the years to come.
But C, SG and PG are currently being manned by veterans who won't be around when the Magic start winning again. With Noel off the board, that leaves McLemore, Oladipo and Burke as the choices for the #2 overall pick.
Given McLemore's talent, youth and upside, I have to go with McLemore here.
Secondary option would be PG Burke - who just may end up being the younger version of the guy already starting at PG for them: Jameer Nelson.
But still, McLemore has the highest upside. Gotta take him.
The Wizards look to be in great shape right now. They jumped up from the #8 spot while enjoying a playoff-caliber second-half run on the backs of former #1 PG John Wall and former #3 SG Bradley Beal.
With those two already on hand, I will rule out McLemore, Oladipo and Burke.
Otto Porter would be a great fit at the SF, just like he would have been for the Cavs. Putting Porter in there to do everything except dominate a game would be a nice compliment to scorers Wall and Beal.
A secondary option for this team would be PF Anthony Bennett. The Wiz need front court scoring, and Bennett can provide points galore.
Still, I go with Porter. Perfect fit, and the best remaining talent on the board.
Poor Bobcats keep getting terrible records and keep losing out in the lotto. After missing out on Anthony Davis a year ago, they drop to the fourth position here in 2013.
The Bobcats still need everything, though they do have youth at certain spots that's not worth drafting to replace right now.
The Cats (soon to be Hornets) boast a good young PG in Kemba Walker, a good SG in Gerald Henderson and last year's #2 overall pick in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The presence of MKG rules out Porter if he's still available.
The remaining options on my version of this draft are Anthony Bennett, Trey Burke and Victor Oladipo.
Oladipo would be a great fit if the Bobcats decide to let go of Gerald Henderson. But for a team that would struggle to sign free agents, why let a 25-year old SG leave just to replace him with a rookie? Better to fill other holes than to create one that doesn't already exist.
The Bobcats need talent at the PF or C position. If Noel is somehow still on the board, they take him for sure. Maybe you even bring a new name into this mix here: C Alex Len. Len won't be working out for anyone in the next month, so I have no idea how his stock would rise this high, but it could.
Still, the best fit at this spot, given who's already been taken, is PF Anthony Bennett. Bennett can give the Bobcats a legit front court option to go with their talent on the wings.
The best remaining, in my humble not-a-scout opinion: SG Victor Oladipo. PG Trey Burke. C Alex Len.
To me, Alex Len is just a younger version of Marcin Gortat. Maybe a bit tougher, but otherwise he's at least 2-3 years away from proving he's even close to a double-double machine that Gortat already is. And the Suns have proven that a double-double center doesn't win you basketball games.
The downside of Oladipo is that GM Ryan McDonough said the Suns need what we all know the Suns really, really need: shooting. Oladipo isn't a shooter. He may be everything else, but he's not a pure shooter or shot-creator. It's quite possible that a C.J. McCollum jumps all the way to #5 to the Suns because of just that - shooting. But the mark against McCollum is that he's a combo guard who profiles best as a scoring PG, and the Suns already have one of those in Goran Dragic.
Like the Bobcats who don't need to replace Henderson when they have a lot more holes to fill, the Phoenix Suns don't need to replicate Goran Dragic already.
Time to fill a hole that's already deep at a position of need with the best remaining talent.
Drum roll please...
Phoenix Suns take Victor Oladipo!
Celebrate, Suns fans. And hope that Oladipo develops a consistent outside shot.
Arguably the Phoenix Suns most thrilling playoff run was twenty years ago. We relive the run with game-by-game recaps as the Suns down the Lakers, Spurs and Sonics before falling to the Bulls in the NBA Finals.
Since the current iteration of the Phoenix Suns is on vacation during these playoffs, we at Bright Side thought it would be fun to relive the Suns' exciting 1993 playoff run with recaps of each game, starting with Game 5 of the Western Semis. Revisit yesteryear while we wait for the Suns to rise again.
After a thrilling come-from-behind first round series win over the Los Angeles Lakers ("and everyone's gonna say what a great series it was"), the Phoenix Suns faced an equally big opponent in the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs had just beaten defending Western Champ Portland Trailblazers in round one, and saw the smaller Suns as their next step on a Finals run of their own.
David Robinson was a beast surrounded by role players that made them greater - and more frustrating - than the sum of their parts (where have I heard this one before). Avery Johnson. Sean Elliot. J.R. Reid. Antoine Carr. Dale Ellis. All good players, but all role players around a Hall of Fame center.
The smaller Suns had led the league in scoring, by a wide margin, and boasted a passable defense (9th in efficiency vs. 18th in points allowed) to win a club record 62 games before the playoffs started.
(again, where have I heard all this before?)
Charles Barkley was the Suns Hall of Famer in 1993, putting up 25.6 points, 12.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.6 steals per game, along with a block for a good measure. Charles had truly an historic season, one that has not been topped in the valley - either in terms of raw stats or raw impact - since. You could argue that Steve Nash made the same, if not bigger, impact (and certainly a more long-lasting one) but Nash never guided the Suns to the Finals and never in the way that Charles did.
The Suns supporting cast was a who's who for Suns fans: PG Kevin Johnson (MIP, 3-time All-Star, 5-time All-NBA). SG/SF Dan Majerle (3-time All-Star, 2-time All-Defensive). F Tom Chambers (4-time All-Star, 2-time All-NBA). Danny Ainge (1-time All-Star). Ced Ceballos (1-time All-Star). Mark West. Oliver Miller. Richard Dumas. Tim Kempton. 4th-quarter Frank Johnson.
Man, that was an exciting team. The Suns painted the town orange that year. Chambers, Kempton and West still work for the Suns to this day. Ceballos was their in-game entertainer for years. Majerle was a TV guy, then coach. Barkley still lives in the valley. In many ways, the 1993 team is still part of the franchise fabric.
Boxscore - courtesy of basketball-reference.com
The Suns returned home for Game 5 after letting the series get tied up 2-2. "It's never very hard to play on the road," shooting guard Danny Ainge quipped. "It's just hard to win on the road."
Feasting on home cooking and a rocking home crowd, the Suns muddled through three tight quarters before Charles Barkley lit up the night with 19 fourth-quarter points, including 16 in a 6-minute stretch. Barkley put the Suns on his back and carried them home when they needed it the most.
Barkley finished the game with 36 points (on 16 shots and 15 free throws) and 12 rebounds. He got great support from Kevin Johnson (15 points, 12 assists, 6 rebounds) and Dan Majerle (17 points, 4 rebounds). As a team, the Suns shot 59.7% for the game, a huge improvement over shooting less than 42% in each of the losses in San Antonio.
The crowd was electric. The Suns attendance ranked 5th in the league that year, with every single game sold out and playoff tickets really hard to come by. My dad went to every game and will never forget that series.
Up next: another showdown in the Alamo for Game 6. Could Barkley and the Suns step up on the road?
Since the current iteration of the Phoenix Suns is on vacation during these playoffs, we at Bright Side thought it would be fun to relive the Suns' exciting 1993 playoff run with recaps of each game. Today, the Suns and Charles Barkley begin an epic Western Conference Finals series with a win at home over Shawn Kemp's Seattle Supersonics, 105-91.
In a series about to go the distance, the fireworks hadn't even started yet when the Suns took down the Sonics in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
The Sonics had just survived the Houston Rockets in their own round two series - you know, the same Rockets who would soon steal Suns hearts with the icy zeal of the wicked witch in Once Upon a Time. The Sonics came in a bit flat to game one, while the Suns had a four-day rest and were waiting to pounce on their prey.
And pounce they did. Even without Barkley doing much pouncing (12 points, 14 rebounds in 36 minutes).
Earstwhile Suns mainstay and recent arena entertainment emcee, Cedric Ceballos used a surprise start to tally 21 points and backup center Oliver Miller (15 points, 10 rebounds, 5 blocks, 4 assists, 2 steals) helped the Suns block a club playoff record 16 Seattle shots (second most all-time). Mark West, still a Suns mainstay in their front office, had 4 blocks of his own.
That's 16 shots blocked against a loaded Seattle team, coached by George Karl, that boasted in-his-prime Shawn Kemp, lanky Derrick McKey and Sam Perkins (one of the original stretch-fours) on the front line, with all-time great Gary Payton at PG and Rickey Pierce at SG. Off the bench, the Suns' own Eddie Johnson provided offense, while Nate McMillan and Michael Cage brought the D. That I remember this lineup so clearly twenty years later is a clear sign that Seattle was really, really good.
But not in game one they weren't.
The Suns owned this game from the get-go, and a Suns second unit boasting future head coaches Frank Johnson and Danny Ainge kept the foot on the throat of the Sonics all night.
Suns win going away, 105-91.
The NBA Finals were only three wins away.
In my opinion, the best option for the Suns with the fifth pick is Victor Oladipo. But according to ESPN's Draft Dude, Chad Ford, "Oladipo is the guy that GMs love in this draft" so he very well could be gone before the Suns new GM gets to make his first-ever draft pick without training wheels.
Of course, I seem to recall hearing the same thing about Damian Lillard who's stock rose quickly after being projected 13th this time last year before but wasn't selected until Portland's turn with the sixth pick. Oladipo is already slotted fourth to the Bobcats/Hornets in four out of seven mock drafts.
If Oladipo (and Otto Porter) are gone before Ryan McDonough gets his turn at bat, Alex Len could be a very intriguing option. We already know the Suns have a need to a new big man and we know there are a LOT of very big men in this draft. Nerlens Noel will almost certainly be gone before the Suns turn (and truly hope that's true) so that leaves us to ponder Len who was also pondered by Paul Coro at the AZ Republic:
Phoenix Suns’ draft options at No. 5 include Maryland big man Alex Len
The NBA draft lottery slotted the Suns fifth in the selection order, assuring they will not get a chance to pick Nerlens Noel without a trade. But they could take the center who dominated Noel to start the past college season.
What else do we know about Len? A lot.
The best prospects of the 2013 NBA Draft - Rufus on Fire
Alex Len is this seasons feast-or-famine pick. The seven-footer has all the potential tools: he's a great athlete for his size, has impressive foot speed, a great touch around the rim -- with both hands -- and a high basketball IQ. On the defensive end, he's already a good pick and roll defender with potential as an elite rim-protector.
Well now, that's impressive!
But, did you know that Alex isn't even his REAL NAME? It's Olexiy! Also...
NBA Draft 2013 scouting report: Alex Len - Bullets Forever
Whether Len lived up to the hype as a sophomore probably depends on which games you saw him play. He opened the season with a dominant showing against Nerlens Noel, the top recruit in the nation, scoring 23 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in a loss to Kentucky.
Unfortunately for Len, his first game of the season might have also have been his best, as the inconsistency from his freshman year carried over to 2012. [emphasis added so you would see it]
Maybe, if he used his real name he would get more steals?
2013 Draft Preview: Centers - Canis Hoopus
For every 1 steal that Len collects, Noel collects 8, Dieng collects 5, Adams, Plumlee, and Zeller each collect 4, Withey and Olynyk each collect 3, and Muscala collects more than 2. While ball-stealing itself is not a key part of the center position, this huge disparity between Len and men who succeed in professional basketball should be concerning.
I really wonder how much of the glow about Len's "athletic potential" is failing to look past his impressive frame to the more basic dexterity, coordination, and awareness that separates successful project bigs from your annual second-round 7' stiff. [emphasis added so you would see it]
Then again, somebody thinks Len is BETTER THAN Noel despite using an alias.
NBA Draft 2013: Why Alex Len is a better prospect than Nerlens Noel - SBNation.com
Noel is an intriguing prospect, but in my opinion, he's not even the best center, much less the best player, available in this year's draft. Maryland sophomore Alex Len is bigger and more skilled than Noel.
the some tape:
What do you think of "Alex" Len?