HOOPSWORLD Week In Review
The Draft’s Best Point Guard?
By Derek Page
In the race for the title of best point guard in the upcoming 2013 NBA Draft, it’s clear that three players have separated themselves from the rest of the pack. Trey Burke, Michael Carter-Williams and C.J. McCollum are the three clear-cut favorites at the point position following this year’s draft combine.
While Michigan’s Burke has been labeled early as the top point guard, Syracuse’s Carter-Williams believes he should be the first at his position to be taken this June.
“I think so,” Carter-Williams said when asked if he should be the first point guard off the board. “I think Trey and C.J. are great point guards. I think that C.J. is more of an off-guard, he’s got a great jump shot, he’s a great scorer. I work out with C.J., me and him both in Long Island, we’re good friends, he’s a great player overall. With Trey, I think it’s more about preference. He’s a different kind of point guard than I am, we both do great things on the court.
“I think with my size and my upside, I think that I should be the first point guard taken.”
Can Quick Myck Kabongo Be Like Tony Parker?
By Stephen Brotherston
Canadian Myck Kabongo is the seemingly typical 6’2 180 lb college point guard. Small, quick and likely destined to be a second round draft pick despite his skill level. Expectations were very high for Kabongo in college and this sophomore had a lot to prove if he wanted to be considered a possible first round pick in this year’s NBA draft.
Unfortunately, Kabongo got off to a rough start in his second season with the Texas Longhorns. The NCAA suspended him for 23 games after they found out someone had paid for his airfare to visit fellow Canadian Tristan Thompson and trainer Jerry Powell last spring. However, in the 11 games he did play, Kabongo showed that he had taken another big step forward in his development.
“You can see the difference between this year and last year,” Kabongo said. “There is a synergy. You can see what players have done and between their freshman year and how they adjust in their sophomore year. I am just going to continue to get better. That’s the difference. The tape don’t lie. That’s the saying [Longhorns head] coach [Rick] Barnes always told me. The tape don’t lie and the tape don’t lie that from my freshman year to my sophomore year I got a lot better.”
Cavaliers Have Plenty Of Options
By Lang Greene
The Cleveland Cavaliers won the 2013 Draft Lottery on Tuesday night, which will give the franchise the top overall pick in this year’s draft. It marks the second time in the past three years the Cavaliers have nabbed the no. 1 overall pick and the third time since 2003. The Cavaliers also holds the no.19 overall pick.
Cleveland has compiled a 64-166 (.278) mark since four-time league MVP LeBron James departed in free agency in 2010 and haven’t reached the playoffs.
But shortly after it was revealed the club would have the top pick in June’s draft, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert said he feels this is the last year the club will be in the lottery and has his eyes on bigger success next season – making the playoffs.
“We were hoping regardless of what pick we got that this would be our last lottery,” Gilbert told the media following the lottery. “We thought originally after everything had to be reset that it would be a three-year process. You never know. It could be four. We thought three years, but having No. 1 and 19, we’ve got a pretty good chance of this being the last [lottery] for a while.”
The Cavaliers will have a plethora of options this summer to potentially meet Gilbert’s desires of climbing back into the postseason mix.
Carmelo To Blame for Knicks’ Demise?
By Bill Ingram
For three quarters, Carmelo Anthony was nothing short of brilliant. Scoring with apparent ease from all over the court, dropping threes, driving to the hole for dunks and drawing fouls to get to the charity stripe, Carmelo was every bit the player whom many considered to be a strong Most Valuable Player candidate this season. Three quarters into Saturday night’s elimination game in Indiana, he had 35 points and the Knicks were tied 81-81, apparently well on their way to forcing Game 7 back in the friendly confines of Madison Square Garden.
And then the fourth quarter started.
What most people will remember about the New York Knicks’ Game 6 loss to the Indiana Pacers will not be Carmelo’s 39 points and seven rebounds, but rather the three critical turnovers he had in the fourth quarter, and possibly the highlight reel block Roy Hibbert used to erase one of Carmelo’s shot attempts. That block sparked an 11-2 Pacers run from which the Knicks would never recover, and when the dust settled the season that was supposed to see New York return to the ranks of the contenders saw them ousted in the second round.
Now the blame game begins, and that game will no doubt be particularly bloody as the fervent New York media begins to gnaw on the carcass of their fallen team. No doubt, the appetizer will be the low-hanging fruit, none other than Carmelo Anthony. Where was he in the fourth quarter? If you’re going to be the team leader and an MVP candidate, you must shine when it matter most, and it can never matter more than in the fourth quarter of an elimination game. Carmelo all but disappeared, and actually critically hurt his team’s chances with turnovers. Surely he’s to blame for their fate, right?
James Harden Recruiting Free Agents
By Alex Kennedy
When the Houston Rockets acquired James Harden last offseason, they were excited to finally land a star player. The Rockets immediately signed Harden to a five-year deal worth $80 million and he proved to be worth every penny. The 23-year-old became an All-Star, finished with the league’s third-highest scoring average (26.3 points per game) and led the Rockets to the playoffs.
While Harden’s on-court production was outstanding, his biggest contribution may come during the offseason. That’s because Harden has already started recruiting big-time free agents to Houston, including unrestricted free agent Dwight Howard among others, according to sources close to the situation. If Houston is able to land Howard or another high-profile free agent this summer, they would instantly become a contender in the Western Conference and Harden would deserve much of the credit.
In recent months, Harden made it clear that he was planning to recruit free agents this summer. Now, with free agency still roughly six weeks away, he’s already starting to call and text some potential targets for Houston to sell them on the city, situation and future. Most free agents, including Howard, are big fans of Harden’s game and have a lot of respect for the up-and-coming shooting guard. On Wednesday afternoon, Harden confirmed via his Twitter account that he has been recruiting some players.
Where Do the Knicks Go From Here?
By Tommy Beer
In many respects, the 2012-13 campaign represented a significant step forward for the Knicks franchise. They captured the Atlantic Division crown for the first time since 1994; they notched over 50 wins for the first time since 1997; and won a postseason series for the first time this century. With momentum on their side, and an optimistic, energized city cheering them on, the Knickerbockers marched into the playoffs with substantial expectations.
However, the Knicks were swatted back down to earth by Roy Hibbert and the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Pacers series exposed a number of fatal flaws that had been bubbling beneath the surface for some time. After the final buzzer ended a bitterly disappointing defeat in Game 6 at Indiana, the hand-wringing began in earnest in NYC.
What’s next for the Knicks?
The good news for New York is that they proved they are likely only a few small pieces away from being legitimate contenders.
The bad news for the New York is they far above the salary cap, which greatly hinders their ability to acquire the pieces they need.
Doc Rivers Unavailable
By Yannis Koutroupis
For the Brooklyn Nets, last offseason was all about putting together a star-studded roster to help make their move to Brooklyn an immediate success and push them up the Eastern Conference rankings. By adding Joe Johnson and re-signing Deron Williams and Gerald Wallace they were able to significantly improve their roster and become a playoff team, ending a five-year streak of being in the lottery.
However, early on in the season management and ownership came to the conclusion that they did not have the right head coach in place. They decided to fire Avery Johnson, a former Coach of the Year who was named the Coach of the Month weeks before his firing. P.J. Carlesimo took over on an interim basis and made it clear that he wanted to be the long-term choice for the position.
Unfortunately for Carlesimo, he was unable to guide the team to the level of success he needed to in order to have the interim tag removed. Instead at the end of the season they announced that they would be going in a different direction and now they are one of eight teams looking for their next head coach.
There is a quality list of candidates available, like former head coaches Nate McMillan, Byron Scott, Scott Skiles among others and quality assistants like Mike Budenholzer (San Antonio Spurs), Mike Malone (Golden State Warriors) and Brian Shaw (Indiana Pacers) who seem ready for their chance to be a head coach.
The Nets clearly have their sights set on a big-name head coach, though. One of their first calls was to Phil Jackson, but the former Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls head coach said ‘thanks, but no thanks’ to their offer as he has ever other one that has come across this offseason. Their next call was to Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, but it didn’t get far enough for Rivers to even say no as Jackson did. He wasn’t given the chance.
Where Do The Thunder Go From Here?
By Susan Bible
Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti said it best to gathered reporters last week: “We feel like we had a great season with a disappointing ending.”
With a 60-22 record in the 2012-13 regular season and the number one seed in the Western Conference, the Thunder appeared poised for another successful postseason run. Despite some problem areas – offensive rebounding, turnovers – things were going their way as they entered the first round of the playoffs against the Houston Rockets.
Team leader and All-Star Kevin Durant had just been welcomed as the sixth member – joining Steve Nash, Larry Bird, Mark Price, Dirk Nowitzki and Reggie Miller – of the prestigious “50-40-90 Club” (which represents a player who averaged at least .500 in field goals, .400 in three-pointers and .900 in free throws). Defensive-minded Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha had markedly improved their offensive game. All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook silenced critics with his ever-maturing game. Newcomer Kevin Martin was a nice addition – no James Harden, of course – and had accepted his unaccustomed bench role well.
In Game 2 vs. Houston, the unthinkable happened. Westbrook suffered a season-ending knee injury; with a 2-0 series lead, the Thunder was suddenly charged with figuring out how to win subsequent playoff games without him. And they needed to figure it out quick. The mission proved too tough; after beating the Rockets 4-2, the Memphis Grizzlies abruptly ended their title bid in the second round, 4-1.
Could Cavaliers Make Otto Porter Top Pick?
By Joel Brigham
Before the 2013 NBA Draft Lottery, the only players anybody really thought were in contention for the No. 1 overall pick were Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore and, possibly, Trey Burke.
However, now that the Cleveland Cavaliers have won the top overall selection, a new name is in the mix: Otto Porter.
While most insiders still believe that Noel will be the top overall pick barring some sort of setback or bad medical report on his surgically repaired knee, there is an outside chance that the Georgetown small forward could hear his name called first on June 27. Goodness knows he’s working hard enough for it.
“Summer is waking up early morning, getting my exercise in—running, riding my bike for a couple of hours—and then helping around the house, things that naturally build up my strength,” Porter said at the Draft Combine in Chicago. “In the afternoon I go to the gym for four or five hours, putting up shots, working on my ball handling, working on my jumpshot.”
Now, he’s a likely top-three pick (if Cleveland doesn’t take him, the Washington Wizards at No. 3 probably will), proving that all that effort isn’t for naught.
Colangelo Out, Sort Of…
By Steve Kyler
As Raptors president Bryan Colangelo made the rounds of the JW Marriott in Chicago during last week’s NBA Draft Combine, each stop to shake hands featured some kind of question about his future with the Raptors.
His standard response was simply “We want to be back…” but it was clear that he had little say or control over the process.
A candid and professional Colangelo said he simply wasn’t going to talk about his situation in the media and even given the chance to unload, he didn’t.
The Raptors had until yesterday to decide Colangelo contract future and rather than turn him lose, the Raptors and their ownership group Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, opted instead to pick up Colangelo’s contract option and re-assign him to a corporate non-basketball role, according to reports.
According to Doug Smith of the Toronto Star, minority owner Larry Tanenbaum may have been responsible for finding Colangelo a spot in the organization, but it’s being made clear that his days of calling the basketball shots in Toronto are likely over.