Showing posts with label the ass of my mind. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the ass of my mind. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

13 comments 2012 NFL Draft Grades

Now that the NFL Draft is over, I will commence with the useless and overly premature, but extremely fun, task of grading each team's NFL Draft. It was a pretty trade-heavy draft in the first round this year, including the Patriots trading UP not once, but twice. Perhaps this will shut up those people who seem to believe the decline of the "the Patriots Way" is tied directly to their insistence on trading back and accumulating draft picks. Probably not. I'm convinced these people will now complain the Patriots should have traded back in order to gain more picks.

Last year I used two posts to do these grades and I will try to them in one post this year. I'm not calling these teams "winners" and "losers" or anything like that. I give them a grade based on how well I think each NFL team chose players that fit their needs in order to make them a better team. What I find interesting about the NFL Draft is we all get caught up in conventional wisdom sometimes and it is better to look at a team's draft and ignore conventional wisdom. I'll try to do that, especially with players that fall in the draft. For example, over the last five years I can think of three players who "fell" in the draft and my favorite team picked them up. Dwayne Jarrett, Duke Robinson and Jimmy Clausen. What they have in common is two of them aren't with the team anymore and the other is the third string QB. So grading on conventional wisdom is dangerous. I'll try to avoid it.

One last note...I grade on a scale of 0-10.

Arizona Cardinals

In my mock draft I made it fairly clear I thought the Cardinals needed to work on the offensive line. They chose to make Larry Fitzgerald happy by drafting Michael Floyd. So that's going to make this a much better passing team. They waited until the later rounds to draft offensive linemen and I really like the guys they drafted. I had Massie mocked in the first round, while Potter and Kelemente played against good competition at a high level in college. Otherwise, they drafted a late round QB, Ryan Lindley, who will need a few years to even be a competent backuop. Still not sure Floyd was the right pick in the first round. Thought they could have found good receivers later in the draft, especially since Doucet and Roberts have proven to be competent. I like how they addressed their needs on the offensive line, but I'm not sure they put themselves in a position to draft guys who can start next year.

Grade: 5

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons didn't have a first round pick because of the Julio Jones trade. For some reason, more people are impressed with the Jones trade this year as compared to last year. I think this is a product of the Browns draft choices with the Falcons' picks more than anything. I think the Jones trade would look a lot worse for the Falcons if the Browns seemed to be more competent with their picks. For the picks they had, the Falcons did pretty well. I like Peter Konz and he is versatile. I was thinking the Falcons should probably work on getting another tight end to prepare for the end of the road for Tony Gonzalez. Perhaps they thought it was too early for that since Gonzalez hasn't retired yet. It's interesting they drafted a fullback since they struggled on short-yardage against the Giants. It's clear the Falcons want to stay committed to the running game. Overall, this isn't a bad draft, but I'm not sure how much better the Falcons are as compared to a month ago.

Grade: 3

Baltimore Ravens

They traded out of the first round this year, so they didn't pick until late in the second round. Courtney Upshaw fell and the Ravens took advantage of it. I hope I'm not projecting my perceived needs on the Ravens too much, but I think they should have addressed the need to give Flacco more weapons on offense. I don't know if a wide receiver in the 6th round and a slow-ish running back in the 3rd round does the trick. Perhaps I should put more trust in Ozzie Newsome, since he has proven to be incredibly competent. I won't raise my grade based on Newsome's past competence, but will allow perhaps there is something about this draft I am not capable of understanding, which will eventually make it great.

Grade: 5

Buffalo Bills

I am not a Stephon Gilmore fan. He rose in this draft fast. I do recognize the Bills needed a playmaker in the secondary on defense, but I'm not sure Gilmore is the guy. Mark Barron and Luke Kuechly were gone, so they went with a corner. It does make sense. For me, this draft is made with Cordy Glenn in the second round and Zebrie Sanders in the fifth round. I also like Ron Brooks. I don't think he'll be a star, but he got lost in that really talented LSU secondary. The Bills did need another receiver, so if I'm nitpicking (which I obviously love to do), I would say I'm not sure T.J. Graham will be the playmaking receiver I thought they needed to pair with Stevie Johnson. The Bills are trying to become a really good team and I think they have at least three or four players in this draft who will help them get there.

Grade: 8

Carolina Panthers

Kuechly is a somewhat strange pick, but a good one. Kuechly seems like a solid pick and Carolina is obviously (no matter what they say) concerned two of their starting linebackers are coming off major surgery. Seems to be more of a luxury pick over need. Same thing goes for the second round when they took Amini Silatolu. They needed another guard on the offensive line, but they did have a larger need at defensive tackle. I don't get the trade up for Frank Alexander. I'm not sure you give up a 2013 3rd round pick and a 2012 6th round pick to get a guy who is going to merely be a pass-rush specialist. They did get a return man in Joe Adams and I really like Josh Norman. Good draft, but they didn't touch their biggest area of need (defensive tackle). Like their draft, but when a team doesn't meet their biggest need I can't rave about the draft either.

Grade: 6

Chicago Bears

They went defense in the first round. I'm not sure how McClellin fits in with a 4-3 defense as an end. I thought he fit a 3-4 as an outside linebacker more. I thought maybe going offensive line or wide receiver was a better option. That is until the Bears drafted Alshon Jeffrey who could make a good red zone target but has a tendency to be overweight and out of shape...and that was before he got paid to play in the NFL. I'm not a Jeffrey fan. If Jeffrey gets his head out of his ass he will be a steal for the Bears though. Hardin was another guy who looks like a steal on paper. Still the Bears didn't do anything to upgrade the offensive line, so maybe that shouldn't be as big of a concern as I think it should be. Decent draft, but I'm not sure the Bears got any stars.

Grade: 5

Cincinnati Bengals

I like Dre Kirkpatrick, but I'm not sure Kevin Zeitler is ever going to be outstanding. Still, he is an upgrade from what they currently have. Bengals did well to take best player available while filling a need. The Bengals took guys from major BCS schools which I think plays into the high grades they are getting from other draft graders. If I'm honest, I think these BCS school guys are graded higher than guys from smaller schools in these draft grades because they have more name recognition. Having said that, the Bengals did well to get Devon Still, George Iloka and Orson Charles. Brandon Thompson isn't so impressive to me. Seems to me like he's a guy who benefited from the excellent defensive ends Clemson had over the past couple years and he is a rotational-type guy at best. I don't consider him a steal. The Bengals did really well in the draft, no doubt, but I'm not sure it is the homerun other people believe it to be.

Grade: 8

Cleveland Browns

I mocked Richardson to Cleveland and I'm not going to knock them for trading three picks to make sure Tampa Bay didn't get him. They did what they had to in order to get their guy. Now as far as drafting Brandon Weeden...I'm not a Colt McCoy fan, but I don't see Weeden as better than McCoy, except he is three years older than McCoy. I know Weeden plays off his age, but the bottom line is his age doesn't mean he will play better or adapt faster to the NFL. Throwing in the fact the Browns didn't address their wide receiver need until the fifth round and reeeeached for John Hughes in the third round, I have a hard time giving them a good grade. I thought they did a good job addressing their offensive line, but I hated the Weeden pick and the Bengals wasted a pick in the third round they could have used to address the wide receiver position.

Grade: 2

Dallas Cowboys

I really liked the Cowboys move to trade up and get the best corner in the draft. They needed help rushing the passer but better coverage downfield helps too. I don't want to give the Cowboys a higher grade based on choosing one pick, but the Claiborne move was a smart one. The other names aren't impressive, but I think Kyle Wilbur has a chance to at least be a solid backup and James Hanna is an athletic tight end who could potentially be what Martellus Bennett never was...albeit there are physical differences in the two.

Grade: 6

Denver Broncos

Denver traded out of the first round (New England traded up!) to get another second round pick and then traded the 31st pick for an extra 4th round pick. I'm not sure I entirely get this draft. Obviously the Broncos favored Wolfe over other defensive tackles, so that's why they took him once they moved out of the first round. I look and I don't see difference-makers or players who are going to start this year. I know everyone is petrified Peyton Manning will get hurt this year, but Brock Osweiler looks like an NFL quarterback and in no way he is prepared to actually be one. So I don't know if he is anything but a project at this point. The Broncos traded out of the first round, then took a project quarterback in the second round, and probably didn't even get a starter out of this draft. It's bad enough the Broncos played over their heads last year by getting a playoff spot, but now they didn't get an impact player in the draft. There are two guys in this draft I like, Hillman who is a change-of-pace back and Omar Boldin who is coming off a major knee injury. Maybe those are the two impact guys for 2012. If you sign Peyton Manning to win now, you have to do better than this.

Grade: 2

Detroit Lions

It's about time they focused on the offensive line. I know this pick will get beaten up a bit because the Lions defense desperately needed help. Still, they had to upgrade the offensive line. Reiff may not be a left tackle, but at least the Lions drafted a tackle in the first round. The Lions drafted Ryan Broyles, who was a nice risk, but then drafted all defensive players after that. I enjoyed the strategy employed by the Lions. Get a tackle, take a risk on a productive player and then take defensive players. I get the feeling Martin Mayhew attended a lot of Oklahoma games this year since he chose three players from OU. The Lions took a couple chances on small school corners with athletic skill, which you almost have to do going against Rodgers and Cutler four times a year. I don't know if the Lions are a significantly better team now, but their strategy made sense and I like their picks.

Grade: 7

Green Bay Packers

The Packers did go defense, as expected in the first round. They also went defense in every round with every pick until their seventh round pick. It's almost like they spotted a need on defense. Not sure I like Nick Perry as a first round pick and Jerel Worthy was a monster in college some games and other games he wasn't. I've been whining for a few years the Packers need to start to address their secondary and they did that with Heyward and Andrew Datko was a steal in the seventh round. I got to see BJ Coleman in college and I think he is a high talent, hardworking guy who just didn't get very good coaching at Tennessee-Chattanooga. I see him being a quality backup in a couple of years. He just needs someone who is very competent working with him and helping to fix his tendencies. The first couple picks being question marks, the back end of the draft seems much better to me.

Grade: 6

Houston Texans

I wanted to see Kendall Wright and Andre Johnson in the same receiving corps. I guess I don't get my way. I don't know if Mercilus is an inside linebacker (which I thought is what they were aiming for) and if they didn't go wide receiver, I'd like to have seen them improve the offensive line. Kind of a miss in the first round for me because they wouldn't have had to reach to fit a need if they had gone receiver or offensive line. What irritates me the most is they addressed the wide receiver spot in the 3rd round with a guy who I think is a bit overrated, DeVier Posey. I would give this draft a really low grade since they didn't address the tackle position until the seventh round, but they improved the interior of their offensive line with Brandon Brooks and completely thieved Jared Crick (yes, I'm biased). Crick can be a starter as a defensive end in a 3-4 scheme.

Grade: 4

Indianapolis Colts

They picked a surefire Hall of Fame quarterback in the first round. The only issue is his face is built for radio, so he probably won't have the endorsements the comparatively sexy Peyton Manning received. I thought the Colts did a great job improving their offense. Their offense is going to look really good with Luck under center. I am not sure about drafting two tight ends, but they are both good looking tight ends. The Colts also helped out their special teams by drafting T.Y. Hilton. Boy, the Colts are going to look good on offense. The problem? They drafted two defensive players, one of which fits really, really well as a nose tackle (Josh Chapman) and another is JAG to me (what do I expect in the seventh round though?). So the Colts get two grades from me. As much as I understand building an offense around Luck, I feel like they should have addressed the defense earlier than they did. Not to mention, they waited until the seventh round to draft an offensive lineman? Can't fill all the needs in one draft I guess. I know the Colts had a lot of success with Peyton Manning at center by drafting offensive players higher in the draft and developing defensive players (or that was the perception), but I wish they had paid more attention to defense.

Grade (offense): 10
Grade (defense): 3

Jacksonville Jaguars

It was unfathomable to me the Jaguars would not draft a receiver to help out Blaine Gabbert. I'm glad they did. It's up to Gabbert to perform now. Andre Branch fit their need in the second round as well. I'm not as up in arms about the Jags picking a punter in the third round as others are. It's low-hanging fruit to mock them for drafting a punter. Anger was the best punter in the draft and they chose him too early. I'm more upset they didn't use that pick for more offensive line help, another receiver for Gabbert, or pretty much any other position. So I won't mock the Jags for choosing a punter, but will lower their grade since I think there is more that could have been done with that pick.

Grade: 2

Kansas City Chiefs

I don't like the Dontari Poe choice. This screams of a team desperately trying to fit to a need they have. Poe didn't produce much at Memphis and he was a workout warrior at the Combine. So while they filled the need, I thought it wasn't a wise choice to fill the need in the first round. Of course if he is a great player, I look like an idiot. I'm betting he isn't a great player though. The Chiefs tried to find another Wes Welker with the Devon Wylie pick and De'quan Menzie got lost on an excellent Alabama defense. I think he is capable of being a really quality nickel corner. So while I initially hated this draft, and I'm not sure there are a large amount of impact players chosen, I don't hate it. I think Cyrus Gray will make a good backup to Jamaal Charles. The picks they made make sense to me and though I don't like Poe, it fit a need.

Grade: 7

Miami Dolphins

I could be in the minority on this, but I'm not a Tannehill fan. The Dolphins had to come out of this draft with a quarterback, at least to make it look like they were trying to find a quarterback, since apparently everyone hates Matt Moore. This draft is going to be decided by how Tannehill works out. I keep hearing Jonathan Martin will struggle on the right side, but he did a pretty good job of protecting Andrew Luck at Stanford on the left side. I'm sure he'll figure out the right side and be fine. I wasn't really a huge fan of the rest of the draft. I think Michael Egnew has benefited from every team wanting an athletic tight end on the roster, so he's a bit overrated. The best pick by the Dolphins was Lamar Miller, which makes me wonder what his presence means for Daniel Thomas. I have to admit my grade is very much affected by the Tannehill pick.

Grade: 4

Minnesota Vikings

I can't believe the Vikings dangling Matt Kalil as "slipping" actually ended up working...sort of. Great job taking advantage of Browns/Bucs love for Richardson to get more draft picks and still get their man. Then the Vikings used their cache of picks to get Harrison Smith. In a division with Rodgers/Cutler/Stafford, they had to upgrade their secondary. Otherwise this was a "Noah's Ark" type draft for the Vikings because they chose two players from Notre Dame, Arkansas, and USC. It was a very top heavy draft and they did a good job meeting those needs with their first three picks. They also did a good job of attempting to add depth to the receiving corps with Jarius Wright and Greg Childs. I'm not enamored with the draft, but the Vikings did a good job meeting needs and gaining picks.

Grade: 6.5 (can't decide between a "6" or "7")

New England Patriots

I'm not a big Chandler Jones fan, but he can be used effectively as a blitzer, so the Patriots are a good place for him to go. I'm still not sure he is a first round pick. Don'ta Hightower is a great tackler and I'm not sure why he wasn't valued higher than he was. Who am I to doubt the rest of this draft? Well, I'm some asshole with a keyboard. Belichick is getting a lot of leeway in the evaluations of this draft based on his resume. I love the value in Alfonzo Dennard. I think he would have been a second round pick if teams weren't afraid he's a turd. I'll probably get some hate for this, but Wilson, Ebner, Bequette, and Ebert seem like projects to me. Perhaps they fit Belichick's system. They'll probably work out and I'll probably look like a moron. I simply feel like Belichick outsmarted himself in this draft.

Grade: 3

New Orleans Saints

The Saints did not have a 1st or 2nd round pick this year. It's hard to grade their draft since they didn't have a shot at an impact player. They traded their first round pick for Mark Ingram, who has yet to prove he's worth that pick, and lost the other pick in Bountygate. Just based on where the Saints were picking, I'll be surprised if two of these players are on the roster in three years. At best, Hicks will be a rotational defensive tackle and Nick Toon will be a #3 receiver. Based on circumstances within the Saints control, this just didn't have a chance to be a great draft.

Grade: 1

New York Giants

I'm a little torn on the David Wilson pick. The Giants did need a running back. I'm not sure Wilson is an every down back, but I don't think he'll be expected to be one either. I expected the Giants to take a linebacker at some point, but they didn't do that. Jerry Reese gets a lot of leeway with his picks, so I'm guessing a lot of draft graders won't mention linebacker was an area of somewhat need for the Giants. Rueben Randle and Jayron Hosley both fell in the draft. Usually there is a reason for that. Hosley's positive test for marijuana explains his, but I don't understand why Randle fell. I really like this draft, but I don't know if I am ready to give it a top grade. I think they filled their needs well for the spot they were in. I'm not quite raving about the draft though.

Grade: 8

New York Jets


The knock on Coples is he didn't give 100% last year...or ever. Those who defend him say that UNC had given up on the season, so that is why he didn't go full speed, while I ask why this gives him permission to play at half-speed? Is he going to play at high-speed at times in the NFL when he doesn't think there is much to play for? He could be Vernon Gholston or could be an absolute steal. Then the Jets took Stephen Hill who could be a star or could be a bust. Very risky draft in my opinion. So the two players drafted earlier in the draft that are most likely to make an impact are both risks, while the rest of the draft contains a goal line back at best (Ganaway), safeties that don't appear to make the impact the Jets need (Bush/Allen), and their third round pick is a linebacker who has been described most places as "developmental." If Hill and Coples hit, this is a "9" draft. At least they have QB Jets on the roster to play on special teams. What could go wrong?

Grade: 4

Oakland Raiders

The Raiders didn't pick until pick #95. On a positive note, they do have Carson Palmer and Terrelle Pryor as their quarterbacks. Who needs draft picks? I have a small amount of sympathy for Reggie McKenzie not having high draft picks this year. He inherited (or chose to take on) the mess, he didn't create it. The third round pick used for Terrelle Pryor looked silly even before the Raiders traded for Carson Palmer. There are probably two guys from this draft who will contribute, Juron Criner and Tony Bergstrom. I like Criner as a #3 receiver. He doesn't have a ton of speed, but I'm surprised he fell as far as he did.

Grade: 2

Philadelphia Eagles

I think Fletcher Cox was a steal at #12. He helps the Eagles pass rush. I really like the Eagles draft. They needed help at linebacker, in the secondary, and in the pass rush. Yes, I realize that is nearly the entire defense. They got four guys who I believe had first or second round talent. Kendricks was a great choice and so was Vinny Curry. I'm not a Nick Foles fan, but I can't blame the Eagles for using a pick on him. It isn't like Vick is prone to staying healthy and Foles was worth a pick. I like the late round pick of Bryce Brown also. Talent has never been his issue. That's a low risk pick with high upside. I think he has the talent to backup LeSean McCoy. This was probably my favorite draft because the Eagles met their needs on defense and didn't stretch to draft a player.

Grade: 10

Pittsburgh Steelers

Okay, this may be my second favorite draft. I wanted Carolina to take DeCastro at #9, so I think DeCastro lasted way too long. He'll be a Pro Bowler and Ben Roethlisberger has to be happy for Pouncey and DeCastro to be right beside each other on the line. Throw in the talented, but troubled (I think that will be his name in the NFL, The Talented but Troubled Mike Adams, perhaps I will call him TTBTMA for short), Mike Adams and it is absolutely clear the Steelers have been listening to my harping on them fixing their offensive line. They won't have to work hard to find a role for Chris Rainey either. He's fast and they just need to get him the ball. He's a great scat-back type player. Two issues that lower this grade for me. First, I'm not in love with the late round picks, and second, Adams does have some issues that could make him non-productive. Plus, I would like to know why Ta'amu fell as far as he did. Is there something I don't know?

Grade: 9

San Diego Chargers

Yeah, the Chargers needed a pass rusher. Melvin Ingram seems to have been a great choice. I think the offensive line was a need for them and they waited until the fifth round to take a guy who is going to miss the entire 2012 season with an injury. At least they drafted the self-proclaimed "best" center in the draft in David Molk. It's clear the Chargers are trying to find the next Antonio Gates with Ladarius Green. I'm also partial to Brandon Taylor, though I am concerned he is going to struggle in pass protection. The Chargers also ignored the minor need at cornerback and drafted a small running back (Edwin Baker) who plays slower than he is timed at. They probably got a couple starters out of this draft, so I can't pan it, but I am disappointed in some of the needs they addressed (or didn't address).

Grade: 7

San Francisco 49ers

Conventional wisdom says the 49ers should have taken Hill/Randle before AJ Jenkins. I'm not sure any receiver drafted here would be a #1-type guy, but they needed another wide receiver. I like how the met some of their needs while picking up draft choices for next year. I do wish they had taken a defensive end at some point in the draft earlier than the seventh round. The 49ers had a need at guard which they clearly seem to believe Joe Looney could be the answer at guard. I liked the A.J. Jenkins pick because I think he'll fit in well with the receiving corp next year as a slot guy, but I didn't like the LaMichael James choice in the second round. I will say I don't know if Jenkins has as high of a ceiling as some guys drafted before him, which makes me question the pick just a little bit. As far as James goes, I know Frank Gore has injury issues, but James seems a bit like Kendall Hunter to me. Maybe the 49ers have bigger plans for him than I am capable of understanding.

Grade: 5

Seattle Seahawks

Conventional wisdom is to bash the Irvin pick, but Greg Cosell (I think) made this point...the 49ers used Aldon Smith in predominatly pass-rush situations last year and he was incredibly productive. I don't think Irvin is a three-down linebacker, but he's a great pass-rusher. I don't like the pick in the first round, but I see what Seattle is thinking. Mel Kiper was wrong in my opinion to have come down on them so hard. Irvin can rush the passer and the way the NFL is trending, those guys have value. Bobby Wagner was a solid choice in the second round and the Seahawks have their OLB needs covered. I would have liked for them to have sought help at defensive end, but I can forgive that. I get the Russell Wilson pick. I wouldn't favor drafting Tannehill, but Wilson is talented enough to push Flynn, but requires enough work to where he probably won't start in 2012 and the Seahawks can see what they have in Flynn. Somehow I stumbled on to a couple Utah State games this year and I really like Robert Turbin. Overall, not a bad draft as long as you have an open mind about the Irvin pick.

Grade: 6

St. Louis Rams

Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems the Rams wanted Fletcher Cox or Justin Blackmon and missed on both. Brockers meets a need but he is a more developmental pick in my opinion. The same thing goes for Brian Quick. As an ASU alumni, I wish it weren't true, but I am not sure Quick is going to have an impact his first year in the NFL. Of course how many first year wide receivers do have a big impact their first year in the NFL? Then there is a Janoris Jenkins, who has question marks about him as well. Trumaine Johnson was the first pick I thought was a safe, solid pick that will help the Rams become a better team this year. Don't get me wrong, I think this was a good draft, but I'm not screaming from the rooftop about it. Quick, Brockers, and Jenkins all seem like non-immediate impact guys or have personality questions. I don't see Isaiah Pead as Steven Jackson's successor as the Rams do and I still think the Rams have half-assed giving Sam Bradford offensive weapons. In three years, this could be a brilliant draft if Brockers/Jenkins work out, but I'm not seeing it right now.

Grade: 5

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I thought the move to get Mark Barron was a okay one. He's needed in the NFC South against Brees/Ryan/Newton. I'd like to have seen them take a corner over Barron. I think Claiborne was a better pick than Barron. The trade up for Doug Martin surprised me, but I think it reflects what the new staff thinks of LeGarrette Blount. The Bucs did a good job of trading around and meeting their needs though. I do love Lavonte David in the second round. The last four picks strike me as special teams guys at the most. Still, they got three starters out of this draft, which is a really good for them. I would like for them to have stuck with Claiborne to cover up for the terrible Eric Wright signing (he will have 6-8 interceptions this year because teams are going to love throwing at him), but Barron wasn't a bad pick.

Grade: 7

Tennessee Titans

I really, really like Kendall Wright. I don't know if this was the biggest need the Titans had, but I like the player. The Titans have done a good job building an offense. At worse, Wright is an excellent slot receiver. At best (which I think), he is a #1 type receiver. Other than that, I'm not so excited about this draft. I thought the Titans would reinforce the inside of their offensive line, which they didn't do, and Zach Brown is an underachiever. Maybe he'll prove me wrong, but I see him that way. I thought Mike Martin was a really good pick in the third round and I can see him as a starter, but I'm not as excited about Coty Sensabaugh as Mike Mayock seems to be.

Grade: 4

Washington Redskins

Well, they got the quarterback they wanted. I was talking about Griffin, not Cousins, but I can see how one would be confused. Now it is up to the two Shanahans to allow Griffin to develop by running the offense to his strengths and not try to show off their offensive genius. This draft will be judged by how Griffin plays in the future. My two biggest issues with the Cousins picks was (a) they had other needs to address and third string quarterback should have been down further on that list and (b) I don't get why they put additional pressure on Griffin like that. I think it puts some additional pressure on Griffin and shows the Redskins have hedged just a little bit. I simply don't like the idea of picking two rookie quarterbacks in the first 102 picks. I have to acknowledge they did a good job of meeting their offensive line needs at guard and tackle. They gave up a lot to get Robert Griffin and in a few months we'll see if it is worth it. If he busts, this draft looks bad.

Grade: 6

Monday, December 26, 2011

9 comments 2011-2012 NBA Preview

I enjoy making predictions and I enjoy looking back and seeing how wrong/right I was about my predictions. So I figured I would go ahead and do an NBA Preview for the upcoming NBA season. I will make my predictions for the Eastern and Western Conference and then make my prediction for the playoffs and the winner of the NBA Finals. I have to say, I am pretty pumped for the beginning of the NBA season. I am actually happy it is a shortened season since I think the NBA and MLB seasons are probably too long as it is. I realize most NBA fans probably don't feel this way. I'll start first with the Eastern Conference teams. Hopefully I will remember to give each team a record based on 66 games and not 82 games.

Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics

What concerns me most about the Celtics is they are an aging team with a mediocre or average bench. The Celtics' nucleus is 34, 35, 36, and 25 years old. Naturally, the Celtics were looking to trade the 25 year old (Rondo) this offseason. The shortened season will help the Celtics, but they have the same problems now they had before the season began. Lack of big man depth and a need for bench scoring. When Jermaine O'Neal gets hurt again, the Celtics will use Chris Wilcox or Kevin Garnett as their center. That's scary to me. Jeff Green was a huge loss, simply because he could score off the bench. I really like JuJuan Johnson, but I don't know if he is the big guy off the bench the Celtics need. This will be a good team, but I can't help but wonder how much Garnett, Pierce, and Allen will get rested and what this will mean for the Celtics' record.

Record: 37-29

New Jersey Nets

I'm assuming the Nets don't land Dwight Howard. Think the Magic were a bit nervous after reading how Brook Lopez admits he was a lazy rebounder last year? This is the centerpiece for Howard (outside of draft picks)? A guy who says basically, "Fuck it. My teammate seems to be rebounding well, I'll let him take care of it." I may be overreacting a bit, but should this be concerning? Of course, as I write this Brook Lopez is out for six weeks with a foot injury. The Nets have four guys with the last name "Williams" on the roster. I found that interesting. I like MarShon Brooks a lot. He and Anthony Morrow will at least give Deron Williams some wing players to pass the ball to who can score. I'm not real optimistic about the current nature of the roster. This Nets season is going to be judged mostly on what the Nets roster ends up looking like, not what it looks like now.

Record (with the current roster): 28-38

New York Knicks

I like the addition of Tyson Chandler a lot. Mostly because it allows Amar'e Stoudemire to focus more on his strengths...which isn't defending opposing centers. What the Knicks need the most is quality role players around Anthony, Stoudemire, and Chandler. The loss of Billups will hurt, but the Knicks have scorers like Toney Douglas and Landry Fields that can make up backcourt scoring. Other than that, there is a reason the Knicks want Chris Paul or Deron Williams. The Knicks may not win the NBA title this year, but they have improved since last year. Regardles, barring a Stoudemire/Anthony/Chandler injury, this is a Knicks team that will be a dangerous out in the playoffs. If they defend well, they could even make the NBA Finals.

Record: 44-22

Philadelphia 76ers

This is clearly a team on the upswing with a coach that seems to have a ton of energy. Doug Collins seems like the perfect coach to get a young team to play together. Then, once the team ages a little bit, his energy probably doesn't go over as well. Jrue Holiday will probably take another step forward this year and force people to consider him one of the more elite point guards in the NBA. That's the hope at least. They still need a quality big man and either Hawes, Speights or Vucevic has to be competent enough to cover the center spot, right? Let's call them Haeightsevic. Haeightsevic, it sounds like a Bosnian warlord. I like the 76ers this year, mostly because they seem to have two guys looking to take another step forward (Turner, Holiday) and a roster with talent which has a coach that can mold that talent. Hopefully, other players (cough, Thaddeus Young) won't take a step back and the center position gets covered someway, somehow.

Record: 38-28

Toronto Raptors

I'm not sure how to feel about a team whose top draft pick is playing overseas this year. It's not the Raptors fault Valanciunas isn't going to play in America or Canada, but this has to suck for them. Any playoff success for the Raptors this season is dependent upon Ed Davis' increased production and the rest of the NBA teams disbanding completely. Of course if Ed Davis increases his production then he will be taking minutes away from the overpaid Amir Johnson. It's like a Catch 22. Do the Raptors want Ed Davis to take away an overpaid player's minutes or do they want to prove Amir Johnson isn't overpaid? The point of drafting Valanciunas was to put Bargnani at power forward, so he is still stuck at a bad position for him and this team just isn't good enough to compete in a tough division. The good news is the Raptors should have an inside track to the #1 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, which doesn't seem to contain any foreign-born players. Anthony Davis should start doing research on Toronto fairly soon.

Record: 17-49

Central Division

Chicago Bulls

Maybe this year the Bulls won't force Derrick Rose to do everything on the court. The Bulls needed a shooting guard and they ended up with Rip Hamilton. If this were 2005, I would probably be more excited about this development. He will help the Bulls score points, but the rest of the roster doesn't seem upgraded to me. They aren't going to be the best team in the Eastern Conference this year. Boozer got outperformed in the playoffs by his backup, who really isn't anything other than above average at very best. As good as the Bulls team looked last year, they seem to have really good, but not great, pieces around Derrick Rose. They should look good in the regular season, but unless they find a way to give Derrick Rose an actual #2 scoring option, they won't make the NBA Finals. This is a team that I believe needs to make a trade to compete with the Knicks and Heat in the Eastern Conference.

Record: 40-26

Indiana Pacers

You may ask me why I can go negative on the Bulls, but say positive things about the Pacers, when the Pacers probably need another shooting guard. I just can. I really like the Pacers starting five if David West rebounds from his ACL surgery. The Pacers have a legit center, bench scoring, and a quality starting five. Remember they gave the Bulls fits in the first round last year and the Pacers have improved. They are my sleeper team for this year because they have great bench depth with Hansbrough, Hill, and Jones, plus the starting five. Did you know Paul George grew two inches during the lockout? He's 6'10" now! He is already 6'8" and gets two more inches? That's not fair. I wish I had two more inches of height. I think David West bounces back from his injury and George Hill was a great addition. I believe they will win the Central Division, in fact.

Record: 41-25

Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks were a terrible scoring team last year. The worst. I did like their draft in getting Tobias Harris and Jon Leuer, but I'm not sure these guys are ready to make a difference this year. Those two guys project as role players on a good team and the Bucks aren't necessarily a good team. The Bucks have a quandary with Brandon Jennings. They need scoring, which Jennings can do, but they also need Jennings to distribute the ball more effectively. For the Bucks to succeed, Jennings needs to score, but distributing the ball better will also help the Bucks succeed. This Bucks team has all the makings of the 10th best team in the Eastern Conference. They play defense well enough to beat bad teams, but can't score enough to beat the good teams.

Record: 29-37

Detroit Pistons

There are teams who know how to rebuild on the fly. One of those teams is not the Detroit Pistons. While I have a massive man-crush on Brandon Knight, I feel like the Pistons already had him on the roster in the form of Rodney Stuckey. Add Will Bynum to the mix and the Pistons are collecting combo guards. I have no idea why they re-signed Tayshaun Prince. To me, that was spending money that could have gone other places on the roster for players that would make a bigger difference in the future than Prince will make. What's even better about that Prince signing is the Pistons overpaid for Charlie Villanueva just a couple summers ago. So the Pistons signed Prince to a contract that not only helped to block a young player, but they also took minutes away from another overpaid free signing they made. Brilliant personnel move. Lawrence Frank will have his hands full trying to prevent the Pistons combo guards from taking shots, when the ball should be going to Greg Monroe or Jonas Jerebko, which is where the ball should be going. I am not a huge fan of Austin Daye, but I thought the Pistons would be better off not paying another veteran big money and seeing what Daye can do with consistent minutes.

Record: 24-42

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs are in complete rebuilding mode. I credit them for taking the chance to rebuild, cut away the fat (literally and figuratively when talking about Baron Davis...speaking of which, how well did that Clippers trade work out for the Cavs? They got cap space and the #1 overall pick), and try to form a nucleus around young players. The best thing the Cavs can do is make trades to give Tristan Thompson, Kyrie Irving, and Omar Casspi more quality players around them in the future. The Cavs need draft picks and cap space. The Cavs will be bad, maybe not as bad as last year, but their season will depend on further steps in the right direction on the personnel side, as well as what progress happens on the court. As much as I have knocked LeBron James for his "Decision," the Cavs team last year was pretty much the team they put around James to win an NBA title. So his decision to leave should not have been that shocking had we known then what we now know.

Record: 13-53

Southeast Division

Atlanta Hawks

I feel like I should give them extra credit for having Magnum Rolle on their roster, but I probably shouldn't do that. It's a great name. It's almost like his parents named him after what they didn't have on their person immediately before he was conceived. Traditionally I am not a huge Hawks fan. They are always above average, but never seem to make that move that moves them up in the Eastern Conference pecking order. The Hawks lost Jamal Crawford and added Tracy McGrady, who has played 80 games in a season...um...never. Can you believe McGrady is only 32 years old? Either way, I think the Eastern Conference is improved. The Hawks are relying on Jeff Teague to run the offense while Hinrich is out. He played well in the playoffs last year, so I will be interested to see how he looks over a full season. I don't know if the Hawks are a bad team, they just haven't improved while other teams in their division have improved.

Record: 37-29

Miami Heat

I see no reason why the Heat won't return to the NBA Finals. If Chris Bosh can continue to accept his position as the third best player on the team and Eddy Curry continues his dominance (just wanted to make sure you were still paying attention) this is a Finals team. I'm personally not happy with Shane Battier that he joined the Heat. I thought he was better than that. He will provide leadership (whatever that is worth), as well as a competent backup at a few positions. Great get for the Heat. Juwan Howard resigned with the Heat in his second attempt to ride Wade/James/Bosh's coattails to an NBA ring. I wish him luck and can't wait to see him talk shit to opposing players as he sits his ass on the bench doing nothing. Hopefully Miami will have a healthy Mike Miller this year and they do have a better bench compared to last year. Less drama and more talent equals more success.

Record: 54-12

Orlando Magic

This is another team whose season will depend upon any trade made or not made. I'm betting Howard is gone, but until he is gone, I will assume the Magic have him on their roster. Glen "Big Baby" Davis feels free now that he isn't shackled behind Kevin Garnett, so that probably means nothing. He is a quality backup and I think more minutes than 30 per game will expose him for what he can't do. This is still a very good Magic team and I see them making the playoffs with their current makeup. Their success will depend on how well they play defense and hit three point shots. They still have good three point shooters and don't really seem like a much different team from last year. Perhaps that's why Howard wants to leave so badly.

Record: 46-20

Washington Wizards

The Wizards are much like the Cavs in that they are full committed to rebuilding. I really liked their draft and think Vesely will at least provide for a few highlight plays with Wall throwing him the ball. Shelvin Mack and Chris Singleton were good draft picks as role players. They won't be stars, but hopefully they will both get minutes this year. I like the direction the Wizards are heading and they could very well surprise us a little bit. As much as I like Kirk Hinrich, I thought the Wizards stole Jordan Crawford from the Hawks. The Wizards are young and talented, but I think they are a year away from making any significant noise. For this year, being exciting to watch should be enough for the time being.

Record: 30-36

Charlotte Bobcats

I don't like the Bismack Biyombo pick still. I don't know exactly why. Maybe it is the fact he was drafted based nearly entirely on potential. Those types of picks always scare me a bit. Corey Maggette should provide scoring, but I get the feeling the Bobcats are relying on a breakout year from Tyrus Thomas. They will probably keep waiting. This is a team that has very little size, no go-to scorer outside of Maggette and Kemba Walker and they look like an expansion team to me for some reason.

Record: 20-46

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals (Yes, I know these are the same teams from last year. What can I say? I don't think much has changed in the Eastern Conference.):

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals:

Miami over Atlanta
New York over Boston
Indiana over Philly
Chicago over Orlando

Eastern Conference Semifinals:

Miami over Chicago
Indiana over New York

Eastern Conference Finals:

Miami over Indiana

Now for the Western Conference...

Northwest Division

Oklahoma City Thunder

On paper, I absolutely adore the Thunder. In reality, I do too. They haven't added much to the roster, but they probably didn't need to. Kendrick Perkins should be healed up by the time the season starts and even though he probably won't get much playing time I thought Reggie Jackson was a great pick for the Thunder. He'll never play this year and probably ended up packaged for a 2nd round pick by midseason, but I like his game. The Thunder's year will depend on how well Perkins is able to recover from his injury and if James Harden takes another step forward. For me, Harden is the perfect #3 scorer on a great team. He can score when he needs to, but doesn't require the ball at all times so as to keep the ball out of the #1 and #2 scorer's hands. Another issue I am interested to see is how the relationship between Westbrook and Durant develops since there seemed to be some issues as to how would take the last shot last year. Otherwise, the Thunder are in great shape.

Record: 50-16

Portland Trailblazers

I really like the addition of Jamal Crawford and it would be incredibly helpful if Greg Oden could stay healthy. If the Blazers big men can stay healthy they will on track for the playoffs. LaMarcus Aldridge is one of the most underrated players in the NBA, even if people do know his name now, and Gerald Wallace will have a chance to make an impact for the entire season. If injuries hold this team back, it would be a shame because they are talented. I would say the Blazers are going to miss Brandon Roy, but they have been playing without him for a while now. I just wish Greg Oden could stay healthy.

Record: 43-23

Denver Nuggets

I don't know why, but the idea of Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith being stuck in China amuses me for some reason. This would make for a good reality television show. Actually "good" has a whole new meaning when talking about reality television. It wouldn't actually be good, but I think people would watch it. Somewhere we've lost the difference between a "good" show and a show that gets high ratings. Either way, the Nuggets will miss them, but maybe not as much as originally thought since they re-signed Nene and traded for Rudy Fernandez. Even when Martin comes back from China in March, I can see some of his minutes not being immediately available. I like the addition of Andre Miller, but I hope he doesn't take too many minutes away from Ty Lawson, who I think could have a full-on breakout year in 2011-2012. I still like Faried, even if he isn't much better than just a guy who can come in the game and rebound like crazy. There's a place for guys like that. This will be a good Nuggets team, but I don't see them earning more than a 6th seed in the West.

Record: 39-27

Minnesota Timberwolves

The T-Wolves have nowhere to go but up, so I see them going up a little bit this year. They will at least be fun to watch. I have no idea why they signed J.J. Barea. Not a clue. It's not that Barea isn't a decent player, but I thought the point guard position was held down by Rubio and Ridnour. I don't like a team that is rebuilding to sign veterans to play in front of potential franchise cornerstones like Rubio. The T-Wolves have collected enigmas for the past few seasons and outside of Kevin Love it seems like they are counting on Derrick Williams and their enigmas (Beasley, Milicic, Randolph) to hold down the frontcourt. This team will improve if their GM can just get the hell out of the way and not do anything stupid. This is something David Khan has proven time and again he isn't capable of.

Record: 19-47

Utah Jazz

I enjoyed the Jazz's draft. I thought Enes Kanter is the kind of player they should take a chance on and Alec Burks can score, which is something the Jazz will need. Will they be stars? Probably not, but they can contribute to the team if given a chance. I'll be interested to see if Derrick Favors steps up and becomes a complement to Al Jefferson. I doubt it will happen since Favors seems to not enjoy the spotlight and has a history of his hype exceeding his production. I hope he proves me wrong because he should get more minutes than Paul Millsap based simply on talent. This is a rebuilding Jazz team that got stuck in a bad situation last year when Deron Williams indicated he wasn't re-signing with them. How each player performs this year decides which of these players will be a part of the rebuilding effort and which ones will be used to find different parts for the rebuilding. I'm excited to see how this team does. I am predicting it will be a mess.

Record: 25-41

Pacific Division

Los Angeles Lakers

I'm assuming they won't land Dwight Howard. This statement may seem obvious, but the Lakers are really going to miss Lamar Odom. He gave them versatility that is difficult to find. That being said, Josh McRoberts was a good addition. He can play center and power forward. He's like a poor man's poor man Lamar Odom. Still, this is a Lakers team with injury issues and miles on their best player's tires. Bryant is getting older, Fisher is old, Bynum is injury-prone, Gasol is probably insulted by the Lakers attempts to trade him (I have no idea how he'll react or if he will react to the failed trade) and Ron Artest is still insane. I'm not quite on the "Lakers won't make the playoffs" bandwagon yet, but if Bynum gets injured and Gasol continues to be insulted then this may be a tough year. To make matters worse, the Lakers have a new coach and a new system. If Mike Brown felt LeBron James tried to undermine him, he probably won't enjoy Kobe Bryant desperately trying to win another championship and subconsciously comparing everything Mike Brown does to how Phil Jackson would have done it. It looks like at this point trying to rebuild the team with a new superstar through trade may have backfired, at least in the short term. Still, the Lakers are going to try to find a way to add another superstar in the long term.

Record: 40-26

Los Angeles Clippers

I'm not sure if you have heard, but Chris Paul got traded for the Clippers now. This story may have eluded you, but I just wanted you to be aware. I like the trade for Paul and it will make the Clippers much more fun to watch and also makes them a better team. The Clippers are going to miss Eric Gordon because he was their best outside shooting threat. The Clippers probably overpaid for Caron Butler and DeAndre Jordan, but they had no choice in regard to Jordan since even with him on the roster they probably need a bit more height. Having traded Chris Kaman they needed a big man in the middle. The Clippers remind me of a more explosive Chicago Bulls in that they need an upgrade at shooting guard, but at least they are relevant now for something other than Blake Griffin's dunks and Donald Sterlings overt racism.

Record: 45-21

Phoenix Suns

So what's the plan? To use a Bill Simmons-type analogy, the Suns are like a Saturday night where you are having a few beers in preparation for a great night out, but haven't taken a shower in order to go out to the bars. You staying in or going out? Are the Suns rebuilding or trying to squeak another year of contention out of Nash? Well both, actually. I call this plan "failure," because that's what I predict it will be. The Suns aren't good enough to compete for the playoffs, but they also aren't going younger in an effort to rebuild. Steve Nash deserves better than this. He deserves better than to be surrounding with a supporting cast of borderline starters and quality bench players. At least they have a quality center in Marcin Gortat, but this is a team that isn't sure which direction it wants to go and it just isn't fair to run a team this way.

Record: 29-37

Golden State Warriors

The "new" Warriors are like the old Warriors. Cue "Won't Get Fooled Again" on the loudspeakers before every game. The Warriors drafted Klay Thompson because for some reason they believe they need more scoring and need guys who like to shoot. I would really like the Warriors if they could find a way to combine David Lee and Epke Udoh into one person. I'm still not sure why the Warriors took a defensive specialist who can't find the basket so early in the 2010 NBA Draft, but this is a team that drafted another defensive-challenged scorer in the 2011 NBA Draft. So for me, when guessing what the Warriors would do, it is probably the opposite of what I would do. The best thing for the Warriors is to play their younger big men (i.e. I mean "anyone but Kwame Brown) to see if any of them can play the center position with any toughness. I have my money on Udoh. Let's see if he can prove me wrong when saying he can't find the basket.

Record: 25-41

Sacramento Kings

I am tempted to predict the Kings will go 66-0. After all, they have Jimmer Fredette on the roster. Maybe Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins won't mind if Jimmer shoots 20 times per game. I really like the J.J. Hickson trade and perhaps I just don't understand why the Cavs gave up on him, even if they got Casspi in return. Hickson seems like a guy who would be helpful in the Cavs rebuilding effort. I can't decide if the Kings are on the right track or have good players that won't win games together. Cousins, Hayes, Hickson and Jason Thompson as the backup is a pretty good frontline, as if Evans, Thornton, and Fredette. It may sound silly, but that's a lot of talent, but also a lot of guys who want to prove what kind of statistics they can put up. I question how well the team will gel. The Kings will be interesting, but if only interesting won more games.

Record: 32-34

Southwest Division

San Antonio Spurs

Much like the Celtics, the Spurs have an older core of players they rely upon. I feel differently about the Spurs than I do the Celtics though. I think the Spurs have younger players they can use to take minutes off the legs of Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili. James Anderson (who I didn't like coming out of Oklahoma State and I may end up being wrong about him), Tiago Splitter, and T.J. Ford will be able to effectively limit some of the minutes Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili have to play. I liked Splitter when the Spurs drafted him 20 years ago (or it seems like that) and if Richard Jefferson ever figures out how to be a quality scorer again then it will allow Kawhi Leonard to work his way into the Spurs offense. I think the Spurs have one more year left in them. What bails them out this year is they have put a good team around Duncan, Ginobili, Parker that won't be terrible on the court when giving those three guys a rest.

Record: 48-18

Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks never had a problem scoring and it was defense that led them to the NBA Title last year. It hurts to lose Tyson Chandler and I don't believe Brendan Haywood will be able to provide the defense Chandler was able to provide. I'm afraid the Mavericks are back to being that really good team that can't win a tough playoff series. Of course, I predicted they would lose the Blazers in the first round and they ended up winning the NBA Title. So what do I know? I am also concerned about the post-NBA Title/lockout celebrating the Mavs have been doing. It sounds stupid, but Dirk admits he isn't in playing shape quite yet, so I can't help but wonder if he is the only Maverick not in playing shape quite yet. Lamar Odom was a great addition for a relatively cheap price, but this isn't a NBA Finals-type team without a better defensive center. Plus, the Mavericks now have Vince Carter on the roster, so that's pretty much the kiss of death in my mind.

Record: 44-22

Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies are the "it" team this year because of their run last year in the NBA playoffs. I don't know if I really trust Mike Conley Jr. to be the starting point guard he needs to be. Maybe last year was his breakout year and I am wrong. He is only 24 years old after all. Otherwise, some people may not realize it, but Marc Gasol actually took a step back last year from his 09-10 season. He really stepped it up in the playoffs, so perhaps that bodes well. I worry a bit about the bench, especially with Darrell Arthur out. I feel like Zach Randolph will need to step it up if the Grizzlies will succeed since they don't have as much height as I wish they had. I think they are a playoff team, but I still don't know if I trust them. How's that for hedging?

Record: 38-28

Houston Rockets

I feel bad for the Rockets. They were trying to long-term plan what the team would look like and David Stern stepped in and stopped the Paul trade, not allowing them to get Pau Gasol from the Lakers and clearing some cap space. Who really cares if the NBA prevents NBA teams from executing a long-term plan? No big deal, right? I hate Hasheem Thabust and Jordan Hill is only a step above Thabust. So the Rockets have no center. When I said the Mavericks needed a better defensive center and the Grizzlies had height issues, I meant that, but the Rockets are in worse shape. They no one I would trust to play center for more than 20 minutes per game. Luis Scola is better off at power forward. So I think the Rockets will have a much better chance once they surround their scorers with an actual center. I'm not sure Samuel Dalembert counts either, but he is a start.

Record: 30-36

New Orleans Hornets

I don't believe the Hornets will be as bad as anticipated. I still don't believe they will make the playoffs. I would have the Hornets in the playoffs if the Lakers-Rockets-Hornets trade went down, but I'm not confident enough at this point to predict a playoff spot for them. I can't figure out, outside of Eric Gordon, where points are going to come from on this team. When Trevor Ariza is the #2 scorer on your team, that's not a good sign. I like the height this team has and I like that Al-Farouq Aminu may get minutes to determine if he sucks or not. I just don't know how they will score, but at least it seems like they are on the right track. This season is all about deciding which players will be keepers and which will be moved to clear cap space for the future.

Record: 32-34

Playoff teams: Oklahoma City, Portland, Denver, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio, Dallas, Memphis.

Western Conference Quarterfinals:

Oklahoma City over Memphis
San Antonio over Denver
Los Angeles Clippers over Los Angeles Lakers
Portland over Dallas

Western Conference Semifinals:

Oklahoma City over Portland
San Antonio over Los Angeles Clippers

Western Conference Finals:

Oklahoma City over San Antonio

NBA Finals:

Miami Heat over Oklahoma City

It's boring, I know. It is also how I feel. Feel free to call me stupid in the comments.

Friday, November 25, 2011

3 comments My Thanksgiving List(s)

This is the time of the year when writers make lists of things that they are thankful for in an effort to tie into Thanksgiving. There's nothing like getting all sentimental about being thankful remembering pilgrims and Indians eating together before the pilgrims' ancestors decided these annoying-ass dark-skinned Native Americans had to go and they were taking over this area known as North America from the Native Americans. I think history went that way. Honestly, most history is so painted over with fictions I am not sure we ever really know what actually happened. Regardless, this is the time of the year for lists. Well, I am going to make a non-sentimental list of 5 things I am thankful for, 10 changes sports need to make and 5 things that piss me off. Because that's what I do around this time of year.

Let's start with the changes that need to be made. Some of these are a big deal and others aren't so much. I could probably do a more fleshed-out version for each of these topics, but I won't do that today.

1. Charge calls near to the basket.

I hate charge calls under the basket. My favorite college basketball team is well-known for taking charges and I cringe whenever I see them take one close to the basket. It is such a subjective call and though the circle in the lane has helped clear things up a bit, I still get annoyed because I think any spot in the lane should be for the shooter. I don't know the rulebook by heart, but it seems many of the officials in college basketball can't seem to get the charge call correct. I feel like the prevalence of charge calls in college basketball prevents teams from playing good defense. Maybe someone thinks a charge call around the basket is good defense and I do think that way in general, but mostly I have a problem with charge calls around the basket. If a player is driving to the basket and is near to the lane, I think it should be a blocking foul. I get a bit irritated seeing a defensive player take a charge three feet away from the basket. I know this isn't how the rules play out, but I feel like the present college basketball charge call rewards bad defense.

2. The discrepancy in pass interference calls on offensive players and defensive players in the NFL.

How is it an offensive pass interference penalty gets 10 yards from the previous spot and a replay of the down, but if the defense commits defensive pass interference it is at the point of the foul? This discrepancy annoys me. I feel like the penalty for offensive and defensive pass interference should be the same. I used to worry defensive players would just commit pass interference if they weren't punished by the offense getting the ball at the spot of the foul, but now I realize that is sort of a silly worry. On a deep pass, it may seem ridiculous for the offensive player to not get credit for where he would have caught the ball absent the interference, but it is also ridiculous the defense only gets 10 yards from the previous spot when a potential interception is taken away by offensive pass interference. I think these penalties should be the same. I'm not sure I care whether the offensive or defensive pass interference penalty is adopted, just so they are the same penalty.

3. Decals on the basketball court in college basketball.

This happens all the time in college basketball. Some stupid tournament is happening in a city and there is a logo decal placed on the court to advertise one of the sponsors. I call it a decal on the court, but it is really a sheet of ice sponsored by Burger King or another company like that. So while these basketball players are on the court they have to watch out when running/walking over these logos because they are slicker than the rest of the floor. It's unsafe, ugly and has no place on the floor. Remove the decals from basketball floors. I always cringe when I see a player do a split or slip while dribbling around on the logo. One day someone is going to get hurt on those logos. Of course the NCAA doesn't care, because along with no giving a shit whether student-athletes ever go to class. They are in the business of making sure their sponsors get the right amount of ad space, even if that means a student-athlete has to tear a groin muscle or break their leg for Valvoline to get a decal on the court. One would think a dangerous spot on the court, a spot that not only serves no purpose being on the court, but is also slicker than the rest of the court would be banned. One would think wrong.

4. I'd like to see a salary cap in baseball, not permanently, but just for a few years.

Let me be clear. I do not want a salary cap in baseball permanently. I would like to see baseball have a salary cap for a few years though, just to see what happens. It's more of an interest to see what would happen than anything. I realize this is impossible. A sport can't switch between having a salary cap and no salary cap on a whim. I think it would be interesting to have the NFL salary cap in baseball for a few years. No, I don't believe baseball needs more parity and this is why there should be a salary cap, I just want to see MLB General Managers work within a cap for a few years. I do enjoy the parity in MLB and I also enjoy the parity in the NFL. It would be interesting to see a hard cap in MLB of $110 million and watch teams work to stay under this cap. It would also make the trade deadline on July 31st that much more interesting because some teams would try to acquire players and still not go over their cap space. I am not sure if a hard salary cap would change the sport too much, but I think baseball would be better if there was a salary floor and a salary cap for a few years. Just to see how it worked out.

5. I would like to get rid of the one-and-done rule.

I favor a two-and-through rule. The one-and-done rule is an NBA rule imposed on college basketball to make it seem like the NBA gives a shit about their athletes getting an education. In reality, this rule serves no purpose, other than to force colleges to enforce an NBA rule and deal with the consequences of the rule. I believe athletes should be able to go straight to the NBA after high school, but I also think there is something to be said for attending college for two years and then going to the NBA. I don't believe a two-and-through rule would cause an excessive amount of players to go to the NBA out of high school, it would improve the quality of the player coming out of college and at least it would give the student-athlete who wants to go to college two years to work on getting an education.

This rule would acknowledge there are those athletes who don't need to go to college and it would also give more lip service to athletes who want to go to college and begin an education while learning to play basketball against a higher level of competition. I think if we asked Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger, and Perry Jones, they would say two years in college helped their game improve and prepared them better for the NBA. I just don't know if I like the one-and-done rule anymore.

6. College basketball polls should be released on December 1.

I hate the idea perception of how strong a team is determines how highly ranked a team is. Why can't we just wait a month and start ranking college basketball teams at that point? Rankings are stupid this early in the season, but the polls do serve some purpose later in the season. I just don't see why/how a team can be ranked in a certain position based on perceived strength of the team. Why not wait a month and then rank the teams?

7. The College football coach's polls should be released after three weeks of the season.

I feel much stronger about this happening. A team ranked #20 in a preseason poll that ends up going undefeated could very well miss a shot at the BCS title game because they were ranked so high at the beginning of the season they didn't get a chance to leapfrog two other undefeated teams. Maybe this doesn't happen incredibly often, but why not wait a few weeks to rank the top football teams in the nation? It just makes sense in my mind to rank teams after three weeks of the season once we have seen how strong each team has looked on the football field. Sure, there is a bias in the ranking based on strength of schedule, but ranking the teams based on some information is better than ranking them based on having zero information.

This year's preseason poll Top 10 looked like this:

1. Oklahoma
2. Alabama
3. Oregon
4. LSU
5. Florida State
6. Stanford
7. Boise State
8. Oklahoma State
9. Texas A&M
10. Wisconsin

Four of those teams in the preseason poll aren't in the Top 10 at this point. Florida State and Texas A&M are unranked and Oklahoma State and Wisconsin are #11 and #12 respectively.

Of the four teams currently in the Top 10 that didn't start the season that way, Arkansas was #14, Virginia Tech was #13, Michigan State was #17, and Houston was unranked. It doesn't seem like there is a huge difference in their present ranking and their preseason ranking, but why not wait three weeks into the season to rank these teams? It can't hurt anything and maybe a team like Houston (or Boise State/TCU in the past) would get a higher ranking and receive a chance to be #1 or #2 without the rest of the teams in the major conferences having to lose a game. I also believe it would be much more interesting for the first coach's poll rankings to come out after a few games.

8. The bowl system in college football.

I'm not against the bowl system changing until I see a good playoff system idea set up. At this point, I am not sure the system will ever change or if there has been a quality alternative to the bowl system seriously considered. I would enjoy an 8 team playoff, which I think is enough teams to include championship-caliber squads as well as provide for the mid-majors to get a team or two into the playoff if deserved. My biggest beef with the bowl system is how underwhelmed I feel when I see the bowl projections. After a full season, I tend to feel like there has to be a bigger payoff than some of the bowl matchups. Here are Stewart Mandel's bowl projections. I'm very underwhelmed. In the BCS bowls, I am completely not excited by a Houston v. Michigan matchup. Nothing against those two teams, but it just doesn't excite me and I'm not sure this is a game America has been waiting all season to see. Virginia Tech v. West Virginia is another matchup I am not excited to see in a BCS bowl. I've seen West Virginia play in person and there are probably 20 other teams in the nation that are better than they are. They get an automatic bid because they are in the Big East.

I know it sounds silly to get rid of the bowl system because one person is underwhelmed by the matchups, but isn't the point of bowl games other than to lose money for the schools participating, to gain viewers and create exciting matchups? I can't believe I am the only one who enjoys the college football season and at the end of some football seasons feels a little underwhelmed at the bowl matchups in the BCS games.

Boise State loses one game and now they play Arizona State, the 5th best team in the Pac-12? Clemson had BCS hopes until this week and now they play an inconsistent UCLA team? Is Clemson going to be motivated to play that game? Probably not. We'll get another abomination of a game like last year's Washington v. Nebraska matchup where a bowl chose to take Missouri over Nebraska to punish Nebraska for leaving the Big 12. There are matchups I would enjoy watching, and I do enjoy many of these games every year, but I can't help but wonder why a team like Stanford or Oklahoma State can't get a shot at beating Alabama or LSU before there is an Alabama-LSU rematch? I guess I feel frustrated because there has to be a better way.

9. I would like the NBA to use the NBDL as a minor league system rather than a place where shitty players go to play.

This is somewhat in combination with my two-and-through rule above. Overall, I don't think the NBA knows how to use the NBDL. There is a stigma about playing at that level. I do realize the MLB minor league system is different from how the NBA works, but I would like to see each NBA team have a certain NBDL team. Maybe this is more about changing the perception of the NBDL, but if a player does go straight from high school to the NBA, that player can get playing time at the NBDL level to improve their game rather than sit on the bench in the NBA while getting little playing time. So maybe it is more about changing the perception of the NBDL and less about how teams use the NBDL.

In a perfect world, the NBDL wouldn't be a place where shitty players go to try and make it to the NBA, but is sort of a college basketball-lite league where they learn the NBA system they will be asked to run at the NBA level. In MLB, there are plenty of players who are veterans and take up spot on a main roster while superior, younger players are in the minors working on their skill set. This could work in the NBA as well. I know this sounds like a fantasy, but rather than have NBDL call-ups be rare, I would rather see teams use their NBDL team as a farm system of sorts to improve the NBA team. I feel like there is a disconnect in how the NBA uses the Developmental League and how they should use it. It may just be me.

10. A season opening NCAA-type tournament in college basketball with 32 teams.

I know the concern is this would overshadow the NCAA Tournament at the end of the year. I don't believe it will. I think a 32 team tournament opening up the year would help the momentum caused by Midnight Madness at schools. Rather than have these separate tournaments at the beginning of the year, why not have a 32 team tournament composed of the teams in the 32 team round of the previous year's NCAA Tournament? Actually, I don't care how the teams are chosen, as long as the competition level is high like it is in the NCAA Tournament. In fact, I would be fine with the teams from the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament and the NIT Final Four getting in the season opening tournament with the NCAA Final Four teams getting a first round bye. It may be hard to schedule this logistically, but I have to believe this would be fun to watch.

Now 5 things I am thankful for...

1. Steve Smith (Carolina)

I just love this guy even though he talks too much shit, has an anger problem and is generally short with the media. When he punched Ken Lucas in the face in training camp a few years ago, I couldn't blame him. I had wanted to punch Ken Lucas in the face a few times as well. I'm not sure Panthers fans appreciate him as much as they should.

2. Aaron Rodgers

He is awesome at the football, which makes him fun to watch. Mostly, I love how he is making Brett Favre forgotten in Green Bay. Even when certain Green Bay-area writers try to cherry pick Favre statistics not using an entire season (I read an article from the past week with an author defending Lord Favre from the idea Aaron Rodgers is on his level and can't find the link), everyone should realize Rodgers is performing at a level Brett Favre rarely achieved. No matter how many Favre-loving writers try, the Packers did a great thing for the Packers over the long term by kicking Favre's old ass out the door and choosing to back Rodgers. I love he makes this decision look smart.

3. College basketball

I just love the sport. I know many people favor the NBA, but I can't help but enjoy college basketball. I realize it isn't basketball at its highest level, but it is still one of my favorite sports...even if my least favorite team won the title last year and my second least favorite team will probably win the title this year.

4. The NFL didn't go to an 18 game schedule

It was just a terrible idea. I hated the idea of more games and I am glad this wasn't a part of the new agreement between the union and players. Unless rosters were expanded I just don't see how teams could play 18 games and expect a healthy roster in the playoffs. Sometimes there is something to be said for not "improving" a product. I think this is one of those cases. Too much would have been too much.

5. Instant replay in the NFL

Remember when there was opposition to this? Why doesn't baseball expand replay? I feel like instant replay has added a nice element to the NFL because it shows when officials make really good calls and how stupid some head coaches are. Yes, for me instant replay is less about the actual replay but how it reflects on the competency of the officials and head coaches. Plus, it is fun to sit at home and pretend you are an official and see if you agree with the call on the field.

Now five things that piss me off...

1. Tebowmaniacs

They can get out of control. For example, when John Elway said on the radio recently Denver had not found their quarterback of the future and he was seen scouting Robert Griffin III and Landry Jones, the Tebowmaniacs went apeshit. They were writing crazy things about the greatest quarterback in the history of the Broncos franchise to him over Twitter. If the Broncos draft another quarterback and Tebow is really such a great quarterback he will find work with another team...or he may beat out the newly drafted quarterback and try to hold on to the job. John Fox likes winning and will go with a quarterback that does this for him. Trust me, Fox won't start a rookie quarterback he doesn't have faith in. These people get so wrapped up in cheering for Tebow sometimes logic and any sort of decorum goes out the window.

2. The NBA lockout

I don't miss the NBA that much right now. The NBA lockout pisses me off because I am not sure the owners and players realize the NBA wasn't exactly the most popular sport in the United States and the negative publicity of the lockout isn't helping the future or popularity of the sport. I enjoy watching the NBA, but this lockout doesn't seem to be doing anything but pissing off the diehard fans of the NBA and alienating any casual fans of the NBA. I'm not Bill Simmons and I don't believe I know how to fix the lockout, but I do believe this lockout has gone on long enough and a missed NBA season isn't going to benefit the league in the short or long-term.

3. Expanding the MLB playoffs and creating a one game playoff

I have accepted the MLB playoffs are probably going to be expanded. I can deal with that. The issue I have is the idea of creating a one game playoff between two of the Wild Card teams. I think this is beyond stupid. What the hell is one more game going to prove that 162 games haven't proven already? Why manufacture drama like this? Life isn't fair, but let's say one of the Wild Card teams won 90 games that year and the opposing Wild Card team won 84 games. Why should the 90 game winning Wild Card team have to play one more game to prove they deserve to be in the playoffs? I can get on-board with an expanded playoff, but don't manufacture drama and make any playoff more than just one game. If two teams have the same record I can understand a one game playoff, but a one game playoff deciding which team gets to advance after 162 regular season games have been played seems stupid to me.

4. The phrase "he just wins games."

This is such a lazy phrase. It conveys no knowledge as to why a person wins games and skips analysis to award the winning of a game to a particular player. For me, this is just an irritating phrase. It is usually used to describe a player who doesn't have the statistics thought necessary to win games, but somehow manages to win. The player's ability to win a game can be described in other ways, but it is easier just to use a simple catchphrase in the absence of doing any analysis.

5. The new MLB CBA (a portion of it)

Here in this link Craig Calcaterra talking a little bit about the new CBA. It basically ensures teams may spend less money on international signings and takes steps to ensure two sport athletes like Bubba Starling isn't going to choose baseball over another sport. This is just what baseball needs, a more efficient way to take the better athletes from looking at baseball as a potential sport of choice. What's next? God forbid baseball takes steps to make the sport more attractive of a sports-related career choice.

So maybe baseball is finally taking steps to achieve Tim Keown's goal of taking all foreigners out of the pool of available baseball players, but from the first look it seems this CBA makes an international sport less international and takes two-sport athletes away from trying to make it in baseball. I'm not sure that's a good thing.

Hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving.

Friday, July 1, 2011

7 comments 2011 NBA Draft Grades

It's that time again! The time no one was looking forward to. The 2011 NBA Draft has concluded and it is time for me to grade each team (as soon as I understand all the trades that happened...there was a 30 minute span where I thought Kemba Walker went to Sacramento) on a scale of 0-10. "0" will be the lowest ranking and a "10" is the highest. As always, my rankings will be arbitrary in that they are merely my own opinion. Feel free to agree, disagree, or call me an idiot. I'll start in alphabetical order with the NBA teams.

You know, I still can't say I hate this draft. There aren't a lot of top-tier stars, but I believe there will be some contributors to teams in this draft. Still, the fact many of the top projected picks stayed in college hurt the 2011 NBA Draft. Next year's draft plays out to be ridiculous. I just wonder how many players on the 2012 NCAA Champion UNC Tar Heels will go to the NBA. It wouldn't shock me to see as many as 5 guys go early to the NBA from that team.

Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks had one pick and took Keith Benson. I actually like this pick because it is hard to find an experienced big man in the middle of the second round. Will he ever start in the NBA? Probably not, but he still has been productive in college, which is more than some of the guys drafted could say for themselves. I have a feeling if Benson was named Keif Bfjanko and was from Nigeria where he put up 8.6 ppg 2.2 bpg and 4.5 rpg as a 20 year old he would have been a late first round pick. It's hard to find big guys and though Benson is "soft" it wasn't a terrible pick at this stage for the Hawks. They could have screwed this pick up and taken a guy with "potential," which is roughly translated to "we haven't seen him play much, but he sure looks like he can play doesn't he?"

Grade: 6

Boston Celtics

Apparently the Celtics only scouted Purdue players for this draft, because they took two of them in JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore. I'm torn on Johnson because I wish the Celtics could have turned that pick into a physical big man or drafted a more physical big man in this spot. Johnson has improved every year at Purdue and if he gets a little big stronger than I think it was a great pick. Still, the Celtics need more strength inside and I'm not sure Johnson is that guy right now. A lot of people like the E'Twaun Moore pick, and I do as well. He has a ceiling, but most second round picks either have not proven themselves or have a ceiling. I think he'll end up being a better player than Johnson for the Celtics simply because he's a better backup shooting guard than the Celtics have on their roster right now.

Grade: 7

Charlotte Bobcats

The Bobcats made some trades and got Corey Maggette out of the deal. If his last stint in North Carolina is any indication, he will leave the state after a year and piss everyone off in the process. Still, the Bobcats saved money and got a decent player in return. So not a bad trade. Bismack Biyombo is the type of pick I traditionally just hate. He really hasn't done much other than show he has the potential to do something and he has no offensive game at this point. Throw in the fact he may not even be 18 years old and the Bobcats may have gotten themselves a 21 year old project. The Bobcats will appreciate his defense, but if he can't score he won't be too much use to them since they need players who can score as well. I like the Kemba Walker pick, just from the standpoint he will provide scoring and he is the type of leader the Bobcats need right now. That was a good move. What's really, really irritating for me is the Bobcats picked a power forward/center who has offensive potential, Jeremy Tyler, and just needs some coaching and they traded him for money. Apparently centers who can actually score are just too easy to find, yet the Bobcats felt they needed a defensive specialist at the #7 pick.

Grade: 3

Chicago Bulls

I may be misremembering a bit, but didn't the Bulls need a guard who can score last year? Wasn't that the indication after the series against the Heat where Derrick Rose was the only swingman who could put the ball in the basket? So why did they trade a guy who could provide this for them, Norris Cole, for a player who may not make it to America this upcoming year, Nikola Mirotic? I know he has gotten high grades from those who know foreign basketball, but the Bulls are contending now. Yes, the Bulls have a bright future as well, but they now have to find a shooting guard in free agency...whenever that may happen, if it happens. I can't believe the Bulls couldn't have used Norris Cole on the roster. I find it hard to believe. Maybe I'll look stupid in 2 years when Mirotic comes over and makes Carlos Boozer more expendable than he may already seem. Jimmy Butler is a good pick for the Bulls. He may end up getting the LeBron James assignment, so welcome to the league kid. He plays defense, which is nice, but I would have loved to see the Bulls do something at the shooting guard position. Maybe that's what free agency is for.

Grade: 5

Cleveland Cavaliers

Irving or Williams had to be the first pick. Irving was the pick and I think he is a great leader and teammate. Cleveland will love him. I like Tristan Thompson, but I don't know if I like him for Cleveland. They have JJ Hickson there already. I know there is always room for more big men, but at the #4 spot in the draft I would have liked to see Cleveland pick a different position, like center. I am also a little amazed the Cavs are at the point where they can sell away high second round picks like they had at #32. Apparently the lure of getting the Magic's second round picks, which will probably be in the mid-40's at the lowest was too great. I guess Shelvin Mack or Tyler Honeycutt are wing players that aren't needed on the Cavs roster. I didn't realize Alonzo Gee and Anthony Parker were that irreplaceable. Later in the draft the Cavs chose to go overseas with a pick rather than take a chance on a wing player who could help them eventually or even actually play in the United States at some point. It wasn't a disaster draft, but I am not sold. I think a draft of Irving, Valanciunas, Honeycutt, and Scottie Hopson would have impacted the mediocrity on the roster too much. We can't have that.

Grade: 4

Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks have to win now. Keeping Jordan Crawford wouldn't have been a bad deal, but they got Rudy Fernandez in return? Nice move. There was no player in this spot who could provide what Fernandez can provide and it covers a need the Mavericks have. I would have loved to see other teams (Boston) do the same type thing with their pick.

Grade: 9

Denver Nuggets

It was clear from the beginning of the Carmelo Anthony trade last year that Raymond Felton probably wasn't going to be in Denver for a long time. So the Nuggets did trade him and managed to get Andre Miller and Jordan Crawford in return for Felton. Not a bad deal. I generally hate discussing potential, but Crawford has what I would "realistic" potential. This means basically he has potential based on the real numbers he has put up previously, but he hasn't hit his ceiling. Whereas Biyombo just has "potential" because other than a few times, he hasn't shown he can be an NBA player. So I think given a year or two Crawford will be a contributor to the Nuggets. I really like the drafting of Faried. You know he won't be an All-Star, but you also know he will rebound and given an effort on the court. You can teach rebounding, but Faried seems to also have a sixth sense on how to rebound and he has rebounded well against high competition (when he played this competition) in college. I think the Nuggets are on the right track...though they seem to be missing that star player.

Grade: 8

Detroit Pistons

First off, I really like Brandon Knight. Every year I seem to pick a point guard in the draft I really like (last year it was Eric Bledsoe) that seems to not be a Top 10 pick. Knight ended up being a Top 10 pick, so he was highly thought of by others. This is a great pick by the Pistons. Yes they needed a big man, but Knight is a point guard who can score. He's like Rodney Stuckey, except better. I don't as much know about Kyle Singler in the second round. I like Singler, but he is better used as a glue guy on a good team, not as a borderline starter on a bad team. He can't create his own shot well, though he doesn't really do anything poorly. I would have gone with a player with a higher ceiling in this spot personally. It is still the early second round so there were a couple of those guys available (Jordan Williams, Tyler Honeycutt, Trey Thompkins). I'm not a huge Vernon Macklin fan. I feel like the Pistons could have done better.

This brings me to Stuart Scott saying a few nights ago at the draft, "Joe Dumars is well-respected around the league as a GM, so people pay attention when he drafts," (or he said something like that). I didn't realize it was 2005.

Golden State Warriors

I think I would have felt better about the Warriors choosing Klay Thompson if Monta Ellis had already gotten traded. At this point though, he is still on the roster so Thompson is a shooter who doesn't play great defense behind another shooter who doesn't play great defense. I like this pick more when Ellis is gone. Defense is overrated I guess. As I said earlier, I like the Jeremy Tyler pick. He may never make it in the NBA, but he as good of a chance as any other big man drafted in the second round. Charles Jenkins will raise the team's IQ, but I wish he had gone to a different team where he could have made a bigger impact. I'm afraid he won't get a chance with the Warriors because of their guard depth.

Grade: 3 (If Ellis stays)

Houston Rockets

Sometimes I think Daryl Morey enjoys the trading aspect of being a GM more than he actually enjoys trading to build a better team. It's just a feeling I get, but I've heard from Bill Simmons that Morey is a genius, so I'll continue to believe this. Marcus Morris is a power forward, which is only interesting because so are Luis Scola and Patrick Patterson, and they are already on the Rockets roster. Maybe there is a trade coming up soon. It seems the Rockets drafted Flynn so they could get rid of Brad Miller's contract and trade Flynn again. Donatas Motiejunas can play center in a pinch, but he fits best at power forward...which is a spot the Rockets had covered decently before they drafted a power forward with their other first round pick. Maybe the Rockets think Motiejunas can play center and I am just stupid. I like Chandler Parsons, but I'm not sure where he fits in with the Rockets if Marcus Morris plays SF and the Rockets already have Chase Budinger.

Grade: 3

Indiana Pacers

The Pacers decided to trade their two draft picks and some guy from the 2005 draft who they have the rights to for George Hill. It's probably a good move for them. George Hill is a proven player and he can be a backup to Darren Collison and even play along with Collison. It's a good move by the Pacers to get a proven player in exchange for non-proven players. I wouldn't say the Pacers are in "win-now" mode, but I guess they didn't want to wait on a drafted player to develop.

Grade: 7

Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers were able to take Kyrie Irvin---wait, nevermind...let's start over. The Clippers had two second round picks and they didn't do a terrible job on 50% of them. They took two players from Georgia (the university, not the country) and neither of them will probably make a huge impact in the NBA, but Trey Thompkins has the best chance to do so. He provides a good backup to Blake Griffin and also still has some potential to improve. Travis Leslie is worth a risk at this point, but he's a great athlete who just happens to also play basketball. The Clippers may be better off just hiring him as a coach and then televising the dunk contests between he and Blake Griffin. I'm not impressed with Leslie, let's say that. He should have stayed at Georgia for a few more years.

Grade: 6

Los Angeles Lakers

Darius Morris was a great choice for the Lakers. Coming into the draft, I think the Lakers needed to draft a point guard and Morris was a great choice in the second round. I also really like Goudelock as well. He can straight shoot the ball, but he is also a point guard. Now, if the Lakers can find a way to combine Goudelock and Morris into one point guard they will have found the exact guy they need. Then the Lakers drafted Ater Majok, who is a bit of a stretch at this point, but they drafted him based on potential anyway. So no one pays attention to the fact it was a wasted pick because he has "potential." Still, good move in picking up the two point guards, though I don't know how both of them fit on the roster...so maybe it wasn't such a great move.

Grade: 4

Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies had one draft pick and they chose Josh Selby in the second round. Did the Grizzlies really need Selby after re-signing Mike Conley Jr and drafting Greivis Vasquez last year? Probably not, but at the very worst he is a guy who doesn't make the roster, at best they have a shoot-first combo guard who has a ton of ability and really hasn't figured out how to harness it. Points go to the Grizzlies for having a player drop to them and then selecting the player.

Grade: 6

Miami Heat

The Heat, as well documented, don't have a ton of chances to improve their team with the lack of cap room and draft picks they have. They needed another point guard on the roster to replace the corpse of Mike Bibby. Really, the Heat need a point guard who can shoot and score some points as LeBron and Wade drive to the basket and draw defenders. Norris Cole can really score, in fact I think the Bulls should have kept their pick and chosen Cole, but I"m not sure he is an NBA point guard. Still, he can score and it was worth moving up three spots to grab him. He won't be a superstar, but I think he can find a role on the Heat team.

Grade: 8

Milwaukee Bucks

I like the Bucks made a trade that saved them money and they managed to get two quality NBA prospects in return. Tobias Harris is the definition of a raw player, but I don't believe he is quite the tweener he is being made up to be. He definitely has some power forward and small forward skills, but I think he is a small forward. Harris, provided he gets playing time, has great potential and the Bucks could have done a lot worse than they did at #19 in the first round. Jon Leuer, though it has been covered sufficiently, isn't the most athletic guy in the world. Still, coming off the bench it never hurts to have a tall guy who can shoot and rebound...which I think he can do better than he is given credit for. The Bucks benefited from the fact Leuer doesn't have "potential," but I can see him sticking around in Milwaukee.

Grade: 9

Minnesota Timberwolves

I think it may just be knee-jerk reaction, but I don't like the Wolves draft. I really, really like the drafting of Derrick Williams, though I think it would be great if they, and I know this sounds crazy, leverage the fact they have two other players that play the same position as Derrick Williams and make a trade of one of those players that (gasps) improves the team in another area. Williams deserves minutes because he could be the best player in this draft, so I would like to have seen the Wolves open up more minutes for him. I do really like Malcolm Lee in theory, mostly because he is willing to play defense, but I am not sure a guy who underachieved his entire career in college can step it up in the NBA. Also, the Wolves drafted a middle-aged man or something (actually he was 26) because they didn't do enough research to know his age. That sounds about right. That is something the Timberwolves would do.

Grade: 2 (not based on the players, based on drafting Williams and him having to fight with Beasley and Randolph for minutes...you know they won't give him minutes with those two guys on the roster)

New Jersey Nets

I think the Celtics possibly should have kept Marshon Brooks, but the Nets benefited from the Celtics wanting JuJuan Johnson. Brooks appears to be a great scorer and will work well for the Nets off the bench. There's nothing wrong with drafting a guy in the mid-first round who can score. I don't know much about Bojan Bogdanovic, but his name sounds like the restaurant Bojangles and I really like Bojangles after I have been out drinking. I believe Jordan Williams has a chance to stick around. The other side of this is he's a guy who may have weight problems and flame out of the NBA, but he's worth a shot because he can play in the post and rebound. Maybe he will stay on the team long enough to teach Brook Lopez to rebound. Part of me loves Jordan Williams' future in the NBA.

Grade: 6

New Orleans Hornets

The Hornets needed to try and do something to keep Chris Paul around. They didn't have much ammo to do this with, but they decided not drafting a player to improve the team was the best route to go. I guess drafting Josh Selby or, you know, an actual basketball player was too risky of a venture. I hope they got a lot of money from the Knicks. Hey Chris Paul, you may want to leave New Orleans after this year, but you can leave knowing the Hornets are now $250,000 richer. The joke is on you. Enjoy New York.

Grade: 0

New York Knicks

The Knicks wanted a defensive guy in the draft, so they took the second best one available. That would be Iman Shumpert, who would have been a better choice had they not drafted him and drafted Chris Singleton instead. I will hold out hope for Shumpert being that he played for Paul Hewitt, who pretty much just seemed to let his players do whatever the hell they want. I actually don't hate Shumpert as much as some other draft graders do, because he is very athletic and a good defender, but I don't know if he will fit in with the Knicks as well as some other players available would. Josh Harrellson helped Kentucky beat UNC, so I won't say anything bad about him...but I am not sure he should have been drafted.

Grade: 3

Oklahoma City Thunder

I think Reggie Jackson was a very underrated player. He was the best or second-best player in the ACC for a good amount of time last year. The Thunder don't seem to have a hell of a lot of room in their rotation for Jackson. He will backup Maynor and can probably play shooting guard as well. There was some criticism the Thunder didn't have enough scoring and Jackson can definitely get to the basket and score. It's not like they reached based on his talent and they fixed what they perceived to be a need, even if they fixed it with a position that didn't seem to be a need position.

Grade: 9

Orlando Magic

I don't know if the Magic are in a position to try and keep Dwight Howard around by making trades or through free agency, specifically since the move to bring Hedo and Gilbert Arenas in took up cap room. The Magic got Justin Harper so very cheap, and I am still not sure why the Cavs didn't keep the pick. Harper won't be a star, but I think he was a good pick in exchange for two second round picks. DeAndre Liggins is a great defender and maybe if he plays offense well enough to stick on the roster then it won't be four guys and a Howard on defense. I see Liggins possibly as a Bruce Bowen-type guy in the future.

Grade: 6

Philadelphia 76ers

I'm surprised the Sixers didn't draft a small forward since that's what they seem to enjoy doing. I'm kidding of course. I do like the Nikola Vucevic pick, though I can't help but wonder if he is Jason Smith all over again (I have to compare them since they are both white and play the same position). Lavoy Allen can end up being the 8th or 9th guy off the bench. It is not like the Sixers needed another small forward, so I can't say I like, but also can't blame for these picks. So going with size wasn't a bad idea for the Sixers. I probably would have liked for them to draft Kenneth Faried over Vucevic though.

Grade: 5

Phoenix Suns

The Suns seem to enjoy taking the perceived-to-be weaker brother in the NBA Draft and they did it again. I'm not a huge Markieff Morris fan. Morris is a tough guy inside and can shoot the mid-range jump shoot fairly well. He may not be the scorer-type player the Suns may have wanted/needed, but we wouldn't want to draft a player that would take away minutes from Vince Carter.

Grade: 2

Portland Trailblazers

Nolan Smith is the type of player that will probably never be a starter in the NBA, but they needed a point guard and Smith can play point guard...sort of. He has leadership qualities and intangibles. Not sure how much that translates to the actual playing of the game of basketball on a higher level. On a different note, I will get to see Nolan Smith and Raymond Felton play together, which is not something I've wanted to ever see. Like when I had to see Tyler Hansbrough get a chest bump from Dahaunty Jones in the playoffs this year. It made me shudder. Jon Diebler was the second round pick of the Blazers and he is a really good shooter. Can he make the Blazers team? That remains to be seen, but I am not so sure he has the all-around game to make it.

Grade: 2

Sacramento Kings

Jimmer! The Kings were the lucky team to draft Jimmer Fredette. Now I wonder if they see him as a point guard and will Evans at shooting guard? Either way, both players like to have the ball in their hands, so I hope that doesn't create trouble for the Kings. Fredette will definitely put asses in the seats in Sacramento, which will be nice. I like the choice of Tyler Honeycutt in the second round. He isn't ready to play now, but in 1-2 years I think he could end up being a starter for the Kings. Isiah Thomas is undersized, but knowing what I have read about him he will probably use being picked so late as a source of motivation. I can envision him being guarded in practice and destroying whoever is guarding him and then gaining minutes in games based on that. Thomas may not be an NBA-starter point guard, but I'm surprised he was taken this low. He could be an Aaron Brooks-type player for the Kings, so it was a good pick.

Grade: 8

San Antonio Spurs

I have traditionally thought the Spurs knew what they were doing in the NBA Draft. I haven't loved Kawhi Leonard, but in the right situation I think he could be a really good player. My issue lies in this...the Spurs traded George Hill, not Tony Parker, so they are clearly still trying to win now. If they are trying to win now, why did they take 3 of 4 picks that are essentially investments in the future? Not that it is a huge deal if these players work out, but Tim Duncan needs help now and the Spurs took a long view. 35% of me thinks they should have traded Parker and just started the rebuilding process on the fly. Leonard was a good player to get in return for George Hill, as he could be a starter in a year. I know very little about the foreign players except, and stop me if you have heard this, they have potential and aren't ready to play quite yet. This Spurs draft goes up a couple points for the selection of Cory Joseph. I saw a game in high school where Joseph outplayed Kyrie Irving and I think he got lost in the shuffle a bit at Texas this year. I like this pick for three years from now.

Speaking of which, I know Texas went 28-8 this year, but they had three guys drafted in the first round. They still have talent on the roster, why didn't they go further than they did in the NCAA Tournament? I question Rick Barnes' coaching ability quite often.

Grade: 8 (but not graded as high in regarding to helping this year's team)

Toronto Raptors

I know very little about Jonas Valanciunas. I follow college basketball, but haven't quite gotten into overseas basketball as much. At this point in the draft, there weren't too many America-born players with drafting. Valanciunas is projected to be a true center and given the other option of trading back in the draft and missing the chance to draft an impact player, the Raptors took Valanciunas. If he pans out, the Raptors will have a very intriguing frontcourt with Davis, Valanciunas, and Bargnani. Really, the biggest positive out of this is that Bargnani can play his more natural game (hopefully), which doesn't include playing in the paint all that much. The only issue I have with this pick is it probably won't make a huge difference in the short term, but the Raptors probably aren't thinking short term anyway.

Grade: 6

Utah Jazz

The Jazz had a couple of needs coming into the draft. Arguably, they could have chosen a point guard, but they really needed a center and a wing guy. They were fortunate in that two quality players at these two positions were available in the draft. Kanter is the best center in the draft, though I wonder if taking a year off from competitive play (other than practice) will set him back at all. I think if he had played at Kentucky this past year he may have ended up being the #1 overall pick. Alec Burks can score and get to the basket. As mentioned several times on this blog, the knock against him is he doesn't shoot the three point shot well. Not that I would compare him to Dwyane Wade, but that was a knock on Wade coming out of college too. Burks is still only 19 years old, so he has room to grow and could easily develop a good three point shot with enough hard work. The Jazz had a great draft.

Grade: 9

Washington Wizards

I really like the Wizards draft as well. Even though I don't personally know much about Vesely because I haven't seen him play much, it certainly seems like he could be on the receiving end of John Wall alley-oops in the very near future. At the least, the Wizards got more exciting. I personally really like Chris Singleton. He was miscast at Florida State and asked to do too much offensively, but he is a really defensive weapon. He is big enough to guard a small forward and quick enough to guard most point guards and shooting guards. He could play his way into the Wizards starting lineup just through his defense. What's equally important is I do believe he can play offensive basketball as well, but he will never be more than a #4 scorer (at the maximum) on an NBA team. He was asked to do too much at Florida State. The Wizards also gave John Wall a backup in Shelvin Mack, who will never be a star, but seems like one of those steady players championship teams always end up having. Perhaps this grade is high, but I like this draft.

Grade: 9

Feel free to agree or disagree and call me a moron, and even worse, in the comments if you would like.