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Saturday, June 25, 2011

2011 NBA Draft Diary

David Stern and Billy Hunter drive towards a cliff. Hand down, man down.

After one of the best seasons ever comes one of the worst drafts ever. With the NBA riding a wave of talent, a draft comes along that sees not a lot more talent being added. There's no getting around the fact that, relative to years past, the talent level of this draft is not very good.

There's also no getting around the fact that this is the last dollop of NBA we are going to see for a while. There's going to be a lockout starting in nine days time; after today, everything is into the realms of the unknown. That fact will make this draft the last NBA action in the foreseeable future. It also will make children cry. This is what they want. They want your children to cry.

The former of these things makes the draft a bit of a downer. But the latter of these things actually makes it more exciting. When you can only get one more taste of something before it is taken away from you forever, then you're going to enjoy that final thing. This is the reason behind Death Row last meals, and was also a key philosophical plot vehicle within the seminally dreadful movie, Thelma And Louise. With the impending stench of bureaucratic disappointment blowing gustily in our face, dammit, we're going out in style.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Sham's unnecessarily great big draft board: Power forwards

(Listed in no order other than the order they were thought of.)


Enes Kanter - There is very little to know about Enes Kanter, for the man has played very little.

In the 2008-09 season, aged only 16, Kanter made some infrequent appearances in the Fenerbahce first time, appearing in spot minutes of 9 games. That summer, he appeared at the under-18 European Championships, and absolutely tore them up, averaging 18.6 points and 16.4 rebounds in only 28.4 minutes per game. This is especially impressive considering that, in one game, Kanter recorded only 2 points and 1 rebound. The previous summer, Kanter had averaged 22.9 points and 16.5 rebounds per game at the Under-16 championships, on yet more dangerously efficient shooting. And then came the whole Kentucky debacle.

Because of the Kentucky debacle, Kanter has played nothing but practice and at the high school level since those championships. He dominated in those championships as a man amongst boys, which is fine, but it does raise concerns about what he's like as a man amongst men. Without much to go on other than some tape, it is hard to answer. But the tapes are highly favourable.


By all accounts, he is really very good. I am not about to dispute that.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sham's unnecessarily great big draft board: Small forwards

(Listed in no order other than the order they were thought of.)


Derrick Williams's underarm hair.


Derrick Williams - From a barely recruited forgettable college prospect to one of of the best current NBA prospects in only two short years, Williams has had quite the stretch, And he has the potential for more.

Williams is a combo and/or positionless forward with good small forward size (6'8), a tweener's game, yet terrific athleticism. He is strong, big enough, runs the court, creates in the post, creates off the dribble, can shoot from mid-range, can shoot from three, has good hands, can pass (although he should do it more), rebounds in big numbers, defend the post, and defend the perimeter. He is unfathomably productive, averaging 19/8 in only 29 minutes, with a PER of 32.5 and a true shooting percentage of over 70%. He even shot 57% from three. Williams does a bit of everything to startling efficient levels, and nothing about his physical profile says that it won't translate.

The current rumour state that Minnesota - a team who either place absolutely no value on holding their cards close to their chest, or who have laid the most intricate series of double bluffs in modern history - are threatening to take Enes Kanter at #2 instead of Williams, the assumed logical candidate. This is unless they can trade the pick, which they have been remarkably up front about doing. The latest rumour seems them trying (and maybe yet succeeding) to trade the #2 to Atlanta in exchange for Josh Smith. I can get on board with a trading of the pick (and, by proxy, Williams), but not necessarily in that deal.

Because Williams may yet become the equal of Josh Smith.

So stick with the younger, cheaper guy.

And stop making a playoff push when you've just won 17 games.

If a lack of quality veterans is the problem, it's the Lazar Hayward types that need to be changed.

Sham's unnecessarily great big draft board: Shooting Guards

(Listed in no order other than the order they were thought of.)


I want to see this afro grown out, Marshon. It has as much upside as you do.


Marshon Brooks - Brooks was the second highest scorer in the nation, although this was largely ignored until a 52 point outburst against Notre Dame (in a game that his Providence team still lost). That, the subsequent scrutiny, and the final workout cycle, has seem his stock continue to grow.

It is self-evident that Brooks is a highly talented scorer, although he is not flawless. Brooks's 24.6 points per game came on a very tidy 48.3% shooting, but the pace of play that the Friars played was a factor in that, and that pace also biases his 7.0 rebounds per game average. He's mainly a scorer from the mid-range area (mainly via pull-ups or turnaround jumpers) and the free throw line (due to his aggression), as even though he takes more than six three pointers per game, he is not especially good at them right now, hitting only 34% of them. Brooks can defend with the best of them when he wants to, as evidenced by his 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocks per game averages, but he doesn't always want to, only sometimes applying himself in that end. And the common theme amongst all this is discipline - Brooks takes bad shots, makes bad decisions, doesn't always play hard, complains, and gives sometimes intermittent defensive effort.

Nevertheless, an apologist could blame that on the wider struggles and ill-discipline of the rest of his team, and the apologist may well be right. You could say that Brooks was emblematic of the team's chucking, defensively-disinterested ways, or you could say he was held back by them and a coaching staff that didn't instill enough discipline. Whichever it is, Marshon has enough size and athleticism for the pro game, and he has the best statline of the class. And the flaws behind the production don't disguise quite how much of it there is - in addition to the rebounding, defense and scoring efficiency, Brooks is the second leading scorer in the nation. From the Big East, no less. He's a talent.

[Brooks also has the occasional desire to post up from 23 feet away. Shades of Rodney Green. Like it.]

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sham's unnecessarily great big draft board: Point guards

(Listed in no order other than the order they were thought of.)


You'd look happy if you were about to go first overall, too.


Kyrie Irving - Irving is this draft's most complete player, which is why he will inevitably be the first overall pick. His Duke career didn't last very long - Irving played the first eight games of the campaign, before suffering a broken foot that would normally have led to a medical redshirt. However, be it due to "heart," or an implicit acknowledgement that this was always going to be his only college season - or both - Irving came back ahead of schedule and made it back in time for the NCAA tournament.

Irving's season averages are not overwhelmingly dominating - 17.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2.5 turnovers and 1.5 steals in 27.5 minutes per game. They are certainly impressive, though, and none is more impressive than his sheer efficiency. Irving shot 53% from the field, 90% from the line and 46% from three point range, and while much of his time was spent against non-conference opposition, it was against some damn good non-conference opposition.

In the 11 games Irving played as a Dukie, only four games were cakewalks; Hampton, Colgate, Oregon, and Miami Ohio. The rest of his games came against Princeton (a tournament team, if not on the level of others), Butler, Michigan State, Michigan, Arizona, Marquette and Kansas State. This meant matchups against decent-to-good defenders such as Shawn Vanzant, Shelvin Mack, Jacob Pullen, Darius Morris, Kalin Lucas, Keith Appling, Doug Davis and Momo Jones, amongst others. And yet in those seven games, Irving averaged 19.4 points, 4,7 assists and 1.6 steals on 51% shooting.

A point guard with adequate size, good speed, a 70% true shooting percentage and a 36.2 PER ticks every box. Irving handles, run the offense, defends well, takes only good shots, sets up, creates, scores in the clutch, shoots, drives and leads. He is miles and miles ahead of the curve, even if average size and physical tools supposedly limit his upside. (And they haven't for Chris Paul.) It matters not if he is better as a scorer than a passer - Irving reads the game like a point guard, and makes only good decisions. If there are any flaws, they have not been exposed yet.

But what will be exposed, allegedly, is Kyrie Irving exposed. Another year, another NBA genitals drama.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sham's unnecessarily great big draft board: Centres

(Listed in no order other than the order they were thought of.)


Any time you watch a game with Jonas Valanciunas in, randomly pause
the live action, and I guarantee he will be making this face.


Jonas Valanciunas - Valanciunas was a big minute player in the Euroleague aged only 18. You just don't do that in the Euroleague, unless you're Ricky Rubio.

Right now, he compares somewhat to Joel Przybilla if Joel Przybilla had any offensive finesse. Valanciunas runs the pick and roll to a Lithuanian standard, is smooth, polished, controlled, never rushed, and highly poised, with good touch around the basket and a very nice free throw stroke. He does not shoot jumpers yet, but he's such a quick learner and such a good foul shooter (89% in the Euroleague, 125-158 and 79% across all competitions) that it won't take long. He is an extremely good rebounder through size, smarts and effort, and he blocks shots with his great wingspan and aforementioned effort level.

More than likely, he will not stay Przybillay for long. This is in no small part because of his much higher offensive skillset. The free throw percentages already mentioned are a testament to that.

Nonetheless, there are still flaws. Valaciunas is finesse more than power, doesn't have a go-to move other than the pick-and-roll, and still has to beef up some. He was also consciously and constantly attacked by opposing Euroleague offenses, for he was the young and experienced one. And it is true that he struggled with that at times, giving up fouls on his pick-and-roll defense, and not always being in position. But it is also true that he improved noticeably during the season. Such is the common trend amongst Valanciunas's story - if there's something he can't do, he learns it incredibly quickly. I don't see what part of this fails to translate to the NBA. And thus I see a good quality NBA player in our midst.

It doesn't matter if you have to wait an extra year. It's worth it.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Chicago's Meticulously Crafted 2011 Offseason Plan That Relies An Awful Lot Upon Guesswork

Nothing cheers me up more than heavily contrived and extremely implausible hypothetical transactions for the Chicago Bulls.1 Taking a team's cap situation, and attempting to maximize the basketball assets that they can get from using it, is what I wish to spend my life doing. It is this love of salary cap manipulation and amateurish talent evaluation that has in the past produced seminal works such as the four team 16 player trade that intended to bring Carmelo Anthony to Chicago whilst getting Denver under the luxury tax in the process2, as well as last offseason's equally well-intended multi-faceted shake-up that sought only to avoid signing Joe Johnson, and which bizarrely predicted that the Bulls would end up with half of the previous season's Utah Jazz rotation, but not the half that they actually wound up with.

These are my hobbies.

Ironically, Joe Johnson would be a somewhat perfect fit for Chicago right now. But unfortunately, Joe Johnson still has five years and $107,333,589 remaining on his maximum salary contract given to him by the Hawks, whom he just led to 44 wins and an ultimately rather purposeless second round exit. When the 29 year old fourth best player at his position gets the fifth biggest contract in the history of the sport, consider yourselves outbid.3 It's a shame, in a way, for a player of Joe Johnson's type and talent level would now be an exact fit to the major problem Chicago faces.

Chicago isn't exactly a team awash with strife. They just made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, had the best regular season record in the league, won 62 games, won the Most Valuable Player award, won the Coach Of The Year award, and somehow managed to come both first and third in the Executive Of The Year award, the most recent first-and-third place finish since Hacksaw Jim Douglas in The Love Bug. This isn't a capped-out team that dribbled meekly to a limp 32 wins and a late lottery pick. This isn't Detroit. Indeed, you could make a case that, aside from Miami, this team has the brightest future in the league. It's either them or OKC.4

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"The brain behind ShamSports could have been featured in a number of these Twitter lists, but because his website often spends our entire working day lodged in one of our browser tabs we decided to take the boring route and place Mark amongst the professors. Deeks might be the funniest man you've never met, he does exhaustive work with the NBA's salary minutiae and transaction follow-ups, and he's a stone-cold must-follow. Stone-cold fox, too, ladies. Or, some gentlemen."