Archive for the ‘Draft Profiles’ Category

Joel Embiid: From Cameroon to Number One Pick

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014


Joel Embiid is a freak physically who had decent stats in college.  His freshman year matches up pretty well with Tim Duncan’s freshman year.  Those are just numbers though.  There have been plenty of busts that had wonderful college box scores and amazing bodies.  What is important is what actual skills Embiid has that can be seen, not just measured.  So, I deal with the numbers and what is being witnessed separately.  Luckily for Joel, he appears legitimate when you read his box scores and witness him play.

In the Raw

Joel Embiid is a 7’0,” 240 pounds and sports a 7’5” wing span.  Embiid grew up in Cameroon playing soccer and volleyball. He’s only twenty years old and has been playing basketball since 2011.  His path to America through basketball is unique, but his path to actually playing basketball was the same as most people his height.  He was pulled to a basketball camp just because of the chance he may become good.

The camp was led by Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and the NBA player immediately saw that Embiid had amazing moves for someone who had never played organized basketball.  Mbah a Moute eventually talked Embiid’s father into sending him to the Montverde Academy in Flordia to play basketball.  However, Embiid didn’t see playing time during his junior year, so he transferred to the Rock School, also in Florida.  Mbah a Moute called the Rock school on Embiid’s behalf to get him a spot on the team.

Kansas assistant coach and former Florida native, Norm Roberts, brought the big kid to the attention of Kansas head coach, Bill Self.  Self watched Embiid practice and concluded he could be a dominant force and a future number one pick.


International Men of Mystery; Part Deux

Monday, June 9th, 2014

As evidenced by the seven International players on the Spurs, it is clearly a good idea to look outside of the good ole’ USA to find basketball talent. In part 2 of the “International Men of Mystery” we will check out a couple teenagers whose birth certificates require verification, and a player whom the Cavs clearly like in Damjan Rudez (who is reportedly meeting with the Cavs, today).

Related news: The Cavs are looking at David Blatt for the head coaching job. The American born coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv would bring an understanding of the International game to Cleveland. He coached the Russian National Team to a Bronze medal in 2012. It would be an intriguing hire.

As always, I have a set of scouting questions that help to discern whether a player’s skill-set will translate well to the NBA’s basketball culture.


One Sport, Two Continents, and the International Men of Mystery

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Editors Note: Please welcome new Staff Writer, and CtB European correspondent, Ben Werth.

I yell out “Check up top.” General dillydallying continues, and I yell again.  “BALL UP TOP.”  Okay, maybe something is lost in translation.  I try a different tactic.  “Der Ball ganz oben, bitte?”  That combined with the well known International Sign of “putting my hands out to receive a pass” have the desired effect.  I’m pretty sure my whack literal translation was not what yielded the ball.

“What do you guys usually play?  12 win by two, or 21 straight?  All ones?”  I generally detest playing with ones and twos in pickup ball.  The NBA short corner three is ridiculously inefficient compared to that two for one advantage.  Good thing most normal people can’t shoot.

“Okay!” says one lithe baller.

“Okay, what?  Bis zwölf, oder was?”  Have I been talking to myself?


So What’s This All Mean? Pt. 1

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Here’s just the first of what I’m sure will be many articles about how the draft has reshaped the Cavaliers’ roster.

First off, I don’t mean to neglect the Cavs’ selection of 6’6″ guard Carrick Felix out of Arizona State University with the 33rd pick. As you might have guessed, I was pulling for Jamaal Franklin at 33 (and at 31!), so I was a little thrown by this unfamiliar name. You can read all about Felix here. I know I will be.

That being said, the video montage ESPN played following the selection leads me to say this: good size, an athletic player with some explosiveness, good catch-and-shoot guy (37.4% from three). I’ll take that with the 33rd pick (even if I’d rather have Jamaal Franklin). I was convinced Chris Grant would draft someone he could stash overseas. With Felix, he might have drafted a guy he can stash in Canton, at least for next season.

Okay, on to Anthony Bennett. We all probably had something verging on Bill Simmons’ reaction, but within ten seconds it was pretty easy to talk yourself into the pick. Bennett was one of the two most talented players in this draft. It was him and Ben McLemore. They both had the most talent, the highest upside… however you want to phrase it. In that respect, it doesn’t matter that the Cavs already have Tristan Thompson — just as it wouldn’t have mattered that they already had Dion Waiter had the Cavs picked McLemore or Victor Oladipo. They now have the guy they feel was the most talented of the bunch of available guys this year.

The “glass half empty” view is that Bennett and Thompson are redundant, both undersized power forwards, so Chris Grant must have wasted one pick to get another right. There is that…

The “glass half full” view, though, is that all we’re dealing with is a similar redundancy to what we got when Grant drafted Dion Waiters, a creative, ball-handling scoring guard to pair with … well, you know, another creative, ball-handling scoring guard in Kyrie Irving. That happened and we saw the benefits of it. “Redundancy” became “flexibility” with Waiters able to handle the ball (more than) capably while Kyrie sat as well as score it while the two ran side-by-side.

That’s where Bennett’s listing of Carmelo Anthony as his favorite player during interviews yesterday was interesting to me. Anthony “found himself” in many way this past season playing the four for stretches, but has long made his home at the three. Likewise, Larry Johnson, the player who Bennett said his college coaches most compared his game with, was a burly, undersized, athletic, player who played both the three and the four during his career.

I think the Cavs embrace Bennett as a hybrid forward, while insisting that he be in good enough shape to be effective against threes on the defensive end. Bennett already brings more explosiveness and shot-making ability than any of the small forwards currently on the Cavs roster at the beginning of the night. Should he be able to play half of his minutes alongside Thompson, a front court of Bennett, a continually improving Thompson and the usually pin-balling Varejao is something to consider. It’s got size, strength, athleticism and the ability to generate baskets in a lot of different ways.

But Bennett can also slide down to the four spot and run in line-ups with the likes of Dion Waiters, Sergey Karasev, Alonzo Gee and Tyler Zeller. I don’t mind that group a bit either.

When you look at the Cavs you see a team of fluid positions. Waiters can play the two or he can handle the ball. Karasev can play the two or the three. Bennett (we’re being told) can play the three or the four. And then all of our other post players — Varejao, Thompson and Zeller — can play either the four or five, depending on the situation.

This makes for a more potent, surprising offense than if the Cavs had gone with either of the centers, Alex Len or Nerlens Noel.

So, no, I don’t think the Cavs have soured on Thompson just because they drafted Bennett. What it does make more clear, however, is that no one is especially safe until (or even after) this team starts winning. When the draft rolls around, Grant will take who he feels is best.

Too much of the best, after all, can only be good going forward.

Frequent Flyer: Cavs Draft Karasev at #19

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Sergey Karasev already knows what he can do to help the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“Cleveland need shooters,” Karasev said. “And I think I’m the guy who can shoot the ball.”

He does, in fact, seem to be that guy. Karasev, the son of the coach of his Russian team, BC Triumph, and top scorer in Russia’s top league, the PBL, at 15.3 points per game, is praised for his proclivity as a shooter and his high basket ball IQ. While evaluating Karasev during this year’s Nike Hoops Summit, Matt Kamalsky of said, “Shooting the ball with great range and effortless mechanics with his feet set, Karasev impressed scouts with his prolific perimeter shooting both in drills and game action to the point that it was surprising to see him miss at times. Making 38% of his 3-pointers this season, Karasev’s numbers belie his consistency from the perimeter given the defensive pressure he regularly faces.”

With Cleveland, he joins a team with a glaring offensive hole at the three and an overall lack of knock-down shooters (outside of Kyrie Irving) from either the two or three positions.

Karasev is ready to try to fill those needs right away. When asked if he planned to join the team immediately, he responded, “That’s all about them. I’m ready to come next year to play in Cleveland. If they’re going to say I need them, I come straight. I know that. I understand they need shooters. I try to help them and go as hard as possible.”

The biggest knock on Karasev coming into the draft was that he would not be able to defend his position at the NBA level. In fact, both he and top pick Anthony Bennett were considered defensive liabilities to some extent. You can expect coach Mike Brown to use Karasev’s length and intelligence to make up for what is currently a very slight frame.

Attending the draft was very important to Karasev. “Last time I’m going to shake the hand,” he said. “First and last time in my life in the draft.” It was an important stay in the states, but a short one. He arrived earlier this afternoon then left the Barclays Center to catch a return flight home to prepare for “the university games” with his team back in Russia.

“I feel very great,” Karasev said in broken, but passable English. “It’s my dream come true.”

Kevin’s Draft Board, #1 – 10: (or, the time I started typing nonsense (but, it was all rooted in unwritten brilliance))

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

So, the draft is here.  We finally get the answer to what crazy thing Chris Grant has plotted out.  I’m excited, and as we dive into the ecstasy that is draft day, let’s run through my top ten…

(Also, read Robert’s article immediately below this, live from the draft.  Live from the draft?  What are we, like real media or something?)


The NBA Draft Prospect Media Availability Chamber of Doom…

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Some notes, quotes and observations from the 2013 NBA Draft Media Availability Day at the Westin Hotel Times Square in NYC…

Nerlens Noel

Nerlens Noel entered favoring his surgically repaired knee slightly. Though, honestly, I would not have noticed it if I hadn’t been looking for it. And he absolutely looks as skinny as advertised. He repeated that his recovery was “ahead of schedule,” but didn’t put a definite time table on when he would be able to play. He was soft-spoken and compared how he would approach the adjustment from college to the NBA the same way he dealt with his transition from high school to Kentucky, on “defense first… rebound and block shots” and then contribute more offensively as time goes on. A lot has been made of how other potential top pick, Alex Len, dominated Noel in Noel’s first game of the season. But Noel continued to develop in the months leading up to the game where he tore his ACL to the point where, if the injury had not occurred, we might not be having this “there’s no clear top pick” discussion. Noel also narrowly edged Ben McLemore for my inaugural Media Availability Day Best Dressed Award. The kid can sure rock a pocket square…

Alex Len

Alex Len confirmed that his own recovery is going well. Coming back from a stress fracture in his ankle, Len is off crutches and expects to be out of the walking boot that caused his own slight limp in three weeks. He stressed that he would, in fact, be ready for the start of training camp. When asked what his case for going first overall was, Len replied “I don’t care where I go. It’s all about fit. I think Cleveland is a great fit for me too. They have really good guards and I think it would be a great fit for me.”

(on what type of player the team who drafts him will get) “They’re gonna get a tremendous work ethic from me. I’m just gonna work my tail off. I can contribute on the defensive [end of the] floor right away and as time goes on I can be a force on the offensive end of the floor.”

CtB: “When you met with Cleveland did you get to talk to Vitaly Potapenko at all?”

AL: “Yep, definitely. Him and Ilgauskas. They both speak Russian, so it was fun.”


Kevin’s Big Board, #11 – #20…what to do with the nineteenth pick (or, now I’m just trolling you)

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Writing sixty of these, and putting in the necessary care to ensure that I am uneqivocally correct, now and later, about all of them, is exhausting.  But I forge on.  Time to move towards the lottery and offer some thoughts on the #19 pick.


Kevin’s Big Board, #21 – 30

Monday, June 24th, 2013

Well today, I will attempt to stay brief; this group of players is slightly less relevant to the Cavs.

#30 Glen Rice Jr, D-League, SF, 22 years old – A decent, yet unspectacular recruit muddles through three trouble-filled seasons of college, then gets selected 55th in the D-League draft. Riding the pine for the first few months there, he suddenly explodes with a 31-game run that culminates in D-League playoff MVP status.  Standard, right?  I’ll hedge my bets and put him at the end of the first round.


Kevin’s Big Board, #31 – 40 (or, the tier where the Cavs pick their 2nd rounders)

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

It’s draft week!  After months of guessing and waiting, the climax is here!  The next pieces of this Cavalier puzzle are en route.  The possibilities seem endless, with rumors galore.  Finally today, I reach the tier of interesting players for the Cavs with their second round picks.  Let’s sort thru, before I make my officially sanctioned recommendations for picks #31 and #33 (non-trade edition).