Archive for April, 2013

Links to the Present: April 30, 2013

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

“One name that makes sense is former Cavs guard Eric Snow, who was an assistant under Larry Brown at SMU this past season. He doesn’t have vast coaching experience, but he seems like he’d be a Brown-type guy. He’s disciplined, hard-working and no-nonsense. Snow, a Canton native, played for the Cavs from 2004-08. The Cavs could keep one of the holdovers from Coach Byron Scott’s staff — Jamahl Mosley or Nate Tibbetts — or perhaps Canton Charge coach Alex Jensen. One former player who likely called Brown is ex-Cavs forward Donyell Marshall, who is living in the Cleveland area. He coached in the NBA Development League two years ago.” [Bob Finan - The News Herald]

“It was a stunning admission, even from a man as emotional as Dan Gilbert.” [Marla Ridenour - Akron Beacon Journal]

“The Cavs are interested in Oden, but I’m not sure if that interest is going to translate into a deal _ and certainly not before this summer’s free-agent signing period begins in July. Oden will have other suitors, and he may go to the highest bidder, which probably won’t be the Cavs. A lot will depend on what happens between now and then, especially with regard to the NBA lottery and draft and, perhaps, trades.” [Mary Schmitt Boyer - The Plain Dealer]

“So frustrated did the Cavs owner become that after the Cavs 113-103 loss to visiting Denver on Feb. 9, Gilbert tweeted, “We have made good progress recently but when the Cleveland Cavaliers arrive back to the top tier of the NBA we will be a DEFENSIVE 1st team.” This came during the team’s best month of the season.” [Mary Schmitt Boyer - The Plain Dealer]

“Dan Gilbert explicitly called firing Brown three years ago a mistake, though it seems most people still think he was right to do it back then. My feelings that summer were mostly of despair. I didn’t think LeBron was going to come back, and I doubted any other coach would be as good for the Cavaliers as Mike Brown. I didn’t like the firing then, but I believe I was in the minority.” [David Zavac - Fear The Sword]

What’s next: His contract is up and if Scott were still the coach, the plan was supposedly to let him test the market. That likely remains the case. But there’s little doubt Livingston is Brown’s kind of guy. Consider it 50-50 that he returns.” [Sam Amico - Fox Sports Ohio]

Of players involved in more than 10% of the Cavaliers possessions, Shaun Livingston fared best in raw plus minus.

Free Agent List by Team

Commentariat: choose 1 free agent you would like the Cavs to pursue, and provide your ideal (try to be realistic) contract details.  I’ll start: DeMarre Carroll: 4 years @ 2 million a year.  He was given the most opportunity to contribute in February, where he averaged slightly over 20 minutes a night.  During that stretch he posted an ORTG and DRTG of 109.6 and 95.3, respectively.  His per-minute numbers stuff looks like a slightly more active version of Alonzo Gee.  But based on some advanced statistics, Carroll had a superior season.  He’s also 2 inches taller than Gee and the Cavs are undersized at SG, SF, and PF right now.  I think he could be an upgrade over Gee in Mike Brown’s system and would command a smaller contract.  A 4 year contract would bring him to age 31.

Clearing House

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

While primarily draft-related, let’s start the article addressing other quick topics.

First, the coaching search didn’t proceed exactly as anticipated, but at the end of the day (literally, one day), I feel much better about Mike Brown as Coach than Byron Scott.

Next, regarding the vague whispers of trade-talk, I hope the team stands pat.  It seems the storm has been weathered, and next season the wounds begin to heal.  I want to see the current core of players lead that charge.  Here are five indisputable facts about the 2012 – 2013 Cleveland Cavaliers:

  1. Kyrie Irving represented the team as the NBA’s youngest All-Star.
  2. Tristan Thompson turned 22 in March, works tirelessly, and of 72 qualified power forwards last season, he ranked 27th for PER.  I won’t be placing even-money bets on multiple All-Star appearances from TT yet, but last season reflected great progress from the second-year forward.
  3. In the 33 games from January 1st until his injury on March 18th, Dion Waiters averaged twenty-points per thirty-six minutes.  His PER climbed to 16.3, his Offensive Rating hit 104, with usage of 26.6 (those numbers thanks to the esteemed Randall Cooper of laughingcavs.com).  Once Dion quit routinely hoisting off-balance jumpers and instead persistently attacked, his age-21 performance compares reasonably with several other recent guards**.  A list includes: James Harden – 16.4 PER, 119 orating, 19.5 usage; Eric Gordon – 14.1 PER, 107 ORtg, 21.5 usage;  Russell Westbrook – 17.8 PER, 105 ORtg, 25.7 usage; Dwyane Wade (age 22) – 17.6 PER, 101 ORtg, 25 usage; Jamal Crawford, 15.3 PER, 102 ORtg, 21.5 usage; J.R. Smith – 15.6 PER, 112 ORtg, 22.8 usage.  Not saying he will match all of those guys, but the Dion we saw in 2013 performed admirably.
  4. The franchise picks top-six in this year’s draft and continues to carry-forward the NBA’s most future draft picks.
  5. Their salary cap situation is as favorable as any team in the League, with no guaranteed contracts in 2014 – 2015.

Give Mike Brown’s defense one year, stir in 60 games of Varejao, sign four respectable bench players this off-season, and let’s play ball.  I want to see these youngsters do work next year.

Porter swings it to Kyrie in the corner! The Bottom!

Certainly in my scenario, the team’s second high-profile addition (after Mike Brown) is the guaranteed top-six pick.  So who are my early favorites for the Cavs?

  1. Nerlens Noel sits atop everyone’s draft board.  Big and cat-quick, he is a fierce shot blocker that will play the entirety of his rookie season at 19 years old.  Considered an amazing athlete with a great attitude, the only thing more outstanding is his flat-top.  Either he or Tristan would need to develop a jumper.
  2. Here’s the thing about Otto Porter…what are the odds that he is available regardless of where the Cavs pick?  Because I have talked myself into some Otto Porter.  The two teams with worse records than Cleveland, Charlotte picked MKG last year, and Orlando traded for a 2011 (Tobias Harris) and 2012 (Moe Harkless) first-round small forward.  So they are both out of the running, right?  There is a 40% chance that a different team jumps all three of these squads.  In that scenario, three of the maximum five picks ahead of the Cavs aren’t picking Porter.  Draftexpress ranks the Otto-bahn at sixth, and David Thorpe argues for Trey Burke at #1.  If Porter was a near-lock to Cleveland in the top-five, I would be stoked.  I noted on Friday that Kevin Pelton’s projections consider Porter to be the second-most successful rookie.  Turning twenty in June, he is younger than freshmen Ben McLemore and Anthony Bennett.  A box-score stuffer, he posted a nightly line of 16 points, almost 3 assists, 7.5 rebounds, 1 block, and nearly 2 steals on 48 / 42 / 78 shooting.  Questions abound regarding his ability to be the go-to guy, but Cleveland doesn’t need that anyways.  A big, no-nonsense wing that rebounds, moves the ball well (of 94 small forwards in draftexpress’s database, his Pure Point Rating ranks fifth), plays defense, and knocks down jumpers?  Yes, please.    That is almost the prototype of the small forward to place amongst Irving, Waiters and Thompson.
  3. Described as a gym-rat, and universally acknowledged as the NCAA’s best-wing defender last year, Victor Oladipo finds himself third on my list.  According to draftexpress, nearly two-thirds of Oladipo’s shots come at the rim; his jumpers are typically of the catch-and-shoot variety.  Is Tom Crean preaching an all threes and layups diet, or is Oladipo a student of basketball efficiency?  Converting 60% of his field goals, the young junior averaged 14 points with an impressive offensive rating of 122 (best on this short-list) on respectable 22% usage.  Not a player that creates well off-the-dribble, fortunately like Porter, this isn’t what the Cavs are lacking.  A relentless defender that can shut-down the opponent’s best perimeter player, knock down open-shots, and finish spectacularly…checks enough boxes for me.
  4. Starting here, the Cavs start facing interesting positional dilemmas.  Anthony Bennett traditionally gets assigned to power forward, just like our boy Tristan (he’s also Canadian.  Are the Canucks going to be an absolute international force in the 2020’s?)  A knock on Bennett is his height of 6’ – 7” in shoes.  On the bright-side, he is an uber-athlete, capable of handling the ball with both hands, and also knocking-down 38% from long-range.  Tallying a 16 & 8, with PER of 28 as a freshman facing a reasonably difficult schedule, if desired, could he pair with Thompson?  Would this be the best all-Canadian front-line ever?  Can the Cavs sign Tiago Splitter and trot-out an all Brazilian / Canadian front-line next year?  I lost focus there…let’s just answer the first question.  I say yes; on Wednesday I watched Oklahoma City play a line-up of Russell Westbrook, Reggie Jackson, Derek Fisher, Kevin Martin and Nick Collison.  That’s the NBA’s second-best team…playing three point-guards at once…in the playoffs.  Teams are pushing boundaries.  If Bennett proves his shooting is legit, he and Tristan could play twelve minutes per night together as a small, fast tandem.  Given his limited-height and outstanding athleticism, if the team employed a center with passing skills, could Bennett play small forward for twelve minutes a night?  In the last five years, the Lakers showed that championships can still be won by “going big”.  Anyways, if bad lottery-luck besets the Cavs, snagging Bennett as consolation appeases me.
  5. I am putting Alex Len at number five, but at this point, I start getting less excited and would have to think about trading down-or-out (edit: or pushing hard to move-up and snag Porter); maybe another team is mega-excited about Trey Burke.  The Ukranian Maryland sophomore turns twenty in June.  A legitimately long seven-footer, he receives praise for him nimble movement, quick feet, and above-the-rim play.  His block rate ranked fourth in the ACC, where he finished with 12 points and 8 rebounds on 57% true shooting.  ESPN lists his ceiling as Zydrunas, a 16 & 8 guy and two-time All-Star; also a player with great familiarity in Cleveland.  Of course, Len’s floor is Darko Milicic.  My concerns begin with a potential lack of aggressiveness from him; his defensive rebounding rate ranks ninth of eleven centers that draftexpress expects to see selected this year.  And while his teammates deserve much blame, what sort of top-notch second-year center prospect doesn’t lead his team to the NCAA tourney?  Forging towards an exit in the NIT semifinals, Len averaged 11 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks.  He needs to keep getting stronger, and if he reaches Ilgauskas’ level, there are certainly worse outcomes from number five picks.
  6. Going six-deep, and ignoring Trey Burke (don’t need Kyrie’s back-up in the top-five), Ben McLemore assumes the worst-case scenario for Cleveland’s lottery pick.  Not that “worst-case” is a bad thing when talking the better-half of the lottery.  A gravity-defying highlight factory, he also canned 42% from deep (50 / 42 / 87); his sweet stroke draws comparisons to Ray Allen.  Despite this, he draws a rep as not possessing the killer-instinct; over his last six collegiate games in the Big Twelve and NCAA tourneys, he averaged 12 points on 45% from the field, with nine total assists against fifteen turnovers.  My inclination is that he is a complimentary player, not a star, and this freshman is only nine months younger than Oladipo, a junior.  On offense and defense, a reasonable goal for McLemore would be to reach Oladipo’s level in nine months…hence, the Hoosier at #3 and the Jayhawk at #6.

That’s it for today.  Hopefully the Cavs can pick Porter in June, sign-up a solid bench in July, then start rolling in October.

** – In 2011, Basketball-reference published an article equating offensive rating with usage. Based on that research, and normalizing each of these shooting guards to 25 usage, their respective Offensive Ratings at age 21 were: Harden, 113; Smith, 110; Westbrook, 105.5; Waiters, 105 (after January 1); Gordon, 1o3.5; Wade, 101; Crawford, 98.5.  Waiters needs to keep working on his shot, his body / explosiveness, and watching a lot of tape of himself while off-the-ball on offense & defense.  And he will be just fine.

Cavs: The Blog Calling

Friday, April 26th, 2013

If writing about basketball for free is your sort of thing, drop me a line at colinsilasmcgowan [at] gmail [dot] com. We feel like we need another writer on staff to cover the draft, free agency, and 2013-14 season, and that could be [wipes spit from side of mouth, looks into camera] you! To apply, let me know why you think you’re cut out to write for the blog and, if you have them, give me a couple clips you’re proud of. What we can’t offer in payment we can offer in… hugs? If you fly to Chicago and put yourself up in a hotel, I will hug you, if you really want that. I’m skinny and sorta weak-armed. It won’t be a great hug, probably. At any rate, just email me if you want to join this ragtag operation. We promise it’ll be fun.

Links to the Present: Early, off-season trade rumors

Friday, April 26th, 2013

So what are we talking here? Tyler Zeller and the Lakers pick? It's a deal.

I don’t have anything particular to say about these recent rumors, and don’t want to write a thousand words about it anyways.

One is an unflattering take on Cleveland’s fantasy to obtain LaMarcus Aldridge. To summarize, the theme is that the Cavs are doomed.

And Chris Broussard at ESPN says Cleveland is eyeing Kevin Love and Aldridge, due to the franchise’s poorly kept secret that they want to lure LBJ back in 2014 (insider content).   Ummmm…that’s a lot to chew on, too.

Barring details of what comprises these imaginary mega-deals, I’d rather think about the draft.  Kevin Pelton thinks that Otto Porter is worth 3+ WARP next year; slightly less than expected from Love or Aldridge, but it is a reality that I can comprehend.

Sorry about the limited opinion here.  Next week, I promise some draft related content.  Hopefully twice.

Commenters, make sense of it all.

The Pain of this City Drives Me

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Welcome Back, Coach. Z's your boss now.

Lots of content today – and it’s all worth reading/listening.  Please read Colin’s piece and listen to our podcast.

I was fortunate to tune into the Cavs press conference and I wanted to highlight some things.  There is no real format here, I just want to sit down in a comfortable arm-chair, sip some coffee, and let you know how I received this press conference welcoming Mike Brown back into the organization.  Here is the Plain Dealer breakdown.

(more…)

Cavs: The Podcast 0030 – Welcome Back!

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Holy calamity, what a way to kick off the off-season!  Who could’ve possibly seen this coming?  I have a sneaking suspicion this is just the beginning of what should be a very, very exciting off-season.

With such huge news breaking everyone at C:tB had a lot to say on the subject of the new/old Cavs coach.  Colin, Tom, Nate, and I hopped on the line and discussed the Cavs’ decision to rehire Mike Brown and what that means for the Cavaliers.  As you’d expect, opinions were all over the place on this one.

As always, we’re on SoundCloud at: https://soundcloud.com/cavstheblog/0030-welcome-back

And on iTunes at:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/cavs-the-podcast/id528149843?mt=2

Links to the Present: John Kuester Edition

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

UPDATE: Mike Brown claims he has NOT reached out to any assistants.

https://twitter.com/PDcavsinsider/status/327136225288933377

John Kuester will re-join the Cavaliers.  Boy is this moving quickly, and in plenty of time for the staff to meet with Chris Grant and the analytics department to go over draft scenarios.

https://twitter.com/SamAmicoFSO/statuses/327091453044076548

Just to re-iterate, the Cavaliers, in 2008-2009, won 66 games, and sported the 4th most efficient offense in the NBA.  They did this, despite doling out 4000 minutes to Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic, rookies J.J. Hickson and Darnell Jackson, Lorenzen Wright, and Tarence Kinsey.

More from Amico:

“Brown, officially introduced as the Cavs’ coach Wednesday, will add former Detroit coach John Kuester and former L.A. Lakers assistant Kyle Triggs to his staff, a source told FOX Sports Ohio. Nate Tibbetts and Jamahl Mosley will be retained from Byron Scott’s staff, the source added.  Bernie Bickerstaff, who took over for Brown briefly with the Lakers earlier this season, could also be added in an advisory/coaching role.”

“[Jamahl] Mosley has spent the last two years working with power forward Tristan Thompson and was vital in the player’s progress between his rookie and sophomore campaigns.” [Scott @ WFNY]

Link to the Past:

http://www.cleveland.com/cavs/index.ssf/2008/12/brown_credits_assistant_kueste.html

The Problem with Old Friends

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

First, stop yelling at and snarking on each other. It baffles me how supercilious some of us are acting about a decision of which we don’t yet know the impact. Clog your miserable hate-spittle hole for a second and let other people have their opinions. They’re every bit as valid as yours, given that Mike Brown hasn’t even been properly introduced to his players yet. Shouting down everyone who disagrees with you doesn’t make you right, just unpleasant to be around.

With that out of the way, here’s a short history of Mike Brown’s head coaching career, though you probably don’t need one: during Brown’s first stint in Cleveland, he was a great defensive coach whose teams were markedly uncreative on the offensive side of the ball, especially in late-game scenarios. (Here’s where Tom goes “Except for the ’08-’09 season,” and I’m all “Be quiet, Tom; you’re disrupting the narrative.”)  It’s overstating the problem to say Brown didn’t run plays, but he and his assistants failed to create a recognizable and recognizably effective system—say, like the Spurs have used for the past few years—and it seemed that during fourth quarter timeouts, Brown just drew pictures of LeBron James equipping a jetpack and rocketing over the defense for a dunk while Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison were left wondering if they could possibly do anything to help. Brown helped the Cavs become a perennial title contender as LeBron entered his prime in the late 00s, then he got canned by the Cavs after the team’s bizarre implosion in the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals. After that, Brown—actually, why don’t we just slap a big ol’ C-minus on his brief Lakers tenure? Now he’s back in Cleveland to coach a team that barely resembles the one he left behind a few years ago.

The fact that, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably didn’t need the above primer on Brown is sort of the problem. He’s not an alluring coaching prospect precisely because we’re already acquainted with his stagnant offenses and habit of squinting into middle distance. (Puzzlement is never a good look for a supposed leader of men.) Whenever Mike Brown makes a Mike Brown face, we’ll remember the Cavs’ various LeBron Era playoff flameouts and feel a bit sick. We’ll do the same thing if Kyrie Irving is running Bron-esque isolations at the end of tight games. Nevermind if some relatively unknown assistant the Cavs could have hired—let’s call him Matt Green—were to make these same sorts of mistakes and heartburn-afflicted facial expressions. If and when Mike Brown screws up, our reaction is going to be the kind of angry you get at a friend who, no matter how many times you talk to him about it, can’t help but arrive to any meetup an hour late. We’re biased against familiar incompetence; Matt Green’s deficiencies would be more excusable because they would at least be a surprise. It would be harder to blame management for not anticipating Matt Green’s ineptitude in performing any number of tasks head coaches are responsible for, than if Mike Brown’s second Cavs’ tenure falls flat in a typically Mike Brown way.

This set of biases leads some of us to make our very own Mike Brown faces at the Mike Brown hire, but I also don’t think we’re being overemotional and that these biases don’t matter. More to the point: the organization is willfully hiring someone they know is a sub-par offensive coach and hoping that he’s either become more inventive—Brown’s Lakers tenure would seem to undermine that assumption—or can pair himself with a great assistant who will figure out how to use the Cavs’ uniquely talented backcourt and jumpshot-averse frontcourt. The Cavs’ front office must also know that Brown was routinely outflanked during his first run with the Cavs by smart opposing coaches who seemed much better than he was at making in-game adjustments, and that Brown didn’t exactly command the respect of the last two superstars he coached. These are whatever you want to call them: red flags, areas of concern, out-and-out weaknesses.

(I don’t want to get into Mike Brown’s hiring and its impact on LeBron’s possible return. I don’t think it’s an irrelevant question to ask—we’re talking about the best player since Jordan—but those of us outside of LeBron’s inner circle and the Cavs’ front office can’t speak with even a modicum of certainty on the matter. This won’t stop certain media types whose entire business is speculation-as-content, but it will at least stop me.)

Mike Brown’s a fine coach, and anyone bemoaning this hire as a disaster is ignoring the work Brown did in hammering the late-00s Cavs into one of the league’s best defensive teams. What irks me most about this whole ordeal isn’t the end result, but the process and its rapidity. Whether my perception mirrors reality or otherwise, it appears Dan Gilbert threw a tantrum, sacked Byron Scott, and felt like he needed to lock down Mike Brown immediately, without considering anyone else save Phil Jackson, who was always going to be a long shot. What Gilbert and the rest of the organization have lost in deciding not to interview anyone else for the job is the opportunity to inject new ideas and perspectives into the organization. The interviewing process isn’t just for finding the right coaching candidate, but for picking various basketball minds. Did the Cavs need to be dead certain they got Mike Brown at the expense of sitting down with someone like David Fizdale or Mo Cheeks? It strikes me as small-minded to not even consider other candidates. Brown isn’t such an impressive coach that the team needed to buck protocol and make a quick hire.

We’re all having strong reactions to this decision because we know this hire has to work out if the team doesn’t want to take out a timeshare in the lottery or be forced to bottom out all over again in a few years. The next couple of seasons will be determinative in terms of the direction this rebuild is going to take, and the head coach is going to have a significant effect on the team’s improvement or arrested development. Mike Brown’s the man who’ll get the blame or the plaudits, and we can argue about whether that’s a good thing, but I wonder most of all if this needed to happen as swiftly as it did.

Links to the Present: Say It Ain’t So Edition

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

BREAKING: Chris Broussard of ESPN reports that the Cavs are in contract negotiations with Mike Brown, which must make Jim Buss family thrilled that he won’t have to pay Mike Brown all that money next year.

Jason Lloyd of the Beacon Journal reports that they have reached a “handshake agreement” on a new deal.

Here’s to more end of game isolations, missed adjustments, role confusion, and Mr. Potato head jokes.  I need a drink.

Note: The opinions expressed in this post do not reflect those of the rest of the staff at CavsTheBlog, the TrueHoop network, the blindly optimistic, or their affiliates.

Draft & Coach-Search Talk

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

First, a quick note regarding the coaching search.  While Mike Brown is a fine coach, I hope the climax of this endeavor is not him returning.  I have crossed-my-fingers hoping for a top-name in assistant coaching; once upon a time, Greg Popovich and Phil Jackson received their big break, right?  We recently witnessed a Byron Scott-coached team repeat a miniature cycle similar to his prior two stints: All-Star point guard; quick rise to prominence; equally rapid plummet accompanied by whispers of locker-room dissent.  Well Mike Brown, while also a former coach-of-the-year and NBA Finalist, lists on his resume two experiences of being run-out-of-town to appease a superstar.  If hiring Brown, do we witness history repeat itself five years from now, with the Cavs panic-hiring an ex-Laker B.S. (Brian Shaw) in order to placate a potentially evasive superstar? A lot of hypothetical there, but I don’t care to explore that parallel universe.  I’ve seen the prequel.   So, hire Mike Malone, Brian Shaw, etc; I have cast my vote. 

(Edit: According to ESPN, the Sunday night dinner meeting between Dan Gilbert, Mike Brown and Chris Grant “went well…(Brown) is the only coach they are currently pursuing.”  So, that’s interesting.

This guy looks familiar to me, but I can't put my finger on where I've seen him before.

The other big storyline of the spring is the upcoming draft.  Cleveland looks towards June 27th with the third-best lottery odds, as well as the 19th, 31st and 33rd picks.  As an intro to the upcoming ten weeks, a perusal of their options is in order.  Starting with the lottery pick…

Cleveland’s odds stack-up to a 96% chance of picking in the top-five, 47% likelihood of selecting top-three, with 16% of choosing at the top.  There are basically only two options here, right?

  1. Pick a top prospect.  My current “big board” goes: Noel, Porter, Oladipo, Bennett, McLemore.  Hitting the fifty-fifty proposition of a first-three pick would be awesome.
  2. Trade for Al Horford.  David Zavac discussed this last month at Fear the Sword.  I thought his offer was steep, but if Atlanta wants to tear down and tank for a few years, Cleveland could package the fourth pick, Varejao and spare draft picks for the Hawks’ Center.  Atlanta could parlay one top-five pick in 2013 and a high-lottery choice in the hugely-touted 2014 draft towards an exciting future.  The Cavs pick up a 27-year old All-Star with a reasonable 3 years, $36 million on his contract.

For the other first-rounder, options appear to be:

  1. If the likely first scenario from above is taken, my preference is to not bring-on another rookie for next season.  The team needs to keep bolstering the young talent pool, but a combined push towards adding experience is also in order.  A Euro could be picked as a draft-and-stash.
  2. If the lottery-pick is traded, then selecting a 2013 – 2014 newcomer at #19 is a solid option.  As a Euro looking to come to the NBA next season, I can envision talking myself into Sergey Karasev of Russia.  A 19-year old small forward with sweet scoring and passing skills and an accomplished start to his teenaged Euro-career, he is vaguely reminiscent of Evan Fournier.  Last year, I declared Fournier a late lottery pick, and based on early returns, that looks pretty solid.
  3. Trade the pick.  In 2011, San Antonio looked to get younger, more athletic, and less expensive.  Indiana possessed cap-space to burn and needed to get a tad more battle-tested.  George Hill and Kawhi Leonard crossed paths and both teams met their goals.  Last week, I mentioned OKC as potentially willing to roll-the-dice swapping a $4 million role player for a $1.5 million first-rounder, provided there is someone they really like.  Over the course of this season, on a few occassions, I mentioned Portland as a team that should look to make a trade.  They:  are not a playoff team; have $45 million in annual salary commitments for the next two seasons; and dealt away a future first rounder.  Of the ten Western Conference teams finishing ahead of them, six have definitely or arguably better young cores at their disposal.  Is this incarnation of the Trail Blazers maxed-out as future first-round playoff fodder?  Perhaps they should trade Wes Matthews & LaMarcus Aldridge, keep Damian Lillard and Nic Batum, tank for the 2014 draft and start building a contender for 2019.  The Cavs are way under the cap and could take Matthews off their hands.
  4. Trade the lottery pick and nineteen to move up a slot or two.

Finally, the second rounders.  Obviously combining picks and trading up, or Euro-stashing remain options, but my early preference with those picks is take two players, and let them hover between the D-League and end-of-the-bench (depending on injuries) for 2013 – 2014.  Even while trading second rounders in 2011 and 2012, the team brought in a bevy of undrafted rookies.  As of today, my preference is draft the lottery pick, trade #19, sign four reliable, veteran free-agents to fill roster spots one through twelve, and go into next season with the 13th, 14th, and 15th men as Kevin Jones, and the thirty-first and thirty-third picks.  Of name’s currently slotted towards the early part of draftexpress’s mock second-round, I am interested in Erick Green, B.J. Young, Mike Muscala, Nate Wolters or Adreian Payne.

Well, there is some kick-off to the draft coverage.  Last year, I was writing heavily about prospects throughout the season; right now, I am late to that game.  Rectifying that serves as a high priority over the next two months, so check back often for in-depth coverage leading to draft day.