Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hornets win the 2012 NBA Draft Lottery

The 2012 NBA Draft is less than a month and tonight was the NBA Draft Lottery to determine the exact order of picks 1 to 14.  Although the Charlotte Bobcats had the best odds to secure the No. 1 pick for the right to draft Kentucky's Anthony Davis, they came in second.

For  playoff teams, their record determined their order in the draft from 15 to 30.

Here are results of the NBA lottery:

1. New Orleans Hornets
2. Charlotte Bobcats
3. Washington Wizards
4. Cleveland Cavaliers
5. Sacramento Kings
6. Brooklyn Nets (Portland Trail Blazers will make this pick)
7. Golden State Warriors
8. Toronto Raptors
9. Detroit Pistons
10. New Orleans Hornets
11. Portland Trail Blazers
12. Milwaukee Bucks
13. Phoenix Suns
14. Houston Rockets

I will update my NBA mock draft within the next few hours.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Eastern Conference Finals Prediction: Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics

Philadelphia had a nice run, but it will be the Celtics that will fly to Miami to face the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. Fortunately for Boston, Miami will be without Dexter Pittman for the first two games of the series, so the Heat will have to rely more on LeBron James and D-Wade to carry the load.

In all seriousness, the status of Chris Bosh could potentially be a factor in the series.  Without him, many thought the Heat would struggle to get by Indiana.

As it turns out, just when many were ready to pronounce Miami dead, LeBron and Wade stepped up their game, and showed why they have been the favorite to win the NBA Championship all year.  The third quarter of Game Four was about as flawless as a duo can play.  It may as well have been two on five out there, and that still wasn't enough to stop them.  The key to their success was that they were not just playing isolation basketball, they were playing together and they were taking it to the basket, rather than settling for a contested mid-range jumper or a deep three with the shot clock winding down.

Boston has played like typical Boston this year.

When it matters, they still have it in them to turn it on, and they know what it takes to win a championship.  Still, they are getting too old to play that kind of ball night after night.  They struggled mightily on offensive against Philadelphia, and it's not going to get any easier against Miami, whose athleticism is a tremendous asset in helping them play real lockdown defense.  The biggest question for Boston will be if they can score enough to stay in games this series.

Historically, LeBron James has struggled with the Celtics, but recent history (last year's playoff series), tells a different story than a few years ago.  LeBron was awesome and played outstanding in the fourth quarter of those games, helping his team to get by Boston pretty easily in five games.

This year, I believe it will be more of the same.  Boston has showed resiliency to get back to the Conference Finals, and it's clear that this group wants to make another run at a title, but they are simply overmatched.  In a seven-game series, the better team is usually going to win, and Miami is simply the better team.

It's easy to lose sight of how good the Heat are because the expectations are so high.  They haven't challenged Jordan's Bulls' 70-win season, they fell behind two games to one in the second round of the playoffs against Indiana, a team with no real stars.  But at the end of the day, the first year they got together, they made the NBA Finals (knocking off the Celtics and MVP-led Bulls) and came up just short.  In this, their second year, they're back in the conference finals, and pretty heavy favorites to reach the NBA Finals once again.

LeBron is the best player on the planet, and regardless of who surrounds him, and whether you like him or not, his team is going to be among the contenders to win it all for years to come.  They made the Finals last year, and I believe they're going back again this year.  I don't expect the Eastern Conference Finals to be as close as the Western Finals.  I like Miami to jump out to a 2-0 series lead, then likely split in Boston, and close it out at home.

So I'm picking the Heat to win in 5 and set up a highly anticipated matchup with either the Spurs or Thunder (see my pick in that series).

Prediction: Miami in five games

[Editor's note: This post is by John Trifone (@JohnnyT0122), who also contributes at our NFL site: Eat, Drink and Sleep Football (see John's archives).]

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Hanson: 2012 NBA Mock Draft, 2.0

With just slightly more than a month before the 2012 NBA Draft, I updated the first round of my mock draft.

The NBA lottery will be held on May 30th, which means the order will (likely) change and I will update my mock at that point to reflect that change and then at least weekly until the NBA Draft.

Here is how I see things shaking out:

1. Charlotte Bobcats: Anthony Davis, PF, Kentucky

This is such a no-brainer pick that, as Kyle Baillargeon points out in his mock, GM Michael Jordan "can't mess this up."

2. Washington Wizards: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky

Aside from his outside shooting, there are virtually no holes in Kidd-Gilchrist's game. MKG is a tough-minded, versatile defender with good size and strength on the wing. With intangibles, leadership and a great feel for the game, MKG will make his teammates better.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andre Drummond, PF/C, UConn

Drummond has the ability and physical tools to dominate yet the propensity to disappear at times as well. With plenty of upside, Drummond has the size, strength and athleticism to contribute right away on the defensive end but is a work-in-progress on the offensive end.

4. New Orleans Hornets: Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas

Like Drummond, Robinson has good strength, size and athleticism. Unlike Drummond, there is no questioning Robinson's motor and his offensive game is much more advanced.

5. Sacramento Kings: Bradley Beal, SG, Florida

Both of my counterparts -- Kyle Baillargeon (view mock) and Brendan Donahue (view mock) -- have Beal going within the top three picks as do many other sites. If he is still on the board at this spot, Beal gives the Kings a shooter with great range and a good all-around offensive game.

6. Portland Trail Blazers: Austin Rivers, SG, Duke

Rivers, the son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers, can provide the Blazers with instant offense. Many of Portland's guards become free agents or can opt out this year: Nicolas Batum, Jamal Crawford, Raymond Felton and Johnny Flynn.

7. Golden State Warriors: Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina

Barnes did himself no favors in the tournament, but I don't have him slipping as far as Kyle has in his mock. Barnes has plenty of offensive skill, but often settles for jumpers and does not get to the line as much as you would expect for a wing player with his size and strength.

8. Toronto Raptors: John Henson, PF, North Carolina

Although he needs to add strength and bulk to his frame, Henson is an NBA-ready defensive player with the wingspan (7-foot-4) and athleticism to alter, affect and block plenty of shots. He will need to continue to improve his game offensively, however, but he has continued to improve on the offensive end at Carolina.

9. Detroit Pistons: Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State

Returning for his sophomore season means Sullinger will likely be selected (much) lower than he would have been in 2011. While he is not the most athletic player (or tallest for his position), Sullinger has great strength, polished moves in the post and was a dominant rebounder in college.

10. New Orleans Hornets: Jeremy Lamb, SG, UConn

Lamb has all the physical tools to be successful at the next level and he led the Huskies in scoring with the departure of Kemba Walker. That said, Lamb disappeared at times for a team that was a major disappointment given its talent and expectations.

11. Portland Trail Blazers: Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina

A skilled seven-footer, Zeller improved his game in all four seasons in Chapel Hill posting career highs across the board last year: 16.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 0.9 steals per game with 55.3 percent from the field and 80.8 percent from the line.

12. Milwaukee Bucks: Perry Jones, PF, Baylor

One of the more naturally-gifted players in the draft, Jones has the length and athleticism you can't coach. On the other hand, Jones has been often criticized, and rightfully so, for his inconsistent motor.

13. Phoenix Suns: Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina

With Steve Nash, the former "MP3," about become a free agent, the Suns may need to find his replacement. Marshall is arguably the best point guard in this year's draft class.

14. Houston Rockets: Terrence Jones, PF, Kentucky

Jones, who was a point guard early in high school, has the versatility to play and defend a variety of positions due to his length and athleticism.

15. Philadelphia 76ers: Arnett Moultrie, PF/C, Mississippi State

After sitting out a year since he transferred from UTEP, Moultrie averaged a double-double (16.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game) for the Bulldogs last year. Athletic with a high motor, Moultrie would fit well with the athletic Sixers squad.

Click here to see picks 16-30.

For more mock drafts, check out our mock draft database.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Western Conference Finals Prediction: San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

[Editor's note: This post is by John Trifone (@JohnnyT0122), who also contributes at our NFL site: Eat, Drink and Sleep Football (see John's archives).  John was a believer in the Spurs back in February; read below to see if that's still the case.]

This looks to be the best match up of the entire playoffs.  The Spurs have not lost a game since April 11, and more than that, haven't been challenged in many of their wins.  So far in the playoffs, they easily disbursed of the Jazz in the first round, and just kept rolling against the Clippers, who played very well in the first round to oust Memphis.  Even after falling behind by 24 points into the 2nd quarter of game 3, they went on to destroy LA for the remainder of the game, and won by double digits.

The Spurs look like the perfect team.  Tim Duncan is playing like he's 28 again, Tony Parker is having an outstanding season at the point, and they have few, if any, weaknesses.  They have a great coach, a deep bench, and play unbelievable team basketball.  They always seem to find the open man, and everyone on the floor is a reliable shooter.

The Thunder, on the other hand, have been pretty impressive in their own right.  I do think they have looked more vulnerable, as they have been in several very close games that could have gone either way.  In the first round of the playoffs, they swept Dallas, but realistically, could have easily gone down 0-2 at home.  In the second round, they blew the doors off against the Lakers in Game 1, but the next three contests could have, and maybe should have, gone to the Lakers.  Game 2, for example, had the Lakers leading by seven with just two minutes to go.  The flip side of the argument, of course, is that they keep finding ways to win these close games, which, of course, they have.

Clearly, Oklahoma City knows how to play well down the stretch and has several guys that can close.  While Durant is the biggest star on the team, Russell Westbrook and James Harden are perfectly capable of taking a game over when necessary, which makes it more difficult for defenses.  If you double up on Durant, you're looking at potentially leaving another stud with an open look.

While the Spurs and Thunder are a combined 16-1 in the playoffs thus far, this one certainly doesn't look like it's going to be a short series.  I'd guess that most people will be calling for a seven-game series and virtually flipping a coin on the winner.

Durant and Westbrook are the youthful superstars and future of the NBA, while the Spurs, though much less sexy, have pretty clearly been the best team in basketball for the last two months.  I think that the Thunder are a formidable opponent, but I just can't see them beating San Antonio.  In fact, I believe the Spurs will win in 5.

OKC has been a little inconsistent at times, and sometimes just start throwing up three-pointers in an attempt to make a quick run.  I don't think that's going to fly against the Spurs, and if the Thunder fall behind after three quarters, I don't expect them to be able to make the kind of runs they've made in the past in this series against San Antonio.  Don't get me wrong, OKC is incredibly athletic, they're fairly deep, they have some size, and they have multiple threats to score.  But Poppovich always seems to come up with a good scheme and I definitely give the Spurs the coaching advantage.  I also feel that the Spurs are so consistent that if OKC gets sloppy from time to time during the game, the Spurs will take advantage.  Ultimately, I like the Spurs to continue the amazing run they're on and advance to the NBA Finals over Oklahoma City.

Prediction: San Antonio in 5

Monday, May 21, 2012

VIDEO: Parody of Stephen A. Smith on SNL

If you missed the parody of ESPN's Stephen A. Smith on Saturday Night Live this weekend, it was pretty funny.

Here is the video: