Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tour de France update

July 17th Stage 14, the tour de France is more than half completed and the clear winner is still yet to be decided. Stage 12 showed that Contador might not have much left in the reserves to win a fourth tour this year. As the Schleck’s attacked on the last climb of stage 13 and Condator had no response. Contador’s riding has shown that the tour of Italy may really taken a lot of him and ruined his chances for yellow in pairs. While Schleck has played the race smart as well as all of Leopard Trek. The team remains intact which is a rarity in this year’s tour with the horrific crashes that have ended Alexandre Vinokourov’s career (broken femur) as well as American Chris Horner’s, tour campaign. Team RadioShack has been hammered by injuries and crashes. The Radio Shack team came into the tour with 4 viable options to win the tour as well as the ability to win the team classification of the tour but with Chris Horner’s crash has made that goal unattainable. Thomas Voeckler of Europcar is now riding in the yellow jersey after taking it away in stage 8 from Thor and has rode with it for the last six stages. The Pyrenees will certainly cut the real contenders from the pretenders and the race should factor to four riders, Frank and Schleck, Cadel Evans, and Contador. The most likely winner of the tour will not distance themselves from the rest of the field until the high alp stages come and really splinter the race apart. If I had to pick the final podium today it would be the Schleck’s at one and two almost interchangeable at the top and Evans in the 3rd position.

Written by FTS Cycling expert Will Raschke

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Best fit for Minnesota Timberwolves head coaching vacancy

The Minnesota Timberwolves highly publicized, wishy-washy feeling about whether or not to retain head coach Kurt Rambis after two disappointing years came to an end earlier this week. After posting a record of 32-132 during his tenure as the head man for a very young, inexperienced, and immature T-Wolves team, Rambis will not return to the sidelines of the Target Center.

Rambis had great success as an assistant coach under Phil Jackson with the Lakers. The tutelage he received from arguably the greatest coach in professional sports history, and his key role helping the 1980's Lakers teams to four of its' five championships earned him great respect amongst NBA owners and GM's.

Originally, Rambis had said he was going to implement many of the triangle offense teachings he learned while in Los Angeles, but the more I watched the Timberwolves over the past two seasons, the more I saw that Rambis was a very confused coach. The Triangle offense did not match the team that had been constructed around him. This Minnesota team was much too young, and undisciplined to run an offense that requires so much focus, discipline and trust. A lot of times, you could see the players on the court blatantly go away from the Triangle, and do whatever they pleased, which showed in their record.

Rather than adjusting the offense to suit the personnel on his squad, it seemed that Rambis just kind of went through the motions and let his team dictate what went on throughout the game. It is because of those reasons that Rambis is now out of a job after just two years in the Land of 1,000 Lakes.

Here's what Timberwolves GM David Kahn had to say about the situation:

The T-Wolves are one of two teams who have a head coaching vacancy this off-season, here are three of the best options to take over for Rambis:

1. Don Nelson - 3-time NBA Coach of the Year, Most wins as a coach
Years Coached: 31in NBA history
Teams Coached: Bucks, Warriors, Knicks, Mavericks
Regular Season Record: 1335-1063 .557%
Playoff Record: 75-91 .452%
Championships: 0

Nelson is one of the most highly regarded coaches in the history of the NBA. His great resume and knack for being a "players coach" would fit perfectly in Minnesota. The Timberwolves young, dynamic and athletic roster would greatly benefit from the free-flow, uptempo offense that Nelson would implement. Another attribute that Nelson brings is, he won't give minutes to players, "just because", as Rambis did with Darko Milicic. I think the young guys would show respect for Nelson, and the system he would allow them to run. Would it result in more victories? I think it probably would. Would it turn them into a playoff team? No.

2. Rick Adelman - Two time Western Conference Champion
Teams Coached: Trailblazers, Warriors, Kings, Rockets
Years Coached: 20
Regular Season Record: 945-616 .605%
Playoff Record: 79-78 .503%
Championships: 0

Like Nelson, Adelman has a very respected coaching pedigree. He led Portland to two NBA Finals appearances in 1990, and 1992, losing to the Pistons and Bulls, respectively. Some of his finer coaching moments came with the Sacramento Kings in the early 2000's, in which he led his squad into many playoff
battles with the Lakers. Adelman's offense is not nearly as fast break oriented as Nelson's, but he does open up the floor a lot for pick and rolls, back-cuts, and pulling his bigs' to the high-post to create. With a very athletic team, Adelman's of
fense is sure to catch on quickly.

3. Lawrence Frank
Teams Coached: Nets
Years Coached: 7
Regular Season Record: 225-241 .483%
Playoff Record: 18-20 .474%
Championships: 0

Frank broke onto the scene with New Jersey in the 2003-04 season. Many people doubted Frank's ability to coach at the NBA level because he had never played the game at that level. After many successful seasons at the helm of the Nets, Frank
was fired after an 0-16 start to the 2009-10 season. Frank's latest coaching job was serving as an assistant to Doc Rivers in Boston, in which he was named the lead assistant after Tom Thibodeau took the head coaching job in Chicago. In New Jersey, Frank ran an uptempo, pick and roll offense much like you would see with the Hornets, or Warriors right now. That type of offense suits the Wolves perfectly, with a lot of athletic big guys, and Spainish PG sensation Ricky Rubio coming over, Frank could be a nice fit in Minny. There have been reports of Frank being the lead candidate for the Pistons head coaching job, as well as the Tennessee head coaching job left vacant by the firing of Bruce Pearl. If those rumors are true, it may be difficult to snatch up Frank.

*all coaching stats are from Basketball-Reference

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Michael Beasley likes to speed, and get caught with marijuana.

Minnesota Timberwolves forward, Michael Beasely, was cited for speeding and possession of marijuana on June 26 in Minnetonka, Minnesota. Beasley was doing 84 mph in a 65 mph zone, and during the same stop, he was cited for having over a a half ounce underneath the front seat of his car.

Beasley said the the "assassin of youth" was not his, but it actually belonged to a friend of his whom he had just dropped off at his respective home.

Beasley has had problems with ganja in the past, and run-in's with the law are nothing new to this former Miami Heat and Kansas State star. When the T-Wolves acquired Beasley from the Heat just about a year ago, Minnesota GM David Kahn had this to say about his newest acquisition:

"He's a very young and immature kid who smoked too much marijuana and has told me he is not smoking anymore, and I told him I would trust him as long as that is the case."

Well, David Kahn, looks like Beasley betrayed your trust; now, what are you going to do about it?

The Timberwolves used the second overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft on a PF (very similar to Beasley) Derrick Williams out of Arizona. With a back log of forwards that include Kevin Love, Anthony Randolph, Wesley Johnson and Brad Miller. With yet another problem with law enforcement, Beasley could be shown the door sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

2011 Tour de France: Days 1-4

The 2011 Tour de France, is a head on collision of two heavy weights of the cycling world. Andy Schleck riding with the pressure of leading his new team Leopard Trek and capturing the yellow jersey that’s eluded him for 2 consecutive years and Alberto Contador, who has had his off the bike incidents with the World Anti Doping Agency. Contador has the experience of winning the tour 3 times

(2 consecutive years), he too also has the pressure of coming to a new team, Saxo Banx Sungard, Schleck’s former team which stated it did not have the money to sign Andy to a longer contract. This single action has created the rivalry that is Andy and Alberto. If Contador can win this year’s TDF he will be compared to the greats of cycling, in the world such as Eddy Merck, Lemond, Armstrong, and Hinualt to name a few of the greats.

July 2nd, the opening stage to the tour was a typical start to the tour, the hustle and energy can only be seen in person. Once the wheels hit the ground the race was anything but normal. With the crash that trapped Alberto Contador behind the main contenders, makes one question what were Saxo Banx’s tactics? Why would you have you’re ace in the back of the peleoton when every other team that has a general classification challenger was in the front of peloton protecting their rider? The crash cost Alberto 39 seconds, which is ironically the same amount he lead Andy Schleck after the chain drop incident of the 2010 tour de France and would eventually drop behind 1:20 off of the yellow jersey worn by Philippe Gilbert. Gilbert rode a brilliant race and blew apart the field within the last 300 meters.

July 3rd, the second stage of the tour was the team trial. A race of truth as the individual time trial is referred to be the legendary Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen. The team trial is the test of deep a team is from top to bottom. This would be a day for the American team Garmin-Cervelo who had never won a stage in the tour. The Garmin team had put all of their efforts into winning this stage even tracking the weather for 4 months prior to the tour, once the tour route was announced. With their effort to win this gave Thor Hushovd the yellow jersey.

July 4th was American Tyler Farrar’s day; Farrar was a question mark for the Garmin Cervelo team after the death of his close friend Wouter Weylandt, who tragically died during a crash in the Tour of Italy. The Garmin team again worked as a well oiled machine as they had the day before during the team time trial. The race started with the Schleck brothers Andy and Frank in the top ten well within the yellow jersey and Alberto Contador having dropped back another 22 seconds to put himself 1:42 seconds behind Thor. There was and still is some thought that Alberto may be able to get close to Andy and be a challenger for the yellow jersey but how much energy will he have to defend the jersey after having to make up the time deficit he’s created for himself this early in the first week of the tour. Alberto would finish 1:38 behind Andy and Thor would retain his yellow jersey.

Stage 4 showed that Alberto still has the legs and the ability to factor in this tour. The race would end on a photo finish with the Australian Cadel Evans stealing victory from Alberto. The finish helped Alberto gain 8 seconds back from the 1:38 he followed Andy by, the reason why there is so much importance on the time difference between Alberto and Contador because these are the two heavy favored winners for this years tour. This attack and attempt to win the stage shouldn’t surprise the cycling community, Contador is man with his back to the wall and will do anything to protect his pride even with doubt creeping in the community questioning if he still has it with all the distractions the looming suspensions and the possibility of having a tour win stripped from him.

My final thoughts after the first 4 days of the tour are that the tour hasn’t been won by anyone just yet but it may have been lost by one Spaniard, with the pride of a nation upon his shoulders.

Written by Five Tool Sports Cycling Expert Will Raschke

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sharks Make Bold But Correct Decision In Trading Dany Heatley

In yet another blockbuster deal, the San Jose Sharks have dealt All-Star forward Dany Heatley to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Martin Havlat. A move many did not expect, the Sharks traded away one of the NHL’s elite goal scorers only two years into his tenure. Heatley was expected to thrive in the powerful Shark offense, feeding off of slick passes from fellow All-Star Joe Thornton, yet he failed to live up to his lofty expectations. Heatley scored 39 goals in his first season, and 26 last year. Over 35 playoff games, he would only net 5 goals. One could never question Heatley’s talent and ability, but his heart has always been an issue. Many feel he does not possess that killer instinct needed to be a dominant force night after night, and after a long grind of 82 games leading into a post-season, that passion and motivation is what carries you to a Stanley Cup. With the Sharks coming off of another disappointing loss in the Western Conference Finals to the Vancouver Canucks, GM Doug Wilson seems to be determined to take his team to the next level, no matter what the cost may be. Dany Heatley departs the Sharks having played in 669 career games with Atlanta, Ottawa, and San Jose. He has 689 points over his 10 year career (325 goals, 364 assists.) The Minnesota Wild get an extreme talent with no heart in their acquisition of “Heater.”

Martin Havlat, a former teammate of Heatley in Ottawa, is a talented veteran wing, and former All-Star, with plenty of postseason experience and success. He has appeared in 67 career Stanley Cup Playoff Games, scoring 49 points, including 28 points in his last 26 games. An 11-year veteran, Havlat has played in Ottawa, Chicago, and Minnesota.

In 621 regular season games, Havlat has earned 512 points (209 goals, 303 assists.) Not the flashy, cocky player Heatley has been known to be, Havlat is a tough nosed forward who comes to life in big moments. This shows true in his Stanley Cup Playoff performances and consistency on the ice. A knock against Havlat is that he is somewhat injury prone, having never played a full 82 game season and missing considerable time over stretches with Ottawa and Chicago. If Havlat can avoid serious injury, his on-ice presence, grittiness and speed will be a welcomed addition to the already potent Shark offense, lead by perennial All-Star Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Ryane Clowe, and talented second-year Forward Logan Couture.

The Sharks have been contenders year after year, yet have always failed to make it over the hump. Over their 20 year existence, they have been in the Stanley Cup Playoffs 14 times, yet have never reached the Stanley Cup Finals. With the acquisitions of top tier defenseman Brent Burns and now Havlat, Doug Wilson and the Sharks are moving in the right direction to change the curse the franchise has faced since its conception, and possibly have the opportunity to hoist their first Stanley Cup. Shark fans throughout hockey have been dying to host the Finals at the Tank, considered to be the loudest arena in all of hockey, and that dream might soon come true.

Written by Five Tool Sports Hockey Analyst Derek Ugland

You can follow him on Twitter: @dsmoothe32

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mock Draft 2.0

There are a lot of trade rumors involving solid veteran players, and coveted draft picks. There are also some promises being made by franchises to players who they will choose to draft, or choose to pass on. With all this going down within the last 24 hours, I decided to do a quick mock update.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving
Analysis: Irving stays at number one, still the best overall prospect in this draft. Has said his foot injury is completely healed, which makes him even more desirable than before.

2. Minnesota Timberwolves: Derrick Williams
Analysis: I think Minnesota is desperate to get rid of this pick for an established veteran player. There were a lot of reports about Minny dealing with the Lakers. Those deals, though very suspect, involved players such as Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Lamar Odom for some kind of package of either #2 pick, Kevin Love, or both. Obviously those were just very loose rumors.

3. Utah Jazz: Brandon Knight
Analysis: I think this pick could be had as well for the right price. A report has it that the Jazz have made Devin Harris available, which means they need a PG, Brandon Knight is the only guy worth taking this early.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Jonas Valanciunas
Analysis: Again, the Cavs are looking to deal this pick, but I doubt they will. There have been a lot of reports lately that the Cavs will take Euro prospect Jonas Valanciunas with this pick. Originally I had Kanter here who is ready to play now in the NBA. Valanciunas has at least two more years of development left overseas, and if the Cavs go in this direction, it doesn't make much sense to me.

5. Toronto Raptors: Enes Kanter
Analysis: In my first mock draft, I had the Raps' taking Bismack Biyombo, but Biyombo has some buyout issues that could cause him to slip. With the Cavs reportedly taking Valanciunas at #4, Kanter falls into Toronto's lap at #5.

6. Washington Wizards: Jan Vesely
Analysis: Vesely stays put at #6 to the Wiz.

7. Sacramento Kings: Kemba Walker
Analysis: The Kings have been rumored to want to deal this pick. They have flirted with San Antonio and a deal for Tony Parker, but the Spurs are trying to force Richard Jefferson into any deal they make. The Kings are not interested in taking back Jefferson.

8. Detroit Pistons: Bismack Biyombo
Analysis: The Pistons worked out Biyombo earlier in the week, and I think they like his athleticism and upside a lot. Biyombo was not invited to the green room when the invitee's were announced, but the NBA has since extended an invite to Biyombo to attend. This has me thinking Detroit is seriously considering Biyombo here.

9. Charlotte Bobcats: Kawhi Leonard
Analysis: I think Leonard is a great fit with Charlotte, and he stays put at #9.

10. Milwaukee Bucks: Klay Thompson
Analysis: I originally had Burks here, but it seems like Thompson has really impressed in Milwaukee.

11. Golden State Warriors: Tristan Thompson
Analysis: Golden State likes Thompson's size and and ability to run the floor. He has good character, size and length. Golden State hopes that Thompson turns out the be better than Brandan Wright.

12. Utah Jazz: Jimmer Fredette
Analysis: I just really want to see Utah rioting.

13. Phoenix Suns: Alec Burks
Analysis: Burks slipped a little bit, but the Suns are glad he did. Burks fits in perfectly in Phoenix.

14. Houston Rockets: Markieff Morris
A lot of teams are high on both Morris twins, I don't see it. I think they are overrated and have bad attitudes, kind of like the O'Bannon brothers.

Friday, June 17, 2011

FTS 2011 NBA Lottery Mock Draft

Always one of my favorite times of the year, the NBA Draft. We get to sit back, relax, and watch numerous teams make tons and tons of mistakes. They pick players who have "good" workouts and expect them to perform the same way in an NBA game. What these teams forget is, these workouts are a lot of times without any defender present, and if there is one, it's usually just one-on-one B.S. This year is quite possibly one of the worst drafts the NBA has ever seen, there are few players who have proven that they can be franchise caliber, or even perennial all-star caliber players. Here's what to expect from this year's draft: A lot of teams drafting guys high in the first round, who would normally go mid to late first round. Without any further interruption, here is the Five Tool Sports 2011 NBA Mock Draft.

With the first pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers select....

Kyrie Irving - Duke - PG 6'3" 180lbs - Freshman
2010-2011 stats (11 games): 17.5 ppg, 4.3 apg, 3.4 rpg, 1.5 spg.

Pros: First and foremost, Irving is a natural born leader. So much so, that coach K over at a little college called Duke, decided that Irving was mature and reliable enough at the lead guard position to actually move returning starting point guard Nolan Smith to the off-guard. Irving has great speed, both laterally and end-to-end. He has a very high basketball IQ, he finds the open man, makes the extra pass, and let's the game come to him. I think he is a better passer than both John Wall and Derrick Rose, he has the ability to squeeze perfect passes into tight places. Great ball handler both with his right and his left. Offensively, he has a nice set shot, with good range. Irving can also go both left or right and hit the pull up, mid-range jumper. If his jumper isn't working, Irving is a strong finisher at the rim, and will take it at anyone with no fear.

Cons: Irving played only 11 games in his lone season at Duke with a very bad case of turf toe that will cause him to have to wear a special shoe. That is a very scary chance to take with a franchise changing pick. Experience could also be a deterrent, playing only 11 games at the college level, mostly against weak pre-conference competition, teams may wonder if Irving's skills will translate to the NBA. I think Irving needs to work on his athleticism, he is not known to be a high fly act or an explosive player, and I think he needs to make huge strides in that area.

2. Minnesota Timberwolves - Derrick Williams - Arizona - Sophomore
F 6'8" 240lbs.
2010-11 stats: 19.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg

Pros: Williams is probably the most explosive athlete in this draft. He's not quite the athlete as Blake Griffin, but he is very comparable to that. Williams has a great feel for the paint, as well. He can play with his back to the basket, and flash some nice post moves. Williams can also face up in the mid-post and take his defender off the dribble. He can finish at the rim effectively with both his left and his right, but don't be surprised if he throws down a nasty dunk on someones head. Williams has great hands, he possesses the ability to catch tough passes and lobs. His never-say-die attitude makes him a great rebounder on both the offensive and defensive glass.

Cons: The biggest question about Williams: can he he hit the mid-range or long-range jumper? As I watch more video, the more I think he can. He has decent form, shooting elbow is in, he square's his shoulder's nicely, and he also gets good lift with his legs. His rotation is what worries me, it's not very consistent. SportScience seems to think Williams' long-range shooting is up to par with some of the best in the NBA, but that was filmed in ideal conditions, with no defense and perfect passes into his shooting pocket, you can't really compare that to a game in real time. Another concern with Williams is his defense. He has the athleticism to be a dynamic shot blocker, but he needs to work on his lateral quickness to be able to keep up a lot of the guys he will be checking in the Association.

3. Utah Jazz - Brandon Knight - Kentucky - Freshman
PG 6'3" 185lbs.
2010-11 stats: 17.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 4.2 apg

Pros: Knight played in a pro-style system under Calapari at Kentucky, so his skill set has been honed for an NBA style offense. He ran a lot of pick and rolls with fellow freshman phenom Terrence Jones. Knight has a pretty smooth stroke from distance, and he can also hit the mid-range jumper at decent clip. Knight has a fantastic runner that he likes to use to score over big men because of his slight frame. He can teardrop the runner, or he can hit if off both sides of the glass. Like Irving, Knight has nice speed, and a quick first step. His lightning quick hands make him very dangerous on defense.

Cons: Knight's ball handling is a bit suspect. His dribble is extremely high for a guy who has the ball in his hands for a majority of the time. He tends to go to his right (strong hand) a lot of the time, which makes him easy to defend. His shot is a little odd as well, although it is nice, he shoots from his chest through his chin. If he is going to be an effective shooter, he needs to raise his release point to avoid getting his shot blocked. Knight has a very slight frame, and that may be a problem against the bigger NBA defenders - he won't be able to get to the paint as much as he did in college. Knight isn't much of a play maker either, he needs to be able to get his teammates involved to be a successful PG in the NBA. His defense is also suspect, he has the ability to be a good defender, but does he want to be one?

4. Cleveland Cavaliers - Enes Kanter - Turkey
F/C 6'11" 260lbs.
2010-11 stats: N/A

Pros: Kanter has an NBA ready body, at 6'11" he is capable of battling under the boards with any NBA guy. Kanter pretty good back to the basket game, and makes good use of basic post moves. He dominated the Nike Hoops Summit, flashed a nice 15-footer, and even showed he can take someone off the dribble. The part of Kanter's game that has NBA scouts and front office's seething over is his ability to run the floor. He also has very good hands, which is a huge plus for a big guy. Kanter is not your prototypical European type player, he is a much more physical player. His footwork is also pretty solid in the post, he makes good use of spin moves, and up-and-under moves to get where he needs to be.

Cons: Kanter is not an overly athletic player, and sometimes looks as if he as cement in his shoes. Although he does have good footwork and a good understanding for the post game, he is still a very raw prospect on the offensive end. He looks disinterested on defense a lot of the time, and with his lack of athleticism, he can't afford to be disengaged on that end. Kanter is a very effective rebounder when he wants to be. He has the size and strength to average double digit rebounds as a pro, but he will need to gain a better understanding of rebound positioning to reach his potential on the NBA level.

5. Toronto Raptors - Bismack Biyombo - Congo
F/C 6'9" 240lobs.
2010-11 stats: N/A

Pros: Biyombo is extremely athletic. He is very quick off his feet for rebounds and dunks, like he has trampoline's on the soles of his shoes. He has amazing length, and the best agility in this draft. Biyombo has one of the best NBA bodies in this draft as well, at 4.2% body fat. Scouts and exec's rave over his athleticism and his potential as a defender and a rebounder.

Cons: Biyombo's offensive game is a mess. He is probably the most raw prospect overall in this entire draft. He has the most basic understanding for the post, and his shot is needs a lot of work. At 6'9", he is an undersized center because of his lack of an outside shot. Biyombo will most likely be stashed by whoever may draft him, and in this mock, the Raptors are taking on a huge project.

6. Washington Wizards - Jan Vesely - Czech Republic
F 6'11" 240lbs.
2010-11 stats (Adriatic): 10.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.3 apg

Pros: Vesely is a solid offensive player who could be ready to produce at the NBA level right now. He has good height, length and a nice feel for the game. Vesely is a surprisingly good athlete, as well. He has good leaping ability, and his quickness is underestimated. Vesley possesses a great set of hands and a soft touch around the basket. His picture perfect shot might be his best quality. He has a high release, nice rotation, and a good follow through. Like most European players, Vesely has good footwork and a high basketball IQ.

Cons: Vesely has an extremely thin, frail frame that could bring up some problems for him transitioning to a more physical style game in the NBA; He needs to add a lot of strength to be able to defend his position at the NBA level. Defense is a bit of a question for Vesely as well, he does have good instincts, but his lack of lateral quickness, and of course his thin frame, may hold him back from being an above average defender. Although he has a nice looking shot, Vesely struggles mightily from the charity stripe. Vesely's fourth quarter minutes will be non-existent is he cannot sink his free throws.

7. Sacramento Kings - Kemba Walker - UConn - Junior
G 6'1" 170lbs.
2010-11 stats: 23.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 4.5 apg

Pros: Walker is an offensive machine; he was born to score the basketball. He has an unlimited array of moves to either get to the hole, or hit a jumper. He has good mechanics on his shot, and can hit it off the dribble, stand-still and step-back. Walker is fearless when attacking the basket, he is a crafty athlete which makes him effective finishing over the bigs' in the paint. Walker has NBA range on his three-point-shot, so that transition won't be a problem. His most desirable quality is his intensity and passion for the game. Walker has a motor that never quits, and he is not afraid to take, and make big shots. Walker is a good fit in Sacto because they already have Tyreke Evans as their play maker, Kemba could slide right in as a sixth man to provide a scoring punch off the bench for the Kings

Cons: the biggest question about Walker: what position does he play? He is too small to play SG, but not a good enough play maker to play PG. He was counted on so heavily to score at Connecticut, that he was not asked to be a play maker. Also, because of his size, Walker will have trouble defending at the NBA level. Walker is not a great defender as it is, he has all the skills to be one, but can he put the same intensity into defense that he puts on offense?

8. Detroit Pistons - Jonas Valanciunas - Lithuania
PF/C 6'11" 245lbs.
2010-11 stats (Euroleague): 7.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg

Pros: Valanciunas is a legit 6'11" which makes him a rarity in this years' draft. He has a beastly wingspan at 7'6" and he has definitely grown into his frame. Valanciunas has a good feel for back to the basket post game. His best quality is probably his hands, he is fantastic at catching a pass off the pick and roll, and finishing strong at the rim. Valanciunas also does a great job of keeping the ball high through traffic. Hardly ever will you see him bring the ball down below his chin on a put back.

Cons: If he could develop some sort of outside game, Valanciunas could be the steal of the draft. As of now, there is no sign of it. Most of the clips I have seen are all dunks, layups and put backs. Defensively, he needs to gain a better understanding of giving help, also, he needs to use his length better because he could be a solid shot blocker in the NBA. Valanciunas is not a great athlete, and with the NBA getting smaller as we speak, he needs to adapt to the style of play.

9. Charlotte Bobcats - Kawhi Leonard - San Diego State - Sophomore
F 6'7" 225lbs.
2010-11 stats: 15.5 ppg, 10.6 rpg

Pros: Leonard is a very gifted athlete with a great motor. He gives 110% on each and every possession both on offense and defense. Leonard is what I like to refer to as a garbage man, he gets points and rebounds off of other peoples mistakes, or miscues. Leonard has huge hands which allows him to snatch rebounds over much larger players with ease. Defensively, Leonard has the capabilities to be great. He is long, athletic, and has a great understanding of help side defense. If the Bobcats can snatch him up here, look for Leonard to be the next Gerald Wallace.

Cons: He is a bit of a tweener because he stands at only 6'7". He shot only 29% from three in for the Aztecs last season, that will have to change for him to be an effective scorer on the NBA level. He relies much too heavily on the three point shot, and that may be because his ball handling is below average.

10. Milwaukee Bucks - Alec Burks - Colorado - Sophomore
G 6'6" 195lbs.
2010-11 stats: 20.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.1 spg

Pros: Burks is a pure scorer with a beautiful shooting stroke. Burks surprised everyone this year at Colorado with a breakout season. He dominated the Big 12 competition, and his draft stock sky rocketed. He has great size at 6'6" 195 at the guard position. Burks is a top 3 shooter in this draft, which makes him very desirable for this Milwaukee team who is looking for scoring help beside PG Brandon Jennings. He has a quick first step, and a nice shot-fake which makes him very difficult to guard. Burks also has great athleticism which allows him to effectively shoot defensive gaps for steals.

Cons: Burks shoots a lot of three's. He will have to find a mid-range game to avoid becoming too one-dimensional. He is also a volume shooter, and has the tendency to forget about his teammates. His play making capabilities are not quite there yet either, he needs to be more aware of what basketball play needs to be made at the proper time. His dedication to on ball defense is a question mark as well. Burks likes to gamble on defense, sometimes it works, most of the time it doesn't.

11. Golden State Warriors - Klay Thompson - Washington State - Junior
G 6'6" 205lbs.
2010-11 stats: 21.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.7 apg

Pros: Thompson is a great shooter, and an above average all-around scorer. He has good size for the 2-guard position. Thompson can score in a variety of ways, three's, mid-range, finish at the rim. Thompson has deep basketball roots, having been around the NBA all of his life, teams look at that as being a huge plus. He is a very composed player, he doesn't let his emotions get the best or worst of him. Has made progress defensively at Washington State.

Cons: Thompson was suspended this past year at Washington State for possession of marijuana, this is a huge red flag for NBA teams considering his character. He is not a great athlete either, mostly a below the rim type of player. His first step is okay, not great, and on the next level, he will need to have an explosive first step in order to get by the athletic NBA defenders who he will face. Defense and rebound are also big question marks about Thompson's game.

12. Utah Jazz - Chris Singleton - Florida State - Junior
F 6'9" 230lbs.
2010-11 stats: 13.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 2.0 spg, 1.5 blocks per game

Pros: Singleton is one of the best athletes in this entire draft. He has a great frame, 6'9" with a 7'1" wingspan. One of the elite leapers in college basketball. The combination of size, length and athleticism made him arguably the best defender in college basketball this past year. He does a nice job of running the floor and finishing in transition/traffic. Singleton is an NBA ready lock down defender. He has a decent mid-range jumper, and can stretch it out to three point range at times.

Cons: Singleton is extremely raw on offense. He is a very streaky shooter, and can't break defenders down off the dribble. Scouts and NBA exec's question his desire and durability, he seems to give up on plays at times. With the size and athleticism he possesses, Singleton should be a much better rebounder.

13. Phoenix Suns - Jimmer Fredette - BYU - Senior
G 6'2" 195lbs.
2010-11 stats: 28.9 ppg, 4.3 apg, 3.4 rpg

Pros: Fredette, along with Klay Thompson, was one of the best shooters in college basketball. He has unlimited range, and shoots with the utmost confidence whether he is on or not. He has an extremely high basketball IQ, and knows what plays need to be made. Fredette is a leader as well, his teammates at BYU really looked to him for on-court guidance. Fredette is pretty snazzy with the ball in his hands. He is an underrated ball handler, and a very crafty athlete. The part of Fredette's game that stands out to me the most is his toughness. A lot of it probably stems from his time playing against inmates back in Glen Falls, NY, and it will be a huge plus on the NBA level.

Cons: Most people question whether Fredette can play PG on the NBA level. At 6'2" he is a bit undersized a the 2-guard, but his shooting ability may be able to make up for that. Another big question is: who will he guard? I don't know the answer to that, his defense is abysmal at best. In the Phoenix system, however, he doesn't need to play defense. He is nowhere near a great athlete, so many don't think he will be able to get his shot off as effectively as he did in college.

14. Houston Rockets - Donatas Motiejunas - Lithuania
F/C 7'0" 225
2010-11 stats (Italian League): 12.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg

Pros: Motiejunas reminds me a lot of Vlade Divac when he came to the Lakers in the early '90's. His offensive game isn't as refined as Divac's was, but his passing ability is up there with Vlade's. He is a legit 7-feet, but runs the floor like a gazelle. He has a decent understanding of post offense, and has a high basketball IQ. He has a great feel for weak side and help defense. Motiejunas gets uses his size and length nicely on defense, he gets a lot of weak side blocks.

Cons: Needs to become a much better rebounder. In order for him to succeed on the NBA level, Motiejunas needs to be able to grab double digit rebounds on a nightly basis. Still very raw on offense, he needs to develop a back to the basket game, and a mid-range jumper. Scouts question his toughness and seriousness when it comes to the game, apparently, he is very lackadaisical in practice. Motiejunas is a huge project, but his potential may be worth the risk.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Top 10 Free Agent Wide Receivers: 5-1

5. Mike Williams - Seahawks
Age: 27
2010-2011 stats: 65 rec., 751 yards, 2 TD, 11.6 YPC

Williams found success in Seattle under a familiar face, Pete Carroll. At 6'5 235lbs., Williams possesses great athletic ability which makes him a solid big play receiver and top option in the passing game. His numbers might not wow a lot of people, but considering the QB situation in Seattle, Williams' numbers are as solid as they come. Williams played solid football in the playoffs as well: 9 rec., 83 yards and 3 TD.

Prediction: There is no way Williams leaves Seattle. It seems he is very comfortable under Carroll, and the Seahawks will be glad to have him back.

4. Sidney Rice - Vikings
Age: 24
2010-2011 stats: 17 rec., 280 yards, 2 TD, 16.5 YPC (6 games)

Rice would be much higher on this list if it weren't for the terrible hip injury he suffered. Rice only played 6 games in 2010, and still managed to put up some decent numbers while recovering. Rice had a breakout year in 2009: 83 rec., 1312 yards, 8 TD which gave Minnesota a lot of hope going forward. He has good size, 6'4 200 lbs, great speed, and the ability to make spectacular catches. Rice is a game changer when healthy, and a bonafide receiving corps anchor.

Prediction: The Vikes are free of the Brett Favre debacle, and are now ready for some stability. I think they need to resign Rice, and they will. They need a top-notch receiver to help whoever they decide to throw in at QB.

3. Braylon Edwards - Jets
Age: 28
2010-2011 stats: 53 rec., 904 yards, 7 TD, 17.1 YPC

Edwards is the epitome of a deep threat receiver. His 17.1 yards per catch was good for 8th in the NFL in 2010, but he doesn't have DeSean Jackson speed. So how does he do it? With solid route running. Edwards, when he wants to be, is one of the best route runners in the NFL. He sells double moves like no other (except DJax), and he has some of the best hands in the NFL.

Prediction: The Jets have two of the top 5 receivers available in free agency, the second coming next. I doubt they can keep both which is why I think Edwards is headed elsewhere. I think the Bears and Dolphins should both take a hard look at Edwards. The Bears can then slide Hester into the Slot and have Edwards and Knox on the outside. With Miami, Edwards would team up with superstar WR Brandon Marshall, which would cause fits for opponents.

2. Santonio Holmes - Jets
Age: 27
2010-2011 stats: 52 rec., 746 yards, 6 TD, 14.3 YPC

The Jets have a big decision to make between Holmes and Edwards, this is my case to keep Holmes. Edwards may be the better athlete, but Holmes is the better receiver. You know Holmes is gonna run hard and complete routes every play, he can be a deep threat, he can come across the middle, and he is a sure-handed enough to handle screen passes. Holmes is a big game receiver and that is what the Jets need.

Prediction: Holmes stays in green and white.

1. Vincent Jackson - Chargers
Age: 28
2010-2011 stats: 14 rec., 248 yards, 3 TD, 17.7 YPC (4 games)

Jackson may have caused himself some trouble with his hold out last season with San Diego, but you can't deny his talent. in 2009, Jackson had a great year: 68 rec., 1,167 yards, 9 TD, 17.2 YPC. Jackson's combination of size (6'5 230), speed, and athleticism overpowers nearly every DB who attempts to check him. Jackson can beat you every which way: on the outside, inside, over the middle, single move, double move, and he can flat out jump any corner in the league.

Prediction: I don't know how strained the relationship is between Jackson and the Chargers, but if I were San Diego I would try and get him back. He is too talented to let go over a a contract dispute.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Top 10 Free Agent Wide Receivers: 10-6

Even though the NFL lockout is seriously jeopardizing whether or not there will be an NFL season in 2011-2012, I miss talking football. So here's to hoping the two sides get a CBA worked out sometime in the near future.

10. Santana Moss - Redskins

Age: 32
2010-2011 stats: 93 rec., 1,115 yards, 6 TD, 12.0 YPC

Moss may be up there in age, but his stats don't lie. He still possesses great blow-by speed, a good set of hands, and the desire to continue to be a special NFL receiver. A lot of teams would kill for a deep threat receiver of Moss' caliber, which is why I see Washington making a huge push to keep him on their roster. Moss is a solid veteran who could be a huge asset to many teams.

Prediction: Moss ends up staying in D.C., they need all the help they can get at wide out which means they may over pay to keep him.

9. James Jones - Packers

Age: 27
2010-2011 stats: 50 rec., 679 yards, 5 TD, 13.6 YPC

Jones has been hiding behind Greg Jennings and Donald Driver for his entire NFL career. Despite not being a starting WR, Jones still put up some pretty solid numbers. He has extremely strong hands, and at 6-1 208lbs, with decent speed, Jones is a perfect option in the slot for a team looking to upgrade their receiving corps. The only problem with Jones, is he likes to run before the catch, resulting in dropped passes and fumbles. If Jones can take care of that problem, he could be a breakout receiver in the right system.

Prediction: The only prediction that I can make is that Jones will not stay with Green Bay. A lot of teams have a need at the position, so look for Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Kansas City to be in on the James Jones sweepstakes.

8. Steve Breaston - Cardinals

Age: 27
2010-2011 stats: 47 rec., 718 yards, 1 TD, 15.3 YPC

We can't put too much stock on Breaston's stats last year for one reason: the QB situation in AZ last year was horrific. Like Jones, Breaston has spent his entire NFL career behind two great receivers, Larry Fitzgerald, and Anquan Boldin (4 out of 5 seasons). Last season, Breaston missed three games with a knee injury but still came back and had a few strong performances. One of his best qualities is his speed off the line; Breaston is a lightning bolt in the slot. The most telling stat about how solid of a receiver he really is: 187 career receptions with zero fumbles. Everyone knows the talent that Breaston possesses, it's just getting past his knee problem.

Prediction: I think Breaston stays in Arizona.

7. Terrell Owens - Bengals

Age: 37
2010-2011 stats: 72 rec., 983 yards, 9 TD, 13.7 YPC

My boy Skip Bayless likes to refer to T.O. as Team Obliterator, which is a very fitting nickname. Unfortunately, you can't deny the production that Owens has brought to every stop on his tour of the NFL. Despite being 37 years of age, Owens is still one of the best conditioned athletes in any sport. He has great strength, speed and hands, and has a knack for the end zone - he had 9 TD's last season. If Owens can keep his mouth shut, which may take some surgery, he can be a solid receiver for any team.

Prediction: I see T.O. hooking up with a contender in need of some WR help. Maybe Baltimore? I think the veteran leadership, and the Ray Lewis intimidation factor could keep Owens with his eyes on the prize.

6. Malcom Floyd - San Diego

Age: 29
2010-2011 stats: 37 rec., 717 yards, 6 TD, 19.4 YPC

Floyd got some more looks last season due to the absence of Vincent Jackson, and it paid off. Even though he missed five games, Floyd produced at a very high rate. He has great size (6-5 225) and Floyd has been highly praised for his ability to control his body while making difficult catches. He has great downfield speed, and a solid set of hands: he has fumbled just once in 134 career receptions.

Prediction: San Diego may have to choose between Floyd and Vincent Jackson. Because of the problems they had with VJax, and the price he may demand, I think the Chargers will retain Floyd.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

LeBrown Out

On a night where the Miami Heat had the chance to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the 2011 NBA Finals, we witnessed the return of Quitness. The self-proclaimed "King" turned into nothing more than the Court Jester, the jokes being his game, or lack there of. His performance was so terrible that it has me thinking that Scottie Pippen was being held at gunpoint, forced to proclaim that LeBron may be a better player than Michael Jordan.

LeBron never got involved in the game. From the opening tip to the final buzzer, James seemed disinterested, disjointed, and any other "dis" one can think of. He took only 11 shots, missing eight of them, many of those shots being easy lay-ups and wide open three's. James didn't attack the basket as aggressively as he usually does, he was just 2-4 from the charity stripe. You can't blame the ref's either, Tim Donaghy wasn't out there; but you can blame LeBron for his lackluster attempts while slashing through the lane.

LeBron scored as many points as he had missed shots, eight. Eight points in game 4 of the NBA Finals! Never would you have seen Jordan or Kobe do that. You would see them go steal the ball from a teammate, and drive right into the teeth of the defense before they did what LeBron did last night.

What exactly did LeBron do last night?

In my eyes, he LeChoked, LeFroze, and LePunked out. I can go on for days with the "Le" jokes, so I will put it this way, he gave up.

His offense wasn't the only problem, either. His lock down defense Mavs' super-sub Jason Terry completely vanished. Terry ended up with 17 points, four of them on back-to-back fourth quarter baskets that helped spark another late Dallas comeback.

I have always questioned what is more important in James' life, basketball, or his "Brand". If we're gonna compare this guy to Jordan and Kobe, that question has to be asked. The answer was given last night, and with many of his previous disappearing acts. I question LeBron's heart because he has given me no reason not to. I laughed at Dan Gilbert's open letter after James left Cleveland for South Beach, in which Gilbert accused James of quitting in games 2, 4, 5, and 6 the Cavs' second round playoff series against the Celtics last season. Maybe my laughter was premature, because what I witnessed, or better yet, didn't witness last night was greatness from a player who is supposed to be great.

I respect how gifted of a basketball player, athlete and mind LeBron is, but what he has yet to adopt from the great players is killer instinct. When the ball doesn't bounce his way, or when the whistle is blown to his displeasure, he shrinks. James cannot continue to let little things like that effect his game. I hearken back to a quote that was made famous throughout the sports world by former Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich, "never underestimate the heart of a champion", and LeBron James doesn't have that, yet.