Tag:Alonzo Mourning
Posted on: June 1, 2012 5:52 pm

Ranking No. 1 Draft Picks of Draft Lottery Era

With the 2012 NBA draft looming and with it widely assumed that Anthony Davis will be the newest addition to the list of number one draft picks in NBA history, I figured I would rank the top number one draft picks of the lottery era; which happens to be where the Hornets are selecting.  The lottery was put into place in 1985 to prevent teams from intentionally tanking a season just so that they could get the number one draft pick.  Once put into place, the team with the worst record in the league has gotten the number one draft pick only four times.  It's hard to rank these players as some are very young in their careers and others still have years to tack on the achievements.  A lot of the last few draft picks will be ranked by potential and performance in their young careers so don't get upset if they're too far down or high on the list.  This is a list I've tried to tackle before that I've been able to adjust due to being a little bit wiser and with stuff going down between the players over the last few years.  So here it goes: ranking the top No. 1 Draft picks of the lottery era.

27) Michael Olowokandi, C, Los Angeles Clippers out of University of the Pacific in 1998 NBA Draft (500 Games, 393 Starts, 8.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 59.7 FT Pctg., 43.5 FG Pctg., 10.7 PER, 88 Offensive Rating, 104 Defensive Rating) - The Kandi Man receives the dubious honor of being ranked the worst No. 1 Draft Pick of the Draft Lottery Era.  Viewed as one of many abysmal Clippers draft picks, Olowokandi was drafted first overall after a fantastic senior season at the University of the Pacific.  Seen as a highly skilled 7-foot athlete, the Clippers drafted Olowokandi to be the anchor in the paint for the routinely unsuccessfull franchise.  Instead, Olowokandi mixed flashes of brilliance with long droughts and fought injuries in Los Angeles before eating up the Timberwolves salary cap.  He spent his final few years with the Boston Celtics before quietly leaving the league in 2007.

26) Kwame Brown, C, Washington Wizards out of Glynn Academy High School in 2001 NBA Draft (585 Games, 270 Starts, 6.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 57.3 FT Pctg., 49.2 FG Pctg., 12.6 PER, 102 Offensive Rating, 106 Defensive Rating) - While not being the worst number one draft pick of the draft lottery era, Kwame Brown does hold the distinction of being the first high school player to ever be selected first overall in an NBA draft.  Highlighted as the first of many bad executive moves made by basketball legend Michael Jordan, Brown struggled to display any production or maturity in his first few years as a Wizard.  In his third season he showed real signs of a breakthrough, but injuries and problems with his teammates cost him his job in Washington.  He had one good year with the Lakers before famously being traded to the Grizzlies for Pau Gasol.  Since then, Kwame has bounced around the league as a serviceable reserve big man and that looks to be his future for as long as he's in the league.

25) Greg Oden, C, Portland Trail Blazers out of Ohio State University in 2007 NBA Draft (82 Games, 60 Starts, 9.4 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 66.6 FT Pctg., 57.7 FG Pctg., 19.5 PER, 117 Offensive Rating, 103 Defensive Rating) - A huge seven footer with a personality that reminded some of Shaquille O'Neal, Oden had high expectations going as far back as high school.  Because of the NBA's age limit, Oden played one season with Ohio State before declaring for the NBA Draft.  He was met with high fanfare in Portland but struggled to stay on the court at all and has now had three microfracture knee surgeries since 2007.  The jury's still out on him as he still wants to play, but 82 games in five years is no great start.  It also doesn't help that Kevin Durant went to the Seattle Supersonics with the second overall pick directly after Oden.  He was productive on the court when he was on it but it looks like Oden's body will let him down.

24) Pervis Ellison, PF, Sacramento Kings out of University of Louisville in 1989 NBA Draft (474 Games, 245 Starts, 9.5 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 1.5 APG, 68.9 FT Pctg., 51.0 FG Pctg., 15.2 PER, 105 Offensive Rating, 106 Defensive Rating) - "Never Nervous" Pervis Ellison was a fantastic colleigate player at the University of Louisville before entering the NBA with humongous expectations.  However, after being named the number one draft pick, Ellison immediately underwent surgery to remove bone Spurs from his foot and ankle in what would be a sign of things to follow.  Ellison didn't last long with the Kings before being traded to the Washington Bullets, where he showed signs of his lofty selection by winning the 1992 NBA Most Improved Player of the Year award.  However, knee problems resurfaced for Pervis and he spent the last years of his career as a reserve for the Boston Celtics.

23) John Wall, PG, Washington Wizards out of University of Kentucky in 2010 NBA Draft (135 Games, 130 Starts, 16.3 PPG, 8.2 APG, 4.6 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 77.7 FT Pctg., 41.6 FG Pctg., 16.7 PER, 100 Offensive Rating, 108 Defensive Rating) - John Wall came out of the University of Kentucky having grabbed every one of college basketball's big individual awards and as part of a team that produced five first round draft picks.  Wall has been known for his dance more so than his game in his two years in Washington as he's had to deal with a coaching change, ownership transfer and a true lack of talent in his two years in Washington.  The raw talent is there for him to be a very good point guard in this league and he's dealt with some unfair criticism in his time in the league, but the jury's still out on him.

22) Andrea Bargnani, PF, Toronto Raptors out of Benetton Treviso in Italy in 2006 NBA Draft (398 Games, 291 Starts, 15.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.3 APG, 82.4 FT Pctg., 36.5 3PT FG Pctg., 44.0 FG Pctg., 14.6 PER, 104 Offensive Rating, 111 Defensive Rating) - As a seven footer with fantastic range on his jump shot, Bargnani drew many comparisons to Dallas Mavericks great Dirk Nowitzki and was drafted first overall by Toronto in 2006 to couple with fellow big man Chris Bosh.  Bargnani, though, had seemed to be so infatuated with the three point shot that he didn't focus on any other aspect of his game.  For someone his size, his rebounding numbers remain poor and his defense has always been spotty.  After suffering a severe sophomore slump, Bargnani bounced back to have a solid third season with Toronto and eventually seemed to put it all together this past season.  He may never become an elite player but Bargnani looks like he'll have a really good career for the rest of his time in the NBA.

21) Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers out of Duke University in 2011 NBA Draft (51 Games, 51 Starts, 18.5 PPG, 5.4 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 87.2 FT Pctg., 39.9 3PT FG Pctg., 46.9 FG Pctg., 21.4 PER, 109 Offensive Rating, 110 Defensive Rating) - Irving was drafted in another conspiracy fueled draft that followed the departure of LeBron James from Cleveland.  Irving stepped in and immediately had one of the better rookie seasons in recent memory; essentially running away with every individual accolade.  Coming into the draft following a freak injury at Duke that limited his freshman season, there were concerns about Irving and his durability (to be fair, he did miss 15 games this season as well) but the potential is there for Irving to be a very, very special player in Cleveland.

20) Andrew Bogut, C, Milwaukee Bucks out of University of Utah in 2005 NBA Draft (408 Games, 400 Starts, 12.7 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.6 BPG, 57.4 FT Pctg., 52.2 FG Pctg., 17.0 PER, 106 Offensive Rating, 104 Defensive Rating) - Bogut, being a seven footer with a fantastic skill set and equipped with a nice post game while being a very adept passing big man was a lock as the number one draft pick in the 2005 NBA Draft.  After playing for Australia in the 2004 Olympics, he got lots of praise from the Olympic Games and the expectations were huge for him in his sophomore season with the Utah Utes.  Bogut did not disappoint and then declared for the NBA Draft.  So far, Bogut has had difficulty staying on the court but his production has been solid when he is on the court.  He was the starting center for the Bucks during his entire stay there and has shown flashes of being a very good, pure center.  He was recently traded to the Golden State Warriors at the trade deadline and time will tell if he'll ever reach his full potential.

19) Joe Smith, PF, Golden State Warriors out of University of Maryland, College Park in 1995 NBA Draft (1,030 Games, 619 Starts, 10.9 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.0 APG, 79.0 FT Pctg., 45.5 FG Pctg., 15.4 PER, 107 Offensive Rating, 106 Defensive Rating) - Joe Smith turned two great seasons manning down the middle for the Maryland Terrapins into the number one draft pick in the 1995 NBA Draft.  After being selected by Golden State, he was solid for the Warriors for his first two seasons in the league but once it was evident he would never be great, he was shipped off in the middle of his third season.  Smith then spent time with just about every team in the NBA, nearly challenging Jim Jackson's record of teams played with in his career (for the record, he played with twelve).  Even though he's been a solid contributor and role player to playoff teams for the duration of his career, Smith will most likely always be remembered for costing the Minnesota Timberwolves five first round draft picks after being promised a multi-year deal in the future if he were to sign for below market value at the time so that the team could add more players.

18) Danny Manning, PF, Los Angeles Clippers out of University of Kansas in 1988 NBA Draft (883 Games, 398 Starts, 14.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.1 SPG, 72.9 FT Pctg., 51.1 FG Pctg., 16.9 PER, 106 Offensive Rating, 106 Defensive Rating) - A legend for the Kansas Jayhawks, Manning seemed to be a slam dunk as the first overall draft pick in 1988 by the Los Angeles Clippers.  Manning, though, suffered a knee injury in his rookie season that would haunt him for the remainder of his career.  After a few disappointing seasons, Manning emerged as an elite scorer for the Clippers, even making the 1993 All Star Game.  However, injuries caught back up to Manning as he finished his career at the end of benches for his last few years in the league.  Manning did, however, win the 1998 Sixth Man of the Year award with the Phoenix Suns.

17) Glenn Robinson, SF, Milwaukee Bucks out of Purdue University in 1994 NBA Draft (688 Games, 668 Starts, 20.7 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.2 SPG, 82.0 FT Pctg., 34.0 3PT FG Pctg., 45.9 FG Pctg., 17.5 PER, 102 Offensive Rating, 107 Defensive Rating) - Billed as a fantastic scorer, Robinson won two Big Ten scoring titles in his two years of eligibility for the Purdue Boilermakers before entering the 1994 NBA Draft.  Although he put up fantastic numbers throughout his career, Robinson largely went unnoticed in Milwaukee.  He achieved success during the early turn of the century when he, Sam Cassell and Ray Allen helped the Bucks make it to the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals but Robinson eventually fizzled out in Milwaukee.  He was traded to Atlanta and then to Philadelphia and his contract was once property of the New Orleans Hornets before finishing his career in San Antonio.  Robinson did win a championship as a reserve for the Spurs in 2005.

16) Blake Griffin, PF, Los Angeles Clippers out of University of Oklahoma in 2009 NBA Draft (148 Games, 148 Starts, 21.7 PPG,11.5 RPG, 3.5 APG, 59.3 FT Pctg., 52.4 FG Pctg., 22.5 PER, 112 Offensive Rating, 106 Defensive Rating) - Blake is certainly not the most popular player in the league anymore but let's not forget how insanely productive he has been on the offensive boards in just two seasons.  He joined a porous Clippers team and had to miss the entirety of his rookie season after an injury to his kneecap during a preseason game against this Hornets squad but bounced back just fine after that: winning the 2010 NBA Rookie of the Year award and then helping lead his team to the Conference Semifinals for only the second time in franchise history this season.  He still has room to improve defensively and in his overall game but Griffin has been insanely productive in his first couple of years in the league.

15) Kenyon Martin, PF, New Jersey Nets out of University of Cincinnati in 2000 NBA Draft (696 Games, 641 Starts, 13.0 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.2 BPG, 63.3 FT Pctg., 48.1 FG Pctg.,15.2 PER, 101 Offensive Rating, 101 Defensive Rating) - Figured to be the best prospect in a very weak 2000 NBA Draft, Martin was taken by the New Jersey Nets after a successful senior season for the Cincinnati Bearcats.  Viewed as an injury risk when he was selected, Martin turned in four great seasons with the Nets, routinely picking up his performance in the postseason and being a part of two Nets teams that won Eastern Conference Championships.  However, when Martin signed with the Denver Nuggets, his injuries caught up to him and he was forced to undergo the dreaded microfracture knee surgery.  He's since played in China during the lockout before returning to play for the Clippers this past season.  His explosiveness that was his trademark has been limited but he still remains a formidable player in this league and a spectacular defensive power forward.

14) Larry Johnson, PF, Charlotte Hornets out of University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 1991 NBA Draft (707 Games, 699 Starts,16.2 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 3.3 APG, 76.6 FT Pctg., 33.2 3PT FG Pctg., 48.4 FG Pctg., 16.3 PER, 112 Offensive Rating, 107 Defensive Rating) - Johnson was a dynamic player at the collegiate level for the Runnin' Rebels before entering the 1991 NBA Draft.  Selected by the upstart Charlotte Hornets, the 1992 NBA Rookie of the Year would team with Muggsy Bogues and Alonzo Mourning to bring the Hornets out of mediocrity at the beginning of his career.  After signing an unprecedented ten year deal with the Hornets, frustrations grew between Johnson and Mourning which led to "Grandmama" and Big Zo being immediately shipped away from Charlotte.  Johnson went on to start for a New York Knicks team that made the 1999 NBA Finals, but was a shell of his former self in New York due to severe back injuries.  He's probably best known for an epic four point play during a crucial game 3 of the 1999 Eastern Conference Finals with the Knicks.

13) Derrick Coleman, PF, New Jersey Nets out of Syracuse University in 1990 NBA Draft (781 Games, 672 Starts, 16.5 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.3 BPG, 76.9 FT Pctg., 29.5 3PT FG Pctg., 44.7 FG Pctg., 18.0 PER, 105 Offensive Rating, 103 Defensive Rating) - Coleman was a fantastic player for the Syracuse Orange in college and was viewed, by many, as one of the best prospects in recent NBA History when selected in the 1990 NBA Draft.  Coleman would win the 1991 NBA Rookie of the Year award and many expectations were given to the bulky power forward.  Coleman was solid during his time in the league but never broke into that "great player" status that many envisioned he would.  Coleman had many problems with his weight over the span of his career and left on bad terms with all of the teams he participated on.  He's gone on to be a makeshift humanitarian of sorts since his retirement but had to recently file for bankruptcy.  His career will be looked at with an asterisk as he never was as great as he should have been.

12) Brad Daugherty, C, Cleveland Cavaliers out of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1986 NBA Draft (548 Games, 546 Starts, 19.0 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 3.7 APG, 74.7 FT Pctg., 53.2 FG Pctg., 18.9 PER, 114 Offensive Rating, 105 Defensive Rating) - A collegiate great for the North Carolina Tar Heels, Daugherty was selected by the Cavaliers in the 1986 NBA Draft and turned out a fantastic career with Cleveland.  As part of a draft class that also brought in Mark Price and Ron Harper, the Cavaliers experienced years of above average success, even making the 1992 Eastern Conference Finals.  However, as is the case with a lot of players on this list, Daugherty suffered drastic injuries to his back at the end of his career and was forced to retire at the age of 28 in 1994.  He's since joined ESPN's crew as a commentator for NASCAR.

11) Yao Ming, C, Houston Rockets out of Shanghai Sharks in China in 2002 NBA Draft (486 Games, 476 Starts, 19.0 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 1.9 BPG, 1.6 APG, 83.3 FT Pctg., 52.4 FG Pctg., 23.0 PER, 112 Offensive Rating, 99 Defensive Rating) - Towering over competition at 7'6", Ming was a lock at the top of the 2002 NBA Draft when the Rockets won the draft lottery.  Coming into the league with much fan fare and expectations, Ming rarely disappointed when he had been on the court.  Skilled with fantastic shooting touch for a player of his size, Ming was one of the best centers in the league for the duration of his career but had many leg problems that prohibited him from achieving "great" status.  After continuously battling with his legs and feet, he retired last off season.

10) Elton Brand, PF, Chicago Bulls out of Duke University in 1999 NBA Draft (860 Games, 830 Starts, 18.3 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.9 BPG, 1.0 SPG, 73.9 FT Pctg., 50.1 FG Pctg., 21.3 PER, 111 Offensive Rating, 104 Defensive Rating) - A quiet but very effective low post scorer for the Duke Blue Devils, Brand declared for the 1999 NBA Draft after his sophomore season and won the co-Rookie of the Year Award with Chicago, an award he shared with Houston Rockets guard Steve Francis.  Brand was inexplicably traded after two seasons with the Bulls, and continued his stellar play with the Los Angeles Clippers.  A very talented and loyal competitor, Brand's career has been void of much success.  He made the conference semifinals in 2006 and with the 76ers this season but, aside from that, hasn't won a first round series in his career.  Over a two year stretch from 2007 to 2009, Brand only played in 37 games due to an achilles injury and it's limited him as a player.  Brand will probably never reach the elite level that he once was at but his career is still with great individual success.

9) Derrick Rose, PG, Chicago Bulls out of University of Memphis in 2008 NBA Draft (279 Games, 278 Starts, 21.0 PPG, 6.8 APG, 3.8 RPG, 81.5 FT Pctg., 31.0 3PT FG Pctg., 46.4 FG Pctg., 19.9 PER, 110 Offensive Rating, 107 Defensive Rating) - Drafted in 2008, Rose was a hometown boy who took Chicago by storm when he won the Rookie of the Year award and brought the team to the postseason in his rookie year.  Since then he's become the youngest player to ever win the NBA MVP Award in 2011, took his team to the Eastern Conference Finals last year and been the key player for a Bulls team that's had the best record in the league the last two seasons.  He suffered a tough ACL injury in the postseason and the efficiency in his individual numbers has decreased before then with his high usage rate (due to Coach Tom Thibodeau's poor offensive schemes) and it remains to be seen what kind of player Rose will be when he gets back.

8) Dwight Howard, C, Orlando Magic out of Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy High School in 2004 NBA Draft (621 Games, 620 Starts, 18.4 PPG, 13.0 RPG, 2.2 BPG, 1.5 APG, 1.0 SPG, 58.8 FT Pctg., 57.7 FG Pctg., 22.5 PER, 111 Offensive Rating, 98 Defensive Rating) - A fantastic athlete for a player of his size, Howard was a high school prodigy and was a surprise at the first overall selection in 2004.  After the Magic passed on the proven Emeka Okafor to select Howard, he immediately rewarded the Magic with flashes of brilliance in his rookie season with Orlando.  Howard has led the Magic to the playoffs the last six years of his career, saw the team make it to the NBA Finals in 2009 and has won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award three times.  He's rubbed people the wrong way with his antics off the court towards the Orlando Magic franchise the last couple of years, but there's no denying that the sky is still the limit for this big man.

7) Chris Webber, PF, Orlando Magic out of University of Michigan in 1993 NBA Draft (831 Games, 827 Starts, 20.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.4 BPG, 1.4 SPG, 20.9 PER, 104 Offensive Rating, 101 Defensive Rating) - A highly skilled member of the famed Fab Five Michigan Wolverines days, Webber seemed to be a lock for the number one overall selection after declaring for the 1993 NBA Draft following his sophomore season.  Originally drafted by the Magic, Webber was immediately traded to the Golden State Warriors for Penny Hardaway and won the 1994 Rookie of the Year Award with the Warriors.  However, Webber battled with Warriors coach Don Nelson during his rookie season and was shockingly shipped to the Washington Bullets after his rookie season.  Although he put up good numbers with the Bullets (then ultimately the Wizards), Webber's best years came when he was traded to the Sacramento Kings for Mitch Richmond.  Webber led the Kings to the most successful stretch in franchise history, even reaching the 2002 Western Conference Finals as a member of the squad.  Webber never did win a championship, though, and spent his last years with the Kings and 76ers battling through knee injuries before finishing his career with a brief return to Golden State.

6) Patrick Ewing, C, New York Knicks out of Georgetown University in 1985 NBA Draft (1,183 Games, 1,122 Starts, 21.0 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.4 BPG, 1.9 APG, 1.0 SPG, 74.0 FT Pctg., 50.4 FG Pctg., 21.0 PER, 106 Offensive Rating, 99 Defensive Rating) - Viewed as a can't miss player out of Georgetown, Ewing was the prize of the first ever draft lottery in 1985.  The New York Knicks would win that draft lottery and would immediately announce their intentions to select Ewing.  Ewing was a fantastic low post presence for the Knicks throughout his career.  For all of his success, Ewing's reputation changes based on who you talk to.  Being a tough interview his entire career in New York, he was often the subject of criticism at the hands of the New York Media for being unable to win a championship, although he made the 1994 NBA Finals.  Currently becoming recognized as a top assistant coach in the league (currently with the Magic), Ewing never did win a championship but continued to produce after winning the 1986 Rookie of the Year award, even being named one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players in history in 1997 and being enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

5) Allen Iverson, PG, Philadelphia 76ers out of Georgetown University in 1996 NBA Draft (914 Games, 901 Starts, 26.7 PPG, 6.2 APG, 3.7 RPG, 2.2 SPG, 78.0 FT Pctg., 31.3 3PT FG Pctg., 42.5 FG Pctg., 20.9 PER, 105 Offensive Rating, 106 Defensive Rating) - An explosive scorer during his entire tenture in basketball, Iverson was the first overall selection in the famed 1996 NBA draft.  Iverson went on to take the league by storm, winning the 1997 Rookie of the Year award and successfully pulling off a cross over on the league's best player: Michael Jordan.  Iverson would take Philadelphia to unprecedented success, even making the 2001 NBA Finals with the 76ers.  Iverson, though, had a reputation of being a selfish and immature player and clashed with many coaches and teammates in Philadelphia.  After finally demanding a trade in 2006, Iverson was shipped to the Denver Nuggets where his reputation proceeded to take huge blows.  While in Denver and Detroit (and later in his return to Philadelphia), Iverson continued to show a huge problem playing with has not yet officially retired (although he's been out of the league the last two seasons with no offers to return) but his past success cannot be denied.

4) David Robinson, C, San Antonio Spurs out of United States Naval Academy in 1987 NBA Draft (987 Games, 985 Starts, 21.1 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 3.0 BPG, 2.5 APG, 1.4 SPG, 73.6 FT Pctg., 51.8 FG Pctg., 26.2 PER, 116 Offensive Rating, 96 Defensive Rating) - A fantastic athlete that came to national prominence with the Midshipmen, former gymnast David Robinson was a risky selection by the Spurs in the 1987 NBA Draft by account of his having to serve two years with the United States Navy after his graduation.  Because of this, there were rumors that he may sign with another team when eligible to play in the NBA.  However, Robinson joined the Spurs in the 1989 NBA off season.  A fantastic athlete, Robinson racked up many awards during his tenure with San Antonio: the 1990 NBA Rookie of the Year winner, 1992 Defensive Player of the Year award, an NBA Sportmanship Award, Citizenship Award, 1995 Most Valuable Player of the Year and two time Olympic Gold Medalist with the United States of America.  Robinson's career was overshadowed by a difficulty winning big games and a perceived lack of toughness.  After the arrival of Tim Duncan, though, in 1997, Robinson would win two championships with the San Antonio Spurs and play his entire fourteen year career with San Antonio, be named one of the NBA's 50 greatest players in league history in 1997 and also being elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.

3) LeBron James, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers out of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in 2003 NBA Draft (689 Games, 688 Starts, 27.6 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 6.9 APG, 1.7 SPG, 74.6 FT Pctg., 33.1 3PT FG Pctg., 48.3 FG Pctg., 27.2 PER, 115 Offensive Rating, 102 Defensive Rating) - A local Akron, Ohio, prodigy, LeBron James was met with ridiculous expectations during his high school days at St. Vincent - St. Mary's and eventually surpassed all of those expectations after entering the NBA.  As a raw eighteen year old prospect, LeBron won the 2004 NBA Rookie of the Yer award and in his third season in the league led the perennial doormat Cavaliers to the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons.  Over time, LeBron James eventually led the Cavaliers to their first NBA Finals Appearance in franchise history in 2007, has racked up three NBA MVP Awards (in 2009, 2010 and 2012) and shaken the NBA to its core when he decided to form the first super-team when he left Cleveland to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.  Still seeking that ever elusive championship ring, people can critique LeBron's game all they want (and, trust me, they will) but there's no denying how great he is and how great he still will be.

2) Shaquille O'Neal, C, Orlando Magic out of Louisiana State University in 1992 NBA Draft (1,207 Games, 1,197 Starts, 23.7 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, 2.3 BPG, 52.7 FT Pctg., 58.2 FG Pctg., 26.4 PER, 113 Offensive Rating, 101 Defensive Rating) - O'Neal was an athletic seven footer entering the league with an abundance of personality, a skill set unmatched by anyone in recent memory and with high expectations.  O'Neal was a lock for the first overall selection in the 1992 NBA Draft and took the league by storm in his first season with Orlando, winning the 1993 NBA Rookie of the Year award.  O'Neal led the Magic to the 1995 NBA Finals in only his third season in the league before signing with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1996 NBA Off season.  The rest, as they say, is history.  O'Neal would team with coach Phil Jackson and a young Kobe Bryant to win three NBA Championships, three NBA Finals MVPs and the 2000 NBA Most Valuable Player award all with the Lakers.  Following a very public dispute with Kobe Bryant, Shaq was traded to the Miami Heat in 2005 where he teamed with a young Dwyane Wade to win the 2006 NBA Championship with the Heat.  O'Neal would eventually become a bit of a "ring chaster" near the end of his career, flailing in stops in Phoenix, Cleveland and Boston before finally retiring last off season.  Although he's achieved fantastic success in his career - winning on the court, selling platinum records and starring in major motion picture films - O'Neal's career is overshadowed by his squabbles with teammates and coaches and has left on bad terms with all of the teams with which he's played.  But don't let it distort your view of O'Neal as a player.  On the court, there's few who were as great as O'Neal.

1) Tim Duncan, PF, San Antonio Spurs out of Wake Forest University in 1997 NBA Draft (1,111 Games, 1,109 Starts, 20.3 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 3.1 APG, 2.2 BPG, 68.8 FT Pctg., 50.7 FG Pctg., 24.7 PER, 110 Offensive Rating, 95 Defensive Rating) - A quiet, yet talented big man at Wake Forest, the former aspiring Olympic Swimmer from the Virgin Islands took the world by storm in college and was a lock as the number one draft pick once he graduated from Wake Forest in 1997.  One of the four four year collegians on this list, Duncan joined another number one draft pick in David Robinson and turned the Spurs into a championship team in only his second year.  Long viewed as a small market team seemingly always incapable of winning big games, Duncan went to San Antonio and has won four championships, three NBA Finals MVPs, two regular season Most Valuable Player of the Year awards, the 1998 Rookie of the Year award and has been the staple in the middle for the Spurs for all of their championship teams in franchise history.  Turning a historically underachieving team into a mini dynasty of sorts, The Big Fundamental, as he is called, is one of the most notorious players in the league due to his huge levels of success while being largely a quiet and private person.  But the fact that Duncan went to a franchise that had never won a championship and was able to be the centerpiece for four (and potentially five) NBA Championships during his run there is quite remarkable.  And it's led to him, arguably, being the best Number One draft pick of the draft lottery era.
Posted on: October 20, 2008 3:50 pm
Edited on: October 25, 2008 1:27 pm

Outlook for the 2008-2009 New Orleans Hornets


After another dominating performance in the ever so pointless preseason I find myself eagerly anticipating the regular season for the New Orleans Hornets.  It's been a tumultuous time cheering for this team and for the first time since the Alonzo Mourning years the Hornets enter a season with serious championship aspirations.  Granted, they won't sneak up on anybody this season, but this team looks talented enough to make a serious run at a championship.  The Hornets game 7 fall to the San Antonio Spurs in last year's western confrence semifinals left a bad taste in many people's mouths, but hopefully the taste of defeat will only make this team hungrier for success.  The addition of James Posey brings the championship experience that the team did not previously have and also gives the Hornets a clutch three point option whenever Peja Stojakovic may falter in the postseason.  There's not much left to be said about Chris Paul and David West as they are already all stars, and this is as prime a year as any for Tyson Chandler to achieve that same accolade.  But here is the outlook and current roster for the New Orleans Hornets.

PG: #3 Chris Paul  (2007/2008 Stats in 80 games:  21.1 PPG, 11.6 APG, 4.0 RPG, 2.7 SPG while shooting 85.1 FT Pctg., 36.9 3PT FG Pctg., 48.8 FG Pctg.)
Last year's runner up for the MVP award comes into this season as an early favorite to win that same award.  Last year was a surprise for some but it wasn't necessarily a coming out party for Chris Paul.  He has now put out three years of consistent, spectacular point guard play and last year developed a three point shot to compliment his speed and driving abilities.  He continued the same play in the postseason by winning battles with future hall of famer Jason Kidd and former Finals MVP Tony Parker.  He enters this season as a star and with the eyes of the NBA watching him.

#5 Mike James: (2007/2008 Stats in 21 games with the Hornets: 2.7 PPG shooting 100 FT Pctg., 30.4 3PT FG Pctg., 34.4 FG Pctg.)
It seems eons ago that Mike James averaged 20 points a game with the Toronto Raptors and received a contract for that season from the Minnesota Timberwolves.  After being shipped from Minnesota to Houston, Mike James found a place he hadn't yet suited up for and was traded (along with G/F Bonzi Wells) to New Orleans at the trade deadline in a deal involving guard Bobby Jackson.  Mike James did very little after arriving to New Orleans after sitting behind both Chris Paul and Jannero Pargo on the depth chart.  After Pargo's departure for the money in Russia, Mike James will be thrust into the backup point guard position and will be counted on to provide good shooting, championship experience, and steady play when Chris Paul needs a breather.  If possible, it'd be great if he could find his jump shot and even though he likely will put up similar numbers to that of Jannero Pargo's, it's doubtful he will play the same role that Pargo played and he will not be able to fill Jannero Pargo's shoes.  Thankfully, the Hornets don't need him to.

SG: #9 Morris Peterson (2007/2008 stats in 76 games: 8.0 PPG, 2.7 RPG while shooting 76.5 FT Pctg., 39.4 3PT FG Pctg., 41.7 FG Pctg.)
After being a highly regarded pick up last offseason for the Hornets, Morris Peterson inexplicably turned in the worst season of his professional career.  In the 2004 offseason, the Hornets signed Peterson to an offer sheet that was matched by the Toronto Raptors but three years later the Hornets finally acquired Morris Peterson via free agency but the output didn't match the desire that was shown to acquire him.  Peterson was extremely solid from the three point line and he was still asked to guard the opposing team's best wing player, but Peterson rarely finished games (with Jannero Pargo finishing games at shooting guard) and would go periods of play where you would barely notice he was still on the team.  He should retain the starting shooting guard position but will most likely continue to finish games on the bench, as it's likely that Peja will finish games at the 2 spot with James Posey coming into the closer role.

#23 Devin Brown (2007/2008 stats in 78 games with the Cavaliers: 7.5 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.2 APG while shooting 75.4 FT Pctg., 30.8 3PT FG Pctg., 40.9 FG Pctg.)
Devin Brown returns to the Hornets organization after spending a majority of the 2006/2007 season with the (then) New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets.  After being brough in following a Chris Paul injury, Devin Brown played a majority of starts at the point guard position and may be asked to do some of the same this season if Mike James fatlers.  He brings more championship experience from the 2005 season with the San Antonio Spurs and will be a valuable player off of the bench.

#45 Rasual Butler (2007/2008 stats in 51 games: 4.9 PPG, 2.0 RPG while shooting 83.9 FT Pctg., 33.1 3PT FG Pctg., 35.0 FG Pctg.)
After receiving a contract extension in the 2007 offseason, Rasual Butler delivered a horrible season, falling completely out of the rotation and not playing a game with the Hornets after March.  The three point shooting specialist has fallen into Byron Scott's doghouse and if not for his contract probably would not make the final roster.  He's deadly when on, though, and if he plays his way out of the doghouse could be good as an occasinal breather for either Peterson or Brown.  Butler could also play some small forward but the team is solid there.

SF: #16 Peja Stojakovic (2007/2008 stats in 77 games: 16.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.2 APG while shooting 92.9 FT Pctg., 44.1 3PT FG Pctg., 44.0 FG Pctg.)
Peja Stojakovic was a hearalded free agent pickup back in the 2006 offseason, hoping to give the Hornets a spectacular three point shooter who could close games in clutch situations and bring experience to one of the youngest teams in the NBA.  He gave them 13 games.  After recovering from those back pains Stojakovic turned in an extremely solid season last year, even still if not living up to the contract he was given.  He posted career highs in three point shooting accuracy and played in 77 games last season.  He dissapeared, badly, in the final five games of the semifinals series with the San Antonio Spurs but the Hornets biggest free agent acquisition since Stojakovic was brought in to help with that.

#41 James Posey (2007/2008 stats in 74 games with the Celtics: 7.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.0 SPG while shooting 80.9 FT Pctg., 38.0 3PT FG Pctg., 41.8 FG Pctg.)
James Posey has won two NBA championships as a member of both the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics and played an intregal role in both championships.  He is known as a defensive stopper with an uncanny ability to hit big shots and his leadership and skillset is invaluable to a team looking to bring on board anything that he can offer to them.  Posey's addition will steal minutes from the promising Julian Wright, but it was a move that was made to put the Hornets in position to win this season.  Time will tell if he will be able to live up to the four years, 24 million dollar deal that the Hornets gave him, but it looks like a brilliant move thus far.

#32 Julian Wright (2007/2008 Stats in 57 games: 3.9 PPG, 2.1 RPG while shooting 63.5 FT Pctg., 41.7 3PT FG Pctg., 53.3 FG Pctg.)
After being a surprise addition in the draft last season, Julian Wright delivered an extremely strong second half of the season and played admirably in the playoffs, developing a three point shot that many critics said would keep him from becoming a good NBA player.  His athleticism, speed, and leaping ability make him a perfect fit for the Hornets up tempo style, but Wright will see his development halted by the addition of James Posey, unless his shot has improved enough for him to receive time at the shooting guard position.

PF: #30 David West (2007/2008 stats in 76 games: 20.6 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.3 BPG while shooting 85.0 FT Pctg., 48.2 FG Pctg.)
David West continued his amazing improvement by turning in an all star season last year highlighted by a brilliant game five performance in the semifinals against the Spurs which West turned out an amazing statline of 38 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 blocks in a crucial game.  West slipped down to the Hornets in the stocked 2003 draft thanks to questions about which position he would be able to adjust tot.  What people overlooked is the man's ability to just play the game.  He has the potential to become the Hornets first 20/10 player since Alonzo Mourning (as far as points and rebounds are concerned) and looks to be a staple at the PF position for years to come.

#33 Melvin Ely (2007/2008 stats in 52 games: 3.9 PPG, 2.8 RPG while shooting 55.2 FT Pctg., 47.2 FG Pctg.)
Melvin Ely was brought in to give the Hornets a low post offensive option and a championship ring that he won with the 2007 San Antonio Spurs.  He delivered what was expected and not much more.  Melvin Ely mainly coasted last season before seeing important minutes against the Spurs in the confrence semifinals.  He picked up his player option to stay this season with the Hornets, and he will be insurance in case Hilton Armstrong doesn't progress the way the Hornets believe that he will. 

#40 Ryan Bowen (2007/2008 stats in 53 games: 2.2 PPG, 1.9 RPG while shooting 55.2 FT Pctg., 49.0 FG Pctg.)
Ryan Bowen's role is something that's overlooked on many teams, but which championship squad doesn't boast that "dirty work/do it all" hustle player off of the bench?  Ryan Bowen probably doesn't have a talented bone in his body, but he's still been able to maintain a lengthy, solid career.  This is due, entirely, to his work ethic, dedication and willingness to do whatever's necessary to benefit whichever team he's on.  The Hornets resigned him instead of Chris Andersen for frontcourt depth mainly because of his locker room presence and his commitment to hustling.  Every team needs this kind of positive influence in the locker room.

#4 Sean Marks (2007/2008 stats in 19 games with the Suns: 3.1 PPG, 1.9 RPG while shooting 63.2 FT Pctg., 53.5 FG Pctg.)
Sean Marks joins Devin Brown and Melvin Ely as Hornets who have won championship rings with the Spurs.  He probably will not see much playing time but is a big man who can knock down a jump shot and provide minutes in garbage time.  He's nothing more than a clubhouse guy and you can't expect more than 20 games from him.  You'll see a lot of DNP-CD next to his name this season.

C: #6 Tyson Chandler (2007/2008 stats in 79 games: 11.8 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 1.0 APG while shooting 59.3 FT Pctg., 62.3 FG Pctg.)
The Chicago Bulls looked like idiots trading Elton Brand for the draft right to an 18 year old Tyson Chandler back in 2001.  Aside from a solid 2004/2005 season Tyson Chandler's career and role never materalized in Chicago, and after five seasons the promising center was shipped to the Hornets for the troubled J.R. Smith and aging P.J. Brown.  The deal could not have worked out better for the Hornets.  Tyson Chandler has lived up to that high draft pick in his two seasons with the Hornets, progressing to the point where he is now one of the best centers in the league.  He runs the floor extremely well for a 7 footer and as a result is the finishing option on the best alley oop tandem in the league along with Chris Paul.  As a result of that alley oop, Chandler shot 62.3 percent from the field and averaged double figure points for the first time in his career.  His blocks dipped a little bit, but he's still a rebounding machine and if he consistently stays out of foul trouble he'll be in prime position to make the 2009 NBA All Star game.

#12 Hilton Armstrong (2007/2008 stats in 65 games: 2.7 PPG, 2.5 RPG while shooting 62.9 FT Pctg., 45.3 FG Pctg.)
Hilton Armstrong hasn't yet become the player that the Hornets envisioned he would when they selected him 12th overall back in the 2006 NBA draft.  His wingspan and amazing athletic abililty for someone of his size made him a coveted pick, and he and 15th overall selection Cedric Simmons were supposed to be fontcourt staples for the Hornets for years to come.  The Hornets were so sold on Armstrong's game that they let a then overweight and underacheiving Brandon Bass leave for Dallas in free agency.  But Cedric Simmons never worked out, now struggling to find playing time with Chicago, and Armstrong is facing the defining year of his career.  The Hornets have high hopes for Armstrong and he is a favorite of the organization, this is proven by the fact that they brought in no front court help in case he doesn't pan out.  They believe this is the year he will leave up to the potential he has shown and that he posseses.  If he ever becomes confident or graceful out on the court, he could be the mini Tyson Chandler the team needs off the bench.  If not, it could severely hurt the Hornets championship hopes and he most likely will not be employed by the team next season.  This is it for Armstrong and I hope he pulls through.

Coach: Byron Scott (career record with the Hornets: 151-177 with 7-5 playoff record)
Byron Scott finally won a much deserved coach of the year award.  He was probably slighted out of the award in the 2001/2002 season because he coached a team that had Jason Kidd on it.  Last year, he was criticized for coaching a team with Chris Paul on it.  But let's face facts: Jason Kidd has never made it past the confrence semifinals without Byron Scott.  Byron Scott took perennial loser New Jersey and brought the Nets to two NBA Finals.  He walked into an awful situation in the rebuilding 2004/2005 season with the Hornets (a season that saw Lee Nailon and Dan Dickau as leading scorers) before grabbing control of the team in 2005 and then leading them.  He's always got this team to play hard, to play tough defense and to play an amazing organized style of basketball play.  Chris Paul's success should be largely attributed to Byron Scott's coaching, as probably nobody is as adept at coaching a point guard than Byron Scott is.  Just look at what he got out of Dan Dickau.  He's one of the top five coaches in the league, and honestly in my unbiased opinion, I would only put Greg Popovich and Phil Jackson ahead of him.

Final Analysis: The Hornets enter this season on a high note and with high expectations.  They are an extremely talented assortment of athleticism, three point shooting, team work, chemistry and hard nosed coaching.  Byron Scott will have his best shot at returning to the finals and winning his first championship this season but it's not as clear cut as some would think.  If you look at the statistics I posted, I think the one that stands out the most is the fact that all five of the Hornets started played at least 76 games.  Last year the Hornets had everything clicking: momentum, health, play.  They drove past the Mavericks and gave the Spurs more of a fight than they probably should have before falling at home in that tough game 7 loss.  The addition of James Posey brings talent to a seemingly talent deprived bench, but the loss of Jannero Pargo nearly offsets all of that.  Jannero Pargo is not going to win MVP awards or scoring titles but he was essential and vital to last year's team.  You may be able to replace production in this league, but you can't replace presence.  The thin front court also leaves no room for error for David West or Tyson Chandler.  The Hornets are still waiting on Hilton Armstrong while, even though Melvin Ely, Ryan Bowen and Sean Marks try, they just don't have game changing backups in the front court position.  They have bodies though and after last season this team now has experience.  All that's left is replicating last year's play while dealing with the new expectations of a contending team.  The Hornets should be in the thick of things near the end of the season and will finish between the 50-56 win mark for this season.  A second division championship in franchise history is more than a possibility (even with the Rockets and Spurs looming) and an NBA Championship is more than a possibility.  But things need to fall in place this season.  After all, luck plays a huge role in winning championships.

Posted on: March 17, 2008 1:08 am
Edited on: October 25, 2008 1:23 pm

The Charlotte/New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets

.. and their inability to get anything to stick.

I recently went onto the New Orleans Hornets board and created a post (that popped into my head) asking everyoen to name their fave 5 Hornets.  I based it off of the Barkley idea that he does on the TNT show .. and I quickly wondered how I was going to name just five players.  But then I got to thinking .. after Muggsy Bogues and P.J. Brown (my obvious 1 and 2 selections) .. I had no one else to put in.  Whether it be a place to call home .. a player to call the franchise .. or even a coach .. I realized my Hornets inability to ever get past above average has nothing to do with the talent assembled (Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson, Baron Davis, Eddie Jones, etc.) .. it's always been the inability to build on their success. 

Take for instance when the Hornets upset the Boston Celtics in the 1st round of the 1993 playoffs shored by the contributions of the big 3 .. Muggsy Bogues, Alonzo Mourning, and Larry Johnson.  All three were very, very young at that point and there's no reason to believe that that core could have been anything but successful for long, long periods of time.  They had the right pieces in place .. but due to contract disputes with Mourning .. he was shipped off to Miami and then Johnson was later shipped to the Knicks for Anthony Mason.  Out of all of this .. Glen Rice emerged as a star in his days with the Hornets (and my fave 5 list) as he had his absolute best years with the Hornets organization.  In 1996-97 .. the team, led by a group that included Bogues, Rice, Vlade Divac, Mason and Hornets mainstay Dell Curry managed to reel off 54 victories .. the most in franchise history.  Due to injuries with Bogues, though, the Hornets were swept out of the first round by the surging New York Knicks.  They seemed to have peaked by then .. and in a frustrating start to the 98-99 season .. the Hornets fired coach Dave Cowens .. replaced him with Paul Silas .. and shipped Rice to the Lakers for Eddie Jones.  This created a rallying cry for the Hornets as they streaked to the end of the year (also playing with the death of Bobby Phills that season) and streaked to the finish line only to fall a game short of the postseason.

Now the one constant in all of the change in Charlotte was the fans.  They were absolutely incredible.  The teal colors were a revolutionary color in the NBA .. they had high selling jerseys .. constantly sold out their home arena and were the hottest ticket in town.  Even in the beginning years when they really struggled .. the people of Charlotte always came out to support them and the Hornets were always amongst the leaders in attendance.  But in true form .. the Hornets were again able to make something great turn sour.  When owner George Shinn demanded a new arena the city of Charlotte would not budge .. and attendance dropped radically the last couple of seasons.  In the Hornets last year in Charlotte .. 2001-02 .. a very good team that consisted of Baron Davis, Jamal Mashburn, David Wesley, Jamaal Magloire, and so on went largely unnoticed as it almost became laughable at the amount of people that would (not) show up to Hornets home games.  By then .. it was already inevitable they were leaving.  (SIDENOTE: I lived in Ponchatoula, Louisiana at this time and was hoping the Hornets would come and play in New Orleans instead of Louisville, Kentucky.  When word leaked that they were officially moving to New Orleans I could care less how many people did or didn't show up in Charlotte.  I was stoked).

Now that their history in New Orleans is more recent .. the injuries by Mashburn and the horrible attitude and the ability to quit that was shown by Baron Davis .. the team looked to be at a standstill.  They were obviously in playoff contention .. but with the addition of the Bobcats into the NBA .. the Hornets were going to be moved to the Western confrence.  Welcome, Hornets.  Injuries to second year pro David West, all star center Jamaal Magloire, all star guard Baron Davis, all star forward Jamal Mashburn, so on and so forth forced the Hornets to put out a lineup that consisted of: Dan Dickau, J.R. Smith, George Lynch, Lee Nailon, Chris Andersen, Chris Jacobsen, Jackson Vroman, Bostjan Nachbar, etc.  Needless to say .. Mashburn: traded.  Davis: traded.  David Wesley: traded.  Darrell Armstrong: traded.  In the offseason Magloire would be traded and I had no idea what the team was going to do.  Then Chris Paul fell into their laps.  Shortly after .. hurricane katrina hit New Orleans.

I didn't know what to think of the Hornets having to play games in Oklahoma City.  I knew the town would come out and support them for a few games .. but a season?  Maybe two?  Let's say that my expectations weren't very high.  Coming off of an 18 win season that saw them fall last in attendance in New Orleans and with no reason to get hopeful about that season .. I firgured the craze would die and the Hornets would be a displaced mediocre team .. not a good situation: (see 2005 New Orleans Saints in San Antonio .. or for your benefit .. don't see).  But David West emerged as a clutch, awesome player, Chris Paul exceeded all expectations and showed promise in a point guard that I had never seen before .. and P.J. Brown held down the fort .. creating a team didn't seem likely to make the playoffs .. but that was still in the hunt.  December 18, 2005, will be one of the most memorable nights of my basketball fan life.  When that Oklahoma City crowd rallied the Hornets to a victory over division foe the San Antonio Spurs.  The victory gave me hope .. gave teh team promise .. and shined light on how effective a home court Oklahoma City was.

A couple of years later, with Desmond Mason leaving in free agency, J.R. Smith and P.J. Brown being traded for Tyson Chandler and Peja Stojakovic being added on .. the team that played its last game in Oklahoma City bared one player who was with the team when it last played in New Orleans: David West.  The organization eventually went back to New Orleans for the 2007-2008 season which has been a love/hate relationship concerning me and that crowd.  I thought it was a horrible decision to leave Oklahoma City and I knew from the start that the crowd would fail.  After all .. it's not as if they were anything special to begin with.  My fears would come true when in the 2nd home game of the season .. 8,000 people showed up to watch the Hornets beat the Portland Trailblazers.  The crowd has since filled a bandwagon and has looked nothing short of fantastic these past few weeks .. but I can't help but wonder when this team doesn't win as often .. will they still show?

Now one thing has remained stable in this organization constantly in flux and transition .. that being the owner: George Shinn.  Whether it be his wanting to have a cold wallet .. wanting to have a new arena .. or wanting to be an a$$ .. he has always ruined what looked like a great thing for the Hornets.  People say I'm pessimistic and always ask me why I always worry when it looks like the Hornets have a bright future.  Because the Hornets have repeatedly had "bright futures".  From the big 3 days of Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson, and Muggsy Bogues in front of those awesome Charlotte crowds.  Whether it was leaving Charlotte for New Orleans .. and then turning down Oklahoma City to return to New Orleans (which to me was just a public relations move) .. the Hornets have always found a way to squander great things.  So when I look at Chris Paul, Tyson Chandler, David West, and company .. it's hard for me to look past this season or next season.  Because George Shinn always finds a way to screw it up.  Hopefully I will be wrong.  Hopefully this team will do great things (and this is the BEST potential Hornets team ever) and we can finally provide a stable, successful, and consistant Hornets team out on the court every single year.  It's something the organization has been unable to do for twenty years.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com