Tag:Cavaliers
Posted on: June 1, 2009 1:13 pm
Edited on: May 3, 2010 2:43 am
 

Previewing The 2009 NBA Finals

After correctly predicting the NBA finals in my review of the conference finals, I find it important that I hurry aboard to try and keep up my good name by predicting the NBA Finals.  In all honesty, I couldn't be happier with this matchup.  Not only did I pick it, these, in my opinion, are the two best teams that the NBA could offer at this point.  Both of these teams have faced adversity.  Both have taken shots in the media and Stan Van Gundy and Pau Gasol have been the most critiqued figures in the media since the postseason started.  But how did they get here?

The Magic stumbled at the end of the season, coupling blowout losses with an injury to Hedo Turkoglu and really entered the playoffs on a sour note.  Furthermore, two of their first three games of the postseason they lose to the 76ers on fantastic last second shots by Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young.  However, with the team down 2-1 in Philadelphia and with the game tied, Hedo Turkoglu came through with the biggest shot this season for the Magic, nailing a three in the final seconds to tie the series at two apiece.  After Dwight Howard was suspended for game six in that series, the team really came together and played their most complete game of the postseason, winning and exiling Philadelphia in six games.  The defending champion Boston Celtics came next and the Magic, again, were dealt a crushing loss in game 4.  With the Magic up 2-1, just seconds away from taking a commanding 3-1 lead, Boston forward Glen Davis nails a terrific shot and the series is tied.  The Celtics went on to win game 5 and all looked lost for Orlando.  But display the stuff that champions are made of, Orlando took care of business at home in game 6 and then crushed Boston on their home court in game 7.  By the time the Conference Finals came around, the Magic had already seen everything anyone could throw at them.  So when the Cavaliers jumped out to 20 point leads three different times in this series, it should not surprise that Orlando came back in all of them because they've never displayed a lack of effort out on the court.  Thoroughly exposing and defeating the Cavaliers, Orlando now is making it's second finals appearance in franchise history but is looking for their first championship.

The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the most storried teams in history.  In the present tense, they're probably the most talented team in basketball.  That's what makes it so frustrating when you see how they coast from time to time out there on the court.  Now making their 30th appearance in the NBA finals in franchise history, the Lakers' road was just as rocky but was more publicly ridiculed than Orlando's.  After defeating the Jazz in five games, the Lakers faced off against the Houston Rockets in what turned out to be a brutal, physical battle.  After Yao Ming got injured and the Lakers took a 2-1 series lead, it looked like all was lost for Houston.  But the Lakers allowed the depleted Rockets to blow them out two more games before the Lakers took the series in seven games.  After letting Houston take them to seven, the Lakers were suddenly everyone's favorite team to hate and people wrongfully bashed them before their series with the Nuggets.  Aside from an embarassing game 4, the Lakers genuinely played good, complete basketball against the Nuggets, including an impressive game 5 and a mind blowingly convincing game 6 in order to get the team to the finals.  Kobe Bryant looks to win his fourth NBA Championship, his first without Shaquille O'Neal, and bring Phil Jackson his 10th, which would put Phil alone atop the list of coaches with championshp rings. 

How do these teams match up and who has the advantage in what area?  That will now be addressed.
Western Conference Champion: (1) Los Angeles Lakers (65-17) vs. Eastern Conference Champion: (3) Orlando Magic (59-23)

Why The Lakers Will Win: The Lakers hold the advantage of having the best player in the game on their side.  Kobe Bryant proved in the Denver series that he is still capable of going above and beyond the call of duty in order to ensure that his team wins that elusive championship.  With an extremely talented roster, the Lakers are capable of throwing many defenders at the Magic and are athletic enough and talented enough to give Orlando fits on defense, something that Philadelphia did but that Boston and Cleveland really couldn't.  In that lineup to guard Orlando, the Lakers could also score very efficently as all of the players on the court are capable of scoring from different spots on the floor.  The bench has been really hit or miss for Los Angeles, but usually either Lamar Odom, Sasha Vujacic, Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar or Luke Walton will come up big one game or another.  They usually have at least one player each game stand tall.  It would help if all of them could get on the same page, but the current formulat hasn't crippled them.  Trevor Ariza will be huge in this series, as he has been all postseason, because finally there is a player whom Orlando will face that can guard Rashard Lewis.  With Ariza being tall, athletic and even strong enough to stay in front of Lewis, Lewis may have a hard time.  Lewis has had a tendency to show up in spurts for Orlando and Ariza can really contain those spots.

Why The Magic Will Win: The Magic can't be criticized for a lack of effort or be accused of coasting at all this postseason because they're not talented enough to do that and they haven't faced competition where they can get away with it.  As a result, for nineteen excruciating games, the Magic have had to go out and battle for four quarters.  Public perception would tell us that means the Magic could be exhausted by this point but I truly believe that those battles are the best experience a team can have entering the NBA Finals.  Well prepared now for any situation they could possibly experience, the Magic have shown that they can jump out on you for a big lead, come back on you if you have a big lead, win close games, handle tough losses and still stand tall throughout all of it.  They have the most unguardable player in the series in Dwight Howard.  The Lakers don't play Andrew Bynum often and he's been such a foul machine all postseason that I can't imagine him getting more than 12-15 minutes a game in this series.  That leaves Pau Gasol in the game against Dwight more often than not.  When that happens, Gasol's lack of strength in addition to wanting to avoid foul trouble will allow Howard to have a field day down in the paint.  The Magic could run into trouble if Phil goes to foul Dwight whenever he's around the basket, and the Lakers have the bodies to do that, but Stan Van Gundy has been the best at adjustments in this postseason and he can find a way to have Dwight be quicker with decisions with the basketball.  When Howard kicks it out, all of the Magic shooters have proved capable of hitting big shots.  The Magic are lucky to have two terrific on the ball defenders in Mickael Pietrus and Courtney Lee, and if those two can give Kobe Bryant fits then the rest of the Lakers have not proven they can carry Kobe.  Kobe has carried this team all postseason long, and if the Magic can make Kobe struggle then they will reap the benefits.

Key Player for the Lakers: Lamar Odom is going to be huge for the Lakers.  Because the Magic play such a small lineup, he will find himself matched up with both Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis on both sides of the court throughout the game.  However, his versatility at the power forward position allows the Lakers to be able to match and still be effective against the Magic's unorhodox lineup.  He's been battling a back injury all postseason, but has shown flashes where he hustles, goes after loose balls and really makes it look effortless on the court.  At this level and with him being a player capable of going out to guard Lewis while still also being a force on offense, Odom cannot afford to revert back to his inconsistent quiet ways.  If he plays a huge series the Lakers will undoubtedly come out victorious.

Key Player for the Magic: Rafer Alston has been really hit or miss this entire postseason, as well, but when he's been on, the Magic have won.  Point guards have given the Lakers trouble all postseason and Alston isn't the most talented player at his position, but is a quick and smart player at the point guard position.  His shot has been really streaky and sometimes he takes ill advised chances on the offensive side of the basketball, but if can keep his head in the game and knock down open jump shots then he can be a huge difference maker for the Magic.  Derek Fisher has had a hard time on defense this postseason and has struggled with his jump shot, so this is a prime opportunity for Alston to take advantage of that and thoroughly outplay Fisher.  If he does that, then the Magic will have the advantage to the championship.

Prediction: Lakers in six.

Key As To Why They Will Win: Home court is huge here for Los Angeles.  In the 2-3-2 format, the road team has more of an opportunity than they have at any other level of the postseason.  However, although both teams have shown they're more than capable of winning big playoff games on the road, the Lakers role players play at a different level in Los Angeles.  As a result, the fact that they have more home games is crucial.  Kobe Bryant is going to be effective and consistent in this postseason, and having Trevor Ariza's versatility on both offense and defense this season will hide some of the holes that the team had in last season's finals with the Celtics.  Dwight Howard will severely take out Pau Gasol on both sides of the court, but Odom will be able to take advantage of either Lewis or Turkoglu's struggles on the ball defensively. 

Conclusion: This series is genuinely tough and could go either way.  I look at both squads and I'm happy that they're both here.  They're both experienced in tough situations and are the two most talented teams in the league.  The Magic get the bill as underdog just because the eleminated LeBron James and are facing the star studded Lakers, but they're not some cinderella team that is running on borrowed time.  Dwight Howard is going to be unstoppable in this series but his penchant for foul trouble is a reason why I went against Orlando.  With him being the only sure advantage for Orlando, he's going to be in high demand all series long and needs to be effective at all times.  If players drive it to the basket and get him in foul trouble, and if the Lakers continuously send him to the foul line, that's going to disrupt the Magic flow and really will take them out of this series.  Orlando's had a great run, but I feel as if the intelligence has finally caught up to the talent for the Lakers and I look for them to take advantage of being here for a second straight season.  I've picked them all year and I'll pick them now: the Los Angeles Lakers will be our 2009 NBA Champions.

Posted on: May 30, 2009 4:39 am
 

Best 2nd Round Selections of Draft Lottery Era

Coming off of ranking the top draft picks in NBA's history, I thought it would be fun to go back and look at those guys who are quietly selected in the 2nd round. Usually when the 2nd round comes on, the televisions are turned off and people stop taking notice. As a fan, you may look at the player your team selected the next day and scratch your head at the unfamiliarity, but sometimes these players turn out to be fantastic additions to some very important squads. With there being no love for the 2nd rounders, I thought I would compose a list of the top 15 2nd round draft picks in NBA history during the Draft Lottery Era. Before 1989, drafts would go longer than 2 rounds so to give love to those picked later than normal, I'm including those who were selected after the 2nd round as well.

15) Mario Elie, G, Milwaukee Bucks drafted 160th Overall in 1985 NBA Draft out of American International College (732 Games, 8.6 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.6 APG) - Drafted in the 7th round in the 1985 NBA Draft, Elie didn't automatically get to play in the NBA. Becoming a playground legend in New York, nicknamed "The Jedi", Elie would then go on to play in many international leagues in the Portugese League, World Basketball League and spending two years in the CBA, all while trying to get into the NBA. Elie eventually played his first games in 1991 with the Golden State Warriors. After spending two successful seasons with the Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers, Elie would sign with the Houston Rockets and his career would take off. Nicknamed "The Junk Yard Dog", Ellie would be a key reserve and incredibly clutch shooter for two NBA Championship teams for the Rockets in 1994 and 1995. Elie's most famous shot is probably the shot that eleminated the Phoenix Suns in game 7 of the 1994 Western Conference Semifinals. Elie would start in the 1995 NBA Finals for the champion Houston Rockets and would leave to sign with the San Antonio Spurs in 1998. After signing with the Spurs, Elie started at shooting guard and helped the Spurs win their first NBA Championship with the same defense and late game shooting that made him so effective in Houston. Elie would then spend one more year with the Phoenix Suns before retiring in 2001. Elie currently serves as an assistant coach for the Dallas Mavericks.

14) P.J. Brown, F-C, New Jersey Nets drafted 29th Overall in 1992 NBA Draft out of Louisiana Tech University (1,089 Games, 9.1 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.0 BPG) - Leaving Louisiana Tech as the school's 2nd place all time blocked shots leader and 5th place all time rebounds leader, Brown would be drafted by the New Jersey Nets with the first pick in the 2nd round of the 1992 NBA Draft. Electing to play in Greece his rookie season instead of signing with the Nets, Brown would be very successful for Panionios for only one season before signing with the Nets. Brown would immediately become a key defensive big man for the Nets during a 1994 playoff run before signing with the Miami Heat in 1996. While with the Heat, Brown and Alonzo Mourning keyed one of the best defensive frontcourts in the NBA and would routinely lead Miami to the NBA Postseason. Void of postseason success, however, the Heat would try to shape things up and win a championship by trading Brown to the Charlotte Hornets. While with Charlotte, P.J. Brown became a fan favorite for his quiet demeanor and strong, physical play and would eventually get to play in his hometown of New Orleans when the Charlotte Hornets moved there in the 2002 offseason. P.J. Brown would continue to be a very servicable player for New Orleans before being traded to the Chicago Bulls. It looked as if that would be the end of Brown's career, but Brown signed with the Boston Celtics midway through the 2007-2008 season and would be the team's best reserve big man en route to finally winning that elusive NBA Championship. Brown never officially announced his retirement but did not sign with anybody during the 2008-2009 season and is rumored to want to get into coaching.

13) Cuttino Mobley, SG, Houston Rockets drafted 41st Overall in 1998 NBA Draft out of University of Rhode Island (747 Games, 16.0 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.2 SPG) - After playing colleigately at Rhode Island and teaming with Lamar Odom to lead the Rams to an Elite 8 appearance, the sharp shooting Cuttino Mobley would be drafted in the second round by the Houston Rockets in 1998. After being drafted in the second round, something Mobley took personally, he worked to become a starter for the Rockets for the majroity of his rookie season. He and Steve Francis eventually formed a dynamic offensive duo for the Rockets and Mobley would emerge as the guy who drew the assignment of guarding the other team's best swingman. After averaging over 15 points a game for seven straight seasons, Mobley would be traded to the Magic and then from the Magic to the Kings before signing with the Los Angeles Clippers. Once in Los Angeles, Mobley helped the Clippers win their first postseason round in franchise history in 2006. He would later be traded to the New York Knicks and during his physical for the Knicks, he was found to have an irregular heart condition. The heart condition killed former NBA player Reggie Lewis and Mobley, taking precaution, announced his retirement from basketball after finding out the condition.

12) Antonio Davis, PF, Indiana Pacers drafted 45th Overall in 1990 NBA Draft out of University of Texas in El Paso (903 Games, 10.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.1 APG) - After being drafted in the 2nd round by the Pacers, Davis would elect to play in Europe from 1990 until 1993. After signing with the Indiana Pacers in 1993, Davis would immediately become an extremely productive sixth man and would give the team energy, defensive effort and strong physicality around the basket, quickly winning over fans and coaches alike. Although he played five strong seasons with Indiana, Davis' best days came when he was traded to the Toronto Raptors for the draft rights to Jonathan Bender. After going to Toronto, Davis would be named to the 2001 Eastern Conference All Star Team and would routinely pick up double doubles over a season's span. Davis was eventually traded to the Bulls and wound up on the Knicks before heading back to Toronto for his 13th season. After playing only eight games in his return with Toronto, Davis would start to suffer from a chronic back injury. The injury eventually forced him to retire in 2006.

11) Cedric Ceballos, F, Phoenix Suns drafted 48th Overall in 1990 NBA Draft out of California State University in Fullerton (609 Games, 14.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.2 APG) - An offensively potent player for Cal State Fullerton, Ceballos was drafted by the Phoenix Suns and immediately worked his way to being an offensive threat off of the bench for some successful Phoenix teams. In 1993, Ceballos lead the NBA in field goal percentage and was the sixth man for a Suns team that went to the 1993 NBA finals. Ceballos would receive more playing time in the 1993-1994 season and started averaging above 19 points a game with the Suns. After signing with the Los Angeles Lakers, Ceballos would take the team by storm averaging above 20 points a game in his only two full seasons with Los Angeles and also winning the 1995 Slam Dunk Contest. Ceballos would be traded back to Phoenix and would eventually be a reserve for Phoenix, Dallas, Detroit and Miami before leaving the NBA in 2001.

10) Clifford Robinson, F, Portland Trail Blazers drafted 36th Overall in 1989 NBA Draft out of University of Connecticut (1,380 Games, 14.2 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.0 BPG) - As a very balanced very successful player for the UConn Huskies, Robinson would be drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers and immediately become one of the best sixth men in the league. A tall player capable of playing either position and scoring from anywhere on the floor, Robinson would be a key contributor to two Western Conference Champion teams in Portland and would win the 1993 NBA Sixth Man of the Year with Portland. After spending eight years with Portland, Robinson would go on to have similar success in Phoenix, notching a 50 point game at the age of 33 with Phoenix. After routinely leading the Suns in scoring for some successful teams that reached the postseason, Robinson would go on to become a starter for the Pistons and Warriors before finishing his career as a reserve for the Nets. At the tail end of his career Robinson would be suspended on two separate occasions for testing positive for marijuana. Robinson would retire in 2007 and would, then, have his jersey number retired by the historic UConn Huskies.

9) Stephen Jackson, G-F, Phoenix Suns drafted 43rd Overall in 1997 NBA Draft out of Oak Hill Academy High School (599 Games, 15.4 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.3 SPG) - After commiting to the University of Arizona, Jackson would be deemed academically ineligible and be kicked out of the school in his freshman season. After spending one semester at Butler Community College, but not playing basketball, Jackson would declare for the 1997 NBA Draft. Even though he was drafted, Jackson would not make the final roster for Phoenix and would then spend three seasons around the world, playing in the CBA, NBL and in Venezuela and the Domincan Republic. Jackson would eventually sign with the New Jersey Nets in the 2000 NBA offseason and would be a productive reserve for the Nets during the 2000-2001 season. After his contract went up, Jackson would sign with the San Antonio Spurs and under the tutelage of Greg Popovich, would eventually work his way towards becoming the team's starting shooting guard for their 2003 NBA Championship run hitting numerous critical shots for the Spurs along the way in the postseason. After winning that championship, Jackson tried to cash in on his success but received a limited amount of offers. He would sign a one year deal with Atlanta, turning himself into an extremely productive player with the Hawks and turning that into a six year deal with the Indiana Pacers. While in Indiana, Jackson would become involved in many on and off the court troubles including being suspended in the infamous Pistons Pacers brawl. Jackson was traded to the Golden State Warriors and right away would go back to his clutch postseason performances by helping the Warriors pull of the upset of heavily favored Dallas in the 2007 NBA First Round. Jackson's continued to steadily increase his production with the Warriors and is one of the most tenacious, if not troubled, successful players in the league.

8) Gilbert Arenas, G, Golden State Warriors drafted 31st Overall in 2001 NBA Draft out of University of Arizona (433 Games, 22.8 PPG, 5.5 APG, 4.5 RPG, 1.8 SPG) - After leaving the Arizona Wildcats following his sophomore season, Arenas would be deemed a shaky prospect without much potential, lacking the size to be a shooting guard and lacking the ball handling skill to be a legitimate point guard. Because of this, Arenas was passed over by every team in the first round but would then be drafted by the Golden State Warriors. After spending his rookie season working hard towards becoming a superstar, Arenas would get his chance and in his second year in the league would win the 2003 NBA Most Improved Player of the Year award, quickly becoming one of the best young scorers in the league. Arenas turned his second season into a long term deal with the Washington Wizards where his performances became some of the most popular clips in sports. Combining a fantastic knack for scoring the basketball with clutch shooting and a vibrant personality, Arenas would quickly become one of the most popular players in the league. After leading the Wizards to the postseason two straight seasons, even winning a first round matchup for the first time in over a decade for Washington. However, after following that with successful individual seasons for the Wizards, Arenas would be experiencing his best NBA Season in 2006-2007 when with eight games left in the season, Gerald Wallace accidentally fell into Arenas' leg. Arenas then missed the postseason and would only play 13 games the following season for the Wizards, although he did try and play for the team in the postseason. After opting out of his contract with Washington and signing a new, huge long term deal for the Wizards, Arenas would only play two games in the first year of his contract after another knee operation. It's unknown whether Arenas will ever return to the exciting style of basketball that made him so popular as he's struggled to get on the court for the past three seasons.

7) Michael Redd, G, Milwaukee Bucks drafted 43rd Overall in 2000 NBA Draft out of Ohio State University (550 Games, 20.5 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.0 SPG) - Leading the Ohio State Buckeyes to the final four in his junior season, Redd had been the driving force for Ohio State's offense all three of his colleigate seasons for the Buckeyes. After his junior season, Redd declared for the 2000 NBA Draft and was taken by the Milwaukee Bucks. Redd rarely played in his rookie season but played so hard in practice and continued to work on his jump shot so in his second season, coach George Karl offered to give Redd more minutes. Redd responded with solid production and was then given a starting job for the Bucks. By his fourth season in the league, Redd became one of the best shooting guards in the league, becoming deadly effective from the three point line and also routinely leading the Bucks in scoring. He would be rewarded for his efforts with a six year deal from Milwaukee. Redd won a Gold Medal with the USA Olympic Basketball Team in 2008 and has been the best player on two Bucks teams that have made the postseason. He still has many solid years ahead of him and looks to continue to be an effective offensive force in the NBA

6) Jeff Hornacek, G, Phoenix Suns drafted 46th Overall in 1986 NBA Draft out of Iowa State University (1,077 Games, 14.5 PPG, 4.9 APG, 3.4 RPG, 1.4 SPG) - The son of a basketball coach, Hornacek wasn't even given a scholarship to play college basketball and walked on to the Iowa State Cyclones' basketball team. However, shortly after being redshirted by Iowa State, Hornacek would begin to receive huge minutes and would lead Iowa State to the sweet sixteen in his senior season. Hornacek finished his colleigate career as the Big 8 all-time leader in assists. Hornacek would work his way into Phoenix's rotation and would become a legitimate star and scoring force for Phoenix during his stay there. One of the best pure shooters in the league's history, Hornacek would prove to be deadly from three point range and from the free throw line and would average 20 points a game in his last season with Phoenix. He would be traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for Charles Barkley, but was moved to point guard and the transition was not met with much success. As a result, Philadelphia would trade Hornacek to the Utah Jazz where he could return to his shooting guard position. As a member of the Utah Jazz, Hornacek would prove to be a crucial player on two Western Conference Champion Jazz teams. After battling knee problems, Hornacek would retire from the NBA in 2000 and would have his jersey number retired by the Utah Jazz.

5) Mark Price, G, Dallas Mavericks drafted 25th Overall in 1986 NBA Draft out of Georgia Tech University (722 Games, 15.2 PPG, 6.7 APG, 2.6 RPG, 1.2 SPG) - Despite the fact that Price was an extremely successful player at the colleigate leve, his size and skill level was routinely criticized prior to the 1986 NBA Draft. As a result, Price was not taken in the first round and was instead selected as the first pick of the 2nd round. After being drafted by the Mavericks, Price's rights were immediately traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers who made Price their starting point guard in his second season and became a very successful Eastern Conference team. Known best for his fantastic shooting touch, Price finished his career with career averages of 90.4 % and 40 % from the free throw and three point line, respectively. Price would finish as Cleveland's franchise leader in assists and steals and was named an NBA All Star on four different occasions. Injuries started to plague Price at the end of his career and he was traded to the Washington Bullets in 1995. However, he would bounce around and play for four teams his final four seasons before retiring due to those injuries in 1998.

4) Anthony Mason, F, Portland Trail Blazers drafted 53rd Overall in 1988 NBA Draft out of Tennessee State University (882 Games, 10.9 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 3.4 APG) - Seen by many as too slow to play the small forward position and too small to play the power forward position, Mason was not drafted until the 53rd selection in the 1988 NBA draft, but would not last with the Portland Trail Blazers before being released. After being released, Mason played in the CBA, USBL, in Turkey and in Venezuela before coming back to the NBA and signing on with various teams, usually only lasting as a team's 12th man off the bench. Mason started to gain muscle and strength to make up for his lack of size and would sign with the New York Knicks in 1991. After signing with the Knicks, Pat Riley helped turn Mason into one of the most feared defenders in the NBA and he quickly blossomed in New York, becoming a key contributor on a team that went to the 1994 NBA Finals. In 1995, Mason would win the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award before being traded to the Charlotte Hornets. While in Charlotte, Mason made an All NBA Third Team and also would routinely make NBA All Defensive Teams. Mason would reunite with Pat Riley in Miami and would help the Heat make the playoffs despite the kidney ailment to Alonzo Mourning that kept Mourning out of 69 games that season. Mason would end his career on a sour note, signing with Milwaukee and being blamed for many chemistry problems on that team. Mason would pubicly battle with coach George Karl and also struggle with his weight. The Bucks would miss the postseason that year and Mason would quickly be benched. He played one more season in Milwaukee but quietly retired in 2003.

3) Drazen Petrovic, G, Portland Trail Blazers drafted 60th Overall in 1986 NBA Draft out of Yugoslavia (290 Games, 15.4 PPG, 2.4 APG, 2.3 RPG) - Billed as a Yugoslavian Michael Jordan, Petrovic would turn pro for BC Sibenka at the age of 15 before having to leave for two years after turning 18 to serve in the military. Once his service was done, Petrovic would go on to to play for BC Cibona Zagreb and would win the European Cup Title. By the time he was drafted in 1986, Petrovic had already won an Olympic Bronze Medal and was already a national sensation. After signing with Portland in the 1988 offseason, the confident Petrovic boasted that a lack of playing time would be the only factor that could ruin his NBA experience. Sitting behind Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter, Petrovic rarely played and the reigning European Player of the Year vocally spoke up about his lack of playing time. After demanding a trade, midway through his second season, Petrovic was traded to the New Jersey Nets where he took off. Petrovic would perform fine with increased minutes with New Jersey, but in his first full season with the Nets Petrovic averaged over 20 points a game and became an unstoppable offensive force. The year after, Petrovic again increased his scoring average and would shoot over 52 percent from the field and 45 percent from three point range. As a result, Petrovic was named to the All NBA Third Team. In the 1993 NBA offseason, rumor has it that Petrovic was unhappy with his teammates and was contemplating returning to Europe. However, at the age of 28, Petrovic would be killed in a car crash. Posthumuously, Petrovic was enducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002.

2) Dennis Rodman, F, Detroit Pistons drafted 27th Overall in 1986 NBA Draft out of Southeastern Oklahoma State University (911 Games, 7.3 PPG, 13.1 RPG, 1.8 APG ) - An eccentric personality with an even wilder game on the court, Dennis Rodman went from an offensively challenged athlete on Detroit's bench to their defensive force against all things offensively from the opposition. Very long and limber and an agile, graceful athlete, Rodman perfected the art of rebounding the basketball and took on the assignment of guarding the opposing team's best player, regardless of position, and did so better than anybody in the league. After winning two NBA Championships with the Detroit Pistons in 1989 and 1990, Rodman would go on to win the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award in two consecutive seasons, once in the Pistons' 1990 second championship season and again in 1991. After falling out of favor in Detroit due to the departure of Chuck Daily and alot of the original "Bad Boys", Rodman was traded to the San Antonio Spurs and began to become more of a sideshow than a player. While in San Antonio, he would start to trademarkedly dye his hair before every game and even dated Madonna, prompting the pop icon to appear at games at San Antonio's Alamodome. Due to the fact that San Antonio was a very conservative city and a very calm, quiet team, Rodmany openly clashed with David Robinson, Chuck Person and coach Brian Hill. As a result, Rodman was traded to the Chicago Bulls who, under coach Phil Jackson, found a way to tame Rodman and allow him to be himself as long as he was hisself on the court. Rodman would then become a starter on three additional championship teams for the Bulls, although some of his on court and off court shenangians continued to overshadow his play on the court. He had consecutive one year stints with the Lakers and Mavericks before dissapearing from the league in 2000.

1) Manu Ginobili, G, San Antonio Spurs drafted 57th Overall in 1999 NBA Draft out of Argentina (478 Games, 14.7 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.5 SPG) - In a story very similar to Petrovic's, Manu Ginobili was largely unknown when the Spurs took the Argentinan and Italian league star in the second round of the 1999 NBA Draft. Due to the fact that he was still under contract in Italy, Ginobili stayed in Europe and won the 2001 Italian Championship, 2001 and 2002 Italian Cups and the 2001 Euroleague while also being named the 2001 Euroleague's Final Four MVP. Ginobili then outshined the entire world in the 2002 FIBA World Championships and promptly signed in the 2002 offseason with the San Antonio Spurs. As a rookie, Ginobili immediately won fans over with his hustle, penchant for big plays and infectuous style of basketball and was the sixth man on a Spurs team that won it's second championship in franchise history. After resigning with the Spurs following his second season, Ginobili showed signs of becoming a breakout star. Annualy picking up his game in the postseason, Ginobili was arguably the Spurs best player during their 2005 NBA Championship Run and continued to take on the role of Sixth Man off the bench for the Spurs, winning the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award in 2008. Ginobili continued to come up big for the Spurs in the postseason and won his third championship with San Antonio in 2007. Because of his style of play and age, Ginobili's body is already starting to show signs of slowing down but Ginobili himself won't. It'll be interesting to see how he comes back from injury, but Ginobili is arguably the best second round draft pick in NBA history.

Posted on: May 29, 2009 11:29 am
 

Ranking No. 3 Draft Picks of Draft Lottery Era

Well I volunteered to do a recap and ranking of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd overall draft picks of the draft lottery era and the 1st and 2nd picks are in the book.  With the strong first pick and horrid second pick behind us, we now look at a selection that's filled with players ranging from bad, to solid, to really good.  There is no great, or franchise, player on this list but you'll be surprised to see how many contributors and talented all stars there are that were selected third overall.  This was a tough list for me because it's pretty top heavy.  But here we go: Ranking the No. 3 Draft Picks of the Draft Lottery Era.

24) Chris Washburn, C, Golden State Warriors out of North Carolina State University in 1986 NBA Draft (72 Games, 3.1 PPG, 2.4 RPG) - Long viewed as one of the biggest draft busts in NBA history, Washburn was an extremely talented athlete, gifted with extremely soft hands and incredible speed for someone his size.  A high school prodigy of sorts, Washburn was extremely inconsistent at North Carolina State under legendary coach Jim Valvano.  However, teammates would question his work ethic and criticize the fact that he never went to class.  He also served jail time for stealing a stereo while in college.  After one good season at NC State including a game where he outplayed eventual number one draft pick Brad Daugherty, Washburn declared for the NBA draft and was snagged third overall by the Golden State Warriors.  The Warriors looked to bring him along slowly, to cope with his immaturity.  However, it didn't work as Washburn was largely ineffective and rarely got off of the bench in Golden State.  After only three seasons in the league, Washburn was suspended from the NBA for life after testing positive for cocaine three times in three years.

23) Dennis Hopson, SF, New Jersey Nets out of Ohio State University in 1987 NBA Draft (334 Games, 10.9 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.6 APG) - As a dynamic scorer at the colleigate level, Hopson was projected to be a fantastic offensive weapon at the next level, even drawing comparions to Michael Jordan.  However, after New Jersey selected Hopson, he struggled on the court and clashed with coaches and only lasted three seasons before being shipped, ironically, to Jordan's Bulls.  Although he won a championship in 1991 with the Bulls, Hopson barely got on the court and frequently was dismissed by Jordan.  He spent one more year with the Kings but never caught on with another team after only five years in the league.

22) Adam Morrison, SF, Charlotte Bobcats out of Gonzaga University in 2006 NBA Draft (130 Games, 8.7 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.6 APG) - While in college, Morrison could score from all angles and was unstoppable while with Gonzaga.  After a fantastic junior season in which he and J.J. Reddick took the college world by storm, Gonzaga declared for the 2006 NBA Draft and was looked by many as a newer version of Larry Bird.  One of many questionable executive decisions by Michael Jordan, Morrison showed flashes of the dynamic scoring that made him such a high draft pick in his rookie season, but in the preseason of his second year in the league, Morrison suffered an extremely ugly looking ACL tear.  He missed all of his second season and then struggled to get off of the bench in his third year with the Bobcats before being shipped to the Los Angeles Lakers and being left entirely out of their rotation.

21) Raef LaFrentz, F-C, Denver Nuggets out of University of Kansas in 1998 NBA Draft (563 Games, 10.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 1.1 APG) - As a very steady player at the University of Kansas, racking up many individual accolades as a Jayhawk, LaFrentz graduated from Kansas and was promptly selected third overall in the 1998 NBA Draft.  In a sign of things to come, LaFrentz suffered a torn ACL in his rookie season with the Nuggets and would play only 12 games in the lockout shortened 1998-1999 season.  However, over the next three years, LaFrentz would emerge as a solid inside presence, routinely averaging among the league leaders in blocked shots before being traded to the Dallas Mavericks in his fourth year, the last year of his rookie contract.  LaFrentz benefitted from the spending binge that relatively new owner Marc Cuban was in the middle of in Dallas and received a huge 7 year deal from Dallas and promptly lasted one of those seven seasons as the starting center for Dallas.  After being traded to the Boston Celtics, knee problems continued to hamper LaFrentz and he played only two full seasons with the Celtics before being traded to the Portland Trail Blazers.  LaFrentz does not get into the games in Portland, although he is still contractually a member of the Trail Blazers.  Of the seven year deal he signed with Dallas, LaFrentz has played only 314 out of a possible 574 games.

20) Darius Miles, SF, Los Angeles Clippers out of East St. Louis High School in 2000 NBA Draft (446 Games, 10.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.1 BPG) - Before your Kwame Brown's and LeBron James', Darius Miles was the highest selected high school player in NBA history.  Miles immediately took the league by storm in his first few seasons in Los Angeles with his dynamic aerial game and being named to the 2000 All-NBA 1st Rookie Team.  After being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who hoped to turn Miles into a superstar, Miles was largely inconsistent and his production took a huge nosedive.  Sensing what was on the horizon, Miles was then shipped to the Portland Trail Blazers where he would then contribute to the "Jail Blazers" nickname with continuous antics off the court.  Miles would openly clash with Trail Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks, even calling him racial slurs, and was a huge factor in why Cheeks was fired from his position in Portland.  Miles was inexplicably given a huge contract by Portland, and after suffering through knee problems Miles was forced to sit out the entire 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 seasons due to recovery from microfracture knee surgery.  He's probably best known, though, for a situation this year where if he were to play ten games this season then he would count against the Blazers salary cap for the next two years.  After public disputes from the Portland organization, Miles signed on to play 34 games with the Grizzlies this year.

19) Benoit Benjamin, C, Los Angeles Clippers out of Creighton University in 1985 NBA Draft (807 Games, 11.4 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 2.0 BPG, 1.3 APG) - An intimidating presence at 7'0" and 250 pounds, Benjamin was drafted to man down the middle for the Los Angeles Clippers in the 1985 NBA Draft.  Benjamin would prove to a stellar, if not good, player for the Clippers for the duration of his five and a half year stint with the Clippers.  Benjamin would leave the Clippers for the Supersonics in 1991 and that would begin a chain reaction that saw Benjamin play for nine different teams in his fifteen year career. 

18) Billy Owens, SF, Sacramento Kings out of Syracuse University in 1991 NBA Draft (600 Games, 11.7 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 2.8 APG) - After a smooth colleigate career for the Syracuse Orange, Billy Owens was drafted by the Sacramento Kings in the 1991 NBA Draft and refused to go to Sacramento, inciting a hold out.  After unsuccesfully attempting to get Owens to sign, the Kings traded his rights to the Golden State Warriors for Mitch Richmond in what is largely regarded a lopsided trade in favor of the Kings.  Owens drew many comparions to Larry Bird but rarely showed effort and spent the majority of his career not trying in practice and suffering through problems with his weight.  Owens did have a few good seasons in Golden State but he never did develop into a solid player.  Ironically enough, he went to play in Sacramento for a few seasons before disappearing from the league after the 2001 season.

17) Al Horford, F-C, Atlanta Hawks out of University of Florida in 2007 NBA Draft (148 Games, 10.8 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.1 BPG) - Drafted as one of many lottery picks by the Atlanta Hawks in the early turn of the century, the Domincan born Al Horford would go on to win two national championships for the Florida Gators before going pro after his junior season.  Horford would become the first legitimate center in Atlanta's history since the days of Dikembe Mutombo and would become an intregal part on two Hawks playoffs teams, being part of a revival of sorts in Atlanta.  Horford has the potential to be a really great player although he's not showed that he can consistently be a great player at this level in the league.  The potential is there, though.

16) O.J. Mayo, G, Minnesota Timberwolves out of University of Southern Cal in 2008 NBA Draft (82 Games, 18.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.1 SPG) - An extremely talented offensive weapon, O.J. Mayo is an eccentric character known best for admitting he was only going to school for one season to meet the NBA's age requirement.  After choosing Los Angeles to play his only season in college, O.J. Mayo would come under scrutiny after being investigated by the NCAA for possibly hiring an agent while in college.  Mayo, though, left it all behind and left after the one season in USC.  Mayo would be drafted by Minnesota but immediately be traded to the Memphis Grizzlies where he continued his scoring knack in his rookie season.  It's unclear whether he will ever become much more than simply a scorer, but Mayo was a successful rookie and the jury is still out on him.

15) Mike Dunelavy Jr., SF, Golden State Warriors out of Duke University in 2002 NBA Draft (499 Games, 12.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.7 APG) - The son of current Los Angeles Clippers coach Mike Dunelavy Jr., Dunleavy would play three successful colleigate seasons with the Duke Blue Devils, being a key contributor on the 2001 NCAA Championship team.  Billed as a versatile player with a fantastic jumpshot, Dunleavy seemed to be a lock at the next level for the Golden State Warriors.  Dunleavy would spend all four nad a half of his seasons of his time with Golden State being yanked in and out of the starting lineup and going in and out of shooting slumps.  After being routinely criticized and booed by the Golden State fans, Dunleavy was traded to the Indiana Pacers in 2006.  While in Indiana, he has shown flashes of the promise that made him the third overall selection in the 2002 NBA Draft.  He averaged a career high 19 points a game in the 2007-2008 season before suffering through injuries in the 2008-2009 season.  Time will tell if the great 2007-2008 season for Dunleavy was a fluke or a sign of things to come.

14) Charles Smith, PF, Philadelphia 76ers out of University of Pittsburgh in 1988 NBA Draft (564 Games, 14.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.4 BPG) - After being drafted by the 76ers, Charles Smith's rights were immediately traded to the ill-fated Los Angeles Clippers.  Smith, an olympian for the United States in 1988, went on to become among the Clippers leaders in points and rebounds among the next few seasons before being traded to the New York Knicks.  While with New York, he will probably be best remebered for missing four consecutive layups in a crucial game 5 for the Knicks in the 1993 Eastern Conferece Finals.  Smith soon fell out of favor in the Knicks lineup and was shipped off to San Antonio where he finished his career as an unimportant reserve on the 1996-1997 Spurs team.

13) Chris Jackson, SG, Denver Nuggets out of Louisiana State University in 1990 NBA Draft (586 Games, 14.6 PPG, 3.5 APG, 1.9 RPG) - Partnered with Shaquille O'Neal at LSU, Chris Jackson was part of some very successful seasons for the LSU Tigers.  A fantastic scorer, gifted with a beautiful looking jump shot, Chris Jackson had a handful of extremely successful seasons with the Denver Nuggets, even winning the 1993 NBA Most Improved Player of the Year award.  Jackson continued to routinely average in the 20 points a game range until the end of his career in Denver.  After about his fourth season in the league, while being a key contributor to the Denver Nuggets, Jackson became a devoted member of the nation of Islam and would change his name to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf.  Mahmoud would then receive much criticism by refusing to stand for the Star Spangled Banner played before games and would battle with fans as a result of it.  Mahmoud was even suspended by the NBA for refusing to stand.  After being traded to the Sacramento Kings, Abdul-Rauf would become a shell of his former self and would quietly exit the NBA in 2001. 

12) Christian Laettner, PF, Minnesota Timberwolves out of Duke University in 1992 NBA Draft (868 Games, 12.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.0 SPG) - As a college player, there's probably none better than Christian Laettner was in four seasons at Duke.  As the starting center for the Duke Blue Devils in a four season stretch where they won two National Championships and made the final four all four seasons Laettner was a player.  Laettner used this to win every college player of the year honor, be named the 1991 Most Outstanding Tournament player and then actually winning a gold medal on the extremely famed 1992 USA Olympic Basketball team.  In the 1992 NBA Draft, Laettner was drafted behind Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning and became an all star in Minnesota.  However, Laettner never developed into the great player that he was in college and after productive, but quiet, seasons in Minnesota, he was traded to the Atlanta Hawks.  While in Atlanta, Laettner was a member of some mediocrely successful Hawks squads before floudering on benches in Detroit, Dallas, Washington and Miami.  A stellar player throughout his career, Laettner never was great and never delivered on the promise he showed in college.

11) Ben Gordon, SG, Chicago Bulls out of University of Connecticut in 2004 NBA Draft (392 Games, 18.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.0 APG) - An extremely talented scorer, Gordon teamed with Emeka Okafor to lead some very successful UConn Huskies teams in his colleigate years before declaring for the NBA Draft after his junior season after winning the 2004 NCAA Championship and being named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.  Viewed as a hybrid guard of sorts, nobody felt as if Gordon had the size to consistently play shooting guard or the ball handling skill to be a point guard, but he continued to be a dynamic scorer at the professional level.  After shooting up the draft due to pre draft workouts, Gordon would be drafted third overall by the Chicago Bulls and would go on to become the first rookie in league history to win the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award.  Viewed as an extremely clutch player and one who is tough to guard when hot, Gordon has carved a niche in this league as one of the better scorers in the NBA and looks to be a hot commodity in free agency in 2009.  Time will tell what the future holds for Ben Gordon.

10) Sean Elliott, SF, San Antonio Spurs out of University of Arizona in 1989 NBA Draft (742 Games, 14.2 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.6 APG) - A great athlete with fantastic shooting touch, Elliott was brought into San Antonio in 1989 and shared a rookie season with San Antonio great David Robinson.  Elliott and Robinson would go on to be staples and key contributors to some successful Spurs squads, spending only one of his 12 seasons outside of San Antonio.  Elliott is probably best known for what is dubbed as the "Memorial Day Miracle."  With the Spurs up 1-0 in the 1999 Western Conference Finals, still without a championship in the franchise's history, Elliott would get hot in the second half and lead the Spurs to a furious comeback against the Portland Trail Blazers.  Down by 18 in the third period against Portland, Elliott would catch an inbounds pass that was almost stolen by Stacy Augmon before standing idly above the out of bounds line and launching an improbable shot that would give the Spurs the 86-85 victory.  The Spurs would go on to win the 1999 NBA Championship, and Elliott would admit that he played the entire season with a severe kidney ailment.  Elliott would become famed in the NBA as the first player in NBA history to play an NBA game after receiving a kidney transplant from his older brother.  A legend in San Antonio, Elliott eventually succumbed to the kidney ailment and retired in 2001.

9) Shareef Abdur-Rahim, PF, Vancouver Grizzlies out of University of California in Berkely in 1996 NBA Draft (830 Games, 18.1 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.0 SPG) - After one successful freshman season at Cal, Shareef Abdur-Rahim would be selected third overall by the Vancouver Grizzlies in the talent loaded 1996 NBA Draft.  Statistically speaking, Abdur-Rahim never dissapointed.  He routinely put up fantastic numbers for the largely unsuccessful Vancouver Grizzlies franchise and signed an extension to stay on board even though the team routinely was among the worst in the leauge.  Abdur-Rahim would also win a Gold Medal with the 2000 USA Olympic Basketball team.  After being traded to the Atlanta Hawks, Abdur-Rahim would continue the formula of putting up great numbers on bad teams and would continue to be among the league's best inside scorers even though he never made the postseason.  After signing as a free agent with the Sacramento Kings in 2005, Abdur-Rahim finally made the postseason as a reserve player for the Kings in 2006.  However, Abdur-Rahim's production would continue to drop while in Sacramento and a knee injury that forced him to fail a physical for the New Jersey Nets in that 2005 NBA Offseason eventually caught up to him in 2008, where the persistent knee injury forced him to retire at the age of 32 after only playing six games in the 2007-2008 season with the Kings.

8) Jerry Stackhouse, SG, Philadelphia 76ers out of University of North Carolina in 1995 NBA Draft (854 Games, 18.4 PPG, 3.7 APG, 3.4 RPG, 1.0 SPG) - Following a dynamic career for the North Carolina Tar Heels, Stackhouse was viewed as one of the many "Next Jordan's" and would promptly declare for the 1995 NBA Draft following his sophomore season.  After being drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers, Stackhouse proved that he could become a multi talented player on the offensive side of the basketball.  After clashing with 76ers superstar Allen Iverson in his second and third seasons, Stackhouse would be traded to the Detroit Pistons where he put together the greatest stretch of offensive production in his career.  Stackhouse would win the 2001 NBA Scoring title and would lead the Pistons to the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2002 before being traded to the Washington Wizards.  After unsuccessfully partering with Michael Jordan in Washington, Stackhouse would be shipped to the Dallas Mavericks where he became a great leadership figure and bench contributor for the Mavericks.  Many various injurise have gotten the best of Stackhouse since his arrival in Dallas and it looks as if they will get the best of him and force him to prematurely end his career.

7) Deron Williams, PG, Utah Jazz out of University of Illinois in 2005 NBA Draft (310 Games, 16.2 PPG, 8.7 APG, 2.0 RPG, 1.0 SPG) - After a successful performance in the 2005 NCAA Tournament with the Fighting Illini that saw Williams lead Illinois to the National Championship Game, Williams would forego his senior season to enter the 2005 NBA Draft and be drafted as the point guard to finally replace John Stockton in Utah three seasons after he retired.  After being brought along slowly in his rookie season, Williams would leap onto the scene in his second year in the league and then become an established superstar in the league after leading the Jazz to the Western Conference Finals in 2007.  Williams has continued to lead the Jazz to the postseason in the two seasons following and won a gold medal on the 2008 USA Olympic Basketball team.  The sky is the limit for Williams, who is already arguably the best point guard in the league.

6) Baron Davis, PG, Charlotte Hornets out of University of California in Los Angeles in 1999 NBA Draft (673 Games, 16.9 PPG, 7.3 APG, 4.0 RPG, 1.9 SPG) - Baron Davis would overcome an ACL tear in his freshman season at UCLA to have an extremely successful sophomore season with the UCLA Bruins before declaring for the 1999 NBA Draft.  After being drafted by the Charlotte Hornets, Davis would be named the team's starting point guard in only his second year in the league and would then become a huge contributor for two successful postseason runs for the Hornets during their last two years in Charlotte.  In 2002, the Hornets moved from Charlotte to New Orleans and Davis would then become a routinely injured player.  After missing games in both the regular season and postseason with the Hornets, Davis would be shipped to the Golden State Warriors and would look rejuvenated after being moved to his homestate of California.  However, Davis clashed with Warriors coach Mike Montgomery and it would look like more bad luck for Davis.  However, Don Nelson's rearrival in Golden State prompted the Warriors run to the 2007 postseason.  While in the 2007 postseason, Davis would win over fans and critics alike with a fantastic performance for the eight seeded Warriors, leading a humongous upset over the first seeded Dallas Mavericks.  However, Davis would again become a problem for the Warriors when he clashed with coach Don Nelson and then told the team one thing and did another when he opted out of his contract to sign with his hometown Los Angeles Clippers.  Proving that he'll probably never overcome his immaturity, Davis battled injuries and his coach in the first year of his five year contract with the Clippers and time will tell how this deal pans out.

5) Penny Hardaway, G, Golden State Warriors out of Memphis State University in 1993 NBA Draft (704 Games, 15.2 PPG, 5.0 APG, 4.5 RPG, 1.6 SPG) - After foregoing his senior season to enter the 1993 NBA Draft, Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway would be selected third overall by the Golden State Warriors and immediately be traded to the Orlando Magic for the draft rights to number one overall pick Chris Webber.  Hardaway would then partner with young Magic superstar Shaquille O'Neal to lead the Magic to becoming one of the most popular and successful teams of the late 1990s.  Penny and Shaq would lead Orlando to the 1995 NBA Finals and Penny would win a Gold Medal with the 1996 USA Olympic Basketball team before suffering his first of many knee injuries in the 1997 season.  Following Shaq's departure and Penny's battles with injuries, the Magic would suffer and trade Hardaway to the Phoenix Suns.  While in Phoenix, Hardaway teamed with Jason Kidd to lead the Suns to the Western Conference Semifinals in Hardaway's first season in Phoenix and Penny would be rewarded with a lucrative contract from Phoenix.  But shortly after signing that contract, Hardaway would undergo microfracture knee surgery and would then never be the same player that he once was.  Hardaway's fall from grace was difficult to watch and the injuries are probably the biggest factor as to why he dropped so hard, but he was undeniable his first few years in the league and was one of the best players the league had to offer for a handful of seasons.

4) Grant Hill, SF, Detroit Pistons out of Duke University in 1994 NBA Draft (787 Games, 18.5 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.4 SPG) - Destined for greatness almost from the start, a young Grant Hill would win two national championships as a key contributor for the very successful Duke teams of the early 90s.  After spending all four seasons and being a posterboy for all things wonderful in college, Hill was available for the Detroit Pistons to select in the 1994 NBA draft and he quickly took the league by storm.  Making the "point forward" position in the NBA prominent for the first time since the days of Magic Johnson and Scottie Pippen, Hill would take the league by storm with his dynamic on court style and by routinely posting triple doubles.  Hill would win co Rookie of the Year honors in 1995 with Jason Kidd and would go on to be a great player in Detroit for six seasons.  However, after injuring his ankle in the 2000 postseason, his last with the Pistons, Hill would sign a lucrative seven year deal with the Orlando Magic and immediately succumb to the ankle injuries.  The Magic envisioned teaming him with young star Tracy McGrady but Hill struggled to get on the court in Orlando, playing only 47 of a 328 possible games the first four years of his contract with Orlando.  Hill would eventually return to the league, although not as the same player he once was, and has played in 82 games both of the last two seasons with the Phoenix Suns.

3) Carmelo Anthony, SF, Denver Nuggets out of Syracuse University in 2003 NBA Draft (445 Games, 24.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.1 SPG) - A fantastic offensive forward with one of the best inside-outside games in basketball, Anthony would lead the Syracuse Orange to the 2003 National Championship in his freshman season and be named the tournament's most outstanding player, leaping onto the scene and then deciding to join the famed 2003 NBA Draft.  After being selected by the Denver Nuggets, Anthony battled throughout his rookie season with LeBron James over competition with the 2004 NBA Rookie of the Year award.  James would eventually win the award and then go on to stardom while Anthony went through the motions, having productive but relatively quiet seasons in Denver.  However, after the arrival of George Karl, Anthony would finally blossom into a fantastic offensive weapon.  Although Anthony would win a Bronze Medal and a Gold Medal with the 2004 and 2008 USA Olympic Basketball teams, respectively, postseason success would avoid Anthony for the duration of his career with Denver, culminating in a sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2008 NBA Postseason, but Anthony would finally get out of the first round in 2009 and is currently in a battle with the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.  The sky is still the limit for Anthony.

2) Pau Gasol, F-C, Atlanta Hawks out of Spain in 2001 NBA Draft (584 Games, 18.8 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.7 BPG) - After being drafted by the Atlanta Hawks and then immediately being traded to the Memphis Grizzlies for Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Gasol would take the league by storm in 2001.  Largely unknown when drafted, Gasol would go on to win the 2002 NBA Rookie of the Year award and would eventually be a part of the most successful stretch in Grizzlies franchise history when they made the postseason three straight seasons.  The Grizzlies would soon, though, return to their losing ways and Gasol would demand a trade on more than one occasion.  After being traded midway through the 2008 NBA season to the Los Angeles Lakers, Gasol would be a key contributor on the revitalizing of one of the most successful, storied and popular franchises in the league.  Routinely criticized for his soft demanor in the paint, Gasol has still been productive his entire career and posseses fantastic range on his jump shot and amazingly soft hands for a player his size.  If he ever develops a killer instinct, Gasol could become one of the better players in the league.

1) Chauncey Billups, PG, Boston Celtics out of University of Colorado in 1997 NBA Draft (837 Games, 15.1 PPG, 5.6 APG, 2.9 RPG, 1.0 SPG) - After being drafted by the Boston Celtics after two stellar seasons for the Colorado Buffalos, Billups would experience something midway through his rookie season that would become a staple for the next few years of his career.  At the trade deadline, Billups would be traded to the Toronto Raptors.  After his rookie season ended, Billups was traded to the hometown Denver Nuggets where he spent one and a half seasons before being traded to the Orlando Magic.  After playing two successful seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Detroit Pistons would give Chauncey Billups a chance and he would reward them handsomely.  In his six years with Detroit, Billups, or "Mr. Big Shots" would be the catalyst of a team that went to six straight Eastern Conference Finals from 2003 until 2008.  Billups would make two NBA Finals apperances with Detroit in 2004 and in 2005, and after winning a championship in 2004 with Detroit, Billups would be named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player.  After playing under the radar the remaining years in Detroit, Billups would again be traded to the Denver Nuggets where he led the Nuggets out of mediocrity and turned them into one of the better teams in the league.  His performance earned him votes in the 2009 NBA Most Valuable Player voting.  Largely recognized as a player capable of playing big in crucial moments, Billups has continued that trend this season where he now has Denver in the Western Conference Finals, the seventh straight time in his career he has made the conference finals.
Posted on: May 28, 2009 2:20 pm
 

Ranking No. 2 Draft Picks of Draft Lottery Era

After the extremely positive feedback I received for ranking the No. 2 draft picks of the draft lottery era, I found it fitting to continue on and now rank the best No. 2 draft picks of the draft lottery era.  Going over this list, there are plenty of dissapointing players and a lot of names that people will scratch their heads at.  Unfortunately, everything from death, to injury, to immaturity and lack of talent has affected this crop of players and that's why this list was much toughter than the list of No. 1 draft picks.  Everyone always remembers No. 1, but hardly anyone remembers who goes 2nd.  Well here it is: Ranking The No. 2 Draft Picks of Draft Lottery Era.

24) Len Bias, F, Boston Celtics out of University of Maryland in 1986 NBA Draft (Did Not Play) - A lot of people will view this pick as "what could have been," but Bias drew many comparisons to Chicago great Michael Jordan and looked like one of the most promising prospects in years.  Drafted by the aging Boston Celtics, Bias was supposed to be the stopgap that would allow the current Celtics to play out their years and then he would carry the team into the future.  However, less than 48 hours after being drafted by the Boston Celtics, Len Bias was found dead of a coacaine overdose back at his college campus.  He's one of the glaring casualties of the drug era in the NBA of the 1980s, joining David Thompson as one of the saddest stories.

23) Jay Williams, G, Chicago Bulls out of Duke University in 2002 NBA Draft (75 Games, 9.5 PPG, 4.7 APG, 2.6 RPG, 1.2 SPG) - While in college, you had to watch Jay Williams to understand how great he really was.  Leading Duke to a national championship as a sophomore, Williams would go on to win every player of the year award imaginable in his junior season before graduating with honors and entering the 2002 NBA Draft.  Taken after Yao Ming, Williams was viewed as the sure bet of the two but really struggled in his rookie season.  He did show flashes of brilliance, including a fantastic triple double against the New Jersey Nets, but he was largely inconsistent his rookie year.  However, in the offseason, Williams' life almost came to an end after a brutal motorcycle accident that left Williams with a severed main nerve in his leg, a fractured pelvis, and three torn ligaments in his left knee including his ACL.  The Bulls, a week later, drafted a point guard (Kirk Hinrich) to replace him and Williams' career was done.  In a class move by the Bulls, they continued to keep Williams on the payroll through his rehab but then settled for a buyout with the player.  Unsuccessful attempts to get on board with his hometown Nets followed, and Williams has now given up on getting back to the NBA.

22) Darko Milicic, F-C, Detroit Pistons out of Serbia in 2003 NBA Draft (337 Games, 5.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.2 BPG) - There were a lot of great players in the famed 2003 NBA Draft, and going into the draft it was obvious to all that Darko Milicic would be the first player selected after LeBron James.  The Detroit Pistons, fresh off of a conference finals appearance, were able to land the No. 2 pick after a prior deal with the, then, Vancouver Grizzlies for Otis Thorpe.  Milicic arrived with much fan fare in Detroit, but was never able to get off of the bench.  Viewed as too young by coach Larry Brown, the 18 year old Milicic sat on the bench for two Pistons teams that went to the finals, and won a championship in his rookie year with the 2004 Pistons team.  However, midway through his third year with the Pistons, still unable to get off of the bench, Milicic was traded to the Magic and showed the promise that people saw when he was drafted by Detroit.  However, his inconsistency shined through again when Milicic signed with the Grizzlies, and it looks as if he'll never be the player he was capable of being.

21) Danny Ferry, F, Los Angeles Clippers out of Duke University in 1989 NBA Draft (917 Games, 7.0 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.3 APG) - A colleigate legend for the Duke Blue Devils, the sweet shooting Danny Ferry immediately refused to go to the Clippers when they drafted him and played in Italy his rookie year in order to get out of having to go to Los Angeles.  After going to Italy, Ferry's rights were traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Ron Harper (in a good move for the Clippers) where he then signed a guaranteed ten year contract.  It was immediately known after he got on the court that Ferry would never be a graceful athlete or a great player.  All of the poise and posture he displayed at Duke quickly turned into decency on the court in Cleveland.  He eventually won a championship on the 2003 San Antonio Spurs team and is, ironically enough, currently the general manager for Cleveland.

20) Shawn Bradley, C, Philadelphia 76ers out of Bringham Young University in 1993 NBA Draft (832 Games, 8.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.5 BPG) - An imposing presence at 7'6" tall, Bradley entered the league as the tallest player in the league's history.  After blocking five shots a game as a freshman for BYU, Bradley declared for the 1993 NBA Draft following his freshman seasons.  Drafted 2nd overall by Philadelphia, Bradley immediately showed a knack for blocking shots due to his height but an inability to due much else.  Looking at the build of his body, it should have come as no surprise that Bradley never developed as an athlete but that didn't stop the Philadelphia media from torching Bradley when he was routinely dominated by more physical centers.  After two and a half horrid seasons with the 76ers, he was traded to the Nets and eventually found his way on the Dallas Mavericks.  Bradley spent the last eight and a half years of his career with Dallas before calling it quits due to knee problems in 2005.

19) Stromile Swift, F-C, Vancouver Grizzlies out of Louisiana State University in 2000 NBA Draft (547 Games, 8.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG) - A fantastic athlete, Swift bounced onto the scene in the NCAA Tournament during his sophomore season with the LSU Tigers.  After being selected as one of many 2nd draft picks by the Vancouver Grizzlies, Williams sat on the bench in their last season in Vancouver before leaping onto the scene in Memphis.  Paired with young point guard Jason Williams, Swift's athleticism and crowd pleasing dunks made him a fan favorite in Memphis.  For reasons unknown, after signing a nice deal with the Houston Rockets, Swift's career took a huge nosedive as he was traded back to Memphis after one season with Houston, was then traded to New Jersey who promptly waved him.  He currently finished the year as a non factor reserve on a Phoenix Suns team that missed the playoffs.

18) Michael Beasley, F, Miami Heat out of Kansas State University in 2008 NBA Draft (81 Games, 13.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.0 APG) - After a tremendous freshman season for the Kansas State Wildats, Michael Beasley shocked absolutely nobody by declaring for the 2008 NBA Draft.  Long viewed as a lock for the number one draft pick, Derrick Rose's fantastic tournament play catapulted him to be selected first overall by the Chicago Bulls.  Questons about Beasley's character and maturity then started to arise but the Heat still selected him 2nd overall.  Starting off the year with many struggles, Beasley was criticized by many at the beginning of his rookie season but really caught stride the last two months of the regular season.  Helping the Heat get into the postseason, Beasley's stellar play continued in the postseason and it looks as if he'll be a very good player as he continues to develop.

17) Marvin Williams, F, Atlanta Hawks out of University of North Carolina in 2005 NBA Draft (284 Games, 12.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.4 APG) - After a fantastic freshman season as a reserve on the famed 2005 North Caronlina national champion team, Williams shocked a lot of people when he declared for the 2005 NBA Draft.  Viewed as a can't miss prospect, Williams was quickly snatched second overall by the Atlanta Hawks and hasn't yet took off.  The last two seasons he has really come into his own as a player and looks as if he'll be a fine contributor for many years to come in this league, but because he was drafted ahead of Deron Williams and Chris Paul, Williams will long be a criticized pick by experts and fans alike. 

16) LaMarcus Aldridge, F-C, Chicago Bulls out of University of Texas in 2006 NBA Draft (220 Games, 15.4 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.1 BPG) - Immediately traded by the Bulls to the Portland Trail Blazers for the draft rights to Tyrus Thomas, Aldridge eventually took the Portland fans by storm with his demeanor, work ethic and production.  After a solid rookie season, Aldridge developed into a fantastic player for Portland before this season, teamed with Brandon Roy, helping lead Portland to the playoffs for the first time in six seasons.  The future is extremely bright for the young Aldridge, who looks like a centerpiece for something special for the young Portland franchise.

15) Kenny Anderson, PG, New Jersey Nets out of Georgia Tech University in 1991 NBA Draft (858 Games, 12.6 PPG, 6.1 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.5 SPG) - As a local prodigy on the streets of Queens, Anderson went on to impress supporters with two spectacular seasons with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets before declaring for the NBA Draft.  After being drafted by the somewhat local New Jersey Nets, Anderson looked like he had a fantastic career ahead of him.  However, inconsistency and immaturity plagued Anderson for his entire career.  Despite showing flashes of brilliance, including four seasons where he averaged above 16 points a game, Anderson never developed into a great player in any area of his game.  After famously refusing to report to Toronto during a midseason trade from Portland, Anderson was then shipped to the Boston Celtics where his criticism of being "injury prone" followed him and he never materalized past being a solid player in Boston.  He finished out his career with the Los Angeles Clippers.

14) Keith Van Horn, F, Philadelphia 76ers out of University of Utah in 1997 NBA Draft (575 Games, 16.0 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.6 APG) - A 6'10" player with an incredible shooting touch, Keith Van Horn's was drafted behind Tim Duncan in the 1997 NBA draft before his rights were immediately traded to the New Jersey Nets.  He took the league by storm his first three seasons, routinely scoring above 19 points a game all of those seasons before signing a very lucrative extension with New Jersey.  However, after the extension, Van Horn started to be bullied by players on the Nets team and after showing signs of being injury prone he was shipped to Philadelphia.  This would start a chain reaction for Van Horn.  Due to his immaturity and injuries, he was traded a total of four times in four seasons after signing that extension.  He's probably most famous, now, for coming out of retirement to receive a one year guaranteed deal with the Mavericks to make the finances work in the Devin Harris for Jason Kidd deal in 2008.  Horn was promptly cut by New Jersey and now has gone back into retirement.

13) Tyson Chandler, C, Los Angeles Clippers out of Dominguez High School in 2001 NBA Draft (537 Games, 8.2 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 1.4 BPG) - A fantastic 7'1" athlete, Chandler was viewed as a great prospect throughout high school before being drafted by the hometown Los Angeles Clippers.  Chandler's rights where immediately traded to the Chicago Bulls for Elton Brand so that he could be partnered with fellow high school prodigy Eddy Curry to form a dynamic front court for the Bulls.  Neither Chandler nor Curry materialized in Chicago due to inconsistency and injuries and Curry was traded to the Knicks and Chandler was traded to the New Orleans Hornets.  After arriving in New Orleans, Chandler immediately showed the promise that he displayed in high school that prompted the Bulls to trade for him.  After being plagued by injuries and inconsistency again, the Hornets attempted to trade Chandler to the Thunder before injuries to Chandler's ankle and toe forced the Thunder to fail his physical and rescind the trade.  Chandler is currently looking to be shipped around again and it is unknown whether he will ever become the player that he potentially could have been.

12) Armen Gilliam, PF, Phoenix Suns out of University of Nevada in Las Vegas in 1987 NBA Draft (929 Games, 13.7 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.2 APG) - As an intregal member of some fantastic Runnin' Rebels teams of the late 80s, Gilliam reached the final four in 1987 before graduating and entering the NBA Draft.  After being selected by the Phoenix Suns, Gilliam turned out to be a solid scorer with Phoenix and turned out 13 solid seasons in the NBA.  A fantastic low post scorer, Gilliam played some impressive basketball for the Hornets, Nets and Suns before finally calling it a career in 2000 after spending a season with the Utah Jazz

11) Kevin Durant, G-F, Seattle Supersonics out of University of Texas in 2007 NBA Draft (154 Games, 22.7 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.1 SPG) - After taking the nation by storm following a fantastic freshman season with the Texas Longhorns, Durant declared for the 2007 NBA Draft and battled with Greg Oden as to who the number one overall draft pick would be.  After the Portland Trail Blazers selected Greg Oden, the dying Seattle Supersonics franchise selected Kevin Durant, who promptly took the NBA by storm.  Viewed as a player that was too small and not talented enough of a jumpshooter, Durant came into the league and averaged over 20 points a game in his rookie season, winning the 2008 NBA Rookie of the Year award.  Before his second season, the Supersonics became the Oklahoma City Thunder and Durant immediately became a superstar.  Averaging over 25 points a game, Durant has shown that he has the potential to be a fantastic player and dynamic scorer in this league for the foreseeable future barring injuries or any other setbacks.

10) Wayman Tisdale, PF, Indiana Pacers out of University of Oklahoma in 1985 NBA Draft (840 Games, 15.3 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.3 APG) - A dynamic scorer for the Oklahoma Sooners, Tisdale took the big eight by storm in his three seasons with Oklahoma by winning the conference player of the year all three of his seasons with Oklahoma.  He was a member of the famed 1984 USA Olympic Basketball Team as well before being drafted by the Indiana Pacers in 1985.  Tisdale remained a productive scorer in the pros, immediately becoming a nice post presence for the Pacers before being shipped to the Sacramento Kings.  Once in Sacramento, Tisdale's career really developed as he became Sacramento's best scorer inside for nearly six seasons.  After finishing out his career as a reserve with the Phoenix Suns, Tisdale became a budding jazz musician, even releasing a score of CDs.  However, in 2007 Tisdale fell down his steps and broke his leg and during an observation of the leg it was shown that he had cancer in his knee.  After working to recover from the injury, he had his right leg partially amputated and went on a 21 date concert tour shortly after.  On May 15, 2009, Tisdale was taken to the hospital after having trouble breathing where he was then prounced dead.

9) Steve Francis, G, Vancouver Grizzlies out of University of Maryland in 1999 NBA Draft (576 Games, 18.1 PPG, 6.0 APG, 5.6 RPG, 1.5 SPG) - After being drafted by Vancouver, in a sign of things to come in Francis' career, Francis immediately refused to go to Vancouver as a result of the distance from his Maryland home and citing that it was "God's will" that he not play in Vancouver.  After being routinely criticized in the media, all was forgotten and forgiven when "The Franchise" was shipped to the Houston Rockets in a humongous 11 player deal.  Once in Houston, Francis took the league by storm, becoming co-2000 NBA Rookie of the Year award winner (along with Bulls forward Elton Brand) and quickly becoming one of the more popular players in the league.  After pubicly criticized Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy, who wanted to slow down the offense in favor of Yao Ming, Francis was shipped to the Orlando Magic where all looked to be forgiven again.  However, after the Magic's quick start started to slow down, and the Magic traded Francis' friend Cuttino Mobley, Francis' pouting continued and he was then traded to the New York Knicks.  Once in New York, Francis looked like a shell of his former self and was traded to Portland before they ate the remaining two years and 30 million dollars on his contract.  Francis returned to Houston but has only played 10 games in two seasons with the Rockets and Grizzlies after suffering a quadriceps injury.

8) Emeka Okafor, F-C, Charlotte Bobcats out of University of Connecticut in 2004 NBA Draft (330 Games, 14.0 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 1.8 BPG) - After receiving every accolade imaginable in a fantastic colleigate career with the UConn Huskies, Okafor graduated and immediately was entered in the 2004 NBA Draft.  After almost being assured the number one draft pick due to his defensive prowress and colleigate production, Okafor was passed over by the Orlando Magic (who selected Dwight Howard) and was promptly drafted by the expansion Charlotte Bobcats to be their franchise player.  Okafor has never developed into that franchise player role due to injuries and going largely unnoticed in Charlotte.  However, Okafor's career may be silent but it's been routinely productive.  He won the 2005 NBA Rookie of the Year award and has manned down the center position for Charlotte for the duration of his career.  He recently signed a six year 72 million dollar deal to remain in Charlotte last offseason, and looks to be a staple of the team for years to come.

7) Antonio McDyess, F-C, Los Angeles Clippers out of University of Alabama in 1995 NBA Draft (865 Games, 13.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.1 BPG) - A fantastic athlete for his size for the Crimson Tide, McDyess left college after his sophomore season to enter the 1995 NBA Draft.  After being selected by the Los Angeles Clippers, McDyess' rights were immediately traded to the Denver Nuggets for Rodney Rogers and the draft rights to Brent Barry.  While in Denver, McDyess established himself as a dynamic scorer and tremendous athlete.  After spending a year with the Phoenix Suns, McDyess agreed to resign with Denver in 1999 and picked up his game to new heights.  He routinely posted averages of 20 points and 10 rebounds for the otherwise unsuccessful Denver franchise and won a Gold Medal as a Unitd States Olympian in 2000.  However, McDyess suffered a crippling knee injury early in the 2001-2002 NBA Season.  Those knee problems would follow McDyess for that season and also for the next two seasons, as he played 52 total games out of a possible 246 from 2001 to 2004.  After signing on to be a reserve for the Detroit Pistons, McDyess was a contributor to a team that went to the 2005 NBA Finals and has refound some of his old glory in Detroit.  While never reaching the level of success he once had in Denver, McDyess has overcome the knee injuries to turn in a very successful comeback.

6) Marcus Camby, F-C, Toronto Raptors out of University of Massachusetts in 1996 NBA Draft (757 Games, 10.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.6 BPG, 1.9 APG, 1.0 SPG) - As a fantastic player for the Hilltoppers at UMass, Camby declared for the famed 1996 NBA draft after his junior season and was selected second overall by the Toronto Raptors.  After two inconsistent years in Toronto, Camby was traded to the New York Knicks where he turned into a fantastic player.  While as a member of the Knicks, Camby went to the 1999 NBA Finals and was promptly given a huge contract.  However, after receiving that contract from the Knicks, Camby developed a knack for being injury prone after missing 277 games throughout his career.  When on the court, though, Camby's play is extremely stellar.  After being traded by the Knicks to the Denver Nuggets for fellow injury prone star Antonio McDyess, Camby would win the 2007 NBA Defensive Player of the Year award and would help lead the Nuggets to the playoffs for five straight seasons.  He was the subject of much controversy when he was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers primarily for a trade exemption for the Nuggets, but continued his stellar, if not injury prone, play in Los Angeles.

5) Rik Smits, C, Indiana Pacers out of Marist College in 1988 NBA Draft (867 Games, 14.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.2 BPG) - After playing at Marist College shortly after coming over from the Netherlands, the offensively gifted 7'4" Dutch center was snagged by the Indiana Pacers in the 1988 NBA Draft.  Shortly after coming over. Smits was teamed with Pacer great Reggie Miller and helped lead the Pacers to a string of successful seasons although the team always seemed to suffere postseason defeat.  After spending his entire 12 year career with the Pacers, and routinely performing past expecations in the postseason individually, Smits and the Pacers made the 2000 NBA Finals where they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers.  After those finals, though, Smits prematurely retired from the game due to immensely painful foot injuries.  Smits would later be named to the Pacers 40th Anniversary Team.

4) Mike Bibby, PG, Vancouver Grizzlies out of University of Arizona in 1998 NBA Draft (802 Games, 16.4 PPG, 6.1 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.3 SPG) - A coach's son, Mike Bibby would win a national championship as the starting point guard for the Arizona Wildcats in his freshman season.  After following that up with a stellar sophomore season, Bibby declared for the 1998 NBA Draft, and after the Clippers selected Michael Olowkandi, Bibby was taken 2nd by the Vancouver Grizzlies.  Bibby turned in three very solid seasons in Vancouver although the Grizzlies routinely were among the worst teams in the league.  After a trade to the Sacramento Kings, Bibby became one of the most recognizable players in the league.  His performance, with Sacramento, in the 2002 NBA Postseason made Bibby a legend in Sacramento and he was rewarded with a 7 year 80 million dollar contract.  Bibby continued to be a great player for Sacramento for the next few seasons, although the team never got as close to a championship as it did that 2002 NBA Postseason.  Bibby has, as of late, become a routinely injured player and was shipped to the Atlanta Hawks at the 2008 NBA Trade deadline.  He has since lead the Hawks to straight postseason apperances and is now a free agent.  His future in the league looks to be solid, although he may never reach the level of success he obtained in Sacramento.

3) Gary Payton, PG, Seattle Supersonics out of Oregon State University in the 1990 NBA Draft (1,335 Games, 16.3 PPG, 6.7 APG, 3.9 RPG, 1.8 SPG) - After being selected by the Seattle Supersonics out of nearby Oregon State Payton was slowly brought along in Seattle before being given the reigns and taking the Supersonics to some of their most successful stretches in franchise history.  Nicknamed "The Glove" for his fantastic defensive presence, Payton teamed up with Shawn Kemp to routinely help the Supersonics make postseason appearances for 12 straight seasons.  In 1996, Payton won the Defensive Player of the Year award, made it to the 1996 NBA Finals and won an Olympic Gold Medal in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.  He would win one more Gold Medal in 2000 but success would become harder to obtain in Seattle and Payton was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks.  After signing with the Lakers for the famed 2003-2004 team, Payton would struggle in coach Phil Jackson's pattented Triangle Offense and his production would take a huge hit.  After initially refusing to go to Boston and then going, Payton would play for five teams in five seasons to end his career before winning that elusive championship as a reserve on the 2006 Miami Heat squad.

2) Alonzo Mourning, C, Charlotte Hornets out of Georgetown University in the 1992 NBA Draft (838 Games, 17.1 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.8 BPG, 1.1 APG) - A bragadacious player with game to back it up, Mourning took the league by storm even though he entered the NBA the same yaer that Shaquille O'Neal did.  He helped a young and upstart Charlotte Hornets team make the semifinals in his rookie season before butting heads with fellow supertar Larry Johnson.  After having contractual disputes with Hornets owner George Shinn, Mourning would be traded to the Miami Heat where he enjoyed the most consistent success of his career.  Routinely posting averages of 20 points and 10 rebounds, Mourning would lead the Heat to the playoffs for five straight seasons, although they routinely lost to the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks every season.  During that stretch, Mourning would win the 1999 and 2000 NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards and would also win an Olympic Gold Medal with the 2000 USA Olympic Baskeball Team.  In 2003, Mourning started to suffer from kidney problems and his long estranged cousin eventually donated one of his kidneys to Mourning, and Mourning became the second player, after Sean Elliott, to play in the NBA after receiving a kidney transplant.  After trying to win a championship with the New Jersey Nets, Mourning would return to Miami to back up Shaquille O'Neal and would be the backup center on the Miami team that won the 2006 NBA Championship.  He retired in 2008 after suffering a crippling patellar tendon tear in his knee. 

1) Jason Kidd, PG, Dallas Mavericks out of University of California in Berkeley in the 1994 NBA Draft (1,107 Games, 13.8 PPG, 9.2 APG, 6.7 RPG, 2.0 SPG) - After jumping out onto the scene in the 1993 NCAA Tournament, Kidd would enter the 1994 NBA Draft a successfull follow up sophomore season for the Cal Golden Bears.  After being drafted by the Dallas Mavericks, Kidd would be coupled with Jamaal Mashburn and Jim Jackson and the "three J's" would bring Dallas immense hope for the future.  After taking the league by storm with comparisons to Magic Johnson and routinely picking up triple doubles, Kidd would win the 1995 Co-Rookie of the Year Award with Detroit Pistons forward Grant Hill.  However, Kidd quickly grew unhappy in Dallas and was shipped over to the Phoenix Suns.  His play took off while in Phoenix and Kidd would routinely be named to all NBA teams.  After a public battle with his wife, though, Phoenix shipped him to New Jersey where his career would finally reach its peak.  Kidd would finish second in the MVP voting in 2002 to Tim Duncan with the Nets and would lead New Jersey to two consecutive Eastern Conference Championships, being swept by the Lakers in 2002 and losing in six to the Spurs in 2003.  Kidd, though, would routinely demand trade request adn then rescind those request with New Jersey and would also have a falling out with coach Byron Scott who was fired as a result of the disagreement.  After being traded back to Dallas, Kidd has continued his stellar play although more critics of his have emerged overtime.  It's unclear whether he will ever win that elusive championship, but his greatness on the court should never be underestimated.
Posted on: May 27, 2009 9:03 pm
Edited on: May 27, 2009 9:13 pm
 

Ranking No. 1 Draft Picks of Draft Lottery Era

With the 2009 NBA draft looming and with it widely assumed that Blake Griffin 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.  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.  So here it goes: ranking the top No. 1 Draft picks of the lotter era.

24) Kwame Brown, C, Washington Wizards out of Glynn Academy High School in 2001 NBA Draft (462 Games, 7.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.0 APG) - Kwame Brown receives the dubious honor of being ranked the worst No. 1 Draft pick of the Draft Lottery Era.  Kwame Brown also holds the distinction of being the first high schooler to ever selected first overall in an NBA draft as well.  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 now looking at a future primarily as a backup center in the league.

23) Michael Olowokandi, C, Los Angeles Clippers out of University of the Pacific in 1998 NBA Draft (500 Games, 8.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.4 BPG) - 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.  Viewed as a fantastic 7-foot athlete, the Clippers drafted Olowokandi to be the anchor in the paint for the miserable franchise.  Instead, Olowokandi mixed flashes of brilliance with long droughts and fought injuries in Los Angeles before eating up the Timberwolves salary cap.  He wasted away his final years with the Celtics and is now no longer in the league.

22) Greg Oden, C, Portland Trail Blazers out of Ohio State University in 2007 NBA Draft (61 Games, 8.9 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.1 BPG) - A huge seven footer with a personality remniscent of Shaq, 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 has struggled to stay on court his first two seasons in the league (also in his only season in college).  Oden still has the potential to be a fantastic pick, but his body may not cooperate.  The jury is still out on him.

21) Andrea Bargnani, PF, Toronto Raptors out of Italy in 2006 NBA Draft (221 Games, 12.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.1 APG) - As a seven footer with fantastic range on his jumpshot, 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.  After suffering a severe sophomore slump, Bargnani bounced back to have a solid third season with Toronto.  He looks like he will be a fine player for the next few years in the NBA.

20) Andrew Bogut, C, Milwaukee Bucks out of University of Utah in 2005 NBA Draft (262 Games, 11.9 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.0 BPG) - Bogut, being a seven footer with a fantastic skill set and equipped with a nice post game and a very adept passing big man was a lock as the number one draft pick in teh 2005 NBA Draft.  After playing for Australia in the 2004 Olympics, he got lots of praise and the expectations were huge for him in his sophomore season with the Utah Utes.  Bogut did not dissapoint 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's been the starting center for the Bucks all four years of his career and has shown flashes of being a very good pure center.  Time will tell if he'll ever reach his full potential, though.

19) Pervis Ellison, PF, Sacramento Kings out of University of Louisville in 1989 NBA Draft (474 Games, 9.5 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 1.5 APG) - "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 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.

18) Joe Smith, PF, Golden State Warriors out of University of Maryland in 1995 NBA Draft (950 Games, 11.6 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.0 APG) - Joe Smith turned two great seasons manning down the middle for the Maryland Terpains 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 seasons.  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 market value at the time so that the team could add more players.

17) Derrick Rose, PG, Chicago Bulls out of University of Memphis in 2008 NBA Draft (81 Games, 16.8 PPG, 6.3 APG, 3.9 RPG) - Drafted first overall by the Chicago Bulls in the most recent NBA Draft, Rose, born in Chicago, turned in a fantastic season, winning the 2009 NBA Rookie of the year Award and displaying signs of ultimate greatness in the 2009 Postseason against the defending champion Boston Celtics.  The only pure point guard drafted first overall in the draft lottery era, Rose looks as if he will be a fantastic player for years to come for his hometown Bulls.

16) Kenyon Martin, PF, New Jersey Nets out of University of Cincinnati in 2000 NBA Draft (548 Games, 14.1 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.2 BPG) - Figured to be the best prospect in a very weak 1999 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 Nuggets, his injuries caught up to him and he was forced to undergo knee surgery.  His explosiveness that was his trademark has been limited but he still remains a formidable starter in this league and a spectacular defensive power forward.

15) Glenn Robinson, SF, Milwaukee Bucks out of Purdue University in 1994 NBA Draft (688 Games, 20.7 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.2 SPG) - Billed as a fantastic scorer, Robinson won two Big Ten scoring titles in his two years of elegibility 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.  Robinson did win a championship as a reserve of the San Antonio Spurs in 2005.

14) Danny Manning, PF, Los Angeles Clippers out of University of Kansas in 1988 NBA Draft (883 Games, 14.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.1 SPG) - 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 dissapointing 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 fininished his career at the end of benches for his last few years in the league.  Manning also won the 1998 Sixth Man of the Year award with the Phoenix Suns.

13) Larry Johnson, PF, Charlotte Hornets out of University of Nevada in Las Vegas in 1991 NBA Draft (707 Games, 16.2 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 3.3 APG) - Johnson was a dynamic player at the colleigate level for the Runnin' Rebels before entering the 1991 NBA Draft.  Selected by the upstart Charlotte Hornets, Johnson 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 and "Grandmama" and Big Zo were 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 Eastern Conference Finals with the Knicks.

12) Brad Daugherty, C, Cleveland Cavaliers out of University of North Carolina in 1986 NBA Draft (548 Games, 19.0 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 3.7APG) - A colleigate 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 last, 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.

11) Derrick Coleman, PF, New Jersey Nets out of Syracuse University in 1990 NBA Draft (781 Games, 16.5 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.3 BPG) - Coleman was a fantastic player for the Syracus 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 humanitarian of sorts since his retirement, but his career will be looked at with an asterisk as he never was as great as he should have been.

10) Elton Brand, PF, Chicago Bulls out of Duke University in 1999 NBA Draft (643 Games, 20.0 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 2.6 APG, 2.0 BPG) - 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 ineplicably 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 with the Clippers but aside from that has never competed in the postseason.  The past two years have been difficult for Brand as he's played a total of only 37 games.  Time will tell if Brand ever gets back on the court to maintain the level of play he once was known best for.

9) Yao Ming, C, Houston Rockets out of China in 2002 NBA Draft (481 Games, 19.1 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 1.9 BPG, 1.6 APG) - 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 has rarely dissapointed when he's been on the court.  Skilled with fantastic shooting touch for a player of his size, Ming has been one of the best centers in the league when he's been on the court but has had many leg problems that have prohibited from achieving "great" status. 

8) Dwight Howard, C, Orlando Magic out of SW Atlanta Christian Academy High School in 2004 NBA Draft (407 Games, 17.3 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 2.0 BPG, 1.4 APG) - 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 his last three seasons in the league and was named the 2009 Defensive Player of the Year, and at the young age of 23 already figures to be the most dominant big man in the league.  The sky is the limit for this extremely talented big man.

7) Patrick Ewing, C, New York Knicks out of Georgetown University in 1985 NBA Draft (1,183 Games, 21.0 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.4 BPG, 1.9 APG, 1.0 SPG) - 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 the NBA's 50 Greatest Players in history in 1997.

6) Chris Webber, PF, Orlando Magic out of University of Michigan in 1993 NBA Draft (831 Games, 20.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.4 BPG, 1.4 SPG) - 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 inexplicably 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 Kings.  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.

5) Allen Iverson, SG, Philadelphia 76ers out of Georgetown Univeristy in 1996 NBA Draft (886 Games, 27.1 PPG, 6.2 APG, 3.7 RPG, 2.2 SPG) - An explosive career 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 unprecendented 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, Iverson has shown a huge problem playing with teammates and his selfish reputation has resurfaced.  The future of the 2001 NBA Most Valuable Player is now in doubt but his past success cannot be denied.

4) David Robinson, C, San Antonio Spurs out of US Naval Academy in 1987 NBA Draft (987 Games, 21.1 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 2.9 BPG, 2.5 APG, 1.4 SPG) - 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 offseason.  A fantastic athlete, Robinson racked up many awards during his tenture 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 fourtneen 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 basketball hall of fame.

3) LeBron James, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers out of St. Vincent - St. Mary's High School in 2003 NBA Draft (472 Games, 27.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 6.7 APG, 1.8 SPG) - 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.  Only 24 with a ridiculously bright future ahead of him, LeBron currently is the 2009 NBA Most Valuable Player of the Year and made it to the NBA Finals in 2007 with the Cavaliers.  The sky is the limit in regards to what LeBron James can accomplish.

2) Shaquille O'Neal, C, Orlando Magic out of Louisiana State University in 1992 NBA Draft (1,117 Games, 24.7 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 2.6 APG, 2.3 BPG) - O'Neal was an athletic seven footer entering the league with an abundance of personality, a skillset unmatched by anyone in recent memory and with high expecations.  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 Offseason.  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 where he teamed with a young Dwyane Wade to win the 2006 NBA Championship with Miami.  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 (899 Games, 21.4 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 3.2 APG, 2.3 BPG) - 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 colleigans 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.  Routinely noted as a difficult interview, not much is known off the court about Tim Duncan but on the court Duncan is arguably the top draft pick of the draft lottery era.
Posted on: May 18, 2009 12:36 pm
 

2009 NBA Playoffs: The Conference Finals

 After a passable second round, the playoffs look to get exceptionally exciting with two very tough matchups.  I will start off by saying that I really went back and forth on both series and can't get a good feel on either one, which speaks to how competitive these should be.  Let's get to it.

Eastern Conference Finals
(1)
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (3) Orlando Magic
Why The Cavaliers Will Win: The Cavaliers enter this series on a roll that is out of this world.  After winning their first eight games of the postseason, they've run an incredible wave of momentum right into this series.  Everyone across the board is contributing and they've gotten an absolutely magnificent showing from LeBron James so far this postseason.  I imagine they'll continue to get great production from LeBron but the defense will be key.  And if you're going to rely on defense, being the number one defensive squad in the league helps in that department. 
Why The Magic Will Win: The Magic look like a confident bunch.  No team has been scrutinized more, outside of Los Angeles, than this Orlando squad.  However, the coaching squad and players have responded to criticism and have shown the ability to win crucial games on the road (winning games 1 and 7 in Boston, and winning critical games 4 and 6 in Philadelphia).  Dwight Howard is a matchup problem for anybody in this league, but with the Cavaliers he should look to have his way around the basket.  Anderson Vareajo can't sporadically give him fits with his ability to draw chargers, but Ben Wallace hasn't received any playing time and I can't imagine him being fresh enough to check Howard.  Even if he is, the offensive holes with him in the game will be glaring.  When that happens, the Cavs become too one dimensional (go to LeBron and spot up). 
Key Player for the Cavaliers: Mo Williams hit some big shots in game 4 against the Hawks but he's struggled with his shot this postseason.  If he plays at the level he did during the first two series then Rafer Alston will be able to match him.  Williams needs to convincingly take Alston to the limit at that position in order for the Cavaliers to win this series.
Key Player for the Magic: Courtney Lee will go unsung, but his defense on Eddie House against the Celtics was huge.  He was big in the 76ers series and although he's lost his starting spot, he stopped a critical role player and I imagine he'll be asked to do the same against Delonte West.  West has had a very good postseason thus far and if he continues to excel it's a huge feather in the cap for the Cavaliers.  However, if Lee can have West struggle with his jump shot, it can further discourage this squad and have them defer to LeBron too often.
Prediction: Magic in seven
Key As To Why They Will Win: Dwight Howard will be the critical factor in this series and I imagine he's going to have a field day in the paint.  This was not a problem for the Cavs in earlier series, but a severely injured Al Horford and a three point friendly Rasheed Wallace aren't necessarily intimidating presences.
Conclusion: I had these two teams in the conference finals before the playoffs started, and I picked the Cavs to win it.  I have no reason to back away from that precition now.  However, I'm riding the Magic bandwagon and really feel as if this team plays great ball together.  I could really fall on my face with this pick as I've rode the Cavs bandwagon all year, but I'm jumping off for this series.  It's not a matter of what the Cavs can't do, they've proven they can play with anybody in the league.  This is all about what the Magic are doing.  They've blown teams out, won tough games, faced adversity and overcome obstacles.  The Cavs could be riding momentum, but no team should be as confident as the Magic are.  That convincing victory in Boston for game 7 should give the Magic the confidence to win a seventh and final game in Cleveland.

Western Conference Finals
(1)
Los Angeles Lakers vs. (2) Denver Nuggets
Why The Lakers Will Win: The Lakers are top to bottom the more talented team.  However, they have a tendency to let up and let Kobe Bryant do all of the work.  Pau Gasol is hit or miss in the paint but came up big in game 7.  Trevor Ariza will be able to guard Carmelo Anthony which should allow Kobe Bryant the freedom to opperate on offense.  The bench, the defense and Andrew Bynum were huge in a critical game against Houston, and that should give the team some confidence going forward.  Also, Dahntay Jones has done a good job against smaller guards, but he won't be able to check Kobe and J.R. Smith isn't a force on defense either.
Why The Nuggets Will Win: The Nuggets are playing the best basketball of anybody in the postseason.  Everyone top to bottom is contributing, playing tough defense, hitting open jump shots and taking it to the basket at will.  The Lakers soft inside should have the Nuggets licking their chops if they continue to play the game that they've been against the Hornets and MavericksChauncey Billups should continue to give the Lakers problems at the point guard position and should be able to continue to keep Derek Fisher a non factor.  Also, now that Kenyon Martin won't be busy guarding Kobe Bryant, he should be able to contain Pau Gasol and give him fits.
Key Player for the Lakers: Andrew Bynum was solid in the last two home games of the Houston series and if he can continue to be productive, even if at home, it will do wonders for the Lakers in the paint.  Nene struggled away from Denver against the Mavericks and that was without any kind of inside presence on Dallas.  If Bynum can play solid ball around the basket on both sides then the Lakers can take it.
Key Player for the Nuggets: The starting lineup is a toss up, but J.R. Smith can give the Nuggets something the Lakers haven't had this postseason, reliable, consistent production off of the bench.  Chris Andersen got into foul trouble a lot in the Dallas series, but Smith was still able to play and has looked great the entire postseason.  It feels as if everything he's letting go is going in.  It's important for him to continue to produce, because if he gets hot Kobe Bryant will have to guard him and that can take away from his relaxing on defense.
Prediction: Lakers in seven
Key As To Why They Will Win: The Houston Rockets did the Lakers all sorts of favors in their second round matchup and I'll tell you why.  The fact that they showed the Lakers they can't win simply by showing up should instill a sense of urgency for the Lake show against the red hot Nuggets.  If the Lakers are on their game they're the most talented team in the league.  Now that they're playing the best competition the West has to offer, I look for them to bring it every game.
Conclusion: This series was tough.  It was left undecided even as I typed this and I feel as if it could justifiably go either way.  The Nuggets should win the point guard and bench battles, but the Lakers should be able to match that at the wing spots and inside the paint.  The Nuggets have faced teams that were inferior to them and they exerted their authoritiy.  They won't be able to do that against the Lakers, and this is a series where a couple of losses could give the Nuggets some trouble.  They haven't faced adversity in the playoffs in years.  They've breezed through this postseason and were hardly in contention in previous years.  It's vital that they go back to Denver with at loss one win if they're going to win this series, and I think the Lakers will ride game seven into games 1 and 2 in Los Angeles.  That was the difference maker.

Posted on: May 3, 2009 3:34 pm
Edited on: May 10, 2009 7:44 pm
 

2009 NBA Postseason First Round Review

My Postseason Preview - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/

entry/5993128/14555500


Eastern Conference
(1)
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (8) Detroit Pistons - The Cavs came into the postseason determined and really took it to Detroit in all areas of the game.  Defensively the Pistons had no answer for LeBron James and the anemic play of their three stars (Tayshaun Prince, Richard Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace) resulted in just absolute destruction from beginning to end. 
My Prediction: Cavaliers in five
Result: Cavaliers in four
Where I Was Right: I mentioned that the opposite ends at which these teams were entering the postseason was going to affect how they could perform.  The Pistons frontcourt was small enough to where the Cavs' lack of size wouldn't be such a flaw. 
Where I Was Wrong: I mentioned that the Pistons would be competitive in their games in Detroit and that Mo Williams would probably struggle in this series.  Williams' shot was inconsistent but for the most part he was solid as the team's second option.  The Pistons never really posed much of a threat to Cleveland aside from the first half of game one in Cleveland.  It was sad to watch that proud franchise go out the way it did.

(4) Atlanta Hawks vs. (5) Miami Heat - This series has been really bad to watch because it hasn't given us great basketball from either team.  For three games the Hawks have played terrific defense, for three games the Heat have taken it to the basket and gotten to the line and have made their three point shots.  Neither team has shown any kind of consistency and the fact that it's gone to seven isn't fitting, seeing as how there hasn't been much competition or consistency from either squad.
My Predicton: Hawks in seven
Result: Hawks in seven
Where I Was Right: I mentioned that Al Horford would be huge for Atlanta and would most likely have a very good series against Miami.  His injury may have slowed him down near the end of the series but he really was the difference as the Heat had no options down low.  I stated that home court would be crucial in this series and, although both teams dropped one game at home, the fact that game seven was in Atlanta was the difference between these two teams. 
Where I Was Wrong: I looked for every home team to win and was wrong in stating that would happen.  I envisioned this series being the best in the entire postseason and it's been one of the more unwatchable ones from start to finish.

(3) Orlando Magic vs. (6) Philadelphia 76ers - This series was highlighted by three buzzer beating shots and gave plenty of tough basketball from both teams.  Dwight Howard's lack of touches in the clutch got plenty of attention and Stan Van Gundy's pose on the sidelines was brought into question multiple times throughout the series.  All that considered, the Magic's two losses were by buzzer beaters where three of their victories were convincing victories.
My Prediction: Magic in six
Result: Magic in six
Where I Was Right: I stated that Andre Iguodala would have to basically do it by himself if the 76ers were to win and stated he'd be unable to do so.  He got contributions from Andre Miller but Iguodala never commanded attention as the best player on the team, and he needed to be for them to win.  I figured Samuel Dalembert and Theo Ratliff would be left one on one with Howard but stated that it would be for naught if Howard was assertive.  Also, I figured Turkoglu would struggle due to the injury, although it was probably his shot selection that was more questionable.
Where I Was Wrong: Not to sound cocky but my preview was pretty spot on, although I stated it would be the least interesting series and this postseason was full of uninteresting series.  So I guess I was wrong in that regard.

(2) Boston Celtics vs. (7) Chicago Bulls - If not for this series, the first round would have been full of uninteresting, unmotivated players and performances.  However, both teams here played fantastic basketball from start to finish and really brought out the best in eachother.  It had theatrics on the bench, the young upstart squad versus the defending champions, fantastic buzzer beaters and tremendous basketball.  It's a shame one of these squads had to lose, but the Celtics earned this on the court.
My Prediction: Celtics in seven
Result: Celtics in seven
Where I Was Right: I mentioned that Rajon Rondo would be huge in this series as it was important for him to win the one on one battle with Derrick Rose with Kevin Garnett on the bench.  I also stated that Rose would be key for the Bulls if they were to win, and both of those guards did not dissapoint.  I also mentioned that the fact that the Bulls weren't great scoring in the point wouldn't be exposed because of Garnett's absence, and they managed to allow big men like Brad Miller and Tyrus Thomas shoot jumpers from all areas on the court.
Where I Was Wrong: I mentioned that the Celtics would win on the defensive end, but they actually won by outscoring the offensive Bulls.  I was surprised they went that route, but it looked as if they had no other options.  Either way, the Celtics still found ways to win and I figured they would.

Western Conference
(1)
Los Angeles Lakers vs. (8) Utah Jazz - From start to finish the Jazz looked out of place on the court with the Lakers.  They played hard but their bad play down the stretch continued on the defensive end here in the first round.  Andrew Bynum's comeback looked very promising at the end of the season, but his play in this series could bring future questions for the Lakers in the postseason.
My Prediction: Lakers in five
Result: Lakers in five
Where I Was Right: I mentioned that Lamar Odom would be huge for the Lakers as he consistently dominates Utah when he's in the game and by the end of the series he was starting in place of Andrew Bynum.  I also mentioned that nobody outside of Deron Williams was playing consistent ball for Utah and that it was on Carlos Boozer to step up and help them matchup with Los Angeles. 
Where I Was Wrong: I did mention that every game would be tough and that the Lakers would have to fight to win, but the Lakers really took it to them from start to finish.  Unfortunately for Utah they just never had a chance in this series and it took an attrocious shooting night in game 3 from Kobe Bryant for them to steal one game in the series.

(4) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (5) Houston Rockets - Coming into the series, the Trail Blazers were the popular pick to make a run at the Lakers and give them trouble in the semifinals, and they proceeded to get destroyed in game 1 on their home court.  After that loss, they never gained any momentum in this series and it never felt like they'd have a chance to win. 
My Prediction: Trail Blazers in six
Result: Rockets in six
Where I Was Right: I did mention that Houston was more talented but that it would all be mental with them.  I guess I was at least right that the Rockets were the more talented bunch.
Where I Was Wrong: I mentioned that Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla would give Yao Ming fits and Ming just took it to them and was unstoppable around the basket.  I also mentioned that the fact the Rockets didn't have Tracy McGrady would hurt, since I assumed they'd have no one to take the shots in the clutch.  But Aaron Brooks, Luis Scola, Shane Battier and Ron Artest went and gave them critical baskets in stretches when they needed them.  They had a "closer by committee" and that worked against Portland.  I also stated that the Rockets would mentally question if they could win this series, and there wasn't a more confident bunch in the entire first round of the playoffs. 

(3) San Antonio Spurs vs. (6) Dallas Mavericks - This series pitting two division rivals against one another seemed to be one that was sure to bring fireworks from start to finish, but the Mavericks really dominated the Spurs on both sides of the court and gave them fits from all angles.  The Spurs only had Tony Parker and Tim Duncan show up while the Mavericks had five players every night that gave tremendous production and really just overpowered the Spurs.
My Prediction: Mavericks in seven
Result: Mavericks in five
Where I Was Right: I mentioned that the Mavericks abundance of options and Dirk Nowitzki alone always gives the Spurs troubles and has forever.  It proved right again in this series.  I stated the Mavs would have no answer for Tony Parker and he would be huge but the fact that the Mavericks had better role players would be what gave them the edge.  I also stated that Jose Juan Barea would be a huge factor for the Mavericks off the bench and he really gave the Spurs fits on both ends of the court.  I mentioned the Spurs would need to rely on players like Roger Mason Jr. to play better since they were going to miss Manu Ginobili, but that I wasn't sure if he would be huge in the postseason.
Where I Was Wrong: I was wrong in imagining that the series would go seven games but I covered all bases and really thought Dallas would win.

Oh no, now onto this next series.

(2) Denver Nuggets vs. (7) New Orleans Hornets - In a matchup of two teams entering the playoffs on two opposite runs (Denver was hot going into the postseason whereas the Hornets stumbled entering the playoffs), the Nuggets thoroughly exposed the Hornets as the least talented team in the entire postseason.  A dominating performance by Denver was highlighted by a 58 point game 4 victory in New Orleans
My Prediction: Hornets in six
Result: Nuggets in five
Where I Was Right: I gave the Nuggets the edge on the bench and I mentioned that the frontcourt would kill Chandler and Sean Marks, both which happened.  But anything I said would go right for New Orleans went wrong ...
Where I Was Wrong: I was pretty much wrong in all areas in this series.  I stated Tyson Chandler would be huge as I thought his injury had healed, I mentioned that David West would really shine and stated the Nuggets would struggle trying to contain Chris Paul.  However it was Chauncey Billups who the Hornets had no answer for, Kenyon Martin really took it to West and Chandler was awful on both sides of the court.  I also mentioned this would be a tightly contested series, which was obviously wrong.

Posted on: April 16, 2009 11:54 pm
Edited on: May 10, 2009 7:45 pm
 

2008-2009 NBA Postseason Predictions

 Team By Team Previews
Western Conference:
1) Los Angeles Lakers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14206197

2) Denver Nuggets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14321911

3) San Antonio Spurs - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14346631

4) Portland Trail Blazers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14386245

5) Houston Rockets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14288379

6) Dallas Mavericks - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14440073

7) New Orleans Hornets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14427724

8) Utah Jazz - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14393609

Eastern Conference:
1) Cleveland Cavaliers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14152907

2) Boston Celtics - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14220509

3) Orlando Magic - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14229507

4) Atlanta Hawks - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14238342

5) Miami Heat - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14373942

6) Philadelphia 76ers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14376757

7) Chicago Bulls - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14504657

8) Detroit Pistons - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14467742

1st Round Matchups
Eastern Conference

(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (8) Detroit Pistons - The Pistons bring their experience to Cleveland to stand opposite the Cavaliers. The Cavs are really riding a huge wave of momentum into the postseason, the complete opposite way which Detroit is entering the playoffs. The Cavs have beaten the Pistons the last time they played in the postseason as well, and there's no reason for Detroit's intimidation factor to affect Cleveland. This is a solid matchup for the Cavs, because their lack of size won't affect them as the Pistons, likewise, lack significant size in their frontcourt.
Prediction: Cavaliers in five.
Cavaliers Player to Watch: Mo Williams - It will be interesting to see how Williams, the Cavs' second option, responds to having that kind of pressure on him in the postseason.
Pistons Player to Watch: Kwame Brown - With the Cavaliers lack of size, Brown can continue his solid play down the stretch with solid defense on Zydrunas Ilgauskas if called upon. He can really help the Pistons if he elevates his play.

(4) Atlanta Hawks vs. (5) Miami Heat - Dwyane Wade and the Heat are a tough out for anybody in the postseason, including an unproven playoff team like the Hawks. The Hawks are still a tough team to take seriously, although we all should, and they can look at that as a rallying cry. This is the most even matchup in the entire Eastern Conference, and the Hawks fantastic play at home should help this squad get out of the first round for the first time since 1999. Dwyane Wade and company will put up a fantastic effort, but I look for every home team to win in this series.
Prediction: Hawks in seven.
Hawks Player to Watch: Al Horford - The Heat's lack of a true center should speak for a good series for Al Horford. Also, the Hawks are nearly unstoppable when Horford averages over 15 points a game. So his play is critical for the advancement of Atlanta.
Heat Player to Watch: Michael Beasley - Beasley is entering the postseason on a tear, and if he can continue to be that consistent second option for Miami then the Heat have the chance to pull off the upset.

(3) Orlando Magic vs. (6) Philadelphia 76ers - This is a matchup of slumping teams running head to head and will probably provide the least interesting of all of the playoff matchups in the NBA. The 76ers, even though they'll throw Samuel Dalembert and Theo Ratliff at him, really have no answer for Dwight Howard. Andre Iguodala will have to do it by himself and I don't believe he's the kind of player capable of doing that. Also, his dissapointing performance in last season's playoffs has to weigh on his mind. However, Hedo Turkoglu's injury is something to look for in Orlando.
Prediction: Magic in six.
Magic Player to Watch: Hedo Turkoglu - It will be intersting to see how he plays with this injured ankle. This team can really take off if he can somehow go back to the style of play and consistency he showed last season.
76ers Player to Watch: Samuel Dalembert - His defense on Dwight Howard will be critical for the 76ers chances to advance. However, he's had moments where he dissapears.

(2) Boston Celtics vs. (7) Chicago Bulls - Without Kevin Garnett, the Bulls lack of inside scoring can really be masked in this first round matchup. These two units play spectacular basketball at home and can really put points on the board. The key will be which team can make the defensive stops when it's necessary to get them. The defending champions, even without their defensive leader Garnett, have experience doing so and can really put the inexperienced Bulls on the ropes. I look for the Bulls to put up a great fight, and push the C's to seven but I look for the Celtics to somehow prevail.
Prediction: Celtics in seven.
Celtics Player to Watch: Rajon Rondo - Rondo's play in this series is going to be crucial for Boston. Without Garnett, the teams are very evenly matched and Rondo's defense on Derrick Rose will be key for the Celtics.
Bulls Player to Watch: Derrick Rose - The Rookie of the Year will have a lot of pressure playing point guard in his first postseason against the defending champions. He can really blow skeptics away or he can struggle against the insurmountable odds.

Western Conference

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (8) Utah Jazz - The Lakers get the unfortunate task of facing the inconsistent Utah Jazz in the first round. The Lakers should be confident, seeing as how Utah simply cannot win on the road, but the Jazz always give the Lakers fits. Kobe Bryant and company, though, should replicate last season's conference semifinals and really look to push Utah to the limit. Nobody outside of Deron Williams is really playing consistently for Utah, and he simply cannot do it alone. The Jazz will put up a fight in every single game, but they don't have the weapons or the confidence to pull games out.
Prediction: Lakers in five.
Lakers Player to Watch: Lamar Odom - Odom always plays well against the Jazz, and coming off of the bench he can match up against Andrei Kirilenko and really take it to the Jazz. Without pressure Odom always seems to shine, and this is a perfect chance for the Lakers to develop a playoff rotation that includes Odom on the bench.
Jazz Player to Watch: Carlos Boozer - Boozer struggled mightily last season against the Lakers and without him scoring inside, the Jazz are simply a jump shooting team. That plays well into the Lakers' hands, so it's on Boozer to improve from last season's (and mainly this season's) performance.

(4) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (5) Houston Rockets - The Rockets were coming into the postseason on a huge positive note, but stumbling to the 5th seed and having to face Portland is not what the Dr. ordered for a team looking to make it out of the first round for the first time since 1998. It's all mental with the Rockets, and Yao Ming should really be a force, but Joel Przybilla and Greg Oden are big enough to stay in front of Yao and really alter his shots. With that being negated, the Rockets must rely on Ron Artest, Aaron Brooks and Von Wafer and none of the three shoot consistently enough to match the late game heroics of Brandon Roy.
Prediction: Trail Blazers in six.
Trail Blazers Player to Watch: Greg Oden - He's dissapointed all season long, but his defensive capabilities give the Blazers a lot of hope in their matchup with Yao Ming. If he can stay out of foul trouble, he can give the Blazers a good 20-25 minutes of solid defense on Yao and has the best size to matchup with the Rockets center.
Rockets Player to Watch: Kyle Lowry - Aaron Brooks is the better offensive player, but Lowry will most likely draw the assignment of guarding when he's in the game. His defense will be critical if he can slow down Roy for stretches and affect his confidence for the late game situations when Roy will be forced to take the shot for Portland.

(3) San Antonio Spurs vs. (6) Dallas Mavericks - The Spurs pulled off an amazing run to win the Southwest Division, but if there's one team that always troubles the Spurs it's the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks have peaked at the right time and are entirely capable of winning games in San Antonio. Tim Duncan always plays fantastic ball against Dallas, but the same can be said for Dirk Nowitzki matching up against San Antonio. The role players will be huge in this matchup, as will Tony Parker, but the Mavs role players (Jason Terry, Josh Howard, Brandon Bass) should give the Mavericks the edge they need to pull the upset.
Prediction: Mavericks in seven.
Spurs Player to Watch: Roger Mason Jr. - With Manu Ginobili out, Mason's contributions will be critical. After an unbelievable first half to the season, he's been rather inconsistent as of late. If he can provide good minutes and consistently hit his jump shot, the Spurs will be in great shape.
Mavericks Player to Watch: Jose Juan Barea - Coming off of the bench, Barea has the speed to really give Tony Parker fits when the Mavs have the ball. If he can come in and play well alongside either Jason Kidd or Jason Terry, the Mavericks will really have a leg up in the matchup.

(2) Denver Nuggets vs. (7) New Orleans Hornets - This is a fantastic matchup here as the Hornets and Nuggets engage in a tightly contested head to head battle. Chris Paul may be too quick for Chauncey Billups to guard one on one, and if the Nuggets go to Anthony Carter that will give the Hornets the advantage defensively seeing as how Carter struggles with his shot. The Nuggets frontcourt could provide a lot of problems for the Hornets, especially Chris Andersen, who can really provide problems for Tyson Chandler and Sean Marks. When called upon, though, the acquisition of James Posey will pay off with his defense on Carmelo Anthony in this tough matchup.
Prediction: Hornets in six
Nuggets Player to Watch: J.R. Smith - Coming off of the bench, J.R. Smith gives the Nuggets a huge advantage with his ability to take games over with his shot making ability. However, he takes possesions off on defense and can also shoot the Nuggets out of games, so he has to one day his erratic play to be fully helpful to the Nuggets.
Hornets Player to Watch: Tyson Chandler - Coming off of an injury, Chandler should be monitored. If he doesn't play many minutes then that could prove to be a huge problem for the Hornets. However, the Hornets are infinitely better when Chandler plays and it will be crucial to see to it that he contributes as much as possible.
 


Conference Semifinals
Eastern Conference

(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (4) Atlanta Hawks - The Cavaliers will still be riding that wave of emotion heading into the semifinals after their dispatching of the Pistons. However, they're going to run into a tough, battle tested Hawks squad that could steal a game in Cleveland. Joe Johnson and LeBron James give the fans quite the one on one matchup and fans will be tuned in to watch those two go at it. However, Cleveland's role players outshine Atlanta's in critical spots and the Cavs will escape in seven.
Prediction: Cavaliers in seven.
Cavaliers Player to Watch: Zydrunas Ilgauskas - There's no reason anywhere near his height in Atlanta, and he can really pull defenders away from the basket with his jump shot. If he has a big series, the Cavaliers will undoubtedly advance.
Hawks Player to Watch: Ronald Murray - Murray is the best player on a shallow Atlanta bench, and he can really jumpstart Atlanta's role players and give the Hawks a ton of energy in spots where they least expect to receive it.

(2) Boston Celtics vs. (3) Orlando Magic - Without Garnett, Dwight Howard looks to dominate against Boston and may very well do so. These two squads meet head to head and give a fantastic first four games in this series and the series should head back to Boston tied at 2 apiece. However, the Celtics will miss Garnett as they look fatiqued from a tough series with the Bulls. That gives the Magic an opportunity to steal a game and close out the series in Orlando. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen will really shine in this series, but Boston's lack of options will do them in.
Prediction: Magic in six.
Celtics Player to Watch: Glen Davis - Assuming he'll be playing the power forward position without Kevin Garnett in the lineup, he can really get his shot off against the smaller Magic. His ability to knock down the 15 footer could really help open the floor up for Boston.
Magic Player to Watch: Rashard Lewis - With the Celtics throwing out a bigger, slower lineup Lewis can really put the Magic over the top. He'll create the fantastic offensive mismatch for Orlando if he remains aggressive and looks to take it to the basket more than settling for his jump shot. Furthermore, he's long and quick enough to guard Davis and Powe if he stays out of foul trouble.

Western Conference

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (4) Portland Trail Blazers - Coming off of facing the Jazz, the Lakers match up with another hated rival in Portland and have to be worried about this contest. The Lakers struggle against Portland, especially at Portland, and the Trail Blazers are one of the dangerous teams playing with no expectation to win. The Trail Blazers should give the Lakers lots of fits, but the Lakers have the best player on the court in Kobe Bryant, and have players outside of Kobe who can hit the big shot to win crucial games. The Blazers really will give the Lakers all they can handle and should take them to seven games.
Prediction: Lakers in seven.
Lakers Player to Watch: Andrew Bynum - Portland has very servicable big men, so Bynum's effort, play and intensity level should speak volumes on if the Lakers will advance or not. If he isn't as commanding as he can be, then the Lakers may have to go small with Odom and Gasol in the lineup instead.
Trail Blazers Player to Watch: LaMarcus Aldridge - Going up against Pau Gasol or Lamar Odom, Aldridge is talented enough to get his points against either of those defenders. If he takes to the basket more often and stays aggressive, then the Lakers will be hard pressed to find options to stop him. However, he has a tendency to fall in love with the jump shot and that could hurt the Blazers more than help them.

(6) Dallas Mavericks vs. (7) New Orleans Hornets - In this matchup of underdogs to advance, the Hornets and Mavericks both should count their blessings to be so close to the conference finals. These two teams will meet up for the second straight postseason, providing a lot of intense moments of basketball. However, the Mavericks have always struggled with the combination of Chris Paul and David West. Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry and Brandon Bass always give the Hornets trouble, but Nowitzki will be guarded closely by James Posey and the Hornets can allow Peja Stojakovic to run relatively free, giving the Hornets the series victory.
Prediction: Hornets in six.
Mavericks Player to Watch: Brandon Bass - Bass has always given the Hornets fits since signing as a free agent from New Orleans a few years ago. His strength, speed and ability to hit the mid range jump shot give the Hornets plenty of fits and he really can take over games if given significant minutes by Rick Carlisle.
Hornets Player to Watch: Peja Stojakovic - Peja's struggled mightily against more physical teams, but the Mavericks usually throw Josh Howard at Peja, and Peja generally gives the Mavericks problems. If he's able to run free and hit his jump shot, like he did last postseason, the Hornets will dispose of the Mavericks.


Eastern Conference Finals

(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (3) Orlando Magic - LeBron James should really dominate in this matchup, as the Magic simply have no answer for him. Courtney Lee will provide the best line of defense, but having to rely so many minutes to a rookie could hurt the Magic on the offensive side of the basketball. Dwight Howard may go off in this matchup as well, but his role players will be hard pressed to knock down the jump shot consistently against the fantastic defense of Cleveland's.
Prediction: Cavaliers in five.
Cavaliers Player to Watch: LeBron James - When times get thick, your best player is the one that can carry you out of tough situations. The Cavaliers will all feed off of the play of their MVP and if he plays well, the team will play well.
Magic Player to Watch: Courtney Lee - His defense on LeBron will be crucial, and if he can stay in front of and attempt to contain LeBron then the Magic can allow Howard to really take adavantage of Cleveland's lack of strength inside.

Western Conference Finals

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (7) New Orleans Hornets - The Lakers, after two extremely draining matches will now be faced off with the postseason's cinderella team. However, the Hornets will be vexed from their two tough series as well, and their lack of size will finally come back to hurt them. Players like Odom and Bynum always perform well against the Hornets lack of height and the Lakers have more options to turn to than the Hornets do. They'll both be tired, but the Lakers have much more talent than New Orleans does and that will be enough for the Lakers to advance.
Prediction: Lakers in five.
Lakers Player to Watch: Pau Gasol - The Hornets have no option to defend Pau Gasol. He can basically get his shot off at will against David West or Tyson Chandler and can really take over the series and give the Lakers the easy victory.
Hornets Player to Watch: James Posey - Posey was brought to this team for critical spots like these, and he will be assigned the task of guarding Kobe Bryant. Posey will look to feed off of last season's finals to get into Kobe's head, and if he can stay in front of Kobe and keep him around a percentage near 40%, the Hornets will be in contention.


NBA Finals

(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (1) Los Angeles Lakers - And now for the matchup that the nation, David Stern and ESPN want and that haters across the world will despise. Kobe Bryant and LeBron James will match up head to head in a battle between the two best teams in the NBA all season long. Coming into the finals, both teams will have been tested although the Lakers will have had the tougher time getting there. The Cavaliers can use Los Angels' fatique to their advantage for at least the first game of the series, but after a co uple days rest, the Lakers should shock Cleveland in game 2 on their home court. Once the series returns to Los Angeles, the Lakers should really use their size to their advantage and pound it into the paint against Cleveland's smaller lineup. LeBron's heroics will be tested against the defense of Trevor Ariza and the Lakers bench will do just enough to send the series back to Cleveland with the Lakers ahead 3-2. With a fantastic sixth game being held in Cleveland, the game of the year will come down to the wire but the Lakers prove to be too much for Cleveland and take the series.
Prediction: Lakers in six.
Cavaliers Player to Watch: Daniel Gibson - Gibson can be the true catalyst for a Cavaliers bench that is deep in body's but shallow in terms of point production. If he can come in and hit the three point shot consistently, that should bring more to the table nightly than anybody the Lakers can throw off of the bench. He also can spell either guard in critical moments and has hit big shots in the postseason before, and should be comfortable taking them when called upon.
Lakers Player to Watch: Trevor Ariza - His athleticism and defensive prowress will really come into play here against the Cavaliers. He's quite possibly the best option to defense LeBron as he is strong enough to where LeBron can't entirely muscle Ariza and Ariza's quick enough to stay in front of him as well. If he makes the open jump shot as well, that makes things all the better for the Lakers.

 
 
 
 
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