Mauer has had one of the best offensive seasons ever, but it still might not be enough to win the AL MVP.

Mauer has had one of the best offensive seasons ever, but it still might not be enough to win the AL MVP.

Somewhere in the bowels of the soon-to-be vacant Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome there is a player who is quietly having one of the most spectacular offensive seasons in Major League history, and yet, almost no one is recognizing the tremendous numbers that Joe Mauer has put up in 2009.  Mauer enters tonight’s showdown with the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers hitting at a just silly clip of .374 for the year with 27 homers and 87 RBIs.  Name the last catcher to have that kind of season?  That’s right, no catcher has ever hit like this before. Not Johnny Bench, not Yogi Berra, not Carlton Fisk.  In fact, name the last player to hit .375 with 30 homers and 100 RBI.  It’s only happened to three players in Major League history, four times by Babe Ruth, and once a piece by Ted Williams and Stan Musial.  That’s pretty amazing company for the somewhat underappreciated Twins catcher to be in.

In spite of these facts, though, Mauer has only been getting sniffs of the MVP talk.  This is a combination of several things. One is that the Twins are a mediocre 74-72 right now, but with a few wins over the Tigers down the stretch, they could sneak into the playoffs.  Another is that he doesn’t get the exposure of players like Mark Teixeira because he plays in small-market Minnesota.  The last is that his numbers aren’t legitimate because he missed all of April with an injury.

The small-market argument is probably the most compelling argument of the bunch.  It’s extremely difficult to escape the so-called East Coast Bias that exists through media outlets like ESPN.  Also, the reach of both the fanbase of the Yankees and the expansive national and international coverage that New York receives dwarfs anything the Minneapolis Star-Tribune can do for Mauer and the Twinkies.

The injury argument is one that can be looked at with respect to its face value.  Yes, Mauer missed a month’s time and therefore his numbers might be inflated.  However, I take the position that it’s that much more impressive that a guy could miss all of spring training and the first month of the season and get thrown right back into the fire and play at as high a level as Mauer has this year.  It just doesn’t happen.  I think that when all is said and done that Mauer has the ability to become the greatest offensive catcher in the history of the game.

So what does Mauer and/or the Twins have to do so that their star catcher snags the MVP award?  Well for starters, the Twins have to make the playoffs

Justin Morneau won the AL MVP in 06. Could his season-ending injury actually help Joe Mauer?

Justin Morneau won the AL MVP in '06. Could his season-ending injury actually help Joe Mauer?

and become relevant in the national baseball picture this year.  They’ll have plenty of opportunities as they face the Tigers 7 times in their final 16 games.  Also, it’s crucial that they don’t get swept out of the playoffs if they happen to make it.  Assuming they play the Yankees in the Divisional Series, they face an uphill battle, as they are a robust 0-7 against New York this year.  However, regular season series has proven to be unimportant in the past (See Cleveland Indians vs. New York Yankees, 2007 playoffs).

Other than that, Mauer can certainly help himself by getting on a hot streak over the remainder of the regular season that pushes his numbers to that .375/30/100 level, which would look even better considering that he no longer has Justin Morneau in the middle of the lineup with him.  That by itself might be just enough to push him over the top with voters, regardless of the Twins making the playoffs or not.

An Analysis of the Big Player Transactions During the Off-Season

By: Sean Speirs

     As we finish the month of September and enjoy the last dwindling days of the MLB and the beginning of the NFL season, believe it or not the 2008-2009 NBA season is right around the corner.  Official Pre-Season games start the first week of October, with the season hitting full-on by the end of October and early November. 

     However, there was still the presumptuous off-season, where teams in both the Western and Eastern Conferences accepted the arrival of new teammates (through trades or free-agency) while also bidding farewell to old ones. 

     Here on the SportsZone blog I will go through/analyze the teams in both conferences and honor those who made the biggest moves that will not only change the face of their organization, but also add to their game-style in a positive manner. 

     I will also go through the teams who pulled the biggest flops of the summer and did not attempt to strive for the best transaction when they needed one the most and/or made a transaction that did not satisfy their needs in the end.

     For this week, I will begin with teams in all of the divisions in the Western Conference.



1.  Houston Rockets

          Notable Additions: Ron Artest, Brent Barry, Joey Dorsey (Rookie Forward)

          Notable Loss: Bobby Jackson

     Result:  With the acquisition of Ron Artest from the Sacramento Kings this summer, the Houston Rockets finally have a “Big Three” to call their own (Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, and Ron Artest).  Although Artest has not been the perfect off-court athlete in recent history, he still has pent-up basketball talent that could potentially deem him a superstar (if he were to ever leave the rapping behind and play serious basketball).

     In 57 games with the deteriorating Sacramento Kings last season, Artest was still able to produce season averages of 20.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game.  Artest also fills the shooting/power forward position Houston has needed for years.  He will ultimately bring in the ability to drive to the hoop, hit the outside shot, create space, rebound, and draw defenders away from other Houston players, such as Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming.  All in all, this is the time for redemption for Artest.

     The Rockets also were able to acquire veteran-guard Brent Barry, who will come off the bench and be another outside sharp-shooting threat alongside PG Rafer Alston.  With all of these acquisitions, the Rockets only main loss (besides potential young talent) was vet guard Bobby Jackson, who went back to Sacramento in the Artest deal.  In actuality, it was not a big loss for the team, since Jackson has passed his prime a long time ago (only averaged 8.7 pts, 1.5 assists and 1.7 rebounds last season) and was actually dragging down the back-up guard spot behind Alston.

     If you are a Rockets fan, the only thing you should worry about is whether or not this Big Three will be able to stay healthy.  McGrady (back), Yao (foot), and Artest (back, hamstring, knees) are probably the three biggest injury prone athletes in the Western Conference, let alone the NBA.  With this in mind, the Rockets did take a risk in getting Artest.  However, something needed to be done so that the Rockets can be a serious contender in the powerful Western Conference.

     It finally looks like they will be.


2.  New Orleans Hornets

          Notable Addition:  James Posey

          Notable Loss: Chris Andersen

     Result:  After a huge 2007-2008 season and becoming one of the most deadly teams in the West, GM Jeff Bower and the Hornets continued their momentum this summer, and may have acquired the final piece this team has thrived for during their playoff run in April/May…deadly swingman and 3-point sharpshooter James Posey.

     Posey (who has won two championships with the recent Boston Celtics and ‘05-‘06 Miami Heat) knows his way around the NBA when it comes to the playoffs and Finals.  He also knows when to step up, hit the big shots, and become a role-player when his team needs one.  With Peja Stojakovic and CP3, Posey will be another outside threat as a shooting forward who will specialize in finding the open spot for the three-ball.  Also, with three deadly outside shooters on the court, opposing teams will stretch out their defense, giving Center Tyson Chandler and Power Forward David West better opportunities underneath.

     Amongst this acquisition came the loss of F/C Chris Andersen to the Denver Nuggets.  Again, this is no big deal since he only played in five games last season averaging 1.2 points and 1.8 rebounds per game.  In the end, the Hornets did not lose anything major this off-season (they even extended CP3’s contract).

     The only question is whether or not Hornets Head Coach Byron Scott will position Posey as a starter or as the sixth-man off the bench to continue the high momentum of a game.  Although that answer may yet to be seen, it is obvious the Hornets are already thinking playoffs with their new addition (acquired someone who has experience with winning the rings), while some columnists are even seeing them winning the overall NBA Championship this season.

     If they do win it all, then the Hornets truly had a profitable summer. 


3.  Los Angeles Clippers

          Notable Additions: Baron Davis, Marcus Camby, Jason Wiliams, Eric Gordon (Rookie Draft)

          Notable Loss: Elton Brand, Corey Maggette

     Result:  The Los Angeles Clippers are the only team on the “GOOD TRANSACTIONS” list that got hit hard with a dramatic off-season.  Their star PF Elton Brand looked like he was going to accept a contract extension with the team, especially after rumors reported that the Clippers got the interest of (and eventually signed) Golden State free agent PG Baron Davis.

     Unfortunately for the Clips, Brand left for the Philadelphia Sixers.  To top it all off, SG Corey Maggette also left for the Golden State Warriors.  This created a huge gap in the team.  It was obvious that the Clippers were in a bad situation that would set back the organization instead of moving forward.  They only had one star PG in Davis and one true big-man in Chris Kaman, while there were holes to be filled in the other positions.

     So what did GM Elgin Baylor do in response? 

     He acquired blocking machine Marcus Camby, Indiana rookie Eric Gordon, vet-guard Jason Williams, SG Ricky Davis and young prospects. 

     These transactions help fill the team, and give them a new beginning, a huge accomplishment for the organization/team.

     With the help of Camby inside to compliment Kaman, the Clippers are bound to continue crashing the boards and getting rebounds (as well as blocking—Camby averaged 13.1 rebounds and 3.6 blocks last season).  So defensively the Clippers will continue to build, and ultimately become a force to be reckoned with.

     As for offensively, Baron Davis will lead a backcourt that will consist of Gordon and Ricky Davis, as well as Jason Williams, handling the bulk of the scoring for the team.  Baron Davis himself can carry a team, but it will be interesting to see how rookie Gordon responds and if he will be able to handle the different playing styles in the NBA.  Ricky Davis and Williams will also have to prove that they still have game left in them by keeping pressure offensively on the boards and around the perimeter.

     Also, is there a possible Clippers Big Three in the making (B.Davis,Camby, Gordon)?

     What’s amazing is that GM Baylor proved that any problem could be fixed, even if a team loses their superstars.  Also, it was obvious this off-season that the Clippers did not want to become another Memphis Grizzlies or Sacramento Kings in the league. 

     Good for them.  Next subject to tackle on the list…the shady coaching philosophy from Mike Dunleavy, but that is for another post.

     Nonetheless, the Clippers have a lot to prove (whether or not they will have an effective bench), but because of their bounce-back in the off-season, this team deserves to get high accolades when it comes to honoring those who made big moves in player transactions this summer. 



1.  Denver Nuggets

          Notable Loss: Marcus Camby

          Additions: Chris Andersen

     Result:  After analyzing every-team in the Western Conference, the Nuggets get the most disappointing off-season award.  After such a promising rise in the last few years, acquiring star G Allen Iverson (AI), watching F Carmelo Anthony increase his skills, and making playoff appearances, one would think the Nuggets would have tried to make a strategic move this off-season that would not only increase their offensive power, but to also help out their big-men under the boards.

     Unfortunately the total opposite happened.  The Nuggets lost their Center and only defensive presence…Marcus Camby.  Camby ended up signing with the LA Clippers (above I have went through his amazing stats he averaged last season in terms of rebounds and blocks), leaving a huge gap in the Nuggets lineup. 

     In a time of what should be panic and fright, the Nuggets do not pull a “Clippers” and bounce back from this loss.  Instead, the Nuggets main acquisition (besides their not so good rookie draft pick) of the off-season is Chris “Birdman” Andersen. 

     Birdman Andersen?!?!?!

     Andersen was booted out of the NBA in 2006 due to drug abuse and violated the anti-drug policies of the league.  He was re-instated last year with the Hornets and only averaged 1.2 points and 1.8 rebounds towards the end of the season.  Not saying that Birdman was not a good player back then, but as compared to today’s standards, it may take while for him to get back in the groove of things. 

     How will this guy fill the Camby gap?  As a matter of fact, the Nuggets STILL need to fill this gap (and trust me, Kenyon Martin is not the answer).

     If the Nuggets don’t act accordingly and search for a F/C that can be a true powerhouse underneath, expect to see this team crumble as there is no one able to step up and be a part of the AI and Anthony duo (and these two players will not be able to carry this team alone).

     At least the other teams in the Western Conference have nothing to worry about in Denver.


2.  Sacramento Kings

            Notable Loss: Ron Artest

            Addition: Bobby Jackson

     Result:  Believe it or not, once you thought it couldn’t get any worse for the Sacramento Kings, it did this summer.  The organization basically handed Artest away to Houston, and in return received Bobby Jackson (who will most likely end his career in Sacramento, unless traded again). Now while some fans might enjoy the fact Jackson is back with the Kings, in actuality, it will slow down the Kings.

     It is sad to see that Artest, the Kings only player worth some value on the trading block only brought the Kings a C-List player in return, rather than a mid-to-high B-List player.  Did GM Geoff Petrie even try selling Artest on the market? 

     It seems like this team just enjoys giving away players for nothing in return.

     Trading star PG Mike Bibby to the Atlanta Hawks was bad enough for the Kings last season.  Now they truly have no one to carry the momentum of the team (do you really think Brad Miller, Kevin Martin, and Shareef Abdur-Rahim are a powerful enough trio?), which is now filled with, at best, mediocre talented players who will continue to be pressured to performing well throughout the season.  Although rookie Jason Thompson might show promise this year, he won’t be able to make a huge impact without adequate help around him.

     The Kings need to act accordingly before/during the season or they will continue to be forgotten in the NBA, especially in the star-studded Western Conference.


3.  Memphis Grizzlies

          Notable Loss: Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal, Kevin Love

          Additions: O.J. Mayo, Marko Jaric

     Result:  I don’t think anyone has any idea where the Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace’s mind is.  After giving up the Grizzlies only star Pau Gasol to the Lakers last season for star-less Kwame Brown, the Grizzlies could’ve only gone up the ladder of redemption.  However, it seems they went a few rungs down.

     This summer, the Grizzlies continued to shock the world by proving how they cannot partake in any player transactions.  However, they did get hopeful rookie-sensation O.J. Mayo from Minnesota in a huge deal after the Rookie Draft in exchange for veteran Brian Cardinal, sharp-shooter Mike Miller, and to-be rookie-sensation powerhouse Kevin Love.

     In actuality, the Grizzlies may have been better off keeping Love and Cardinal since they only have Marc Gasol (Pau’s brother) as their only force under the boards.  The acquisition of Mayo was gutsy, but this team already has enough shooting forwards and guards.  What they really needed were power forwards and centers.

     On paper, the Grizzlies did not make a dramatic move this summer like they needed to.  However, like I said before, no one knows what GM Wallace is thinking, and in the end this could all be part of a master plan that could actually be the start of the Grizzlies changing for the better. 

     Or at least Wallace and die-hard Grizzle fans believe such a radical idea.

     In all of this mess, the only good move the Grizzlies pulled off was that of losing Kwame Brown, and that wasn’t even a move.  Brown was a free-agent.


     Keep a lookout on the SZ Blog as I analyze the teams who made it big and/or flopped in the Eastern Conference this NBA off-season (as well as an overall look at the teams who were “in-between good and bad” during this player movement period).








NBA Free Agents Deciding to Play in Europe; Change is to Come

By: Sean Speirs

            Money is everything.

            Professional European basketball teams have started to show up on the doorstep of some free-agent NBA athletes this off-season, offering them better contracts and overall salaries that just simply cannot be comparable to any offers the NBA could have proposed to a restricted free agent.

            And money is all it took to convince these athletes to move.

            Although Europe has always been a contender in past NBA off-seasons, premier European teams have started to realize this summer that they can offer better contracts to restricted free agents who may not have the same economic opportunity with an NBA career.

            The biggest transition deal so far has been from the Greek basketball club Olympiacos, who has signed Atlanta Hawks Forward Josh Childress for a three-year $20 million contract after taxes.  This deal also marked the biggest contract in Euroleague history.   

            25-year-old Childress, who averaged 11.8 points and 4.9 rebounds last season, was the Hawks main force off the bench all throughout the 2007-2008 season.  As his contract expired this summer, the Hawks GM Rick Sund was able to match any offer from any NBA team.  However, due to the collective bargaining agreement, the Hawks could not match an offer from any international club.

            It has not been known yet how much the Hawks tried to offer Childress back, but due to the salary cap in the NBA, it was impossible to match Greece’s overall proposal.

            In the midst of Childress’ transaction, other NBA players who were restricted free agents this summer have been following the trend.  Such players include:

            -Earl Boykins:  The 5’5” guard is headed to Italy’s Virtus Bologna for a one-year, $3.5 million contract, making him Italy’s highest-paid player.

            -Nenad Krstic:  The once New Jersey Net center signed a two-year contract with Triumph Moscow worth $9 million.

            -Jannero Pargo:  The 28-year-old guard has signed a one-year deal with Dynamo Moscow worth $3.5 million.

            So far, these players who have decided to transition over to Europe may seem like mere role-players (not even) to any typical NBA team.  An NBA fan might even go to say “go ahead, there is no reason to keep these non-producing players in the NBA anyway.” 

            Unfortunately, for such a case, the bigger picture is not being seen. 

            When dealt in Europe, the Childress’ and Boykins’ of the NBA will have and probably continue to be treated as stars both publically and financially.  They will receive countryside recognition that may possibly be equal to that of any NBA athlete superstar here in the United States.

            Which brings about the main problem that is bound to hit the NBA. 

            What if the superstar’s in the NBA, come their restricted free-agency time in the league, want to not only receive a better salary the NBA cannot offer, but also a greater fan-base that extends worldwide?

            NBA superstars such as Lebron James and Kobe Bryant, whose contracts expire in 2010 and 2011 respectively, have jokingly pondered about the thought of relocating. 

            But when the joke becomes a serious matter, how will it affect the NBA?

            There have already been written articles that compare possible future contract moves (that may send a Bryant, James, or Wade to Europe) with the move that brought European soccer sensation David Beckham to the Los Angeles Galaxy.  An NBA superstar outcome to Europe would be just as big as Beckham’s, at least for American’s, since we seem to follow the NBA and its players more closely. 

            Although most of the NBA’s superstars are already somewhat big names in Europe, the experience of playing against new forms of competition and living in a different country could be something worthwhile and appealing to the athlete.

            When the chips are set, the overall outcome will always come down to money.  It ultimately did for the restricted free agents this summer, and probably will for one of the NBA’s super-stars in off-seasons to come. 

            At least the NBA has time to think of a way to keep their game-selling stars in the league, or else a possible Bryant-less and James-less future is in sight.  And without them or other superstar moneymakers, then there will be no money, sales, or profit driving the NBA.

            And money…is everything.

BY: Sean Speirs


  Now that the season is over and free agency has begun, it seems that the biggest story of the NBA off-season so far is Elton Brand and his betrayal.  I know you are all waiting for my opinion on the NBA draft and free-agency so far, but I’m going to wait to discuss that.  However, a story, that in my opinion that has not gotten enough coverage is not just a sports story, but the story of how a city, an ownership group, and the NBA has ripped off the fans of Seattle.  To better tell this story, I asked a friend of mine from Seattle to write down some feelings:

“July 2, 2008 brought closure and heartbreak. The NBA franchise formerly known as the Seattle Supersonics and the City of Seattle reached a buyout settlement of $45 million on the final two years of the team’s lease contract at Key Arena. This stunning move ended a two year long saga and struggle between the two parties. This period of uncertainty, initiated by the sale of the team by Starbucks owner Howard Schultz to Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett in 2006, finally ended with the Sonics seeing a sad end to their professional basketball history as the team officially completed its relocation to Oklahoma City.

Bennett’s intentions were clear when he purchased the team just two short years ago, and the way the situation was handled leaves a Seattle sports enthusiast like myself genuinely sickened. Now I have a been a hard-core Sonics fan ever since I moved to Seattle in 1994 and I’ve never had any other professional basketball team to cheer for.  To me, the Sonics were the one. It pains me to read articles about the move and all the good that has come from it. How can anyone in the city of Seattle, outside of those in the politics, who are in it for the money and seemed to have devalued loyalty, benefit from such a move? The team that I have dedicated so much of my time going to games and cheering loudly for was swept away by a big shot owner whose blatant apathy towards the fans and established basketball tradition of Seattle represents the sad reality of the business end of pro sports: People are in it for the money. Bennett felt that the Sonics would lose an estimated 60 million over the next 2 seasons if they stayed in Key Arena, and tried to convince the public that this was an absolute last resort move. A man from Oklahoma City buys the team and says he will keep it in Seattle, only if he can net large sums of money. Anyone who buys that has lost the ability to process information logically.  It was a win-win situation for the apparently shrewd businessman Clay Bennett, and it looks as though he has certainly won.

The promise of a new team and subsequent financial penalty to Bennett if a team, either from expansion or relocation, is not brought to Seattle by 2013 does little to suppress the pain from a loss like this. The city may take some of the money back, but Bennett has already stripped the city and loyal sports fans of, among other things, its basketball pride and its lone men’s sports world championship. (Yes, the Supes won the NBA Finals in 1979 and no; the Seahawks and Mariners have never won a championship in their respective sports). I may not have been there to watch you capture this title, but I was intently watching in 1996, at the tender age of 7, when the Sonics almost blew a 3-1 series lead over the Utah Jazz in the conference finals, then squeezed out a four point win in game 7 to reach the NBA finals for the first time since 1979. I loved that group of players; they were my heroes. “The Glove” Gary Payton, “The Reign Man” Shawn Kemp and “Mr. Sonic” Nate McMillan. To me and all other Sonics fans, that magical ride to the Finals showed just how much the Sonics meant to us. Unfortunately, the Sonics were simply outmatched that year by the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals, who were working on their fourth championship in six years, finishing off a season where they set the NBA wins record and had the best player of his era and perhaps of all time, Michael Jordan. I cried when I saw the final seconds tick away of your magical march to the top.

 Bennett’s futile “attempt” (if we can even call it that) to keep the team was unrealistic and destined to fail from the start. Several requests by Bennett and co-owner Aubrey McClendon for local and state governments to fund a $500 million arena complex in Renton, Washington, a city hardly capable of housing such a metropolitan and people-attracting establishment. After their requests expectedly failed, Bennett began his determined mission to relocate to Oklahoma City. Approval from the NBA and its owners was needed, and David Stern and the rest of the NBA owners, minus Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban who voted against it, agreed that this was the right move for the NBA. The final move necessary to move the team came on July 2, 2008, and Bennett’s famous quote “We made it” angers me the more I hear it.

This series of negative events leading up to the relocation leaves a black mark on all of the memories of the Sonics that I have. Clay Bennett should hold all the guilt in the world to the sports fans of Seattle, like he owes us all something in return. The NBA team of Oklahoma City does not yet have a name, but if you were to ask me, I would suggest the Oklahoma City Criminals.”


…It truly is pathetic.





For some, Thursday’s draft was an amazing night while for others like Darrell Arthur, it was a very frustrating one.  Trades were made for not only picks, but marquee players as well.  As your NBA expert, I am writing in my opinion how the teams did.  The grade that I select for every team is based off what moves they made on draft day/night between their picks and trades.  A is the best grade and F is the worst.  The team that had the best draft gets an A+.  Lets get started….

Atlanta Hawks:  No selections

Due to the trade for Joe Johnson back when, the Hawks selection was transferred over to the Suns.  Grade:  N/a

Boston Celtics: J.R. Giddens (30), Bill Walker (47), Semih Erden (60)

Like I said originally, in retrospect, this draft does not matter for the C’s too much.  Giddens on New Mexico, not only averaged 16 ppg but he also averaged close to 9 boards and at least 1 block per game.  Very impressive statline for a player who ended the first round.  Bill Walker from Kansas state was another good pick because not only did he average 16 ppg, but he also shot 46% from the field which is steller.  Erden who was the last pick in the draft is a 7-1 Turkish Center who I doubt will make the team, averaged only a few boards per game, and it seemed like Danny Ainge picked him simply because if this guy is actually good in the summer league, he might be a good back up for Kendrick Perkins next year.  Grade:  A-

Charlotte Bobcats:  9. Charlotte – D.J. Augustin (9), Alexis Ajinca (20), Kyle Weaver

Here is what I don’t understand about picking Augustin at 9.  The Bobcats already have a young talented point guard in Raymond Felton.  Felton averaged 14.4 ppg, 7.4 assists and even 1.2 steals every game.  That stat line is impressive for a point guard.  I really thought that the perfect player for this team would have been Brook Lopez.  They need a center more than another point guard and if they wanted another one, they could have selected Chalmers with the 20th pick, but now they have to focus on dealing Raymond Felton.  If they do deal Felton, this pick could work out for the best.  Ajinca is not the answer for a Center.  This guy is too skinny, lacks aggressiveness, and hardly rebounds.  He plays like hes a foot and a half shooter than he really is.  Kyle Weaver was a good pick for them because he is a good shooter and scorer to add to this team.  The ‘Cats also get a slight deduction on their grade for making Brook Lopez cry.  Grade: C

Chicago Bulls:  Derrick Rose (1),Omar Asik

We have been talking about Rose for months.  Obviously the best player in this draft and Chicago had him all the way.  History has shown though that you should never waste a pick in the draft, even if it’s the 60th.  However the Bulls made a slight mistake trading Weems who they picked over Douglas-Roberts.  Now they are stuck with Asik from Tukey who is 7-1 but only averaged 5.5 boards.  This guy appears to be useless.  You cannot pass up a guy like CDR.  Grade: A-

Cleveland Cavaliers:  J.J. Hickson, Darnell Jackson

The Cavs chose very wisely in Hickson who average nearly 15 and 9.  The Cavs need some big men and this guy I feel is the right fit for them at power forward.  Jackson is another power forward from Kansas that shot 62% from the field.  Both picks are solid.  Grade: A-

Dallas Mavericks:  Shan Foster (51)

The Mavs had one pick in this years draft and they drafted a guy who averaged 20 ppg, but do they really need that?  They have enough scoring and this guy is a shooting guard who scores and that’s about it.  They get some credit because it was late in the second round.  But every pick matters and this team has enough scorers.  Grade: C-

Denver Nuggets: Sonny Weems (39)

After trading their pick to Charlotte, Denver still felt that they should be apart of this draft.  They traded for a small forward in Weems who can score.  Once again, another team who has a lot of scorers, just bought themselves another one and it cost them 2 future second round picks.  I don’t think it was worth it, though Weems is a bit bigger and still averaged 15 ppg.  Grade: C- 

Detroit Pistons: Walter Sharpe (32), Trent Plaisted (46), Deron Washington (59)  

When Detroit drafted D.J. White I was impressed and confident in their new regime that they are apparently starting.  But then they traded him and got Sharpe and Plaisted who could be good but it is not a sure thing.  Sharpe averaged 14 and 7 at 6-9 for UAB which isn’t bad, but nothing to write home about.  Plaisted is a 7 footer who averaged nearly 16 and 8 which is also not that impressive.  Washington is another scorer as well.  I still would have kept D.J. White though.  He seems more of a player than Sharpe or Plaisted.  However the combination of the three is still very decent.  Grade: B-

Golden State Warriors: Anthony Randolph (14), Richard Hendrix (49)  

The Warriors needed big men and they drafted two outstanding college big men.  First Anthony Randolph from LSU has tremendous upside.  He averaged almost 16 and 9 and has a tremendous wingspan.  He can jump and Hendrix, who played for Alabama averaged 18 and 10.  Both were great picks and be aware of the Warriors though, they might be without Baron Davis next season.  Grade: A

Houston Rockets: Donte Greene (28), Joey Dorsey (33), Marty Leunen (54), 2009 second round pick.  Houston had a pretty solid draft.  Greene has a good amount of upside but maybe should have stayed in school another year.  He averaged 17 and 7 at Syracuse and has good reach.  Dorsey is a 6-9 PF who averaged over 9 rebounds per game for Memphis last year.  The pick though that I am most interested in is Marty Leunen from Oregon.  He avvereged 15 and 9.  All three picks I approve and will help Houston out primarily defensively.  Grade:  A

Indiana Pacers:  Brandon Rush (13), Roy Hibbert (17), TJ Ford, Rasho Nesterovic, Josh McRoberts, Jarrett Jack

The Pacers are starting fresh,  Some of these moves are grand while others are hard to believe.  Why would the Pacers trade for 2 pgs in Jack and ford?  It is a very interesting situation.  Getting Brandon Rush will add to the scoring talent of Dunlevy and Granger.  Nesterovic and McRoberts are throw ins and Hibbert has huge Bust potential because of how slow he moves.  What’s the point of having a 7-3 guy if he can’t run up and down the floor to block shots or get rebounds?  Grade: B-

LA Clippers:  Eric Gordon (7), DeAndre Jordan (35), Mike Taylor (55)

This year, the Clippers drafted a pure sg in Eric Gordon and a player with high Bust potential in Jordan.  Both good picks, but risky.  Taylor is a combo guard who can score but that is just about it.  Jordan needs to be able to play at his height but he is a huge project.  Grade: B   

LA Lakers:  Joe Crawford (58)

Lets all meet the man who will be one of Kobe’s many back ups.  This guy is useless for this team because he is 6-4 so he can’t play small forward and all he can do is score, and the Lakers have many scorers.  They should have drafted at least a guy who can average many rebounds or even 6 or 7.  That is how they got shut down in the finals.  Boston’s D was tenacious and the Lakers need to step it up on defense.  Grade: F

Memphis Grizzles:  O.J. Mayo (3), Darrell Arthur (27), Marko Jaric, Antoine Walker, Greg Buckner.  Hopefully Darrell Arthur isn’t as big of a bust as many teams believe he will be because the Lakers failed to aquire a veteran big man.  ‘toine is done, and Kwame Brown and Darko are not the answers for Memphis.  Although, OJ Mayo is an excellent player and Marko Jaric is a prolific scorer and Arthur is determined to make all of the teams that passed up on him regret not taking him.  Did you have to trade Mike Miller though?  Grade: B

Miami Heat:  Michael Beasley (2), Mario Chalmers (34), and a 2009 2nd round pick

I would like to send my congratulations to Miami for having the best draft of any team.  Not only did they make the right move by drafting Beasley and not trading the pick but then they fulfilled their other need by getting a very solid point guard in Mario Chalmers.  They fulfilled both their needs of a point guard and big man.  Now they just need a Center and the Heat will be a contender next season.   Grade:  A+

Milwaukie Bucks:  Joe Alexander (8), Luc-Richard Mbah a Moute (37), Richard Jefferson

Here is what I don’t understand.  The Bucks traded for Jefferson a small forward and then drafted a small forward in Alexander.  Between Desmond Mason, Jefferson and Alexander, the Bucks are now flooded at the three spot.  Can Alexander play PF?  Don’t think so.  Mbah a Moute is a shoot first point guard which is frowned upon in the NBA.  He can’t do anything else.  Getting Jefferson though will make this team better.  Grade: C

Minnesota Timberwolves:  Kevin Love (5), Nikola Pekovic (31), Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal, Jason Collins, 2 future second round picks, cash.  Let’s forget about Pekovic for a minute because he’s a long term project and focus on how the T-Wolves made an amazing trade getting both Mike Miller and Kevin Love.  Cardinal and Collins won’t do too much but expect Miller to be a good mentor for Corey Brewer because Miller can teach Brewer how to create his own shots and set himself up for shots off of screens.  The ‘wolves also needed a big man to help out Al Jefferson and they got exactly who they needed.  Love is a banger and will be good for this team.  Him and Jefferson will provide the defense that the ‘wolves need.  Grade: A

New Jersey Nets:  Brook Lopez (10), Ryan Anderson (21), Chris Douglas-Roberts (39), Bobby Simmons, Yi Jianlian  The Nets had a pretty solid draft because not only did they free up cap space, but they also got Yi who can score and rebound, a good shooter in simmons, and 3 solid picks.  It is hard to tell how good Lopez will be but he’s 7-3 and that adds tremendous height to the Nets Roster.  Douglas-Roberts could be the steal of the draft but it is undetermined, he will be a good back up for Devin Harris and Anderson was also a good pick who averaged 21 and 10 last season.  Solid draft for the Nets.  Grade: A-    

New Orleans Hornets:  Cash Considerations 

The Hornets traded Darrell Arthur for cash, they are relying on free agency.  Grade: N/A

New York Knicks: Danilo Gallinari (6)  

Welcome to NY Danillo.  You were told by a few of the analysts that you would be greeted with boos and you were.  It is hard to tell if you were booed more than Renaldo Balkman when he was picked two years ago.  The Knicks decided with the 6th pick to pick who they thought has the best overall talent.  The pick made more sense after the Donnie Walsh interview.  The thought is that as much as the Knicks needed a pg, they believe that a rookie can not turn this franchise around.  Walsh made it a point to say that they will be very active during the summer in aquiring a point guard.  Regarding Gallinari, this pick really deserves a C, but because there was some strategy because D’Antoni has had a lot of success with international players, he can make this guy into the next AK-47 or Toni Kukoc.  Or he will just be another Darko.  We will have to wait and see.  He has a lot of upside though.  Grade: B-

Orlando Magic:  Courtney Lee (22)

They wanted a shooting guard and they passed up Douglas-Roberts for a very risky pick in Lee.  He averaged 20 ppg and almost 2 steals.  I would say they got what they needed but It was still risky.  Grade:  B

Philadelphia 76ers: Marresse Speights (16)

I love this pick for the sixers.  Speights is just what they needed because Dalembert is inconsistent.  Speights is more than a 14 and 8 guy.  He is a banger and aggressive and I think he is the perfect Complement to Dalembert.  He can block too.  All around good pick because the Sixers needed more height and they will be satisfied with Speights.  Grade: A    

Phoenix Suns:  Robin Lopez (15), Goran Dragic

This draft for them has such high bust potential because noone knows how good Robin Lopez can be.  But Lopez on Stanford was only useful for garbage points.  If Shaq takes him under his wing and teaches Lopez how to be aggressive, than this draft can really work out well for them, however Lopez is a very risky pick and this could end up being a complete waste. 

Grade: B-

Portland Trail Blazers:  Jerryd Bayless (11), Nicolas Batum (25), Ike Diogu, 2 2009 2nd round picks, 2 future 2nd round picks

Noone expected this to happen.  Now Portland has a premier point guard in Bayless and Batum is expected tobe good from France as well.  Bayless though is seen as a shoot first pg so they will have to be careful, but getting Bayless could be a smart move for them.  They are loaded with future draft picks though.  Grade: B   

Sacramento Kings:  Jason Thompson (12), Sean Singletary (42), Patrick Ewing Jr. (43)

This was a very risky draft for the Kings.  They selected a guy projected to go 2nd round in the lottery.  I don’t have a problem with Thompson, I just think his competition on Rider was not as fierce as what he will face in the NBA.  I think this pick was very risky.  Ewing Jr. will not add anything special to this team.  Singletary though is a good playmaker and can be a benefactor on this team but overall the Thompson pick really brings their grade down.  Grade: C

San Antonio Spurs George Hill (26), James Gist (57) Malik Hairston (48), 2009 2nd round pick, Cash.  The Spurs drafted 3 scorers.  They don’t need two much and only Hill it seems like has the best shot at making the rotation.  Grade: B-

Seattle Supersonics:  Russell Westbrook (4), Serge Ibaka (24), D.J. White (29), DeVon Hardin (50), Sashsa Kaun (56)  The Sonics got what they wanted in Westbrook.  Westbrook is a good scorer and defender and when questioned about him being a pure point guard, Westbrook assured Stephen A. Smith that he was a natural pg.  Ibaka is a project so you wont see him for a while.  D.J. White is a possible Steal of the draft.  He had a great career on Indiana and I’m sure on this team, he will not disappoint.  Grade: B+

Toronto Raptors:  Nathan Jawai (41), Jermaine O’Neal

This whole draft for the Raptors was based off getting Jermaine O’neal in which they did.  Regarding their pick, they just wasted it because they got O’neal.  Jermaine has been in the league for 11 seasons, and he has shown signs of aging and has gotten hurt a lot recently.  Was it the right move?  You decide.  Grade: C+

Utah Jazz: Kosta Koufos (23), Ante Tomic (44), Tadija Dragicevic (53)

These picks were very wasted.  I don’t buy Jay Bilas’s rant on how good Koufos is.  He is 7-1 and doesn’t even average 7 rebounds a game.  Tomic and Dragicevic are also iffy on whether or not they make the team.  Grade: F 

Washington Wizards:  Javale McGee (18), Cash

This pick is very iffy because Mcgee is a lot like Blatche who they have already.  This pick can either work well or not.  This guy is really good on defense,, but I don’t think he is the right fit for this team, but still not a bad pick.  Grade: C+

By, Justin “J-Fense” Fensterman

The REAL Decision ’08: THE 2008 NBA DRAFT  

By, Justin “J-Fense” Fensterman







Ladies and Gentleman, Boys and Girls and Children of all ages, lets put the politics aside for one minute and talk about something that really matters; The NBA Draft.  We all know McCain and Obama have their issues and platforms to defend, but so do another entity in this country; The Chicago Bulls.  If you think choosing your next president is hard, choosing the future of your franchise is even harder.  Good luck to you John Paxon, let’s see if your selection can match the efficiency of your three-point jumper.  We all remember game six of the 1993 NBA finals when Paxon hit the game winning three to bury Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson, “Thunder” Dan Majerle and the rest of that Phoenix Suns team that fell victim to Jordan and the Bulls.  Now it is time for Mr. Paxon to come through in the clutch once again as the fate of the Bulls future rests on this pick.   Besides the Bulls though, there are other teams in this draft that can benefit from this talented draft class.  I am proud to present, one week before the draft, my second and final mock draft.   Since my last draft we have seen players stocks plummet and rise.  Brook Lopez’s stock has fallen nearly out of the top 10 while Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook’s have risen.  But are we in store for an even bigger stunning surprise in Miami?  I’ll explain that in a moment.  Let’s get started.  I have analyzed the entire first round.

1st pick:  Chicago Bulls

I cannot stress enough how important this pick is for this team.  They had a 1.8% chance of getting it and they beat all of the odds without even having a ridiculous good luck charm present with them at the Lottery.  On one end you have an amazing point guard and on the other hand a phenomenal combo forward.  After doing my research I have to agree with that this league is now a guard dominated league and I think in order for the Bulls to be able to run with big boys, I think that they need the same the New Orleans has, a point guard.  Without Chris Paul, that team is not what is now and I still think that you can go either way with this pick and still have success.  If you hear of Ben Gordon being traded to the Knicks or another team, don’t be surprised.  That event will clinch Rose as the number one pick.  Experts are pretty split down the board and the Bulls can’t go wrong with either player.  I have made a final decision though and I’m not 100% confident but it makes the most sense.  J-Fense Pick:  Derrick Rose

2nd Pick:  Miami Heat

The latest rumors say that the Heat might pull a fast one at the draft and leave Beasley on the board if Rose is selected at one.  This shocked me because a player like Beasley is very valuable and a great asset to have on a team.  Hey Pat Riley, I think all of that gel that you’ve been putting in your hair over the last 30 years has finally reached your brain and is effecting your decision making.  The Heat are considering taking OJ Mayo over Beasley with their pick.  I like Mayo, but I like Beasley more.  Imagine a front court of Beasley, Marion and Mourning or Earl Barron, sounds good.  I just don’t think Mayo and Wade can co-exist in the backcourt.  It doesn’t make any sense.  If the Bulls pick Beasley first, reports say that the Heat will select Rose.  J-Fense Pick:  Michael Beasley

3rd Pick: Minnesota Timberwolves

Bottomline, the T-Wolves need a shooting guard.  They have none.  I hope OJ Mayo likes the Midwest because that is where he will go if the Heat don’t pick him at 2.  If by chance, Riley picks Mayo, just pick Beasley and figure a way to transfer Corey brewer into a shooting guard.  A backcourt of Randy Foye and Mayo would be stellar. J-Fense Pick: O.J. Mayo         

4th Pick:  Seattle (for now) Supersonics

I would just like to say that the rally was very impressive to keep the Sonics in Seattle.  Gary Payton was there along with 3,000 other Sonics faithful.  This pick has already been decided so don’t expect any surprises.  With the fourth pick in the 2008 NBA draft, the Seattle Supersonics will select Jerryd Bayless from the University of Arizona.  I still don’t think Bayless will save the Sonics from their assumed fate, of moving to Oklahoma, but hopefully for the team, him and Kevin Durant will mesh well together.  J-Fense Pick:  Jerryd Bayless

5th Pick:  Memphis Grizzles

  Memphis needs a big guy.  Kwame Brown, Darko Milicic, and Jason Collins (sorry Tommy T), are all failures.  You can go one of two ways here as there are two big men out there who have had impressive workouts and no Brook Lopez is not one of them.  I’m talking about Anthony Randolph and a certain nephew of the lead singer of the greatest American classic rock band ever, The Beach Boys, KEVIN LOVE!  He looks a lot like his uncle Mike Love but that’s besides the point.  Right after the lottery, experts had this guy going between picks 9-14 and now the experts have changed their tune on Love.  Love is an excellent inside player and is easily seen as averaging a double-double and his workouts have been very impressive.  Anthony Randolph is not only an accomplished scorer, but he can also play defense and has nice ups.  My only beef with him and this is why his stock has fallen a bit, he doesn’t play up to his height.  He is nearly seven feet and didn’t average 10 boards last season.  That’s a bit problematic.  I have faith though that both would make this team better.  I have to go with the guy who I think is more aggressive.  J-Fense Pick:  Kevin Love

6th Pick:  New York Knicks

I am sorry but to all you Italian New Yorkers, the “Italian Stallion” Danillo Galinari will not be selected with this pick.  His stock has fallen tremendously.  He is too raw and the Knicks are not willing to take the risk.  There are reports that that out of anyone that has worked out with New York, Donnie Walsh was most impressed by Russell Westbrook.  I called this guy a few weeks ago to be a possible selection and now it appears he is a finalist.  However, there is another player in this draft that has impressed me time and time again and his name is D.J. Augustin.  Bottom-line:  The Knicks need a point guard of some sort and I think Westbrook would fit the system well but I like Augustin better because he is a natural point guard.  The Knicks have enough scorers and now they need someone who can create and penetrate.  J-Fense Pick:  D.J. Augustin

7th Pick:  LA Clippers

There seems to be three people who the Clippers are interested in:  Eric Gordon, Russell Westbrook and Danillo Galinari.  The reason why coach Dunlevy likes Galinari is because apparently his basketball IQ is amazing.  I still wouldn’t pick someone based solely off of that.  I personally like the other two options for them.  Shaun Livingston is too injury prone to depend on so I think someone who can play the point at least a little bit would be good for them.  That is why I think Russell Westbrook is a great fit for them.  He not only can play the point, but if the Clippers need him to score he will.  He will need time to develop but I think he will fit well with their system.  J-Fense Pick:  Russell Westbrook

8th Pick:  Milwaukee Bucks

Experts say that this situation is confusing but I really don’t see why.  Chad Ford says the Bucks biggest need right now is a small forward to help out Desmond Mason.  Oh, and don’t worry about Michael Redd.  Scott Skiles assured him that he wouldn’t be traded despite the rumors so that won’t effect the Bucks pick.  I think the Bucks should go with a guy like Danillo Galinari.  I really am confident he would fit better for them than Joe Alexander.  I think with his B-ball IQ, he can really help this team out on all ends.  If the Bucks don’t take him, the Nets will.  If worse comes to worst, you start Mason until Galinari develops more.  He could be a good role player off the bench because of his quickness and versatility.  J-Fense Pick:  Danillo Galinari

9th Pick:  Charlotte Bobcats

The Bobcats are a big man away from becoming an unbelievable force in the East.  I am very excited about this team and Portland personally.  My original pick for the Bobcats was Kevin Love, but experts say that he will be picked by Memphis so I think the next best player for them is Brook Lopez.  Lopez is 7-3 and with Okafor by his side, just Lopez’s presence will help on the defensive end.  Okafor is a confident scorer and rebounder.  That front court of Gerald Wallace/Adam Morrison, Okafor and Lopez would be amazing with J-Rich and Felton in the backcourt.  Lopez is the most sensible pick for the ‘Cats and he will step up this team on the defensive end and take care of the garbage points as well.  J-Fense Pick:  Brook Lopez

10th Pick:  New Jersey Nets

The Nets need to build on their frontcourt.  They have the scorers taken care of between Jefferson and Carter alone.  I think you need to add more depth because when I look at their front court of Williams, Boone, Kristic and Swift, the only reliable player I see is Williams.  This is why I think the Nets should pick Anthony Randolph which would add a lot more depth and pep to their step.  They don’t have to start him right away because they have other players that can fill the void temporarily, but long-term I think Randolph can be the Nets PF of the future.  Him, along with Sean Williams, can make a fantastic front court along with Jefferson unless the Nets decide to start Kristic instead and have Williams continue coming off the bench.  Rumor has it though, that the Nets have “guaranteed” Danillo Galinari that he would be their pick if he was still on the board.  Rumors are not always true though.  J-Fense Pick:  Anthony Randolph

11th Pick:  Indiana Pacers

Indiana can go one of two ways.  They can either select a sharp-shooter in Eric Gordon or PF Marreese Speights.  This all will depend on Jermaine O’Neal and where to place Dunlevy and Granger.  Will Jermaine O’Neal be a pacer next season?  Nobody knows.  I really want them to select Gordon, but I think because A. they don’t know what will happen with J.O. and B.  because Dunlevy and Granger can play the 2 and the 3, I think that for liability reasons, the safe bet and the best bet for the Pacers would be to go with Speights.  J-Fense Pick:  Marreese Speights

12th Pick: Sacramento Kings

The Kings are also in a messy situation because the on and off rumors of Ron Artest being traded have surfaced yet again.  This could effect their pick.  Unfort. I do not think Eric Gordon would fit well on this team because they seem to have enough at the guard-small forward spot.  I think they should concentrate on getting a power forward because they need defense.  If the Pacers do select Gordon with their pick, I would say that the Kings should pick Speights, but if not, I think the next best avalable PF for them would be Darrell Arthur.  They could also take a risk and draft JaVale McGee but I think Arthur has less bust potential then McGee. He is also more of a PF then McGee and that is the position that they need because Brad Miller is still a force at Center.  Arthur is quick and explosive and can play both ends of the floor.  J-Fense Pick:  Darrell Arthur

13th Pick:  Portland Trailblazers

Portland will most likely trade their pick because they have just about everything they need.  I can see them trading to a team who wants to draft either Eric Gordon or Joe Alexander.  I think Joe Alexander would be a great fit for this Portland team if they do decide to draft.   However, Portland has a good thing going at the 3 spot with Martell Webster and Travis Outlaw.  At the point guard spot they have Steve Blake and Jarrett Jack.  I have severe doubts that this team will be selecting at 13 because they have a great system ready for them and the only thing they lack is veteran leadership.  The team that trades with them will prob. At this point draft Eric Gordon if he is still on the board.  If I am forced to make a decision I will have to say Joe Alexander because Portland could use Alexander as a backup PF to LaMarcus Aldridge.  J-Fense Pick:  Joe Alexander (If they draft)  MY REAL PREDICTION:  The team that trades with Portland will draft Eric Gordon or Joe Alexander

14th Pick:  Golden State Warriors

The Warriors need a big guy who can rebound.  This is where I would select either DeAndre Jordan or JaVale McGee because both are big men with tremendous upside.  The Warriors need some defensive help and they need it now which is why I think Jordan would be too much of a risk because he is underdeveloped.  I think McGee who averaged nearly three blocks a game last season for Nevada and would fit well for this team and help them step it up on defense.  J-Fense Pick:  JaVale McGee

15th Pick:  Phoenix Suns (from Atlanta)

The Suns situation is interesting because there are rumors that they are trying to trade Raja Bell and/or Boris Diaw.  Normally I would have them drafting Gordon, but I believe that Shaq and Amare alone are not enough to handle the beasts of the west.  They need an off the bench big man.  Shaq is not half of what he used to be in his prime and will need help.  The most sensible pick at this juncture would be either DeAndre Jordan or Donte Greene.  I like Jordan better, he just needs to be motivated and if Shaq takes him under his wing, he can become a beast like Shaq was.  Jordan is a seven footer.  J-Fense Pick:  DeAndre Jordan 

16th Pick:   Philadelphia 76ers

They need a PF and the next best available seems to be JJ Hickson.  Good scorer and rebounder.  J-Fense Pick:  J.J. Hickson

17th Pick:  Toronto Raptors

The Raptors want another big man who can be compared and related to Brook Lopez.  Oh yeah his brother Robin is in the draft as well and the Raptors want him.  J-Fense Pick: Robin Lopez

18th Pick:  Washington Wizards

It is unknown whether the Wiz will have Antawn Jamison on their team next season due to the fact that he’s a free agent.  I think a perfect replacement for him would be Donte’ Greene from Syracuse.  Hes a scorer, just like Jamison and also a pretty solid defender and 6-10.  J-Fense Pick:  Donte’ Greene

19th Pick:  Cleveland Cavaliers

Big Z and Joe Smith’s career’s are just about over so the Cavs need a big man.  Standing at 7-1 is Kosta Koufos from Ohio State.  He is 19 but has a lot of upside.  J-Fense Pick:  Kosta Koufos

20th Pick:  Denver Nuggets

They have a lot of scorers and this is also tough because Carmello might not be on the team next season.  Let’s assume that he is, Denver needs a young point guard and I like Mario Chalmers.  J-Fense Pick:  Mario Chalmers

21st Pick:  New Jersey Nets (from Dallas)

The board is there’s.  They can go with anyone at this point.  On my board I’d say go for Eric Gordon.  VC needs a back up and won’t play forever.  J-Fense Pick:  Eric Gordon (He will be selected earlier most likely via trade)

22nd Pick:  Orlando Magic

They are in dire need of a SG.  They have none.  Brandon Rush would be a great fit for them because it will up their scoring even further. J-Fense Pick:  Brandon Rush

23rd Pick:  Utah Jazz

They need a SG, why not pick a guy who has a great shot and can slash to the rim as well.  That is the only thing they are lacking.  J-Fence Pick: Chris Douglas-Roberts

24th Pick:  Seattle Supersonics (from Phoenix)

History has shown that the Sonics like the foreign big men.  They need a big man.  I think that due to their history, there is an international PF waiting to be selected by them.  He is 18 and is from Congo. He’s 6-10.  J-Fense Pick:  Serge Ibaka

25th Pick:  Houston Rockets

I agree with Chad Ford that at this point in the draft, you take the most talented available player.  Here is a SF from France that is said to be very talented and they can use the extra forward.  J-Fense Pick:  Nicolas Batum

26th Pick:  San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs were very successful when they had the twin towers of Duncan and Robinson.  Maybe with this pick the twin towers can be resurrected.  They do need a big man after all.  J-Fense Pick:  Roy Hibbert 

27th Pick:  New Orleans Hornets

The Hornets need another shooter in my opinion and I think Courtney Lee from Western Kentucky is the right choice.  He’s a scorer and a slasher and will work well with Chris Paul.  J-Fense Pick: Courtney Lee

28th Pick:  Memphis Grizzles (From Lakers I guess:   Not Confirmed)

In my opinion, if Memphis takes love, I think I found a decent replacement for Gasol that would fill the PF void.  Jason Thompson from Rider averaged 20 and 12 last season.  Maybe Memphis will have twin Towers of their own.  J-Fense Pick:  Jason Thompson

29th Pick:  Detroit Pistons 

If Joe Dumars wants to clean house and try something new, there is a Center out there who I have been reading about and Chad Ford also said, has been most impressive in his workouts.  He is 7-1 and from France and is compared to LaMarcus Aldridge.  J-Fense Pick:  Alexis Ajinca

30th Pick:  Boston Celtics:    

This pick matters very little to the champs.  Kyle Weaver from Washington State is a good combo guard who can come off the bench and score.  He’ll do.  J-Fense Pick:  Kyle Weaver



By, Justin “J-Fense” Fensterman   



Instead of dedicating a column to just the finals, as I’m sure one of my colleagues will, I’ve decided to talk about a few things.

First, I just want to bask in the glory of the Celtics winning it all.  I believe my analysis was One-Hundred Percent correct, and Paul Pierce as my Finals MVP was a no-brainer.  Thank You very much. 

The two things I did not expect was to Ray Allen find his shooting stroke and become the most consistent player on either team offensively and then for Ray Allen and Paul Pierce to effectively render the Lakers useless because Kobe was taking 25 shots and only scoring 25 points.  By keeping him from the line, it forced Kobe to take more shots than he wanted, limiting the touches for the other players around him.  There is a reason that the Lakers did not score as much in this series than they did in any other.  Everybody’s scoring was down and that is the great team defense that the Celtics played.  The same as Football, Defense Wins.  Period.

I also have to give props to Doc Rivers on a masterful coaching job (did I just really say that?).  He stuck to what he knows, and that is motivation.  I don’t believe I saw the Celtics run an offense except for the high screen and roll (that the Lakers could not defend) and Ray Allen running around 50 screens.  I think he showed that he is not as bad of a coach as I and others make him out to be, but actually a middling coach who can rise up to the occasion and outcoach lucky bastards who have the two greatest players of their generation playing for them (Shaq and MJ, there is a reason that Kobe has not won without Shaq and Shaq has won without Kobe.  Why doesn’t anyone give Shaq the props he deserves and proclaim him the player of the period of time after MJ?  Kobe just isn’t good enough to win it without him, and he never will, the same with Phil…he is never going to win another championship with Kobe).  Doc just flat out bent Phil over and said, “I am your daddy!”  Memo to Phil: it’s ok to make in-game adjustments like taking out Lamar Odom because he can’t stretch the floor and playing a line-up that consists of Fisher, Vujacic/Radmonovic, Kobe, Farmar/Walton, and Gasol/Turiaf.  That is what I would’ve done.

Yet, the real reason that the Celtics won (last point about this game, I promise) was not because of the play on the court, but the comraderie off the court.  The difference in the desire can be seen in the bench players and those in street clothes.  Every possession, the Celtics bench was standing, cheering, and into the game, as if they were playing.  I can’t count the times I saw Brian Scalabrine or Eddie House jumping up and down and cheering on their teammates.  The same goes for Sam Cassel.  Everybody bled for each other and represented what it truly means to be a team.  I can only hope this continues because it was a treat to see it and all high-school and younger kids should take notice.


In addition to the Celtics taking the NBA Championship, the second team in New York fired its coach.  By second team, I mean the Mets.  And I just gotta say I think this is one of the biggest mistakes that the Mets could have made.  I can understand maybe firing Rick Peterson because the pitching staff, mainly the bullpen is not performing up to par, but the Mets were just beginning to get on a roll by winning 3 out of 4 and get some positive momentum.  They had something to play for (Randolph’s Job) and were motivated to make sure that he kept it.  Now they have nothing to play for and if last nights game was any indication of things to come, it does not look good.  I was actually discussing this with my father the other day and we both came to the conclusion that Mets are going to struggle to finish .500.  I just don’t seem them being competitive unless they turn the switch on now.  I can only hope I am dead wrong.

Also, what a classless way to handle the entire situation.  Sometimes, I wish it were possible to fire an ownership group.  The Wilpons seem to be just as clueless as Jimmy Dolan over at MSG on the correct tact and timing to fire coaches.  The Wilpons jumped the gun way too early and have a history of leaking things to the press.  This became such a bad situation that I feel happy for Willie that he finally has this monkey off his back and can now focus on getting a job with an organization that will value his class and great baseball mind.  I only hope he does not land in the NL East.


The other major sports event of the past week or so was the PGA US Open that was an instant classic.  I’m gonna be honest, I’ve become so inundated with Tiger Woods that I hope he loses every tournament, but I know he is going to win if he is within one or two strokes on the last nine holes.  Yet, while I enjoyed watching Rocco Mediate, Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood, and a few others battle it out over the five days, I almost wanted to punch my computer screen on Monday while I watched the playoff at work (by the way…kudos to IBM, NBC, and ESPN for putting the stream up for free and in wonderful quality.  Why can’t all sports do that?  Was that so hard?).  The reason: the fabulous announcers that NBC employed kept telling me how much of a classic this was, how great Rocco Mediate was, and how even greater Tiger Woods was (in addition to how mentally tough he was…give me a break.  Yeah I’m sure he learned mental toughness on the links as a child.  I think that was dumbest thing I have ever heard…even if it was said by his dead father – no disrespect to Earl Woods).  Broadcasters, and this happens in every sport, please learn to shut up and stop ramming the same 3 talking points down my throat.  SILENCE IS GOLDEN!  Learn from that proverb.  Its not awkward unless you make it that way.

By the way…Rocco Mediate, where have you been all my life and why isn’t mic’d up all the time when he is playing.  He was so funny and insightful…much more so than those so called “expert” broadcasters.


And finally, some things to watch this week now that the Never Ending Basketball Playoffs are over:

Euro 2008: Jump on the Netherlands Train and watch them take the tourament by storm.  They are so dominant offensively that it doesn’t matter that there goalkeeper is really old and that their defense is middling.  I see them beating Portugal in the finals (really, I just want to make fun of Ronaldo again)Watch them and the rest of the tournament this week on the ESPN Channels and ABC.

NBA Draft: On June 26th, the world will finally have the answer to Beasley vs. Rose.  Watch the NBA draft…if you havn’t had enough yet.  Hopefully our draft expert J-Fense will come out with a final mock draft with the correct pick of Michael Beasley going to Bulls. 

MLB:  Interleague play is heating up.  This weekend features marquee match-ups like Philadelphia vs Texas (the two best offenses in Baseball) and the three best inter-city rivalries in Baseball: The Cubs vs the White Sox, the Angels vs the Dodgers, and the Subway Series aka the Mets vs the Yankees. 

Should be a great week or so of sports.  Enjoy!

Also, I’m going on vacation for the next two weeks so unfortunately this massive column is going to have to tide you over until I get back from relaxing.  Until then…



So, in the previous article as he usually does, Mr. Beard gave us an amazingly in depth analysis previewing this year’s NBA Finals between the Lakers and the Celtics.  I agree with what most of the article says especially the key matchup between Pierce and Kobe.  One thing that could effect that outcome of the series that I wished Mr. Beard expanded on was the coaching advantage.  If the NBA Finals has shown us anything over time its that good coaching wins finals.  If you look for instance at the last 17 years on which teams won titles you would see that since 1990-1991 season, Phil Jackson has won 9 titles, Greg Popovich has won 4 titles, Rudy Tomjanovich has won 2 titles, and Pat Riley and Larry Brown have also each won a title.  Notice something familiar here?  I sure do, All great coaches.  Afterall, everyone knows that Michael Jordan would not have been the player he was without Phil Jackson’s dicipline as his coach.  When Jackson took over the reigns after Doug Collins was fired, Jordan was still the “One man show” which was his reputation in the 80’s.  As the “one man show” Jordan could not take down the Detroit “Bad Boys” Pistons of the 80’s who were coached by Chuck Daly, anotehr solid coach, FYI.  When Phil Jackson diciplined Jordan and explained to him, that he was the coach and that he would not see playing time if he didn’t utilize his teammates, the following year in 1991, the Chicago Bulls swept the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals after losing in the playoffs to them the previous three years.  Even after Jordan retired after winning his third straight title in 1993, the following year the Bulls were still seen as a contender in the playoffs, as they pushed the number one seed of the East, The New York Knicks, to the limit.  The 1994 series was brought to 7 games, and the Knicks ended up pulling out the victory.  The point of that example was that even without Jordan the Bulls were still able to win and I claim Phil Jackson fully responsible for that.  He taught players like Jordan, Pippen, Tony Kukoc and others how to be floor leaders and it resulted in more titles than fingers on a hand (6). 


The Lakers:  When the Lakers signed Shaquille O’neal in 1996 and drafted Kobe Bryant the Same year, the Lakers struggled for the first three years the two superstars were together.  Del Haris coached the Lakers the first two years of that and Kurt Rambis coached the other year.  During that time, they could not even win their division with the team of Kobe, Shaq, Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel.  When Phil Jackson came around in 1999, both Van Exel and Jones were gone and before you know it, the Lakers Won their division in 2000, Jackson’s first season as coach, and then went on to win the title that same year and then 2 more after that.  It wasn’t a fluke that the Lakers won the title in the years ’00, ’01 and ’02.  Jackson made that team better, teaching Kobe and Shaq how to co-exist and bringing up a stud point guard in Derek Fisher which would result in the dangerous triangle offense that the Lakers have had.  It was Jackson who is responsible for the Lakers success.

This year:  This year’s finals features the two top teams in the league; the Lakers and the Celtics.  Any coach, including Isaiah Thomas, can win at least 50 or more games with this Celtics team.  I know the Celts won 66 but if I’m going to include Isaiah Thomas in this stat who is the worst coach ever, I have to give some looseness to this stat, but yes Isaiah could win 50 games with that team.  If the Celtics had a decent coach they would win the series but the fact of the matter is that Doc Rivers is, as Beard stated “the worst coach in the NBA not named Isaiah Thomas”.  You are putting him up in this series against one of the top two coaches in NBA history.  It is hard to say who a better coach is/was between Red Auerbach and Phil Jackson, but I’m still going to go with Red. by a hair, but it is still debateable.  Doc Rivers barely got thsi Celtics team out of the first round against the Atlanta Hawks who were 8 games under .500.   Then, they barely got passed the defending Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers.  After two series the Celtics had a road record of (0-6) which is disgraceful considering the Celtics ended with the best record in the league.  Regarding the Eastern Conference Finals against Detroit, if Chauncey Billups was healthy, the Celtics would be on the golf course right now.  The Lakers had a completely different kind of road to get to the NBA finals because of how amazing the west is.  Each seed won at least 50 games.  Their first round opponent was against the 50-32 Denver Nuggets who they swept.  Their next opponent was against the 54-28 Utah Jazz who they defeated in six.  Their previous opponent was against the 56-26 San Antonio Spurs who they defeated in five games.  Let me remind you that they did all of this without Andrew Bynum.  I understand that their should have been a foul called on Fisher at the end of game four.  But, do you know how many calls players like Jordan, Wilt, Magic and Bird got in their favor back in their hayday?  You cannot say that something is a conspiracy theory because of that.  Also, didn’t brent Barry try to jump into Fisher?  Maybe that’s why the call was made.  I saw a lean in by Barry and as far as that is concerned, that could have been more of an offensive foul than a defensive one, but that is up for debate, it wasn’t the most obvious foul anyway.  

The bottom line:  The Lakers have had a much tougher road to the finals and history has shown that great coaches win titles.  Phil Jackson is one of the best in history and Doc Rivers is a loser.  He was a loser  in Orlando and let’s not forget, when he was the coach of the ’04-’05 Celtics team, they won their division but still managed to lose in the first round of the ’05 playoffs.  He has never made it out of the first round until this year, that says something.  It says how terrible he really is as a coach.  Every season he coached the Magic they were .500 or better and they still failed to make it out of the first round.  This season, has caused people to forget about his past because he is in the finals.  That team is expected to make the finals without a coach running the bench.  He gets no credit what-so-ever for this season.  I give it to the players completely.  I’m not saying to not pick the Celtics to win the Championship this year, I am just saying that history has shown that winning the NBA Finals has really come down to one thing…Good Coaching!  And that is something that the Celtics lack.

By, Justin “J-Fense” Fensterman

So I was one for two in my predictions but I still feel very about both analyses. Before we get to the Finals preview, a few thoughts about some goings on in the NBA.

1- The officials really screwed the Spurs in the Western Conference. That no-call on Derek Fisher in Game 4 doomed the Spurs to lose Game 5. I believe the Spurs go on to win that game if Barry goes to the line and the Spurs, with the series tied at two, go into LA feeling pretty good and probably taking Game 5. That game alone gave the conspiracy theorists more than enough amunition to last them the year.

2- The draft is coming up and my man J-Fense just wrote an interesting article about what the Bulls should do with the first pick. However, I could not disagree more with him. Hinrich has shown that he can be all-star caliber point guard and Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah have shown to be nothing more than athletic, defense orientied power fowards. I believe the Bulls must draft Beasley. He instantly upgrades their presence in the post which helps a jump-shooting team more than a point guard. If the Bulls think it through, a player who commands a double team in the post to open up outside shots for Gordon, Hinrich, Noicioni, and Hughes is more valuable than a point guard who passes to players on the wing who can not create their own shot. John Paxson, please take Michael Beasley.

3- While the firing of Flip Saunders was not much of a surprise, it disappoints me that he is the one held accountable for the actions of Rasheed Wallace. Chris Sheridan of wrote an article claiming that Saunders did not have the respect of his players and only McDyess played hard consistently. Well I say that is a bunch of crap and the coach should not be to blame if his players are unprofessional cry-babies. And Rasheed Wallace is the ringleader and the one to blame. Wallace has a tendency to be a malcontent and let his emotions get the better of him. I actually think Saunders did a good job of coaching in the series, it was just his most important player (sorry Chauncey and Rip) played like he didn’t care.

Now, onto the preview…


The point guard matchup here is the most important one in the series and the most intriguing. You have young Rajon Rondo who has become more important to his team than Ray Allen and the wily veteran Derek FIsher. If Rondo can play solid defense on Fisher (something he was not able to do in the Pistons series [did anybody see the way Billups abused him in Game 6?]), then I feel like the Celtics can call it a day because there is no way they are stopping Kobe. Rondo needs to keep grabbing boards, leading the break, dishing the rock, and making smart decisions (seems easy right?).

In all reality though, it doesn’t really matter what the other Lakers do because it all revolves around Kobe Bryant. He averaged just under 30 points a game in the Spurs series and that was considered a masterful job by Bruce “Dirty Mo-Fo” Bowen. Are you kidding me? There is nobody on the Celtics who can matchup with Kobe like Bowen could and the only one who gets a look off the bench who could handle him is James Posey. Is Doc Rivers going to sacrifice offense for defense and sit Ray Allen like he did in the fourth quarter of Game 6? I don’t think so, he’s not that good of a coach. And that mini-resurgence we saw from Ray-Ray was just a mirage. I can’t see him really being a factor in this series with Kobe matching up against him (very different from Rip Hamilton).


This is where the Celtics have a huge advantage. Paul Pierce vs. the useless European that is Vladimir Radmonovic. Phil Jackson, in an effort to limit Kobe’s minutes vs. Pierce, has decided the likes of Radmonovic, Luke Walton (who should be starting and another reason why Phil Jackson is one of the most overrated coaches in the history of basketball, but that is for another time), and Lamar Odom. Only one of those three has a chance at holding Pierce up and that man belongs on KG (can you guess who?). Maybe Coach Jackson is trying to coach down to Doc Rivers’ level, I just don’t know. But expect Pierce to have a monster series offensively and to struggle defensively on Kobe (at least I hope Doc doesn’t put Ray-Ray on him).

Power Forward is another position where the Celtics have a huge advantage. KG is the heart and soul of this team and plays with enough intensity to light up the entire city of Los Angeles for 2 weeks straight. Meanwhile, Lamar Odom plays with the intensity of a wet noodle, has a penchant for missing key free-throws down the stretch, and disappears from games for quarters at a time. I also believe he is going to struggle on KG or Perkins because one is too skilled and the other is just way too big for him to handle (and by big I mean fat).


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Pau Gasol is the most important Laker. This team revolves around Kobe but he is the moon to Kobe’s sun. He is perfect for this offense because he passes, shoots, and is foreign ( I don’t really know if that is important or not, I just wanted to say that). Kendrick Perkins on the other hand has the ability to be dominant for a half and then disappear for the next game and a half. He also has a tendency to let his emotions get the better of him and is susceptible to technical fouls. However, I’m higher on Perkins than most for the simple reason is that he does what he is asked of: rebound, defend, and clean up the garbage around the rim. He fits into the flow of his team and doesn’t mind being the fifth option. His humility is refreshing for a player drafted out of high school while his English skills are sort of scary (I don’t think he can handle words with more than three syllables, but who cares because neither can I).


While I hate Phil Jackson and believed he has lucked into two of the greatest situations ever (MJ and Kobe + Shaq), Doc Rivers is still the worst coach in the NBA not named Isiah Thomas (can we still make fun of him? I think I still can because he is a moron and morons deserved to be ridiculed). The triangle offense is effective, even if nobody exactly knows what it is and he sticks to his rotation, which can’t be said for Mr. Rivers (does he run an offense?)


I truly believe the Celtics have a better bench, but you never know what Doc Rivers is going to do with his talent other than misuse them. The problem is the Celtics have too much talent on the bench, which could be confusing for a mere mortal. However, the rotation should consist of Eddie House, James Posey, Leon Powe, and PJ Brown. Sam Cassel can not handle being a backup and a bad one at that and Glen “Big Baby” Davis needs another year of seasoning to understand the nuances of playoff basketball. Each of those four adds energy and understands their roles on the team. PJ Brown also adds experience while Eddie House, at least from what I’ve seen, is just excited to be there.

Phil Jackson has the lesser talent, but gets more out of his players by sticking to a consistent rotation. Jordan Farmar has played inconsistently but is still getting minutes because he is a winner and Jackson does not want to mess with his confidence. Sasha Vujacic adds European toughness, as does Ronny Turiaf (is that possible?) while Luke Walton is the perfect player for this offense and should be playing 30 minutes a game but I’ll settle for him getting 20 and giving the Lakers a huge weapon off the bench.


This one was tough to pick, but if Rondo can supplant Ray Allen as the third most important Celtic for all the right reasons, then this series is the Celtics for the taking. However, if he is the third most important Celtic for the wrong reasons (poor shooting, bad defense, and turnovers), then consider the Celtics French Toast.


While they may not play many minutes against each other, the two best scorers in this series will go a long way towards determining which team wins. If Kobe can outscore Paul by ten or more points, Kobe will add another MVP trophy to his hardware.


While most experts are proclaiming the Lakers to be the best in all the land, I think the Celtics have way too much talent to lose. Throw in home court advantage with the 2-2-1-1-1 schedule that punishes the lower seed, I’d look for the Celtics to win and Paul Pierce to take home the MVP Finals with a spectacular performance that will remind people why he is the only remaining Celtic left from the last decent Celtic team.


Age Bound to Hurt San Antonio Spurs

By: Sean Speirs


     Some say that valuable experience comes with age.  Unfortunately, experience will not be enough to help the San Antonio Spurs as their old age begins to rust this off-season.


     After enduring a tough NBA post-season this year with series against the Phoenix Suns (4-1) and the New Orleans Hornets (4-3), the Spurs were hoping their road to another NBA championship would be less stressful.  However, MVP Kobe Bryant and his Los Angeles Lakers had a different agenda, and overthrew the defending champs in the Western Conference Finals 4-1.


     With their season now over, the future of the Spurs does not appear that promising anymore, especially since their squad will be one year older come next season.  Typically, one would say big deal, it is only one year.  But to the Spurs, that year could mean the demise of their championship franchise.


     Currently, the average age of the Spurs is 31.2, a range of two to seven years older than the average age of the other NBA teams [youngest being the Chicago Bulls at 24.2].  11 players of the Spurs 15-man lineup are 30 years old or older.  Six of those 11 will become 35 years old or older during next season, including starters Bruce Bowen (36) and Michael Finley (35), role-players Brent Barry (36), Robert Horry (37), Damon Stoudamire (34) and Kurt Thomas (35).


     With such an older team developing in the league, how long will it take until they cannot keep up with other, mostly younger, opponents? 


     The answers to this question became evident throughout all of the Spurs playoff games.


     Bruce Bowen could not keep up his once stellar defense against Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan suffered a slow inside game due to Hornets big men Tyson Chandler and David West, Manu Ginobli was playing through constant injuries, and Michael Finley could not find his deadly outside shot.


     Although the Spurs had an overall good season, clinching second place (56-26) in the Southwest Division, the true test of an NBA team is always the playoffs, whose outcomes can change the face of teams who fail to produce. 


     The Spurs this year was one of those teams, as the first signs of rust started to show, officially setting an expiration date for their once effective bench.



     Enough is enough.  There is no reason for this team to hold on to older players any longer that make up most of their lineup.  The Spurs already have experience from their superstars Duncan, Parker, and Ginobli (all have won 3 or more titles with this team).  By keeping older players, the Spurs are carrying dead weight that is preventing their “Big Three” and overall team from becoming a dominant future contender.


     –Bottom line: changes need to be made and fresh legs are necessary in order to compliment the quick style of play from starting point guard Tony Parker (26), the true future of this franchise.  What is needed, more specifically, is an agile/aggressive shooting guard/forward that can drive the ball, finish in the middle, and settle with the occasional outside jumper.  Younger Spurs Matt Bonner ( 28 ), DeMarr Johnson ( 28 ) and Ian Mahinmi (21) will never fill those needs and assets at the pace they are going, all three of these players average between two to four points a game.


     For General Manager R.C. Buford and Head Coach Gregg Popovich, in order to accomplish this main goal of change, the best chance the Spurs have is to let go of some, if not all, of their veteran free agents (Horry, Finley, and Thomas) and invest in a younger player through NBA draft trades.  They could also depend on a massive off-season trade that can bring over some youth and adequate help from off the bench.  Either way, expect the Spurs to try to edge their way into trade offerings and draft picks this off-season.


     All in all, if the Spurs got anything out of the 2007-2008 playoffs, it was a wake-up call from the future, warning them of the downfall that is about to come. 


    This is truly a rude awakening that cannot be ignored any longer.  If serious moves are not administered this off-season, the Spurs are in for a rough season next year.


     At this point, it’s safe to say that it’s time to panic.

Sean Speirs

Images Courtesy of YAHOOSPORTS.COM

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