Drafting the NCAA Tourney: Georgia Tech

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We all love the NCAA tournament, but as NBA fans we watch it with a different eye — who is going to be coming out of this showcase and on to the NBA. This is part of a series looking at future NBA players you should watch this weekend.

Georgia Tech has a long list of NBA studs to its name — Chris Bosh, Kenny Anderson, John Salley, Mark Price, Thaddeus Young, and the list just keeps going.

And will keep going — Georgia Tech has two players to watch when they take on Oklahoma State Friday night. One would think that with two potential first round picks the Yellow Jackets would be higher than a 10 seed. But their problem is a lack of guys to fear on the perimeter, so their two big stars have a lot of company in the paint.

The big name is Derrick Favors, the power forward (certainly at the NBA level) who likely will go somewhere between three and five overall in the draft. Favors is as athletic as anybody in college basketball right now, he can just explode at the basket — watch him on the boards.  He shoots well (hit 59% of his shots this season). But at the NBA level he ideally needs to be on a team where he can use those gifts in the open court because this season has shown limits to his halfcourt game. Like having enough post moves to consistently create his own shot. But this is a case where a guy can get over-analyzed — you can teach him post moves (and he has been better lately at that). You cannot teach leaping out of the building.

On the opposite low block is Gani Lawal — another big long athlete (seven foot wingspan) who likely goes in the first round. DraftExpress Assistant Director of Scouting Joe Treutlein gave us some exclusive comments on Lawal:

“Gani Lawal has flown a bit under the radar this year, but playing alongside Derrick Favors on a team with shaky guard play, specifically in terms of post entry passes, certainly hasn’t helped him stand out. A high energy athlete who’s very good on the boards and could do some garbage work, he’s a fringe first rounder now, but could contribute quickly in the NBA in the right situation.”

How good either of these guys look in the NCAA tournament may depend on the guard play the Yellow Jackets get — if you can double team without fear of getting burned on the perimeter, you can slow anyone.

But what you want to see out of an NBA prospect is how they deal with the adversity and big stage of the tournament. That will be interesting to see for Favors and Lawal.

Willy Hernangomez ‘mad’ about falling from Knicks rotation

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Knicks president Steve Mills started his second tenure talking about rebuilding and listed Willy Hernangomez as a core piece.

But Hernangomez, coming off an All-Rookie first-team season, barely played in New York’s season-opening loss to the Thunder– drawing scrutiny.

Then, he didn’t play at all in a loss to the Pistons – eliciting a strong reaction from Hernangomez himself.

Hernangomez, via Fred Kerber of the New York Post:

“The same. I’m still mad,” Hernangomez said. “I cannot help the team win if I’m sitting on the bench. Two games in a row. It’s tough. I have to wait my moment. I cannot say nothing more.”

The Knicks are moving in different directions. Management is talking about building for the future. Coach Jeff Hornacek, who was hired by previous president Phil Jackson, is trying to win now.

There’s a fine line between developing Hernangomez through playing time and making him earn his minutes. Enes Kanter and Kyle O'Quinn might be better right now.

But being marginally better this season won’t get the Knicks anywhere meaningful except lower in the lottery. On the other hand, even on rebuilding teams, winning is most important to a coach’s job security. Earl Watson implemented the Suns’ tanking scheme, and look where that got him.

Hornacek is backed into a corner, and now one of the team’s most important young players is publicly expressing his displeasure. It’s the latest troubling sign in a locker room already suspicious of Hornacek.

Report: Eric Bledsoe requested trade from Suns before season

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Suns guard Eric Bledsoe tweeted yesterday:

In light of Phoenix’s 0-3 start and Earl Watson getting fired yesterday, that sure looks like a trade request. Still, there’s risk in making assumptions about vague tweets.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

Why wouldn’t Bledsoe want out? The 27-year-old is in his prime and stuck on a young team that would rather tank than play him.

It’ll be interesting to see how Bledsoe explains the tweet. He previously paid lip service to his situation in Phoenix, but it appears he’s ready to open up. On the other hand, public trade requests typically draw fines from the NBA.

Another Hornets backup PG injured

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Hornets backup point guard Michael Carter-Williamsout.

Nicolas Batum, who handled a lot of playmaking with Charlotte’s second units – out.

Julyan Stone, another Hornets backup point guard – out.

Hornets release:

The Charlotte Hornets announced today that guard Julyan Stone has suffered a Grade 2 strain of his left hamstring. The injury occurred in practice on Sunday, Oct. 22 and he did not travel with the team to Milwaukee.  Stone is listed as out for tonight’s game against the Bucks and his expected recovery time is estimated at four to six weeks.

The Hornets have been outscored by an astounding 35.8 points per 100 possessions without starter Kemba Walker, producing an offensive rating of just 61.4. That’s in just 23 minutes, but the problem dates back to last season, when Charlotte was outscored by 7.0 points per 100 possessions with a 100.7 offensive rating sans Walker.

Now, the Hornets have little choice but to turn to rookie Malik Monk. Monk is a scoring guard, but his 6-foot-3 size means he has at least worked on playing point guard. Is he ready to play the position full-time for a team eying the playoffs. Probably not, but he’ll just have to do his best to keep Charlotte afloat in the few minutes Walker rests.

Report: Suns also fire three assistant coaches

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The Suns fired Earl Watson just three games into the season – the second-earliest firing in NBA history.

They didn’t stop there.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Firing assistant coaches during the season has become Phoenix’s m.o. I’m just not sure what it accomplishes.

Were Watson, Nate Bjorkgren, Mehmet Okur and Jason Fraser all so bad at their jobs? If so, why did the Suns figure that out simultaneously?

Were the firings designed to shake up a losing team? If so, wouldn’t ousting Watson have been enough?

Will Phoenix replace those assistants? If not, will the team have the resources to properly train its players?

The Suns are filled with young players who need coaching, particularly skill development. This move looks like it will put them further behind.