NBA Draft: Five big risks in the 2011 NBA Draft

5 Comments

Right now, there are no busts in the 2011 NBA Draft.

By 2014 we will be calling a few of these guys busts, but right now they are just risks. In this draft, picking out what risks to gamble on is amazingly difficult, seemingly every player has some glaring flaws. We’d preach patience — wait at least wait a couple years before you decide to rip your GM for what was such an obvious decision (while forgetting how you told your friends you thought this was a great pick on draft night).

Some risks are bigger than others — and in this draft boom and bust are hand-in-hand. Particularly among the big men. Some of the most athletic players and the guys with the highest ceilings are the guys who may never pan out.

Which is why our “sleepers list” and “risk list” have some crossover this year. Here are five guys that are risks (if you want to call them potential busts, that’s your call).

Jeremy Tyler, 6’11” power forward, Japanese league: Big men move up the draft board at the end every year, and that is happening for Tyler because he comes with legit NBA big man size. And he has some skills, a face up game and he can board. Some teams like him. But the guy was unimpressive in Japan last year. There are real questions about his maturity and desire. He skipped his senior year of high school and the chance to go to a major college to go instead to Europe, a decision that backfired. Another flame out is possible, but some team may well take him in the first round anyway because of his size and potential.

Bismack Biyombo, 6’8” power forward, Congo: He gets portrayed as a Joel Anthony/Ben Wallace type — all offense and no defense. He is maybe the best athlete in this draft so it’s not likely he will out completely (he has looked good in the Spanish league, so there is some basis), but then again we all said these same things about Hasheem Thabeet a couple years ago. Biyombo was an offensive disaster at Eurocamp and that has to give you real pause.

Jonas Valanciunas, 6’11” center, Lithuania: Another real boom or bust guy. He has some nice offensive moves, he has shown he is willing to bang bodies and compete, he has soft hands. But he is sushi raw. He has to bulk up, improve his footwork, his defense, his shot, his ball handling… you get the idea. Lots of potential there and again not likely to be a bust, but there is a real risk there.

Josh Selby, 6’3” point guard, Kansas: He’s an explosive athlete coming out of high school who went on to be suspended for the first nine games at Kansas (and often sat in crunch time), was a ball-dominating guard who had poor shot selection and missed a lot. The Morris twins overshadowed him, but he struggled to try to fit in with that. He’ll be a point in the NBA but really has two guard skills — except for the whole good shooting thing. He hit just 37 percent of his shots last season. The guy has exceptional athletic skills but there are questions about if he knows how to use them at the NBA level.

Donatas Motiejunas, 7’0” Center, Lithuania: We hate to stereotype players around here, but Motiejunas fits the mold — he is a classic European big man. Which means he can shoot fairly well from the outside but don’t expect the seven footer to hang out in the paint and be productive. He is a stretch four and you should think poor man’s Andrea Bargnani. There could be value in that, but he has to be in the right situation. He could well flame out, once he gets to the USA (there are questions about his buyout).

Dwight Howard still feeling ‘super’ expectations with Hornets

Dave Reginek/Getty Images
Leave a comment

DETROIT – Dwight Howard went from leading Orlando in the NBA Finals to playing in star-studded Los Angeles to joining a Houston team that also fancied itself a contender to being the highest-paid player in his hometown Atlanta to… landing in Charlotte, a small-market franchise with modest ambitions.

The spotlight finally off the former No. 1 pick, Howard doesn’t feel reduced pressure.

“Everybody expects me to be Superman every single night,” Howard said.

Howard is diving into his new situation – his third team in three years – headfirst. He’s leading pregame huddles and the Hornets onto the court.

“I have the most experience,” said Howard, in his 14th season. “So, it’s not to come in and fit in. It’s to come in and be a leader.”

This is the latest referendum on Howard. Despite eight All-NBA selections (most of them first-team) and three Defensive Player of the Year awards, he faces relentless criticism of his legacy.

His exit from the Magic was so ugly, it’s known as the Dwightmare. His feuding with the Lakers great is the stuff of legend in Kobe Bryant mythology. Howard never clicked with James Harden with the Rockets. The Hawks unloaded him for a paltry return in what was more salary rearrangement than salary dump, and his former teammates reportedly cheered.

Howard just seems to rub people the wrong way.

That makes his latest test in Charlotte so interesting. Howard is supplanting maybe Kemba Walker as the face of the team and definitely Cody Zeller as starting center. The Hornets have found success with Zeller, going 63-53 when he starts and 57-73 otherwise the last three seasons.

“The nature of his game, he plays in a way to help other people play better,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said of Zeller. “He is a screener. He is a ball-mover.”

In other words, the type of player teammates love.

Is Howard?

Howard is still solidly productive. In Charlotte’s season-opening loss to the Pistons, he posted 10 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks – and ruffled a few feathers. Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

https://twitter.com/Vincent_Ellis56/status/921100491362365440

Dirty-work players who irritate opponents are revered. High-priced players who irritate their teammates are loathed.

Howard walks a fine line.

He returned to Atlanta with emotion and expectations. By the end of his time with the Hawks, everyone seemed unhappy. Still, Howard says he’s grateful for the opportunity to play in front of people, especially his grandparents, who watched him grow up.

“Atlanta is going to be my home,” Howard said. “The Hawks is always going to be my favorite team.”

It’s just never easy for Howard.

Even a career Basketball Reference pegs as 99% likely to end in the Hall of Fame based on his tangible accomplishments stirs controversy.

“He’s a Hall of Famer right now if he never played another game,” Clifford said.

Said Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, who coached Howard in Orlando: “It’s mind-boggling to me that would be any debate there.”

It’s probably easier for Van Gundy and Howard to recall their time together fondly than it was to enjoy it while partnered. Clifford, who was an assistant in Orlando and Los Angeles while Howard was there, is just getting into his time as Howard’s head coach.

It’s those middle moments, in the throes of long seasons, that have proven difficult for Howard and those around him.

Here he is in Charlotte, hosting the Hawks tonight, and facing another challenge. The Hornets would probably be happy just making the playoffs and ecstatic advancing, which would be their first playoff-series victory since reemerging as the Bobcats in 2004. Howard, who has reached three conference finals, is counting on himself to lead them there – even if nobody else is anymore.

Kobe Bryant still has it, bounces shot in from near half court

Getty Images
Leave a comment

This was a Nike gala, an event with a basketball theme. The court was lit up from below, there were tables at half court, and people had drinks in their hands.

Kobe Bryant was there, stylishly dressed in black. So was famous model Winnie Harlow.

Know that regardless of the setting, Kobe still has game.

Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala cleared to play vs. Pelicans Friday

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Without Draymond Green in the fourth quarter Tuesday night in the opener, and with Andre Iguodala out for the game, the Warriors defense fell apart against Houston. The Rockets scored 34 points in the quarter and came from behind to beat a Warriors team that had been in control of the game up to that point. There was more to it than just Green’s balky knee, but without the Defensive Player of the Year they are not the same.

Bad news for the Pelicans: Green and Iguodala have been cleared to play in New Orleans Friday. Green had an MRI and it came back negative.

Green admitted he was concerned that the injury, via Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

Now it is the Pelicans who should be concerned. The Warriors will want to wash the feeling of that opening night loss off them.

Report: Kevin Love was frustrated with move to center

Getty Images
2 Comments

With Derrick Rose having to start at point guard (until Isiah Thomas returns sometime in early 2018) and Dwyane Wade starting at the two, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue had no choice but to move Kevin Love to starting at center. The Cavaliers desperately need the floor spacing to open up driving lanes and options for LeBron James. Start Tristan Thompson at the five (with Love at the four and Jae Crowder coming off the bench) and it adds another non-shooter to the mix that allows opposing defenses to just pack the paint and force LeBron to be a jump shooter.

That doesn’t mean everyone liked the change.

Love admitted to Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer he was frustrated with the move at first.

“It’s been a little bit of a change for me,” Love admitted. “I still find myself spacing a little bit wanting to roll a little bit more and on the defensive end just playing the primary big on their team the whole time on the defensive end. It’s been a little bit different figuring things out on that end, but it comes with the growth I’m talking about. We need to do that and hopefully be a machine when things start clicking.”

Lue put it this way.

“We’re going to try it out and see how it works. He was frustrated at first, but now he’s enjoying it.”

While in certain matchups, when the opposition has a more traditional center, the Cavs may go back to the Love/Thompson front line for a stretch. But the small ball lineup is the way Cleveland should be leaning, even with its clear defensive deficiencies. We saw that in the opener with Love’s dagger three in the fourth quarter.

Love is adjusting, he’s already sacrificed a lot to play with LeBron. This is just another step in that evolution.