Kyrie Irving is a deserving No. 1 pick

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Kyrie Irving will be the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.

But he wouldn’t have beaten out John Wall for the top spot last draft. Or Blake Griffin for the top spot two drafts ago. Or Derrick Rose three drafts ago. Or…

It has some fans wondering is Irving a deserving No. 1 pick? Where would he fall in other drafts?

Good questions. But two very separate and distinct ones.

Is he a deserving No. 1? Yes, he’s the best player with the most potential in his draft class. He deserves to go No. 1 this year. The draft is a year-to-year thing, it has ups and downs and is not a constant. This is Irving’s year. He earned it. You can’t take that away from him.

Where would he fall in other drafts? That’s harder to answer.

I spoke with several scouts and front office people and asked where Irving would fall in other drafts. The answer was fairly universal — they don’t know. They don’t care. As one guy said, teams don’t really think like that. It would be a waste of energy to work out where Irving would fall on last year’s draft board. So they don’t do it.

One person suggested that in general you can figure a player in this draft would go about five spots lower most years, but that still it would be hard to pinpoint  where an one player would fall (workouts against these other guys would have influenced the draft).

It’s a fans exercise, not a team one. But it’s interesting. Let’s take a look at the last few drafts ourselves and try to figure it out.

Last year there is no way Irving is taken before John Wall. Evan Turner was No. 2 and while he had an off year at the time he was a consensus better player than Irving is now (even if that may have been a miss). Derrick Favors (No. 3) would have been taken higher (big men with potential move up). Wesley Johnson at No. 4? Depends. DeMarcus Cousins at No. 5 was a better player but with character questions. Ekpe Udoh and Greg Monroe (No. 6 and 7) had questions but were centers. Basically, Irving likely might have gone anywhere four to eight.

Two years ago Blake Griffin still would have been No. 1. Hasheem Thabeet went No. 2 to Memphis and while we know about that pick in hindsight at the time Memphis would have made that move Irving or no. Then the picks went James Harden, Tyreke Evans and Ricky Rubio. Not sure Irving goes in front of any of them, but maybe. Then we get to No. 6 and Jonny Flynn, No. 7 Stephen Curry (coming out of a small school in Davidson). Irving again is probably right in there, No. 6 to No. 8, but could have been top three.

In 2008, Derrick Rose still goes No. 1 and Michael Beasley is still No. 2. Then the picks went O.J. Mayo, Russell Westbrook (remember how that was considered a reach?) and Kevin Love. Then at No. 6 it was the Knicks and Danilo Gallinari. Irving might have been in the mix anywhere after the first two, although again likely around five or six.

But that is all guesswork. Irving is not rated as a guy you can build a franchise around like the top picks the last three years, but he is a quality player. A guy strongly considered in the top five any year.

And a guy who earned being No. 1 this year. That’s all that matters.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.

Clippers win likely playoff preview 108-95 over Jazz

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jamal Crawford scored 28 points off the bench, and the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Utah Jazz 108-95 on Saturday to clinch a playoff berth for the sixth straight year.

The Clippers trail the Jazz by a half-game in their race for the No. 4 playoff seed in the West. The teams are likely to face in the first round of the postseason.

Blake Griffin added 15 points and DeAndre Jordan had 15 rebounds for the Clippers.

Rudy Gobert had 26 points and 14 rebounds for Utah, and reserve Joe Johnson added 17 points. The Jazz have dropped four of five.

Utah rallied in the third, putting together a 20-6 spurt to trim Los Angeles’ lead to 72-70 heading into the final period. Gobert had nine points and Johnson scored seven during the run that included 10 straight points for the Jazz over one stretch.

Chris Paul and Crawford both got technicals while the Clippers struggled to score and defend.

But Los Angeles turned things around in the fourth, scoring the first eight points for an 80-70 lead. Crawford had 17 points in the quarter, scoring six in a row to push the Clippers’ lead to 103-84. He was 9 of 9 at the free-throw line for the game.

The Clippers grabbed control early on, shooting 52 percent in the first quarter while building a 15-point lead.

The Jazz got within seven to start the second before the Clippers restored their 15-point margin and eventually led 49-41 at halftime.

Utah’s top two scorers, Gordon Hayward and George Hill, struggled. Hayward, who averages 22 points, had 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting. Hill, who averages 17.1, had nine points while shooting 4 of 11.

TIP-INS

Jazz: Gobert was coming off a career-high 35-point, 15-rebound performance against the Knicks on Tuesday. … G Sheldon Mack missed his 11th straight game with a left ankle sprain. … F/C Derrick Favors remains out with a left knee bone contusion.

Clippers: Their six-year playoff run is the longest in franchise history. … They have won 18 of 20 against the Jazz dating to Feb. 1, 2012. … They won the season series 3-1.

 

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