2012 NBA Draft: The lottery bigs and their musical chairs

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Well, Anthony Davis is No.1 and Thomas Robinson will go in the top five. That’s a pretty good start for the bigs in the 2012 NBA draft. After that, things get really interesting. Of the top bigs: Andre Drummond, Jared Sullinger, John Henson, Meyers Leonard, Tyler Zeller, Perry Jones, and if you want to throw him in, Terrence Jones (I think Jones will play more 3 in the league), there’s really no way to determine in what order they’ll definitely go.

We know a few things.

  • Drummond is the most coveted big outside of Davis, and at the same time the biggest risk. He has immense athleticism to go with his size, but is severely lacking in the skills department and there are huge questions about his mindset and attitude.
  • Henson has no such question marks, but doesn’t have the same raw ability. He is more polished, however, and could immediately contribute.
  • Leonard has excellent size and slightly more skills than Drummond, but falls behind in the athleticism department.
  • Zeller is a player scouts absolutely love, but because of his play style and athleticism, is not going to jump to the front.
  • Perry Jones could be a Hall of Famer or could be out of the league in three years and neither would surprise me.
  • Sullinger has the best mindset and approach of any big, is extremely smart and coachable. But the back is a question mark. More importantly, though, his defensive lateral speed is a huge issue.

Chad Ford has more on Drummond’s situation and how he could go top five or slide, and where it might stop:

Right now, sources say Leonard and Henson are the two leading candidates in the group. Sullinger has slid on the Pistons’ draft board since the team saw his draft combine physical. Mississippi State’s Arnett Moultrie is also in the running for the No. 9 pick; however, he’s more of a long shot. He worked out earlier with the Pistons.

The winner of the workout could very well be the ninth pick if UConn big man Andre Drummond doesn’t fall to Detroit.

The Pistons are hoping Drummond does fall, and there are scenarios where they could get their wish. Right now it doesn’t look like Drummond has a home inside the top five. Sources say he’s struggled in workouts and hasn’t gotten strong feedback from teams. The Blazers are a real possibility at six.

via 2012 NBA Draft – Royce White may have a draft promise, plus rumors – ESPN.

The Pistons would be really set with Henson. A super-long rebounder with a bit of a mid-range game (his jumper is underrated), he would fit perfectly with Greg Monroe and set the Pistons up with a terrific core for the future. Drummond… on the list of coaches to try and crack that nut, Lawrence Frank seems like a bit of a gamble, given his tougher, professional approach. Is Frank going to nurture him the way he may need to? No, because most coaches won’t do that. This is the NBA. That’s the problem with Drummond.

There’s also talk from the New Orleans Times-Picayune that the Hornets could use the tenth pick on Zeller. The best case scenario may honestly be for the Pistons to bypass Drummond, take Henson, and Drummond falls to New Orleans. Monty Williams could likely connect with Drummond and build one of the best defensive frontcourts of the past 20 years with Davis and Drummond as anchors.

Leonard has risen meteorically based off his size. You can tell the lack of quality centers in the league with this run on guys without much in the way of go-to post moves.

Honestly, there’s no telling how those players shake out. We know Drummond likely won’t fall past six to Portland, definitely won’t fall past nine. We know Henson is unlikely to slip out of the top ten, and will likely go before Zeller. We know Zeller’s a value pick, and that Leonard is probably going to get snagged top 12. Everything else is liquid.

Adam Silver: NBA could eventually reseed in conference finals

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver has three major talking points on 1-16 playoff seeding (rather than the current system of 1-8 seeding by conference):

1. He likes the idea of it.

2. He doesn’t feel bound by the tradition of an East vs. West format.

3. Travel is a big impediment. Not only would there be more playoff series between teams farther away, the regular-season schedule would have to be balanced and therefore include more games between teams currently in opposite conferences.

(An important point I think Silver doesn’t raise nearly enough publicly in regard to a balanced schedule: That’d mean more away games that start at 10 p.m. for Eastern Conference fans and more away games that start at 4 p.m. for Western Conference fans. That can’t be good for TV ratings.)

The NBA commissioner added another consideration in the debate.

Silver on ESPN:

The other thing you could potentially do is reseed at the conference finals. And that deals with if your two best teams are in the same conference. So, there are some other approaches to deal with. You want the two best teams to meet in the Finals.

A balanced schedule wouldn’t be necessary with this setup. The semifinals would either be fairer and produce a better NBA Finals or have the same matchup we’d get in the current system.

Even more importantly, this could pass.

As fun as it is to debate the optimal postseason format, there’s no way enough Eastern Conference owners (at least five, necessary to create a two-thirds majority) approve. They want to protect their eight playoff spots and guaranteed Finals spot.

But what if Eastern Conference teams were still guaranteed eight playoff spots and two semifinals spots? That be enough. The Rockets and Warriors – two Western Conference teams – are the NBA’s best this season. In coming years, it could be the 76ers and Celtics – two Eastern Conference teams. That’s far more variable than which conference is stronger throughout.

If teams in championship contention feel the very top of their conference will be weaker than the other conference, they could resist. But that still leaves contenders that don’t feel that way and non-contenders that want the additional shared revenue a better NBA Finals would generate.

That’s a plausible path to 20 yes votes and something we should take seriously.

Knicks owner James Dolan: Jeff Hornacek ‘way behind’ in dealing with modern players

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The Knicks fired Jeff Hornacek as soon as they returned to New York following their season-ending win in Cleveland.

Then, they really unloaded on the coach.

Knicks owner James Dolan, via Larry Brooks of the New York Post:

“I think Hornacek had the same kind of issue that Phil did in that he didn’t grasp how different the players are now in the way they think and deal with management and the coaches,” Dolan said. “I think he was way behind on that.

“But I think Jeff is a good coach and he’ll do well when he’s hired by another team.”

“The old-style coaching doesn’t work,” Dolan said. “A coach who tries to do everything himself isn’t going to be successful.

Knicks president Steve Mills, via Marc Berman of the New York Post:

“I think just as we observed the team, there were a lot of things that we just thought would be better at, from attention to detail to player accountability, and Jeff did a good job in some areas. In some areas he could have done a bit of a better job.

Knicks general manager Scott Perry, via Berman:

“The evaluation of Jeff for 82 games, we evaluated everything — practices to games to ability to connect with guys. I think we need to be better in that area and with adjustments. It’s something we could be better at with the expectations we have for our next coach.”

“We could have been a little bit better in situational basketball,” Perry said. “We understand the roster as much as anybody. In terms of consistency, we fell a little bit short in that area.”

This is atypical candor about a fired coach. Most teams just thank him and move on.

But I appreciate it. Don’t we all want to know more of what NBA teams are thinking internally? This is revelatory.

That said, I don’t blindly trust the Dolan/Mills/Perry triumvirate. The Knicks have misevaluated too many people for too long. This more about knowing how they viewed things than knowing this is how things are.

Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:

According to a source, Dolan last season sent an email to Hornacek saying he was disappointed in him for not buying fully into the triangle offense. This took place sometime around the All Star break. So we know that as recently as last season Dolan, who loves to tell you he’s not involved, was actually pushing Phil Jackson’s offense down Hornacek’s throat in a not-so-subtle way.

Dolan had Phil’s back. And then on Wednesday, Dolan trashed Jackson for being out of touch. Man, life comes at you fast.

To be fair, Suns general manager Ryan McDonough also cited Hornacek’s lack of connection with his players when firing him. This will be something Hornacek must answer for if he pursues future head-coaching jobs. Hornacek feuded with Marcus Morris in Phoenix and Joakim Noah, Kyle O'Quinn and reportedly Kristaps Porzingis in New York.

Not that the Knicks set up Hornacek to succeed. They didn’t.

Now, they must find a coach who will perform better in all the areas they just criticized Hornacek for. That’ll be more difficult than criticizing him on the way out the door.

76ers in their feelings about garbage-time shots (video)

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In the Heat’s Game 2 win over the 76ers, Philadelphia rushed a 3-pointer to cut Miami’s lead to eight with 6.2 seconds left. Heat point guard Goran Dragic took the ensuing inbound, dribbled past a pressing Ben Simmons, avoided a swipe attempt by Robert Covington and drove in for an uncontested layup:

Covington, via Anthony Chiang of The Palm Beach Post:

“It definitely matters because you can just dribble it out, everything,” Philadelphia forward Robert Covington said. “But you know, we don’t understand why he did it. But overall, we just said, OK, that gives us anticipation because obviously he didn’t care about the simple fact of the score of the game. They were already winning.”

Dragic, via Chiang:

“I don’t care,” Dragic said when asked about the Sixers’ reaction to the play. “The first game we were down 30 and they were still running [inbounds plays after timeouts] with seven seconds left in the game. It’s the playoffs. I’m doing everything it takes.”

Dragic’s play was perfectly fine. If the 76ers didn’t like it, they should have stopped it. Beyond that, why risk allowing a miracle comeback? It was the right, safe play.

Philadelphia tried to return the favor in its alreadyfeisty Game 3 win last night.

His 76ers up 19 with the shot clock off, Ben Simmons pushed the ball ahead and passed to a streaking Dario Saric, who attempted a layup. Kelly Olynyk blocked Saric’s attempt. Then, Miami guard Wayne Ellington fouled Covington with 1.7 seconds left, prolonging the game with free throws:

Philadelphia center Joel Embiid, via Ian Begley of ESPN:

“I wish I was there in that Game 2, because I was kind of pissed about it. … I was on the sideline, really mad,” Embiid, who missed the first two games of the series due to an orbital fracture and concussion.

Embiid said he told his teammates to look to score if they encountered the same scenario late in Game 3.

“It’s always good to blow a team out,” he said. “I think we were up 18 or 20 and if you could get that lead up to 22, I think it’s good. I love blowing teams out. I like the fact that we did that. We’re not here to make friends. We’re here to win a series.”

Heat forward Winslow, via Begley:

“I think they felt disrespected by Goran’s [layup], and we weren’t just going to let them do that,” Miami’s Justise Winslow said.

This is all so silly.

Last month, Saric scored late on the (pressing) Cavaliers in a game that looked decided. (Cleveland guard Jordan Clarkson then threw the ball at Saric and got ejected.) But the 76ers are going to be aggrieved now?

To their credit, the Heat fulfilled the don’t-it?, stop-it philosophy with Olynyk’s block.

Jrue Holiday stops to point at Jusuf Nurkic, who had just gotten dunked on by Anthony Davis (video)

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Jrue Holiday has spent most of the Pelicans-Trail Blazers series making life miserable for Portland star guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

In New Orleans’ Game 3 win last night, Holiday turned to tormenting Jusuf Nurkic.

After Anthony Davis putback-dunked on Nurkic, Holiday stopped to point at the Trail Blazers center. Yes, we saw. But I still appreciate Holiday calling our attention to Nurkic just in case.