Who should the Grizzlies have drafted?

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Behind every disastrous NBA draft selection there’s usually some solid logic at work. Detroit already had Tayshaun Prince at small forward, and were such a good team that a long-term prospect made more sense than a guy who would provide an immediate impact. When Atlanta drafted Marvin Williams over Chris Paul, plenty of reputable experts thought that Marvin had more potential than CP3. Portland had Clyde Drexler at shooting guard when they passed on Michael Jordan. 

The Grizzlies’ recent demotion of #2 overall pick Hasheem Thabeet to the D-League has led many to declare the pick a bust already. I think it’s a little too early to completely give up on Thabeet’s career, because he does have some serious size and athletic ability. However, with how ineffective Thabeet has been and how good some of his fellow rookies have been, now might be a good time to examine what some of Memphis’ other options may have been. 
James Harden:

This is a pick Memphis was almost certainly not going to make. Harden is a very talented young player. He’s been great off the bench for the upstart Thunder, and will only get better as he improves his ability to finish at the rim. However, two of Grizzlies’ best young players are O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay. Mayo is a shooting guard and Gay is a small forward, which are Harden’s two natural positions. He’s perfect providing a rest for Kevin Durant and a change of pace from the offensively limited Thabo Sefolosha in Oklahoma City, but Memphis may have had trouble finding minutes for him.
Tyreke Evans: 

In my opinion, this pick would have been a home run for the Grizzlies. They may have been concerned about Evans’ ability to be a true point guard and play next to O.J. Mayo. Evans’ passing skills have been better than advertised in the NBA, and I’m a big fan of putting two combo guards next to each other. Mayo’s assist ratio isn’t great, but he has the ability to make plays from the shooting guard spot and could’ve complimented Evans’ scoring ability nicely. Also, Evans going into the paint and setting Mayo up with open looks could’ve made for an absolutely punishing backcourt tandem. 
Ricky Rubio:

Rubio is a pure point guard, a good defender, and would’ve had a Spanish teammate in Marc Gasol. However, there were some reports that Rubio would not have come to Memphis if the Grizzlies drafted him. Since he made good on his threats to the Timberwolves, it might be best to give the Grizzlies the benefit of the doubt for not drafting Rubio. Rubio could’ve been a good fit, but it may be a moot point. 
Jonny Flynn:

Flynn has been solid for the Timberwolves, but the Syracuse product has yet to blow the doors off the NBA. Mike Conley Jr. hasn’t been great so far in his NBA career. However, Greg Oden’s former running mate is still only 22 years old, and isn’t that far removed from being a #4 overall pick himself. The Grizzlies may have been hesitant to give up on Conley for anyone they weren’t in love with, especially after they traded Kyle Lowry at last year’s trade deadline. 
Stephen Curry:

Curry has show excellent playmaking and scoring skills in Golden State, and has been one of the few bright spots in Golden State’s miserable season. He has one of the NBA’s purest strokes, and shows an understanding of the game well beyond his years in the league. The Timberwolves may have been wary of pairing him with O.J. Mayo, another scoring guard who likes the ball in his hands. They apparently aren’t the only team with misgivings about pairing Mayo and Curry, as the Warriors apparently denied a trade that would have given them both O.J. Mayo and Thabeet for Monta Ellis. I’m not sure why teams think Curry couldn’t work next to Mayo (on a team, not a sandwich); if Curry can thrive next to the black hole that is Monta Ellis, he can play with anybody. 
High draft picks have been known to surprise fans after slow starts to their NBA career. But with how well some of the rookie guards have been playing, Memphis has to be seriously questioning whether going big was the right move on draft night. 

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim: ‘NBA has never drafted a player for defense’

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Syracuse lost to Baylor in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

So, now Syracuse returns to recruiting. That means convincing prospects with NBA aspirations that Syracuse’s infamous zone defense won’t interfere with their pro path.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, via ASAP Sports:

What I do when I start out, I say the NBA drafts for one reason: Offense. The NBA has never drafted a player for defense. At any position, even at center. Like when they drafted Tim Duncan or David Robinson, or Olajuwon or Shaq, they didn’t get one of those guys because of their defense. They didn’t draft Steph Curry, James Harden, LeBron James, go down the list. They didn’t draft one guy because of defense; they draft because of offense.
We had more first-round picks in the old Big East than any school because they draft guys based on their offense. That’s what we tell recruits and that’s the truth.

There are degrees of truth here. NBA teams generally value offense more than defense and more than they should.

But defense absolutely affects players’ draft position. Some players are drafted primarily for defense.

Maybe Syracuse’s zone helps players look good to NBA teams. But it’s a tough sell the zone actually prepares the players for the next level.

Syracuse’s first-round picks since Carmelo Anthony:

  • Tyler Lydon (No. 24 in 2018)
  • Malachi Richardson (No. 22 in 2017)
  • Chris McCullough (No. 29 in 2016)
  • Tyler Ennis (No. 18 in 2015)
  • Michael Carter-Williams (No. 11 in 2014)
  • Fab Melo (No. 22 in 2013)
  • Dion Waiters (No. 4 in 2013)
  • Wesley Johnson (No. 4 in 2011)
  • Jonny Flynn (No. 6 in 2010)
  • Donte Greene (No. 28 in 2009)
  • Hakim Warrick (No. 19 in 2006)

We can’t know how those players would have turned out if they played elsewhere in college, but that’s an extremely uninspiring list. I would not advise a recruit on track to make the NBA to pick Syracuse.

Obviously, Boeheim is strongly incentivized to spin it the other way. He has made millions of dollars by convincing good players to help him win games.

There’s something to his sentiment here. But he goes way too far, to the point he’s wrong – as per usual.

Court reverses nearly $1.5M oil-spill award to David West

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NEW ORLEANS — A federal appeals court says former NBA star David West is not entitled to a nearly $1.5 million award stemming from BP’s 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Court records show West submitted a claim under the terms of a settlement BP entered after the spill to avoid prolonged litigation with those claiming spill-related losses. The claim was based on his compensation as a member of the NBA’s New Orleans franchise having dropped after the spill.

BP challenged the award, saying West earned what he was expected to earn under a “front-loaded” contract he signed years before the spill. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed Wednesday that there was no loss. West’s attorneys did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.

James Harden: I want to play in 2019 World Cup

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James Harden skipped the 2016 Olympics.

But he sounds ready to rejoin Team USA for the 2019 World Cup.

Harden, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

“Of course I want to play,” Harden said. “It’s an opportunity to represent your country, go out there and play basketball. It’s something I love doing. If that opportunity presents itself, I’ll be in. Not everyone gets that opportunity. As a basketball player, that’s one of the highest points you can get for basketball.

Harden is among 35 players listed as in consideration for a roster spot, but the MVP candidate is likely a lock if he wants to play. He won gold at the 2012 Olympics and led Team USA to another gold medal in the 2014 World Cup.

With the World Cup being held in China, where there are lucrative marketing opportunities, expect many other stars to participate. The competition for Team USA roster spots could be intense.

But Harden is good enough and has proven his commitment to USA Basketball. He’s probably safely in.

Celtics’ Kyrie Irving says he’ll rest before playoffs: ‘Makes no sense’ to emphasize regular-season games

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Remember when Kyrie Irving asked whether a November 2014 Cavaliers-Bulls game felt like a playoff game?

He has come a long way since.

Before LeBron James returned to Cleveland, Irving hadn’t made the playoffs. Three NBA Finals and a trade to the Celtics later, Irving is focused on the postseason.

Irving, via Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston:

“I’m definitely taking some games off before the playoffs,” Irving said at Boston’s morning shootaround at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday. “Makes no sense, the emphasis on these regular games, when you’re gearing up for some battles coming in the playoffs.”

Irving will probably be more effective in the playoffs with additional rest.

But will the Celtics be more effective in the playoffs if Irving rests now?

Boston is fifth in the East. If that holds, that’d mean not having home-court advantage in any Eastern Conference playoff series and likely facing the Bucks – who’ve been the NBA’s best team throughout the regular season – in the second round.

That might not daunt Irving. After all, when asked why he’s so confident about the Celtics’ postseason chances, he said, “Because I’m here.”*
*That sounded a lot like LeBron.

But his teammates might benefit significantly from a better seed. Without Irving, Boston went 10-1 at home 1-7 on the road in last year’s playoffs – a historic split.

Catching the 76ers for the No. 3 seed is probably farfetched. But the Celtics are only a half game behind the Pacers for the No. 4 seed and home-court advantage in the first round.

Boston’s closing schedule is easier than Indiana’s. The teams even face each other twice. So, there’s an opportunity for the Celtics to clinch the No. 4 seed and rest Irving.

But little has gone to plan this season in Boston. If the Celtics’ seed is still up for grabs late in the regular season, will they rest Irving or keep pushing for a better record?