I reached out this week to four NBA scouts for their opinions on the elite players in this year's draft (assuming those players declare for it). They agreed on two points: That this will be a weak draft, and that three players at the top have separated themselves from the pack. Based on their analysis, I am now viewing this as a three-player draft, with a big drop-off thereafter.
Another second-in-command NBA executive agrees that Wall could be superior to Rose, the reigning Rookie of the Year. "He's a better shooter than Rose, a better defender than Rose. He doesn't quite have that strength and body that Rose had, but give him a couple of years and he might even be quicker and faster than Rose. He has such unbelievable speed and quickness and length and intensity at both ends of the floor. Let me say he's far from being a perfect player and he has a lot to learn, but he's one of those guys who will be better served to play in the NBA than in college, because the open floor space and the way the NBA is designed will suit him better.
"He has to improve his shot, but he has the makings of a floor general: tough, aggressive, willing to put his neck out and be a leader. He is far from being organized and establishing a rhythm on the court, but he looks like he will be able to do that eventually. At the very worst case, he should become a starting point guard on a top team."
The same scout adds that Wall may define himself most at the defensive end: "I've heard guys say he could be
Here is more of the same from a third scout: "Wall is up there with Rose,
But one scout isn't entirely sold on the presumptive No. 1 pick. Will he be able to execute plays at the slower pace of the NBA playoffs? "Wall is a broken-field runner," the scout said. "He's like a punt returner who zigs and zags and gets to daylight, but he's doing this against bad college teams. When he's forced to play half-court basketball, then we'll see."
On Dec. 5, Turner fractured the second and third lumbar vertebra of his spine when he fell flat on his back following a failed dunk in transition. He returned a month later after missing only six games. "You can see he's a guy who enjoys playing," the scout continued. "His ability to improve his shooting will control his greatness. He's like
I mentioned this high praise to another scout, who responded as the devil's advocate. "Evan Turner is the most interesting guy in the whole draft, because a lot of guys feel that way about him and really like him. And then there are a lot of guys who absolutely don't like him. I'm wrestling with it. The reason you wouldn't like him is because he can't play without the ball -- he's a turnover guy. He so dominates his team and I wonder what that's going to mean in the NBA. And then you see he's not a deep shooter. His game is based on strength and aggressiveness, he's a very skilled guy and he's in relentless attack mode from the opening tip. How is that going to work in the NBA if he's playing out of control? He's a guy who has had triple-doubles including turnovers.
"But the other side of it is that you could put him at the point and, if he refines his skills, you could wind up with a guy who is bigger and tougher than
The other two scouts fully endorse Turner as a top pick. "He's a point guard in our league, or a point-forward. He has the ball in his hands for Ohio State 90 percent of the time. He's strong, he can really, really pass, he's a great rebounder and he's tough. He's not a great shooter, but he can score 20 a night on tip-ins and mid-range jump shots. Why shoot threes if no one is able to stop him from 15 feet and in? If he works at it -- and everything I'm told is that he has a great work ethic -- he can learn to make enough threes and become a great player. He's a monster."
Added the fourth scout: "He has personality, charisma, he's a big guard who has no fear driving to the basket. He has to improve his outside shot, but he can do anything on the floor."
All four scouts endorse Johnson. "He's probably the best athlete in the draft," a team executive said. "He can shoot it, but at the same time he's shown a willingness to play within the team's system and not be selfish. He's another guy who's probably better off in the style of the NBA than in college. He's so freakishly athletically, he can hit a college three and he can pass it."
But the same executive expressed concern with Johnson's defense, as is often the case with prospects from Syracuse. "He's way, way behind defensively. Syracuse is actually trying on defense this year; their zone is the reason they're doing well. For a college team it's a great way to guard, but for us it doesn't help. You watch some guys in college and you can see they help to make the zone better, and then you watch other guys like Johnson and it looks like they're trying to hide in the zone, and that if you pulled him out of the zone and asked him to play man-to-man against NBA players, it could be scary. But I hear he's a great kid and willing to work."
Two of the scouts rate Johnson as the No. 2 player in the draft. "He is
"Wesley Johnson is definitely worth talking about," said the scout who is skeptical of Wall. "He is a scorer, a complete package -- jack-of-all-trades, master of none. He grades out well in everything except for breaking you down and getting his own shot. A pretty good player."
"I just don't think this is a very good draft," said one team exec who rates Aldrich as a potential No. 4 pick. "There is going to be a group of seven or eight guys who separate themselves, which means that teams will pick for need. The order of teams in the lottery is going to determine who goes where in this draft.
"Aldrich is a solid, safe pick as a guy who is going to show up every night," the executive continued. "He's big and long, he has good hands, he knows how to play. Is he a go-to guy? Is he going to have the upside to become an All-Star? I don't know. But everybody needs bigs who are long and play hard every night and run the floor, who can catch and finish, who hit their free throws. He's an energy player, and when you put all of that together, you can't help but rate him somewhere this high."
Affirmed another scout: "Aldrich is going to be in there. A lot of it depends on how far Kansas goes this year. But he's already an NBA player -- not flashy, but he's a big man who can do a lot of things."
"But I will say," continued this exec, "a lot of [NBA] guys are down on Warren because of questions about character. [Oklahoma coach
Another potential choice for the top five is 7-foot
A couple of long-shot sophomores mentioned by the scouts are 6-8 Butler forward
Here's another scout on the 6-11 Monroe: "He's not a jumping-jack, but he's a good athlete who rebounds the ones he should get, and he's an average shot-blocker. What he has going for him is that he's one of the best-passing bigs I've ever seen. That makes him a great complementary player if you're looking for someone to blend in."
Another highly rated prospect is 6-10 Georgia Tech freshman
I should have mentioned Ellis as a candidate because of the impressive numbers he's compiled. But there's no way a guy from such a bad team should displace someone like
Horford is a center, while Lee is listed on the ballot as a forward and, therefore, is competing against a larger pool of candidates. It's hard to argue that he should be an All-Star ahead of
You make a lot of strong points, Matt, and I did consider Bogut. But the East is so bad this year that I decided to focus on teams above or near .500. Shouldn't there be minimum standards for excellence? The simple answer to your question is that Bogut needs to score 17 points more often in order to drive his team to more wins and drive himself to the All-Star Game, and I believe someday he'll manage to do all of that.
I think you put it well: Bargnani is closing in on that level. To get there he needs to rebound closer to double figures (right now he's at a lowly 6.4 per game, and 18th in rebounds per minute among Eastern centers), as well as develop more of an inside presence as a scorer. The other consideration when it comes to Bargnani as a future All-Star is whether
The number of regular-season games will not decrease because fewer games would mean less revenue. The owners are demanding more revenue from the next CBA; they'll want a larger share of revenues overall and shorter contracts for the players. As much as the quality of play might improve without back-to-backs, the league is going to avoid any move that brings in less money.
You're right that the Thunder won't owe the $30 million now that that the Dec. 31 deadline has passed without the Washington legislature approving upgrades to KeyArena. The other part of the equation is something the NBA would like to reverse: The league would like to move a team back into Seattle, a large market with a long-term following for basketball. But it's going to be a rough sell because of the bad feelings that followed the Sonics' departure to Oklahoma City. Maybe I'm wrong, but I have a hard time imagining anyone of political power pushing for the return of the NBA to Seattle anytime in the near future.
He feels fortunate. "I did well when I played," he said. So well that he doesn't worry so much about how much money he is making now. "Someone was telling me the other day, if you can find something you enjoy doing, then you do that. And I enjoy doing this.
"I never really thought about doing it before. The organization asked me what I thought about it. I was in a situation where physically I couldn't play anymore [because of chronic knee problems]. I had been around the younger guys and maybe I had made an impact on them, so maybe I could try it and see."
It isn't easy to persuade players to behave differently than he himself behaved when he was a player. "When I was a player, I picked up stuff at my own speed and matured at my own speed," he said. "And now I see guys doing the same thing."
"It's just understanding the game and seeing the game in different ways -- what works, what doesn't work, ball movement ... all of the little nuances of the game that coaches talked about, but you didn't really appreciate how important they were. I watch the game from a different perspective now."
After that game, Cuban argued the referees improperly called a second technical foul on center
I am told the NBA has been calling up officials from the D-League over the first half of this season to referee games as part of a program (written into the collective bargaining agreement) to prepare them for eventual careers in the NBA. The program will conclude this month, with no more call-ups for the rest of the season.
No one is against the idea of working younger officials into the NBA. The worries come when two younger officials are gaining on-the-job experience while making (in theory) two-thirds of the calls in an important game. On Wednesday, Goble and Forte were paired with 17-year referee
A league insider said four referees retired before this season and were replaced by younger officials, further increasing the need to work new refs into the rotations. Even so, wouldn't it be in everyone's best interest to enable inexperienced referees to learn without having their presence dominate the game? In addition, wouldn't it be better to schedule them to games at the end of the season involving non-playoff teams? This is not meant to turn into a criticism of promising young refs like Goble and Forte -- on the contrary, this is about improving a system designed to help them.