This is seen as a two-star draft featuring
With the talent in the lottery so tightly packed, I asked five NBA executives to each come up with a dark horse in this draft -- a player who will turn into a formidable pro.
"But the main thing is I think he's better offensively than people give him credit for because of his twin,
I'm hearing three good ones:
Others scoff at the idea that Beasley will be more vulnerable in Miami than other players. "Like the rest of the league is choir boys?'' another GM said. "I get the concern with Beasley, but this is the time of the year when everything gets overanalyzed.''
I'm told the trade can work only if the Heat are assured of being able to draft Mayo at No. 5. The problem is that Mayo is still heavily in play at No. 3 for Minnesota, which by all accounts has yet to decide on its pick (and may trade it as well), and Mayo is also on the board for Seattle at No. 4.
For this rumored deal to be consummated, either Minnesota's pick needs to be included in a complicated three-team trade, or else both Miami and Memphis must wait out the third and fourth picks on draft night before launching a Beasley-Mayo exchange.
"I don't believe it's going to happen,'' said an executive of a team with a top 10 pick. "I hear Minnesota is now saying they're going to take Mayo, which is the smart thing for them to do.''
Said Grizzlies GM
The bottom line: Beasley is this draft's most talented individual. Until proved otherwise, I'm assuming he winds up in Miami.
"I'm not so surprised,'' a Western Conference GM said. "He's pretty versatile, and he can shoot it a little bit, so I can see why Nellie [coach
"I've heard from another team in the top 15 that they're looking at Thompson too,'' a team president said.
Said another GM: "Golden State is all over the map. "They have that big trade exception [of $9.9 million from last year's trade of
"Think about it this way,'' a GM said. "If you're a playoff team and you want to use some or all of your mid-level exception this summer, then you take a guy like Ibaka and let him continue to develop in Europe [he currently plays for CB L'Hospitalet in Spain] while he stays off your cap.''
The threshold for Ibaka appears to be at No. 20. That pick belongs to the Nuggets, whose vice president,
To get Robin Lopez they'll probably need to be in the teens, and I doubt they would give up Foye to do it. But maybe they can find a big man they like early in the second round.
The Timberwolves have been difficult to project. By many accounts, they've liked Brook Lopez, Mayo and Love. If somebody wants to trade up for their pick to take Mayo at No. 3, they'll be interested in listening.
There is no doubt that Jordan played in a different environment. Defenders were far more physical on the perimeter with hand-checking (remember the defense
"The rules are completely different now,'' Bryant told me in November. "I've always been able to shoot the ball, but the rules have changed since he played in terms of playing a zone defense. You have to be a jump shooter now because there's no way you can get to the basket -- particularly myself because they just stack guys up. I wish we had the rules they had back in the day where you could isolate guys and you could go to the basket anytime. But now you have to be able to shoot.''
I disagree that this style makes the game boring. Few teams execute defensively as the Celtics did this year through
Kobe's, without a doubt. See below.
But all year long I was arguing that Rivers did the best coaching job in the league, and the Finals affirmed that. He turned a bunch of high-scoring individuals into a team that shared the ball and played defense. He was secure enough to give control of the defensive end to assistant
Those who want to say that Rivers was the superior coach in the Finals should focus on his work over the course of the season, because no coach in the history of the league has ever pulled together so many loose ends to form a championship team in one short season. By the time they reached the Finals, the Celtics were playing as cohesively as some of those Spurs teams that have been together for years. It was not as easy to weave that team together as Rivers made it look.
Rivers beat the Lakers in the fine details. For example, the Celtics scored at a high rate following timeouts, which is a small but important measure of a coach's influence on the game. Rivers would design a play and more often than not the Celtics would execute it for a good shot. Too many times the Lakers were unable to execute offensively coming out of their huddles ... because of Boston's superior defense, of course.
"In the end, it's going to be a defining moment for Kobe,'' said a rival team executive whose opinion echoes the feelings of many in the league, I believe. "The comparisons with Michael Jordan can stop now. Kobe had multiple good quarters in the Finals, but the defense always found a way to stop him. Jordan used to let the game come to him, but in the end he could amass points and usually answer in the clutch. Kobe didn't make shots when he needed to make shots, and he didn't have the ability to instill in the rest of the guys that [feeling of] 'we're going to get this done.' It's hard to pinpoint what it is exactly, but you either have it or you don't.''
I have a different view. Instead of criticizing them for their failures in the final round, I tend to applaud the Lakers for doing as well as they did. The midseason injury to
Bryant must continue his trend of putting his teammates in situations to make plays. Over the next season, they need to develop the mentality of making big plays so that they'll be able to come through in key moments next year when the defense focuses on shutting down Bryant.
The champions have a lot of issues themselves. The Celtics must retain Posey, who is expected to opt out from his $3.5 million salary for next season and could demand the full mid-level exception of more than $5 million annually -- which would turn into a $10 million expenditure for Boston because of the luxury tax. A decision must be made on restricted free agent
Considering the ages of
I can tell you that a lot of people in the league believe this too: that there are referees who know which outcome their bosses would like to see, and in subtle ways they try to nudge the result in that direction.
But there are employees in every organization who do what they think the boss wants from them. Why should the NBA be any different? Stern is a strong executive, and as a matter of human nature there are going to be officials who will try to advance their careers by making decisions they assume will be pleasing to the boss.
So, is the NBA doing a good job of stamping out this kind of conduct when it occurs? Or is it subtly encouraged? I don't know the answer.
I do know it's a difficult thing for any organization to police itself in these kinds of situations, which is why Phil Jackson would like the referees to become a separate association outside the control of the NBA. (It isn't going to happen.)
I've never had the sense that the NBA completely understands how to oversee its referees or relate to them. The latest example is Stern's idea that players be penalized for flopping. There are so many difficult judgment calls that referees must make already, and now they'll be given another area to oversee? If anything, the NBA should be trying to simplify the game for its referees instead of making it more complex.
I see why Stern is anti-flopping: He is trying to discourage needless collisions that put $10 million players at risk to injury. But this kind of suggestion demonstrates that issues troubling to NBA referees are not the priority, even at the height of the