Thursday, June 28, 2012

NBA Draft Day: Warriors Take Barnes

Well folks, it's finally here. The NBA draft is just a few hours away and we're inching closer and closer to finding out who the Warriors will take with their elusive 7th pick.

Unfortunately for Golden State, the draft isn't the only newsworthy piece of information to come out of Golden State Thursday. I'm not going to really talk about it much here, cause I don't know much about it, but apparently Coach Mark Jackson was a victim of a scandelous extortion scheme involving a stripper. You could probably put two and two together to figure out what the basis of the extortion charge is, but I just hope this doesn't take Jackson's focus off of the draft. He's obvioulsy the victim in this, so I do feel for him, even if he never met this woman, his name still gets dragged through the mud, but that's the price you pay these days to be a high-end public figure. Anyhow, that's off-field, non-basketball related news so I'll leave that to the legal analysts and pundits to talk about, cause there is much more important things happening at Warriors headquarters tonight.

All I've been hearing over the last few days is exactly what I posted in our previous post a few days ago. The Warriors look like they will indeed hold onto all their picks and will have to make a choice on somebody at pick 7. The thing is, I don't even think they know who they're going to pick yet, and probably won't until they see how the first 4-5 picks shake out. They could still be holding out hope that a Barnes or Drummond fall to them, but at the same time, they need to be prepared and have a plan B ready. Everyone in the Bay Area sports media seems to believe that Plan B is Dion Waiters, which I mentioned last post, but it's really anyones guess at this point. There was also a rumor floating around Wednesday that the Warriors could trade down in the draft and acquire two mid-round picks. I think they're playing it by ear though, and we won't see them do anything until the draft starts, if they do make a move at all... Be sure to check back with us after the picks role in for player analysis and thoughts. Until then, in Bob Myers and Coach Jackson we trust, kind of.

SF Harrison Barnes
Warriors Draft Harrison Barnes: The pick is in, and the guy I was really hoping would fall to Golden State, ended up doing just that. The Warriors biggest need heading into this offseason was at small forward, and in my mind, they just got themselves the 2nd best one in the draft, with the possibility to be the best. Barnes was picked on most mock drafts to go anywhere from pick 3 through 5, but most pundits had him coming off the board before the Warriors picked at 7. Barnes averaged over 17 points per game last season for UNC, and most people think he lost his chance at being the number 2 pick by not finishing the season off strong with a good tournament showing. He's a better offensive player than #2 pick Michael Kidd-Gillchrist, but he's not quite the defender. His best attribute heading into his rookie season is by far his jump shot. He's a tremendous athlete and shoots the ball at the peak of his jump, making it next to impossible to block. The one area he'll have to improve on is his inside play and being more aggressive in attacking the rim. All in all, love this pick as Barnes is not only a special, consensus top-5 talent, but also helps fill the biggest need on the floor for the Warriors. Here is a video of Barnes vs. Virginia Tech from January to get an idea of his style of play. As you can see, a great shooter that should fit right in with Klay Thompson and Steph Curry.

The W's are next up at 30, and with their defensive needs in the front court, one guy to keep an eye on is Syracuse center Fab Melo. We'll have that pick coming up with thoughts on that as well. Stay tuned...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Warriors Draft Talk, Thoughts on Heat

OK, there's a new NBA Champion and we're just 4 days away from draft day. The Warriors appear ready and set to select a player at 7, as trade attempts have fallen through so far, but you never know what will happen until draft night.

Warriors looking at Waiters
Apparently the Warriors are still working on trying to obtain a veteran small forward with some of their draft picks, but the chances of that happening don't appear too likely. Therefore, unless they find a partner to swap with on draft night, they'll have to choose someone at pick-7, and it looks to me like they don't know quite who to take at this point. They worked out 7 more guys this week, but if they're leaning towards one guy or another, they've played it close to the vest. What I've gotten from all the reports I've read is the Warriors really haven't been all that impressed with the options they'll likely have at 7, which is a big reason why they've been trying so desperately to deal the pick. I still like Kentucky's Terrence Jones, who didn't shoot well in his workout but displayed his aggressiveness and abilities to rebound and play defense, two qualities this team needs badly. It sounds like he's fallen on most teams draft boards though, and Warriors GM Bob Myers said his team will take the best available player at 7, whether it's a guard, a forward or a center. In a perfect world, Harrison Barnes falls to them, but the name I keep hearing is the talented SG out of Syracuse, Dion Waiters.

Wade gets #2
We'll have a Draft Preview post before the draft and examine more closely a few of the players most likely in the Warriors' cross-hairs, but I also wanted to talk a bit about the NBA finals that just wrapped up. LeBron James was amazing, and deservedly won MVP of the series.But the two overlooked guys, in my mind, for the Champion Miami Heat is the guy who brought them home the 2006 tittle, Dwayne Wade, and their tremendous coach, Erik Spoelstra. After that loss to the Mavs last season, I thought that Spoelstra would be the guy who would bear the brunt of the failure and end up losing his job. However, all he did during this playoff run was prove that he too learned from the 2011 upset to the Mavericks. He took over a team with 3 guys that were always option number one for their respective teams, and managed to get those 3 to not only mesh, but play together like powerhouse. That's a leader for you. This is also where I think D-Wade helped a lot. As great as LeBron is, Wade is older and more mature than James, had been there before and won and seemed willing to do whatever he had to in order to ensure the "Big Three" would be successful. He went from being one of the leagues premiere stars himself to playing 2nd fiddle to LeBron and did it terrifically, and selflessly. Qualities that are hard to find in modern day NBA stars.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Heat Take Commanding Lead in NBA Finals

Well, my original prediction from before the season is just one win away from coming to fruition, but I'm not ready to count the Thunder out just yet.

'The King' Rises!
Before the season, due to their failure in last years Finals and continued cohesiveness of their 2nd year together, I like many NBA pundits believed the Heat to be the best bet to win the 2012 NBA Finals. However, once the playoffs rolled around, and I was witnessing the Thunder just lay teams down while the Heat barely squeaked by the ancient Boston Celtics, I thought the young Thunder team was the hot hand and would upset Miami in the Finals. I should have stuck with my original pick, because after their game one loss in Oklahoma, the Miami Heat have turned into a determined powerhouse. They've turned into the team I was expecting them to be throughout the playoffs, and it's no coincidence they've blown by the uber-talented Thudner with 3 straight victories. LeBron James came into this series with a chip on his shoulder, and he's done more than his part to help remove that metaphorical chip. All James did in the pivotal game four was miss a triple-double by 1 rebound, and he did it all on one leg. However, the reason why Miami won game four and took the commanding 3-1 lead is because they had another player step up besides Wade and LeBron. In game two it was Chris Bosh, and in game four, it was point guard Mario Chalmers who pitched in 25 points to go along with a couple of steals and assists.

Now the Thunder have their backs to the wall for game 5 in Miami Thursday, where the Heat can bring home the crown with just one more victory. At this point, even though the series is still alive, it would be tough not to pick Miami, as they've got the two home games coming up and just need one more victory. The Thunder are good enough to pull off 3 wins in a row, but I'm not sure this determined Miami team will let that happen. I do know one thing, it will be a ruckus atmosphere in Miami Thursday as Heat fans most certainly want this accomplished on their home floor. All the Thunder can do know is focus on one game at a time and try and get this series back to OKC.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Heat, Thunder Tied at 1-1

We're two games into the NBA Finals, and things have gone exactly as I was suspecting they would. I picked the Thunder in 7, and they've shown up in both games, narrowly missing a comeback win in game two that would have put them up 2-0.

The Two Stars
However, as I also suspected, the Heat look pretty darn determined as well, and they certainly aren't going to be an easy task for OKC. If the Heat do lose this series, it definitely won't be because of LeBron James. 'The King' has been on point in the first two games of this series, but hadn't gotten very little help from the other two Miami superstars, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh up until last night. Wade shot a lot better in Thursday's game, going 10-20 from the field and finishing with 24 points after shooting just 33% from the field in game one. Also, Bosh returned to the starting lineup for the first time since May 13th, taking the place of Udonis Haslem, and although he didn't have the biggest offensive impact, he played an all-around solid game and helped the Heat compete with OKC's big men. Bosh scored 16 points and reeled in 15 boards for the Heat Thursday, after he had just 10 and 5 in game 1. LeBron pitched in 32 points, 8 boards and 5 assists to lead Miami, and even with all three guys playing well, they hardly held off the rampant Thunder. The biggest surprise for the Heat Thursday though, came from the hands of Shane Battier as the defensive-minded forward pitched in 17 points, going 5-7 from beyond the arc.

In order for Miami to keep the pressure on the Thunder, that's the formula they're going to have to use to success in this series as they'll need contributions from more than just LeBron and Wade if they want to win this thing. Still, the Thunder almost beat Miami Thursday despite getting a rough shooting night from Russell Westbrook. I talked a lot about Westbrook in our Finals Preview at The Bay Area Sports Journal, and the
Westbrook the Key for OKC
most important key in order for the Thunder to take this series is they need to have Westbrook contributing positively on offense. I know he still scored 27 points, but it shouldn't take him 26 field goal and 7 free throw attempts in order to reach that mark. He's still a young player and is learning, but one thing he's got to do more often, and something he displayed well during the San Antonio series is dishing the ball off more when he doesn't have his shot. The Thunder have a variety of shooters and scorers on their team, they don't always need Westbrook to score 25+ points. He needs to start facilitating and looking for the open man more often on this big stage. Miami is smart enough to know who has the hot hand, and if Westbrook is struggling and still shooting, Miami will take advantage of that. I still think this is OKC's series to lose, but they have to show more smarts and experience than they did in game 2.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Warriors Work Out the 'Joneses'

The Warriors took a closer look at two potential top-10 picks in the NBA Draft which takes place in just 2 short weeks. According to the Mercury News, the Warriors had in Baylor's Perry Jones III and Kentucky's Terrence Jones on Monday.

Terrence Jones
Both players project out to be small forwards at the next level, but if you believe the reports coming out of these workouts, the Warriors brass apparently wasn't overly impressed with what they saw. Both players have the "tweener" issue, as both played power forward in college, but will likely be moved to the 3-spot in the NBA. According to Marcus Thompson's report on the workout, neither player stood out like they did at school in their workouts with the Golden State. Perry Jones looks more like a project player in my eyes, and judging from how he did in the workout, it seems like that will be the case for whatever team drafts him. His shot was ugly and that was an area of concern for the team about this particular player. PJIII plays with high energy and can do multiple things with the basketball, but he's not great at any one area of his game, and the Warriors need to find someone who does a few things exceptionally. It sounds to me like Terrence Jones had the better workout of the two, and has more the size and ball-handling skills for a SF. The only issue with him is the Warriors are very worried about his lack of an outside shot. He moves well, has the size and speed to keep up with most 3's at the next level, but it seems like he just has to tighten up his shooting. He got overshadowed a lot by Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gillchrist at Kentucky, but he's cut from a very similar mold as MKG, the projected #2 pick in the upcoming draft. Terrence is built more like a LeBron James at 6'9" and 250 pounds, and is a guy who seems more likely able to turn into the true #3 in the NBA, though neither stole the show Monday.

In other draft-related news pertaining to the 'Dubs', they apparently are tantalized with the possibility of UConn center Andre Drummond fall to them at 7. This one kind of surprises me and at the same time, makes a lot of sense. Fact is, if a guy like Drummond and then Perry Jones are sitting on the board together when the Warriors pick, it would be hard to pass up the potential that Drummond possesses. The 6'11'', 275 pound 18-year old had an impact with The University of Connecticut his freshman year, and very well may have passed up the opportunity to be the top pick in the 2013 draft by declaring the same year as Anthony
Andre Drummond
Davis. The kid is a physical freak who's drawn comparisons to Dwight Howard, but also has some major motivational issues to deal with. That was one of the things that have apparently scared teams in the top-5 away from taking the center. Another thing that rubbed some teams the wrong way was the interviews he did during his pro day. Many feel he didn't seem to care too much about what was being asked and some even went so far as to call him "immature". That very well may be the case, but again, the kid is 18 years old. I know your thinking, "Well the W's already have David Lee and know Andrew Bogut locked up for the long-term, why do they need another big?" and it's a fair question. However, Bogut has had health issues throughout his career and right now, the Warriors are pretty bare after Bogut and Lee up front. If they come upon the chance to potentially land one of the leagues next dominating big men, they need to jump on it!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

NBA Playoffs: Miami's Back to Wall

The Boston Celtics are playing like a team determined to make one last Championship run, and the Miami Heat are starting to experience the meltdown that cost them the NBA tittle last June.

KG Sinks One Over James
After taking a commanding 2-0 series lead, the Heat have hit a wall, and as much as people are pitting their failures on LeBron James, it's their team defense that has them melting down late in games. I know LeBron hasn't been at his best in the final minutes in recent games, and even appeared to look winded in last nights ballgame, but he still put up 30 points and 13 boards and did his job for the most part. Unfortunately for Miami though, it wasn't enough, as the aging Boston Celtics seemed to be playing with more energy and fire than the young, hungry Miami Heat in the waning minutes Tuesday. Kevin Garnett showed up big in Tuesday's game and has taken advantage of Chris Bosh's absence which to me, has been a huge factor for Miami's struggles in this series. They simply have no inside scoring presence, and have relied purely on Dwayne Wade and LeBron James taking jumper after jumper. More to the point, Miami's supporting cast isn't as strong as Boston's and the Heat are going to need a few players to step it up and extend their game if they want to stay alive past Thursday night's game. James is great, Wade is great, but guys like Chalmers, Haslem, Battier and Mike Miller, who were supposed to be strong role players for the Heat, have simply failed in this series. As much as people like to blame LeBron for Miami's losses, just imagine what they'd be without him? He's actually the only reason why the Heat are where they currently are after the injury plagued year Dwayne Wade had. If the Heat's 2nd-tiere players, and Chris Bosh, can't get it going immediately, Miami won't be returning to the NBA Finals.

Westbrook Goes Over TD
In the West, the Thunder have taken a page out of Boston's book, coming back from a 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead heading into game 6 Wednesday night, an elimination game for San Antonio. This series has been tooth and nail pretty much all the way through though, as every game besides game 3 has been decided in the final minutes of play and all have been single-digit victories. The Spurs are playing the Thunder tough, and I'm not ready to give up on them quite yet. Manu Ginobili has been the best player in this series, but much like with Miami, the Spurs are having trouble finding guys besides Manu, Parker and Duncan to give them offense. The Thunder have really made slowing Duncan a priority, putting stud defender Serge Ibaka on him defensively, and Ibaka has done an exceptional job. Their other stud defender, Thabo Sefolosha has also done a fine job defending in this series with 12 steals through 5 games. The Thunder still aren't getting great shooting from Russell Westbrook, but he's been doing other stuff to help make up for it, including a 12 assist, 4 rebound and 4 steal night in Monday's win. As long as Westbrook keeps distributing like he's been, Durrant keeps pumping in his 25-30 points and James Harden helps out with his 20 they're going to be fine. They have more than enough defense to win this series, so as long as they're young core doesn't go into any kind of offensive funk in the next few days, they'll be on their way to the Finals.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Warriors' Six Most Sensible Draft Targets

Unless the Warriors plan to move their top pick for a proven, young small forward yields fruitful, they're most likely going to be selecting a player at pick 7 at the upcoming NBA Draft in a few weeks. Here are the six most likely targets for the Warriors in terms of need and potential.

#1 Harrison Barnes, SF, UNC: Barnes is a special talent who can score from any spot on the floor. He can go to the hole and he's got an exceptional jumper. He can also hold his own on defense. Before the NCAA Tourney in March, he was a consensus top-3 for sure, but he had a sub-par tourney and it may hurt his draft stock. Still, it's likely wishful thinking that he'll fall all the way to 7, though a few draft guru sites having him doing just that. My guess is that he goes top-5 but if he does last till 7, the Warriors would be hard-pressed to pass on him. He's got the experience and skills to make the immediate impact in the NBA, and would be a sure-fire upgrade at small forward over Dorrell Wright and Richard Jefferson. He's the prototypical small forward and has a nice ceiling. He's the guy I'm pining my hopes on and would be ecstatic if the W's retrieved him.

Kentucky's MKG
#2 Michael Kidd-Gillchrist, SF, Kentucky: Now this is obviously the guy the Warriors would like to have if given their choice of players in this draft class (outside of Anthony Davis). The Warriors have shored up their center and power forward spot with two top offensive talents, but they need a defensive hog on that front line, and there's only one defender better than MKG in this draft and that's his teammate and 7-footer, Anthony Davis. As intriguing as it would be to acquire Davis, that's just not in the cards for Golden State seeing how he's basically guaranteed to be New Orleans top selection, and if you judge the way most mock-drafters are going, MKG will be going right behind him. The only way the Warriors could get the defensive mastermind is if they trade their 7th and 30th picks in round one this year, which will be a pretty price to pay judging on how deep this draft class is.  Gillchrist is younger and isn't as polished as Barnes, but most believe he'll have a little more upside at the NBA level.

#3 Terrance Jones, SF, Kentucky: Jones is someone I could definitely see the Warriors rolling the dice on. He too had his draft stock hurt by a sub-par tournament, but he's put up steady numbers at Kentucky, can play both the 3 and 4 positions and is not only a good scorer, but a great rebounder and tough defender. He's 6'9" and 250 pounds, but can move down the court well and should be able to match-up against smaller, quicker 3's. He's polished and ready to start, but also doesn't possess the natural gifted talent that Barnes and Gillchrist each display. Still, if I had to guess out of these six guys I'm naming, Jones then maybe Ross would be the guys to get my bet. Jones has size, can score and defend and the Warriors will always have a need for that type of player.

#4 Jeremy Lamb, SG, UConn: Lamb is one of the better scorers to come out in this years bunch, and his game is a mixture of both Klay Thompson and Monta Ellis'. He can shoot the rock, but he's also adept at getting by defenders and dishing the ball off to the open shooter. Most draft publications actually have Lamb going to Golden State at 7, but unless the Warriors have other plans for Thompson, I'm not sure I see it working that way. Thompson is taller at 6'7", and the Warriors could bulk him up in attempt to move him up to the 3 spot, but after his success in 2012, that may not be the best idea. However, the Warriors have acquired their front-court talent, and they have some post presence now, so adding another perimeter player with a strong skill-set may make some sense. Another thing to like about Lamb is that some of his best games last season came against the nations toughest teams.

#5 Perry Jones III, SF/PF, Baylor: The 6'11' 220 pound Jones is a bit of a tweener, as he's got the height of a center, weight of a small forward and game style of a power forward. In every sense of the word, the man is a tweener, but he's probably the biggest upside tweener in the 2012 draft. The kid brings an enormous amount of talent and potential to the table and has some very unique attributes. He could end up being the next Kevin Garnett, or he could end up being stuck in between the 3 and 4 spot, never finding his niche. He's the biggest risk/reward selection expected to go in the lottery, and the Warriors are apparently big fans of his. He's got length and can defend 3's and 4's plus he's a hawk out there on the glass, but he's still got to refine his offensive game and and develop his jumper.

T. Ross A Wild Card for 7?
#6 Terrence Ross, SF, Washington: Last but not least is the tremendously impressive Pac-12 sophomore out of UW. Ross isn't quite as big as the Warriors would want in a small forward at 6'7" and 200 pounds (identical size to Thompson), but he's got a frame that will fill out and should be just fine against most small forwards in the league. He's a steady defender, a heckuva shooter and a really smart player who can move without the ball and find the open guy. He almost reminds me a bit of Paul Pierce. Most have him projected to go towards the middle of round one, but if the Warriors like a player, they've shown no ill-will at grabbing him higher than projected. After averaging 27 points, 7 boards and 1.5 steals in the NIT tourney in March though, it may have knocked him into the top-10.

There are other guys the Warriors could look to, depending on what they feel their need is and whether or not they may be able to work out some way to sign Nick Batum away from Portland, but it seems like their top priority right now is finding a new small forward. It's why ever single player I mentioned here is or at least would help the W's fill that void. They could also look into talented big men Andre Drummond  or Jared Sullinger to give them depth up front, but I think they like what they saw out of Jeremy Tyler in April. Another guy to keep an eye on is talented Baylor freshman, Qunicy Miller... We'll a post looking into possible options at pick 30 coming up next!