Category Archives: NBA Draft
The Northwest division has seen a lot of activity this offseason, with the division’s bottom feeders making a multitude of moves in hopes of catching up with the cream-of-the-crop. Last year’s champs and NBA runner-up, Oklahoma City, returns their entire core and added a few interesting pieces through free agency and the draft. The deep but star-less Nuggets will also be trotting out a very similar roster as last year. But the Blazers, Wolves, and Jazz all saw some drastic changes to their rosters. In fact, the Blazers and Wolves engaged in one of the offseason’s more interesting story-lines as they bid for young, versatile Frenchman Nicolas Batum. There were rumors circling this particular negation that it may be personal between Wolves GM David Kahn and Blazers owner Paul Allen, as Allen had previously dealt the Wolves damaged goods in the form of Martell Webster a few years back. Allen ultimately decided to match the offer-sheet and keep Batum in Portland, but only after agreeing to pay a steep salary increase. There are plenty of intriguing story-lines in the division, and I expect it to play out as one of the more competitive in the league next season. Without further ado, a deeper look into the activity in the Northwest division.
Oklahoma City Thunder (1st Place 2011-2012)
Players Added: Perry Jones III, Hasheem Thabeet, Hollis Thompson
Players Lost: Royal Ivey
The Dime: Fresh off a terrific season and a trip to the NBA finals, OKC was able to make a big splash in the draft. As uber-talented, but enigmatic Perry Jones III slid down the draft board, my fellow Dimer Mr. Bohlin and I were fervently sending messages back and forth hoping the Wiz would find a way to trade up into the bottom half of the draft for him. However, Sam Presti burst our bubble by selecting the Baylor forward. I think is a terrific fit for the Thunder as he is able to defend multiple positions and can get up and down the floor (the trend in the NBA is moving toward very versatile, very athletic wings) and he will be able to play a role but will not be expected to be a star, which we all expected from him at Baylor and why his short career was so disappointing. The GM also added UCONN bust Hasheem Thabeet (his track record is terrific, makes it tougher to doubt him on this pick-up) and former-Georgetown sharp-shooter Hollis Thompson. The rest of the crew is expected to be back next year, when Presti will be faced with much tougher situations when extensions for rising starts James Harden and Serge Ibaka will be due. If they are able to secure one, or both, of these players to remain alongside KD and Russell Westbrook than the Thunder will be poised to continue making deep runs in the playoffs for years to come. It will be interesting to see if the Thunder are tempted at the trade deadline this year to move either of these rising starts to ensure they can get assets in return, but I have my doubts they’d be willing to do this as they are primed for a title run next year.
Denver Nuggets (2nd Place 2011-2012)
Players Added: Evan Fournier, Quincy Miller, Anthony Randolph
Players Lost: Chris “Birdman” Anderson
The Dime: The Nuggets are one of the NBA’s most cohesive and well coached teams. Their performance on the floor always seems to exceed the expectations that their level of talent suggest is possible. Their team lacks an identifiable star or even a clear cut best player, but their free-wheeling, up-and-down style of play gives teams fits in the Denver altitude. It has been an interesting off-season in the Mile-High City. Fan-favorite Birdman has been told thanks, but no thanks, and received the amnesty ax. They signed former Wizard headache Javale McGee to a ridiculous 4 year $44 million contract. They drafted one of the few international players in this year’s draft, 3-point shooting Frenchman Evan Fournier (I’m never a huge supporter of drafting internationals). George Karl will again have his hands full figuring out how to balance the minutes of this talented and deep Nuggets roster. I will be interested to continue to watch the emergence of DC-native Ty Lawson (did you see how he fried the Lakers??!!) this year and see if he is able to make the next step in his development. A trendy pick for playoff success last year, I think that this is the year the balanced Nuggets will break through and make some noise come playoff time.
Utah Jazz (3rd Place 2011-2012)
Players Added: Shan Foster, Randy Foye, Mo Williams, Marvin Williams
Players Lost: Devin Harris
The Dime: The Utah Jazz have an incredibly talented front-court. With Derrick Favors, Al Jefferson, Enes Kanter and Paul Millsap the Jazz can score in the paint, bang on the boards, and defend the rim with the best in the West. However, it’s their back-court that’s needed upgrading since Deron Williams forced himself out of town. This offseason the Jazz tried to address those needs, by adding two former Clippers, Mo Williams and Randy Foye, as well as selecting Shan Foster in the draft. Although these players are talented, I do not think the Jazz have the guard play necessary to really make a move up the standings. Although they can be a tough match-up for anyone because of their size, the Jazz are moving against the NBA-trend of getting smaller and more athletic, a culture move I believe will keep their tires spinning but not moving forward.
Portland Trailblazers (4th Place 2011-2012)
Players Added: Damian Lillard, Meyers Leonard, Sasha Pavlovic, Will Barton, Dan Gadzuric, Ronnie Price, Jared Jefferies
Players Lost: Marcus Camby, Raymond Felton, Jonny Flynn, Joel Pryzbilla, Hasheem Thabeet, Jamal Crawford, Elliot Williams
The Dime: The Blazers have had one of the league’s most dramatic facelifts since season end, adding 7 new players to their roster of 15 this offseason. The “star” of the bunch is first-round pick Damian Lillard out of Weber St. This kid is going to be a player without question, and if the summer league is any indication, we can expect him and LaMarcus Aldridge to be a dangerous pick-and-roll/pop tandem. The Blazers also added former- Illinois 7-footer Meyers Leonard, hoping they can buck the trend of their drafted big-men having health issues. Although highly skilled, I personally don’t see Leonard being an impact pro. I really liked their selection of Will Barton, a slashing scorer from Memphis who will be able to provide some energy and athleticism off their bench. Their biggest offseason headline has to be their bidding war with David Kahn and the Wolves for the young and talented Nicolas Batum. Signed to a $46 million offer-sheet in Minnesota, the Blazers decided to match the offer for the versatile French swingman. Don’t get me wrong, Batum is a terrific player and can be an important piece for a winning team, but he can never be THE piece for a winner. He will be expected to really up his production from last year and provide a complement to their All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge. I will be watching closely to see if Batum is up to the challenge.
Minnesota Timberwolves (5th Place 2011-2012)
Players Added: Dante Cunningham, Andrei Kirilenko (Pictured above), Robbie Hummel, Chase Buddinger
Players Lost: Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson, Darko Milicic, Brad Miller, Anthony Randolph, Wayne Ellington, Anthony Tolliver
The Dime: The Wolves were one of the NBA’s most exiting teams last year with Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, quickly becoming a must-see game. Exciting or not, they still finished in dead last in their division. Kevin Love has already come out and said he does not want to play for a bottom-feeder, which means the time is now for the Wolves to return to the winning ways they haven’t seen since KG was the “Big Ticket” in Minneapolis. This offseason was intriguing for the Wolves, and I really liked the moves the notorious David Kahn made (first time that sentence has EVER been muttered about Kahn’s decisions as GM). His pursuit of Batum, although they did not land him, made basketball sense (SF is their biggest need and Batum is an athletic small forward, who can defend, rebound, and shoot the three). They added Chase Buddigner to help provide some offensive fire-power and further stretch the floor, and brought back Andrei Kirilenko to the NBA after a year’s hiatus in Europe. Their recent trade for my former teammate Dante Cunningham provides some additional inside depth. With Rubio returning from last season’s knee injury, the Wolves believe they are poised to improve on their performance from last season and make a push for the playoffs in the next two seasons.
Wizards first round pick Bradley Beal was one of 13 players named to the NBA All-Summer League team last night. This was Beal’s first chance to prove his mettle as the number three overall pick and the early returns are encouraging. The Wizards lottery pick finished the summer averaging 17.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists while leading the Wizards to a 3-2 record.
Last night, Washington Post columnist Mike Wise released the full transcript of a 45-minute interview he had earlier this week with Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis. There were many interesting tid bits of information in this piece and Ted was extremely candid in his responses to Wise’s questioning addressing coaching hires, the growth of John Wall, new types of technology the Wizards are using and, of course, the amnesty of Andray Blatche. After taking the time to read the interview I have prepared a few thoughts on some of the comments, as well as others pertaining to the Wizards, made by Leonsis.
Additions to the coaching staff:
The addition of Don Newman to the bench as an assistant coach is a major move towards the Wizards going from bottom-feeder to competitive NBA franchise in the eyes of Leonsis. As he put it “Part of the rolling the stone up the hill is changing the culture and going from losing to winning. We have to make the investments in scouting and all the little things – coaching, player development.” Leonsis followed this up by hinting that the Wizards weren’t done adding to the coaching staff noting that there should be more news coming out concerning the hiring of assistant’s to Randy Wittman as well as shooting coaches to help nurture some of our younger players games. One thing that stuck out to me while reading this transcript was how much emphasis Leonsis has placed on giving the investments he has made in our roster everything they need in order to be successful.
Importance of Nene to the team:
Leonsis was very up-front with Wise as to how pleased he has been with the acquisition of Nene. “Nene, he’s a really good player, he’s a really good person and he’s a really good leader. And he is happy to be here. We bonded. That was important.” He goes on to note how great of a job Nene has done in helping mentor the Wizards breakout performer from 2011-2012, Kevin Seraphin, up until this point. As we have all seen by now Seraphin took a major step forward in his development last season once Wittman took the helm, with the type of knowledge of the NBA game that Nene could provide to Seraphin this could be a major benefit to the French National Team member as his professional career continues to evolve.
On the Rashard Lewis trade:
Much like he was with the Gilbert Arenas trade, Leonsis was extremely impressed in Ernie Grunfeld’s ability to deal Rashard Lewis and the $23,ooo per minute played for the Wizards last year for two rotation players in Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. “We took the second-highest-paid player in the league…and replaced him with two players that will play big minutes who each averaged 10-15 points a game. We were getting 0 from Rashard.” I couldn’t agree with this sentiment more. Even though there are still some people who are not happy with the trade Grunfeld was able to secure the Wizards something for essentially the paper that Rashard Lewis’ max contract was written on. We may not all love Grunfeld’s draft record but if there is something that we can all agree on it is his ability to be a shrewd negotiator when it comes to trades with other franchises.
On the development of John Wall:
Naturally, Ted had a plethora of thoughts on the development of the Wizards franchise player, John Wall, as he heads into year three of his NBA career. Leonsis is of the opinion, which is shared by most fans, that the best has yet to come for Wall and his third season with the Wizards should be the next step in his path to becoming an All-NBA level PG. “John has a lot of upside still in his game. Compare his stats the first two years in the league against the stars guards and point guards in the league — Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Rondo — he compares favorably with them. So this is an important year for John.”
This is clearly what every Wizards fan hopes is the case. Wall needs to continue to improve upon his game in a major way going into this season in order to solidify himself as one of the leagues premier floor generals. The strong veteran presence he now has surrounding him along with a very impressive draft pick Beal should lend Wall the chance to fully realize the vast potential that is evident in his game. This is the year where all those other guards that Leonsis compared John Wall’s first two seasons to broke up and became the stars that they are today, it’s time for Wall to step up to the plate and be the leader and cornerstone of this franchise that we all believe he can be.
On whether next season is Playoffs or bust:
Leonsis has been quoted on multiple occasions as saying that he does not plan on being back in the NBA Draft Lottery next season. I would venture to say that all Wizards fans want this to be the case come the end of April in 2013. Wise used this quotation to pose the question of whether or not jobs would be on the line were the Wizards to fall short of that goal. “I won’t be happy with our plan if we’re back in the lottery . . . If we just miss making a playoff spot, no, the world is not going to end. If we’re picking third because we have the second-worst record, no, I will not be happy.”
Leonsis clearly wants to see marked improvement from his franchise as they move into the third, and according to Leonsis and Grunfeld, final year of the “rebuild”. Should the Wizards lay an egg next season and once again finish towards the bottom of the NBA I would have to imagine there will be some wholesale changes going on throughout different levels of the franchise. I am not going to be the ignorant fan whose expectations are so lofty that the team will potentially fall short of said goals. The Wizards will without a doubt be a better, more competitive team than they were last season. Will that translate into being one of the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference? I am not sure, but with the addition made at the trade deadline last year and the moves Grunfeld has completed in the off-season thus far there is reason for hope that the Wizards will once again return to playing competitive, winning basketball.
On new technologies utilized in scouting and developing talent:
This was news to me, apparently the Wizards have made some large investments in the technological side of the franchise. One proponent of this is a man by the name of Joe Sill and according to Leonsis, Sill has quite the impressive resume. “Joe presents on occasion at that stats thing at MIT. Double-math PHd. He’s almost like a technical trader on Wall St. I can pick a company you should invest in. He’ll never meet the CEO, but he knows from the numbers which ones to pick.” Must be nice right? This isn’t to say that the Wizards are attempting to become the “Moneyball” Oakland A’s but as Leonsis later mentions, “there is a big, big role in informing some decisions.”
Just to throw out a couple of particulars that Leonsis used to help prove this point; The Wizards defensive rebounding totals went up “dramatically” when Nene was acquired for Javale McGee, specifically the amount of rebounds that Wizards guards were reeling in. ” If your forwards are pushing their men out, that’s not a stat. That’s something you follow. That means the guards have the opportunity to get the rebounds and initiate their own break.” Hard to argue with that point at all.
Also worth noting, the Wizards are one of the few teams in the NBA that have installed HD super heat-seeking missile cameras. Yes, that’s right, we are using heat-seeking missile cameras to track our players while on the court. According to Leonsis, “This thing creates real-time heat maps. Literally you can get down to the pixels on the floor. Where are the shots being taken, where are the shots being made, where are the picks being made. It does interesting things like, how many dribbles on a fast break does your guard hold the ball before he dishes off, and was their a good shot made versus other guards in the league.” This kind of asset will go an extremely long way when it comes to player development, especially when utilized it practice sessions.
The ability to tell a guard that by dribbling two less times before making a pass that he would be 70% more likely to convert said opportunity is a fantastic teaching tool. It shouldn’t be overly surprising that a man who made the majority of his riches with AOL would be well ahead of the curve when it comes to the use of different technologies and how they can be used as teaching mechanisms in sports. I couldn’t agree with Leonsis more when he says, “Bringing in these analytics, bringing in high IQ, good people it’s all a part of trying to change a losing culture to a winning culture,” and a winning culture is what we need to re-establish here in the district.
On retaining Randy Wittman as head coach:
Wise plugged away at Leonsis’ decision to retain GM Ernie Grunfeld as well as head coach Randy Wittman with the Wizards organization. In response, Leonsis mentioned how he handled the exit interviews with all of the Wizards players and one of the questions he asked each and every Wizards player was their thoughts on how Wittman had done as their head coach. Leonsis noted that before he could even pose the question to Nene he was met with an extremely positive endorsement of Wittman. “Before I could ask the question, Nene was, ‘I played for a lot of coaches in the league. This is a really good coach. I really like how he treated me. I really like he taught the team. I think he works really good. I like him. I trust him. He’s authentic.’”
John Wall shared similar sentiments with Leonsis when it was time for his exit interview. “Then John Wall came in and said, ‘I know you want to bring a big-name coach in. I think you have a coach who can help me. I think the coach is doing a great job. So please keep Randy.’” Yet another endorsement from one of the teams marquee players.
Finally, Leonsis noted how Kevin Seraphin reacted to the question about Wittman during his exit interview. “Hey, he believed in me. He let me play. He developed my game. He yells at me. I like when he yells at me. Because he’s right when he yells at me.”
Needless to say, Randy Wittman had left a mark on this roster during his time as the Wizards interim head coach. These types of endorsements from the teams core players surely made the decision to retain Wittman as the Wizards permanent head coach an easy one for Leonsis and Grunfeld.
On the amnesty of Andray Blatche:
The obvious elephant in the room would center around none other than the decision to use the amnesty clause on Andray Blatche. Despite Leonsis’ belief that people deserve second and third chances in life this was a business decision that quite frankly had to be made. There were worries over where Blatche fit in with the lineup as it was currently constructed as well as the fact that he was the final holdover from the Gilbert Arenas era Wizards.
Wise pressed forward by asking Leonsis how he felt now about the extension that was given to Blatche in 2010 when compared to his quotes from two years ago where he repeatedly said how he felt signing Blatche to an extension was a great idea. Leonsis, resigned to the fact that the deal was a mistake had the following reply; “Yes — we made a mistake — although the NBA has had close to $250 million of amnestied players to date — sometimes you get a chance to take a mulligan under the new rules and that is what we did.”
Leonsis, however, was quick to not place the blame squarely on Blatche’s shoulders,”We are all in it together — so we are all to blame. Buck has to stop with me though as owner.” He went on to state how appreciative he was of Blatche’s apology to the fans and wished him nothing but the best as his career goes on. He did state that the decision to cut Blatche loose with a check for $23 million wasn’t particularly hard as “It was in best interest of franchise.”
All in all this was an extremely impressive interview by Mike Wise and major props need to be given to him for securing the time with Leonsis to ask all of these questions. After reading through this transcript, and sleeping on all the information taken in, I am even more excited for this upcoming season of Wizards basketball than I was before and that in and of itself is nothing short of a miracle as I am quite the WizKids fanatic.
The Western Conference’s Southwest division has had a whirlwind of an offseason, starting with the draft. League-owned New Orleans won the lottery and with it brought one of the most highly rated big men since Pat Ewing to the Big Easy. The team was sold shortly thereafter to Tom Benson, owner of the Saints, bringing in a new age for the franchise. Darrell Morey and the Rockets made every move imaginable to collect the assets necessary to entice Orlando to lend them Dwight Howard for a year. That seems to have fallen apart as they will instead settle for a pair of backups, a big man (Asik) and point guard (yeah you Linsanity). Enjoy that Rockets fans. The normally steady and clean-cut Spurs have even been dragged into the headlines. Star Tony Parker nearly suffered a career changing injury at a New York nightclub, getting glass in his eyes as a fight erupted between Drake and Chris Brown. Luckily it looks like he will be ok, but it was certainly scary for a moment. The Mavs, positioning themselves for 2 years since their title for a run at hometown boy Deron Williams and Dwight Howard, struck out. Cuban cannot be happy with being stuck scrounging the amnesty waiver-wire. With so much activity out of the Southwest, and not all good news, it’s been an intriguing 2012 offseason thus far.
San Antonio Spurs (1st place in 2011-2012)
Players Added: Marcus Denmon
Players Lost: None
The Dime: Outside of the Parker incident, it has been business as usual this offseason for the Spurs. They re-signed anchor Tim Duncan, ensuring the legend will retire in San Antonio, as well as locked up Danny Green, Boris Diaw, and Stephen Jackson for a 2013 return. The core of Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili will remain together, hoping to make one last run at the title that appeared within grasp this year. I will be interested to see how the decline of Tim Duncan will be continued to be managed. Coach Pop did a marvelous job of conserving the veteran in the lockout shortened year, but it will be a different story over an 82 game schedule. It would be great to see the veterans make one last legitimate run, here is to hoping last year was not the last hurrah.
Memphis Grizzlies (2nd place in 2011-2012)
Players Added: Tony Wroten, Jerryd Bayless
Players Lost: OJ Mayo,
The Dime: The Grizzlies were an under-the-radar favorite for many people last year. However, even with the return of Rudy Gay they were not able to get further over the hump, falling in the first round of last seasons playoffs. They have not made many moves this offseason, but did add a scoring-guard in the draft in Wroten. Gay’s name has been circulated in some trade talk thus far, but nothing appears eminent. I will be looking to see how the year starts off for the Griz. If they start slow, I think the Gay trade-talk will start up again in more earnest. It may be time for a change in Memphis to mix up a stagnant franchise, and I think Gay is the piece most likely to be moved.
Dallas Mavericks (3rd place in 2011-2012)
Players Added: Elton Brand, OJ Mayo, Darren Collison, Dahntay Jones, Jae Crowder, Jared Cunningham
Players Lost: Jason Kidd, Jett Terry, Brendan Haywood
The Dime: This has been an offseason to forget for the Mavericks. After clearing the books over the last few years to welcome hometown hero Deron Williams back to Dallas to join forces with Dwight Howard, the Mavs struck out in a serious way. Not only were they unable to bring in an additional star to pair with Dirk, they saw some of their most valuable veterans walk for a chance to chase a title elsewhere. Mark Cuban and company are at a serious crossroads. With the roster as currently constructed, they are nowhere near title contention (Cuban’s stated yearly goal). A move needs to be made to get them moving back in the right direction, and Cuban is always ready to pull the trigger on a deal. I would not be surprised to see some additional changes to the Mavs roster.
Houston Rockets (4th place in 2011-2012)
Players Added: Jeremy Lin, Royce White, Terrence Jones, Jeremy Lamb,
Players Lost: Kyle Lowry, Goran Dragic, Luis Scola, Samuel Dalembert
The Dime: The Rockets are traditionally one of the league’s most shrewdly run franchises in the league. Known for bringing a “Moneyball”-style statistical analysis for decision making to the NBA, they have spent wisely over the years and have more often than not been on the winning side of their trades. This offseason, in my opinion, was a rare miss for the Rockets. After positioning themselves with a ton of cap room and valuable assets in draft picks hoping to land Dwight Howard, the Rockets are coming away without a proven star in the league, big contracts for unproven players and a slew of front court players. I liked their draft but did not love it, suspect of their selection of players who were fairly similar (Jones and White) and the sleepy-eyed Lamb. They extended huge offer sheets to a back-up center (Bull’s Omer Asik) and last year’s media darling, Jeremy Lin. I am not sold on Lin as a legit star in the league, but he can certainly help them sell tickets. Houston had hoped to turn their franchise around with a success offseason, but I just don’t think the Rockets positioned themselves any better for long-term success with their moves. However, only time will tell if Morey got it right again after all.
New Orleans Hornets (5th place in 2011-2012)
Players Added: Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers, Ryan Anderson, Darius Miller
Players Lost: Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor, DeJuan Summers, Jarrett Jack
The Dime: How things can change in one year. Last offseason, the Hornets and star Chris Paul went through a prolonged public divorce ending with Paul landing with the Clippers. Although the Hornets got a decent haul in return, namely young scoring guard Eric Gordon, they had an awful season with Gordon sidelined most of the year. Their overall lack of success was rewarded, however, as they landed the first pick in the draft and the world’s most talented Unibrow. Potential controversy aside, this singlehandedly changes their franchise’s fortunes around. Paired alongside a healthy Eric Gordan, last year’s breakout star Ryan Anderson, and fellow rookie Austin Rivers, Davis has the potential to turn this lottery team into a perennial playoff and title contender. I’m not saying they’re going to win next year’s title, but they now have the catalyst who can get them there. Let’s all sit back and enjoy watching the growth and rise of this young team around Anthony Davis.
Jan Vesely: B
You know when a pitcher is throwing a no-hitter and you’re really not supposed to talk about it? This is basically the situation with Jan Vesely right now, because he appears to have developed a
jump shot new weapon but I’m not about to speak out loud of it and jinx the entire thing. But that jump shot new weapon turns him into a completely different player than the one we saw last year. When a 6’11, long, player like Vesely has a jump shot new weapon like the one he’s been showing, it’s exceedingly difficult to try and guard. Dirk made a career out of being unguardable because of his length. If Vesely can keep this up and continue with his development in other areas of the game, look out!
That being said, his game wasn’t great overall despite his
jump shot new weapon being unleashed again. I think Vesely may have become a little gun shy after picking up 10 fouls in Game 1, because at times he looked to be disengaged down low. He didn’t play bad defense against Houston’s bigs of Terrence Jones and Royce White, but he could have had more rebounds than he did. Vesely was moving the ball relatively well on offense, but I’d like for him to be more aggressive like he was yesterday. And this time, convert the alley oops which he’s very good at getting.
Chris Singleton: C
Singleton played with a lot of tenacity, as per usual with him, but he didn’t match his fantastic summer league debut yesterday. His follow up performance was a bit of a dud, as he finished with 10 points, 2 rebounds and 2 blocks. He failed to be as active on the boards when faced with the plethora of talented wing players thrown at him by the Rockets. When he was matched up with Terrence Jones, he got beaten down low. The occasional time he was covering Jeremy Lamb, he got shots drained in his face. Singleton did make a lot of attempts to get to the basket but because his dribbling isn’t where it needs to be, he often puts up a forced ugly, ugly, jumper. He’s still developing, but I was hoping for something better from Singleton.
Tomas Satoransky: C+
After yesterday’s performance, the old adage of not judging a book by its cover rings true right now, because Satoransky erased the memory of his previous stinker. No, his game wasn’t so good that it’s going to change my mind about him being ready for the NBA, but Sato did show that he might be able to play one day. He showed a little bit of range in hitting a long two pointer, and displayed his athleticism with a big dunk (and a Vesely-esque alley oop). I guess those Czech’s like to dunk, because it’s what they’re prone to doing this summer league. Because Satoransky doesn’t have a great first step, he does a good job shielding the ball with his body, then waiting for a screen to move around.
He’s a smart player, and I wasn’t upset with his 11 point performance. He does have to work on holding onto the ball a little better, as his 8 turnovers in two games isn’t going to fly forever. But overall, you can’t be upset with him when he shows clear improvement from one day to the next.
Shelvin Mack: C+
Shelvin on the shelf Mack didn’t get as much burn today as he did yesterday (he only played 17 minutes), likely because of him being incredibly unimpressive yesterday. In the minutes he did get, however, he played much better. Sam Cassell decided to let other, more athletic guards take the ball up the court and initiate the offense. Mack thrived when he wasn’t forced to create his own shot (which he’s unqualified for), and knocked down open jumpers when his number was called. He finished with 11 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists but he still couldn’t keep control of the ball as he coughed it up 3 times.
His game two was better than the first one, but I’m not sure he did a whole lot to help his case for the backup PG spot. He can’t create offense, and he’s not an amazing shooter in spite of hitting a few this game. If he can’t create , he can’t shoot as well as others, and he turns the ball over a lot, then what’s the case for keeping him with the team?
Bradley Beal: B+
Real Deal Beal couldn’t repeat his performance in game one, where he scored 22 points in his debut as a Washington Wizards, but he did show off yet another skill of his. Beal finished with 14 points, but he could have scored a whole lot more than that if he is capable of hitting over 50% of his free throws. Beal left points on the board after going 5-for-10 from the line, but the good sign is that he actually initiates contact. He was not nearly as good at drawing fouls in college, so it appears that he’s either learned the skill or taken the necessary adjustments to get the calls. That’s going to help him a whole lot more later on in the year on those nights where his shot isn’t going in (much like tonight).
Overall, he played a more well rounded game than yesterday, as he grabbed 5 rebounds in total to go along with 4 assists. Beal grabbed three offensive boards, and it’s a credit to his deceptive length. At one point, he scored on a putback with two big men to the left and the right of him; he did that because his arms are long and his positioning was right. Beal can clearly rebound, and it showed tonight. He also displayed an ability to pass the ball, throwing cross court looks with ease while creating shots for others. That may end up being a welcome surprise for John Wall, to be sure.
Steven Gray: D
Gray didn’t look like a whole lot of anything special during game two, mostly because he’s really not physically capable of playing in the NBA. He looked slow at times, failing to create his shot or stay in front of his man. Even when he did get open, he failed to knock down shots from the wings all night. He proved himself to be a pretty decent passer, though, finding Vesely for a nice bounce pass en route to a jumper. Gray finished the game with 6 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists, but I wasn’t impressed with his game.
Garret Siler: F (for Fat)
I really hope Siler was wearing a Tyler Perry fat suit, because if his frame is actually that 305 lb. mess that we saw on Saturday night, he doesn’t belong on an NBA floor. It was downright gross to watch him plod up and down the court, and he looked like if he played more than the 13 minutes he got then he would end up having a heart attack. I’m not going to completely bash him, but I’m not sure he’s ever hit a weight room before. Jamarcus Russell looked better than him on that court, and while he did show off some low post skill and tenacity rebounding, there is no way he can keep that up for an entire game. Andray Blatche is already out of shape, the Wizards don’t need two big men occupying the same space.
Jeff Brooks: B
Brooks was the one reserve I was relatively impressed with during tonight’s game. His 6 point, 9 rebound performance wasn’t blow you away great, but his effort level was. He seems like a very competent rebounder and someone who might be able to help Washington out in the future. Brooks turned the ball over a lot, but he also got to the line and played quite aggressively. I’m hoping he gets a little more playing time, because he might be worthwhile to have on a bad rebounding team like Washington.
Jan Vesely: B
The knock on Jan heading into the offseason was that he was completely bereft of a jump shot. Though he had plenty of athleticism, his shot would be the thing holding him back from becoming a valuable player. Well, if today’s game was more statistical norm than abberation, Vesely is going to be a major contributor moving forward for this franchise. In the first half, Vesely knocked down all three of his jumpers from 15 ft. and out. He looked to have a newfound confidence in his shot, and it certainly showed. If he can continue doing things like that, as well as contributing with his defensive length, his career is going to be more like Andrei Kirilenko’s rather than (insert Euro bust here). On the night, he finished with 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists.
He did miss three dunk attempts, which was a very disheartening thing to see, but somehow I don’t think that’s going to define his career. What Vesely needed to work on was being a more controlled player. He picked up 10 fouls in a Summer League game! That’s a joke, and shows me that he really has some work to do mentally in not getting overexcited out there. Part of the reason he was picking up fouls as such a high rate was because Shavlik Randolph and Kim Tillie were doing their best traffic cone impression out there. But a sixth pick shouldn’t be out there to collect fouls, he should be able to contribute in a lot of ways.
Chris Singleton: B+
Singleton deserves an A, but I’m not inclined to give out any of those. Despite struggling in the first half with turnovers (he had 4 total), Singleton picked it up to finish strong with 20 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals, and 2 blocks. It’s not his offense that is going to be his ticket into the NBA, but his versatility is becoming harder and harder to ignore. Sure, he has a very hard time getting to the basket because he can’t dribble, but his defense more than makes up for it. Singleton showed off his nose for grabbing steals, oftentimes just taking the ball from defenders using quick hands. He always seems to be in position on defense and rarely gets beaten in a one-on-one scenario. He just looks like a player who is going to stick in the NBA as a great defender, and his rebounding ability has greatly improved. His positioning helped, and as a result he was the best rebounder on the court.
But then, we already knew that. And don’t let his 18 points fool you, those were very hard earned buckets. He didn’t score those with ease, and they weren’t always pretty. Singleton gets his shots in crafty ways, like on the fastbreak off of steals or wide open threes after beating his defender in a crowd. It’s not necessarily going to translate amazingly at the pro level, as we evidenced similar play last year, but he did look a lot more assertive today. Unfortunately, that assertiveness comes at a cost; Singleton turned it over five times. His ball handling isn’t where it needs to be just yet, and he has to continue to show that he has enough quickness to beat anyone off the dribble. All in all, I’m not upset with his performance, but I expected this from him.
Tomas Satoransky: D
Satoransky wasn’t expected to do much, and turning it over three times in 5 minutes was pretty much par for the course. Tomas was flat out bad, and it shows why he is going to be considered a project. Another year in Spain playing top level competition will do him some good, because in his short stint with the Wizards he looked overmatched.
One thing he did well, though, was move the ball. When he’s not turning it over, he does know how to cut into the lane and make nice, spot on passes to bigs down low in the paint. Other than that, the cupboard is barren.
For the most part he was just hard to watch, guys.
Shelvin Mack: D
Shelvin Mack really wasn’t able to manage the offense with the poise of a backup point guard. He’s a step slow in everything he does, and the offense doesn’t flow when he has the ball. Mack dribbled into defenders too many times to not mention it, and failed to create too many shots for anyone. In fact, when he didn’t have the ball everything else started clicking. He defends just as well as he did last season, but he’s not going to completely shut down anyone. Mack’s jumper wasn’t really impressive either, and it showed little improvement from last season, where it was pretty horrible.
If Mack can’t get better and impress during this summer league, he may have to look elsewhere for a job because the Wizards could desperately use a veteran backup to spell Wall.
Bradley Beal: A
Real Deal Beal was everything the Washington Wizards expected when they drafted him, scoring 22 points in 33 minutes of play. Beal looked a little slow at first, but that’s because we didn’t realize that his game is just always completely under control. He never forces anything (almost to a fault), and gets shots within the flow of the game. He hit jumpers from everywhere on the floor, three pointers, long two’s, pull up jumpers at the top of the key. You name it, Beal shot it. He also showed, at least at first, an agressive side in that he got to the line a whole lot. Beal finished strong after contact and drove to the line looking for it. His sturdy frame really shows when he’s going at the rim, because he’s able to absorb hits and maintain body control.
One thing Beal might want to work on is his defense, because even though he got two blocks, he tended to sag off of defenders. I’m not suggesting he’s bad at defense at all, because he’s not. He gets in front of his man all the time, but I think he might be trying to compensate for his slower first step by backing off people around the perimeter. He also didn’t grab a single rebound despite being billed as one of the best rebounders at his position in college. That’s largely due to the size difference in the pro’s and not being aggressive enough in grabbing boards.
Either way, it’s incredibly hard to be upset with his first game in a Wizards jersey. Bradley Beal flat out killed it tonight, and I’m looking forward to seeing him throughout this summer.
Everyone else: D
Where to begin with the players the Wizards brought in? Kim Tillie and Shavlik Randolph were horrible at the center position. They were completely abused down low, and looked like they hadn’t played basketball outside of a rec gym in a long time. The Wizards couldn’t find better talent than these two? Offensively, neither player hit a single shot from the field, though Tillie contributed with 6 points off of free throws. He drew contact down low, but didn’t show any amount of offensive game. Their five rebounds combined were pretty bad. Going forward, I’m not expecting them to get as many minutes on the floor.
In the backcourt, it didn’t really get much better. Ravern Johnson looked as he always has: like a chicken wing. He did come in immediately and hit a three pointer, showing off the range that made him dangerous in college. Other than that, he didn’t do anything of note and looks like the only way he’ll make a roster is as a three point specialist.
Earl Calloway was the only impressive player, to me. At 28 years old and having played numerous seasons of professional basketball overseas, it showed in his short amount of playing time. Calloway played with a bit of court savvy that’s hard to describe, but signifies that he knows how to manage an offense. That’s not a great thing, but he did have 7 points in 9 minutes, and I’d like to see him working with the first team offense to see how he sets people up.
The Washington Wizards are facing off against the Atlanta Hawks today at 4 o’clock in their first game of the Las Vegas Summer League. If you’ve been paying any attention to the Wizards this offseason, then you’ll have already realized that the 14 man roster (see below) features a lot of players who won’t be with the Wizards this upcoming season. The reason is simple: Washington doesn’t have enough roster space to take on even half of the players trying out for the team. When it’s broken down, there are really only a few players who have even a remote chance at playing for the Wizards next season. Let’s take a look:
G: Steven Gray, Gonzaga
G: Bradley Beal, Florida
G: Earl Calloway, Indiana
G: Tomas Satoransky, Czech Republic
G: Shelvin Mack, Butler
G: Ravern Johnson, Mississippi State
F: Jan Vesely, Czech Republic
F: LaRon Dendy, Middle Tennessee State
F: Mike Scott, Kent State
F: Jeff Brooks, Penn State
F: Shavlik Randolph, Duke
F: Chris Singleton, Florida State
C: Garrett Siler, Augusta State
C: Kim Tillie, Utah
The players in bold signify those that are already on the roster, meaning that they’re virtual locks to remain on the team for the upcoming season. Beal was the first draft pick, Vesely is part of the future, Singleton is a promising small forward, and Mack is the only person available to back up John Wall. Basically, they’re here to stay. Assuming they are all on the roster, that brings the open slots to only 2 spots. Two spots for 10 players? Feel free to do the math. Using this knowledge, though, means we can even further slim down the amount of players who even have a shot of getting picked up by the Washington Wizards.
As the roster is currently assembled (including the four players in bold and Andray), the breakdown consists of:
3 Centers: Nene, Okafor, Seraphin
6 Forwards: Ariza, C. Singleton, Vesely, Booker, Blatche, Martin
4 Guards: Wall, Beal, Mack, J. Crawford
Based on that breakdown, the front court is completely stocked. 9 of the 15 roster spots are dedicated solely to players who are almost non-negotiable in their ability to play any positions other than the 4 and 5. Any power forward or center the Wizards signed would be looking at never seeing the court outside of the practice facilities. With that many minutes dedicated to youthful players and experienced veterans, there would be so many DNP-CD’s that I’d think Ernie would reason, “Why bother picking them up anyway?”
Furthermore, the small forward position is basically filled up as well due in large part to acquiring Trevor Ariza via the Okafor-Rashard Lewis trade. He and Chris Singleton are expected to consume the majority of those minutes, with Vesely also soaking up the last bit of them when he slides over from the power forward slot. Again, this just means that signing any forward is a futile effort.
The only thing the Wizards might even be considering is picking up another center. I say this because the front court, with Nene and Okafor, is an injury prone unit. Both players aren’t perpetually injured guys, but they always seem to have ticky-tacky injuries that prevent them from playing a full season. So, with Blatche being highly considered as an Amnesty International candidate, maybe the Wizards could pick up either Siler, Tillie, or Dendy to fill in for injury a few times during the season. I’m not banking on it, though.
Out of the Running? Dendy, Scott, Randolph, Brooks, Siler, Tillie
Where the Wizards could clearly use some help is at the guard positions, where there are only four players on the team who are to play an entire 48 minutes. Mack did nothing to help his cause last season in securing the backup point guard position so cannot be considered a perfect option as the first point guard off the bench. Crawford may have locked down the starting position for now, but Beal is going to eat into his minutes severely since he is the real future of the franchise. I actually think Beal is much better as the starter, whereas Crawford can bring instant offense off the bench, but I digress.
Another thing to note is the case of Tomas Satoransky, the other Czech on the roster. Satoransky is almost already out of the running since it’s been reported that he is going to be heading back overseas to play in Spain next season. In order for him to stay, he would have to perform so incredibly well that Grunfeld became convinced he is part of the playoff equation this season. I don’t predict that happening coming from a guy who has no jumper yet, so I’m assuming he’s gone.
Out of the Running? Satoransky
That leaves us with three players left in Earl Calloway, Steven Gray, and Ravern Johnson competing for two spots. If that’s the case, then it’ll be interesting to see which route the Wizards go with these final roster spots. They could choose Earl Calloway, the 6’3, 28 year old point guard who has played over in Europe for the past 4 seasons. Most recently, he averaged 7.6 points and 3.1 assists per game for Sevilla in the ACB League. Where he was teammates with Tomas Satoransky. His veteran presence and playing experience at the second best league in the world would be incredibly welcome for the young guards in Washington. Considering how young all the guards on the Wizards are, he might be the most logical choice as a guy who can play a Derek Fisher role in mentoring young players. If we’re talking about changing the culture in the locker room, what better way to do it than to bring in a professional like Calloway?
Then there is another intriguing prospect in the 6’5, 23 year old Steven Gray. Gray is interesting in that he’s been called “a west coast, guard version of Etan Thomas” by people smarter than me, and he has also played professionally over in Latvia. His specialty is the fact that he is a fantastic three point shooter. The Wizards were one of the absolute worst teams from long range last year, so he could be a nice addition as a stretch two guard. His athleticism may be a serious hindrance for him, and he couldn’t even guard Jimmer Fredette in college, but his character is that of a very nice guy, and he could add a nice presence in the locker room (again, we always go back to that).
Finally, we have Ravern Johnson, a 6’7, 24 year old guard out of Mississippi State who also happens to be a three point specialist. This young man is a definite deep threat, as evidenced by his college career where he shot 40% from long range on 7.4 attempts per game. Think Nick Young with less athleticism, and you’ve got Ravern; basically, he doesn’t contribute much of anything else except for his shooting. He may actually be the best one of them all if basketball were a three point contest, but it isn’t, so he’s not.
Either way, this is going to be very exciting to see who the Wizards decide on selecting throughout this Summer League (if they pick up anyone). Just to note, I think that Washington is going to select a big man to round out another one of the spots on the bench all year, and I think it is going to be LaRon Dendy. If Washington amnesties Blatche today, then it is likely they would be more receptive to adding another big man. Why we did not decide to draft one with the second pick will be peculiar if that’s the case, but that’s for another day.
In the Running: LaRon Dendy, Earl Calloway, Ravern Johnson, Steven Gray
The saga of where Hollis Thompson will continue his basketball career came to an end today. According to Thompson’s representation (@OCR_Team) the former Hoyas wing has agreed to a three-year deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Details of the contract have yet to be released but I would have to imagine they are similar to the deal former West Virginia Mountaineer Kevin Jones signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers after going undrafted. It is unknown whether Thompson will join the Thunder summer league team in Orlando but I would assume he will be there for their final two contests unless the sports hernia he’d been dealing with hasn’t healed.
More on this as it develops but Hoyas fans can rest easy knowing one of their own, Thompson, will be continuing to chase his NBA dream with a great organization.
Update: Thunder GM Sam Presti was quoted saying that Thompson would be sidelined for three to four more weeks after having minor surgery on his left groin this week. Eliminating any opportunity he would have had to participate in Thunder summer league games.
Yesterday, the Washington Wizards officially announced their 2012 Vegas Summer League Roster. As you can see every Wizards draft pick from the last two seasons are listed on the roster. Tomas Satoransky, while on the roster, is still noncommittal to participating as he wants to continue to focus on training with the Czech National Team.
Like with any NBA Summer League team the Wizards roster is filled with familiar faces and total unknowns. That is the beauty of the summer league. Anyone (Marco Belinelli) can have a huge performance on any given day, it makes for intriguing basketball.
It will be interesting to see which players step up come tip off against the Hawks at 4 PM (EST). All Vegas Summer League games will be shown on NBA TV.
2012 Washington Wizards
Summer League Roster
3 Bradley Beal G Florida
40 Jeff Brooks F Penn State
51 Earl Calloway G Indiana
16 LaRon Dendy C Middle Tennessee St.
19 Steven Gray G Gonzaga
30 Ravern Johnson G Mississppi State
22 Shelvin Mack G Butler
32 Shavlik Randolph F Duke
14 Tomas Satoransky G Czech Republic
21 Mike Scott F Kent St.
9 Garett Siler C Augusta St.
31 Chris Singleton F Florida State
34 Kim Tillie C Utah
24 Jan Vesely F Czech Republic
Although the NBA Las Vegas Summer League has yet to announce the full rosters for each team, whispers have come out about a few of the players the Washington Wizards might be adding. The squads are chock full of NBA draftees, players who went just barely missed being drafted yet have plenty of potential, guys who bounced around Europe for awhile, and players being given their last shot at the glory of the NBA. One of the players likely to be on the Wizards roster, LaRon Dendy, happens to fall into that last category.
Dendy’s story is certainly not one of the most uncommon stories ever; in fact, his tale is extremely common amongst talented high school players with struggling academic grades. They all tend to get caught up in diploma mills: high schools who have dubious academic standing but bring in athletes anyway in order to bolster their programs standing. They also prey on talented-yet-academically unpolished athletes. Such is the case with Dendy. Dendy originally hails from Greenville, South Carolina, where he starred in basketball at Greer High School during his sophomore season, averaging 22.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 7.3 blocks. Those averages were good enough to lead his team to the state title, but not good enough to keep him grounded.
From there, Dendy transferred an inordinate amount of times. At some point he played for Prince Avenue Prep school (investigated for academic fraud and blacklisted by the NCAA in 2007) very periodically before transferring to IMG Academy his junior year. One can put two and two together and realize that one school was for academics, and the other (IMG) was for honing his basketball skills. He transferred back and forth, skirting rules in order to help with his academics. Eventually, once Prince Avenue Prep was investigated, Dendy finished up his senior year at Hope Christian Prep School, a less scandalous but not much better high school in North Carolina.
During his senior season there, he averaged 23.1 points and 12.2 rebounds, showing significant improvement against yet tougher competition. Things went as planned, too, as he grabbed looks from South Carolina, LSU, Kansas State, and Texas but eventually committing to the Clemson Tigers. Unfortunately, his academic record was awful, the rumors were that his SAT and GPA were too low to gain admittance to Clemson. This forced LaRon to go the junior college route for two years, going across the country to Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa. Presumably, this undertaking would help him get into Iowa State, a well respected Division I college that lacks some of the highest academic standards in the world. But, as they say, the best laid plans often go awry.
Indian Hills Community College actually had tons of D-I talent on it, including (among others) Dwight Hardy of St. John’s, Dwight Buycks of Marquette, and Delvon Johnson of Arkansas. The collusion between troubled academic players to attend the same community college hundreds of miles away was actually a hindrance to Dendy, as he didn’t play many minutes, yet still managed to earn honorable mention All-Region XI honors after averaging 8.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. His sophomore year, when he was set to blow up, was derailed when he suffered a stress fracture in his foot that held him to only 8.1 PPG.
That fact didn’t derail the hopes of the Iowa State Cyclones, who were looking for a competent replacement for the soon to be departing resident star in Craig Brackins. Dendy transferred to the Cyclones, finally earning a chance to perform at the highest level of college basketball. He spelled Brackins off the bench that year (who didn’t declare for the draft), and exceeded the expectations of his role by averaging 7.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per contest while shooting 60%. That exceptional FG% mark gave him the honor of having the 6th highest percentage of any player in Iowa State basketball history. Highlights during that season included a 14 point, 6 rebound game against then-No. 1 ranked Texas where Dendy schooled Dexter Pittman, Damion James, and Jordan Hamilton. Overall, a successful season for Dendy who was set to become the resident starting forward after Brackins departure. But, much like his previous track record, Dendy couldn’t stay grounded yet again.
Apparently, Dendy decided to leap from the sinking ship of Iowa State early. A team that was set to get a new coach in ex-NBAer Fred Hoiberg yet bracing to lose Craig Brackins, Lucca Staiger, and Marquis Gilstrap was not enough to keep Dendy around for guaranteed minutes. He decided to sit out a season and transfer over to Middle Tennessee State University for his final season of college basketball. Last year, the forward was granted a starting spot right off the bat in the Sun Belt Conference, and without a doubt he was just as impressive as he was on the basketball court.
Dendy averaged 14.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per contest in his first starting role in over 5 years because of his own desire to move. It’s there were this writer was finally able to see Dendy play a lot more and figure out what kind of player he really was/is. Dendy is a long 6’7 1/2, possessing a 6’11 wingspan which he uses to block lots of shots and very effectively grab rebounds. He plays very close to the basket, but can run the court well and often makes very solid passes out of double teams. Dendy can’t jump to the sky, but his hands are literally some of the softest you can find on a big(ish) player, and they’re NBA ready. Those hands are what could very well help him and his 53% shooting to the NBA.
In his third game of the season against UCLA (not the powerhouse it used to be, for sure, but still a good squad), Dendy dominated Travis and David Wear for 16 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks. He also had fantastic games against tournament teams Belmont (20 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists), Vanderbilt (22 points, 3 blocks) and Western Kentucky (26 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists). These performances, and the rest of his impressive lone season at MTSU, led Dendy to be named the Sun Belt Player of the Year.
Though his team didn’t make it to the NCAA Tournament, Dendy officially put himself on NBA radars. He may not have been drafted, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Dendy knows basketball. Dendy’s academic track record isn’t superb, but his athleticism and hyper efficient style of basketball means he’s going to get some looks. DraftExpress has him rated as the 73rd best senior, but he may have even slipped under their radar. His 25.1 PER is way above the average player in college basketball, and even though he didn’t play against the best competition, he rises to the occasion whenever he got the chance to.
The Wizards would be very wise to keep tabs on him during the Summer League, because I have a sneaky suspicion that Dendy is going to be a coveted piece for some basketball team in the near future.
LaRon Dendy Highlights
And here’s an interview of Dendy giving an interview to his YouTube audience explaining why he watches basketball…